Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hong Kong - A Day in the Life

Due to a many factors – weather, people, the place, food – Hong Kong is up there as one of the best trips I’ve taken in my life. Since a great amount was packed into 5 days, I’ve decided to break down my blog posts instead of doing one gigantic one.

Looking at my list of places I want to travel in my life, Hong Kong wasn’t on there at all. However after learning I was going to the Philippines for YASC and there would be three other YASCers, Katie, Will, and Sara, in Hong Kong, it went straight to the top of the list!

Hong Kong is only a short two-hour plane ride from Manila. After riding on planes, trains, buses and automobiles, I finally reached my destination after 24 hours of travel. Of course, it was all completely worth it!

Sara, Katie, Me and Will at Tacos Locos. 

Once I finally arrived in Hong Kong and saw friends who I haven’t seen in five months, my adrenaline kicked in. Running on lack of food and sleep didn’t matter to me as long as I was in good company! The trip started off perfectly with some of my favorites, margaritas, tacos, guacamole and lots of laughter. After eating at Tacos Locos, Katie, Sara, Will and I headed to a rooftop terrace on top of the IFC mall. As we sat next to one of the tallest buildings in Hong Kong and looked across the brightly lit harbor, we all caught up on our YASC years so far. Then my sleep deprivation caught up with me and we called it a solid first night.

Looking over the harbor.
The rooftop terrace surrounded by the giant skyscrapers of Hong Kong.
Looking up at one of the tallest buildings in Hong Kong.
My first full day in the city led me to see a glimpse of Sara’s life as a YASCer. You can check out her blog for more about her placement, but she works for Mission for Migrant Workers. The Mission works with abused or mistreated oversees workers. They handle court cases trying to assist those who have been taken advantage of and treated as less than humans. To say it is an emotionally challenging job is an understatement.

Sara’s office is located on the compound of St. John’s Cathedral about a 10-15 minute walk from her room at Ming Hua Theological College. One thing I didn’t expect in Hong Kong is the hills! Oh my goodness were my thighs burning after that “short” walk. Fortunately, we stopped at Starbucks to fuel up before the treacherous climb. I’m exaggerating just a little bit because my walk to work is a 100-yard dash on flat land.

Sara's office is on the top floor.
Welcome to Mission for Migrant Workers
Sara in her tiny cubicle.
The small office of Mission for Migrant Workers.
Once Sara finished a short meeting about an upcoming event, we headed over to Oliver’s, an ex-pat grocery store, to get supplies for her afternoon baking session at one of Mission’s shelters. Oliver’s overwhelmed me - so many choices of cheese, yogurt, delectable pastries, and all things American and British! Of course everything is astronomically expensive, like everything in Hong Kong. But I couldn’t say no to indulging in a rich, chocolate, and hazelnut cupcake.

Look at all that yogurt!

The BEST cupcake in the world!
We arrived at the shelter to find a beautifully prepared birthday lunch for Sara, as her birthday was the next day, Friday. A majority of the domestic house workers the Mission serves are Filipino. It was like I never left the Philippines with pancit, barbeque chicken, and banana cake for lunch. I did my best to introduce myself in Ilocano and say the five Ilocano words I know. They were quite impressed. I even impressed myself!

After lunch, Sara began her baking lesson on how to make chocolate pumpkin bread. Everyone gathered around to watch and participate. After 45 minutes, there was warm, delicious pumpkin bread. Perfect since Thanksgiving was only a week away!

While enjoying the bread, the women began sharing their stories of how they ended up at the shelter. They were all heartbreaking stories of ill treatment, lack of food, and poor accommodations. Some were accused of stealing after having money or valuables planted on them. Others had their contracts wrongfully terminated. The law states that a domestic house worker or employer must give 30 days notice of termination. If the employer terminates without proper notice than they have to pay a month’s wages to the domestic house worker. If the domestic house worker terminates without proper notice than it’s vice versa. Once the contract is terminated than the domestic house worker has 14 days to leave Hong Kong unless their visa is extended while they are battling their case in court.

That’s where the shelter comes in.

From my short visit, the shelter provides a place of community and good spirits. After many tears while stories were shared, in complete Filipino nature much joy and laughter was shared as well.

I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to see another side of Filipino culture. From 8 to 10 million Filipinos work abroad throughout the world. They work extremely hard to earn a small wage, which they send home to support their families. It’s a hard and tragic situation for most Filipinos.

On the way home, Sara and I walked down Hollywood or Antiques Road, the first road in Hong Kong in 1841 in the Sheung Wan area.The shop windows appear as mini museums with eclectic collections of Chinese antiques. Also, we stopped in the impressive Mang Mo Temple, built in 1847 and main Chinese temple on Hong Kong Island.

Hollywood Road Park

That night we headed across the harbor on the ferry at the perfect time to watch the sun beautifully set over Hong Kong Island. The buildings glowed in the dimming sunlight. We hustled along Jordan Road to meet Sara’s friends, Methodist missionaries who work with the Mission as well, for traditional dumplings – delicious! However, I could barely manage eating with chopsticks. Then we finished off the night by seeing the second installment of the Hunger Games, Catching Fire.

Shameless selfie on the Ferry Ride.

While Sara said that it wasn’t a typical day for her in many ways, I still greatly appreciated the opportunity to get a glimpse of what a day in the life of another YASCer is like.

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment