2023年7月24日 星期一

My cousin Winnie

My cousin Winnie Lai Fai was the most good natured and even tempered person I've ever met. We lived in the same house for several years when we were children, and a distinct memory I had of that period of time was the frequent banging of the bathroom door, and people shouting " LaiFai, is that you in the bathroom ?? What are you doing in there?" And Lai Fai would emerge a little while later to explain sheepishly " I was washing a handkerchief" " What handkerchief takes an hour to wash ?!" The single bathroom served the whole extended family, (there's a squat toilet at the end of the yard but you can't wash in there) and whenever Lai Fai entered it people would quip, " She's doing embroidery in there again!". Winnie Lai Fai the Slow Coach was the butt of jokes of everybody, even the maid. "Slow" became her trademark, and she got a lot of criticisms and disparaging remarks ( mind you, all from the grown-ups) because of it, but she never got mad, in fact, I've never seen her lose her temper ever. So I was bowled over when we were in a hotel in China a few years back , and she  took less than 20 minutes in the bathroom to finish her ablution! I nearly fell out of my bed. " Winnie, that was quick! What happened? Did you wash?"  " Yes, I am different now" She flashed her classic toothy grin proudly. But during the tour she still walked slow, or maybe it's just I walked fast, and I noted she was always looking for a bench to sit on. In hindsight that could be about the time her anaemia disease started, though she looked healthy enough. Maybe she herself didn't know at that time either.   *********************************************************************** We saw a lot less of each other after my immediate family moved out of the family home, then no contact at all for the next 15 years while we pursued our separate studies abroad. We met up again in San Francisco after my parents' immigration to the US in the 1990s. For 2 people of completely different temperament, we got on surprisingly well. I put it down to 2 factors: 1) we both love food; 2) she never preached Christianity to me. And I was extremely grateful that she was so good to my whole family: she'd always have time to have dinner with my parents whenever I visited them, and she was the sole representative on the groom's side at my brother Keith's wedding. To be fair, I was not notified or otherwise I probably would have attended too. Winnie was also the one to take my nephews around San Francisco when they visited from England. There you have it, Winnie's always been the lubricant between people, a reassuring presence even to relative strangers, making them feel comfortable and welcomed, and that's a wonderful gift.  *********************************************************************** Of all my cousins, apart from Emily Tai Mui, Winnie was the one I spent the most time with. Whenever I visited my parents in the US, we'd meet up a few times; she'd buy dinner then I'd buy dinner, (so we're square, but actually just an excuse for more eating), then there's the mini tours around San Francisco. I remember the first year she got her car, I was the unwitting idiot who agreed to accompany her while she practised her driving. She was being adventurous and took me on a long drive to a small island connected to the mainland by a bridge, because of some nice little gift shops there that she wanted to visit. The weather was foul, cold and rainy, even worse, at times foggy, so much so it was a miracle we got there safely. Then we had to watch the time because Winnie didn't want to drive after dark. When we were ready to go, Winnie reversed the car instead of moving forward and hit a curb ( not the first time that day!), she was about to get out to check when I spotted a small gang of teenage boys on roller skates coming our way, and they didn't look friendly." Don't get out of the car!" I screamed." Go! Go! Go!" Winnie responded with unbelievable alacrity and we sped off. The Slow Coach was High Speed Rail that day! *********************************************************************** Winnie loved little gift shops, because she was the Queen of Small Gifts. Each time I was in San Francisco and each time she was in HK, she'd always have a small gift for me. A small ornament, some souvenirs she's picked up during a museum tour, a bar of soap, a tube of hand cream........ there's always something, even though I've told her a million times not to. That day she bought some bookmarks, greeting cards and some knick-knacks from the nice little shops. " I always keep a stash of small gifts in my place" she said " there're newcomers to the church all the time, and I like to give them a welcoming gift" That's why she's the Queen of Small Gifts!  *********************************************************************** Another gift Winnie was happy to give was driving the parishioners to and fro from home and church, and that's the main reason she's kept her car. With age Winnie's become more timid in her driving, and for a long time she's been very uncomfortable going on the highway. Luckily most church goers lived within the district. *********************************************************************** Winnie loved to try new restaurants, and I was most happy to accompany her, with the result we had some delightful meals together in various elegant eating places about town. She seemed to have a  particular liking for the Cheesecake Factory, where we were repeat customers several times over. However she's also loyal to the neighborhood restaurants dotted about where she lived, and where she had most of her meals. The little Thai restaurant was one of her favorites, and I concur it's good! Winnie's also a good travelling companion, she didn't complain much and didn't have strong opinions. The longest road trip we did was probably the one to visit Big Aunt in Michigan, but we also did many short trips visiting cousins in adjoining counties in the US, and much later, trips to see her mum. Winnie loved her mum dearly; Auntie was a truly remarkable lady ~ the last time I saw her she was already 90 years old, but had just started taking classes in both Japanese and Spanish at the Aged Home at the same time!  *********************************************************************** In the last dozen years Winnie had been to Asia every year or every other year, to do voluntary work for a few weeks each time, so that she could make enough merit points to keep her job. She's made repeated visits to Vietnam and Shanghai, and usually when she's over this way she'd make a stopover in Hong Kong. " What do you actually do in Shanghai?" I was curious. " I teach the students English" " You're kidding me!" I was incredulous." Students in Shanghai speak better English than students in Hong Kong!" Talking about schools, Winnie was very proud of her secondary school - Good Hope, 德望學校, and rightly so, it's ranked 3rd in the Top 100 secondary schools in Hong Kong. But I don't think Winnie cared about that, she was just chuffed to have been to a good school in Hong Kong at a time when such places were harder to get than the lottery.  *********************************************************************** On the surface Winnie appeared to be worry free, she was always smiling, calm and collected, so it was a shock when she told me there was a time when she was terribly unhappy at work. Some years back she was appointed a new boss, a Filipino woman who was insecure about her job because she didn't have her US citizenship yet. She took a real dislike to Winnie whom she perceived to be a threat, and proceeded to pick faults with her, and the bullying was intense. This went on for over a year, but Winnie took it in her stride with her usual meek compliance. It never occurred to her that she should stand up for herself and fight back. Then one day Winnie found her boss crying in the office and asked if she could help." My mum's had a stroke back home in the Philippines" her boss said bitterly " you must be so happy because now I've to go back to see her and might not come back!" Winnie comforted her and spent much time showing her concern. Her boss never did come back but they parted cordially. The boss even apologized for her previous bad behavior. Winnie was most happy not because the bully's gone, but because her endurance and goodwill had triumphed over hate and prejudice.  *********************************************************************** It's obvious Winnie had her unique way of being, and her singular brand of life philosophy ~ "the meek shall inherit the earth" prevails. Because of her constancy and unfailing affection and support towards all, it could just be too easy for people to take her for granted. I count myself blessed to have her in my life for so many years. I learnt a lot from her: her patience, humility, sincerity, simplicity, generosity, and not least, her love for her friends and family. My cousin Winnie was an exceptional human being. ********************************************************************** On the 10th June, 2023, 3AM San Francisco time, the cosmic plates shifted. Now there's one less place at our table, but one more star in the sky.

