Hong Kong Cold Weather Warning

When I checked the weather this morning to see how to dress Finn for our walk, I saw that the low overnight was 12 C, which is about 54 F. Then I saw the warning posted (the warning section is where they announce a typhoon or landslide or other major concern), which is what I have copied and posted below:

Cold Weather Warning

The Cold Weather Warning is now in force. The Hong Kong Observatory is forecasting cold weather in Hong Kong this morning. As Hong Kong is being affected by a cold winter monsoon, people are advised to put on warm clothes and to avoid adverse health effects due to the cold weather. You must also ensure adequate indoor ventilation. If you must go out, please avoid prolonged exposure to wintry winds. If you know of elderly persons or persons with chronic medical conditions staying alone, please call or visit them occasionally to check if they need any assistance. Make sure heaters are safe before use, and place them away from any combustibles. Do not light fires indoors as a means to keep warm. Whatever the temperature, please ensure that there is plenty of fresh air in your room when you are using an old-type gas water heater. DISPATCHED BY HONG KONG OBSERVATORY AT 06:02 HKT ON 29.11.2008
thought that you minnesotans and new englanders would appreciate this ...  


The Chestnut Man

A man has set up in recent weeks outside our apartment selling roasted chestnuts. We found the smell odd at first--a mixture of propane fuel, burned toast and something vaguely sweet. I buy some almost every day, even though neither Matt nor I particularly like chestnuts. But for 10 HK$ (about 1.25 US) I get some seasonality. I know eating "seasonally" has become hip lately, but for a girl who grew up in a gardening family, eating tomatoes in August and squash in October is just what we did. And now in a place where autumn means temperatures in the 70's instead of the 80's, I need another way to mark time, not so that it passes quickly, but so that I recognize its passage. I keep looking for new fruits in the market or new vegetables in my weekly farm delivery, but so far, the chestnut man is what I've got. So we eat chestnuts. And the smell is growing on us--it's starting to smell like fall.      


[caption id="attachment_206" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="The chestnut man"]The chestnut man[/caption]

Maya and Diane

Well, there's going to be a flurry of posting in the next week or so. Matt has needed the computer for work lately so I've been out of commission, but now I have a backlog of ideas and thoughts.  For now, though, I want to draw your attention to this conversation between Maya Angelou and Diane Rehm on the Diane Rehm show. Nothing earth shattering, just a delightful, wise conversation between two grand ladies.  Perfect for listening to while folding laundry or doing dishes.  And Good Morning!


Bread, truth, wine, dreams

Living in an urban area again has forced upon me that old dilemma, what to do when confronted with beggars asking for money. There aren't actually a lot of beggars here in Hong Kong, compared with other cities, but the ones I do see are heartbreakingly sad—a bone-thin mother holding a disabled son, for instance, or an old man with a disfigured face and only one leg.

I'm new enough here that I really have no idea what the social support systems are like in HK—are there publicly funded homes for disabled people? Are there charity-supported homeless shelters? Where do hungry people get food?

My response to these beggars is a little different than it has been in the past. Maybe because these situations seem so obviously desperate, or maybe because everything is so new that I'm not immune to such sad scenes yet, but whatever the case, I find myself giving whatever money I have readily available. And I don't feel at all conflicted about it, as I've been in past situations, unsure if it's the smartest way to help or if the money will be spent in the ways I imagine.   

In January 2007 I participated in a humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republic, where my role was to bake with communities in communal, wood-burning ovens and to do repair work on those ovens. I must admit that prior to the trip I didn't know what would be accomplished by these bakes, and I felt a little like the kid who just sits on the sidelines, watching the team go to the finals, glad to be along but not quite sure how she got there, and afraid to say anything lest they notice that she doesn't really belong and send her home. The nurses, the folks helping to start a cooperative—they were the real stars of this show. But even the nurses, with all their donations of incontinence pads and insulin readers—wouldn’t it be more beneficial to just send the money that it costs to transport this group of good-hearted souls and all their stuff?

But I went, along with my stuff. I baked, I listened and I taught, I tried to understand people's questions about the ovens, I offered what knowledge I had, I smiled, I took pictures, and amazingly enough, I watched something happen when communities came together around an oven, eating and talking and sharing. Oh, right. Duh. I've staked my life on this belief that something happens when we eat together. And you get more bang for your buck when you prepare the food together as well. How did I ever doubt that baking with and for people would foster community and create a space for planning, dreaming, and discovering one’s own capacity? 

I don't know the long-term effects of our trip almost two years ago, don't know if any more students are now able to attend school, or if a few more women hold their heads up with the dignity of earning their own money. Just like I don't know what impact it has when I drop a few coins in a beggar's cup, with no control over how that money is spent. But that's not really the point of those coins. I'm under no illusion that a few dollars here and there will solve anything for anyone, will address the systemic challenges of poverty, just like one trip can't really solve anything.  

But when one particular person asks me, another particular person, for help, I believe they are asking for money, yes, but also for my presence, my recognition of a shared humanity. And so to drop a few coins in, along with a look full in the eyes and a smile, or to fly to another country just to bake some bread, is really the same thing—an offering of presence.  It may not, certainly will not, solve the larger problems. But it helps to maintain humanity, both mine and theirs, and contribues to, as Pablo Neruda says, “the building of a community, the changing of the conditions which surround mankind, the handing over of mankind’s products: bread, truth, wine, dreams.”


Final Argument for Obama

This long campaign is finally coming to an end.  I've been getting emails from the Obama campaign for weeks now, asking for volunteers, and other than donating money, I haven't done anything.  So this morning I decided to try to make some calls--I can do it through skype and it's still early Sunday night in the States. After leaving a lot of messages, reminding people to vote and telling them where their polling location is, I finally reached someone.  She very decisively said she did not want to talk about the election and hung up.  At that point I had to stop--I remember how much I hated all the phone calls we got in New Hampshire leading up to the primaries.  

But how to help?  I believe this election is really important, even more so when I look at my sweet boy and imagine what kind of country and world he's going to grow up in.  So this is my what I can do--encourage you all to vote, first of all.  I want Finn to grow up in a country with an active and vital democracy.  And second, please consider voting for Obama, even if you're Republican or pro-life or whatever might keep you from voting for him.  

It used to be more about the issues for me, but lately it has been as much about the character of the man.

When I think about the kind of leader I want Finn to look up to and emulate, I can think of no one better than Barak Obama.  He's an intelligent, kind, hard worker who has truly lived the American Dream, who has a servant's heart, who embodies family and moral values.  He's the only politician I hear talking about the need to teach our teenagers that sexuality is sacred, about the need for parents to turn off the TV and spend time with their kids.

He's even-tempered, rational, positive and willing to think in new ways. The 9/11 commission said that one of the biggest failures on our part that kept us from preventing 9/11 was a failure of imagination.  I don't think Obama will suffer from a failure of imagination, about what could go wrong on the one hand, but even more, about what go right, what could change. He clearly dares to dream big, and I think he will dream big for all Americans.     

He has consistently asked us all to hope this campaign, rather than to fear.  This is the first vote I've cast that was much a vote for someone as against someone. It feels good to vote out of hope rather than fear. But I have to add that I do fear for our country with McCain/Palin at the helm.  I fear more unnecessary wars, I fear increased terrorism, I fear a larger deficit, I fear having two hot-heads close to the trigger of nuclear arms.  If their campaign can't even keep the peace internally, how do we expect them to engage in delicate diplomatic efforts?  

Ok, no more fears. I welcome any discussion about this, especially if you're on the fence. Remember to vote!