Fr. Sergio’s journey continues – with a visit to Guanzhou (Canton), China.
I know you’ll enjoy this report – particularly the part about the “exotic” meal he ate!
In the past two days I rode many public means and I must say all of them were great, efficient and always on time.
Last Wednesday we took the Hong Kong subway to the border with mainland China, Shenzhen. In theory it is the same country, but you have to take into account long lines at the Immigration for all those (Chinese incuded) who cross the borders. Despite heavy burocracy, they were quick and efficient.
In Shenzhen we took immediately a high speed train that, in just over an hour, took us to the Great City: Guanzhou! New high-rise buildings, beautiful roads and bridges give Guanzhou (Canton) the look of a modern city of 10 millions, incredibly busy. I expected the usual “socialist style” architecture, but there isn’t much like that visible today. The appearances are extremely important!
Two PIME missionaries reside in Guanzhou, Frs. Fernando Cagnin and Mario Marazzi. They work with Hui Ling, a Chinese association caring for disabled. I picked up their stories with my small recorder and in the next PIME World issues I am sure you will read the details of their experience. I was so impressed by their work, their perseverance and courage! Hui Ling is definitely much more than I thought.
Chinese culture tends to keep disabled at home, hidden, as if they are a shame. Taking care of them (children and adults) is definitely a way to “evangelize” a monolithic culture! I was impressed too by the way my two fellow missionaries live. Fr. Fernando has an incredibly small room as both his office and his bedroom. And chapel too! We celebrated Mass on his desk, in private.
Fr. Mario, at 81, lives in one of Hui Ling’s small communities, called “family-home.” In each of them, there are about 6-8 members – all mentally disabled – with a “mother.” She is normally the mother of one or two disabled children, and takes care – with some help – of the whole “family.”
You know, missionaries too love to have some fun! Let me explain. We are aware that people do not eat certain kinds of things. So we do not tell them what they are eating. Only afterward we let them know “hey, you just ate iguana, dog, snake meat!” They are all perfectly edible food, but our cultures see them in a different way.
So, Fr. Fernando took us to a local restaurant. Chinese demand that food is fresh, and normally there is a part of the restaurant where they keep ….fresh food. I mean, alive or just butchered. I took my pictures, thinking “no way I am going to try any of those, I am no fool!”
Then, he ordered for me a delicacy. A soup (soups are considered ancient remedies for almost everything!) that tasted like a bland beef soup. Good, I appreciated it and did not see anything strange lying at the bottom of the bowl. Well, there were some vegetables (I suppose) that did not look familiar. They looked like onions, just a little “rubbery.” So, I started digging until I saw something that froze me. I pulled out five small scorpions. From MY soup!!!!!
I am sure they have some therapeutic purpose, but all I know is that before dinner I was fine and after dinner my stomach simply closed! Thank you, dear brother priest!
The following day, early in the morning, we celebrated Mass in Fr. Fernando’s office/bedroom. A simple Mass without congregation, but I re-lived the same feelings I had when I celebrated Mass in Rome’s catacombs!
Then we took a bus to Macau, where we arrived after a couple of hours. After a long line at the Immigration, we eventually reached the center of this nice city. On a hill, there is an ancient Church (St. Paul/Sam Po), built by the Jesuits more than four hundred years ago but destroyed by several fires. What you see now is the way it was left since 1835. Just the façade!
The familiar feeling was clear to me: it looked like an old European city! In fact, there is still much Portuguese around in terms of Churches, stone crosses, squares, fountains, houses, etc. Compared to the rest of China, Macau is the only province where they preserved signs of a foreign presence of the past, especially religious signs!
Now I am back in Hong Kong. Monday morning I will meet a good number of PIME members of this region and I hope to get even more stories and pictures.
I forgot to tell you that they gave me a Chinese name:
FO = the word used for science
JAAK = where the water gathers; grace, kindness, to benefit the people [this character also exists in the name of Mao]
TIN = the land.
Fr. “Fo Jaak Tin” seems to be enjoying his adventure, don’t you think? Stay posted for more updates!