Well I have officially made it through my first day in Hong Kong and I think it may have been the longest day of my life. The worst part of going to any foreign country in jet lag... And in a country that is 15 hours ahead, the jet lag is brutal. So I took off on Monday night at 1 am our time, which means 4 pm HK time. After a 16 hour flight including a layover and plane change in Taipei (Taiwan) I landed in Hong Kong at 8 am Tuesday morning (5 pm Monday California time). Sleep on the plane was less than stellar although I did manage to catch about 7-8 hours of shut-eye which helped very much with my jet lag.
Landing at Hong Kong International Airport was surprisingly hassle free, because I had no special food and I traveled alone, I breezed right through customs and immigration. My Hong Kong family, the Kwongs met me just past customs.
Quick insert for those who don't know, the family consists of a husband and wife, Mark and Joy, and three boys, Tryston (13), Joey (8), and Wesley (7). That means we get to cram 6 of us into 700 square feet. It's gonna be a fun month. :)
We grabbed my luggage and we were off to the city of Hong Kong. I lucked out on my first day because Mark is a licensed HK driver and was able to pick me up the church van. They warned me that driving in Hong Kong is a lot like New York driving (meaning lots of cars) but with an international flair (meaning a lot less regard for safety when driving). I got a personal tour of the island of Hong Kong, whether that was intentional I'll never know, and we finally arrived at the apartment complex only 2 short hours after my plane landed, pretty good for driving all the way across an island city that's inhabited by over 7 million people. We took a short break for lunch while Mark went to park the van. We unpacked all the goodies I had brought, 40 pounds worth of stuff from the family members back in the States, and made sure everything had a place and a purpose (insert Nerf gun war here). After I was settled (which included a chance to change out of clothes I'd been in for over 24 hours) we headed out to see the city and help the community.
Step one of me traveling through the city included buying an Octopus card which basically acts as a city debit card, pre-loaded with money and valid on public transport and many stores and restaurants. Octopus card on hand, we jumped on the subway and headed to the city. Ipods are a blessing on the subway because it keeps the littles (Joe and Wes) busy and quiet, just put on Star trek and off they go into their little world. I also put some Star Wars movies on Tryston's iPod so he could zone out as well.
Once in the actual city it's a lot of walking. Bear in mind, walking in Hong Kong means battling crazy drivers, crowds of people, pollution and humidity... imagine walking all day in a sweaty, smelly steam room filled with millions of people and that's about the equivalent of Hong Kong. Walking through the city can be overwhelming; the smells of street food, the constant traffic threatening your life, and the unexplained reason why Chinese people think yelling everything makes what they're saying more effective all heads to major overload for my American brain.
My first day in the city would have been incomplete without a trip up the mountain where one can truly see most of the city below. That was problematic due to the fact that there was fog obstructing our view. One the thunder started we thought it best to head down the mountain but not before stopping at a nearby McDonald's for a quick snack. May I just say, American McDonald's are so not as cool as HK. They have creme brulee McFlurries. DELICIOUS!
Once we got back into the city, it started raining. Which provided us with a perfect opportunity for serving the residnets of Hong Kong, feeding a hot meal to the massive amounts of poor and homeless residents here. Hong Kong is a unique city by American standards, in that there is no "middle class," you are either uber rich or very poor. Over 50% of the population in Hong Kong live either in multiple family housing (different families living in a single house divided into smaller living areas) or they are living on the streets. For the homeless in the city, a hot meal is a rare event. So that's what we bought, 8 hot meals bagged up and ready for distribution.
While waiting for the meals to be ready, the Kwongs thought it was a good time to introduce me to HK street food. They like to feed me stuff without actually telling me what it is, so they handed me something on a stick and muttered in Chinese what is was. And me being a "rooser," (Tryston's word for loser but used as a term of endearment) I took it and ate it. Turns out later it was yu-don, a local street food that translates literally to fish egg but is basically boiled fish dipped in spicy curry sauce... For those who know me, we know how I feel fish. I managed to not throw up, but I quickly handed it off to one of the boys who gulped it down like it was a treat. Weird Chinese kids. To make up for the gross food I had to eat, they also bought me waffle balls; a lovely treat for me and Joy who are both white and unaccustomed to the bizarre Chinese cuisine.
That horrific experience aside we collected our hot meals and headed to find some of the many homeless people. It was absolutely mind-blowing how little people actually need to survive. Many of these homeless people spend all day collecting cardboard and turning it in to recycling facilities for meager amounts of money, 10 cents US per kilogram (1 kilo = just over 2 pounds). Mark has been blessed to get to know many of the homeless people around his work. This is crucial because it allows us to satisfy both the physical needs of people and provides an open door to share the love of Jesus with people so desperate for hope. Jesus put it perfectly, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13-14). Despite my jet lag and utter exhaustion I was able to literally replicate what Jesus did, meet the needs of people both physically and spiritually. I am shocked by how these people live, they have nothing not even food, yet they are perfect candidates to reach. They have nothing to lose and the world to gain. It's a world I'm grateful to say, I don't fully understand but one I look forward to reaching.
Important tasks for the day completed it was time for dinner, and since I was a guest they treated me to a dinner at a local restaurant, 北角稻香, a family style restaurant that puts a large hot-pot in the middle of the table and you put in different food to cook (think main course at a fondue restaurant and you have the idea). It was delicious! But I was exhausted, I think I spent more time staring off into space than actually eating. Luckily I had 3 little brothers there chattering away to keep me from falling asleep in the food.
A final subway ride and we finally were home for the night, after an 18 hour day. After a ridiculously long and overwhelming day, I was overjoyed to shower and be able to sleep. Day one was a success so from here we'll see what amazing blessings God has in store for me. I have no doubt that this trip will forever change me. In fact, it already has.
More posts to come very soon!