3-Minute Coffee with Uncle Reggie: 5-Star, minus 5-Star
(Emily Ma马欣怡/Dx 翻譯)

5-star, minus 5-star hotel… One night I might be staying at a swanky five-star hotel with immaculately clean bed sheets, with all kinds of free momentos of prettily bottled shampoos, hair conditioners, colorful fragrant soaps and comfortable guest slippers, most of which I often collected as souvenir gifts for young friends at my next stops in China.

五星级酒店与负五星级酒店… 有一晚我可能住在一个豪华的五星级酒店,床单一尘不染,提供各种免费小礼品,如漂亮的洗发水、护发素、香皂和舒适的拖鞋,其中大部分我常常收集作为礼物送给我在中国下一站的年轻朋友。

Big-city wedding banquet (Photos 1A,1B) versus Yi tribal wedding banquet (Photo 1C).

But the next night I might be at a “so-called hotel” with less than bare minimum facilities. With blankets that didn’t really look that clean, and with pillows that I might be suspicious of. I would take my just worn shirt and flip it over to wrap it around the pillow; at least I was sleeping on my own clothing and sweat.


During the latter stay, I often put all my used clothing in a separate bag, so that when I got home, it could be separately washed and dried, just in case the dirt and bugs might be too much for our laundry system! The flip-flop in living circumstances did not really bother me, but it did stress out our cleaning system a bit.


Sumptuous royal banquet versus “fast food” … One day I would be eating a sumptuous banquet in the historic Summer Palace, with 24 elegant dishes coming around on our big round table. Sitting next to the pediatrician-wife of a Vice-Premier of the country. The food was supposedly equivalent to what the infamous Empress Dowager would have eaten, including fine meats packed into fine bean sprouts.

奢华的皇室盛宴和“快餐”… 有时我可能会在历史悠久的颐和园享用盛宴,大圆桌上摆满了24道精致的菜肴。我与国家副总理的做儿科医生的夫人同席。这些菜肴据说是复刻了以骄奢闻名的慈禧太后御膳,诸如把肉塞入豆芽菜中的镶豆芽。

Yi tribal wedding banquet (Photo 1C).

The next night after I was back home, I would be having a great time eating a one-item meal at Gold Star Chili, Panera, Arby’s or Subway. Which tasted just fine to me.

然后,第二天回到家,晚上我可能会在Gold Star Chili,帕内拉Panera、阿比餐厅Arby’s或赛百味Subway快餐店点一样作晚餐,我觉得味道也很不错。

Sophisticated versus country garb… One day my wife and I would be at a 700-attendee, sophisticatedly dressed Asian wedding banquet, grinning from ear to ear with serious cheek muscle fatigue, and toasting drinks from table to table, surprisingly hosted by my usually very frugal father.

高雅衣饰与普通服装… 有一天,我和妻子在亚洲出席我们的婚宴,来宾云集,超过700人。 我们穿着精致高雅,笑容满面,一桌一桌,频频举杯敬酒。因要保持微笑,我俩的脸颊都笑疼了。我那生性节俭的父亲竟然大宴宾客。

On other days, on return to the same city, from my normal residence in Midwestern Cincinnati, USA, we would be dressed in casual American attire. To the locals we probably looked like we came in from countryside villages, since they were dressed in beautiful elegant cheongsams and tailored suits even for just an “average banquet”. There is a world of difference in attire between jet-set Hong Kong and “average America”, but hey, that’s life.


Professionally and efficiently escorted through Israeli immigration and luggage retrieval.

Escorted versus bussed… A personal uniformed escort at Tel Aviv Airport in Israel, waiting at the exit of the plane, before my wife and I even stepped on the gangway, certainly impressed us. Especially as he whisked us off down the side stairs to a waiting chauffeured black limousine that bypassed the normal long walking route, efficiently guiding us smoothly through immigration, and then on to our hotel.

私人护卫与自己乘坐公交车… 在以色列特拉维夫机场,一名身穿制服的私人护卫在飞机出口等候,甚至在我和妻子踏上舷梯之前,这确实让我们印象深刻。尤其是当他迅速带我们走下侧面楼梯,前往一辆等待的豪华黑色轿车,他绕过了通常漫长的步行路线,快速引导我们顺利通过入境程序,然后前往酒店。

That was certainly quite different from trying to find and catch the double-decker bus by myself, going from Heathrow Airport into London. Followed by lugging my full luggage suitcase through the Tube and train stations, finally catching a black cab to my destination. But in both circumstances I got safely to my final stop, just with a different story to tell!


Long sleek luxury limousine transport versus crammed lift… I told the enthusiastic audience at my award dinner, at a fanciest New York City hotel, that, “For the sake of science, I could suffer”. The “suffering” included being picked up at the New York Kennedy Airport in a sleek 30-foot black limousine, which boasted a liquor bar that was wasted on me, comfortable black lounge seats and a television, to be royally transported to give my no-free-lunch acceptance talk.

Original members of the 7,000-member Hangzhou meeting, for rich and poor.


