Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Keohi and The Nutcracker

So now we put on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and Keohi grabs his plastic sword and dances around the room. He leaps and tries a pirouette and fights the imaginary Mouse King. He's the Nutcracker. I'm usually Clara, though sometimes I'm a tin soldier. The ballet made a profound impression on him. Today after 15 minutes of running, leaping, fighting and dancing to the music he told me: "I need a stage."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday 2010 with Keohi

Friday was a seminar and then I invigilated an exam. My first invigilation. Back in States we call it proctoring an exam. I see students and think of myself--with six sharp pencils, a shuffle through the notes...cramming it all in. When I went back to university in my late 20s I actually remember a few history exams with fond memories. If you know the stuff, it's a great feeling to know that you're nailing it. Then there was the one math final, spring term 9th grade. I got every problem right, or at least I felt I did. I ran out of the exam into the New England May, happy, skipping up to my dorm--summer had begun! Mostly though, for me, exams were not fun...

But since my last on campus commitment finished Friday, Saturday was a big family day. Awoke with Keohi asleep in the ole king size bed. Lately this is his thing, coming into the bed around 1AM, often post diaper change as he hasn't gotten the night time toilet training down yet. (The daytime is more or less there). We've can all three sleep, but last night Keohi's head was near Stephen's. I got the kicks and like often happens, am squished up on the edge. But we all get up after lazing around (usually a session of 'Let's Make Mommy A Sandwich' happens--involves piling pillows on yours truly with Keohi sitting atop of me with Dad's assistance.) Then we all pop in the big family bath. It's a big tub, so not a bad fit for the family of three. Keohi keeps trying to throw toys down; Stephen is stretched out trying to soak his back; I'm pouring water over my hair. As a toy hits Stephen, he says, half-awake: "This is relaxing." We do some splashing and play with swimming toys (Keohi has fins, bodyboard, wetsuit, goggles, snorkel, two masks, and fishing net on the side of the tub along with a dozen other toys.) then mom gets out. Daddy changes Keohi and we do breakfast...

Keohi's first down and says to me, eating bacon: "Mommy, I'm happy."

It's just us; we're all home; the day is wide before us. With his father's work schedule these times are really rare, if not precious. And we present Keohi with his first tie and shirt, which he can wear with his hand-me-down black blazer. We're off to the Nutcracker Ballet--it's a big event, Keohi's first ballet.

He's excited that he's wearing what Stephen's wearing, but once we are on the ferry, the shirt and tie come off in about five minutes. Underneath, long johns...

We get of one ferry, then take the Star Ferry, eat ice cream on the way (hey, it's a holiday) and go to the theatre where we have really good balcony seats. Tons of kids. Boys and girls. It's a matinee. It was a great performance. Keohi was riveted. Tin soldiers, Christmas tree, mouse king, snowman, superb in every way--this is the Nutcracker as it should be. The only twist, I barely notice these days, is most everyone in the cast is Asian. He's seen several shows over the past year or more and this by far was his favorite. There was a lot going on and a live orchestra in the pit. The second half was less interesting to him--but the performance was beautiful. We'll have to do it again next year.

There were a few moments. Once when he yelled out "I have mucus!", I scramble to look for tissue, Stephen beats me to it, and Keohi yells again: "Daddy got it!" Then Stephen says, "I think he just did a poo in his pants." We sniff...Stephen asks. OK, no poo, just a fart. We're all relieved. This is the ballet with a 3 year old kid.

We enter the mob scene known as Harbor City Terminal HK. This is a mall area where busloads of Mainlanders descend to shop. It feels like a billion people. There's a Korean restaurant there though, so we stop off. I decipher the Korean, barely, I think it is closed the month of December. Big bummer. We go around the maze of the mall and finally arrive in a kind of steak house and eat, seated by a guy probably from The Valley with a bad perm and moustache. I am in LA. I swear I am in LA.

We leave and head home. A good day. Keohi jumping like the ballet dancers after the performance telling me he's the Nutcracker, he's the tin soldier.

Keohi, age 3, The Nutcracker in Hong Kong, Christmas, 2010.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Biking with Keohi Boo...

Biking side by side with Keohi the other day from Sun Lung Wai to Luk Tei Tong. He looks up and says to me: "I love you, Mommy!"

I say, "I love you too."

He stops his bike. He's smiling wide--so happy. Pure joy. Nothing beats a bike ride through the village. He puts up his hand--we high five and cruise along through the green, right by an ambling fly covered cow, pull to the side for a cement mixer, and pick up speed as we head down the hill. We talk about school, Robin Hood, and his great-grandma's death.

"Remember Nana? Daddy's grandma? She was wrinkly and when you went to visit her, someone at the home gave you a piece of chocolate?"

Keohi nods. "She's a ghost now, right?"

"Yeah, she's a ghost."

"Do we have to go to the temple and light incense for her?"

"Maybe we should. She's a ghost, but she's watching us."

"Is Cousin Bruce a ghost?"

"No, he's not a ghost. Keohi, it's not Grandma, Daddy's mommy, but Nana, Daddy's grandma who's a ghost now. Do you remember she had a bird?" That was on his first visit, over 18 months ago, a lifetime for him, half of his life. I can see, he can't remember all that well. His second visit--will he remember?

This is what I remember of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather...1969-1970. I was 5 years old and taken to the countryside in Korea. Lots of cousins, aunts, uncles. It was in an old fashioned house, it had a little courtyard in the middle, to enter any room in the house you had to step up onto concrete or stone steps. Dividing sliding doors. No Western furniture. Chests of wood. Heated floors. And there were two very wrinkly people wearing hanboks, old style Korean clothes, sitting in the room on the floor. Everyone was going by to offer greetings, pay their respect. I saw them. I remember. And I think of it now and think--they were from another century--the 19th century! A culture that is one I know, and don't.

And here is my Korean American/English son, raised in a Chinese village, thinking of burning incense in a local temple with images of Kuan Yin, the goddess of the sea, for his English/Irish Catholic great-grandmother from a small seaside village in Suffolk, England. Globalization. Transnationalism. Immigration. Modernity. Love and the crazy way it works...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

R.I.P. Mary King

Stephen's grandmother died. A charismatic, lively, and witty 89 year old. She survived the war, lived in or around Aldeburgh her entire life, and took joy in the moment. Keohi saw his great grandmother two times, myself only four, but she was an unforgettable spirit.

R.I.P. Nana -- we will miss you always...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Diamonds and Conflict

I thought I would include this link because it is very clear most people still don't realize that the choice of a diamond in any fashion as a piece of jewelry, symbol of love, accessory or status item, is rather contentious. This piece is actually not as radical as some other writing out there on the issue of diamonds, and thus is why I hope people click through to read.

To be fair, there are industrial diamonds--diamonds in drills, saws, etc...that are used in various processes, and then there are diamonds as objects of aesthetics and as a symbol of love. This campaign, incidentally, of diamonds as a necessity for a wedding engagement is one that is wholly invented by the DeBeers cartel. Yeah, you know the saying that your engagement ring should be your monthly salary times two? Or that you need an anniversary diamond? Or that a diamond is forever? It's marketing by a single company. The giving of a diamond in specific, is not indigenous to any culture and new in most cultures and societies. Cut and set, it can be a beautiful object, but it comes at a price, like most beautiful things and the price is never paid by the wearer, unfortunately.

Hate to sound so brutally unappreciative of a piece of cut rock, but whenever I see a diamond, I envision a child amputee. It's hard to get these sorts of pictures out of your mind once you make the connection and once you've seen one and actually what astounds me is that not more people have made the link. The rock might look nice, but it's an intense statement to wear one. And not only in the way one might think it is. A symbol of love, status, eternity? I honestly don't see that when I see anyone wearing a diamond. I might briefly think, oh, it was an antique or given, but usually I think the rather unpleasant thought that the individual valued personal aesthetics or status over the tragedy of war. So yes, it's a statement to wear one. But it's not the same statement to everyone and people should realize that. There are a lot of people out there like me who are wholly unimpressed by someone wearing one.

My thoughts?

Oh...hmmmmmm. Figures...

I remember a close friend once sold her diamond ring to a pawn shop. She needed the cash with which she used to help her husband's business. And she told me: "I'm not that person anymore. I'm not about that." She wore nothing on her hand after that.

My husband and I were officially married in 2001. We wear gold bands (and yes, I'm not into a lot of mining practices of that industry either, though I think that the violence of the recent conflicts funded by diamonds is particularly brutal) and we actually discussed the wearing of a diamond. A new diamond. This was in the time before the Kimberley Process was underway to try to track the diamonds and their origins. The choice was ultimately mine and I chose not to wear one and yes, will never buy one, or support the act of such a purchase for the reasons described above.

Diamonds do not impress everyone.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Toys for Little Boys

Trying to buy a doll or human figure for Keohi for Xmas.

Got some action figures. Avoided all with machine guns and robot types.

Settled on a series from ELC called The Bad Guys. Long process...

I saw pirates--two sets, not bad. First set, white guys in pirate outfits with swords. Then I thought, maybe there should be other non-white guys. And what about girls?
So I saw another set with green and blue faces. Almost went for these. Again all guys. No girls.

Then rethought again--maybe no weapons. But I need people of color figures. Saw black construction worker. But he's all muscle bound and then is wearing no shirt with overalls. He looked a little too weird, though all in good camp fun. Kind of like the YMCA Village People singers. So changed mind again...I'm not into giving Keohi muscle bound figures. This is an abnormal male image. Kind of like giving Barbie body figures to young girls. Eating disorders and steroids in teen years...trying to avoid those...

