This weekend was a great one here in Hong Kong; on Saturday, several of us exchange students spent the day on Lamma Island, and on Sunday morning, I attended a church service for the first time since my arrival.
Lamma Island is the third-largest island in Hong Kong and carries a rather laid-back vibe. It doesn’t scream “tourist attraction” quite as loudly as Lantau Island; it’s more relaxed and subdued. We started the day by taking a ferry from Central district to the northern part of Lamma, which took about 20 minutes. After docking, we hit the island’s fully-paved, family-friendly hiking trail and headed south. As we walked, we occasionally encountered street food vendors, convenience stores, and shops selling various goods. One of those shops sold hand-painted tapestries, table runners, cushions, and other cloth items. Of all the tapestries, two medium sized ones caught my eye: a white one with 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, and a red one with Psalms 23, both written in Chinese. 1 Corinthians 13 is my favorite chapter in the bible, and I’m hoping my grandma will like the red one, so I bought both.
The lady working at the shop, an incredibly friendly Malaysian named Dolly who says she lived in Oklahoma for a while, threw in a discount, a pink chiffon bag and a couple colorful paper lotuses handmade by an 88-year-old woman who goes by “Granny.” She told me the lotus is a symbol of good luck, and that we should try to take them home for our families, which I’ll happily do. She even invited Michael and I to come visit for dinner during Chinese New Year. We politely declined but both found the gesture to be incredibly kind.
After buying our tapestries, we followed the trail to Hung Shing Ye beach, where we spent a few hours taking in the sun and warmth for the first time in weeks. It has finally started to warm up, and I couldn’t be happier. On Saturday, it was around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, complete with bright sunlight and the occasional breeze. Being on the beach was relaxing, but I didn’t dare go swimming just yet, since the water is still chilly. As a side note, you might notice in one picture that there’s a huge power plant in the horizon near the beach. I can’t say I’ve ever had such a view from the beach before; it was definitely unique.
The restaurant near the beach was a little expensive, so I snagged a chicken satay skewer and an ice cream bar to hold me over. The ice cream was like a Klondike bar encased in a thin waffle coating, and it really hit the spot. After the beach, we continued along the trail toward the middle of the island, where we had dinner and caught the 40-minute ferry back home. In all, we spent about eight hours on the island and got to see the sunset from the trail, which was beautiful.
But the smog in the air again caught my attention Saturday, and I wasn’t just imagining it: Google sent a push notification to my phone warning me of the poor air quality that day. I’ve said it before, but it’s a shame that the views of the coastlines and horizon lines are marred by such low visibility, and it’s even sadder to think about the effect the pollution has on life in general. I’m at least glad to know that Hong Kong is taking steps to solve the issue.
When our ferry landed back in Central, I was able to play around with my camera settings a little and take some pictures of part of the skyline. Since buying a dedicated camera here in Hong Kong, I hadn’t yet taken the time to learn how to shoot in low light. After editing the raw photos a bit, I’m fairly pleased with the results. I was in a bit of a rush to keep up with the rest of our group, so I didn’t get to nail the framing of the shots, but I’ll work on that. Still, I love the contrast and how the lights on the buildings really stand out. Now that the weather is warming up, I plan to spend some evenings just walking around town with my camera to better refine my low-light photography skills. Hopefully I can capture a bit of Hong Kong’s neon-lit nights.
On Sunday, I woke up and walked about half an hour south to an English-speaking church I found on Google a couple weeks ago. There are plenty of churches closer to the university, but most of them are either Pentecostal, Catholic, don’t have services in English, or otherwise just give me odd vibes via their websites. The one I attended is called Emmanuel English Church, and I loved the service. It was modern/contemporary and reminded me of Northbend Church back home or the church I attended during my internship in Akron. The songs were the typical worship songs from groups like Hillsong, the worship team was made up of an acoustic guitarist, a keyboardist and three female singers, and it all just felt familiar. It was like being home for an hour (aside from the fact that offering was collected in cloth bags with wooden handles rather than in dishes, which threw me off).
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love being here, and I’m not homesick. But it’s been a full month of new, unfamiliar experiences, where even going to McDonald’s has its own learning curve. So it was comforting to experience something familiar for a change. During the service, it hit me that no matter where I go, there will always be one constant: my faith. That’s very reassuring for me.
The church’s pastor was away, so there wasn’t a traditional sermon during the service. Instead, a leader from an Christian leadership/training group came to talk about what they are doing to enable church leaders to teach their congregations throughout Asia, largely in mainland China. He explained that the Church is exploding in growth far faster than pastors can graduate from Bible colleges. So, groups must find innovative ways to quickly train locals, many of whom have educations equivalent to middle-schoolers, to teach the Bible in their churches in simple, easy-to-understand ways. Millions of new Christians are being converted every year in China, so the scramble is to figure out how to develop the infrastructure necessary to disciple them all. The talk fascinated me since it also highlighted how the Church is flourishing in a country where the government is trying to crack down on exactly how churches should operate. It gave me a new perspective on something I previously knew relatively little about.
After the service, a church member who goes by the name Uncle David introduced me to a handful of the other churchgoers, including the one in charge of the church’s Bible study for college students, which I plan to start attending. Everyone he introduced me to was incredibly welcoming and friendly. They asked the typical questions, like how I’m adapting to the temperature, life at the university, and so on. But they seemed sincere, and I’m excited to go back next week.
Speaking of next week, it’s almost time for Chinese New Year! I cannot wait to see the festivities throughout the next couple weeks, including a parade and fireworks near the harbor. I can honestly say I never thought I’d get the opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year. It is to Chinese people what Christmas is to Americans. It’s the holiday of the year, and I’m so glad I get to experience it. As an added bonus, since it’s going to be the Year of the Dog, there have been countless advertisements, statues and other displays depicting dogs throughout the area, and I love dogs. I mean, c’mon, how can you possibly go wrong? (P.S., please enjoy the above photos of a couple dogs I saw on Lamma Island.)
Until next time!