I have friends!

I have company this week – the fabulous Miss Jan and Miss Alice have traveled half way around the world to remind me of what great friends I have!!  We are having a blast eating our way through the city, walking off everything we ate, and staying up until 4:30am playing catch up.  I love having company!

So I’ll be mostly out of commission for the next week while I’m enjoying their visit.  Be sure to expect some fun pictures and stories to come…

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Its Dinner time somewhere…

So, I decided it would be fun the participate in Nick’s “Mexican Chicken Challenge.” For those of you who know me, you know one thing: I don’t cook.  No, let me rephrase that: I can’t cook.  I can bake.  And I love baking.  I’m kinda famous world-over for my baking.  (Well, it helps that the last people I baked for got sent out to 7 different countries and 9 different states!)  So, to accept this challenge was to put myself at great personal risk for humiliation.  Add to that fact that I was so excited about this challenge that I actually thought it a good idea to bring in a new type of audience participation, and asked some of the guys from work to be the taste-testers of my dish.  I decided for my variations to substitute fish for chicken (making it now the “New Papi’s Hat Dance in Your Mouth Chicken sans Chicken” dish), to make my own salsa instead of buying jarred salsa, and to do a homemade saffron rice instead of the packaged deal.  High expectations.

So the challenges of participating in this gauntlet throw down ran deep and varied: I can’t cook; I was attempting to cook with fish – something I had never cooked with before; I was asking a group of Asians to judge my attempts at a Mexican dish; and oh, I live in Hong Kong and finding ingredients for Mexican dishes is next to impossible.    

I am sad to report that I did not get to make my own salsa, which is the part I was most excited about.  I absolutely LOVE homemade salsa, but unfortunately, trying to gather all of the proper ingredients was impossible. I couldn’t find cilantro ANYWHERE!!  In hopes of finding what I needed I even ventured to the Western market, a store I’m rare to shop in. The ingredients I did find were incredibly costly, and shipped from all over the world (tomatoes from Turkey, onions from Japan, cheese from Sweden).  The travel cost of my dinner would have been ridiculous, and I knew that I would be eating a Hat Dance in my Mouth that had made such a negative impact on the environment just to make it to my kitchen, that the idea suddenly became less appealing.  So I decided to only purchase items that were local, unless absolutely unavoidable.  So I bought a jar of organic salsa from New Mexico (of which half of the proceeds of purchase were donated to Breast Cancer research – which made me feel a little better), pepper jack cheese from Oregon (made from cows that were not raised with artifical growth hormones) and cayenne pepper that came from one of HK’s sister companies in the UK (there is still a lot that is British related here in HK, even after the 1997 handover).  Everything else was local.  (My aunt had sent me a package of taco seasoning in a care package not too long ago, so it was not something I had to purchase.)  I bought fish that was caught here in South China Sea, rice that was packaged in Hong Kong, garlic and limes from a local veggie market, and I had some saffron spices that I had bought when I was in Bali.   Time to cook.

I pricked my fish like Nick instructed, and did a rub with a mixture of taco seasoning and cayenne pepper.  I let it sit and soak in for about 20 minutes.  Then I covered the fish in the salsa, and baked for 15 minutes.  I shredded the pepper jack cheese (which brought up memories of Lane’s Man Against Machine post) and squeezed a little bit of lime over the cheese, then put the fish back in for another 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, I realized that I didn’t have all of the necessary ingredients for the saffron rice (saffron, known as the “Most expensive spice in the world,” is another item I had never cooked with).  So, I decided to make do with what I had.  I mixed the rice with butter, saffron, a little bit of lime juice and minced garlic.  Once everything was finished, I decided to do a private tasting before taking the meal up to the office for the guys to try.  I plated my meal, squeezed a little extra lime over the whole deal and viola!

I took a bite and instantly, I was relieved.  I didn’t screw it up!!  High praise for this little non-cook.  The next thought that came to my mind was, “MAN I’ve missed Mexican food!!”  So I packaged up the rest of the food and took it up to the office for the real critics.  Here is a sampling of their reviews.

“Next time, cook more food.”

“The rice needs a little less saffron seasoning, add a little pepper too.”

“The fish is cooked perfectly.  Very tasty.”

“Good amount of spice on the fish, though I wouldn’t complain if there was even more.”

“What kind of cheese is this?”

“The lime with the rice really makes it work.”

“What is the name again?  Hahaha…why?”

“When are you cooking Mexican for us again?”

I also got the nod of approval from Gi, which is the highest form of praise, considering I have never heard him talk before. 

So all in all, I think the New Papi’s Hat Dance in Your Mouth Chickens sans Chicken was a huge success!  I am glad that I used the fish, as I think that it absorbed the spices perfectly.  When I get back to the States I will definitely try to make this dish again with a homemade salsa.  But for now, this one is certainly going in the recipe book that as of now only contains cakes and cookies! Thanks Nick!

I love celebrating!!

Happy Birthday Valerie!!  The foster mom to my pup; college roommate of 4 years; best friend of 8 years; constant listener; patient teacher of all things that bake, sizzle, cook and marinate; great road-trip/travel buddy (remember Peter and Fred?); walking jukebox with amazing taste and range; keeper of knowledge of all things random.

Val – you’ve been an amazing and constant friend throughout the years!  I hope you have a wonderful birthday!!

Article

This is an article I wrote for the most recent Migrant Focus. 