Then saw some knight figures. Two white guys. Two guys in masks. Knights. Four total. He likes knights. Hmmmmm. But the weapons seem bigger. Maybe I'll get those in the UK. Not sold on them now.

What to do? All of his figures, he doesn't have too many, but even so, are white guys now, except for one small black fireman. Hard to buy any other ethnicity in HK. The black fireman came from the US. There are one billion Chinese people and we're in ASia but there are NO ASIAN ACTION or DOLL FIGURES. Male or female. Just blond ones or European/Anglo looking ones. How messed up is that? Hello Racial Neuroses. Hello Poor Self Image. Hello Plastic Surgery.

So I settle on the bad guys series. Four monster types. One skull, one white guy in a weird mask, the other two are monsters. One green. One brown. Of course they have weapons. No guns. What does this mean, this white guy with a weapon? Better than a black guy with a weapon? The white guy is more violent? The white guy has agency? Well, four monsters. He will like them.

I think of brawling English people in the pub on Hollywood Road. Yeah, some UK people are tribal and violent, for sure...even in nice pubs. Yes, I was a naive American before I lived here the first time. That was the first time I've witnessed grown men in suits punching each other. Stephen yawned. Bartender threw them out and gave us a beer. I was taken aback. In retrospect, I probably watched too many BBC TV costume dramas from the 18th century, read too much Brit lit, and was brainwashed by flouncy sleeves and good manners. Of course, Stephen is hardly Darcy/Heathcliff/Name Your English Male Lit not sure how I kept this image in my mind for so long! But there you go...I digress...

So the compromise is that Santa Mom will give violent toys as long as there is some kind of cultural diversity. We all have our limits. No guns.

...Where Are You Cabbage Patch Doll?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California on my mind...

by Joni Mitchell

Sitting in a park in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn't want to stay here
It's too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

California I'm coming home
I'm going to see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I'm coming home

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you California

Oh California I'm coming home
Oh make me feel good rock 'n' roll band
I'm your biggest fan
California I'm coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you're walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues
So I bought me a ticket
I caught a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue
They said "How long can you hang around?"
I said a week maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I'm going home to California

California I'm coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California I'm coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you're walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
More about the war
And the bloody changes
Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am?
Will you?

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Very true. My colleagues at a previous educational institution found that every year the assigned pages for nightly homework decreased--students couldn't handle focused reading. Concentration levels were not as high. More reasons why I will never buy my son a video game. Period.

Yeah, I'm a party pooper, but I've actually even been warned by several parents not to buy them, and I will heed the warning.

My own history of video game playing is as follows:

1974 PONG. We bought this at SEARS in Iowa City. We also got a game of PONG sent to us by our cousins. There were two levels--slow and fast. Endlessly fun...for about a month.

1975. Handheld football game device. American football. Not soccer. My sister had this. We played this on the airplane. Again, a few basic patterns. Quite thrilling for a few airplane rides to Hawaii from Iowa and then long road trips. Entertained for about two months? Maybe? It wasn't my game though. This probably made it more exciting.

1980s...gets fuzzy here. I think there was Pac Man and maybe Lady Pac Man? And then there was some star sort of asteroid game. I remember trying Pac Man in a dark and smoky bar. Maybe once or twice. And playing the star asteroid explosion game in another bar. Again, maybe once or twice. Vague memories. Hard to say if it was the game or alcohol. Either way, this pretty much ended my video game playing. Almost

1993...okay played some video games with a boyfriend in an arcade in Marina Del Rey, California waiting for a movie. I think they were those games from the 80s.

2000...well, wouldn't you know it, but I too work for an Internet company during the boom. Still, I don't play video games. But I hear about them a great deal.

2003...someone has told me that now video games are quite advanced and offer chances to play with many people--you can adapt and become characters, pretend you're in another world. This sounds to me a bit like Dungeons and Dragons. I knew kids who played this game in the 1970s. The same boys who played lots of chess. I played chess, but never played this game. This new style of video game also sounds like one is entering the world of fiction. I decide I'd rather read about it or write it. So again, don't play games. But I actually see a few game parlors in Hong Kong and in Seoul, mostly populated by rather pallid unattractive sorts of zoned out human beings. I remain disinterested. I realize I have now entered the realm of being completely out of touch and uncool. I don't care. up with an old friend. He tells me he has a video game company that employs 80 people. I think I am supposed to be impressed. I tell him I've never played a video game...not really since Pong. Have not spoken since.'s the reading...

New York Times

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — On the eve of a pivotal academic year in Vishal Singh’s life, he faces a stark choice on his bedroom desk: book or computer?

By all rights, Vishal, a bright 17-year-old, should already have finished the book, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” his summer reading assignment. But he has managed 43 pages in two months.

He typically favors Facebook, YouTube and making digital videos. That is the case this August afternoon. Bypassing Vonnegut, he clicks over to YouTube, meaning that tomorrow he will enter his senior year of high school hoping to see an improvement in his grades, but without having completed his only summer homework.

On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.”

Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

“Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”

But even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.

It is a tension on vivid display at Vishal’s school, Woodside High School, on a sprawling campus set against the forested hills of Silicon Valley. Here, as elsewhere, it is not uncommon for students to send hundreds of text messages a day or spend hours playing video games, and virtually everyone is on Facebook.

The principal, David Reilly, 37, a former musician who says he sympathizes when young people feel disenfranchised, is determined to engage these 21st-century students. He has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center.

He pushed first period back an hour, to 9 a.m., because students were showing up bleary-eyed, at least in part because they were up late on their computers. Unchecked use of digital devices, he says, can create a culture in which students are addicted to the virtual world and lost in it.

“I am trying to take back their attention from their BlackBerrys and video games,” he says. “To a degree, I’m using technology to do it.”

The same tension surfaces in Vishal, whose ability to be distracted by computers is rivaled by his proficiency with them. At the beginning of his junior year, he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software.

He acts as his family’s tech-support expert, helping his father, Satendra, a lab manager, retrieve lost documents on the computer, and his mother, Indra, a security manager at the San Francisco airport, build her own Web site.

But he also plays video games 10 hours a week. He regularly sends Facebook status updates at 2 a.m., even on school nights, and has such a reputation for distributing links to videos that his best friend calls him a “YouTube bully.”

Several teachers call Vishal one of their brightest students, and they wonder why things are not adding up. Last semester, his grade point average was 2.3 after a D-plus in English and an F in Algebra II. He got an A in film critique.

“He’s a kid caught between two worlds,” said Mr. Reilly — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.

Vishal, like his mother, says he lacks the self-control to favor schoolwork over the computer. She sat him down a few weeks before school started and told him that, while she respected his passion for film and his technical skills, he had to use them productively.

“This is the year,” she says she told him. “This is your senior year and you can’t afford not to focus.”

It was not always this way. As a child, Vishal had a tendency to procrastinate, but nothing like this. Something changed him.

Growing Up With Gadgets

When he was 3, Vishal moved with his parents and older brother to their current home, a three-bedroom house in the working-class section of Redwood City, a suburb in Silicon Valley that is more diverse than some of its elite neighbors.

Thin and quiet with a shy smile, Vishal passed the admissions test for a prestigious public elementary and middle school. Until sixth grade, he focused on homework, regularly going to the house of a good friend to study with him.

But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

“I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”

Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families. Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University who led some of the research, said that when adults were not supervising computer use, children “are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around.”

Research also shows that students often juggle homework and entertainment. The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either “most” (31 percent) or “some” (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework.

At Woodside, as elsewhere, students’ use of technology is not uniform. Mr. Reilly, the principal, says their choices tend to reflect their personalities. Social butterflies tend to be heavy texters and Facebook users. Students who are less social might escape into games, while drifters or those prone to procrastination, like Vishal, might surf the Web or watch videos.

The technology has created on campuses a new set of social types — not the thespian and the jock but the texter and gamer, Facebook addict and YouTube potato.

“The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly says.

For some, the amplification is intense. Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

Most of the exchanges are little more than quick greetings, but they can get more in-depth, like “if someone tells you about a drama going on with someone,” Allison said. “I can text one person while talking on the phone to someone else.”

But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B’s on her recent progress report.

“I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ”

Some shyer students do not socialize through technology — they recede into it. Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school.

Escaping into games can also salve teenagers’ age-old desire for some control in their chaotic lives. “It’s a way for me to separate myself,” Ramon says. “If there’s an argument between my mom and one of my brothers, I’ll just go to my room and start playing video games and escape.”

With powerful new cellphones, the interactive experience can go everywhere. Between classes at Woodside or at lunch, when use of personal devices is permitted, students gather in clusters, sometimes chatting face to face, sometimes half-involved in a conversation while texting someone across the teeming quad. Others sit alone, watching a video, listening to music or updating Facebook.

Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option.

Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit.

“If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world,” said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day.

Sean’s favorite medium is video games; he plays for four hours after school and twice that on weekends. He was playing more but found his habit pulling his grade point average below 3.2, the point at which he felt comfortable. He says he sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice. Still, he says, video games are not responsible for his lack of focus, asserting that in another era he would have been distracted by TV or something else.

“Video games don’t make the hole; they fill it,” says Sean, sitting at a picnic table in the quad, where he is surrounded by a multimillion-dollar view: on the nearby hills are the evergreens that tower above the affluent neighborhoods populated by Internet tycoons. Sean, a senior, concedes that video games take a physical toll: “I haven’t done exercise since my sophomore year. But that doesn’t seem like a big deal. I still look the same.”

Sam Crocker, Vishal’s closest friend, who has straight A’s but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet’s distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books.

