Today marks the halfway point of my service.

50% complete! 298 days behind me, 298 days ahead of me.

50% progress bar

Where has the time gone? What have I done during those 298 days? Honestly, it doesn’t seem like much, but then again, what is “much”?

Co-writing a research? That’s cool.
Advocating for migrant workers’ living conditions? Even better!

Providing x numbers of migrant workers with trainings and services? Nice.
Engaging with and hearing their stories? Awesome!

Society would want to know about the research and numbers; my resume would boast those quantitative information, but it is the qualitative “much”-ness I’m learning to enjoy. The first half of my missionary service’s “successes” are in those moments we cannot quantify, in those moments future employers will not ask about, in those moments that I will sorely miss when I leave. It’s struggling, fighting, and laughing with migrant workers for their rights in Hong Kong and back in their home country. It’s being present in an invisible community that radiates love while fending off oppression. It will be in this “much”-ness that I will leave part of my heart.

I know I will return home to statements and questions of Hong Kong (“Your Cantonese must be so good!” “There’s so much good Hong Kong food there!”), and I know the answers I give will not satisfy (“I spoke mostly English and very little Tagalog.” “I ate a lot of Filipino dishes.”). I will not know how to sum up 20 months of service in 2 minutes. “It was good. I learned a lot.” But that does not encompass the transformation that has happened and will continue to happen for rest of my journey here.

The next half of my journey will push me to be ever so present in the communities I’m a part of as I prepare to leave and to connect with my communities back home in the US. In the meantime, I will continue to love, advocate, and stand with those in the margins as Jesus did during His time on earth.

The people united will never be defeated!

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6 months.

The past 6 months have been a blurry dream; reality never quite kicking in. “I’m really in Hong Kong. This is real,” I would tell myself. I never thought this would happen to me, but alas, I’m no exception. I’ve come to the conclusion that – despite how much Hong Kong felt like Chinatown “home” in NYC – I suffer from (dun dun dun) culture shock. According this lovely picture Google provided, I am in the depression/crisis stage(s) of my culture shock wave timeline.

culture shock

I know that these feelings will pass, but when you’re in that funk and all you want to do is eat Mexican food and go on camping roadtrips with your friends, it really sucks. I just have to ride it out, diba (right)? I know Jesus walks with us as we grieve and comforts us during our best and worst times. I believe, but I can’t feel anything but tired.

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I choose my own way to burn.

The real damage is done by those millions who want to “survive.” The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves — or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.

Sophie Scholl

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Does it even matter?

I’m beginning to question the impact of my fast.

Who cares if I buy bottled water or use a plastic utensil?

I’m just ONE person.

Do my actions even matter? I’m barely making a dent.

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Day 1: God answers prayers.

For lent, I decided to “be more eco-friendly” and not use any items wrapped/sold in plastic/Styrofoam, plastic utensils/bottles/plates, etc. It’s day 2, and THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

But God has shown grace yesterday when I was completely unprepared with food.

LUNCH
We had to get takeout (usually coworkers would bring some yummy Filipino/Indonesian dishes) because of an 8-hour meeting but found a place that serves its meals in cardboard. I wasn’t the happiest about using a takeout container, but it’s better than plastic… for now.

DINNER
I didn’t have any vegetables to cook dinner and was already late. I was prepared to get my veggies from the wet market and be super late when LO AND BEHOLD! What should appear in front of me but a random vegetable stand in the middle of the ferry lobby!? I turned to my friend and said, “SEE?! GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS!”

disposable culture + lent = zero waste bound

img_20170225_153112707One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Hong Kong is the amount of disposable containers used and thrown away (as show in this picture on a Saturday at 3pm in Mongkok). The abundance of delicious street food and cheap convenience store don’t help the case either. I’m guilty of this convenient, disposable culture – buying bottled drinks and packaged snacks, using Styrofoam containers for take-out/street food, clearance items on sale.. The list goes on.

As the months passed, I discovered that the disposable culture goes beyond the food industry but applies in the fashion and electronics worlds. Fashion changes so quickly! If we want to keep up with it, we have to keep buying. Then, there’s planned obsolescence, which is a fancy way to say “made to be broken/out of style”. The things I buy were never made to last longer than a year or a few uses. I have so much stuff, but am I happy?

It started with a minimalist movement, but I want to do more. I want to also minimize my carbon footprint. I want to leave a planet for future generations. I want to show that God loves people and the planet. I want to be a good steward of the gifts bestowed to me by my Creator – my time, my money, my earth.

hk-foodwastestats

It made me sad when I found out Hong Kong will run out of landfill by 2018. That’s NEXT year!

