Since I first visited Asia when I was fifteen, I have been smitten. My time in Hong Kong only deepened it. What I mean is that I like the people, the places and the culture I experienced. There was a warmth that felt familiar but a pervasive drive, efficiency and sharpness of mind that was distinct.
Culture can be experienced many ways and food is one of my favorites. Eating good, local food and walking the streets of Hong Kong was of personal interest to me. And I got the feeling I was just scratching the surface.
Peanut butter-filled bubble waffle with chocolate ice cream
Café two blocks from the Panda Hotel
Dim sum with new friends
Worshipping with the people of Hong Kong was important to me. I appreciated the Sunday Baptist church service and recorded a portion of the hand bell choir songs.
And the visit to St. Stephens compound was easily one of the highlights during our time in Hong Kong. Witnessing the transformation of men who were living what social theorist Giorgio Agamben refers to as the ‘bare life’is difficult to articulate. While no photos were allowed because of the precariousness of their situations, I did capture a few moments of worship while my phone was in my pocket. Listening to it brings me right back.
New Knowledge & Synthesis
I imagined the doctoral process to be somewhat lonely and solitary. The kind of journey that would be more conducive for the Lone Ranger type instead of a Lord of the Rings kind of community. We are on a mission together; we will be better if we go together. How wise.
We were all in the same space constantly for days. The crucible of community and the ‘iron sharpening’ was an unexpected gift. This trip revealed to me that community and partners are essential in all areas of life. It is an option to go it alone, I guess, but is not a healthy or fun one.
Ironically, another new knowledge gained was my heightened awareness of how much I do not know (for example, how little I know about temples in Hong Kong). Perhaps that was not the insight, as much as the permission I was given to acknowledge it. The freedom to not pretend that I know more than I do somehow opens me up to receive more knowledge. When I pretend or hide out of my insecurity, I inhibit my ability to learn and to engage. I am too busy protecting my image to be truly open. There is a direct correlation with my admission of naivety and my ability to grow.
Practices & Application
The first week of our program we were assigned Jackie Pullinger’s Chasing the Dragon book. She gave an admonition in the introduction to ‘write your own books’ with our lives. Being reminded by Dr. David Wong that I am between the Wednesday and Thursday of my life in terms of one week was a similar encouragement. Because of their examples and the myriad of experiences thus far, I am a little less self-conscious and a bit more determined to live my Thursday-Sunday less afraid.
It will take courage for me to become a better critical thinker. What a gift to be able to observe the incredible critical thinkers in this program and in our speakers. I needed to see this in action and be immersed in it. I believe Elder when he asserts that ‘…the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought.
Asking questions is part of this development. There were a plethora of questions asked while we were in Hong Kong. I was impressed with not just the quantity but quality of questions after each session. I am determined to have more analytical questions of my own. I am attempting to ask them in my studies and in my daily interactions with others.
I will ask better questions and will pay attention to how I ask my questions. Our last day together, Dr. Clark encouraged us to use language such as ‘I wonder’ when raising questions. I have used this many times upon my return. Parker J. Palmer heavily emphasizes ‘turning to wonder’ at the Center for Courage & Renewal, especially when we feel defensive, insecure or threatened. Wonder and curiosity have not always gone with courage for me but they are beginning to. I am asking God to help me remain open to living with both wonder and courage – to help me understand their interdependencies. For this and many other things, I am deeply grateful for my time in Hong Kong.
Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. Routledge: New York, NY, 2014, 3.
Elder,Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools, 7th ed., Thinker’s Guide Library (Amazon Digital Services : Kindle Edition, 2014), Location 29.
Jackie Pullinger and Andrew Quicke, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kongs Drug Dens, 2nd ed. (Chosen Books: Kindle Edition, 2007), 8-9.