Steps Towards Justice 

 

Like most domestic workers, Pam* came to Hong Kong from Indonesia with the hope of earning money to help support her family back home.  She began working for her employer in July 2005, but unfortunately, was taken advantage of by her employer.  Pam’s employer was underpaying her salary.  While she should have been paid $3,320 a month, she was only receiving $1,900 a month.  There were also many weeks, sometimes months at a time, that Pam went without a rest day.  Her employer told her that she would compensate her for the times that she wasn’t allowed to take a rest day, but even then, she was only given an extra $100 a month for every month she didn’t have rest days.  By March of 2007, Pam decided she had been taken advantage of long enough, and decided to constructively terminate her contract with her employer, due to the underpayment of salary and lack of proper rest days.  She came to the Mission for Migrant Workers and the Bethune House for advice and shelter.  A week after leaving her employer’s house, Pam filed a labour claim against her employer, asking for compensation for rest days and the 20 months of underpayment, but no decision was made in the Labour Department and in April 2007 the case was sent to the Labour Tribunal.

 

After four hearings at the Labour Tribunal over the course of 4 months, the Labour Tribunal decided to suspend the labour case for 3 months while the case was investigated.  In December the Prosecution Division of the Labour Department began a full investigation.  Pam, her counselor from the Mission and another counselor connected with Pam’s case, were all asked to be witnesses against the employer.  They each met with the Prosecution Division in Admiralty to give statements regarding Pam’s case, and the Division also met with the employer and investigated forms of payment and statements.  Pam reported a total for 4 times to the Prosecution Division, and in June 2008 the case finally went to court. 

 

Before the result of the court case came through, Pam dealt with a lot of emotions, from fear to depression.  A previous case similar to Pam’s had resulted only in community service for the employer, no money for the client, and Pam was worried that all of this time may have been wasted.  Times were tense leading up to the court result.  But when the result was given, there was a new emotion – joy.  The employer ended up pleading guilty to the court, meaning that Pam and the other witnesses did not have to appear in court.  The employer was ordered to pay $10,000 in fines for underpayment, on top of the $27,000 in labour claims.  The case is being reviewed by the Immigration Department, and at the end of July Pam will be able to return home for the first time in over two years.  There is a little irony to be found in the dates of this case.  Pam started her contract in July 2005, and ended her labour and court cases at what would have been the end of the contract had the employer followed the rules and regulations set by the Hong Kong Government in the Employment Ordinance. After Pam returns home, she can begin to look for a new employer in Hong Kong if she chooses. This time, Pam will know her rights before signing a new contract and will be able to enter into a new employment situation with the confidence of someone who knows how to stand up for herself.  

 

While Pam’s case was long, tiring and at times, overwhelming, the migrant community should be thankful for all of the effort she put in to fighting for justice from her employer.  Pam’s employer clearly violated the Hong Kong Labour laws, and because of Pam’s willingness and determination to see this case through to the end, justice was won.  Every hearing, every statement and every visa extension has put not just Pam, but the entire migrant community, one step closer to justice for all migrant workers.  This cases shows that migrants in Hong Kong are willing to fight back, to stand up for their rights, and that those who violate the law will eventually be brought to justice.  So thank you to Pam for fighting and for not giving up.  This migrant community is seeking justice one step, one case, at a time. 

 

 

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the client. 

Just for fun…

I haven’t done a suvery/meme/theme (whatever you want to call them) in a long time, so I figured, now is as good a time as any!  I got this from Heather, but she used my obvious 1st choice.  So I’m going to use my new favorite band.

Describe yourself using ONE BAND/SINGER and only SONG TITLES from that band/singer.

Band :: The Hem
Are you male or female :: Polly’s Dress
Describe yourself :: We’ll Meet Along the Way
How do some people feel about you :: The City and The Traveler
How do you feel about yourself :: All That I’m Good For
Describe your ex girlfriend/boyfriend :: Crazy Arms
Describe your current girlfriend/boyfriend (or lackthereof) :: I’ll Dream of You Tonight (or b/c I can’t choose!) He Came to Meet Me
Describe where you want to be :: Almost Home
Describe what you want to be :: Stupid Mouth Shut
Describe how you live :: The Present
Describe how you love :: The Cuckoo
Sare a few words of wisdom :: The Golden Day is Dying

A post all her own!

Happy Birthday Stephanie!!  To the wonderful friend who has: introduced me to the likes of Patty Griffin and Sandra McCracken; baked me scones, cakes, cookies and made homemade meals to make me feel loved and welcomed; faithfully listened to me talk/whine/exclaim about a myriad of topics from boys to religion to school to music to work; taught me that a good long walk can solve just about any problem; provided me a home for the summer and a sense of home on her couch every time I pass through town; and has taught me more about life, love and God than I learned in church or school.

Happy birthday Stephanie.  I hope those around you today celebrate you all day long!  Love you!

40 Day Fast

I did not sign up to particpate in the 40 Day Fast hosted by Inspired to Action this year like I did last year. But I’ve been keeping up with some of the posts. It is a great reminder of how much is going on in the world. Sometimes, it is so easy for me to get sucked into my little corner of the world, thinking everything revolves around me, this organization, these people. But our world, and our God, is bigger than that, and the 40 Day Fast is great reminder of that.

That being said, my dear friend Valerie has chosen to focus her day on Migrants, particularly in Hong Kong. Please check out her post!!