Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What comes 'round!

In November 1999, as we were getting ready to leave Hong Kong for good, a number of friends mentioned that it was a shame that I was leaving just a few months away from obtaining Permanent Residency Status, which would have made me a defacto official citizen of Hong Kong.

I didn't care...I was America bound and remember joking, "If God ever wants me back, he'll get me another work visa." Well...10 years later, He did...and He did!

We arrived in Hong Kong after a final flurry of activities in Qingdao (which involved a lot of tears all around). School ended on Dec 18...and we boarded a plane for Hong Kong on the 19th. As we began our decent into the city Tammy and I both experienced a flood of memories and excitement. After 10 years away, we were going to live in Hong Kong again!

The airport shuttle took us to the YWCA serviced apartment where we are temporarily staying, and because we were the LAST hotel on the list, had a pleasant Saturday night drive through the city. It was as if we were getting a welcome back tour just for us. Hong Kong was lit up for Christmas and we kept staring out the big bus windows with wide grins, pinching each other and exclaiming, "We're back!"

Anyhow, some of the highlights of the last few days:

* We visited the school where I will be working and where Gabriel will be attending. Gabriel was amazed as he will be coming from a campus with a secondary student body of 18 to one of 700.

* Went to Hong Kong Disneyland which was decorated perfectly for Christmas. What a wonderful day...but I still couldn't get Gabriel to ride Space Mountain with me!

* Spent Christmas Eve with some dear friends we have known in Hong Kong for many, many years! Good food, wine, and conversation made it a special night.

* Spent Christmas Day and night with Island City Church (the church we planted many years ago) at the Noah's Ark attraction. A group of businessmen built an "ark" to the scale found in the Bible which includes conference rooms, hotel and hostel rooms, team-building activities, restaurants, a museum etc. all along the beach. Had a lot of fun with old familiar faces as well as new friends.

* Have to be careful not to gain weight having moved from a culinary desert in China, to a city where every ethnic dish from a Ruby Tuesday's Blue Cheese hamburger to a take away chicken vindaloo is available!! The diet starts soon :)

* Spent a few days house hunting. Have a couple good leads but we'll see. Having to re adjust my thinking that when a housing agent points to a bedroom that is about the size of a closet in America and remarks, "Look at all the space you'll have" that they are not making a joke.

* Had a wonderful Chinese hotpot dinner with and old friend, his family, and co-workers.

Anyhow, that is why the blogging has been sporadic lately. We've been busy...and happy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

America: Sometimes you gotta be proud!

Living in a country run by a very authoritarian government can, at times, makes me appreciate some of the things America and the West actually does right.

On Monday I was watching This Week with George Stephanopoulos (my favorite news show and one I NEVER miss) and he had on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. As these two sat side by side fielding questions from Stephanopoulos a thought struck me, "Two of the most powerful and influential leaders in our country have given up their Sunday morning to answer questions (and some hard questions) from a journalist, and those answers are being broadcast LIVE across the nation.


What we take for granted in the States would be anathema here in China. A national figure fielding live questions broadcast to the populous? Unthinkable! The nations leaders going on TV and giving a very frank and transparent description of situations facing the nation. Wow!

When President Obama arrived for a visit here last month he expected to have an open forum for a town hall meeting on a University campus in Shanghai. Instead, he found 400 handpicked students that were only allowed to ask "softball" questions. He naively assumed that there would be a frank and open exchange of ideas. He quickly learned in China, ideas flow in only one direction.

Jake Tapper, from ABC NEWS who was travelling with the President was surprised that his own blog was blocked here in China. (Not so surprising to us living here, I'm writing to you on this blog via a proxy server as my blog is blocked as well). In the video I include he is even stopped from asking questions of the students by a government official. When he asks "Why?" the government official simply responds, "There is no why?"

See the video here: Jake Tapper on Obama in China

Could you imagine the uproar that would occur in the States if a government official stopped you from speaking with the press? Especially on a college campus in front of everyone at a lecture? Good Lord, there would probably be a riot. But in China, such actions are normative and so tolerated by the public.

So as I sat watching Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates answering very difficult live questions on TV for the American people, a wonderful feeling came over me;

I was proud of my country!

Friday, December 4, 2009

High Priests of Science

This week a computer was hacked at a scientific lab in England; a lab which is a more respected institution studying the effects of climate change. The break in involved the stealing of a number of e-mails which seem to indicate:

* the need to raise people's fear about global warming
* that raw data that was not helpful to the argument of rising temperatures was thrown out
* and that other data was altered to fit the theories of global warming better.

Now I love Science! One of my favorite courses in high school back in the day and still I love to read science articles about the newest discovery in this and that. But I'm a sceptic in many areas and science is a big one. When I get into discussions on controversial science matters, I am always bewildered when inevitably people always fall back on science as if it was this "pure" and "unbiased" discipline. That scientists dispassionately gather evidence and present those findings in a neutral atmosphere with no external factors at all...just a desire for the truth!

And I'm always like, "You're kidding, right?"

There are big bucks in research grants and right now politics are all geared towards environmental protection. Governments and other foundations are throwing lots of pesos at anything labeled "Green"...cuz being Green is what is hot. So is it surprising that flawed human scientists alter data to fit a political or economic agenda? Of course not!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Scientists Hide Global Warming Data
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Actually, global warming has never been a burr under my saddle. I've always believed that yeah, we're probably affecting the climate a little, but no, not to the degree the Environmental High Priests would have us believe.

I've always taken the approach of my man Dennis Miller when he says, "The average temperature in the last 100 years has risen by one degree...that sounds pretty stable to me."