Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where is my fish?

There is a restaurant serving roasted fish hot pot (烤魚) in Hung Hot which seems to be quite popular with students, particularly those from Mainland China.  My wife was not too keen on it.  But a few days ago I persuaded her to try the roasted fish hot pot.  The menu says the fish weights 3 pounds.  3 pounds is equal to 2.333 catties.  We were not sure whether we could each eat 1.5 pounds of fish.  Hence we inquired whether we could order half a fish.  The answer was no.  So we ordered a whole Sabah Grouper.  

When the fish came, it was smothered under a small mountain of green onions.  But the rectangular metal pan itself was surprisingly small. It was certainly shorter than a 3 pound fish. And the fish was chopped up instead of a whole one, nor just split up into 2 lengthwise.  It was a sign that something might have been amiss.  But we were not naturally suspicious.  So we tucked away happily.  My wife picked up a piece of fish, which turned out to be the dorsal fins at the back of the fish with little flesh attached.  That was odd.  I picked up some bones to chew on, and gave a chunk of flesh near the anal fin to my wife.  She picked up the tail.  I gave a piece of the belly near the pectoral and pelvic fins to my wife, and picked up half of the head myself.  I looked for the other half of the head, the opposite side of the belly, and the opposite side of the flesh, …, and could not find them.  

So roughly half of the fish was missing.  When my wife lined up the backbone of the fish, it looked too short for a 3 pound (2.333 catty) fish.  Over the years, I have bought more than 1,000 fish at the wet market, mostly in the 1 to 1.5 catty range.  And this fish is smaller (even when whole) than the fish that I usually buy and eat at home.  No way it can be a 3 pound fish.  

When we confronted the staff, they insisted that it was a whole fish.  They admitted that it might have been a bit small.  We are of the opinion that not only was it too small, it was not a whole fish.  

I regret taking my wife to the restaurant.  The only saving grace was that we gained a bit more experience on how certain restaurants might cheat.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reconciliation Rwanda

23 years ago, in 1994, an estimated 800,000 people were killed in a 100 day period of murderous frenzy.  The week from April 7 to 13 is now known as Kwibuka - Commemoration of the Genocide.  During this week, all work stop so that the people can mourn properly.  At the University of Rwanda someone placed flowers in front of a memorial of the victims from the university.  

Commemoration activities continue for 100 days until July 3, the day the Rwanda Patriotic Army seized power and effectively stopped the Genocide.  I arrived in Rwanda with 2 other colleagues on April 13 to find all businesses closed.  We visited the Nyamata Genocide Memorial site, a Catholic church at which ~10,000 people were killed in 1994.  Thousands of skulls, bones, clothing and other belongings were kept at the church.  I believe this is the 6th time I have visited Nyamata.  But it is no less terrifying, particularly when I went down by myself to the cellar where the coffins containing the skulls and bones were stored.

An AEE Rwanda staff responsible for reconciliation gave us his personal perspective on the Genocide.  He was studying in Congo in the early 1990s and was told not to return to Rwanda even when his mother died in 1992 because of the ethnic conflict.  Later his father and brother were killed during the Genocide in 1994. Even 23 years later, he couldn’t help but cry when these events are recalled. 

Some people are now advocating the view that reconciliation is now complete and there is no need to keep the spotlight on Genocide.  However, on April 13 a survivor of the Genocide was killed, igniting fear again that the murder might have somehow been linked to the Genocide.   He, together with many people, believe that much of the wounds remain and healing must continue.  The AEE approach to reconciliation is based on Faith in the Cross - the central tenet of our Christian Faith.  All of us are God’s children - hence Tutsi, Hutu, and all ethnic can come to God to be reconciled.  AEE makes a lot of effort to integrating former prisoners, the killers, into society.  They work with Christians, Muslims, everyone. Through their efforts of Evangelism, many are converted and are being followed-up by AEE’s partner churches. 

The reconciliation in Rwanda sets an example for all of us.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Gicaca Solar Power Project 2017

It is estimated that only 24% of the population in Rwanda are connected to the electrical grid.  As many as 7 million people do not have access to electricity.  Many of them live in houses built with sun-baked mud.  Many still sleep on a matt on the mud floor.  

Most are forced to go to sleep soon after dark even though they need to do house work, study, and meet for fellowship.   The country simply do not have the capacity to generate enough power for everyone.  And many people live on steep terrain high in the mountains difficult to reach.  

In summer 2016 we installed a solar-electrical system in Gicaca, in the mountains north of Kigali in Rwanda. It consists of 4 charging stations each with a set of 10 solar panels, capable of charging 5 batteries at the same time.  Together with our Rwanda partners, we also wired up 100+ houses with batteries, LED lights and mobile phone chargers.  We and already gone back to check on the system in January 2017 and to plan for another project in summer 2017.  At that time a number of things were uncertain.  Hence a couple of days ago we went back again to Gicaca to check on the systems and to scout the potential site for another round of installations in June 2017.    

The solar charging station is working well.  The host even installed a loud speaker connected to a radio so that the broadcast can be heard much more loudly throughout the house.  That is another indication that the local people can manage the systems well and are even able to extend the system.  

There are 10 20-watt solar panels on the roof of the house, making it a 200 watt system.  In this summer, we plan to fine tune the design and provide electricity to another 100+ families.  We scouted the site together with the staff of our local partner - African Evangelistic Enterprise Rwanda.  We note the distance between the houses, how they are distributed, and the terrain.  

On the spot, I sketched a plan noting which houses to target, how the houses should be clustered, where and how many charging stations to build, and the maximum number of houses that we can wire up, in 5 days of work in the mountains.  

This summer we plan to bring two teams of ~15 students each.  One will install the solar power systems.  The other will work on health and hygiene issues.  We will be jointed by ~15 students from the University of Rwanda, another ~15 youths living in the villages, and several staff of AEE Rwanda for 2 weeks to train, prepare and execute the projects.  Those two weeks will be the time we feel most alive.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

New Soweto

Soweto was a focal point of the struggle in South Africa against apartheid.  Both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.  Many people come to Soweto today to visit Mandela’s house which has been turned into a museum. 

Hector Pieterson and other children died in Soweto on 16 June 1976 when their protest against apartheid met with gunfire. 

Nelson Mandela gave his first speech in Johannesburg at the FNB soccer stadium in Soweto after he was released from prison in 1990.  

Today much of Soweto has been gentrified.  

Some poor people still live in poorly constructed sheds in Soweto. 

Some of the houses that housed the labourers who worked in the gold mines stand empty. But most of the sheds are gone. 

Vilakazi Street has become a tourist attraction.  

Cooling towers belonging to a de-commissioned power plant have been painted to symbolise a new Soweto.  

Soweto used to symbolise injustice, poverty, anger and violence against apartheid.  Its gentrification reminds us that even an evil as disgusting as apartheid can be overturned, that a place even as hopeless as Soweto can be redeemed.  

On the other hand, one cannot help but wonder where the poor have moved to, and from where are they getting help now.  

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Maker Faire

I just went past a vivid demonstration that making a hand bag is such an engineering task.  It appears one has to be creative, systematic, precise, meticulous, careful and more.  

It is fun to be at the university this weekend. Minutes ago, a Primary 5 boy was describing to a big crowd the car that he helped to build, using bamboo and other materials.  Adults designed the car, of course.  But he was very proud that he did some of the cutting and assembly.  And he spoke loudly, clearly and precisely in front of the crowd.  And he is only in Primary 5.  Many university students and adults cannot do that.  

There is a fire dragon car.

Glass blowing.

Paper making with recycled paper.

Model car racing. 

I am glad to see young people making elegant structures with bamboo.  

It is encouraging to see kids using simple hand tools to assemble a train out of card boxes. 

Move the sand, the 3D computer model is changed, which is, in turn, projected onto the sand.  

There is, of course, a lot of robots and 3D printing.  There is also sewing, soldering, and a lot other exhibits and workshops. We need more of these in Hong Kong.  Not standardised tests and political propaganda.  

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Fascinating Bible Exhibit

There is an excellent exhibition on the Bible at St. Andrew’s Church on Nathan Road until 11 April.  

There is a functioning replica of the Gutenberg printing machine.  

A copy of two silver foil amulets, the Ketel Hinnon Silver Amulets, the earliest known texts of Scripture, dated to around 500-600 BC.  The text was from Numbers 6:24-26.  

A facsimile of Sennecharib Prism, in which the Assyrian King mentioned that he was unable to capture Jerusalem around 600BC, a failure that was predicted in a prophecy to Hezekiah, the King of Judea, in 2 Kings 19.

A nail through a heel bone found in a bone box containing the remains of a male in his mid-twenties who died by crucifixion.  

The Siloan Inscription. It was found inside Hezekiah’s Tunnel, where two crews digging from both sides met.  The tunnel was described in 2 Chronicles 32, dug to bring water from the Pool of Siloam outside of the city walls to bring water inside Jerusalem.  It was done in anticipation of the siege by Assyria around 600BC.  

A reproduction of the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed in Europe with moveable typeset around 1455.  

King James’ Version of 1611, which dominated the English speaking Protestant community for centuries.  

The Barrow Chinese Embassy Esther Scroll.  a miniature scroll of Esther, produced in Italy and obtained in China in 1794, likely in Kaifeng 開封 in Henan.  

The Chinese translation completed by Robert Morrison in 1823, printed with wood blocks.  

Hand copies of the Chinese Bible made during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s.  

And many more fascinating artefacts.  Bible lovers will not be disappointed.  

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Vanished Archives 《消失的檔案》(1967 Riot)

My daughter A alerted me to the movie “Vanished Archives” and I was instantly hooked.  It has been 50 years since the 1967 Riot but the memory is till fresh.  It is, of course, an extremely important event in the history of Hong Kong.  It is instrumental in understanding the nature of the Chinese Communists.  Even now, 50 years later, the making of the movie can still tell us a lot.  It is also a very vivid moment in my life.

I was 11 in the summer of 1967, at the height of the Riot.  I was home for the summer vacation, just about to be promoted from Primary 5 up to Primary 6 - for the second time in my life.  I could be the only person in history to have done that.  I was playing with a bunch of friends on the grounds of the government quarters on Ka Wai Man Road (加惠民道) in Kennedy Town (堅尼地城).  We found a package, about 6 inches long and wrapped in a newspaper, in one of the flower beds.  It looked very much like one of the numerous bombs all over Hong Kong planted by the Leftists at the time.  For some reason, I came to believe that it was a fake bomb, not a real one.  I took it out of the flower bed and gave it a kick, proving that it was a fake (詐彈).  My friends were suitably impressed. 

My parents, on the other hand, were shocked.  What would have happened had it not been a fake?  Would I have died like the young brother-sister pair who were killed in North Point?  I was taken home and given a beating with a cane (雞毛掃), and made to kneel before the ancestral tablet (神主牌) - to help me remember not to be so stupid again.  I had no resentment against the punishment because I knew I deserve it.  It also helps me understand how reckless I can be.  

The general population was truly scared by the bombing campaign.  We were resentful towards the killing of Lam Bun (林彬) and the many other atrocities committed by the Leftists (左派).  It was also true that the Royal (British) Hong Kong Police was high-handed and could be brutal towards the rioters.  After the Riot, the Colonial government then took a number of actions to address the discontent in the society: building of public housing, reducing corruption, social welfare, economic development, …  

The makers of the movie found that the Hong Kong government had erased many of the records of the Riots, particularly those that reflect badly on the Communists.  Hence the name of the movie.  They also find it difficult to find places to screen the movie.  

What exactly happened?  Why did the Leftists in Hong Kong started the Riot?  Did they really expect to drive out the British and take over Hong Kong?  Were they directed by the Central Communist government in Beijing, or just one of the factions in power during the Cultural Revolution?  Why did they stop, or were stopped, so suddenly towards the end of the year?  What does that tell us about the policies and principles of the Chinese Communists?  

There are many reasons why we should watch the movie and find out more about the 1967 Riots.  I am glad some of my students were in the audience.  I spoke with some of them after watching the movie.  They were born a long time after it happened.  I am surprised but happy to note that some young people are interested in history, in knowing the truth, in understanding and caring about society.