Dialogue in the Dark

“Shoot, I am going to be late!” I said to myself as I prepared after an unplanned nap in the hostel. The instructions on the ticket were that I should be there 15 minutes early or else, they will start without me. My destination is to go to Dialogue in the Dark, an exhibition tour where we experience to be blind for an hour. Since the transportation system in Hong Kong is very efficient, I got there on time. In fact, I was there first.

The female staff approached us and briefed us about what’s going to happen inside. She gave each of us a pole for easier navigation in the dark. She told us that Henry, a blind person, will guide us.

Then we went inside. It was pitch black. Henry was accommodating. I wonder how he was able to guide us inside the room. He asked us to rely on his voice and his instructions. (spoilers ahead)

First, we went to the park. We navigated using our poles. We knew we were in a park because the feel of the ground is grassy. We also felt the foliage on our faces. After the trip to the park, Henry led us to a bridge going to the boat. He guided us in our respective seats. After everybody settled down on their seats, he asked us to sing in our native language. We were 4 on tour. Sarah and Millea were travelling to Hong Kong all the way from Spain to watch a Kpop concert. Eric was from the USA and has a 6-hour layover in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I blacked out (literally and figuratively), and I was not able to sing a tune for them. I should have sung Bahay Kubo or Leron Leron Sinta.

After the boat ride, we went on to a “city tour”. We experienced being blind while crossing a street and buying at a supermarket. Before this tour, I wondered why the pedestrian lanes in Hong Kong have sounds when we cross the roads. Henry explained to us that this was for blind people and a signal when to stop and when to go.

From the city, we went to a cinema and watched at a sound theatre. It was an exciting experience because you get to appreciate every sound. For me, the movie was about the evolution of music. It started with nature sounds and finished with Rhythm and Blues.

Finally, Henry led us to a cafe. The cafe owner dictated the price of the beverages and snacks. I bought a Soya drink. Henry explained to us the reason why the money in Hong Kong differs in size. Again, this is the country’s way to be friendly to people with disabilities.

While in the cafe, the dialogue started. Henry opened the floor for questions and realisations. He told us that he lost his vision when he was a year old. The Hong Kong government is doing a great job to ease the difficulties of people with special needs.

During the whole trip inside the exhibit, I used my imagination. When Henry said that we were in a park, I imagined myself being in a park. I could imagine trees around me. I could imagine the clouds and the birds above. But how about Henry and other people who were born blind and had no idea what a plant looks like? Or what a human being looks like? I also wonder if it is more difficult to be born blind or to be born with a vision and will eventually lose it?

The dark is very inconvenient for us. Most of the time, we fear it. But, other senses are heightened in the absence of sight. The soy milk, without judgement on how it looked, tasted better. Feeling an orange using your sense of touch felt good. How often do we feel everyday things? Are we taking things for granted like the sound of the rooster in the morning? Or the smell of your mom’s especialty meal?

We often judge and label objects and people using our sense of sight. This is a chair. That is a tree. He is Darby. You are Henry. But if we see everything without judgements and without labels, maybe we could reach a point where we can appreciate everything.

Walk with faith and not by sight.

Dialogue in the Dark
Shop 215, 2/F, Household Center, Nob Hill
8 King Lai Path, Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon

How I got there:

Mei Foo Station, Exit C1. Turn right and walk along Lai Wan Road, past Lai Chi Kok Government Offices, until you reach The Household Center.

Entrance Fee:
Adult: HKD 160,
Students, PWD, Senior, Birthday Month: HKD 90

Official Site: http://www.dialogue-experience.com.hk/en/experiential-exhibition-tour

How Jazz Taught me A Lesson About Being in the Now


We arrived in Hong Kong at around 9 am. We had the easiest immigration procedure. My 75-year-old aunt requested for a wheel-chair, allowing us not to line up at the immigration queue. Hong Kong International Airport is a city in itself with their own mall and train station.

After lunch over a bowl of noodle soup and fish cakes, I told my aunts that I will leave them to explore Hong Kong on my own. Going around Hong Kong is easy because of the very efficient transportation system. They have taxis, buses, trains, but I prefer the subway of course.

