Hong Kong 15 years later.


I remember thinking on our first trip to Hong Kong (one of our first trips anywhere) in 1999, that it felt like the ominous cityscape in Bladerunner. Dark looming buildings counterweighted by oversized neon signs, offering the oblivious fast-paced pedestrians all manner of objects and services. Now, 15 years later it feels even more so as the predominantly young Hong Kongesse (don’t call them Chinese please) are permanently hunched over their iphones or tablets. Even the most traditionally dressed grandma has bright colored audio cables snaking into each ear. The impressive skyline is now even more impressive yet curtained off by a soupy smog.

 

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The new airport is built far outside the city on a new island that took billions of dollars and years to reclaim from the sea. The old airport had you flying into a narrow valley of buildings inside the main city. Your first exposure to Hong Kong would be the bedrooms of sleepy families just above your airplane window. As it is now, you take a modern high speed rail over artificial islands and even under ground until you reach the heart of the City. Our Hostel is a typical low range artsy fartsy affair with a foosball table, balcony and a in-room bathroom that is encased in transparent glass. The complete lack of privacy was mitigated by a thin curtain that encouraged the other to bury their head in a book when nature called the other.

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No visit to a new area of the world is complete (for us) without searching out our fellow Brothers and Sisters. The Bethel (administrative/translation center) has grown since our last visit. In 1999, there were only 35-40 in the office but now has increased to 200. Most of the work is assisting the Brothers in China, who are banned by the government for being “extremist”. Another focus of the Hong Kong Bethel is medical education of the local doctors in the many new methods of blood-less surgery. It has been such a success that many doctors in this area have become leaders in advanced medical (blood-less) care.

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One great surprise was meeting Diane Leung again, who we met 15 years ago at the old Bethel. She remembered us and asked how we had used our youth since we last met. We were shown the new literature carts and even a few prototypes that are being sent to many large cities. It made me remember the sandwich boards that our Grandparents used to bring attention to the Bible message.

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Until recently, we were unaware that Hong Kong has a Disneyland and this knowledge required Tamara to make “the pilgrimage”. Our jet-lag brought us to the magic kingdom far too early and we walked around for hours in a nearly empty park riding one ride after another. The park was surprisingly cleaner, newer and slightly smaller than the California park. The Asian flavor was muffled yet found ways to escape the homogeneous messaging.

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Much of the preaching work in Hong Kong is done in public spaces because of the difficulty entering the compact secured mega-structures. Being the most densely populated place on earth, the “mansions” as they are called, are concrete cubes that provide less living space per person than a berth in a US Prison.

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The Brothers and Sisters setup stands at various public places, (we assisted on the water front one day with our friend Katie) , and await the endless tourist buses of mainland Chinese (42 million last year) that arrive for a taste of “clean” air and goods from around the world. One 3 hour span resulted in over 500 brochures placed with many providing email addresses for return visits once they return home inside China.

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Our wanderings around the city was enjoyable with us never feeling spooked or in danger. The well dressed residents walk quickly from one unknown location to another, never looking away from their screens but somehow missing taxis and belching transport busses with inches to spare. The language is harsh, quick and aspergerish in its cadence but we found them nice if you could break them away from their electronic trance. One trek we took was to the “Peak” and is a highlight of Hong Kong. The hike up the small mountain ended with us shivering at the top, waiting for the large buildings below to turn on their colorful lights. One of my favorite memories is of us at this spot 15 years ago.

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Our Hong Kong adventured ended with us attending a meeting at the Kowloon Central English hall that is made up of 200 Filipino sisters and 5 local Brothers. The sisters are “imported servants” for the rich Hong Kong parents of overweight Hong Kong children. The Sisters leave their home and families to work in (according to a Amnesty International report I read recently) substandard and often exploitative conditions. The Sisters only get one day off a week and so this required that the meetings are all conducted on their day off. I found their comments during the Watchtower (simplified edition) encouraging and almost universally starting with “what I learned….” Or “ I want to use this to improve my relationship with God by….”.

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Sitting next to and visiting with these wonderfully kind, meek and materially poor Sisters caused both Tamara and I to feel something similar to shame or guilt at the freedom that we two possess. Coming to terms with inequity is something easier pushed aside than examined too closely if given the choice…those that travel are often not given that choice.

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  1. #1 by Roge & Jean Hudson on February 21, 2014 - 8:31 pm

    We enjoyed your post very much this time around. We hope you are well and will remember your travels for a long time. Love you to you both. We miss you, and love you.

    Mom & Dad

  2. #2 by Vicky Tinsley on February 21, 2014 - 12:55 pm

    Thanks so much for the amazing pictures and stories. Thanks for taking the time to record your thoughts, now while your experiences are still fresh in your mind. Very thoughtful thing to do. So many people don’t and then can’t remember what they felt at the time. Can’t wait to read and see more. Love and miss you, but so happy you are getting to have this adventure.

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