17 August 2011

What's August Like in China?

August is a busy month here in China!
China uses a lunar calendar (which is why the new year is in February instead of January), and in Chinese tradition, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month (August) in general is regarded as the Ghost Month, in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm.

From Wiki: “On the fifteenth day the realms of Heaven and Hell and the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is ancestor worship, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Elaborate meals (often vegetarian meals) would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family treating the deceased as if they are still living.”

I have passed people burning things in large bins (miniature replicas of everything from iPads and cell phones to maids and mansions), food laid out as offering and the streets perfumed with incense. These traditions are very much alive!

August is also the holy month of Ramadan, observed by the many Muslims here in Hong Kong. On Sunday another one of the interns and I went to Victoria Park, the hang-out spot for Indonesian migrant workers—most of whom are Muslim.

Many of the women were napping on blankets, crowded under precious shade or creating shade of their own with bright umbrellas. They gather to talk and help each other and spend time with friends. Since it is Ramadan many were fasting, but the ones who weren’t offered us traditional foods and tea, which were delicious! I am at a real disadvantage since I don’t know Bahasa or Cantonese, and only a few spoke English, but luckily the other intern knows Cantonese so he translated for me. Several of the women there expressed an interest in learning or improving their English so I offered to come for a few hours on Sundays to chat with them and provide informal lessons. Language is such a valuable commodity and I am taking steps to learn Cantonese, Tagalog (the Filipino language), and Bahasa too. It is good to have tutors in the form of colleagues and clients, but some formal training would be really helpful.
August is also the hottest month, much like it is in my home state of Tennessee. The weather continues to be hot and humid with no sign of letting up. I am hopeful that September will cool off, as I really enjoy Hong Kong but during the day it is too hot to go outside! I would like to go to Ngong Ping, where there is a giant Buddha statue and monastery, but it’s so hot I might as well wait until things cool down.
Technical difficulties
I have begun running into problems with my trusty laptop and internet connection. My laptop has undergone more wear and tear in the last month than it did in three months back home, and since it is also several years old it might be time to retire it. (Blue Screen of Death appears at least three times in a day.. not good!) My internet connection has turned spotty and drops the signal every two minutes, frustrating when skyping with parents or friends or chatting online. Also uploading blog posts! I made an inquiry at the shop that sells the internet connection I have, and after preliminary testing they determined that yes, my internet connection is reeaalllyy slow. They were not sure what to do about it though, so someone is supposed to call me. Since I am not the account holder I’m not sure what I can do. I live down the street from Mong Kok, a bustling shopping area with a large computer center. I also went to Wan Chai the other day to check a few things out. Looks like I can get some great deals on electronics, so perhaps in the next few weeks I can hunt down a good deal. I realize I am fortunate to have a laptop and internet connection at all, so I am grateful for what I have even if it is sometimes frustrating to deal with.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? I invite them all! <3 Kathleen

1 comment:

  1. Oh Kathleen I am so happy to hear good things from you! I miss you very much and I'm really proud of you for taking this opportunity. <3 Regina