It has been almost three weeks since I have last been able to put together an entry. The activity level has increased, we have each made some out of town trips, and we have had some more visitors to help us out in our efforts.
This past weekend I went to Hong Kong for some professional visits. One of our students was presenting the outline of her research at a conference for Hong Kong and Mainland students. She worked with Ellen on the project (a small bit with me as well) and won the award in her category. She was very pleased, as were we.
I also paid a visit to the research center on suicide attached to Hong Kong University and met with some of their staff. They have researched suicide in HK and offered some valuable hints for how we might proceed in our suicide prevention efforts up here.
One of the presentations at the conference was by a woman who was researching the affects of stress on cancer patients and how they fared in the course of their illness. During the question period I posed a question and also indicated some of what I knew about the research. A few minutes later I was handed a note from the Director of the Behavioral Health Research Centre at HK University asking that we talk. We ended up spend several hours together touring her center and comparing notes. They are doing some innovative blending of East and West and we have plans to collaborate on some efforts over the next few months. I will be heading back there the end of May to participate in a training they are doing for gradates of their Masters in Behavioral Health program.
Being in Hong Kong for 30 hours was a bit of a shock. I didn’t anticipate much difference from the Mainland, having been there on two occasions in the past. But this trip, coming after 10 weeks on the Mainland, was eye opening. The prices (3-6X the Mainland), the driving on the left, the large number of westerners set the tone, but this is really China on steroids, it is what China thinks it is becoming when it builds tall glass office buildings, state of the art subways, 40-story apartment blocks. But the Chinese don’t quite get it right; things are often poorly engineered (the beautiful promenade along the river front in back of our apartment pools water for hours after a heavy ran), sloppily constructed, and left with little maintenance. In the times before the Sino-Russian break in the early 60’s it was said that you wanted to avoid flying on Chinese aircraft (of Russian manufacture) as they combined Russian engineering and Chinese maintenance. Now aircraft have improved with the arrival of western technology, but you wonder about the Chinese engineering when combined with Chinese maintenance in other spheres. Tiles fall off of buildings, bridges drop into rivers (likely caused by graft induced poor construction), and 4-foot holes are left open and unmarked along roadways.
Speaking of the Russians, I should note that it was the Soyuz space ship that has kept the space program in business, after the two shuttle disasters, the best of American engineering and maintenance.
Our work here continues to amaze; Ellen is spreading the techniques of popular education, making all the students ardent supporters of the Frierian approach. She has a wide circle of students who are constantly seeking her out and making good use of her talents. At this moment, 9 on a Sunday evening, she is off with some students on a Study Group, immersing them in ideas of grassroots organizing. It is hard to imagine what they will do when she leaves! We are also working together on a suicide prevention effort, I am doing training of peer counselors and Ellen is taking them through the steps of organizing the student body and the administration to implement the recommendations we have developed. It has been wonderful to work this closely with one another .
I am working with all my graduate students on their final projects, they are writing up a case and then answering a series of questions we will develop together. They are accustomed to a test, where they expect to tell the teacher what the teacher has already told them, boring! So, while this seems better to them, they are quite unaccustomed to taking responsibility for their own learning, that is to set out to learn something that they are interested in and then working along with a teacher in developing their expertise. Like I tell them, you didn’t learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book, you have got to go out and DO IT!
Last weekend we took a day off, went to an in town park and roamed around. Some pictures from that day are included. Next week is a holiday, plans have been to go to HK for a meditation retreat, but Kyoto calls for me so we will see.
OK it grows late, it is an early morning tomorrow and I still need to add the pictures to this entry, so, for now, good travels!