Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Umbrella Revolution 2014

I have been a sporadic blogger for a few years now, but have posted most of my 2014 Umbrella Revolution images, texts, and info on my Facebook account. I deliberately opened up my privacy settings as I am receiving material from people around the city, and I would like people overseas to see the images of Hong Kong during this very important time in history. To that end, feel free to look at my FB page because I understand that information about this subject is limited overseas. Check out Stephanie Han if you want some info about the Umbrella Revolution.

I have been greatly moved by the demonstration here. The last time I saw HK people rise up like this was the 2003 march protesting Basic Law. But this is on a much more urgent, grand, and dramatic scale. The incredible desire for peace, a wish to emulate the best that humanity can offer, respect for the environment, a belief in dreams --- all of this emanates from these protests and should give the world hope that beauty is possible, if only we can all strive as a collective for a future world predicated on ideals we should always try to attain.

There is much at stake here, and I feel it is indicative of a larger sense of social injustice and desire for democracy that is spreading throughout the world. With China looming across the border, the Hong Kong people were very brave to begin these very open and peaceful demonstrations.

I also feel that it is time to officially close up this blog for now.  Stay tuned as I may very well indeed launch another, but this period of my life in Hong Kong has come to a close now--and a new one has begun.

Thank you for reading. Please support the students and all of those who strive to better this corner of the world. The people of Hong Kong have exhibited incredible bravery and hope--they have been willing to lay down their lives for democracy. Let us respect this and try to support their dreams and embrace them too as our own. Our future depends on it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee

Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee

This book by Paula Lee is on my reading list!

Paula says this:

"Deer Hunting in Paris, was just named Travel Book of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers. Weird ('cause it uses humor to talk about death, politics, and being a liberal living with Tea Partiers, and isn't a travel book in any way that most people think of it) -- but, well, yay!"

I am very happy for her and look forward to reading this book!

This is the first in a slow shift in my blog that will include more literature and writing information as time moves on. Of course, those who want sewage, Great Wall, and weird expat experiences from their blogs--don't worry, it will be here...but you will also get some literature reviews and general writing thoughts...stay tuned!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The University of Macau, Bill Chou and Academic Freedom

August 13, 2014
Loss of Position
New Incident
Region/Sub-region: Country or Territory: 
University of Macau
The University of Macau has reportedly refused to renewal the contract of Bill Chou Kwok-ping, a professor of political science, in retaliation for his political activism.
Professor Chou has long been an outspoken advocate of democratic reforms in the region, having publicly criticized government policies toward the media and participated in protests in support of increased press freedom and universal suffrage.  He was recently elected vice president of the New Macau Association, a leading pro-democracy organization.
The university reportedly began a disciplinary investigation of Professor Chou in November 2013, and in June 2014, suspended him for 24 days without pay on grounds of "imposing his political beliefs" on students, as well as failing to provide different perspectives in class and discriminating against students. According to Professor Chou, university officials informed him on August 13, 2014, that his contract was not being renewed.  Although the university did not provide him with a reason for its decision, Professor Chou has indicated that the non-renewal of his contract was a result of his political activism, and not his job performance.  Professor Chou indicated that a strong teaching record earned him a promotion to assistant professor in 2011.
University officials have denied that their decision was motivated by Professor Chou's activism, and that his termination was consistent with relevant regulations and procedures.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about allegations of the dismissal of an academic in retaliation for the content of his academic work or peaceful exercise of the right of free expression. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.


PhD is over

Very relieved it is done....almost just revisions now...

Feminism and Raising a Son

I have never had a conversation about the above since arriving here in Hong Kong. There are conversations about raising a son, many conversations about the issues of raising daughters, but never about boys and the responsibility that women and men have to raise sons who are feminists.
I see this as one of the fundamental reasons that sexism persists. It is still not acceptable, nor is it even deemed a worthy idea to raise a son who is a feminist. This has to do with the many ways feminism has been misconstrued and misunderstood. To clarify for some-- let's have a Webster's definition----


the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
Now, that isn't that hard, folks, is it?
Many men (and women) who would not label themselves as feminists actually are. It's simply a matter of understanding the word and seeing it in a positive light. Feminism shifts as it moves across cultures--the nuances of it, that is, but nonetheless, the most powerful way of addressing this issue is probably through personal practice within the family.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mainland Chinese and Travel and Hanauma Bay

These two/three things do not go very well together at this point in history. This is due to the fact that many of the Mainlanders now traveling overseas completely disregard issues of littering, hygiene etc... that govern the customs and behavior (never mind legal structures) in many countries.

