Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Literature and memory


Reading Marilyn Robinson's book HOUSEKEEPING and am really enjoying this read. There's a texture to this book--lots of descriptive language, and is the type of book that would have been taught at the school where I used to teach. The Observer said it was one of the best 100 novels.
A very American book.

Meant to add that POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt was a truly great page-turner, especially the last 200 pages. Academia as a place of romance and mystery. I often find myself bored when reading books set in universities and the preponderance of these locations has to do with a great many professors writing fiction. And to me, these are not the most interesting settings. But Byatt's book is brilliant and fascinating.

Robinson's book is very good, but is its polar opposite. I read Robinson's book and am impressed by the writing style and there is an emotional pitch to it that is very admirable given the parameters of the story and structure. But I read Byatt's book and think that it is a feat of literary brilliance, technique and a wholly original tale. Big difference. Huge difference. Robinson's book is far more accessible. Byatt's doesn't have that reach--then again, Victorian poetry doesn't either in this day and age...

Thinking about landscapes these days.


A small child's memory is amazing. Two days ago, Keohi opened his book and insisted on reading it to me, turning the pages, and read the entire book out loud including the vocabulary list at the end. It's a clever book -- TOO MANY COOKS based on that Disney film about the French rats (I never saw it). When we received it as a gift from my mom, I thought, oh no, Disney, oh well, it won't kill him. But actually, the rhyming is clever and it's a very good book and has lots of cooking technique vocab. So I've probably read this book out loud to him more than 50 times, but don't have it memorized cover to cover like he does.

I also noticed that when a word comes up that he knows or has heard of from one of his books, he will launch into the entire rhyme or repeat dozens of lines and lines of texts from memory. A few months ago he recited the The Owl and the Pussycat in entirety. I have a lousy memory and a horrid ability to memorize lines so remain impressed by this. But there is not way of predicting when this will come up and he won't do it when asked. It's quite fascinating to see how vocabulary is acquired--it's all about sounds and for him at least, there must be a visual trigger. He'll spend lots of time by himself in his room reading often alone. I'm wondering if this development is due to our lack of television time. If the TV is on, he'd have another source of visual stimulation, but the only way he can have lots of pictures is to flip through his books. It also seems that there are entire phrases memorized in ordinary conversation, so I guess that "drill and kill" technique of learning stock phrases in a foreign language is effective. He keeps repeating phrases when he hears them and says stuff like "Thank you for the ice cream" and "Oh, I'm fine" and yeah, there was the one in the UK "Don't touch the plunger." Basic commands and survival English.

Memory is not linked to intelligence, I don't believe, but my guess is based on his ability to process visual cues and his good memory, that he could probably do okay in Chinese school. I think I would have been a Chinese school flunky. So we plan on sticking him in the local school to learn Cantonese for a few years. Living in Asia/HK I think that there should be at least one member of our family who can speak the language...Stephen says, good, he'll be able to order a great meal...For a few years it should be okay. I'm not keen on certain teaching methods, so we'll see how it goes. But I've been thinking for a long time that there are limited advantages to living in filthy polluted air. Air, after all, is a I suppose Keohi will have very small lung capacity but the ability to speak an Asian language or two. I'd rather have him have clean air--but this is his childhood reality, and the reality for hundreds of millions of Asian children living under clouds of smog.

When you walk off the ferry into HK, you will notice and feel your lungs constrict. It's hard to take a very deep breath, you just don't. It's as if your body simply reacts to the air, because when I step off the ferry in Mui Wo, I feel my lungs expand. That's how bad it is. There is not a single place in the US that is as polluted as HK...really, it is so dirty here. Funny too that people in the New Territories crap on about how clean the air is here. It is MUCH more clean, but it's still dirty. I'm probably shortening my life span about 5 years living here, but I'm banking on genetics to offset my environmental reality. My grandparents from both sides were old when they finally passed--one lived to 100 and another to around 94.

OK, time to stretch a bit...

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Don't Like Diaper

Quote of the evening, from Keohi.

Unfortunately, this was followed by a request for DISPOSABLE. DISPOSABLE. Not bad, at least he knows the difference between the ole cloth nappy and the disposable. He only agreed to sit on the toilet and wear undies after Stephen bribed him with ice cream.

Ice cream is his true obsession and he has long conversations about it, especially with his friend Isabella, about where to get it (Mui Wo, England, Memphis) and when he will get it (never frequently enough, it seems, according to him) and what kind he will eat (white kind, brown kind, vanilla, chocolate--Stephen and I are invited to eat the green kind--green tea flavor, which he does not like).

Tomorrow we head to Playtown. 5 hours of an indoor gym. I need to finish up some reading, do my critiques, write a lesson plan, deal with real estate, but yeah, I'm going to Playtown...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lantau Book Club Begins September 2009

Starting date is postponed to accommodate summer holidays--so we will begin the book club in September 2009. Please stay tuned for updates and email for further information.

Please note that the first book will be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (Penguin edition will be the one I am using, but your choice...)

The second book will be The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

The books are available at Dymocks IFC or Dymocks Prince's Building...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Lantau Book Club begins June 23

Lantau Book Club
4th Tuesday of every month

The monthly Lantau Book Club will meet for a brief lecture followed by a group discussion led by Stephanie Han (MA,MFA) from 7:30-9:30 at Caffe Paradiso, 3 Ngan Wan Road, Mui Wo. Cost per session is $180HKD. The café will be open for coffee and food.

Future book club readings will cover both canonical (classic) and contemporary works and may include: Macbeth by William Shakespeare, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston , The Quiet American by Graham Greene, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Club members may suggest books for future sessions.

The first meeting will begin at 7:30PM Tuesday June 23, 2009 and will feature the book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Penguin Edition).

The second meeting will begin at 7:30PM Tuesday July 30, 2009 and will feature the book The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

There are a limited number of copies (8) placed on order at Dymock’s, IFC available at the end of May. It is not crucial to read from the same edition of the book, but often helps when referencing particular passages.

For further information please call 6302-3809 or email

Stephanie Han (MA, MFA) has worked as a journalist and writing instructor in the US, HK and Korea. Her fiction has appeared in the following: Kyoto Journal, Louisville Review, South China Morning Post (Fiction Award, 2002), Nimrod International Literary Journal (Katherine Ann Porter Prize, 2002), the Santa Fe Writer’s Project (5th place, 2004), Women’s Studies Quarterly and other publications.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Learned Behavior; Bad Behavior

Learned Behavior

This is how I know that I live in Hong Kong...China...Asia...

Keohi contorts his face, coughs, pretends that he has phlegm in his throat and sort of gags as if to spit. Yeah, the sound that only an 80 year old man in the village makes who strolls down the path in his singlet and boxer shorts with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. The sound an old man makes when he's about to spit his saliva, a big loogey, (spelling?) right smack in the middle of the walk. So he does this god-awful sound and says very seriously: "Coughing. People do that."

He also runs his tongue over his front teeth, protruding lips and filling the front of his mouth by pushing the skin out and making smacking sounds and says: "Uncle do that." Uncle, is the man who has played with Keohi every Sunday night for the past six months when we go for dinner at the local cooked food market. A real local.

For those about to say, "Oh no, this is old fashioned HK, people don't do this anymore" I say, come to Mui Wo because this is backwater village life. HK pre Gucci and pre Louis Vuitton.

Bad Behavior (Or What to Do When People Have Bad Manners)

Got a little ticked off at a few comment about Keohi and his longer hair. First of all, in California, we are perfectly normal parents. And Keohi, with his long sandy brown hair, occasional pink clothes, big ole cloth diaper butt, and brown rice eating diet is perfectly fine. In fact, by some California standards, I think I'm probably lax as these days he's widened his dietary intake and even ate some vanilla ice cream from (gulp) over the border. Probably a mistake. Melamine? Who the hell knows. Anyway--this one off kind of thing happens now and then. He can identify the Teletubbies as he's seen them at his friends. And another program. And someone fed him jellybeans a month ago. I freaked but calmed down about it later.

But I got fed up when someone walked up to me in the village and said "He looks like a girl." Now the individual happened to be a nice lady, and is not exactly a local either, but I decided that I was tired of smiling nicely when I heard this kind of subtle dig and so I pointed out that Keohi was half Korean, and that numerous Japanese and Korean young boys wore their hair as he did, with a small ponytail or knot on the top of his head. (In the 19th century and earlier, but who's really keeping track of it anyway?) I could tell slightly from the expression there was a feeling of backpedaling, but to squelch any further insults I added: "Besides, I am not so old-fashioned. I'm a modern woman." And I took Keohi and walked away.

Nothing like village life...

That weekend, mostly due to the fact that he was hating the hair in his eyes, he got a really bad haircut from me in the front (bangs) although it's still surfer length in back. Long enough for a tiny short ponytail. Like his daddy used to wear...

Bad Behavior Continues....

Speaking of village stuff, some months back Stephen, Keohi and I were at the beach and Middle Age Hippy Woman X comes onto the beach with her 3 unleashed dogs. Well, you're not supposed to have dogs on the beach to begin with. So there she is and the dogs are there, and there are Keohi and Stephen in the distance. And then I notice Stephen kicking water at the dog and I think, oh no. He's getting mad. How mortifying. Stephen throwing a fit. Oh no! The thing I hate, he says to me later, explaining the splash, are that Westerners who live here often think they can get away with breaking the law and flouting the rules because they are Western. They think they are above local law. They're not.

Here, here...

Stephen told the woman: No dogs allowed. He also kicked water at the one dog as it seemed to be scaring Keohi and the woman did not have them on a leash and he felt that there was something unsafe about the dog who was approaching Keohi. I'm thinking great, this is a village. I've SEEN this woman around. Worse yet, I have to deal with her as Stephen is at work and doesn't see a lot of these people. How embarrassing. My water kicking husband. But yeah, he's defending Keohi, so I think, Okay.

Then, a few months later, the woman shows up at the community center for a kid's disco--the one and only. I'm thinking gee, I hope she doesn't recognize me. She doesn't. Maybe she recognizes Keohi, but I'm an Asian face. So I'm pretty damn invisible to many Westerners can come in handy when it is not irritating. Middle Age Hippy Woman X is discoing away. No big deal. No further thoughts.

BUT THEN yesterday, my friend, a Filipino woman tells me that she was riding her bike on the beach and one of these dogs almost bit her, grabbed onto her pants leg and she fell off her bike. Luckily, her small daughter was not riding with her or it would have been disastrous as the path is quite narrow and fall can be in certain spots very steep by the beach. And Middle Age Hippy Woman X did not even APOLOGIZE to her, or acknowledge that her dog was grabbing my friend's pants leg and had tried to chomp on her ankle! My friend was nice enough to say when recounting this incident, that two of the dogs were normal, but that one was clearly strange and not nice and this was the one who bit her. Middle Age Hippy Woman X was indeed one of the Westerners that Stephen was talking about because had my friend been a Western woman who was white, she never would have done that and would have apologized or acknowledged what her dog did. Filipinos put up with a lot here in HK. People who are darker really suffer here from almost everyone's attitude--Western and local HK Chinese.

So all I can say is this: Next time ole Middle Age Hippy Woman X is walking her 3 dogs on the beach she'd better watch it, because me, Invisible Buddhafun, will be scoping her out and ready to call the Animal Control people should her dog get near my leg or anyone else's.

Village Life...stay tuned for more.