“I know I can read a book, but then I’m up and checking Facebook,” he says, adding: “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything. It’s the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway.”

He concludes: “My attention span is getting worse.”

The Lure of Distraction

Some neuroscientists have been studying people like Sam and Vishal. They have begun to understand what happens to the brains of young people who are constantly online and in touch.

In an experiment at the German Sport University in Cologne in 2007, boys from 12 to 14 spent an hour each night playing video games after they finished homework.

On alternate nights, the boys spent an hour watching an exciting movie, like “Harry Potter” or “Star Trek,” rather than playing video games. That allowed the researchers to compare the effect of video games and TV.

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

Markus Dworak, a researcher who led the study and is now a neuroscientist at Harvard, said it was not clear whether the boys’ learning suffered because sleep was disrupted or, as he speculates, also because the intensity of the game experience overrode the brain’s recording of the vocabulary.

“When you look at vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after that, your brain has to decide which information to store,” he said. “Your brain might favor the emotionally stimulating information over the vocabulary.”

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory.

In that vein, recent imaging studies of people have found that major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime. These brain studies suggest to researchers that periods of rest are critical in allowing the brain to synthesize information, make connections between ideas and even develop the sense of self.

Researchers say these studies have particular implications for young people, whose brains have more trouble focusing and setting priorities.

“Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” said Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School. “But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.”

“The headline is: bring back boredom,” added Dr. Rich, who last month gave a speech to the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled, “Finding Huck Finn: Reclaiming Childhood from the River of Electronic Screens.”

Dr. Rich said in an interview that he was not suggesting young people should toss out their devices, but rather that they embrace a more balanced approach to what he said were powerful tools necessary to compete and succeed in modern life.

The heavy use of devices also worries Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is known for research showing that children are not as harmed by TV viewing as some researchers have suggested.

Multitasking using ubiquitous, interactive and highly stimulating computers and phones, Professor Anderson says, appears to have a more powerful effect than TV.

Like Dr. Rich, he says he believes that young, developing brains are becoming habituated to distraction and to switching tasks, not to focus.

“If you’ve grown up processing multiple media, that’s exactly the mode you’re going to fall into when put in that environment — you develop a need for that stimulation,” he said.

Vishal can attest to that.

“I’m doing Facebook, YouTube, having a conversation or two with a friend, listening to music at the same time. I’m doing a million things at once, like a lot of people my age,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can’t.”

“If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically,” he says. But thanks to the Internet, he says, he has discovered and pursued his passion: filmmaking. Without the Internet, “I also wouldn’t know what I want to do with my life.”

Clicking Toward a Future

The woman sits in a cemetery at dusk, sobbing. Behind her, silhouetted and translucent, a man kneels, then fades away, a ghost.

This captivating image appears on Vishal’s computer screen. On this Thursday afternoon in late September, he is engrossed in scenes he shot the previous weekend for a music video he is making with his cousin.

The video is based on a song performed by the band Guns N’ Roses about a woman whose boyfriend dies. He wants it to be part of the package of work he submits to colleges that emphasize film study, along with a documentary he is making about home-schooled students.

Now comes the editing. Vishal taught himself to use sophisticated editing software in part by watching tutorials on YouTube. He does not leave his chair for more than two hours, sipping Pepsi, his face often inches from the screen, as he perfects the clip from the cemetery. The image of the crying woman was shot separately from the image of the kneeling man, and he is trying to fuse them.

“I’m spending two hours to get a few seconds just right,” he says.

He occasionally sends a text message or checks Facebook, but he is focused in a way he rarely is when doing homework. He says the chief difference is that filmmaking feels applicable to his chosen future, and he hopes colleges, like the University of Southern California or the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, will be so impressed by his portfolio that they will overlook his school performance.

“This is going to compensate for the grades,” he says. On this day, his homework includes a worksheet for Latin, some reading for English class and an economics essay, but they can wait.

For Vishal, there’s another clear difference between filmmaking and homework: interactivity. As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback.

“I click and something happens,” he says, explaining that, by comparison, reading a book or doing homework is less exciting. “I guess it goes back to the immediate gratification thing.”

The $2,000 computer Vishal is using is state of the art and only a week old. It represents a concession by his parents. They allowed him to buy it, despite their continuing concerns about his technology habits, because they wanted to support his filmmaking dream. “If we put roadblocks in his way, he’s just going to get depressed,” his mother says. Besides, she adds, “he’s been making an effort to do his homework.”

At this point in the semester, it seems she is right. The first schoolwide progress reports come out in late September, and Vishal has mostly A’s and B’s. He says he has been able to make headway by applying himself, but also by cutting back his workload. Unlike last year, he is not taking advanced placement classes, and he has chosen to retake Algebra II not in the classroom but in an online class that lets him work at his own pace.

His shift to easier classes might not please college admissions officers, according to Woodside’s college adviser, Zorina Matavulj. She says they want seniors to intensify their efforts. As it is, she says, even if Vishal improves his performance significantly, someone with his grades faces long odds in applying to the kinds of colleges he aspires to.

Still, Vishal’s passion for film reinforces for Mr. Reilly, the principal, that the way to reach these students is on their own terms.

Hands-On Technology

Big Macintosh monitors sit on every desk, and a man with hip glasses and an easygoing style stands at the front of the class. He is Geoff Diesel, 40, a favorite teacher here at Woodside who has taught English and film. Now he teaches one of Mr. Reilly’s new classes, audio production. He has a rapt audience of more than 20 students as he shows a video of the band Nirvana mixing their music, then holds up a music keyboard.

“Who knows how to use Pro Tools? We’ve got it. It’s the program used by the best music studios in the world,” he says.

In the back of the room, Mr. Reilly watches, thrilled. He introduced the audio course last year and enough students signed up to fill four classes. (He could barely pull together one class when he introduced Mandarin, even though he had secured iPads to help teach the language.)

“Some of these students are our most at-risk kids,” he says. He means that they are more likely to tune out school, skip class or not do their homework, and that they may not get healthful meals at home. They may also do their most enthusiastic writing not for class but in text messages and on Facebook. “They’re here, they’re in class, they’re listening.”

Despite Woodside High’s affluent setting, about 40 percent of its 1,800 students come from low-income families and receive a reduced-cost or free lunch. The school is 56 percent Latino, 38 percent white and 5 percent African-American, and it sends 93 percent of its students to four-year or community colleges.

Mr. Reilly says that the audio class provides solid vocational training and can get students interested in other subjects.

“Today mixing music, tomorrow sound waves and physics,” he says. And he thinks the key is that they love not just the music but getting their hands on the technology. “We’re meeting them on their turf.”

It does not mean he sees technology as a panacea. “I’ll always take one great teacher in a cave over a dozen Smart Boards,” he says, referring to the high-tech teaching displays used in many schools.

Teachers at Woodside commonly blame technology for students’ struggles to concentrate, but they are divided over whether embracing computers is the right solution.

“It’s a catastrophe,” said Alan Eaton, a charismatic Latin teacher. He says that technology has led to a “balkanization of their focus and duration of stamina,” and that schools make the problem worse when they adopt the technology.

“When rock ’n’ roll came about, we didn’t start using it in classrooms like we’re doing with technology,” he says. He personally feels the sting, since his advanced classes have one-third as many students as they had a decade ago.

Vishal remains a Latin student, one whom Mr. Eaton describes as particularly bright. But the teacher wonders if technology might be the reason Vishal seems to lose interest in academics the minute he leaves class.

Mr. Diesel, by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates — in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. “It’s in their DNA to look at screens,” he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: “Frankenstein is in the room and I don’t want him to tear me apart. If I’m not using technology, I lose them completely.”

Mr. Diesel had Vishal as a student in cinema class and describes him as a “breath of fresh air” with a gift for filmmaking. Mr. Diesel says he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system.

But Mr. Diesel adds: “If Vishal’s going to be an independent filmmaker, he’s got to read Vonnegut. If you’re going to write scripts, you’ve got to read.”

Back to Reading Aloud

Vishal sits near the back of English IV. Marcia Blondel, a veteran teacher, asks the students to open the book they are studying, “The Things They Carried,” which is about the Vietnam War.

“Who wants to read starting in the middle of Page 137?” she asks. One student begins to read aloud, and the rest follow along.

To Ms. Blondel, the exercise in group reading represents a regression in American education and an indictment of technology. The reason she has to do it, she says, is that students now lack the attention span to read the assignments on their own.

“How can you have a discussion in class?” she complains, arguing that she has seen a considerable change in recent years. In some classes she can count on little more than one-third of the students to read a 30-page homework assignment.

She adds: “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations.”

As the group-reading effort winds down, she says gently: “I hope this will motivate you to read on your own.”

It is a reminder of the choices that have followed the students through the semester: computer or homework? Immediate gratification or investing in the future?

Mr. Reilly hopes that the two can meet — that computers can be combined with education to better engage students and can give them technical skills without compromising deep analytical thought.

But in Vishal’s case, computers and schoolwork seem more and more to be mutually exclusive. Ms. Blondel says that Vishal, after a decent start to the school year, has fallen into bad habits. In October, he turned in weeks late, for example, a short essay based on the first few chapters of “The Things They Carried.” His grade at that point, she says, tracks around a D.

For his part, Vishal says he is investing himself more in his filmmaking, accelerating work with his cousin on their music video project. But he is also using Facebook late at night and surfing for videos on YouTube. The evidence of the shift comes in a string of Facebook updates.

Saturday, 11:55 p.m.: “Editing, editing, editing”

Sunday, 3:55 p.m.: “8+ hours of shooting, 8+ hours of editing. All for just a three-minute scene. Mind = Dead.”

