Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mui Wo School and other news--domestic and otherwise

So my letter was in the Talkback section of the SCMP (South China Morning Post) on the Mui Wo School. Hard to say what will happen although the government bigwigs are remote, out of touch, and it appears, fevered Christians ready to save a handful of teen drug users. Fair enough, but the locals here need a school...and the Christian Zheng Sheng College has some rather dubious financial investments. They have also not followed the standard procedure when it comes to using public facilities and land. Corruption? OH, but this is Hong Kong. This doesn't happen HERE. And these are good god-fearing types! Well, corruption and hypocrisy is everywhere...

Here's my letter from last week:

As a parent and former secondary school teacher, I have examined the current situation of the Christian Zheng Sheng College and the Mui Wo community very carefully.

I am all too familiar with the difficulties of troubled adolescents.

However, when weighing the needs of both populations, I have concluded that it makes more sense for the local children in Mui Wo, mostly Chinese, to have priority when it comes to using the school premises that are now coveted by the Christian Zheng Sheng College. Mui Wo is rapidly expanding. The playgrounds are full, the village school is crowded and the children deserve better facilities.

The Christian Zheng Sheng College is a wealthy institution with plenty of resources. Given that its student population comes from all over Hong Kong, the college's location in the town of Mui Wo is not paramount to its existence.

Supporters of the college's bid for the premises in Mui Wo need to move beyond a knee-jerk reaction of accusing the Mui Wo population of Nimby-ism (not in my backyard) and ponder the following points. How many families experience dysfunction, fatigue and stress due to the travel time that their children must undertake in order to obtain an education? How many young people travel two hours one way to get an education that could be obtained a few minutes away by foot or bicycle?

And, ironically, how many young people turn to substance abuse as a result of being displaced from their communities?

Mui Wo people have legitimate concerns about the schooling of their own children. There are many other locations that the Zheng Sheng college could have, so why does it insist on using a facility that is needed by the local children? It makes no sense. Should a philanthropic institution truly be concerned with bettering the lives of young people, it would act to avert problems, rather than to further perpetrate them.

Stephanie Han, Lantau

On the Home Front-Goodbye NEH NEH

Keohi told Stephen over the weekend: "I'm not a baby."

He's a little boy.

And this past weekend, around September 23 or so, he stopped nursing. He still clutches at the bottle before bed or his now diminishing naptimes, but no more neh-neh. Big lifechanging fact. For Keohi and for mommy. He nursed about 2 years 7 months. Mommy is glad that it is over.

It's a new dawn.

That said, it's good for people to remember that the WHO does suggest nursing until age 2, and The Academy of Pediatrics until age 1. But it's not easy for women to do so. There are not enough people helping mothers with nursing in the early post birth days, and very few workplaces support it. In Norway, they even have breaks for nursing mothers during graduate school exams.

I feel like I've been in the wrong part of the world for my entire life. Whenever I hear about what they do in Norway or Sweden or the Netherlands, I realize I have never experienced life in a progressive country...or a country that prioritizes the social and physical welfare of its inhabitants over massive consumerism. It's cold there, but maybe cold weather is okay with great healthcare and more gender equity.

Home Stuff--

Getting ready to move into our house in November. Must kit out kitchen and bathrooms. I kind of miss the tyranny of Home De(s)pot these days and those big warehouse stores where they sell 5 versions of everything. Here are thousands of little shops selling tons of styles of bathroom taps. And you must visit dozens or a good many. That with my zilch Cantonese makes it a nightmare. I'm just a product of American convenience. I fully support all those tiny stores. And I will go to them. But I don't enjoy it. An interior designer friend said shopping is all the fun. But I'm not a shopper. I appreciate design, but I'm not a designer. I'm a basic end user.

Literally. Speaking of end use...

Truly weird is watching people try out toilets in the showroom. Watching couples talk to each other while sitting on different toilet seats, pointing to others sitting on seats. Fairly entertaining and the high point of my fixture trips...