Mainlanders I saw this past summer in Hawaii openly flouted the laws and behavior in a way that to me, as a person who has lived in HK for some years now, and tells people that this is my home, found rather disturbing.
I can only hope that the local people of Hawaii erect some more laws and impose fines because I do not see how they will be able to otherwise stop rampant polluting and exploitation of the natural environment. We have all read about Beijing's concerns about their own citizens as travelers.

Hanauma Bay is slowly recovering from what it was a decade ago. (A mess) And there is a required 9 minute film to watch about not stepping on the reef and respecting sealife. This film is available in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish and English. But what happens? Get to the beach and forget the film! You large groups of tourists (mostly Asian) who cannot swim who are stepping on the reef! Swimming beyond the reef! Littering! Isn't anyone worried about drowning? Why do people think if they can't swim in their own country and have only swam as deep as the nearest hot tub that Hawaiian ocean water is where you should try swimming in 20 feet of water?  All you can do is a short dog paddle and you suddenly venture into the open ocean? Are you crazy? While they were clearly from a variety of aforementioned Asian origin groups (Indians also making the cut here), they were out of control. From what I gather, a few Russian groups were splashing in a way that made me think their swimming skills were fairly zip. Back in the day, my aunt told me it was always the mainland haoles, but I would say now, that didn't appear to be the case on the day I was there...

You can say I'm culturally biased or you can say I am telling it like it is. These were the groups.

At one point the Hanauma lifeguard bellowed over the loudspeaker: GET OFF THE REEF. Followed by: IF YOU GO BEYOND THE REEF WITHOUT YOUR FINS YOU WILL HAVE A HARD TIME GETTING BACK TO SHORE. And then: WATCH YOUR CHILDREN. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR CHILDREN. He repeated that a few times. ( I suppose people got so keen to snorkel, they were abandoning their children. Great. Drown!) Then, again: PLEASE DO NOT STEP ON THE REEF. I REPEAT DO NOT STEP ON THE REEF. OFF THE REEF. OFF THE REEF PLEASE.

Finally after a series of other announcements, the poor lifeguard was reduced to saying: I AM NOT YOUR BABYSITTER!

(Yeah, sigh, it was the lone brazen Mainlander there. The only person who was unashamed of stepping on the reef at that point)

Can't blame the lifeguard!

I sound like a HKer, but after getting pushed down the aisle of an airplane, and the like by members of the Mainland tour group (so glad I wasn't there next to the guy spitting continuously in the vomit bag on the plane, but I saw the passenger next to him wince and grimace) I was deeply disturbed. I am however, WELL AWARE that not ALL Mainlanders exhibit such bad traveling habits. Of course not. And what a drag it is to have your fellow citizens behave in such a way. But it is a serious enough issue that I think this should be addressed.

The government to require some sort of video upon exiting China. Maybe along the lines of DO NOT SCREW UP OUR SOFT POWER ATTEMPTS. How can soft power work if the people are seen running amuck and not respecting places where they travel?
Hawaii should play some videos while people go through immigration and impose hefty fines to those tour operators and individuals if they are given a warning to get off the reef and don't comply. This is a way to keep the coffers full and can be poured back into the public parks.

Everyone should be also required to sign a contract--if you go into the park, you will not behave in a way that damages the natural scenery.

When I got back, I heard from two people that Mainlanders are really unpopular in the Maldives. One woman witnessed them littering, throwing their cigarette butts in the ocean, trash in the water, and then taking the coral! The people of Maldives were intimidated, then upset and tried to tell them, but the Mainlander paid no attention. Plus Maldives people don't speak Mandarin.

Big problems.

Get ready world. It has only just begun. Honolulu is set to have a slew of condos on Ala Moana/Ward,  big group. Probably for the China money. We're talking that they have looked into the population density of HK.

