I am incredibly overdue for a blog update, but the past month has been busy! I met my parents in Beijing for 5 days, then they came to Hong Kong for a week where I showed them around. The same morning they left for the US, I flew to the Philippines, where I attended the International Migrants Alliance and International Womens Alliannce conferences. I just returned to Hong Kong on the 11th of July. The next YASCer arrives this Saturday, and I go back to the US a week after that! This is on top of some “recommended” reading for law school and trying to figure out a place to live in August (thanks, Mom for finding a great place!).
So let’s start with Beijing. Interesting place- not what I’d expected, but still a great experience. It was nice to be reunited with my parents on Father’s Day, and I really enjoyed seeing the Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, and the Great Wall of China! I feel so fortunate that I got to travel there.
Back in Hong Kong, after a 27 hour delay at the airport, it was great to show my parents around. I think they were able to get a much better grasp for my life here and the people I serve. We went to the areas where domestic workers spend their days off (Chater Road and Victoria Park), to church at St. John’s Cathedral, the Peak, Temple of 10,000 Buddhas, Macau, all the various markets, etc. We also had lunch at the Bethune House so they could sample a bit more Filipino food. I think this was a really meaningful experience for them. Despite reading my blog and talking regularly, they could not believe the horrible conditions migrant workers face in Hong Kong.
Then it was off to the Philippines! I was a tiny bit anxious because of the drama last time (stolen passport) but it was all for naught. Everything went wonderfully and I really enjoyed the entire trip!
First, I attended two conferences: the International Migrants Alliance and the International Womens Alliance. These were both held in Manila. There were great people of strength from all over the world. I met so many strong women, including a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a member of the Filipino Congress, and one woman who had spent 6 years in jail as a political prisoner without ever being accused of an actual crime. I spent my time absorbing as much as possible.
After the conferences, it was time to travel around a bit. I stayed in Manila and visited Barangay del Monte, an urban poor community. The poverty faced by people living there is incomparable to anything I’d ever seen. They live on the banks of a river which overflows frequently and drastically, so that they must constantly flee to the 3rd floor of their piecemeal house or even the roof. Families subsist on US$2-3 per day which is nowhere near enough. The water that runs through the community is tainted so that it needs to be boiled for safe drinking, but gas is two expensive so that’s not an option. I could go on and on about the difficulties facing this community, but unfortunately, it is not unique in the Philippines. The unemployment rate in the Philippines? 80%. I have a much better understanding now of what pushes people to work abroad. I see now that they really are forced, at least economically.
After Manila I went to Baguio, which was beautiful and refreshing. The rice terraces were amazing to see. The mountains were gorgeous. The reading I had intended to do on the 7 hour bus ride was completely neglected since I could not take my eyes off the window. Once I was in Baguio, I was so kindly guided around by Veron, a member of Gabriella Women’s Party. I visited the huge market (I’ve seen a lot of markets in my life, but this one ranks Top 3 in the world, in my opinion at least). I met with two Episcopal priests to learn about their parish ministries and how they assist migrants. I also visited a newly forming migrant organization and learned about that process.
Now I’m back in Hong Kong, again trying to pack up and wrap up. I cannot believe how quickly a year goes by. I am excited about everything the next few weeks has in store for me: meeting the next YASCer Kathleen, reflecting on my experiences of the past year, reuniting with friends and family in the US, and starting my law degree!