A few of you know that I'm currently in Hong Kong to say my last goodbye to my grandmother. She passed away on May 2.  This post is part trip journal and part tribute to her.

阿婆 On Our Wedding Day, August 5, 2006

April 28, 2019
I'm 30,000 ft in the air as I write this, on my way to Hong Kong. My maternal grandmother is in palliative care right now in Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital in Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon.  Her health has been in steady decline since she lost her ability to walk about 7 years ago, and started living in a geriatric home.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer about 11 years ago and had a mastectomy.  The cancer eventually spread to her bones and liver.

Memories from My Childhood
When I was a small child still living in Hong Kong, my parents would drop me off at pre-school, and later on, elementary school, and 阿婆 would pick me up at the end of the school day. I would then spend the afternoon with her until my mother came to pick me up after work. Those afternoons with her make up one my fondest memories of my childhood.

Before she moved to a more modern day apartment, she lived in one of the first public housing projects built in Hong Kong, in today's Lok Fu in Kowloon, which was also where my mother grew up. Her unit (#503 of block 17) was a small rectangular unit with no rooms, kitchen (she had a stove in the hallway/balcony outside), or washroom (a shared washroom was present on each floor), and was no larger than 200 square feet. Her entire family of 5 lived there for many years.  Life there was difficult, but also very interesting.

阿婆 loved playing mahjong, and in many afternoons, she used to play for several hours with me sleeping on her lap. I still have memories of curling up on her lap, looking at the bottom of the mahjong table and listening to the noise of shuffling mahjong.

Life Lessons
Throughout those formative years with her, I learned a number of life lessons.  One of the most vivid memories I had with her happened when I must have been around six or seven years old.  Hearing profanity at that time for me was not uncommon, except I had no concept of profanity.  No one told me that a certain word was a bad word, and so, one day as we were standing near the bus stop where my mom would get off to pick me up, I uttered some profanity in front of 阿婆, not really understanding what I had said. Immediately, her face changed and asked me where I had learned that particular word.  She then went on to give me a lecture on how only rude people would say those words.  I remember feeling horrible and more importantly, learned that one could get into much trouble by inadvertently saying something that wasn't appropriate.  I can't say that I never curse, but I hope most people will agree with me that only during intense moments do profanity come out of my mouth.

She also taught me, through her way of living, that it was ok to enjoy the little things in life.  I remember particularly enjoying cooking instant noodles on a kerosene stove with her, inside her little unit (recall that she had no kitchen inside).  From the lighting of the match, to the sweet smell of burning kerosene, to the wonderful taste of Nissin instant ramen, I loved every moment of this humble life.  To the chagrin of my parents, my afternoon life was often filled with cartoons and less-than-healthy snacks.  I would often get into trouble when my little stomach had been filled with snacks and wouldn't allow for much dinner shortly afterwards.  Now, as a parent, when my kids wouldn't eat at dinner, my first question to Renee or my mother would be, "Did they just have snacks?"

Public Housing in Lo Fu Ngam, Kowloon (circa 1960s)

As you can see in the picture above, the resettlement blocks (as they're called) had long balconies.  阿婆 lived on the sixth floor (don't ask me why the unit number was 503!) and we used to stand at the balcony, look down below and people watch.  One of the most anticipated moments of the day was when the 飛機欖 (an olive based snack) seller came by.  The name 飛機欖 literally means "airplane olive", and why it was called "airplane" was the way it was delivered.  The seller usually had a trumpet and when he came by, he would play it to alert the neighborhood, much like how ice-cream trucks play music in North America.  Kids like myself would then race to the balconies and throw coins down the balcony.  Once he received the money, he would then throw the 飛機欖 up to your floor.  As you can imagine, I loved this whole interaction.  However, I never quite acquired the taste of the 飛機欖 itself.

Another yummy food that used to be sold by street vendors in the neighborhood was 砵仔糕. Mmm....so yummy!  This post is making me hungry!

Now that I am reflecting on this, I realize it has shaped my own way of parenting quite a bit.  Whenever I have a 1-on-1 date with one of our kids, bringing them to Tim Hortons or McDonald's is almost a sure thing.  Perhaps when they're grown, they will remember fondly these little joyful moments with their father.

WWII Stories
In the years leading up to World War II, the Japanese occupied Guangzhou where she lived.  As a young girl, she had learned how to speak Japanese.  I believe she picked it up through working for either a Japanese family or company.  Although she was a bit rusty, she was still able to converse in Japanese well into her seventies.  My favourite dish that she made was Japanese omelette wrapped fried rice.  Although she had never taught me how to make it, I had watched her cook it many a time.  I'm not super great at it, but it is something I can make to impress my guests (or so I think)!  I remember that one year when she was visiting Canada, I surprised her by making the dish for her.  I was expecting her to say, "Oh, you did a good job making the fried rice even though I hadn't taught you."  Instead, what I got was, "The egg is kind of...thick.  Make it thinner next time."  That was a LOL moment!

Omelette Fried Rice Made by Me

The following is a story I like to tell my Canadian friends and it absolutely blows their minds.  If you had met her in her 70s and early 80s, you would agree she looked like one of those typical cute, old Chinese ladies - short in stature, a bit chubby, and has a nice permed hairdo.

Grandma at Adele's Baptism

I've been told when she was much younger and not yet married that she was very attractive.  This did not go unnoticed by a Japanese military personnel stationed where she was living.  Whether he was a lowly ranked soldier or a general is unknown to me, but it would seem that this was not a situation a young woman would want to be in during that time.  She learned that he would come by to where she lived and ask about her.  At that time, my grandfather was married to her older half sister (different mother).  After some discussion with her sister, my grandfather proposed that he marry 阿婆 as well, which would serve as protection for her.  Her attractiveness, I imagine, did not make this proposal a difficult one for my grandfather!  So, 阿婆 became my grandfather's third, simultaneous wife.

Grandma Holding Baby Uncle 志堃 (circa 1948)

This notion of polygamy seems unthinkable now, but if one looks into history, strict monogamy is taught by few religions except Christianity.  As the Western world moves away from its Christian roots, we are now seeing polygamy making a come back, at least in the form of serial polygamy (divorce and remarriage).  I can certainly see polygamy as a next frontier in the ongoing sexual revolution society has been undergoing since the 1960s.

May 1, 2019
Today is May 1, 2019.  It's 10:10 am in the morning Hong Kong time. 阿婆's condition has declined significantly since yesterday morning.  She was very alert and aware yesterday.  When we arrived at the hospital in the morning, she was already awake and stayed that way for a couple of hours. Mom fed her some liquid formula and she enjoyed it. She even managed to look at us and smile.  It was a comforting sight.

Then, at around noon, congee was delivered to the room and Mom tried to feed it to her. Since it was fairly thick, and 阿婆 wasn't able to really swallow, we added some water into her mouth.  That, however, was not such a good idea.  Since she had trouble with swallowing, the congee likely went into her windpipe instead of her esophagus.  She then had some trouble breathing and so, we asked the nurse to try sucking what sounded like phlegm, but was actually the congee, from her throat.  It helped a bit, but since this episode, her condition worsened drastically.  When the nurse came in to do a checkup, she wasn't able to measure her blood oxygen levels.  So, she put an oxygen mask on 阿婆 and turned the oxygen supply to the maximum setting.  The nurse also asked us to call all of our family as things did not look well.

By late afternoon, all immediate family was at the hospital.  My cousin, Ka Pong, who was away in Taiwan, also made it back to see 阿婆.  Renee and the kids also spoke with 阿婆 through the phone, as did my brother Eric and Joanne, his wife.  We all thought that 阿婆 was waiting for everyone to show up before passing on.  However, she did end up surviving the night.

May 3, 2019
阿婆's Last Day
After a quiet day on May 1, Mom and I went back to the hospital on May 2 at around 8:30 am.  When we got there, 阿婆 was awake and fairly alert.  We talked with her and she was sometimes able to respond by nodding or shaking her head.  However, her eyes had that glazed look that wasn't present a few days before.  Since it was just ourselves there at the hospital, we took it easy and relaxed in the hospital room.  Mom then remembered that my dad had not spoken to 阿婆 and asked me to call him.  We put him on the phone and he had quite a funny chat with her, reminiscing the days when they played mahjong with Uncle Paul and Auntie Loretta (Eric's in laws).  When he finished speaking with her, I walked outside and continued chatting with him while Mom stayed inside the room.  After about 5 minutes, Mom came out with a worried look and asked me to go into the room.  When I got there, I saw 阿婆 with an anxious look in her eyes and her mouth opened and shut repeatedly.  We had not seen that in the past few days.  I immediately called my uncle, 志堃, and my cousin Cindy.  Fortunately, Uncle 志堃 was already on his way to the hospital.  Within minutes, he arrived.  阿婆 continued to struggle and at last, closed her eyes and stopped breathing.

I went out to call the nurse and she came in.  She told us that 阿婆 still had a pulse and asked us to get as many family members here as possible.  At around 10:50 am, her pulse had stopped.  The doctor examined her about an hour later and her official time of death was 12:12 pm on May 2, 2019.  The cause of death was pneumonia.  She was 92 years old.

Farewell...But Not For Long
On Sunday, I will be flying back to Toronto.  I feel that this is one of the most important trips I had taken in my life.  My cousin Kelvin (on my father's side) gave me some really good advice when I was still deciding on whether to come back or not.  He said, "人生是一條減數 (Life is a subtraction)."  He recently lost his father and wanted to remind me that as we are past our mid-life, our losses in this life will continue to increase.  So, I thank him for putting things into perspective for me, which allowed me to make the right decision.  I do agree that that is the sad truth that we must all face.  However, I don't believe our bodily deaths are the end of our existence.  It is merely a transition to something greater.

So, 阿婆, farewell...but not for long.  In the face of eternity, what is another 30 to 50 years?  We'll meet again soon enough!
My Model 3 Driving Itself

About 2.5 years ago, Tesla posted a video of a self-driving Model X.  It completely blew my mind!  You can see it in my old post about autonomous driving.  Elon Musk then promised an autonomous cross country trip by the end of 2017. That year came and went and then another year without any meaningful progress.  This, by the way, is called "Elon time".  However, with most things from promising to land rockets back on Earth to building hundreds of thousands of Model 3s in a year, I think autonomous driving will come to fruition soon.

There are a handful of Tesla owners in my readership and I know you guys already know all this stuff, but the large majority of people who read my blog aren't really that much of a fanatic as I am with Tesla and Elon Musk.  So, the above video is something that will give you a look into what is already available in Teslas.  I personally took that video a couple of weeks ago while I (or really, the car) was driving to the airport (for a Turo dropoff).

Tesla released what they call "Navigate on Autopilot" several months ago.  You probably know what Autopilot is.  It is essentially a glorified adaptive cruise control.  It will follow a lane and also brake according to the car in front of you.  If a car swerves into your lane, it will also be able to maneuver out of the way if it was safe to do so.  Navigate on Autopilot is a step up from there.  You set a destination on the navigation system (and this only works on highways right notw), and the car will know what lanes to take and which exits to take on the route to take you all the way to the destination highway off-ramp.  However, Tesla had disabled the auto-lane change; so, the driver must accept the lane change by pressing on the turn signal stalk, that is, until a few weeks ago.

The user can now disable lane change acknowledgement and allow the car change lanes by itself.  The car still requires you to keep your hands on the wheel and will alert you when it's trying to change a lane via a tone and/or vibration on the steering wheel.  If you watch the video, for the entire 1:17 of the drive, the car was essentially driving itself.  I started taking the video on the on-ramp to the 401.  The car then changes lanes 3 times by itself, while avoiding cars that were driving along in the lane that it was trying to get into.  I don't think I need to talk much more...just watch the video!  If a picture is a thousand words, then a video is a million words!

On April 22, Tesla will be holding an Autonomy Investor Day to show off the next steps in autonomous driving.  Elon Musk has been very vocal about autonomous driving recently and has made a number of statements about how close Tesla is to full self-driving.  Below is an interview he did with MIT research scientist, Lex Friedman, on autonomous driving and AI.  It's a long video but well worth the time.  One thing that he said, which I thought was very interesting was, "I think it will become very quickly, maybe even towards the end of this year, but I would say I'd be shocked if it's not next year, at the latest, that having a human intervene will decrease safety."  I look forward to that day!

Just this past Sunday, we heard the famous gospel passage of John 8:1-11, where the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who was accused of committing adultery, asking Him what they should do with her. Jesus responds by saying, "Let the one among you who is without sin 
be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn 8:7), to which the crowd responded by leaving, one by one. Jesus then forgave the adulteress and let her go. This is the jist of this Gospel story, but there was always one part that puzzled me. It is the part that talked about how Jesus initially didn't respond to the crowd, but "bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger" (Jn 8:6). The gospel doesn't say what He wrote, which makes it the more intriguing.  All these years, I've wondered about it, but didn't do anything about it, until today.

Thanks goodness for Google, my answer came on the first page of the search results after I had searched for "ancient Israel writing on the ground".  I wanted to find some history on what the significance of writing on the ground was. Instead of some history site talking about ancient Jewish customs, I actually found a Christian site explaining this exact passage. The answer was very satisfying. As expected, the Evangelist wrote a well crafted account with much theological significance buried in the text.

You can find the article here:

I will just briefly summarize what is said there.

First, in ancient Israel, whenever a couple is caught in adultery (why only the woman was caught in this case is worth pondering), they would be brought to the temple gates, and the priest would write the law that was broken and also the name of the accused.  In the gospel story, when they brought the accused woman to the temple, Jesus proceeds to start writing on the ground.  Jesus' action seem to indicate that He was the priest in this instance.

Second, and more importantly, we need to look at Jeremiah 17:13, which is a verse that the High Priest recites at the end of Yom Kippur every year, "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 17:13 [KJV translation]).  And who would be departing the scene in this instance?  You got it...the scribes and Pharisees.  From this, we can deduce that Jesus was probably writing down the names of the scribes and the Pharisees.  The fact that they left the scene fulfills this prophecy that they have forsaken the Lord.

Third, if we look at John 7, the chapter just before the start of this gospel reading, it reads, "On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'" (John 7:37-38).  So, St. John preps us for this story of the adulteress by telling us that Jesus is the "fountain of living waters", and if he is the fountain of the living waters, He is then the "Lord".  But do know this, the "Lord" in this case is YHWH (Yahweh), which is God Himself.  And if the reader knows Jeremiah 17:13, which most ancient Jews would, they would also know that the scribes and the Pharisees are the ones who will "be ashamed and...they that depart from [God] shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of the living waters."
Read Further to See How I Can Afford This Thing!

In my last post, I talked about the family and what we were up to in 2018.  Today's post is about money.  As most of you will agree, raising a family requires a lot of resources, and money is definitely one of the important ones.  So, I'm going to tell you about one of the things I did on the money front.

Owning a Tesla for Free?
Back in late 2017, I read an article on Business Insider about a couple using a car-sharing app called Turo, to pay for their two Teslas.  This got me interested as I had reserved a Model 3 back in 2016.  At that time, Tesla advertised that it was going to be a $35,000 (USD) car.  With the savings in gas on my daily commute of 100 km+, that would not be such a heavy burden.  However, as 2017 progressed, it became apparent that the $35,000 car wasn't going to be in sight for quite some time (it's still not here yet).  So, having read this article, I have renewed hope that I was somehow going to be able to make it work.

In January 2018, I decided to buy a used Honda Accord with 2 things in mind.  First, my mom's old Toyota Matrix needed to replaced at some point.  The Accord could very well be it.  I could also use this car as a pilot vehicle to try out Turo and see if I could make some money.  That is exactly what I did.  At first, I listed it at around $40 to $45/day, but wasn't getting any rentals.  After joining a Facebook group of Turo owners, I learned that pricing will need to be tweaked to find the sweet spot.  After lowering it to low to mid $30s, I got my first rental.  It went ok but was only a 1-day rental.  Then, a couple who newly immigrated here from Brazil rented the car for a month straight!  I was ecstatic, as that meant I didn't have to do any cleaning, vacuuming, or really anything when the car was away.  Since then, my poor mother did not end up driving that Accord much! 🤷

Soon after, I replaced my aging 12-year old Prius with a 6-year old Lexus CT.  Since I didn't really need the car on weekends (we went everywhere in our Odyssey), I would put that car on Turo on the weekends as well. 

