Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Experiences in Hong Kong

During my short time here, I have done a variety of things I'd never experienced before:

--I have talked with domestic helpers who have been abused by their employers
and have been cheated out of money through illegal agency fees.

--I have witnessed live seafood waiting to be cooked.

--I have attended a beach party thrown by Mission for Migrant Workers.

--I have participated an Eid-al-Fitr celebration in Victoria Park.
--As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I visited a shelter last week.

I tell you all of this to give you a little bit of context for what I've been doing since I arrived in Hong Kong and put the following statement in perspective…

By far, the strangest, most foreign thing I've experienced here is that the fax machine doesn't print a confirmation page after the fax is sent. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Starting work at the Mission

Yesterday I attended orientation to Mission for Migrant Workers. During the presentation, three main topics were addressed: the plight of the migrant worker, how Mission for Migrant Workers got started, and what Mission for Migrant Workers does to aid domestic helpers in distress.

Today, my fellow volunteer Joy took me to visit a shelter. I really wasn't sure what to expect going in, but I was excited for the opportunity to spend time with the women. The first thing I noticed after entering the shelter were the smiles on the women's faces. They didn't know me at all, but they were so welcoming. We spent the next few hours there. I briefed two women for their upcoming appointments at the Labour Department. They looked so, so young to me. In Hong Kong, you have to be 21 to work as a domestic helper; however, many of the Indonesians are able to lie about their ages to get work. I don't know if that is the case for the two women I spoke with, but my goodness, they seemed young… Too young to have to be fighting court battles over unpaid wages. (Side note: I realize there's never an appropriate age to be mistreated. The reality just seems particularly harsh when looking into such youthful faces!) After I spoke with the two individuals, I participated in group English lessons. I also tried to learn some basic words in Bahasa Indonesia. I think it will take me a few more visits before I can remember them!

About halfway through our visit, a wonderful meal was presented to us. I was concerned that only two plates were provided for an entire room of people until Joy reminded me that the women living in the shelter are observing Ramadan. I was completely humbled by their hospitality in allowing us to eat while they were fasting. Of course, there were quite a few giggles among the group about my struggle with spicy food. Even Joy said it was very spicy for Indonesian cuisine. I drank probably a gallon of water and kept repeating "terima kasih" every time they refilled my glass. It was quite a sight to behold, I'm sure, but the women were so good humored. I look forward to visiting with them again.

At the end of the MFMW orientation yesterday, Cynthia summed up the discussion by saying, "We are happy to be here. We are sad to be here." I couldn't help but think of that statement today. I was so happy to be in the company of these courageous, joyful women, but I was sad that visiting them in a shelter meant that they had been so mistreated that they had no where else to go. Will you please pray for the women I met today, as well as the other migrant workers, whose lives and livelihoods are in flux as they await court decisions?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Visit to Macau

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui's Missionary Area of Macau. The hospitality I have received in the Anglican Province of Hong Kong since I arrived has far exceeded my expectations and the visit to Macau was no exception. After arriving at Macau via ferry, we were taken on a tour of two community centers, two churches and an Anglican school. My favorite part was talking to some of the kids that the community centers serve.

With Father Bruce Woodcock, the daycare class, and their two teachers

In 2009, Macau surpassed Las Vegas in gambling revenue. There are currently 34 casinos operating in Macau and 7 more will open in the next year. Over 50% of Macau's population works in the casino industry. One of the community centers we visited operates a gambling addiction recovery service.

Just part of one of the newest casinos

While standing on the balcony of that center, we could see two high-rise apartment buildings right next to each other. One building is government housing where each apartment costs around $10,000 US. The other is a luxury complex where units are sold for over $1million US. I've not yet been in Hong Kong a week, but what's struck me the most so far is the economic disparity here. I have a feeling that understanding will increase as I begin work next week at Mission for Migrant Workers.

Also while in Macau, I saw Mainland for the first time and enjoyed delicious Portuguese food! I will definitely return to Macau if I get an opportunity!

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Home - Church and otherwise

So much has happened since I last updated my blog from Canada! I arrived in Hong Kong on August 3. The past three days have been a whirlwind! In some ways, it feels like I've been here longer, but that may be because I've done so much in the short time.

Of all the meetings, conversations, outings, and explorations, the most important thing I've done here so far is attend a church service at the Cathedral. When reorienting myself in any new situation, I find church to be the most grounding experience.

I was excited to see that St. John's has a labyrinth. I will be taking advantage of that while I'm here.

I plan to start work next week, so this week is a bit of getting acquainted with Hong Kong and a bit of discussion with my new supervisors and colleagues. Has anything exciting happened with you while I've been away? Feel free to share below!