22 May 2012

First week home

I have been back in the States for about a week and am finally feeling like I'm over some of this jetlag. I had quite a whirlwind first week back! After taking a couple of days to rest I went up to my alma mater and talked to the Institute for Leadership Excellence about my experiences in Hong Kong and Servant Leadership. They were an inquisitive group and I was happy to field all kinds of questions from them.

This past weekend was the very happy event that I came home early to attend: my brother's wedding! He and his new bride have been together for almost 12 years so she already felt like part of the family. It was a beautiful ceremony and a really fun reception and I am so happy for the two of them.

This weekend was also a chance to see family and friends I hadn't seen yet, including all of my cousins (one of whom lives in Texas!). Everyone asked about Hong Kong and can't wait to see pictures (gotta get started on a photo book..) and wanted to know what is next in my life.

It is a little strange to be back home, I must admit. I never realized how GREEN Tennessee really is! I'm surrounded by vast farmland and cow pastures. Even the cities feel spread out when compared to the crammed sidewalks of Tsim Sha Tsui. Things feel familiar but unfamiliar. There are ever so slight changes in the faces of family and friends, in the towns and cities I lived in.

It has been a little hard to reflect in the last week, what with the wedding and visiting friends and family. I'm trying to get my feet back on the ground here, to get a job and find a new place to live and call home. I have that interstitial feeling that comes during a major life transition, one that has been going on for the past two years. Hopefully, with continued prayers and encouragement (and God's loving help!) I can take what I have learned about myself and mission in Hong Kong into the next phase of my life.

14 May 2012

How to say goodbye?

再見,香港!!! Paalam Hong Kong!! Selamat tinggal Hong Kong! Goodbye, Hong Kong!

The last few days have been a whirlwind of farewells and tears and lots of food. 

Friday afternoon Rev. Catherine and I went to The Peninsula for their famous Afternoon Tea. It was elegant, delicious, and we enjoyed beautiful music while we sipped our tea and nibbled our scones. Sitting there in the very opulent foyer of The Pen, where so many have gathered over the years to share in this very British-yet-also-Asian ritual, I just tried to soak it all in. The music was like a mini-concert unto itself; I actually recognized a few of the tunes! I will admit to getting a little misty-eyed when they played the Tennessee Waltz. Who know I would hear my state song so far from home!

In the evening I went with some of my friends to the Shandaar India night at St. John's, a fund-raising event for the ministries of the church. The food was so good but I was still full from Tea so I could only eat a little! Can I have an extra stomach please?? So much good food here... At 8 o'clock we gathered in the Cathedral to hear a musical performance by the group tharangini. They sang songs of their own composition and a few famous ones as well. There was a group of girls, early teens I'm guessing, who performed dances to some of the songs. They were so graceful and made it look so fun (and easy!) but I know they practiced hard for the performance. Towards the end they sang Yan Sang, a famous Chinese song about life's sorrows and joys. They encouraged audience participation, and my friend Eddie started to sing along. We were sitting in the front row, and the performers noticed and motioned for him to come up onstage. He went up and sang with them! It was a great moment and everyone left the show with a big smile and a light heart. 

Saturday I packed up my bags. Yes, it took a while, but I managed to get what I could stuffed into my suitcases (ok so they're mailing some thick sweaters that wouldn't fit). Rev. Catherine offered to let me stay at their place this weekend and take me to the Airport Express on Monday when I fly out. I am constantly floored by the kindness and generosity of the people around me. So after giving Kiko a great big huge and scratch behind the ears, I took one last look at my home for the last ten months and got my bags down to the sidewalk. I wrangled a taxi and then unloaded my things at the Mariner's Club. 

I met up with some friends, Kyle and Crissy, and we went to Sheung Wan for my despedida at the Bethune House Extension. Oh what a party it was!! I had to fight off the tears and I don't think I've really processed the fact that I AM LEAVING yet. I said goodbye to the wonderful ladies at BH, my fellow volunteers, and Ate Cynthia and Mama Edwina. We ate, we sang karaoke (I performed the song I learned in Tagalog, "Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal"), and generally had a good time. I love singing, I love karaoke, but I tried not to hog the mic :P I  even got fellow Southerner Joy to join me on a round of Boot Scootin' Boogie! 