And soon after that, Tesla told me that I was then able to place the order for the Model 3.  There was really no choice in trim level or options at that point; only the long range battery with RWD and premium package was available.  The car with destination fees and taxes would be more than $80,000!  Up to that point in time, I had never spent more than $25,000 on a car.  That was a great departure from my usual frugal (...more like stingy...) self.  Seeing that the Liberal government had a fairly good chance of losing the election, I bit the bullet and ordered the Model 3, in hopes that it would arrive in time for me to take advantage of the $14,000 rebate.  In the end, I was able to submit my rebate application before Doug Ford ended it.  It still feels somewhat unreal that I now drive such an expensive car!

Thus far, the Model 3 has been able to pay for its monthly car payments.  So, Turo is kind of the real deal.  You can say it's the AirBnb for cars.  Some of you are wondering how I could even let someone else drive the Tesla without worrying to death...to which I respond that I would rather own a Tesla and let someone else drive it once in a while than not owning one at all.

Some Details
I think some of you may be intrigued at this point and would like to know more.  So, I will give you some details.  With the Accord and CT, I have been able to net $300-400 per month.  This would be after all costs including insurance, depreciation, interests, maintenance, repairs, etc. etc.  The daily rate ranges from $28 to $40 (higher in summer months) and utilization is probably around 25 days a month, +/- a couple of days.  There are also extras like delivery, cleaning charges, late fees, etc. that boost my revenue.  Turo takes 25% of that, but provides full insurance coverage when the car is rented out.  So, if a guest crashes the car, it would not hit my personal insurance policy, and there is no deductible for me.  I get paid fully on the damages or value of the car if it is totaled.  This is also fully legit with my insurance company, The Personal.  Turo, in fact, partners with a bunch of insurance companies, including Belair Direct, Intact, Desjardins, etc.

As with any venture, there is no free lunch.  I do have to put in some work.  Most of it is cleaning the car after each rental, and occasionally, delivering and picking up from the airport.  It is, however, much better than driving Uber, in terms of time investment.  I would say I spend about 4 to 8 hours a week managing 4 cars right now.

Some have asked me if I were spending money paying for cars, why not buy a house and rent it out.  Renting out cars and renting out real property are two different business models.  Renting out a house is usually a cash flow negative business (i.e. the rent you receive will not be able to pay for all your expenses + mortgage), but you are hoping for the asset to appreciate.  That's where you would make your money.  Renting out a car has to be a cash flow positive business, because your asset is a depreciating asset.  If you're not cash flow positive, then forget about it.  As I mentioned at the start, I need money to raise a family (i.e. cash flow), which is why Turo is my kind of business.

As a host, I can certainly see how Turo is indeed the AirBnb for cars.  Like AirBnb, it provides such a good experience for both the host and the guest.  Like many people, I've rented cars from Avis, Budget, Enterprise, etc. and the experience pretty much is always sub-par.  First, you book a class of the car you want, but never know what car you will actually get.  Then, you are greeted by an expressionless customer service rep at the counter.  The paperwork usually takes 15 minutes, most of which consists of hard selling extras like insurance, prepaid gas, damage waivers and the like, before you finally get assigned a bland car that excites exactly no one.  Contrast that with Turo, there is literally no paperwork required and you can pick the exact car you want.  The review system gives you peace of mind that the host you're dealing with will likely provide you an excellent experience.  Lastly, Turo hosts will often deliver to curbside at the airport, just like how your friend would pick you up, except they leave you with their beautiful car.  When I was in Florida, I used Turo and preferred it over the traditional car rental places.

Shameless Self-Promotion
So, the next time you need to rent a car, take a look at Turo and see if it meets your needs. In fact, let me shamelessly provide you my referral link!  https://turo.com/c/felixw41  If you sign up using this link and rent a car, both you and I get $25 USD in Turo credit!  Also, check out my fleet; if you have guests coming into town, I'd be glad to help if they needed a car!
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