Another reason why I love having a baby ...

This afternoon, riding the MTR home, a sullen-looking teenage boy got on the train. His hair was long and uncombed, his pants hung low, he had earphones in his ears and a scowl on his face.

Instead of his afternoon nap, Finn had had a doctor's appointment, and he was understandably on edge. But as soon as Finn started to cry, that punk teenager knelt down in front of his stroller, smiled, clapped his hands, and made the clicking sounds people make here for babies.  Soon Finn was smiling too, and this kid kept it up until we got off.

I was so thankful, not only to have someone else entertain Finn for a while, but to be reminded that we are all so much more than our looks, more complex than the identity we project, and more alike than different.

O Christ of the poor and the yearning
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love for my neighbor,
For my foe, for my friend, for my kindred all.
From the humblest thing that lives
to the Name that is highest of all
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love. 

(from Celtic Prayers from Iona, J. Philip Newell, Paulist Press, 1997) 


Finn Gallery--7 months

We've had some requests for updated pictures, so here you go.  In some of these pictures, I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of the little boy he's becoming, and then other times he just looks like sweet baby Finn.



Just got back from a short trip to Macau. Loved it. We completely avoided all the casino-Vegas-glitz, and just enjoyed the black and white tiled sidewalks and squares, the pastel-colored colonial buildings, the Portuguese ambience.  We stayed on the tip of the island of Coloane, at a hotel overlooking the beach; a 20-minute walk from a sleepy little village with a great bakery and cafe in one direction, and from a beach with a fabulous restaurant in the other.  The beach itself was not in great shape--a typhoon came through about 3 weeks previously and half the beach's sand had been displaced up to the boardwalk, and there were chunks of concrete and rebar scattered all over the beach, along with plenty of debris.  



[caption id="attachment_152" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="looking through an arch at Senado Square"]looking through an arch at Senado Square[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_154" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Igreja de San Francisco Xavier"]Igreja de San Francisco Xavier[/caption]

Some highlights:

 1. The room. We lucked into this, not really planning to have such a nice space.  But the balcony meant that even though Finn goes to sleep early, we could enjoy a take-out dinner and a bottle of wine, overlooking the ocean and listening to the waves crash.  Needless to say, we didn't feel one bit deprived. 

[caption id="attachment_135" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="the balcony of room 213, pousada de coloane"]the balcony of room 213, pousada de coloane[/caption]

2. Lord Stowe's egg tarts, served at the aforementioned bakery and cafes (two! in a town of a few thousand! How's that for monopoly...) We walked to the cafe each morning, breakfasting on coffee, homemade yogurt drizzled with honey, and the famous egg tarts.  They are so much better than anything we've had in HK--a flaky, puff-pastry crust, with a smooth, custardy filling, bruleed on top.  Custard is easy to overcook, and out of all the tarts we ate, each was perfectly cooked with only one exception (this one was a bit closer to scrambled eggs, but good nonetheless).

[caption id="attachment_136" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="breaking fast at Lord Stowe's"][/caption]

3. Fernando's Restaurant, on Hac Sa Beach. This Portuguese place surpassed our expectations.  We had a fabulous salad, with slices of height-of-August tomatoes. Truly the best tomatoes we've had in HK--brilliant red, sweet, juicy flavor.  Matt had a garlicky pork dish--the pork slices were thinner and more well-cooked than most Americans would like, but the meat was incredibly flavorful.  Tasted like the essence of pork.  I had grilled chicken that was a revelation--light, delicate, crispy skin, incredibly moist meat that again really tasted like chicken.  Both of our meats were served on top of a plate of fries--crisp outside, soft and tender inside, perfect for soaking up the meat's juices.  We also had a great Port. beer (Super Bock) that cost the same as a can of soda.  And the cost for all this--$196 HK dollars, which is about $25 US.  And the portions were huge--we were stuffed.  We wanted dessert, an egg pudding that I imagine is like flan, but Finn was getting cranky so we called it quits. 

4. This little dairy bar in Macau proper.  The Leitaria i Son serves milk from a local dairy, blended with various fruits or other flavors.  It felt sort of like a diner, and sort of like something you'd find at the State Fair, except instead of maple mIlk you get mango milk. We stopped in both coming and going from Coloane to Macau, and the milk is delish.  We tried banana, pineapple, and almond, and deliberated long over papaya and ginger.  Would have gotten mango in a second except that they were out.