FACT: Low toilet seats and height are good for peristalsis. So you high toilet seat and high toilet seat height folks are not doing your bowels any good. The ideal is to replicate the position of squatting as much as possible.


Speaking of which, they are still killing the marshlands here. And sewage is coming to Mui Wo! Look out! (Most are on septic). Right now however, much of the wetlands still serves as a natural drainage system before the sewage goes out to sea. Some of the old homes are not on septic, even. As a result, if it's not all timed right and with the full intention of the developers to destroy the environment to make a buck, we'll all be subjected to cholera, dysentery, or what have you.


The beautiful white birds that crowd the tree at dusk will be desperate for a new place.

Mangrove gone.

Question: Why is it that people can get organized and involved about the school and no one cares about the fact that this entire community's eco-system may soon be destroyed as a result of building over the mangrove?



Skimming Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner. My students kept talking about this (secondary). Some interesting stuff, and some plain silly stuff. Everything down to numbers and quantifiable, but crucial aspects of life and questions of humanity can never be answered by this type of analysis.

Back to critiques...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Girder and Superdog, Home Depot, and Ear Confections

We've been heavily acting out three scenes the last few weeks, some for a little longer. The Girder and Superdog is from one of those (mostly) terribly written Oxford University Press books for ESL learners that we have around here. A man is dangling on a girder high above the city and can't seem to get down. Superdog (or in this case, Keohi) comes to his rescue. Keohi does both parts, as do I. He's also added some lines from another section of this book, specifically: "My son, my son!" Usually, I'm the son...He stands on the bed and I have to pretend to slip off the edge while he grabs my hand. Then one or both of us yell the famous line: "Don't look down Superdog, it's a long way to fall!" Then I have to ask Superdog to save me, and he pulls on my hand as I disappear over the foot of the bed onto the floor. I pretend to sob, and Keohi gets very practical and efficient and tries to haul me up. Randomly, he may yell about a fire. Superdog then manages to pull me up while yelling: "My SON. MY SON!" It gets very melodramatic...

With no particular transition, we move to the second scene which is visiting Home Depot to ride the tractors. Keohi sits behind some pillows, I sit next to him, and he drives to Home Depot. Usually, he says, he will drive the red tractor, sometimes I say I will drive the yellow one. Home Depot is on the way to Timbuktu, a destination he learned about from his grandmother in Memphis. We talk about John Deer tractors. He tells me he's going to mow the lawn. Maybe do some vacuuming. The discussion we have is all very domestic and suburban. We may take the tractors to get ice cream too.

The final scene is examining me for an EAR CONFECTION. Clearly, the recent doctor visit, as well as his ear infection, housecall and exams from Gaye, the pediatrician in Memphis, made a huge impression. The ear is often examined with a huge instrument, like a pillow corner. The patient (usually me) must also submit to sticking out a tongue and getting a pillow shoved in her face. He says I have to take medicine, "pink kind" but I get ice cream for taking it. Then he listens or I do, to our backs and chests, the breathing sounds. There is some serious talk and conflict about whether or not one of us needs a shot, and how we may or may not get one from the doctor at this point (Keohi), but probably not, and how we get a treat. Like dumplings, duk, or ice cream.

Repeat--return to girder scene...

Very specific dramatic moments. I love the level of imagination that goes into various aspects of play. Often one scene bleeds into another, but then you have the random quotes from books, and so we're doing the girder scene and then all of a sudden, it shifts, and we're pretending we're Curious George and involved in a fire station adventure. He does the standard truck and car play, but these other dramatic scenes involve the acting out of real emotions--fear, upset, excitement are highly elaborate. Mini three act structures of drama and problem solving. Makes you realize that we come to live in the often mundane world of reality too soon. Nothing like the imagination of a 2.5 year old...


His plastic hard hat wearing action figure that came with his CAT forklift lost his arm. Keohi was talking about how the man had a missing arm. Stephen's response to this was the best: "Some people only have one arm." Disabilities are just a matter of perspective.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gender and Parenting

There is an assumption that mothers are the ones that know more and are more educated about parenting issues. False. False. False. The more I am around Keohi, the more I realize that it has little to do with gender, but more about basic knowledge of biology and sociology, and the ability to analyze one's ideas and programming about what constitutes male and female.