I propose fines. Big fines.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Violence of Ugliness

I had a great conversation the other day with a friend Joe Alvaro, a longtime Canadian expat who has lived in China and Hong Kong for half of his life. I was telling him about the Mui Wo swimming pool showers. They are fairly clean, but they are really ugly. The shower stalls have small square beige flat tiles and white shiny square bathroom tiles. Then there are small squares and lines of navy blue, yellow, mint green and powder pink designs. The cabinets are minty green. It's fairly industrial, but it's mostly that it's just ugly. And due to its ugliness, it's depressing. This does not mean that the swimming pool isn't clean, that we haven't enjoyed this pool over the years, that the workers keep it quite tidy and everything, but it just means that it's ugly.

And I got to thinking about this. What does it mean to be surrounded everywhere by ugliness? To have things be so aesthetically unappealing? How does this shape a society? An individual? Aesthetics mean a lot. What do people note when they come to a new country or place? The beauty of it, the design, the appeal and harmony with nature, color, sounds etc...

Joe said this to me: "It's violence. It's a violent act to be surrounded by ugliness."

And I have to agree.

So I'm doing my laps in the pool and once again, I hear that tape of announcements. Cry for help when in difficulty. Don't swim on a full stomach. Watch your children. The list goes on. And it is played over the loudspeaker and plastered on the walls and as it played for the third time (I'm going underwater to drown out the sound) I thought to myself: I CANNOT TAKE THIS. THIS IS ABSURD.

So after changing in the ugly dressing room, I go out and have a little chat with the front desk folks. All young. I said, look, do you have to keep playing the tape over and over again? There are only 5 people in the swimming pool! If there's a problem, tell someone. (there was a kid in the pool with a parent). Don't keep playing the tape.

I was met with dubious looks.

And then, I resorted to what only can be called the Hong Kong divisive pride angle. "Look, this is NOT MAINLAND. This is Hong Kong right? We're not in Wuhan, Beijing or anywhere. You can tell Hong Kong people something and they listen. You don't need to play this over and over and over again. This is Hong Kong. This is NOT MAINLAND."

And suddenly. A lightbulb. Click. And they agreed to tell the people controlling the recording. Hard to say if it will happen, but I felt like something registered. We don't have to, or HK people don't have to live with an ugly audio tape blasting in their ears, do we? Can't we just enjoy our swim? What does this say if we keep playing this? That we are like Mainland people who need to be instructed on basic courtesy and protocol?

Small aesthetic victories.

I've never really been an aesthete, but I am really starting to pull more in this direction as time goes on. If nothing else is right, at least can we enjoy a bit more of a pleasant environment for a few hours? Can things look a little better? Can we hear more beautiful sounds? What might this do to our society? What is beauty's power? Of course, people will argue that what is one person's idea of beauty is not another's and rightfully so, but I don't think anyone would argue that a loudspeaker loop of directions played continuously is attractive. As for the bathroom tiles, it is highly unlikely that they were leftovers and making do, and as for arguing about colors and conformity, guess what, people are not flocking to copy the latest bathroom or style designs from Hong Kong! That's okay, instead of getting insulted by this, just concede this and look to what is most pleasing for the largest amount of people and go with that.

Beauty is a community and public service.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Building the Great Wall of China (working title)

One could say we have been engaged in a version of Great Wall building ourselves in Mui Wo. There are multiple nuances to this phrase, of course, but suffice to say--construction will formally commence in a few weeks.

Revolutions happen.

Whether such an act will keep the barbarians at bay is another question, to be further explored, but we're going to deploy some Middle Kingdom strategies and see what flies.

We have battled numerous lands departments edicts, random villager (including some bigwigs and of all nationalities, note) headaches and disputes, electric company, architects, builders, and the like...but it is all scheduled to roll out soon.

Guess I won't be chasing out the bovine from the backyard for much longer...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?

Release date of the above anthology is today. I have a piece in there "Happy Anniversary"

It's available on Amazon and around town in various outlets.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dissertation Over

I finished it. I still have the viva, but the dissertation process has come to an end, more or less. I feel strangely relieved, despite the fact that the exam is in front of me. The last time I experienced this sort of feeling of a mad cram before a deadline was in high school. Despite having had deadline since that time, and terrible feelings of stress, the way this stress manifested was more akin to a history paper or class than anything else.

The summer is upon us. The heat and the rains. The mosquitoes. The buzz of cicadas, the stench of the bovine and the feel of sweat behind your knees.

