The Saint of Kathmandu: And Other Tales of the Sacred in Distant Lands

By Sarah Levine | Go to book overview

[V]
EL SHADDAI
Charismatic Christianity in Hong Kong

Just as I was beginning the coffee-making process on Sunday mornings, our maid, Isabel da Costa, dressed in a sea-green pantsuit, springy hair pulled back in a neat knot, silver crucifix round her neck, bulging white and blue plaid shopping bag on her arm, would pop her head round the kitchen door. “I’m going to church, Mam,” she’d say, eyes bright with expectation for what lay ahead. “You have a nice day, and I will too.”

Initially when we received notice that the university had assigned us a “furnished four-bedroomed fifth-floor flat with spacious living room, dining room, six air conditioners, balcony and view of South China Sea,” I was delighted; but within moments I was seized by dread. Who was going to take care of such commodious digs? Who would dust the furniture and polish the floors? Who would negotiate the dry cleaners, the fish market, the greengrocers? To me, lacking even a single word of Cantonese and with a book to finish, the prospect was daunting; and, apart from mixing gin and tonics, my husband wasn’t likely —or any better equipped—to pitch in. On a visit to Hong Kong in the early 1990s, we’d seen Filipina maids crowding the sidewalks and squares of “Central,” as the downtown of Hong Kong is generally called, on Sunday afternoons. But when, on New Year’s Day several years later, we flew into the astonishing new airport, how one set about securing the services of such a person was still a mystery.

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