Service Learning

As part of my Global Citizenship class, I am participating in a service learning program that complements some of our in-class coursework. It has been a great opportunity to learn about the social justice issues facing Hong Kong and I want to share a little of what I have learned and what I have done through the program :)

I am volunteering with an organization called Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW), which advocates for the rights of migrant domestic helpers. In Hong Kong, it is very common to hire a domestic worker to help with housework and childcare, and many of these helpers come from places like Indonesia and the Philippines. A lot of the times, they are put into very vulnerable positions because they are forced to sign contracts in a language they don't understand, recruitment agencies charge them illegal fees and trap them in debt, it is mandatory for them to live with their employers which makes them more vulnerable to abuse, and the conditions of their visa and their need to send money to their families at home makes them very reluctant to speak up about violations of their rights for fear that they will lose their job. Two of the main things that MFMW does is assist workers with filing claims if they are having problems with their employers or recruitment agencies, and refer them to shelters if they need to escape a bad situation. What I have been doing is inputting the cases to the computer system, and this work has given me a glimpse of the many problems and injustices that domestic helpers in Hong Kong face. So far this has been a really meaningful and valuable experience and I am so grateful for the chance to work with all the wonderful people involved. Here's a couple of examples of MFMW's publications:



Classes :D



Sorry it’s been so long since my last post! I’ve been super busy and my time here is going by so fast, I can’t believe it!

So far everything is wonderful and I’m loving my classes! I’ve had some really great experiences in each of them and I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had so far.

One of the most exciting things I’ve gotten to do was go on two difference site trips for my History of Religions in China class. On the first, we went to a Zoroastrian prayer hall and cemetery. This was a really unique opportunity because Zoroastrianism has become such a small religion that there aren't many prayer halls like this around. The main priest was very kind to invite us there. He told us a few facts about the religion and their basic beliefs, and then said a prayer over us in Ancient Persian. The prayer hall and cemetery were both very beautiful, but out of respect I didn’t take any pictures inside! Here are some photos of the entrance  :)





On the second site trip we went to two Buddhist monasteries (one rural and one the largest in Hong Kong), a Chinese ancestral hall, a combined Buddhist/Taoist temple, a temple for the sea goddess Tin Hau, and a Catholic church.




These are special long-burning incense rings in the Taoist temple. If they are left undisturbed they can burn for a month or longer. People light them in honor of family members who have passed away.



It was really special to be able to visit one of the small rural monasteries. Most of them in mainland China have closed, so Hong Kong is one of the only places left where you can visit one like this. The atmosphere was definitely different than the larger temples that visitors usually go to.

This monastery is famous for the calligraphy and inscriptions you can see hanging above the arches.

This is an alter to Tin Hau, the sea goddess. There is one large statue and one portable statue that can be taken to festivals for different gods and goddesses throughout the year, as a symbol of Tin Hau's presence at these gatherings as a guest.

Most of the alters had offerings of flowers, fresh fruit, and incense.

These are two models of boats outside the Tin Hau temple, each built as offerings of thanks to the goddess after rescue from a shipwreck.



This is the entrance to the ancestral hall we visited. It was elaborately decorated to show off the riches of the family whose ancestors are represented here.




Each of the tablets in the background represents one of the ancestors of the family. They can be pulled out and opened up to reveal information about that specific person's life. (You need special permission to do this of course!)






The rest of my classes have also been very exciting! In my global citizenship class we did a unit on food justice, and on the final day everyone brought in a dish that they made out of local and organic foods. I got to visit one of the farmers' markets in Hong Kong to buy some ingredients, and we ended up bringing a kiwi banana salad:


This course also has a service learning portion, and for it I signed up to work with a local agency that advocates for the rights of migrant domestic helpers in Hong Kong. I've already learned so much and I have a lot to share about it, so I'm going to save it for another post coming soon :)
  

Chinese New Year Celebrations!

Earlier this month Hong Kong celebrated the Chinese New Year! Lingnan students had a week off of school, and as Hong Kong is one of the most popular destinations for celebrating the Chinese New Year, I decided to stay and experience all the festivities of the city. I learned a lot from my local friends about the many symbols and traditions of this important holiday season, including miniature orange trees placed at the door as a symbol of good luck, red envelopes full of money given by parents to children and grandchildren, and most importantly, time spent sharing meals with family and friends. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the week! :)
 
Most of the local students go home during this time, but one of my buddies took the time to go with me to a traditional new years flower market near Lingnan!

Miniature trees like this are an important new years symbol. The words 'tangerine' and 'orange' sound like the words for 'luck' and 'wealth'.

One of the things that make Hong Kong such a popular holiday destination is the annual new years parade. Around 150,000 people came out to celebrate! The crowds were definitely worth it though, it was a really impressive event!









Do you see the person hanging upside down??

All in all it was a fantastic night, and the rest of the week was wonderful too! I was able to do some traveling (as you can see in my last post!) and ended it all with Lingnan's Lantern Legend Festival. Local students and exchange students cooked and shared some of their favorite foods from home, and also put on some awesome performances to finish welcoming in the new year!


Island Excursions!

During the last few weeks I have been able to venture out and visit a couple of the many outlying islands of Hong Kong! I went to Cheung Chau Island on a trip organized by Lingnan's study abroad office, and a few friends and I planned our own trip to Lantau Island.

At Cheung Chau we went hiking and explored the incredible sights of the island. It was great to experience a quieter side of Hong Kong while taking in some of its most beautiful views.








At Lantau island we climbed up to see the famous Big Buddha statue at the Po Lin Monastery, and then visited the traditional fishing village, Tai O.









  

Tai O is said to be a good glimpse of the "old Hong Kong" that existed before all the rapid development of the last few decades. While we were there we were able to try some seafood from the outdoor market, visit one of the village temples, and catch a beautiful sunset before heading home.