Fringe Club is my first destination. Last week, while I was drafting my itinerary, I saw this Jazz Event at the Fringe Club. I booked a ticket and decided to experience the music scene in Hong Kong. The Fringe Club is an avenue where budding artists launch their artwork. This is also where the creative buffs gather to consume and create art and music.

My expectation was actually a typical lunch. I will order food or coffee and listen to Jazz music in the background. I was wrong. It was a concert type event where we had to sit, focus and watch the musicians play. I doubted if Jazz is something that you watch.

I grew up listening to Jazz. My dad has this jazz CD and LP collection from Louis Armstrong to Ray Charles to Norah Jones. My uncle, who was with my mom in Hong Kong during the 80s is also a local jazz artist. He still remains my favourite saxophone player in the world. I also fell in love with Billie Holiday and her music during my “hipster days”. But the first time I experienced Jazz as a spiritual experience was the one I recently had at Fringe Club.

I sat on the second row next to a couple of women. They looked like they only sneaked out from their regular 8-5 work to watch the one-hour two-man show. I bought a coffee because everyone in the small audience was either eating a sandwich from 711 or holding a cup. It was an expensive cup of coffee, but it tastes good. Well, I needed to blend in with the locals and expats.

The artists went up to the stage at exactly 1 pm. Tjoe, the lead artist is about my age. He was wearing this pretty cool red long sleeves and a pair of fashionably worn out brown shoes. The guest artist was a bit older but bursting with charisma on stage, carrying with him his guitar and a cup of tea. They both have the musician’s sense of humour.

Then they started their gig and improvisation. We were watching the two dialogue using music. For the first time, I focused on Jazz. It’s different from listening to it in Starbucks. I focused on the movement of the artist’s fingers across the frets. I focused on how the two artists led each other during the improv. I was planning to do an Instagram Live or record at least a song, but I did not bother. I do not want to waste that moment. No one is doing it either. It would be awkward for me to bring out my phone. Everybody has their eyes fixed on the artists. I even noticed the woman in front of me paints a picture of the artists using a portable watercolour set. The woman next to me sighed every time she hears the quick chord shifts, from low to high or high to low. I sometimes close my eyes to feel the music.

You have to be in the moment to appreciate jazz. I had the epiphany that like this jazz event, we should always feel the moment. Our autopilot is to spend our days mindlessly. We waste precious time by allowing our irrational minds to take over. The next we know is that the day is finally over.

I am praying that throughout our busy days, let us find time to root ourselves at the moment. Close your eyes. Listen to jazz or any kind of music. Don’t hear it but listen to it. This is a good practice to feel the now and to get consumed by the present moment.

Peace to you!

Fun Fact:

Jazz has a meditative history. John Coltrane, one of the famous Jazz players of all time pushed the boundaries of Jazz. He created music to connect to the divine. His A Love Supreme, Om, and Ascension. A Love Supreme is a prayer and dedication to His maker. His inspiration comes from a week of meditation.

Picture with the artists:

Address:

Fringe Dairy, Hong Kong Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR China

How I got there:

MTR Central Station, exit D1. Turn right on Pedder Street, cross Queen’s Road Central and walk up Wyndham Street. 

The Zen of Hong Kong – Intro to Pilgrimage to Hong Kong series

“If you want to go with us, let us know, we will book you a ticket”, my eldest aunt offered. My mom was supposed to join her three siblings to Hong Kong. But because she’s still under chemotherapy, she declined. Instead, she told my aunts that it would be best that if I will represent her.

It was an unexpected blessing. This year was tough for the whole family because cancer entered our quiet lives again, and worse, it was my mom. Stage 4 Colon Cancer with metastasis to the ovaries, uterus, spleen and appendix. I already expected that my annual international trip streak will be over. It was a financially challenging year.

I accepted the offer. Who am I to resist a free trip? It was God’s way of telling me, “You were tired my child, chill, relax, and I got this covered!”

In return, I promised myself and the universe that this one will be a different travel experience. That this time, it will be a pilgrimage back to my core, my spirit, or whatever you may wish to call it. I also brought with me a special intention: Mom’s healing.

