Friday, November 30, 2012

It takes a village.

It takes a village to raise a child. We all know the truth of this old saw. It is less well known that it also takes a village  - and sometimes even a city - to support the work of someone such as myself. I am just home from my first-ever trip to Hong Kong, and the flood of thanks that keeps surfing inside my jet-lagged head is both overwhelming and unending. Surf on!

Some of these people who deserve thanks are nameless, such as the young toxicology student who I met at the University of Hong Kong. On the day that I showed up there, I had still been unable to locate a campus map and had asked him, hard at work on his laptop, where the Library might be. Which library?  he asked. History and such, I replied. I will walk you there, he said. Are you sure? I asked, It is not out of your way?

We chatted as we walked, mostly about Canada’s record with respect to food inspections. I had a much more negative take than he did. He had not heard of our federal government’s latest cuts to our inspection capacity, and that Canada now has meat-packers doing their own inspections under diminished oversight. He was curious about Canada’s processes, both political and practical, but his questions also challenged me to remember and re-evaluate the little that I did know. We parted at the library, and as I looked back over my shoulder I saw him retracing his steps. I was going that way anyway he had said to me when we started out. Hmm. There was a kindness in how he had offered his gift of being a guide, a way that had made it lighter for me to accept. 

The path through Stanley Market to Annelise's apartment.

My thoughts of undertaking a trip to Hong Kong had started when a perfect stranger, Annelise, offered me a mattress in a corner of her 400 sq. ft. flat in Stanley. We had only known each other through a few posts concerning the history of some houses on The Peak. The next thing I knew was that I had bought a ticket, and was about to meet the best guide possible. Not only did Annelise have connections that opened doors to all sorts of adventures, but she also made sure that I had grasped the rudiments of getting about: how buses and taxis worked, where the public toilet facilities were.

Through her, I met the members of the Royal Asiatic Society. After my presentation to them, I received at least a dozen calling cards, and have been invited to follow up with these members on outstanding questions. Believe me, I will. First, I need to take the time to assemble what I have learned in the various archives during my two week stint. After all, I don’t want to ask any questions that I can actually answer on my own hoof. I also want to refine the questions that are still outstanding so that I can minimize the time it will take to run each to ground.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post expanded versions of several parts of my presentation. I promised to do this so that those members of the RAS who could not be there will feel included. Together, we will all learn more. I will also post my outstanding questions. 

On other posts later in December, I will update my readers on what one of my heroes in life, Ursula Franklin, would call my ever-expanding domain of ignorance. This is the border between what I do know and what I don’t. If it is growing, then it is because I have been learning more, but this always means that I will continue to have more questions. There is at least that.

1 comment:

  1. As Blanche DuBois so drawlingly said, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." It is SO true, especially when traveling.
    I am so glad everyone took such good care of you, because it's usually you taking care of everyone else :)