Later on I met up with my friend Alex and we took a ferry to Peng Chau island. He had been by this French place there before and wanted to try it out. Well, turns out all they had was bread, cheese, and some meats... so we got a bottle of wine and enjoyed the evening out of the city. When I got back to Rev. Catherine's I was pretty tired but I managed to get myself up for the 9AM service this morning.

I've spent the day among friends at the Cathedral, had lunch at an anniversary celebration for one of the groups that volunteers at the Give Care event. I rode the tram through the city one more time, sad that it would be my last. In the afternoon the MOVERS volunteer group had a little get together for me, complete with a farewell song and snacks. I will miss all of them!!!

At the 6pm service, Rev. Catherine and Father David said prayers for me and sent me off with kind words and a full heart. They gave me a beautiful cross and a card signed by friends at the Cathedral. After the service I went out to a lovely meal with Catherine and Stephen at a restaurant that had a beautiful view of the harbour. We arrived around 8pm so we had a great view of the light show. It was a clear night, too, so it was even more spectacular.

I spent the night at Rev. Catherine's and my friend Alex came over to keep me company as I tried to finish packing and stay up as long as possible. I slept for a couple of hours before waking at 6AM, and Stephen took me, Alex, and a Roman Catholic bishop who was staying at the Mariner's Club to the Airport Express.

Ate Cynthia met up with us at the station and we rode my last train ride through the city. I don't think it hit me until I was hugging them goodbye that I'm actually going home. I bid a tearful farewell and got myself through immigration and security without any problems (thank goodness!).

 A day later (although it doesn't seem that long) I am safely home and trying to get acclimated. I will update more over the next few days as I process my experience. Thank you, once again, for coming with me on this journey and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have!

Grace & Peace

07 May 2012

8 Days!

Me & Kiko
It is so hard to believe that in 8 days I will be boarding a plane and heading back to the U.S.! I am beginning to say goodbye to Hong Kong, to all of the amazing people I have met and the places I have come to love. Yes, even Kiko the Dog, my roommate for the past 8 months, has grown on me.

My first going away party was Friday April 28th; some friends and I had dinner and then went to karaoke in Causeway Bay. It was supposed to be a tram party but because it was raining heavily we chose to forego the tram part and just do the karaoke. It was so much fun! I enjoyed spending a few hours singing with my friends. One of my dear, dear friends here, Rebecca, left on Sunday to travel around Southeast Asia so it was the last time I saw her. We hugged and hugged!! I will miss her so much; she really made Hong Kong feel more home-y.

Saturday the 29th I went to Repulse Bay with another friend of mine, Crissy. I had never been and I hadn't been able to get to the beach at all before now due to weather conditions. It threatened rain the whole time, with big heavy clouds rolling by, but the rain held off. We built a sand alligator and swam, and I laid out for a little bit. It was nice to spend the day relaxing on the beach! We also had dinner with some of her Chinese friends out in Tsuen Wan. It was a full day!
Tai Wai

Tuesday May 1 was a holiday and I went to a friend's house out in Tai Wai, a village in the New Territories with a 500 year old shrine in it. They have an apartment with a rooftop and they set up a screen and projector to watch a movie. It was fun having a pizza and movie night with them and some of their other friends, mostly film/photography people that Sammie knows from her school. We ended up watching WALL-E, which I hadn't seen before, and it was so cute!

Movie on the roof!
Sunday I went back to St. Stephen's in Stanley to serve with Father Will, who is just a delightful and wonderful person. I enjoyed serving at the little church and fellowship after. I met up with my friend Crissy again and her sister, and we went to the beach in Stanley for a few hours. I wish I had brought sunscreen though--I got a really bad sun burn! I sure hope it heals up soon--definitely don't want to be on a long flight with a sunburn.
Mangoes & Grapes

The Quarterly Report for the Mission is coming along; I'm waiting to receive more of the encoded databases from my colleagues so I can extract the data. Hopefully I can get it done before I leave on May 14! I'm trying to finish up my work and also spend time with friends, not to mention packing up some things so I am not totally rushed. I will probably ship some things home too. So much to think about!! Thank you all so much for your support over the last year; I could not have done this without you or without God working in my life.
Grace and Peace,