Mom lived in Hong Kong for over a year and a half as a singer of their family band. She went there together with her siblings. Growing up, my mom has told me loads of stories about Hong Kong and their (mis)adventures. I could remember her stories about my uncles who were once trapped in an elevator. Some funny stories like how they badmouthed the locals who were mean to them. I also heard stories about how they were invited to sing in Kowloon’s Concert in the Park and how they joined the thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) during Sundays and countless stories on repeat whenever Hong Kong was the topic.

This was my second trip to Hong Kong. The last time was the usual trip. Disneyland, Avenue of the Stars, Nathan Road, then a side trip in Macau. I will never do Disneyland again. It is not the happiest place on Earth especially if a bottle of water costs a fortune.

I carefully drafted my itinerary. I did plenty of research on how to explore the peaceful side of Hong Kong, which I believed to be a contradiction to many. Hong Kong is a huge contradiction. If you want to experience Yin and the Yang, it is everywhere.

Zen gardens in busy districts.

Meditation spaces in touristy streets.

Historical museums in modern areas.

A beautiful mural next to a garbage bin.

Old people doing tai chi in parks and young people stuck with their smartphones in the subway.

A cathedral next to a temple.

Incense and third-hand cigarette smoking.

The Chinese East and the British West

Five-star rooms in old ugly buildings.

Tea shops and coffee shops.

In this series, I will be writing about my spiritual experience while travelling in Hong Kong:

A meditative experience while watching a jazz show

An almost out of body experience while listening to a gong.

An experiential museum where I was blind for an hour.

A small meditative space where I was reminded of what my true self is.

I hope you enjoy this series.

New Moon, New Blog

Disclaimer: This blog may offend you.

“Hey Darby, I heard that you have gotten weirder?”, my former life group leader told me when we saw each other in McDonald’s. I wrote a blog post years ago about this transcendental spiritual experience I have had with a local shaman. People read it. The word “shaman” is a taboo to a lot of people.

A week after that, my dad confronted me because one of my aunts told him that I was into “New Agey” stuff. Again, it was because of that same blog post I wrote. My dad and I laughed it off because that same shaman was able to encourage my dad to drink green smoothies every day. Although I find this genuine concern from friends and family members funny, I stopped writing about spiritual stuff. I stopped writing about matters not accepted by traditional Christianity. I deleted the blog. It was an interesting blog with stories about tolerance and beautiful people with different belief systems.

I grew up in a Methodist church with equally colourful rituals and traditions like the esoteric faith systems of the east. I love bible studies, Sunday schools, choir practice, praise and worship and out of town youth gigs. After my college graduation, I travelled around Asia. I deconstructed my childhood beliefs and tried to construct it on my own again. Although I have great respect for my parents’ beliefs, something inside me wanted more. I needed to give myself the favour of at least personally search for something that will work for me.

Spirituality amazes me. One faith system would claim that they are the ONLY way. Others would say all faith systems complete each other. I believe the latter.

I remember when we were in Kuala Lumpur, a Muslim family from Iraq hosted us. My impressions of Iraq were Sadam Hussein, civil wars, terrorism and religious extremism. Anyway, the eldest son toured us around town the whole day. He was a vegetarian, a yogi and practices Islam. Quite a combination. While travelling, he showed us a picture of his mom who was picking flowers in South Iraq. “There are flowers in Iraq?”, I said to my ignorant self. When we finally arrived in his apartment, he introduced us to his mother and brother. His mom looks pretty. She prepared for us a bowl of fruits and told us something in Arabic. His son translated it. What she told us changed my view.

“Christianity, Judaism and Islam complete each other. One cannot survive without the other.”

Then she stood up, took a couple of traditional Iraqi scarves and gave them to us. “Give these to your mothers”, she said. I will never forget that moment. Whenever I hear religious intolerance in the news, I recall that memory.

I do not believe that God is a dull, monotonous deity with a long beard and a white robe. He loves variety. He is colourful and creative energy. That is why I have decided to recreate my old blog. This is a great blog topic and a topic that the world needs to hear.

To make things “weirder”, I will launch a new blog on a December New Moon, because why not? December is the name of my mom and this month is her birth month. For some people, the energy of the New Moon is good energy to start anew. To make it much weirder, according to some, it is the luckiest New Moon of the year.

I hope you enjoy this blog and please comment below regarding your thoughts. Peace!