Sunday, 11:00 p.m.: “Fun day, finally got to spend a day relaxing... now about that homework...”

Malia Wollan contributed reporting.

R.I.P. Uncle Pat--

Stephen's great uncle Pat died on Thursday. I met him myself, very briefly only twice--the same time that Keohi did. Uncle Pat made a great impression on Keohi, lying in his bed, in the old people's home, watching the TV. When we came back to Mui Wo, Keohi lay on the bed, pulled the covers up to his chin and said "I'm Uncle Pat." I thought of how this once tall great man now existed in the mind of a young child, and how this man too was once a boy like my own.

R.I.P. Uncle Pat...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sun Lung Wai Updates

OK, the banana tree in front of our kitchen window is ours. Surveyors came. Property staked. Lines drawn. Yes, we're in the village and no, we ain't movin' in the near future.

So the old lady will just have to deal...ahhh village life...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gender Equity and Girls

This is a good site for people who care about girls, and it is also a good site for those who care about boys.

I strongly believe that parents are the ones who should take responsibility for creating open minded and tolerant men. And that parents of boys should also be aware of the challenges that face young girls today.

It's also weird for me as a parent of a boy. If he's surrounded by a generation of girls who are trained and manipulated by the media and society into sexist roles, what does that mean for his future in terms of partners and potential happiness?

What a nightmare, to grow up as a boy who has been educated to go beyond traditional gender roles and face a generation of girls who have been inculcated with stereotypical ideals, whose parents have not bothered to teach them progressive thinking!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gender and Children

I love this post and wish that there were more people as tolerant and open as this parent.

My Biracial Little Boy with a Christopher Robin Haircut

The Lowdown--ethnicity and gender of participants added for more demographic fun...

A Bad Weekend in Mui Wo (end result: Mom (moi) with an acid churning stomach ache--the kind I used to get in Iowa as a kid after being tormented at the bus stop by the local bully--of the ulcer variety)

Saturday AM

Stephen with Keohi. Some asks if he is a girl. Stephen, says no. (Filipino female)

Saturday PM at Birthday Party

One compliment on Keohi's haircut (from Japanese female and parent)

One question on whether or not he is a boy, in front of him. (from Filipino female)

Sunday PM

Keohi went to beach wearing his fake Crocs (pale pink) with Stephen. Stephen relays someone asked if he was a boy or a girl (Filipino female)

I pick him up at Caffe Paradiso where we have lunch ensemble...Stephen splits. Keohi and I round the corner to the curry shop.

Is that a girl or a boy? (half Chinese half Australian primary school student female)

A boy. (me)

He looks like a girl. (young female)

That's because he is very cute, right (me. The dad is getting embarrassed, maybe, as I am getting annoyed)

Why is he wearing pink? (sibling of young female--older boy, age 10?)

Because Keohi and his daddy both like pink. It's his favorite color. (me, straining to smile, yes, I know what the gender stereotypes are in your household and this is not making me happy that they are now being imposed on my son)

See you around! (cheerful voice, Dad of two kids who wants to close the conversation)

Two minutes later...get to the HSBC teller. Waiting in line with bike, Keohi on bike. Balding, overweight Anglo origin North American with bandana in 50s cuts in front of me. There is only one other person in front of him. No one in back of me. He does not look at me when he does this. Very brazen. After all, I'm the only person waiting! There is no ferry to take! What's this about?

Were you waiting in line? Because I am waiting in line here. (me, in loud American accented voice.)

Wait he is freaked out. An ASIAN FEMALE with an AMERICAN ACCENT. One who doesn't like the fact that he is attempting to BULLY ME OUT OF MY PLACE IN THE LINE! Wait, this is like North America, where you can't and would never do that, thinks the guy. I'm used to Asia where I can bully my way around because I am an old European extraction male and used to having my way around here! SHOCKER. SHOCKER.

Go ahead. You can cut in front of me although I was waiting here in line. But I suppose you were waiting here? (Me, wryly, but firm voice)

Yes, I was waiting here for 3 minutes. I just went around the corner to see if that ATM worked (Bandana Man, he can barely meet my eyes. He is embarrassed. CAUGHT YA!)

Well, gee, I guess you lost your place in line, then. But go ahead. (Me, staring. Strained smile. I can't believe this. Then again, I was once refused service here in HK in s restaurant with my mother (after being seated in the back of the restaurant. This is after we watched 10 white people being seated before us although they were in back of us in the line. My mother's response was, this would never happen in the US, they had the Civil Rights movement.)

Oh, it's not working. All yours. (ATM down, Bandana Man scurries off)

Thanks. (Me)

Bandana Man runs away from the woman with the Asian face with the terrifyingly scary North American accent who does not enjoy being pushed around.

Later, from the playground, I see. Bandana Man with much younger Asian wife (I think Filipino?) and baby.

Why am I not surprised? Because, this is Asia. And in Asia, you see socioeconomics, race, and gender working in ways that are rather unfathomable on one logical level, but then if you consider sociology and economics, are rather logical. Pattern to a lesser level repeating itself in the West.

To continue with our day...

Keohi and I then head to the playground.

There is a grandma type on the playground, British, big, gray, grim faced with severe features with two small blonde children bearing more than a marked resemblance to Dr. Seuss characters on the playground, in the area of 18 months to 2.5 years. Accompanying them is Filipino female helper. Keohi is the only other kid on the playground. I'm on the bench, spacing out...

I see Keohi up on the slide, and grandma saying to him, in a very firm loud voice. "OH NO, yes, well you get down there." He has gone up the slide and the other two children are behind him. Her voice is not friendly. It's rather dictatorial. I don't move, however, just observe. Alert, as I have come to be. He comes down the slide and heads to what resembles a teeter totter or see saw set.. There are four chairs where the kids can bounce up and down and each chair has an opposite partner chair on its diagonal.

He runs to one and the two Seuss children toddle over, with Grim Granny and helper. Keohi hops on one of the seats. Grim Granny starts YELLING AT MY CHILD. She is accusing him of pushing her Suess progeny off the seat. I am PISSED OFF. This did not happen at all but this is how she sees him:

a) Asian
b) non-English speaking
c) non-English speaking Asian mom in background

This is how then she sees herself

a) defending Seuss progeny in wild unknown yellow populated playground
b) defender of manners, morality and other unknowns of the declining British Empire

But Grim Granny does not know the following:

a) Biracial boy is English speaking
b) He is 3 years old
c) His Asian American mom from the Newest and Ugliest Empire yet, is PISSED OFF and WILL DEFEND HER CHILD
d) His British dad, should he be around, would probably make her life as well as every other person she is related to or even knows, miserable for a long long time

ASian American mom rushes forward. "What is the problem?" she asks in a terse voice. Her mouth is set. Her frown is obvious.

Grim Granny: "Why he is PUSHING the children."

AA Mom: "No he wasn't. I saw the entire thing. He was not pushing anyone! (she is making this UP! A LYING COLONIAL! Shocker, shocker....) He simply got on the seat. He is 3 years old."

Grim Granny (shocked, getting uncomfortable, but she is a Grim Granny, so she will hold her ground): "He was pushing."

AA Mom: "He was not pushing AT ALL. I SAW THE WHOLE THING. HE GOT ON THE SEAT. He is 3 years old. And he's playing. And he did not do anything to the other kids. And I think perhaps, you should think about being more INSTRUCTIONAL in the future and EDUCATIONAL in your manner, rather than SIMPLY REPRIMANDING. We are at this playground ALL OF THE TIME (AA Mom asserting her roaming domain protecting feeding and playing grounds of her child) and MAYBE YOU should think about how you address children. Be INSTRUCTIONAL. But he wasn't doing ANYTHING."

AA Mom stands her ground. Grim Granny nods, acknowledges what I say, a little. My non-accented English! My assertive tone! Grim Granny cannot take it! I'm an Uppity Asian. She cannot meet my eye. I know EXACTLY what she was doing and SO DOES SHE! INCREDIBLE!

She goes to other part of playground with Seuss progeny and helper. For good measure, I look over send bad vibes, meet helper's eye, yes, they will stay on the other side.

Keohi plays...

Now I know there are those out there who will say Oh, but that's ANY playground and ANY parent experience, and this is not ethnicity at all. But the vestiges of colonialism are very strong in HK. And Keohi's hair has now grown darker--and he looks like a hapa kid. And any minority (here, white folks) may feel at odds in a society where they physically do not resemble others, and this is compounded by them not having the local language skills. I know this from being a minority in the US. So I understand how the local whites may feel isolated and insecure. BUT this is also because they are used to a large level of white privilege (see Peggy Mcintosh, Unpacking the Backpack of White Privilege if you need some race theory reading) and are now thrust in a situation where it doesn't exist as it does---but the colonial twist is this--they have money here, a lot, often, compared to locals, so things aren't all that bad. Economic power buys acceptance, dominance, and clout. And HK only handed over in 1997 back to China.

But to get back to the "this is any mom on a playground" it's not. Because if you do question it, what you are then questioning is one's ability to discern and feel racial discrimination, thereby leaving the burden of proof on the one that IS the one who feels discriminated against. And any person of color will tell you, that subtle nuances of racial politics are forgiven and disguised under the politesse of manners and "cultural difference" (though Grim Granny's yelling was in no way subtle).

But I call it like I call it.

And I will honestly say, that the majority, if not all of the people of color I know, if not all the Americans I know, would believe this scenario as being a prime example of ethnocentric ideas, colonialism, race, and's all alive and well and happening even in lil ole Mui Wo.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November 2010 Election

Post Election Doldrums...

I voted absentee in the most recent election. From here I see that Americans need to have a little faith and hold fast. No presidency is perfect and there is a tremendous difference between leaders who are elected and those who spring from the grassroots and lead and work outside of the system. It takes all kinds to move a nation. And our country was left in shambles after 8 years of bad governance.

I'm not keen on all the decisions that have been made by Obama, (I experience FULL public health care here, and none of that insurance stuff here in HK and it is GREAT) but I'm pragmatic enough to realize that massive changes cannot be instituted immediately. And as one Brit once told me--"Americans are impatient, they expect things immediately to happen." It's all tied up in Our Way of Life--capitalism and consumerism--faster is better, fast food versus the slo-food movement...and so it goes.

As for the Tea Party types--they were and are always out there. We know about them. They're everywhere and yes, rather awful to think that so many Americans think that people will ascend in their undies to heaven and all of that...but they are not the majority...almost, but not quite. The thing is for those who don't subscribe to such nonsense to think logically about governance and the needs of the American people. The alternative is the Tea Party people.

That said, I know it's hell being around narrow minded thinkers. I am glad I am away right now, and for now, expat life is okay. Here I just deal with narrow minded expats -- Western and Asian -- actually, (have only met one expat from Africa), and the big ole Communist Party. Nearby are lovely places like North Korea and party city states like Singapore and impoverished and corrupt countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Thoughts on the U.S....

These days I feel a great sense of admiration overall, for what I think of as a more inclusive or pluralistic way of viewing ethnicity which I think is distinctly American. This is after 2.5 years here and meeting very few Americans since I've been here. For better or for worse, any individual can become an American, and in doing so, claim a place in its fabric, no matter the person's ethnicity. This does not guarantee better opportunities or treatment for everyone, but there is a general sense that one has the right to seize such a right and demand fairness when becoming an American, if one chooses to do so. (And there are plenty of reasons to become an American and plenty of reasons not to). It is ultimately a nation built yes, on genocide, slavery, but it acknowledges this past more readily than many other nations. American foreign policy is often terrible, let's face it, we're an Empire, but Americans know this is true: you can hop off the plane or the boat, and maybe not in your lifetime, but definitely your kid's lifetime, you will be an American. To some you will always be an outsider, especially, it must be said, if you're of yellow extraction--you're always told, hey, go back... ( HAWAII? It's part of the US! That's what I say, at least...)but there are many resources and ways of navigating this vast country that will allow you to enter and claim a spot that do not occur as frequently in other nations.

Try being a non-Chinese Asian, specifically from Southeast Asia in Hong Kong. Bad scene...really bad scene...but insular thinking is not exclusive to Asian countries as believe me, there are plenty of narrow minded folks from everywhere. True, there may be the question of whether Americans of different background embrace those who are NOT American, (usually, if you're not in the American party, you're not that have to BECOME an American to talk about this stuff) but at least we can talk about it in our own context. And on some basic level, we try to deal with it. We argue about race, but at least we actually have a conversation about it. We have leaders from the past and present of non-white European origin who are revered and held up as examples for all Americans. There are many Western countries who simply don't even have this. (Some may just not get the population in numbers, but for others, it just won't happen.) In the U.S. there are so many people from different backgrounds that you are simply obliged to function on some basic level, in some civil manner with someone who may not come from your background. And most people recognize, that hey, it is an we get along from different backgrounds, how we educate our youth in terms of this, how we function as a yes, we must discuss this. Deal. This is the U.S....we're divided, we're together, we're here and there, but we have no choice but to face it.

There are requirements in place now, at the U.C. university system that recognize that educational institutions have an obligation to educate individuals to cope and thrive in a diverse society. Such classes are completely unheard of in any other education system in the world, and hey, I must say, there are a lot of people out there wandering around who need them like you wouldn't believe. We have Tea Party types, but we also are capable of being governed by people of color and view them as Americans, as equals, NOT as stray people from an old Empire. (Uhmm....guess cause we're a current one?:)) We are a nation of extremes, for sure, but there are some important and utterly crucial ways we're not so bad...really...:)

So, to that I will add this great site

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mui Wo Emergency and Health Care

About three weeks ago Keohi had an accident and this event added even more to my overwhelming support for public health care. If only people in the U.S. had access to this type of system. Quality of life would be much better. With good healthcare I could maybe even afford to live back in the U.S. and not live in fear of bankruptcy due to pre-existing health conditions, and the general cost of health care.

So, I was doing the usual of chasing Keohi around to brush his teeth. This happens twice a day. If you count him running away when I am holding a hairbrush and running away when he sees a washcloth or a new change of clothes, this happens about five times a day in our household. Grooming is to be avoided at any cost, if you're 3 1/2, or maybe, if you're just Keohi. If I want him to be remotely clean, it usually involves me literally running up the stairs after him, or at least around the dining room table a few times.

So this time he saw his beloved astronaut toothbrush (better used on the floor as a toy, rather than as a dreaded toothbrush) and ran up the stairs and ran into his dark room and slammed the door. But he's scared of the dark. So he opened the door too fast and yanked it over his toe, which then ripped off the top half of his toenail. Blood everywhere, crying, exacerbated by Stephen seeing the blood and yelling "SHIT" and in a minute, we are off to the Mui Wo Health Clinic.

We had just bought our new three wheel trike--this is Mui Wo's answer to the SUV, so the three of us went. (Mom, ensconced in the guest room, heard none of the hysteria and was shocked upon our return) The three wheel bike has a canopy and seats two in back. It's great for groceries plus kids. It's basically a cyclo. I grab Keohi's passport, a cloth diaper to soak up the blood, and we're off. Stephen hops in the front and I hold Keohi on the back and it's a mad dash down the hill to the health care clinic.

We buzz the buzzer and they let us in immediately. Doctor on duty, we've seen him before for a bout of flu. Keohi is immediately tended to by the doctor. One nurse assistant. Clean up and bandage. Pronto. No lines. No waiting. I chat and another nurse takes down some basic info (they have Keohi on file now and look at the passport, but in an emergency, this is never required) They tell us if we want an x-ray we'll have to do that at the Queen Mary Hospital the next day. Mui Wo doesn't have X ray facilities. It's small, but does the job for basics. I ask if I should pay the basic consultation fee, which is something like $5USD for other types of visits.

They look at me in shock.

This is an emergency. People don't pay for an emergency visit. How strange that I should even ask. But the doctor remembered me before--the American mom and my previous confusion before of not paying for medicine. He gently reminded me that in HK, you don't have to pay for meds, it's part of the consultation fee--$5USD.

They tell us to come back to get the dressing changed--but I'll have to pay for that, something like $2USD.

We exit. Another young boy is coming in with his mother. He fell from his bike so has fairly large open scrapes on his arm. They let him in. Big night in Mui Wo. No gunshots, but falls from bikes and doors over toenails.

Stephen cycles us all to get ice cream from the store and we head back. He ends up throwing out his back because the seat is screwed down so low and is stuck that way, because I had ridden it. We resolve to fix our emergency vehicle SUV so that the seat can be easily raised and lowered in case of future emergencies ($3USD to fix our seat... bike repair bills by the way, are much cheaper than getting an oil change for your car. Another plus about HK life.)

In the U.S. that medical emergency would have taken hours and probably would have cost me hundreds of dollars. We would all have been exhausted and drained and probably would have been belittled by the medical care establishment. A doctor did not need to see Keohi for that, a good nurse practitioner might have been okay, but a doctor was there who was nice, as were the other staff, and did a good job. In the U.S. we would have been in the waiting room and after three hours, I would have probably started getting mad at someone. Parking would have cost us $20USD--no place to even RIDE your bike, should you be inclined to be bike friendly, never mind park it. We would have been there for hours and would have had to start scrounging around for a place to eat. The next AM we would have been wrecks at work. But no, a good community medical clinic, a public health clinic can make life a lot better and here in Mui Wo is proof that it does.

And Keohi did not have HK identification, but a U.S. passport. If someone showed up with a Chinese passport, or any other passport, without an ability to speak the native language of the U.S.--English, what kind of service would the patient have received in an American hospital?

There are many aspects of life that I miss living overseas, but I do not miss the U.S. healthcare system. Would I want to get treated for certain types of diseases or illnesses in Hong Kong? Not sure--depending on your illness, there may be better treatment in the U.S., but it depends on what your health situation is.

But basic emergency stuff? For the price and service?

Hong Kong beats the U.S. hands down. Easy, fast, efficient, cheap, and good. All reachable in a 4 minute bike ride...props to the Mui Wo Health Clinic.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize 2010

You can talk all you want about designer goods, shopping malls, and affluence, but this is the real story about China. And there are many here who would agree.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sun Lung Wai

Sun Lung Wai

Outside my kitchen window wave smooth banana leaves
large with heat, perfect in green
shading a stone shack next to a garden.
It’s a woman’s plot—insistent styrofoam boxes,
choy and chives, ginger and herbs.
They linger and wilt in heat and neglect.

A daughter—worth ascribed by sons
a paper deed blank married off,
tradition dried, peeled, and preserved.
Her obedience, her acquiescence
bitter, tough, and chewy
swallowed decades ago.
She stakes her son’s land:
bamboo sticks and pink plastic twine.
She guards his birthright—
a steel face, a sour mouth, a wave of the hand.

Her old man son drools, babbles in the village square
dodders up the path, wades through mud puddles.
He relieves himself in the shack,
prods snakes and demons under trash, tin, and leaves,
stares at the stream, searching, searching—
fish and memories, frogs and purpose.
A mint clothespin hangs from his ear.
Hollow cheeks, flat sunken eyes. a mouth with no teeth.
He murmurs to the wind, yells at the spirits.
My son sees him, trembles, and cries.
My explanation fails: a head missing pieces,
a wound of the mind, a sickness that will not go away.

Mother and son move across the land
arms length, equidistant from their home,
a point in time, a perfect isosceles
bound by an invisible line.
In the beginning, a son!
It was all that mattered.
A baby bound to a mother’s back.
Hate, love, fatigue, tenderness
the sorrow of madness, the loyalty of blood.

He shuffles past rusty bikes
plants, plastic pieces, pots and pails.
Inside the TV’s on: he moves close.
A row of women in swimwear.
Music, applause, colored lights.
Transfixed: It’s “America’s Next Top Model.”

Outside the mother fingers a lemon tree’s gnarled bark.
Yellow has never burst from these withered branches.
She picks green fruit that will never ripen—sells them for coins.
Split and open, put on icebox shelves for their faint scent
her profit and possession.
This tree is hers, to protect and watch,
for him, her son,
heir to this land.

Copyright 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Afghan Women's Writing Project

RSI flares up.

But this site must be seen, this poem read.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ye Olde Blog and RSI

Given RSI flare-up (think: carpal tunnel, but not as bad...) I am temporarily halting ye olde blog...

Should someone need to contact me--try this address:, or better yet, give a shout.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Role Playing

Various scenes are re-enacted in the bathtub by Keohi. These are two of the popular ones:

Picking up Poo Poo

I bought Keohi gloves to use in the bath, figured that they would allow him to was more easily than with a washcloth. They are neon purple, scratchy and made of synthetic material. He tells me, "Do a poo poo, Mommy."
"Do a poo poo, so I can pick it up with my poo poo gloves like Habi (his nickname for grandpa--my dad) does for Pico."
"I don't have to do a poo poo." I am trying not to laugh, but this is pretty funny. He is dead serious.
"When Pico (the Pomeranian) does a poo poo, Habi picks it up with poo poo gloves. Then, he throws it away. So I am going to pick up your poo poo. So do one!"
"Mommy does not have to do a poo poo."
"If you do one, I have poo poo gloves, " he reassures me.

Tom the Mui Wo cafe owner (very popular role play)

Usually one of us must be Keohi (usually me) and the other is Tom. Tom owns the cafe on Mui Wo's waterfront. It's where we go in Mui Wo to get an English breakfast (sausage, beans, eggs, bacon, tomato, mushroom, toast) and a latte.

"Okay, you're Keohi. Ask for a milk foam," he says placing bubbles in a plastic glass.
"I'm Tom. Ask me for one."
"May I have a milk foam, Tom, please?"
"Sure, Keohi. One second." Now he makes the sounds of an espresso machine. He hands me a small plastic glass filled with bubbles. "Here you go."
"Thanks, Tom."
"Do you need, maybe a full breakfast too?"
"I'm fine, Tom. No thanks."
"What about a ham and cheese toastie? Do you need sugar with that milk foam?"
"No sugar."

We do tons of role playing at the house. It's interesting to note how easily children slot into these scenarios and the extent of the unharnessed imagination. It's very intense, the level of observation and the extent to which dialogue, action, entire scenes go on and on. He can do this for hours. Sometimes he limps and pretends he's the picture of the woman he saw who ran with one wire leg. Often he's a character from a book--The Tin Soldier, or Ping, the little boy who tries to grow a plant for the Emperor, from the Empty Pot, then there's Captain Joe from When it Rains, or the Wicked Uncle from the Magic Carpet. He's the kid doing karate from There Are Monsters Everywhere, he's the small pig Owen from I Love You All Day Long, an infinite number of characters--so many stories. Sometimes he's Joshua, or he's the Nutcracker or Mowgli (which means I'm supposed to be Balloo). This is when you see, books are not simply books, they are tools of imagination--you can act out characters and scenes from books, invent more.

Sometimes, he's just Keohi, nurturing his stuffed animals. He says, "These are my babies" and carefully wraps them in a blanket and gently puts them in different places. Sometimes he's an inanimate object, like a boat, he bumps his head against me and says, "I'm the boat, you're the pier. This is me, the boat." Then there's the usual preoccupation with what he sees around him "worker men" -- and he pretends he's building something, "sailor men" and he puts on gloves and pulls the rope--or he's a policeman or fireman. There is the doctor/patient scenario. (I'm supposed to protest getting a shot, and then be promised an ice cream cone afterwards. He gets to poke me with much enthusiasm and order me to breathe and stick out my tongue etc...) We also do patient/dentist. This involves lots of aaahing and sticking out the tongue and discussing teeth and spitting.

Then there are some favorites from the movies -- he is the dentist from 'Finding Nemo' in a scuba diving outfit (Scuba Man, as he calls it) and chases someone around who is a fish (Nemo). He seems to like to identify with the powerful omnipotent characters, not the nice fluffy protagonist. This blows me away as I never identified with the types of characters that he does. From the Kung Fu Panda film, he likes being the Snow Leopard and says he's going to get someone and kind of jumps around. From the Beatrix Potter tales, he spreads out a roll of toilet paper and pretends to be the old man tailor cutting silk. "My cherry colored twisted silk," he says. And lately, from Ice Age, he's the shark or the mammoth. We've been doing weekly weekend movie nights on Saturday--it's clearly made an impression. (I should add, given my feelings about screen time and children, not always for the better. It seems to have upped his level of physical play, not always a bad thing, but usually the even unfolds with him doing some aggressive jumping and landing and kicking or punching without a perceived consequence of the action (as there rarely are in the films) ...and 36 pounds of this is not so fun on one's head)

So when is it that we start to believe we cannot imagine? That we can no longer act out and pretend?

Keohi's playing reminded me of being a little girl in Queens. Two little girls came across the street and we would play witches, pretending to tie each other up and make pretend fires, and pretend to roast fingers. Victims and aggressors. All play...

So we do a lot of play acting around the house and the one that makes me laugh now is the one where I am supposed to be the kid, Keohi, and Keohi gets to be Mommy or Daddy. Parts of this we've done so many times...

"No, no ice cream for you, " he says wagging his finger.
"Please, Mommy?"
"No. I said, NO," says Keohi. "You already had some. You are fine."
"What about a small amount," I say. "Just a little. Just one more scoop!"
"Okay, just a little. But you have to brush your teeth. Because if you don't, you will get lots of bacteria. And then you will have holes in your teeth and they will become all brown and your incisors will be rotten. Your molars. Then, then you will have to go to the dentist. So brush your teeth, okay?" (This is also from the dental book...)
"Okay, I say."
"You can have some ice cream. But no gum, no candy. No junk food doughnuts."
"Can I have some spinach?"
"Yes, you can have some spinach. OK."
"Okay," I say, "Now you be Keohi. I"m the mommy."
"Okay," says Keohi. "When I'm 12, I can eat candy."
"Yes," I say.
"And when I'm 18 I can have a coca-cola," he says. "Coke is bad for you. Except Grandma drinks coke. But coke is not healthy for your bones."
"Yes. But do you see Mommy drink it?"
"No," says Keohi. "I can drink beer when I'm 25."
"How old are you when you can ride a motorbike?" he knows this. We've talked about it so many times. Oh, how he loves motorbikes.
"30. When I'm 30, I can ride a motorbike," he says.

He's 3 and I cannot imagine him being 30, but I know it will be here faster than I can possibly imagine. Keohi's birth I view as a new beginning for my own self, but with it came the acute realization of mortality...with every day that he grows stronger and bigger comes the knowledge that my own body is dying. Slowly to be sure, and yes, there is much before me, but it is no longer the same...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Day in the Life

Today--Make oatmeal, Hemingway prep, pilates class, sing a "Bushel and a Peck" 15 times, deal with Keohi's poo in undies two times, read over Rhetoric quiz questions, read one chapter Anil's Ghost, read article on the short story, skim bio on Hemingway, answer emails, work on two lines of poetry, play "Wicked Uncle" from Flying Carpet book which involves chasing Keohi around the dining room table with his stinky green blanket in need of washing, make 8 yogurt popsicles, call tailor, call doctor, think over English teaching, attempt a cup of tea and a sitdown--fail--drink standing up in four gulps, clean toilet, host playdate, go over medical stuff, go to library, weed garden for exactly 7 minutes (Brought on by rain loosening earth and suddenly thinking of Stephen slaving away every weekend and brief enthusiasm/guilt sets in--until mosquitoes descend. Enthusiasm dampens. Go inside.) Tape twenty large pieces of paper over sliding glass windows due to curtain rod collapse, read The Grinch, read book on dental visits, read Magic Carpet book, play legos, read Small Knight and George book 4 times, flinch and warn plastic ax wielding 3 year old not to hit, plan brunch menu,talk to swimming teacher, read essay onlne. Wipe up floor in bathroom, wipe up water on wooden stairs, sing short bastardized version of Italian art song, give massage to child, rest in dark for 15 minutes cramped on small Ikea bed that is certain to collapse in another few months...

And now, more Hemingway...long day. Long typical day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Planetarium

I gaze, project up to the black arc,
arm drapes a chair, hand pats a small knee.
Life is short; he is young.
Everything new in the universe.
Our harnessed awe stormed by currents—fused.
Careful calibrations, certain calculations,
dials, knobs, switches, steel, glass and plastic.
Tricks of mirror and light.
Dwarfed: I smell his hair,
wonder at the sky, tremble unconsoled.
Matter and atoms, we return to dust,
ascend to emptiness.
A slow crawl to perish.
Inevitable, this earth and space.
Sink closer to scatter further
meriting neither wink nor wrinkle.

My child follows the camera’s slow pan
to galaxies beyond.
Enraptured. Fearless.
I have no offering or belief.
What is the loveliness of our being?
Hope: kicks in the dark, cool metal arm rests,
fabric scratching behind bare legs,
night dazzling in the afternoon.
This darkened temple, a coffin retreat
from a burning star.
Rehearsal for shattering, decay, loss,
a long flight to memory.
Oh, stars, feel my embrace,
a surrender of all that I know.

Copyright 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Strange Cargo and Emerging Voices

Thought I'd link to a good friend and fellow writer's website--Renee Simms. Also in Strange Cargo and part of the PEN anthology...

Her blog really explains the Emerging Voices program. So click on the title of this blog!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Emerging Voices PEN USA anthology

Hey--it came out! I am so pleased to be a part of this anthology. My experience with PEN West Emerging Voices was by far the best out of all of the many writers workshops I have participated in over the years. The writers were and are smart and interesting. Their purpose and their passions far more intense than the majority of people I met in the MFA or MA programs. I respect their work. They really are writers, artists...the real deal.

I am also please to say that my story included in this anthology "The Third Hostage" was resoundingly rejected by a variety of literary journals and was met by some in my MFA workshop, with a stony silence--(well, there were a lot of Republicans there, if I recall). I wrote it this story in anger and disbelief as I watched Bush get re-elected. I was so mad I could hardly stand it. (Yes, there were MFA students who VOTED for that guy! Incredible!) Rejection wise, I remember I got a one line note from ESQUIRE magazine (obviously irked enough that they even wrote back) that said something to the effect of "This is only one opinion of the war" (In Iraq). I got also this from Story Quarterly.

Here is part of it:

This is magnificently written and
sorely tempted me. I must tell you I spent a few
nights obsession over the experience of reading it. We
do, lately, get quite a few stories related to war,
certainly that express a political stand on current
wars. This is a difficult decision for any of us, no
matter how fervently we agree with the point of a
particular piece. there is always the fear of
exploting a bad situation, or worse, contributing to
an increasinly polarized debate about it.

Time has passed. Iraq is a mess and that is now an international indisputable consensus (though it was not when this was written in 2004, and I wrote this as planes flew overhead on their way to the Mideast from Arizona, where I was living). There is always fear of exploiting a bad situation? You mean writing about war when there is a war going on? A polarized debate?

Weapons of mass destruction. Anyone remember that as our reason for entering Iraq?

I stand by this story and feel now, in 2010, belatedly vindicated for my beliefs and outspoken attitude about the war. The story and how it was rejected has long left me, but I write this for my own record, to remember to persevere in the face of countless slips of rejection. To write despite disapproval and condemnation and narrow minded responses that tell you that what you write is not important, especially if it contrary to the status quo. And to me it serves as a reminder that if you write for personal reasons and strong convictions, and if you write the piece well, it will eventually (6 years later) be heard.

It ain't over yet... and this comes as a good kick in the ass for me. Time to pull out the novel and take another pass.

And now, back to some poetry...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lao Tse in the HK Museum of Space

Went with my son, the aspiring astronaut, to the HK space museum. The race to space. The race to control outer galaxies. To ascend...I wish I could say this was simply about the desire to see and explore the possibilities of the unknown.

Then I saw the prototype in a photo of what could possibly harness more energy to keep up with our rapacious energy consumption. If we could simply learn to live with less and to live more harmoniously. Amazing how modern Western oriented ways of consumption and life have led to this situation with our natural resources.

Doomed, we are...yes. For sure. You can send all the things and people you want to space, but the desire to control and manipulate is one that exists here, fundamental to who we are, and this is what determines the essence of how we live and function, and is the reason for our destruction.

On the road to extinction, but on the way, always small moments of light...

Saw this in the screening room of the loop on constellations---

There is a thing confusedly formed
Born before heaven and earth
Silent and void
It stands alone and does not change
It is capable of being the mother of the world
I know not its name
So I style it “The Way”
I give it the makeshift name of The Great
Being great, it is further described as receding
Receding, it is described as far away
Being far away it is described as turning back.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Julian Assange of Wikileaks

Click through and watch.

Friday, July 23, 2010

More Reading...

Finishing The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies. He can really craft a sentence. It is a very good book. Interesting, am thinking of how nationalism affects Asians differently, it seems in the UK with regards to subject matter. Of course, he is half Welsh, half Chinese, raised in England. Many of his stories do not feature Asians. But then again, there seems to be more of a class marker in the UK versus one based on ethnicity as there is in the US. Delusions of the American dream and immigration have to do with this.

Read The English Patient by Ondaatje. Poetic. Beautiful. I like his writing style. Stephen has a book of his poetry and really, this writer is very lyrical. Must watch movie again, but it does not seem to really encapsulate the other story very well. Then again, maybe movie public cannot swallow still, with ease a dark skinned man making love to a white woman.

Miscegenation possibilities!

The horror, the horror...hey, and if you can name the book the two lines come from, I'll buy you a beer. Readers, speak up.

Weeding the non-existent garden to discourage snakes...saw a lizard the other day. Ahhh...Mui Wo life.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stephen on Reuters TV!

Here's the clip:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Putt Putt Gulf , Guns, American Socioeconomic and Racial Politics and Hong Kong's too...

Ahhh....well, how should I begin? I've been thinking about this incident and believe it deserves more examination within a fictional context, but I thought I'd write if only to mull it over more myself. It encapsulates the complications of life in the US on so many levels.

Dad, Keohi and I went putt-putt golfing in Memphis. When picking up our futon, mom and I had spotted it, and Keohi also saw the course and was excited. At age 3, large fake giraffes and astroturf are very appealing. So with Dad, we head there one early AM for a day out golfing. Now this course is located in a rather unappealing part of Memphis, depressed economically, by all appearances, behind warehouses and off a freeway. I say that as a preface--so picture a rather worn out looking place with some kiddie rides--a train, bumper cars in a swimming pool, a small train, go carts set a short walk away from an indoor building holding game rooms and a small concession area. In front, the little putt putt course--three to be exact.

We walk in to find out hooray--it's one of those lucky mid week deals where you can putt putt your lil ole heart away for X dollars, plus get popcorn and a lemonade and a card that can be swiped through the machine room games so that you can play all you want. We go out, grab several balls and three clubs, one small, kid-sized. I note that this is voted Best of Memphis for Kids entertainment. I also note a few buses pulling up--probably summer school, or church camp. Groups of black kids and then groups of white kids pile out, respectively. This is Memphis, so groups are rarely integrated, at least kids' groups. There's usually a vast majority of one or the other. This has to do with geographic locations of the families, economics, church affiliation, and the big R-race.

We start the course. Keohi enjoys this. I'm kind of bored, but hey, I'm not much of a golfer. I've done putt putt about two times in my entire life. It's okay. Actually, I'm not much of a golf fan at all. I know you supposedly get a workout swinging, but golf courses produce a lot of bad environmental run-off with all of the fertilizers and then there's the golf cart business. Stephen says that real golf was invented as a game to play while walking in the woods and it can be quite entertaining in that way. I've never done real golf. Bigger turn off was seeing the caddies in Korea in the 90s. All young females, toting around huge golf bags for these older guys. Anyway, so I'm not a big golfer, but I'm not going to discourage Keohi, so we all hit the balls. Keohi mostly likes to push the golf ball in, using it like a rake, but who cares. We also stay at hole #5 for the majority of our time because there are two holes and it catches underneath in a long tube and pops up later. By hole #7 he's lost interest entirely, Dad has tried to explain how to grip the golf club to him to no avail, and so we decide to wrap up the game. We drop our clubs off outside, no one there to take them, and head inside. We need lemonade and our free popcorn. It's hot.

We pick up our free lemonade and popcorn. The interior staff are all young white kids, late teens, maybe early 20s tops. There is one young black girl, but I think she does the clean up stuff because she is not really taking orders at the counter. Hardly anyone is around. We pick up our freebies, and grab our card, get ready to play the games. Another thing I really don't like at all are video games. OK, I enjoyed PONG. How is that for dating me? That's circa 1974, but yeah, since then I've avoided all video games. I missed the pac man, star whatever, and virtual game thing. Really, such games bore me to tears, but again, Keohi and Dad are having their day out, so why not. My dad too is hardly a video game lover, so we're basically this geeky non video family out in this arcade. We throw basketballs in the hoop. I'm kind of enjoying this, because hey, I can do this game. Kind of like when I won the two stuffed toys at the Jewish temple fundraiser in 1971 in 2nd grade. And wowee, tickets are coming out. So Dad and are doing well at this. Free tickets are coming out and Keohi is getting into throwing the ball too. We do some other kind of bowling pin game and hit some machines doing a bit of this and that, very unmemorable types of games, careful to avoid the gun games. Mostly this is because Keohi has become gun obsessed despite my vigilance in terms of his exposure to guns and I'm not interested in cultivating his passion for guns.

About gun games. Actually, I've done my share of gun experience. I'm American, after all. And I've even taken a gun safety class. Let me detail my gun experience.

1) Age 10, I took gun safety at our day camp during our school's three day camp excursion event. Mom did not like that I signed up for this. I learned how to hold a rifle (a real one) and somewhere is a slide of me grinning with a huge rifle like a soldier.