In memorial of Second Aunt

So sorry to hear the news of Second Aunt, deepest condolences!! I'm glad I managed to see your mum for the last time during my layover in LA in May, she was just as I always remembered her, for even in her sick bed she was in total control of how she wanted to live and die, and that's admirable, not to mention a brilliant show of power so rarely found in the elderlies, as most are stripped of all autonomy in their advanced years. This is of course also a tribute to you all, her children, for respecting and honoring her wishes. As a child I was always awed by Second Aunt's sharp wit, but her dry sense of humor did always make me smile, and I loved that she was a straight talker, forthright and fearless. During the lean years of the 1960s, Second Aunt was the quintessential matriarch presiding over a retail shop in Kowloon City, but what impressed me most was that she had no qualms to stoop to be a street hawker as well, as I came upon her one day, spreading a blanket on the roadside in Lion Rock Road (獅子石道), and loaded it with a pile of clothes, to boost more sales. Whatever it took to feed a large family! Her pragmatism, ingenuity and entrepreneur spirit stayed with me to this day. I count myself lucky to have come from a family of strong women, all my aunts (and my mum too) were fighters, down to earth , hardworking, ready "to eat bitter", smart, resourceful, yet also warm hearted and all had a strong sense of family; they're the archetypal Chaozhou (潮州) women, the best role model any girl growing up could ever hope to find. Take care ! We've got some pretty big shoes to fill!