[caption id="attachment_142" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Matt enjoying almond milk"]Matt enjoying almond milk[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_145" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="trays of milk custard in the window"]trays of milk custard in the window[/caption]

Overall it was a great vacation, and that's including the fact that Matt was sick one day, Finn was sick the other and he didn't sleep one of the nights.  I think we learned some things about traveling with an infant: invest in the room, since you'll be spending lots of time there; an expanse of dark cloth is useful for blocking light and preserving the baby's sleep, both in the pushchair and in the hotel room; accept that the baby will limit your activities, but will also open you to experiences you wouldn't otherwise have.  Finn is such a magnet for attention, that we inevitably end up in conversations with locals, getting tips on places to eat, public restrooms that have changing facilities, etc.


Chinese waffle goodness!

I mentioned back in an early post the wonderful waffles sold at a street stand near our apartment.  Here are some pictures, so you can imagine what I'm talking about.  Won't be great when we can add not only images, video and audio to these blogs but scent and taste as well?  


Woo hoo!

...or Vanity Press, part two... 

This time, I got something published...by someone other than myself! God's Politics is the blog maintained by Sojourners Magazine, with lots of interesting articles on faith, politics and culture.  Check it out here.


Vanity Press

This is a little ditty I wrote several weeks ago and submitted to an online magazine that shall remain nameless. Alas, they did not deem it worthy. So dang it, I'm going to publish it myself, right here, right now. Thanks for being my audience.


As both new parents and new residents of Hong Kong, the China milk scandal caught our attention and sent us scurrying through our kitchen, reading ingredient labels and looking for the words “product of China.” Trying not to be paranoid expats, we watched as grocery store shelves were stripped of Chinese dairy products and worked to ward off the growing panic. Because our child is still breastfed, we weren't worried about tainted formula, but we did find the dreaded Chinese milk powder lurking in the instant coffee beverage my husband drinks (and that product has since been recalled).

Whenever a news story becomes our story, it's frightening, of course, and often sends us to the phone, reassuring distant relatives that “we are indeed fine, that tornado was across town, thank you for asking.” These times, though, also remind us of our connectedness, of how our fates and fortunes (and even health) rise and fall together. The milk scandal in China isn't the only recent example of this—people all over the world are feeling the aftershocks of the Wall Street upheavals and wondering what the outcome will be for their retirement accounts, their investments, their homes. And both debacles can trace their roots back to corporate greed—what Ghandi describes as one of seven deadly social sins: “commerce without morality.” 

Most Americans wouldn't accept a comparison between their capitalist free market and China's emerging socialist economy, but recent events prove that wherever there is money to be made, the markets are capable of being corrupted, regardless of the system.

I'm no economist, and I don't pretend to know the best solution to either of these problems. But in addition to the systemic, regulatory changes needed, I propose a shift in our understanding of work  as simply a way to make money. Daniel Erlander, Lutheran pastor and writer, defines work as “the dignified activity of helping God meet the needs of all people.” Whether you are a mortgage broker in New York or a dairy farmer in Mongolia, this understanding not only lends purpose to the daily grind, but imbues it with a greater sense of mutual accountability. 

I know this is a simplistic solution to complex problems, especially for those who have little or no choice in their work or who work in dehumanizing conditions. The Chinese dairy farmers who doctored their milk with melamine aren't evil or uncaring—they have been hit by rising feed and fuel costs, like all farmers. But still, to put the lives of more than 50,000 infants at risk is unconscionable.

The Book of Common Prayer offers all of us this collect: O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” 

May it be so for us.


Puritans in Hong Kong

It's date night again. We have the luxury of a regular babysitter, which means a regular date night. Problem is, we've never had a regular date night-at least, not the traditional movie-and-a-dinner date night. Even before Finn, our weekends were more often spent having dinner with friends-their house or ours-,curling up with a movie or some good books, or going to the Dartmouth women's hockey games.
        So here we are in HK, with a fabulous arrangement of a regular night out. And what do we do? Well, tonight the plan was to go to the library and write (me) or read (Matt), then go meet a friend for a drink after the library closed. This plan, I should say, was hatched in the morning, a time of the day when we both are awake and full of frugal pep.
        But after a stressful afternoon of navigating the crowded Flower Market with a stroller and a cranky, teething baby, our enthusiasm for such a disciplined evening waned. And as we rode the tram towards the library, I looked out at crowds of people dressed up, obviously not accomplishing anything other than relaxing, and I wished I was a different sort of person. The kind of person who could just decide to go out and have fun on a Saturday night, and maybe even spend some money while we're at it. I should note that this is not the first time we have cursed our deeply ingrained Protestant work ethic.
        After expressing this desire to be other than who I am, and to base our evening plans on something other than "getting something done" and not spending much money, my dear husband laughed and suggested a change in plans. So instead of the library, we headed to our favorite cafe, which, for good measure, is in Wan Chai, land of Suzie Wong and girlie bars. No puritans here! Admittedly, we still worked, but the "warehouse sophisticate" ambience and (decaf) macchiato made the writing and reading feel downright luxurious.