It’s not how big the house is…

It’s not how big the house is; it’s how happy the home is. This could be true for most of us. One of the challenges greeting us in Hong Kong was getting used to living in a much smaller space. Micah, who is full of energy, has found it challenging with less living space indoors. He has had to find other ways to use his energy including jumping in the fish pond and repeatedly climbing into Asher’s cot which is conveniently (or not) an arms reach away from his own bed.

We have been on various outreaches into different parts of Hong Kong, where we have discovered that lots of families also have challenges with space, amongst other things. To put it into context, one estate that we visited officially housed around 20,000 people (Chichester has around 23,00) but was on a site only marginally bigger than Priory Park, in Chichester. This number is likely to be much higher as many workers commute from mainland China and stay in small rooms unofficially.

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Whilst on the estate, we met one family who had 11 month old twins. However, the parents decided to keep one twin and gave the other to the grandparents to look after, only to see the child every few weeks. There were many reasons why these parents felt that they needed to give away a child, including: lack of space, limited understanding of children’s needs and lack of confidence in their parenting skills. Speaking to some of the leaders of the outreach, this sort of arrangement is not uncommon.

We often hear about children who are left to be looked after by domestic helpers, or even left at home on their own as parents go to work. St Stephen’s is hoping to encourage and nurture a more positive view of parenting and childhood by running parenting sessions alongside play groups and art groups, coaching the families of the teenage brothers who live on site and demonstrating how to have fun with children in a messy, energetic way. Our Cantonese is coming along slowly, but not quickly enough to be able to have in depth discussions with anyone whilst out on the streets and so we have been hoping to demonstrate both Gods love and positive parenting through playing with the boys in public.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us, in particular for Micah to feel more at home. Thankfully he is feeling a little more settled and managing to get himself involved in all sorts of mischief.

Settling in

Around three weeks ago, we moved into our apartment at St Stephen’s Society’s rehabilitation campus, near Shatin, Hong Kong. We have finally managed to get internet access and we can now fill you in on how the last few weeks have progressed…

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Outside the block where our apartment is.

Moving in was quite challenging, especially as Micah and Asher were really unsettled and struggled to sleep together in the same room for the first time. This was mainly because Micah wanted to wake Asher up to ‘Say Hi’. It became even more stressful as we found a number of cockroaches and even a lizard scuttling around the flat on the first evening (thankfully we seem to have got rid of them now!). The first few days seemed to go really slowly as we began to find our feet and get accustomed to a different way of living, as well as trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to learn some of the language.

Since then we have begun to slowly  learn our roles and duties, as well as started training sessions for working with the poor and those in need.  On the whole, we feel more settled now, although Micah is struggling and, as well as not sleeping well, seems to be missing his friends and family a lot without really understanding why he cant see them at the moment. We are also missing our friends from back home and look forward to being able to communicate more now that we have internet access.

Some of you will remember us talking about a place called ‘The Walled City‘ which was standing in Hong Kong until the mid-1990’s. It was a small area in British Hong Kong that was outside of British jurisdiction yet not policed by the Chinese government and consequently became a place where criminals would go to escape the law. It became known as ‘The City of Darkness’ because without building regulations, huge buildings were erected without foundations and within meters of each other; the streets below were almost permanently in the shadows and the open sewers were a playground for rats. Some people estimated that around 50,000 people lived in the walled city and there were only two wells  and a few communal water taps to provide ‘clean’ water. All around were drug dens, brothels, illegal businesses and triad gangs. In 1993, the work to pull down the walled city began and in its place now stands the Kowloon Walled City Park, which has beautifully landscaped gardens and a museum about the walled city.

Last week, Joel had the privilege of being given a tour of the park by some people who had lived there when the walled city still stood. It was fascinating to hear first-hand stories about what it was like to live there and to be shown around the museum by them. The walled city was the place where St Stephen’s Society (or Jackie Pullinger) really began its work and to understand more about the place that Jackie went to work and live in was really inspirational.

Tonight the forecast is for an incoming Typhoon so everyone on site is busy taping up the windows and putting everything inside that could fly around. It could be rated a T10 which means it would be a direct hit with the eye of the storm passing over us. The last time there was a T10 was back in 2012 so they are quite rare, even though Hong Kong is regularly affected by typhoons between May and September.

We’ve really appreciated hearing from some of you and receiving some home comforts from back home so thank you for thinking of and praying for us.

 

Still British (for now)!

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Since our last post, we been a little busier seeing more of the city and experiencing further glimpses of the Chinese culture. We are also getting more used to the heat and humidity which sometimes feels like we are permanently stood behind a car exhaust blowing out hot air. Thank God for air conditioning!

It’s starting to dawn on us how much of a change in lifestyle this is going to be, especially as we get to see the work we will be doing and the places that we will be doing it in!

Last week, we went to one of St Stephen’s church services which gave us even more of an insight into the culture of the organisation: all about serving the poor and needy, but involving both Cantonese and English speaking volunteers equally. We also began our training over the last few days and heard some inspiring stories of lives that have been transformed through the work of St Stephen’s. It was nice to begin to meet people that we will be spending the next couple of years working with.

We have felt really welcomed here in Hong Kong so far, but by far and away the most glad to see us have been the many thousands of mosquitos that greet us every time we walk outside. It feels like we are being eaten alive, but thankfully (sort of) they are more interested in us than in Micah or Asher! Our preparation for hot weather did not take this into account and so we have been on a hunt for reasonably priced, longer but light clothes to try and keep them at bay.

The poverty gap here has become really apparent to us as the prices of everyday items are really expensive in comparison to the UK. It is easy to see how people who don’t work in the city, with lower salaries, can struggle to pay for the essential thing that they need. A few days ago we went to a local supermarket just buy a couple of things for dinner and found these (thats equivalent to around £90 for a couple of mangoes and £50 for a melon!):

We recently walked into a shop which was selling English chocolate and quickly realised that chocolate is not one of the things that we will be having whilst we’re here. A bag of mini Twirls cost HKD$58 which is roughly about £5.20. You can see why one of the highlights of last week was receiving a chocolate bar each from England from some very generous friends!

One thing that is keeping us in touch with the UK is the rain. Although it is very hot here, we have also had a lot of heavy rain which is to be expected because we arrived at the start of the rainy (typhoon) season. We sympathise with all of you that are experiencing this too! Today we decided, based on the sunny weather forecast, that we’d walk around The Peak (the highest view point on HK island). Little did we realise that the weather forecast had changed and we were caught in the middle of some heavy rain. We must be British- still talking about the weather!  However, we did get to see a spectacular view of Hong Kong.

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Prayer point- We are yet to receive our working visas and HK ID cards, which will make it easier to do many things including booking appointments for Micah’s hearing and eyesight difficulties.

More to come soon…

We’re Here!

20160530_175943We’re here! After months of preparation and waiting, we have arrived in Hong Kong. The 12 hour flight passed by without incident and we were greeted at the airport by both Joel’s parents and a stifling wall of heat and humidity before heading back to their apartment. It was good to finally put our bags down and relax. We are currently trying to acclimatise and shake off the jet-lag, but Micah and Asher seem to be doing a better job than we are!

Once we have settled in, the next few weeks will involve training with St Stephen’s, introducing ourselves to more of the Chinese culture and trying to sharpen up our limited Cantonese language skills, before we join St Stephen’s society fully at the beginning of July.

We look forward to sharing more of our journey here in Hong Kong on this blog soon…