On Monday evening the Outlying Islands Women’s Association (OIWA) put on a very pleasant gathering for a dozen or so ex-pats as a celebration and explanation of various aspects of Chinese New Year (CNY). Hui Ho Ki – Kiki – was our host, and she told us tales such as the one about the ravenous monster who has to be kept away from the village people by making lots of noise and displaying the colour red. There was certainly plenty of that, especially the noise, in Luk Tei Tong on the night of CNY! She also explained a number of the sayings you see on banners and posters in people’s houses and around the streets. Not surprisingly a great many of them were to do with making money, being prosperous, having gold and silver, and in one way or another getting your mitts on more filthy lucre. I wonder if the Chinese have an expression such as that – filthy lucre. I doubt it. Kiki then passed around a variety of traditional CNY titbits, mostly cakes, such as pumpkin cake, taro cake, radish cake, and some sticky rice confections, all washed down with a choice of teas. She rounded things off by getting us all to make a Chinese lantern out of red packets.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and looks like being the first of a number of activities which OIWA are going to put on during the coming year, all with the intention of bringing the ex-pat and Chinese communities into closer contact with each other. There’s certainly plenty of room for improvement in relationships between the communities, and I’m looking forward to what OIWA has planned. One activity is to do a walk around some of the villages pointing out sites of historical interest and perhaps visiting a home or two to see what a traditional house looks like on the inside. Another, more long-term, is to set up a community garden next to Mabel’s organic farm, where they intend to teach people how to grow things organically – presumably Mabel will have considerable input into this. It’s to be a kind of educational centre, hopefully for children as well as adults. I’m pretty sure this will be a success, because there seem to be a lot of people starting to grow food on plots of land around the local villages. With Peak Oil and the effects of worsening global warming, food from abroad is going to get more and more costly, so growing a portion of your own food is eminently sensible and it’s good to see so many people starting to do it. There is also a real interest in organic food, although Perry, who works in one of the seed shops in Sheung Wan, says there is still a big demand for chemicals. People, it seems, can’t bear to have a single insect anywhere near their plots. It’s not exactly permaculture, and it’s sad to see forty centuries of farming expertise virtually disappearing in a generation. I’ve mentioned before how Hongkongers seem to be phobic about bugs, and this seems to be further confirmation of it. Nevertheless, OIWA deserve to be applauded for what they are setting out to do, and I’m sure many people will be interested in taking part in their activities. More information will be passed around by email, so we’ll keep you posted. Thanks again to Kiki and OIWA for a lovely evening.