Poetry calls and on that note, must edit and write...cheers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lantau Writing Workshop

Lantau Writing Workshop  (JUNE 2014)

Creative Writing Workshop (2 hours per session/4 weekly sessions 1360HKD total)
Hours to be arranged.
This workshop is open to all levels and will focus on basic narrative technique, style, and voice. I provide all material, and will use multiple genres to teach (non fiction, fiction, poetry). Each week there will be in-class writing exercises and optional writing assignments.

Literature Class (One 2 hour session; last week of June; 200HKD per meeting)
Hours to be arranged.
This discussion-based class will meet the last week of the month for two hours. We will alternate between canonical (Greatest Hits) literary classics and contemporary favorites. You must read the material prior to coming to class. This class can be attended on an as-you-go basis. No exams and no writing.
Meeting #1 Pride and Prejudice  — Jane Austen
Meeting #2 Persepolis — Marjorie Satrapi
Meeting #3 Mrs. Dalloway  — Virginia Woolf
Meeting #4  Bel Canto — Ann Patchett
Please provide your email address if you would like to register and/or be included on the mailing list.
Location: 7A Sun Lung Wai Village, Mui Wo
If you have further queries please email me at

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Privacy to Grow Up

A few people have asked me why I have stopped posting photos of our family. I've just responded in person and will do so now--we decided that Keohi needs a little time to grow up privately. He's not a small blob of a person anymore and will soon be trawling the internet (as will his friends) and there may be things posted that might make him feel uncomfortable or awkward. We all remember those early years of trying to sort out life and make sense of who you I've decided to taper off on posts and FB photos of him. We all need some time to experiment and grow...he'll be posting selfies and photos of his life soon enough, I am sure.

In the meantime, it's just me posting on what strikes me...cheers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Expatriate by Stephanie Han (National Poetry Month USA April 2014)

Expatriate by Stephanie Han


You amble up the path to swipe paving stones,
pried up puzzle pieces piled behind bins,
load the bricks onto a cart side-by-side
with a young woman who grows rubber trees,
and dreams of birds nests’ towers in a distant land.
A hat hovers over her hardened face,
a beauty crinkled by a jealous sun.
You close your eyes to palm trees, smell the lush green.
The day’s heat shimmers and stalks. There, a flash:

Glorious cornfield carpets. Endless gold
dotted by gray barns that worshipped cerulean skies
pearly clouds streaming the presence of a god
you abandoned the further you moved from home.

You call to your child scaling piles of rubble,
heaps of concrete, wood and overgrown weeds,
remind him stones are heavy, snakes lurk beneath trash.
Please, ride the cart carefully. He jumps off,
bounds ahead, fast-fast  to the only home
he understands, this village you made his world
knowing all the while he will someday leave
in search of home and country, a land to belong to
in quest to discover all that you knew
and left behind—a nation, a place,
a pencil mark, a time long gone,
a dream existing only in the memory of why.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hong Kong Diocesan Girls' School Student: Age Six (National Poetry Month April 2014)

--> Hong Kong Diocesan Girls School Student: Age Six

by Stephanie Han

Your fingers bent into an anemone heart
you clutch a pencil, bare down—
draw lines left, right, up, down
Strokes for dollars.
Hours pressed into your body until you whimper for sleep.
The woman who pats your forehead
and brings you soup and petal shaped fruit
cradles her daughter in a phone
and nervously moves to a raised eyebrow.
You will learn to cheat and lie
feel guilt on bended knee
swallow everything and wait for leaves
to unfold from your fingers
reaching for a sky that promises blue
passed the gray your father has painted
following his father before him.
Your mother will punish you with gifts
from Disneyland and reward you with prizes
of plastic and pink.
After a tragic mistake or two
you will marry a man who makes the sky
blacker than it has ever been
who places you in a tower that frowns upon
parents who gave you Jockey Club Sundays
but time will pass
and as your daughter grows
with lungs the size of peanuts
you will vow to marry her
to a man who creates a sky that spews chemicals
that burn her skin and to prepare
you bend your  daughter
into tentacle knots of obedience
so hard and small
she can barely keep her head outside of
the tight ball and gasps between music lessons
and swimming lessons and drawing lessons and vitamins
and then one night
you think that maybe you
should have bound her feet
as it might have been
easier than binding
a heart.