More commonly, after an 18-20-hour flight, I would arrive in the huge city of Hong Kong at 5 pm. Alone, I would immediately take the fast train from the airport directly into town, to catch a relatively inexpensive US$2-3 taxicab, to arrive in minutes to the congested and rather grubby Mong Kok.


I would then pull my awkward luggage into a mini-lift that literally squeezed six people together, and go up to my third-floor little office. At 7pm, only two hours after landing, the team would gather for a planning meeting till midnight, which I usually chaired.


Past midnight and exhausted, I finally got to shower, and pull open my sofa bed, which practically filled my tight office space, so I could rest soundly overnight, before zipping into China in the early morning. No jet lag allowed.


Two different days in two different cities on different sides of the globe, but hey, each has its exciting merits.


Services can be just as lively under a thatched roof in Northern Thailand.

Governor’s wife versus poor farmer… Thinking back, dancing officially (as college student president) in my first tuxedo with the Hong Kong (then British) Governor’s wife required careful preparation, since I had never learned to dance properly nor aesthetically. And I needed to make sure to adhere to colonial protocol at dinner while sitting next to the Governor and his wife, which was certainly a bit intimidating.

总督夫人与贫困农民… 回想起来,正式与香港(当时是英国的)总督夫人一起跳舞(作为大学学院的学生会主席)需要仔细准备,因为我从未学如过何正确优雅地跳舞。我还需要确保在晚餐时坐在总督和夫人旁边时遵守殖民地礼仪,这确实有点令人紧张。

But sitting/crouching down on a farmer’s low stool before a “relatively sumptuous” dinner with no serving chopsticks or spoons, where one could just freely pick from the ample shared food placed before me, was also somewhat intimidating. Intimidations come from different angles!


Debating scientists versus teaching village kids… Debating serious academic issues with talented scientists at Review Boards of the National Institute of Health was indeed challenging. Each grant being reviewed deserved and was given thorough and fair evaluation and review, which might include heated discussions.

与科学家辩论与教村里的孩子… 在国家卫生研究院审查委员会与才华横溢的科学家们辩论严肃的学术问题确实具有挑战性。每一笔拨款都应得到彻底和公平的评估和审查,这可能包括激烈的讨论。

But teaching academic English to 60 remote town/village children in a crowded classroom was equally challenging, though there were a lot more happy smiles. And the opportunity to bring in a touch of the mystery of creation all around us.


Sam loh (3-wheeler) charm beats expensive 30-foot limousine, anytime.
无论何时,三轮车(sam-loh) 的魅力总胜过昂贵的30英尺高的豪华轿车。

7,000-member sophisticated gathering place versus tribal thatched roof meeting… One of the more touching experiences I had was at the officially 7,000-member Hangzhou Church, where the obviously very rich businessman sat in the same pews, right next to the obviously very poor farmer. They all used the same immaculate, volunteer-cleaned washrooms, which I thought were the cleanest washrooms that I had seen in the land. Quietly conveying one of the greatest messages of love by speech and action.

7,000名会员的高雅聚会场所与部落茅草屋会议… 我有一个非常感人的经历,那就是在官方认可的拥有7,000名会员的杭州聚会场所,富商们和贫穷的农民相邻而坐在一排排长凳上。他们都使用同一个由义工们打扫得干干净净的洗手间,我认为那是我在这片土地上见过的最干净的洗手间。在那里人们以言行默默传递爱这一最伟大的信息。

In a few days, however, I was in a mountain tribal area in Thailand where the gathering members basically stood on an unpaved floor or sat on unfinished wooden benches, singing just as enthusiastically as in the big sophisticated service. It’s not the environment, it’s what’s in the heart that counts!


A Turkish-born message… A most famous comment about “learning to be content in all circumstances” (1) was recorded by a first-century Roman citizen, born of a minority tribe in Tarsus in what is now modern-day Turkey. He was able to go from being among the most dedicated scholars of Hebrew learning, to writing letters from dungeons in Turkey, Greece and Rome. He communicated eloquently with kings to lowly oppressed minority peasants. Billions of readers of his books have felt he had truly learned the secret of contentment! Which we could learn also.

源于土耳其的信息… “无论在什么景况都可以知足”这个广为人知的话语(1)是由一个在一世纪出生在现今土耳其的小部落大数的罗马公民记录的。他原是一位最专注学习希伯来传统的学者,后来他在土耳其、希腊和罗马的地牢中写了很多书信。他与上至国王下至被压迫的卑微农民一样沟通,游刃有余。他的书籍拥有数十亿读者,他被公认为是一个真正掌握了满足的秘诀的人!我们也可以学到这个秘诀。

Contentment allows one to adjust to any circumstance in life, high or low, to communicate with sophisticated and unsophisticated, to lead a life without jealousy or bitterness, a truly meaningful life of inner joy. Aah… contentment!


Reference: 1. Philippians 4:11, written from jail by Paul of Tarsus in Ephesus in modern-day Turkey; or from jail in Rome.

索引: 1. 腓立比书4:11,大数人保罗在现代土耳其以弗所或者从罗马的监狱所写的。