2) Flash forward some 20 years later, I think I have to learn to shoot a gun as I'm going to be auditioning for a part that calls for shooting. Never happened, but to prep, I go to a gun range with my Texas friend who has a pistol. I'm sweating hah--bullets, and wondering why the hell the rifle range has bullet holes BEHIND where I am standing on the opposite side of the rifle range, and on the damn ceiling. Rifle ranges are a great place to experience a serious wounding or death due to accidents. An elderly Vietnamese lady is shooting like mad. I don't think about this. Is this wartime flashback? Who knows. Realization here: whoever has the gun wins. I hit the outline of the man, not in the heart, but somewhere, but honestly, it's not easy and it's hard to actually press the trigger.

3) Learn to aim and shoot a toy rifle at a carnival in Seoul on an afternoon outing with a hippie and masseuse former Marine who used to deactivate bombs. We met at a rave in a basement in a Seoul nightlife district. He was a hapa from Hawaii with long hair and about as far from a military guy as you could get. When I asked how he got on the bomb squad he told me that the mellow guys do this, and they get to have longer hair too, though not as long as his--he's left the military by then. You don't learn to deactivate bombs and mines unless you pass some kind of clearance and personality test because they don't want nervous types doing that kind of work, understandably. Anyway, he shows me how to line up a rifle and shoot at the arcade. I get pretty good after two games. To this day, I could probably win a few animals.

So much for guns.

To add: I don't have a problem with people shooting duck IF THEY EAT THE DUCK or whatever meat they are eating. I do have a problem with AK47s and high school rifle teams. I'm not a big fan of guns, but I realize that some people use them to procure food in the wild.

To continue:

In the back of this arcade are serious terrible gun games. It's all about killing with submachine guns and there are various young boys and teen boys playing. Keohi gets steered away. No guns, Dad, I tell him. He agrees. Keohi wants to go. I tell him that we are not a gun family, we are a book family. This has been my mantra for the past three months. It is ineffective...

We go back to the race car games. Win more tickets. Then Dad runs to get more lemonade and popcorn. I note that at the table where we have placed our things are a pile of tickets. Hooray. We can turn these in for a stuffed toy or something plastic. I walk over, figuring Dad won these, as I've fed my 15-20 or more in. I feed in about 60 more. It's not too hard to win these at all and figure Dad was on a roll. Dad returns and I stand at the counter to turn in my tickets to see what I can get and an older white man on a cell phone yells at me. HEY THOSE ARE MY TICKETS. DID YOU TAKE THOSE FROM THE TABLE?

Rude, plain rude. Now mind you, we're the only Asians in this place and honestly, Asians are the ethnic group that often gets pushed around in the context of black and white. People tend to try to physically intimidate, perhaps because many Asians are shorter in stature. I've always found this grossly offensive. I should add that many of my family studied martial arts or kickboxing as a result. So don't try to push us around.

Anyway, he is shouting, this white man at me and Dad and Keohi is standing there. He points to his kid--black kid, doesn't appear biological so my guess is adopted? Foster? Friend? and says THESE ARE HIS FOR HIM.

I look him in the eye and say frankly, hey, they were on the table, I didn't know that they were yours, sorry about that. You can take them. I wasn't trying to STEAL THEM. Actually take ALL OF THEM (I say rudely, given his barbaric behavior I am doing the you-jerk-loser voice) even though at least 30 are mine. I repeat this. YOU CAN TAKE THEM ALL EVEN IF SOME OF THEM ARE MINE. I do not shout, but feel like shouting. I am using my annoyed teacher voice. By now the guy has caused such a scene that the white kids behind the concession stand are standing still. Because what is unfolding is a very ugly scene.

We have older Asian man with accent--my Dad. We have younger Asian woman with an American accent, clearly annoyed. Me. I'm doing the talking. We have little hapa boy sitting at the table. We have grumpy old fat white guy screaming at me and talking on the cell phone. We have disaffected 12 year old rather chunky black kid in basketball shirt holding tickets.

Older white man then says, oh, oh, then take the 30. He shouts. I give him another dirty look. He does not apologize. He does not say anything about his outburst. He turns back to his cell phone and then tries to order from the concession stand. Concession stand people have seen this and know I am furious. I take the 30, turn it in for two small plastic dinosaurs. Ignore Ugly Old White Man. Young black kid feeds the rest of the tickets into the machine. The young white kid behind the counter is embarrassed. He asks me: Do you know this guy? I say: No, not at all. Then he says: Gee, he is really rude. I say: Yeah, he really was. The kid is embarrassed for me.

I remind myself. I don't want to make a scene. I am visiting Memphis. This is a nice outing for my father, who is not completely aware of everything that is happening, and my son. Dad is like that, he's kind of wandered off, thinks the guy got worked up, but can't be bothered. Dad's approach to stuff is often like this. It's the who-can-be-bothered-with-idiots-in-life approach. Not a bad one to have, but unfortunately, I am often bothered and cannot ignore the situation.

We get more lemonade, head out to the train and airplane. Really, the outdoor grounds are rather sad and dusty looking, that carny atmosphere. We approach the airplanes. Observation: the outdoor rides in the stinking hot Memphis heat, are all manned by young black kids. White kids work inside. Black kids work outside. What's new? March over to the airplane ride. Dad asks, do our passes for the day work here? Dad has a heavy Korean accent despite having lived here since 1960. My father is wearing an aloha shirt, a cap and sandals. The two black kids look at him, then Keohi. Then one bows, puts his hands together and does that fake Bruce LEe, ah-so number that I got as a kid in Iowa, to the other kid. But guess what. The kid has no idea that I saw him do that to my father?!

OK, so we are really in messed up racial land at this point. This is Memphis though, and multicultural racial solidarity is an illusion. Make that in most parts of the US, unfortunately, but really, it's better in the US than in many parts of the world. I am FUMING HOPPING MAD. The last time this happened to me I was in elementary school, maybe in my late teens and all of a sudden every memory of my father being made fun of because of his accent, my family getting hassled in Memphis or Iowa comes flooding back. I want to SCREAM at this kid and tell him he'd better SHUT THE HELL UP. But I don't.

I don't because my 3 year old wants to ride the damn airplane. My father did not see the guy bow. Only me. So I shoot the kid a dirty looks-could-kill look. And he feels, I can tell, slightly, ever so slightly, embarrassed. I was not supposed to see this. And I speak to him. And guess what, the kid can hear: I don't have an accent. So this ride, I say, can I ride it with my son? And I am curt, but polite. After all, have to be civil, what does he know? He's 18 or so. And Keohi is dying to go on the ride. And Dad is all friendly, of course. And it is slowly making the kid feel rather, well, VERY awkward. But not too awkward because me, the Asian lady, knows what he did, and is not being super friendly, but still polite.

Keohi rides it. He's having fun. We take pictures. The kid is sitting there doing the machine and Keohi comes down. We're about to leave. We thank him for the ride. Then Keohi spots the train. He wants to ride that. So the kid is not rid of us yet! God! The torture of it all! (for him) So he lets Keohi ride around and around, my guess is a little longer than usual. He's still surly, hey, he's 18, what 18 year old isn't? But he is begrudgingly dealing with us. And then, Keohi gets off and Dad, dear old Dad with the Korean accent and aloha shirt and sandals asks the guy to take a picture with Keohi. Keohi, says Dad. Take a picture with the man who gave you a ride. Stand there. Stand there. So someplace we have this photo--Keohi and this young man--not smiling, but not frowning, if anything, projecting a reluctant embarrassment. Dad thanks the guy again sincerely. I thank him. We walk away. Dad goes in for more lemonade. The counter kids give us free lemonade. They say it is because we haven't stayed long. I know it is also because they remember that old man yelling at us.

I get home and tell mom about our Asian experience--yep, got it from white and black...remembering how people in Memphis malls used to think my mother was a potential shoplifter or something in the 80s when she'd go around in the malls and all of the headaches she had when moving to Memphis. And she says, smiling, well, what do you expect, look where it's located?

End of conversation.

But for anyone who thinks that this is only in America, or only in the South, that's not true either. Here in HK, mom and I once watched as they seated every white face in the restaurant before us, despite our having turned up before. And the host and owner were Chinese. On top of that, I had gone to that restaurant with my white husband Stephen once a week if not twice, at lunch for nearly 4 months! They just didn't know who I was without him--or should I say the host that day didn't know. And then they gave us the lousy table and put the whites in front. Hello, Rosa Parks! I finally SCREAMED in the restaurant: YOU ARE SITTING US IN THE BACK BECAUSE WE ARE ASIAN AND YOU ARE SITTING THEM IN THE FRONT BECAUSE THEY ARE WHITE. SERVE US. THIS IS RACIST. The restaurant and myself ended up having a kind of peace brokered through a friend here, and the workers told me, the owner called a meeting with the staff as a result of what happened (yeah, a woman screaming that with perfect American English during dinner rush is not the best way to get repeat customers). Mom was so mad. She said, that would never happen in the US. It would, but it's illegal there, and really, it's barely illegal here. It's true, Asians are very, let's say...FREE with the bigotry...

So where does this leave me? Hmmmm....well, this kind of thing happens everywhere. I think that kid will be thinking about us for a long long time, trying to figure it out at least. A good learning experience for him, hopefully. It was a very complex situation, so many layers. That old man, he'll never get it. I think his awareness of race probably just covers the black-white spectrum. He's a goner. The white counter kids got something from it. As for the restaurant here in HK? Who knows. I went back twice, I think, with friends initiating the visit. I'm not around much in that area. Yeah, HK still has vestiges of colonialism. You get more than one group in any area, more than one type of person, and this is what happens anywhere in the world.

Ugly, but true...