In other words, females can be more sexist than males. Surprise, surprise. And in fact, are often the worst violators of egalitarian viewpoints. Not surprising and oppressed people often happen to be able to be the most powerful oppressors themselves should the opportunity arise.

I thought of this in the broader context of an exchange that happened yesterday. I was at a store buying Keohi, yet another toilet seat (although I am going to give up on that process for a few months as he is an adamant diaper wearer...) in some wild attempt to get him interested in using the toilet. Woman X trots up with a huge can of infant formula.

"Well, is this sweet?" she asks. "Sweet is better. Breast milk isn't sweet."

There could have been a variety of reasons she uses formula-adoption, illness, fatigue, etc...that's not really the issue. The issue is that clearly she hadn't done much reading about what exactly constitutes the difference between breast milk and formula, pros and cons, tastes and everything else.

So a man, overhearing a conversation says: "Breast milk is sweet."

Of course, the sales people and the woman and seemed rather startled, and unfortunately almost dismissive because this comment came from a man (how would you know this? being the question). The fact is he's right. Breast milk is sweet. He doesn't add more, though clearly, he wants to. He feels awkward. This is supposed to be a women's conversation. Unfortunately, from the chatter, it seems that none of the women, including the saleswomen, seem to be able to advise her. He's probably the one who knows more. But he's ignored as he is a man.

"That's not what I heard," she says. From who? The infant formula corporations? Geez.

I remained absent from the conversation. This guy probably knew more about formula, breast milk, nursing and whatever than all of these women. Too bad. Women should be more open minded. Rules have changed. It's not always the male who is sexist.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back in Mui Wo Fall 2009

Keohi and I are back after a long month away in the US.

After 16 months away, it was a great visit and a busy and enjoyable holiday. It was not productive in terms of writing, in the strictest sense of the word, but the US has an energy and vitality that is absent here in Hong Kong. Discovered some writers and journals. Thought about writing and literature in the context of the US and with the added distance of being an expatriate. HK is a dynamic place, but this is a town defined by business and banking. People can say what they want, but the city is a reflection of the dominant culture and Cantonese culture is at its very heart one of business and commerce. So I finally finally thought of my next long project and have decided to seriously begin it. And it seems I have made more sense of our relocation here to Asia and all that it means for our family. We're here now, and while I have struggled on and off to really define it for the past 16 months, I do understand it now.

Life is unfolding here. And for the most part, it's a good thing.

Keohi experienced popsicles, fast food, ice cream cones, tractors-ours, the neighbors' and the store's, green lawns, Mississippi watermelons, small dogs, water playgrounds, SUVs and carseats, a house with stairs, and a single doughnut devoured by his mom and him in the aisle of the supermarket, in the US. He picked apples, played around the small fish pond of his uncle and aunt's, ate duk (Korean rice cake) with his grandfather, and hauled his grandmother to Home Depot to sit on the tractors three times. He saw godfather Andrew and tortured his grandparents' Pomeranian Pico. He had a good time.

Mom mostly ran around after Keohi. She ate a bowl of organic popcorn. She drank lots of pomegranate juice. She relished the icemaker, clean water from Artesian wells, and clean streets. She ate cornbread and ribs. She ignored Fox News and the big churches. Next time she should route through LA for a decent taco stand taco...the place in Memphis was not good.

Would someone open a taco stand here in Mui Wo, please?

It was a good holiday. We've now spent a week at home with Stephen who took the week off and went to Bali for a week on his own.

Big news--we bought a house in Mui Wo. So yeah, we are here for the long haul.

Bad news--the protest against the drug rehab center people taking over the site of the secondary school has not yet been successfully concluded in that the Christian Zheng Sheng Association is still trying to weasel its way into our community. BAH.


I am going to be updating and narrowing the focus of this blog. My new website is up: