HK Alphabet :: N

N :: Noodles

No, noodles are nothing new, nor are they unique to Hong Kong. But they have been a significant part of our diet while living here, and they are a significant part of what sustains this city. (Noodles and cell phones. There'd be a revolt for sure if these two items ever became unavailable.)
There's Vietnamese pho--savory and rich, perfect on these drizzly cold days. Japanese ramen, with boiled eggs and fried pork and a light dashi broth. Coconut-rich Laksa. Wonton noodles, with just the right amount of chew and delicately wrapped shrimp. Pad Thai. There are fresh noodles in the market, hand-pulled noodles at the Shanghainese restaurants, and "cup" noodle at the beach (and virtually everywhere else. I doubt one could ever be further than 50 feet from a source of cup noodle in Hong Kong). There are more flavors of instant ramen than you've ever imagined. And in just a month or two, we'll be hitting the cold udon and the Vietnamese bun and the sesame noodles hard.

Part of what we love about noodles here is what they signify--a multicultural city where it's possible to get almost anything you want, and to get it cheaply and quickly. Noodles are the ultimate take-away food, and Hong Kong the ultimate take-away city. They work well together. And even though sometimes we hate how fast-paced and removed Hong Kong is from the land (you may only be 50 feet from a source of cup noodle, but that noodle is way more than 50 feet from its source), we do love the noodles.

N :: Names

Billionaire Lodge. Prosperity Plaza. Tycoon Court. Sincerity Building. Wealthy House. (my favorite) Effectual Building.  What more is there to say?

find previous HK Alphabet entries here


Never so far

This year we did something really cool for Chinese New Year: a dinner cruise on an all-teak Chinese junk the night of the fireworks over the harbor. And no, it was not easy for this mama to leave Willa for that long (6+ hours) ... given that she's none too happy about taking milk from a bottle, nor is she very happy in general during the evening hours. But we managed, and she managed, and maybe most importantly, our babysitter managed. (And she's still our babysitter!)

And it was cool. Did I say that already? A beautiful night (just a bit chilly after the sun went down), we got to hang out with friends and enjoy good food, an open bar, and impressive fireworks. Sans children. We met a couple from Canada who had not only heard of Crookston, MN (the tiny town where Matt grew up) but had been there, repeatedly. And then sat next to an architect couple, one of whom is designing an important center here in Hong Kong and the other of whom is from Iran and is willing to talk to Matt's students about an Iranian book they are reading.

Standing under a swinging red lantern on the boat's deck, surveying the skyline and the impossibly huge apartment complexes, I couldn't help but think about how different our life will look one year from now. We don't know exactly where we'll land, but early February will most certainly not see us on a dinner boat cruise, watching Chinese New Year fireworks with people from all over the world. And though we long for what February will bring us--snow, cross-country skiing, sitting in front of a fire--we feel sad too. Yes, yes, I know I've said this repeatedly, but I have a feeling it's going to be a theme these remaining months: excited to go, sad to leave.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, recently interviewed on Speaking of Faith Being, said that mindfulness is a way to slow down time. So that's the goal--to really live each of the moments we have left here and not let the time just pass by. Which is not always easy, given that the moments are so often filled with foot-stamping, toy-throwing, attention-seeking tears (and not just from Finn. Ahem.) And hungry, end-of-the-day tears (and not just from Willa. Ahem. Ahem.) Except then I realize that there isn't much more in-the-moment than the tears of a child ... in fact, I often find myself wishing I could get both of them to see a bigger picture. (I know, I know.)

Jon Kabat-Zinn also says that "living with children is probably the most powerful spiritual practice that anybody could ever be engaged in." He goes on to compare our children to little Zen masters, "parachuted into our lives to push all our buttons and see how we're going to work with the challenges they throw at us." And though I'd be hard-pressed to call Finn a Zen master, I have often remarked at how much I am learning about my own anger and lack of patience through these kids. And then all I can do is rest in the grace that God is the ultimate parent not only to my children, but to me. Full of grace and love not only to my children, but also to me. Ready to give chance after chance, both to my children and to me. And as I seek again to model God's love to my children, I accept it as true for me too.

You are never so far that my love can't find you
You're never so far I can't see your face
We are never so far, let me remind you
We're never so far from our loving place

Greg Brown, Never So Far 

May it be so for all of us, never so far from the people and places that we love, and never so far from the One who loves us.


And yet

Chinese New Year is here, a red and yellow carpet rolled out over the city. The boxes of treats piled high in supermarkets, the plum blossom branches and orange trees, the lanterns, the gaity--it's all so festive. This year I've approached it with mixed feelings, knowing it's our last one here. Our last New Year's fair, our last lai see packets, our last lion and dragon dances.  

It echoes all the topsy-turvy feelings we have about this coming year in general. Yes, we are choosing to return home--it's a decision we've talked and prayed over ad nauseam. It's clearly what we want. And yet--and yet. There are people and aspects of life here that are so hard to leave. This is where I've learned to be a mother--what will it be like in another culture, another climate? What will it be like when winter is not just a pretty picture in a book, but a blowing, freezing, icing reality

What will it be like when we can't just go hiking on an outlying island whenever we want? Or go dig in a garden in January (yes! We have a little plot now at Matt's school!), or buy entire spools of ribbon for $10 HK each, or simply walk down the street and find anything we need, whether it's a bowl of Vietnamese pho or a new pen or fresh mangoes or someone to resole my shoes or fix my eyeglasses? Sometimes the thing that is most clear of all is that never again will our hearts be fully in one place.  

Last Sunday's church service was so good for us. A proper New Year's sermon, it was all about actually doing whatever it is we are called to do, rather than just talk and plan and talk some more. As a mentor of ours from Hanover used to say, "There's nothing like doing it." So it was good encouragement to us to keep saying yes, keep moving towards the vision we have, a vision we believe is from God. Keep working, keep going. 

And then we sang the final song--"One more step along the world I go"--a favorite song of Ruth Ives, the woman who helped found The Carpenter's Boatshop, and from whom Willa got her middle name. We sang that song, holding dear Willa Ruth in our arms, remembering a woman who wasn't ever afraid to act or to start or to try, and who in so doing changed many lives. With choked voices, we committed again to following this dream, to stepping into the unknown, trusting that God has gone before us and will go with us. 

Give me courage when the world is rough, 
keep me loving though the world is tough; 
leap and sing in all I do, 
keep me traveling along with you: 

and it's from the old I travel to the new, 
keep me traveling along with you.