Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

Dear parents,

A few weeks ago, I welcomed my new petite ‘tenants’ when two Chinese Bulbuls built a beautiful nest on the weeping fig at the balcony of my apartment. Though a pleasant surprise, it has taken me time to understand the two uninvited guests so that they won’t simply fly away in fright whenever they catch the glimpse of me.

Not having any experience with birds, I asked my friends who have kept birds or parrots as pets, and all of them had been more than eager to offer me advice upon which I placed bananas, bread crumbs and packaged bird’s food near their nest. Disappointingly, the birds did not bother to touch the foods I had lovingly prepared. What’s more bothersome was whenever I opened the balcony door to wave hello, the couple simply got on their highest alert to get ready to fly away when I showed any intent to move closer.

The birds have extremely valid reasons to be scared, however. I am an unbeatable giant to them despite my calm and friendly composure. They know I can easily cast them away by smashing their home into a thousand pieces. What’s more, despite my amicable smile, they might take it as my tact to catch them. 

Some people will indeed be annoyed by their noise and do everything to dismantle their nest. A friend told me a nest was once built on the outdoor split unit of the air-conditioner for their master bedroom, and those birds started singing at around 5 in the morning. They couldn’t stand the noise and had to get some professionals to clear the nest in the end.

The nest doesn’t bother me, however, as it is far away from my bedroom, and it is indeed pleasing to see more life in my quiet apartment.  I had once dreamed of the birds befriending me and even taking food from my hands.  Apparently my wish hasn’t been realised, and I have slowly come to terms with maintaining a reasonable distance so that these birds feel safe and secure as my guests. The mother bird would keep hatching the eggs in the nest while watching me closely as I watered the plants in the balcony every morning. Meanwhile the father bird was busy getting food for both of them. Any attempts of mine to get any closer would result in their dashing to my neighbour’s balcony, not returning until I retreated to my living room.

As the ‘sovereign‘ owner of the apartment and the weeping fig where the couple put up their nest without my consent, I could have every reason to feel disrespected and outraged. My proprietary attitude could result in my devilish destruction of their nest, but will I truly benefit from such destructive acts? Absolutely not! A totalitarian mindset stems from the urge to dominate and subdue a weaker party when one doesn’t have true inner security, and it often leads to destruction rather than peace, to the inevitable detriment of everyone.  (History has repeatedly attested to the demise of totalitarian powers which attempted to stem out dissent by violent methods.) Therefore, I have resolved to respect their decision to maintain a distance.

Now that three birdies have finally arrived, and the couple are busy fetching food for their newborns, some friends have advised me to feed the birdies with worms that I can purchase from the ‘Birds Street’.  I decided to refrain from doing anything, however.  If my two tiny guests have taught me anything, it is the humble recognition of our resources as God’s provision for everyone’s enjoyment and the need to respect everyone’s autonomy. I am sure the bird family will be fine, and they will depart when the birdies are ready to fly and live independently.

How I wish those in power had the insights that I have gained by simply watching my guest birds!

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan