Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lucky draw

The staff Christmas party was held at the Clear Water Bay country club on Tuesday and I spent a lot of time sleeping on the golf course. I eat something bad on Monday and I was feeling really sick.

The event would have been a lot better had it not dragged on for nine hours. In the afternoon we were free to use the club facilities but the evening was a formal dinner and presentations etc with presentations etc.

The formal part had some definite highlights and lowlights. Our department play was funny in parts but disastrous in others because one actor had got increasingly sozzled throughout the afternoon and evening. We practised several times during the afternoon and his part increased every time to the point where he had as much dialogue as everyone else combined.

The best part of the evening was a belly dance by one of the staff at our domestic helper and migrant worker's centre. I found out that she actually performs at a restaurant in central. I'm definitely going there to watch when I get back from Australia.

Dominating the evening was the lucky draw with over fifty prizes. Each prize was announced individually and each winner had to come on stage to shake hands with one of the board members as they recieved their prize.

Most of the prizes were not so special and in my unwell state I was actually hoping not to have to move out of my seat.

Not so lucky however because my name flashed up on the large screen as the winner of prize no. 9 - $500 cash.

I made my way up on to stage and tried to shake hands and recieve my prize with a minimum of fuss. Unfortunately, one of the board members refused to let go of my hand until we had posed for a photo.

The MC could see how much I wanted to get off stage and insisted that I couldn't leave until I had told everyone how I would spend the $500. At the time I couldn't think of anything. I had been too busy considering whether I would have to go back to my seat before going to the bathroom, lest everyone keep staring at me as I walked towards the loo.

One of the board members yelled "Donate it to (the organisation)". In a desparate attempt to get off stage I muttered a sarcastic, "Yeah, I'll donate it to (our organisation)".

My remark was met with a shocked silence from 250 people. I realised that everyone had taken me seriously.

I slinked back to my seat and just as I sat back down the executive director stood up and shouted, "Let the poor boy keep his money! He works almost seven days per week at Chungking Mansions".

I waited another five minutes before making my way to the bathroom hoping that I don't get a reputation for being the biggest suck up in the organisation.

As I sat on the toilet I realised that $500 would cover a dinner for two at the restaurant where my colleague performs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I spent about an hour yesterday evening shopping for Christmas presents for my goddaughter and her brother. I last saw them a couple of weeks ago and it was so exciting to hear Mahima talking for the first time! She's not quite up to stringing words together but she knows a lot of nouns. She's also very good at repeating any word she hears. I guess that might be because she's exposed to so many languages - Tagalog, Chinese, Bengali and English are the main ones.

I never thought that present shopping could be so much fun. I wanted to buy so much but in the end I settled on three things. One to promote problem solving skills, another to promote creativity and another to turn her into a real HK girl. I resisted the urge to buy the pretend Hello Kitty mobile phone and got some HK hair clips instead.

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Before my fifteen minutes of newspaper fame had even faded we got a call from a HK television station who want to do a special report about asylum seekers in Hong Kong. The reporter sounds super sympathetic and they will come and interview my boss and I on Thursday, along with some disguised clients.

That's not the only thing happening this week. I leave for Sydney on Friday and every day between now and then is jam packed. Organised events include an organisation Christmas party (12 - 9:30pm Tuesday!), a Christmas party in our centre, pre-filming briefings on Wednesday and the filming on Thursday. I've also got several classes to teach plus planning meetings with uni students who are going to begin volunteer teaching next week. In between all that, there is a lot of work to finish and plenty of Christmas shopping to do.

At the same time I've reached a giddy level of excitement as I anticipate going back home for the first time in more than a year. Ironically, two of the things that I've been thinking about most are breathing cleaner air and driving.

Friday, December 10, 2004


I had more Cantonese practice than usual yesterday. Firstly, I had to go to our main office for a meeting about the staff Christmas party. I was annoyed about wasting most of the afternoon in a useless meeting and then even more annoyed when the meeting was held in Cantonese! I could understand just enough to figure out that there was nothing that couldn't have been explained in a brief email.

After work I had been invited out to dinner with Daisy's mum and Daisy's aunt and uncle who have come from China for a family wedding. We did very well despite the language barrier. None of them speak English and the aunt and the uncle don't even speak Cantonese! To compensate for this, we were continually clinking our glasses together (tea for me, beer for them) in silent toasts.

After dinner I took them for dessert in a new store that has opened not so far from home. It's actually a 27 year old family business but it has just relocated from To Kwa Wan to Jordan. An old lady makes the dessert, her daughter serves tables and her grandaughter is often on the cash register. To our surprise, the family spoke the same local dialect as Daisy's relatives and we got a bonus free dessert!

As I despaired of my pathetic Cantonese ability yesterday I also realised that I am hardly speaking Hindi these days, despite the large number of Hindi speaking clients we have at work. After a little thought I realised I have been subconsciously choosing to speak English to maintain a kind of 'professional distance'. It makes sense but it's also a little sad.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Since I last blogged I have been very busy at work preparing stuff for a Amnesty conference on refugees and asylum seekers that is being held this weekend.

I went to a pre-conference dinner on Thursday evening and was very surprised when someone asked me if I'd seen the asylum seeker newspaper articles last Sunday. 'Didn't you see the photo?' I asked? 'No' they told me, 'I got it off the online archive'. Aiyaa!

Anyway, because of the conference I have been working overtime all week. As usual, I am working today (Sat) and I also have to be at work tonight for a visit by a group of international church leaders. Tomorrow and Monday I will be at the conference and then Monday night is the closing dinner! The craziness is making me even more eager for my holiday home.

Despite losing a Saturday night, I have been looking forward to tonight's meeting. We've booked out an Indian restaurant in Chungking and we will be able to do kareoke in Hindi if we want! As long as the South Asian delegates don't look too stuffy then I think I'll go for it. Having visited several churches in India I've learnt that it's not always a good idea to display a liking for Hindi movies in front South Asian Christians. And even worse to launch in to 'obla dee dee dee, obla daa daa daa, obla doo doo doo, what to doo?'

I just looked at the guest list for tonight and was surprised to see a very prominent delegate from Australia, someone who is well known for their stance on asylum seekers and other issues. Not the first time since I've been in this job that I've got to meet a hero!