Zero waste has been on my mind since last year when I began to simplify my room and learned about Lauren’s journey to live waste free. It sounds all hippie-dippy, but it’s quite simple:

“Zero waste is not about consuming or producing nothing. It’s about carefully and intentionally designing, producing, and consuming without waste as an end product.” -Andrea Sanders

I will continue the zero waste journey I started in NYC here in Hong Kong by cutting out plastic for lent. I don’t fast a lot. I can count how many times I’ve fasted on one hand ..let’s be real – half a hand. “If you couldn’t do it in NYC where there are more options, how are you going to do it in Hong Kong where time (thus convenience) is money?” Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that I will fail, but there is grace. I know that it won’t be easy, but it wouldn’t be worth it if it was easy. I doubt Jesus was comfortable fasting in the desert for 40 days. So here goes 40 days without plastic bottles, utensils, bags, etc. If you want to join me, GIVE ME TIPS, or ask questions, feel free to contact me!

Remember when I started my my Project 333 last month? I wanted to minimize my life, starting with my clothes. Like most changes, it’s uncomfortable at first, but then, it becomes second nature. I didn’t even notice a month passed! Nor did I notice the “small” amount of options I have. Not only have these options become my reality but my wardrobe brings me joy. I don’t feel guilty when I look into my closet and see the massive amount of clothes I haven’t touched for years, waiting for that “what if” moment. However, I did cheat for my trip to Cambodia because I needed a tank top and shorts that I didn’t account for.

Lesson: Project 333 by season would be more ideal.. especially since winter is about to end.

riding the [cultural] struggle bus.

I had a donut last week. Thus began my downfall. That’s a bit dramatic, but that donut sparked something. If you know me, you would know I don’t get homesick, but I do have fond memories of people and places. I miss the small things – commutes and/or lunch dates with Ada, food ‘ventures with Jenn, hiking with Adam and Hailin – as well as the big things – roadtrips, exploring national parks, and cross-country visits. I miss the diversity of food, of people, of neighborhoods. It’s not that I didn’t miss my life back in NYC in the last few months, but that donut triggered something deep in my soul that I can’t pinpoint.

Perhaps my honeymoon phase is over. I didn’t even realize I was on the culture shock roller coaster we talked about at training since I didn’t feel as though I entered a new culture. In fact, I was a little disappointed to be placed in Hong Kong. I’m super stoked to be here and serving with migrant workers, but I wanted to be [culturally] challenged. I wanted to be placed in another country where I didn’t know the language, eat the food, understand the culture, or look like a local. Instead, I’m placed in a city that reminds me of Chinatown, has food I’m familiar with, and speaks my mother tongue. At first, I thought, “Augh, I’m not riding the struggle bus. I’m not even on a bus; I’m chilling in the back of a comfy car with the aircon on.”

At first, I was jealous of my co-fellows, placed in countries outside their comfort zones. I wanted that journey for myself (I know, I’m nuts), but it’s not my time to ride that cultural struggle bus. Instead, I ride another struggle bus – to slowly learn what it means to be an Asian American missionary in Asia while hearing about the struggles back in my passportland; to pray and trust God with the issues here in Hong Kong as well as abroad in the United States; and to love where I am placed because God’s plans are better than mine. And it’s not easy. It’s never easy to unlearn decades of ideologies and relearn them, but I trust God. So far, it’s been pretty awesome. (:

power of presence.

Every Sunday, I join migrant workers in Chater Garden. We eat, dance, talk, dance, sing, talk, dance, eat. Sometimes, I think, “I could be doing something else besides sitting here. I’m not even doing anything.” But, am I really not? Do I really need to be doing right now? If you know me, you would know that I like to keep busy. I like to fill my calendar with activities to do, which leads to a lack of rest and state of just being.

I’m Martha. But I’m learning to be Mary. God loves me for who I am, not what I can do. It was in that realization that I am loved despite my actions that has set my soul free – free from the burden of earning God’s love, free from the burden of changing the world. All I am asked is to trust and to be as I am.

Working and spending time with Filipinos taught me the power of presence (and presents – don’t even think about forgetting pasalubong when you travel!), contrary to the environment I grew up in. Yesterday, I almost missed a little girl’s birthday party because I once again put my work first. The internal conflict was real. I struggled to appease my inner voice that showing up means more than doing work. This tension’s also there Sundays when I sit with my Filipino friends in Chater Garden, not knowing what’s happening most of the time. I’m learning that the seemingly passive tasks of listening and being somewhere speak louder than doing. As an Ate pointed out, my presence (even if I don’t do anything) means a lot. It shows that I care, that I’m willing to listening, that I stand in solidarity.. while sitting.

a prayer for today.

God,

Today, I am tired –
Tired of the bullshit of yesterday,
Tired of the uncertainty of tomorrow.

But You are with me today,
You know my yesterday,
And You command my tomorrow.

So, I will trust and rest in You –
Trust in the sovereignty of Your plans,
Rest in the promise of Your love.

Tomorrow, I will get up,
And I will fight as You’ve taught me how –
With mercy, with grace, with love.

Lord, today I need Your Spirit;
Mine isn’t strong enough.