Sunday, August 24, 2014

Going Home

ATIS Sisters
K-Pop at the beach
On August 21, 2013, I landed in Hong Kong to begin my year at the Mission for Migrant Workers. In that year, I found more heartbreak and more optimism than I could have thought possible.  I’ve brought home with me an incredibly humbling experience of justice and community. Serving in Hong Kong has given me a much deeper understanding of the work of the Church in confronting injustice, both throughout the world and in our own local contexts. The Mission, as an outreach of the St. John’s Cathedral, helps one of the most vulnerable populations in a way that respects that population and helps to honor and restore the dignity of everyone who walks through its doors.

Ate Juves
I returned to the States on July 3. Many migrants have told me how difficult it is for them to return home after living in Hong Kong. They love their families and their home places, but life moves on without them and they adjust to living in a city. Returning home often means returning back to a village or poor area, and the infrastructure and pace of life are different from Hong Kong. Returning home for me has meant being constantly surprised at how different I feel in what should be familiar. (Also constantly being surprised by American drink sizes... WHY is a medium 24 oz?!?) I have been shaped and changed by these experiences in ways that may take years to understand fully.

The most common question I’ve received since coming home is, “How was it?” While it’s a very reasonable and polite question, it’s the one I have the hardest time answering. How in the world can I distill eleven months into something that can be explained in one or two sentences? 

During YASC training, we watched The Dangers of a Single Story. During this TED talk, Chimamanda Adichie warns of the failures that occur when we imagine a person or place as wholly one thing or maintain an idea of the Other as simply that. I recently rewatched that video as part of a discussion on culture and oppression, and it has helped me to understand my experiences as not one thing. 

See You Later party!
I don’t have a single story of Hong Kong. I have stories of the incredible pain and stress my clients experienced, and the stories of my pain and stress in hearing theirs. I have stories of laughing until I cried at the antics of my ATIS sisters and dancing like a fool to Korean pop music. I have the stories of an incredible community of organizers who have dedicated their lives to fighting for the marginalized and exploited at great personal cost. I have stories of eating outside with my hands on cardboard boxes in front of Prada. I have the stories of migrants who were treated like family by their employers and stories of migrants who were treated like punching bags. 

These stories will stay with me forever. 

To the Mission, to my many Ates in ATIS, to the many migrants who welcomed me, fed me, and laughed with me, to my friends who worked with me and supported me, to the Anglican Church in Hong Kong, and to you who have invested in me throughout this journey, I say, “Salamat Po.”

What’s next? I’ve moved and settled into the Life Together program in Boston, which is social justice fellowship through the Episcopal Service Corps. I’ll be living in Intentional Community with other fellows in the program as we serve in local nonprofits and receive training in servant leadership and community organizing. I’m very excited to be continuing exploring the relationship between the Church and social justice. 

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