2022年8月20日 星期六

In memoriam : Yared of Ethiopia Keep Moving

In Memoriam : Alain Rezelman

I first met Alain in the Health Clinic shortly after I started working there just over 30 years ago, but not in a professional capacity. One afternoon a nurse popped her head round the door and told me a French Professor was just outside wanting to talk to me about a non-medical issue. "OK" I said hesitantly, undeniably a trifle apprehensive. In the next second Alain had already rushed into the room, a big smile on his face and brandishing a video camera. " I'm doing a promotional video for the university to attract overseas students, it features various departments and facilities, and you're to introduce the clinic " "NO!" I was appalled, being somewhat camera shy. " You see, I'm new here, there must be other doctors who'd do a much better job " But I was no match for the tenacity, persuasiveness and charm Alain had in his disposal to get people to do his biddings, besides which his boundless enthusiasm was infectious, and before I realized it I was in the video. I never saw the completed video and I pray to God that my part was edited out ! *********************************************************************** Alain was not a regular patient of mine so over the years we did not see much of each other. There were a few consultations involving the children, but every time I saw him he was seemingly in good health and good cheers. Then one day out of the blue there was a commotion in the clinic and he was the cause. It transpired Alain was brought in by his wife in an acute state of confusion, he staggered about, totally unaware of his surroundings and spewed gibberish non-stop. ( Turned out he was actually speaking French, having lost all his English in his fugue state, but to non-French speakers it might just as well be gibberish) He was rushed to the regional hospital and a CT scan showed he had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a serious bleeding in the brain. " Will he survive ?" the Clinic nurses asked me with concern, they were all quite fond of Alain. "We can only hope," I replied gravely. Mortality from SAH is 40-50%, and over 60% of survivors will have some long term neurological sequelae . Alan surprised us all by not only surviving but bounced back to his energetic old self, with no apparent neurological deficit. All that we could conclude was that his zest for life was far stronger than the grip of the Grim Reaper for a time. ********************************************************************** More years slipped by, then one day Alain came to the clinic with devastating news. He's been diagnosed with the genetic eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa. He was determined to continue teaching for as long as possible, and coped with his gradually failing eyesight by gradually enlarging the letters on the computer screen. "It's OK, I can do it, just takes more time " he was calm and matter-of -fact, fully ready to adapt to a continuously changing lifestyle. His brother had become completely blind in his 40s so maybe he's had time to process the inevitable, but I was still awed by his seeming lack of self-pity, rage or despair, the sort of reaction anyone presented with this horrifying prospect must surely experience and give vent to, especially in a doctor's office. Amazingly Alain was already planning his future in darkness with his typical undefeatable positive attitude. He was a grounded, practical, remarkable man. *********************************************************************** A few more years on I was told Alain had taken retirement and had already left for France. We'd lost touch completely . I had no idea he'd returned to Hong Kong after his wife passed and was living in Mong Kok until much later. In spite of the lapse of many years I found little change in him when we met up again, as he sat beaming with happiness in the university canteen, eagerly engaged and interested in everything that's going on around him. This was a man who clearly enjoyed life and loved the company of friends, and it was easy to forget his disability. Alain had to be the quintessential poster boy for "how to live with adult onset blindness" : I was totally blown away when he told me he not only shopped at the wet market but went hiking regularly ! How did he do it ? An incident at a dinner gathering provided a clue. We were talking about our favorite food and I gushed "I just love cheesecake !" Alain threw his arms up in the air in disgust and pronounced authoritatively " In this world there's cheese and there's cake, but there's no such thing as cheesecake !" Presumably because he's a Frenchman he's decided he's the definitive food connoisseur, and that's that. His confidence in the belief that he's always right was overpowering, and it struck me then that this was exactly the kind of fiery invincible self-assurance , coupled with a deep sense of pride and dignity, that was needed to generate the driving force that would carry him through the waves of trials and tribulations in his life, and leave him still standing after the tides recede. *********************************************************************** Oh, by the way, the connoisseur's favorite food was deep fried stuffed pig's large intestine, who'd have guessed ! ************************************************************************ Alain's passing is a great loss to everyone who knew him. He was a rare soul and his life had been an inspiration to many. Personally I'd never forget his enthusiasm and optimism, his resourcefulness, his willingness to soldier on and adapt to whatever life throws at him, however hard and unfair. His was the ultimate chameleon of indomitable human spirit, at ease in both good times and bad. With his passing we've lost a good teacher not only in the French language, but also in how to live life on one's own terms, to refuse to bow down to fate and to finally emerge a victor. *********************************************************************** Dear Alain,merci et au revoir, rest in peace !

2022年2月25日 星期五

Problem with Hong Kong

Problem in HK has always been its small and weak government, coupled with a large unruly population who intend to topple the HK government, setting up hindrances every step of the way in the government effort to deal with the pandemic , the irony is many of them are actually on government pay ! The present dire situation is a direct consequence of the total disregard of the government advice to get vaccinated, to keep social distance, to avoid crowds, to observe quarantine. Nearly half of the HK people are anti- government and out of control, the government knows it but lacks the authority to do anything ! The HK government gets a beating whatever they do or don't do, they're derided by a powerful press not only when they do wrong but also when they do right. The resolution to put forward the summer holiday for students is after due consideration that pandemic control might still be unsatisfactory by summer, which is highly possible with the current amount of sabotage that's going on against pandemic control measures , but even such legitimate decisions are ridiculed by cartoonists and satirists far and wide. This would have been funny haha in an educated and intelligent society, alas in HK it only stirs up further hate for the government ! *********************************************************************** The HK government has to be the most bullied government in the world due to the vicious anti-government and anti-China section of the population. HK does not have Singapore's “POFMA” ~(Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act ), and false anti-vaccine rhetoric is rampant, misleading a large dim-witted public. Paradoxically HK is less successful than Singapore and far more difficult to govern because HK is too free, and now everyone in HK is paying for the misuse of freedom of the oafish 50% ! *********************************************************************** While the rest of the world is happy the elderlies and the disadvantaged poor die off to relieve welfare spending, HK is not willing to do that. It's money versus human life, and that's Chinese Human Rights in action. Remember the days in America when not only patients queue in long lines to enter hospitals but corpses had to queue to enter the morgues ? Eventually the morgues were so full the corpses had to be stored in cold meat trucks ! HK doesn't want to repeat that here. This reflects a different set of values between capitalist and socialist systems. Capitalist system is built on money, socialist system is built on people. This is why the death toll in the US is almost a million, 160,000 in the UK and only just over 5000 in China. *************************************************************** Singapore vaccination rate was far far above that of HK when it opened up, even then the Singapore Medical Department warned its citizens about the predicted rise in death toll and beseeched their acceptance of possible loss of dear ones. We as individuals choose different courses of living, as does each individual society, but none is perfect and all carry pros and cons, at this time HK chooses to follow the CCP model, which is the humane model. In this model every life is considered precious regardless of age, status, illnesses or disabilities, and all must be protected from infection by way of zero transmission rate, through strict pandemic control measures.. This model is effective but comes with an economic price. The chaos in HK right now in fact confirms the wisdom of tightening pandemic restrictions, because without them the chaos would be ten times worse ! It's a measure of the true moral value of a society by how much sacrifice it's willing to endure in order to care for its most vulnerable. *********************************************************************** When our vaccination rate is satisfactory and more cures are found for the infection, when we're confident that we can cope with the consequences of opening up, who knows, maybe we'd steer to another course of management. That's why we're very interested in following the happenings in all the countries that opted for opening up now, and observe how they fare for the next 6 months. Life is dynamic and we're always willing to learn. *************************************************************

2021年8月31日 星期二

Who are Hans ?

I'm sick of ignorante who know nothing about China who persist in spreading lies about genocides of minority tribes in China by Han Chinese. So exactly who are the Hans ? People who lived in areas ruled by the Han Emperor identified themselves as Han people (漢人) , but because the kingdom didn't include southern China, so southern people were not Han people , they were Southern Barbarians. But Tang Dynasty took over southern China as well , that's why southern people traditionally identified themselves as Tang people (唐人). Most of the Chinese immigrants to the West in the early days were from southern China, so that's the Chinese the West knew, even as late as 2 generations back most such immigrants would still insist on calling themselves 唐人 (Tang) and not 漢人(Han) ; this is why Chinatown is always 唐人街 (Tang Street) and not 漢人街(Han Street), Chinese restaurants are 唐人餐館(Tang restaurant), never 漢人餐館(Han restaurant), 唐餐(Tang cuisine) is nothing more than westernized Cantonese cooking, and Bruce Lee (from the south) is 唐山大兄 ( Big Brother Tang) and not 漢山大兄(Big brother Han). Nowadays the terms 唐人 (Tang) and漢人 (Han) are accepted by most Chinese, but the West today for whatever reason have decided to call all Chinese who doesn't belong to a "minority tribe" in China, "Han'' . However the population of Han Chinese is not monolithic like the Japanese, DNA analysis shows distinct differences between the northern and southern Chinese, so much so their disease profile is fairly different ! I'm sure studies comparing all the 25 Han sub-groups would show interesting differences too. Oh, did you not know there are 25 different types of Hans and 5 sub-groups of Mongolians ? The 25 Han subgroups are not arbitrary divisions, not only is their general appearance slightly differ, they also have different languages, different foods and customs. None of each subgroup can understand the dialect of the other, that's why it's important for EVERYBODY in China to learn the national language Mandarin just so we can communicate ! How is that cultural genocide ? Is making Japanese or Korean Americans speak American in America cultural genocide ? It could turn out China is a country of 86 minority tribes, and Guangdong (in the south ) being the most populous is the dominant tribe ! Southern Barbarians no more ! 😆The West should start calling the Chinese Tangs and not Hans ! Isn't it fascinating to be Chinese ?!😂 That'd also automatically make nonsense of the West's assertion of a humongous Han Chinese persecuting minorities when in fact they're minorities themselves ! 🤣 Unlike the US, Canada and Australia, China never needed to kill off its indigenous people to grab their land. The descendants of all the indigenous tribes who lived in China thousands of years ago are still living there today, many still follow their ancient customs and wear their traditional clothing to this day.And proud of it ! All the diverse indigenous cultures are respected,valued and encouraged in China, they're not just as tourist attractions but a way of life. We're a true reflection of the state of humans in the world, we're fluid but all related, depending on the political climate we're different entities at different times yet the same at the end, we're all Chinese, all 86 minority tribes of us ! As the Chinese saying goes " Within the four seas , we're all brothers", and according to ancient Chinese tradition whichever brother controls the family fortune has the obligation to care for the whole family. China has shown the world how it's done : you care for your poorer brother with heart and lift him up however you can with soul . Heart and soul. Your brother is not too heavy. Let that be a reminder to all humans everywhere. We all live within the four seas after all .

2020年1月20日 星期一

My comment on BBC Interview with Dr Darren Mann


What a disgrace to the medical profession this person is ! He's bigoted and biased, and knows nothing about the protocol of medical work in conflict zones ! The first lesson we were taught by the International Red Cross is : we must obtain prior permission from the authorities (government, army or police) before entering the conflict area, and we must report our whereabouts at all times to the authorities so as to avoid friendly fire, as well as not to impede any on-going conflict control operations. Did any of the so called "medics" seek prior authorization in HK ? Did this doctor in this despicable BBC interview ? So far in HK any Tom, Dick and Harry can just put on a vest with the word "medic" printed on it and pretend to be humanitarian workers, no verification provided, and many Tom, Dick and Harry do just that so they can shield the terrorists and assist their escape !!

The second lesson the International Red Cross taught us is : never insert yourself in the middle of any potentially violent conflict situations, because if you get injured not only are you unable to help anyone, you'd become a burden yourself. The HK police always put up warning flags before instituting measures against the terrorists after serious assaults like the throwing of petrol bombs and projectile weapons , so it's reasonable to believe that anyone still hanging around after all that are in fact all terrorists ! If these so called "medics" go against the directive of the International Red Cross they only have themselves to blame for the consequences !

The HK police are more restrained than police in the West, be it Britain, France or the US....., not to mention those in Israel, India, Thailand , Philippines.... in fact, almost any country you care to mention ! But you never hear the so called "Human Rights Organizations" condemning them, right ?!.... Oh, could it be because they're not Chinese ? What double standard hypocrites !

The problem with these HK medics is they think they're holier than thou and they are above the law ! The message International Red Cross repeatedly drums into our heads is : to render effective and credible medical service, NEUTRALITY is paramount, particularly in sensitive conflict situations where perception is just as important as action - medical staff have to be seen to be whiter than white ! The only way to gain trust from our patients and the public is impartiality in our professional arena. Certain HK medical and nursing personnel have brought deep shame to our profession by injecting politics and hatred into public hospitals, this has resulted in not just deep fissure within the fraternity, but mistrust and contempt from the general public. Public Hospitals belong to ALL HK citizens, including the police and their families, and the citizens who support them ! These "medics" have no right to hijack public medical services to use as private political tool to hurt fellow citizens. They're unfit for their jobs !

In this particular BBC interview it's clear this doctor and his team, by his own admission, to be of no difference from the Maffia doctors servicing the criminals, operating in the back room and shielding them from the law ! Medics do NOT have special privileges and must uphold the law at all times in order to retain integrity and credibility, the HK Medical Council must take heed and take action - time for the HK medical profession to earn back respect from the public !