Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Monday, May 31, 2010

Child Brides Escape Marriage, but Not Lashes (New York Times)

Child Brides Escape Marriage, but Not Lashes

KABUL, Afghanistan — The two Afghan girls had every reason to expect the law would be on their side when a policeman at a checkpoint stopped the bus they were in. Disguised in boys’ clothes, the girls, ages 13 and 14, had been fleeing for two days along rutted roads and over mountain passes to escape their illegal, forced marriages to much older men, and now they had made it to relatively liberal Herat Province.

Instead, the police officer spotted them as girls, ignored their pleas and promptly sent them back to their remote village in Ghor Province. There they were publicly and viciously flogged for daring to run away from their husbands.

Their tormentors, who videotaped the abuse, were not the Taliban, but local mullahs and the former warlord, now a pro-government figure who largely rules the district where the girls live.

Neither girl flinched visibly at the beatings, and afterward both walked away with their heads unbowed. Sympathizers of the victims smuggled out two video recordings of the floggings to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which released them on Saturday after unsuccessfully lobbying for government action.

The ordeal of Afghanistan’s child brides illustrates an uncomfortable truth. What in most countries would be considered a criminal offense is in many parts of Afghanistan a cultural norm, one which the government has been either unable or unwilling to challenge effectively.

According to a Unicef study, from 2000 to 2008, the brides in 43 percent of Afghan marriages were under 18. Although the Afghan Constitution forbids the marriage of girls under the age of 16, tribal customs often condone marriage once puberty is reached, or even earlier.

Flogging is also illegal.

The case of Khadija Rasoul, 13, and Basgol Sakhi, 14, from the village of Gardan-i-Top, in the Dulina district of Ghor Province, central Afghanistan, was notable for the failure of the authorities to do anything to protect the girls, despite opportunities to do so.

Forced into a so-called marriage exchange, where each girl was given to an elderly man in the other’s family, Khadija and Basgol later complained that their husbands beat them when they tried to resist consummating the unions. Dressed as boys, they escaped and got as far as western Herat Province, where their bus was stopped at a checkpoint and they were arrested.

Although Herat has shelters for battered and runaway women and girls, the police instead contacted the former warlord, Fazil Ahad Khan, whom Human Rights Commission workers describe as the self-appointed commander and morals enforcer in his district in Ghor Province, and returned the girls to his custody.

After a kangaroo trial by Mr. Khan and local religious leaders, according to the commission’s report on the episode, the girls were sentenced to 40 lashes each and flogged on Jan. 12.

In the video, the mullah, under Mr. Khan’s approving eye, administers the punishment with a leather strap, which he appears to wield with as much force as possible, striking each girl in turn on her legs and buttocks with a loud crack each time. Their heavy red winter chadors are pulled over their heads so only their skirts protect them from the blows.

The spectators are mostly armed men wearing camouflage uniforms, and at least three of them openly videotape the floggings. No women are present.

The mullah, whose name is not known, strikes the girls so hard that at one point he appears to have hurt his wrist and hands the strap to another man.

“Hold still,” the mullah admonishes the victims, who stand straight throughout. One of them can be seen in tears when her face is briefly exposed to view, but they remain silent.

When the second girl is flogged, an elderly man fills in for the mullah, but his blows appear less forceful and the mullah soon takes the strap back.

The spectators count the lashes out loud but several times seem to lose count and have to start over, or possibly they cannot count very high.

“Good job, mullah sir,” one of the men says as Mr. Khan leads them in prayer afterward.

“I was shocked when I watched the video,” said Mohammed Munir Khashi, an investigator with the commission. “I thought in the 21st century such a criminal incident could not happen in our country. It’s inhuman, anti-Islam and illegal.”

Fawzia Kofi, a prominent female member of Parliament, said the case may be shocking but is far from the only one. “I’m sure there are worse cases we don’t even know about,” she said. “Early marriage and forced marriage are the two most common forms of violent behavior against women and girls.”

The Human Rights Commission took the videotapes and the results of its investigation to the governor of Ghor Province, Sayed Iqbal Munib, who formed a commission to investigate it but took no action, saying the district was too insecure to send police there. A coalition of civic groups in the province called for his dismissal over the matter.

Nor has Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry replied to demands from the commission to take action in the case, according to the commission’s chairwoman, Sima Samar. A spokesman for the ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Forced marriage of Afghan girls is not limited to remote rural areas. In Herat city, a Unicef-financed women’s shelter run by an Afghan group, the Voice of Women Organization, shelters as many as 60 girls who have fled child marriages.

A group called Women for Afghan Women runs shelters in the capital, Kabul, as well as in nearby Kapisa Province and in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, all relatively liberal areas as Afghanistan goes, which have taken in 108 escaped child brides just since January, according to Executive Director Manizha Naderi.

Poverty is the motivation for many child marriages, either because a wealthy husband pays a large bride-price, or just because the father of the bride then has one less child to support. “Most of the time they are sold,” Ms. Naderi said. “And most of the time it’s a case where the husband is much, much older.”

She said it was also common practice among police officers who apprehend runaway child brides to return them to their families. “Most police don’t understand what’s in the law, or they’re just against it,” she said.

On Saturday, at the Women for Afghan Women shelter, at a secret location in Kabul, there were four fugitive child brides. All had been beaten, and most wept as they recounted their experiences.

Sakhina, a 15-year-old Hazara girl from Bamian, was sold into marriage to pay off her father’s debts when she was 12 or 13.

Her husband’s family used her as a domestic servant. “Every time they could, they found an excuse to beat me,” she said. “My brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my husband, all of them beat me.”

Sumbol, 17, a Pashtun girl, said she was kidnapped and taken to Jalalabad, then given a choice: marry her tormentor, or become a suicide bomber. “He said, ‘If you don’t marry me I will put a bomb on your body and send you to the police station,’ ” Sumbol said.

Roshana, a Tajik who is now 18, does not even know why her family gave her in marriage to an older man in Parwan when she was 14. The beatings were bad enough, but finally, she said, her husband tried to feed her rat poison.

In some ways, the two girls from Ghor were among the luckier child brides. After the floggings, the mullah declared them divorced and returned them to their own families.

Two years earlier, in nearby Murhab district, two girls who had been sold into marriage to the same family fled after being abused, according to a report by the Human Rights Commission. But they lost their way, were captured and forcibly returned. Their fathers — one the village mullah — took them up the mountain and killed them.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Voted in California and the Hong Kong Art Fair

Sending in absentee ballot. That took me 3 hours to get through. California has one of the world's largest economies (was #7, I think) even though it's just a state, so as a Californian transplanted, I feel somewhat obliged to participate in the local elections.

Went to the Hong Kong Art Fair in Wanchai with Keohi. It was great. He loved it and I would say that it was one of the best events he has experienced here in Hong Kong that I too could equally enjoy. He swam in the blue room installation put up by the Indonesian art gallery (someone asked if he was doing performance art) and drove a fake car next to the real car covered with birds and chinoiserie design. He also liked the milk powder covered car. Cars are a big theme in Mainland Art. Must be due to the number of automobiles. Nothing like pollution to make people feel like they are progressing as a a video installation of the paneled Asian screen--by Lee lee Nam, a Korean, he really liked watching the snow fall, the cat's tail wag. Oh, so Hong Kong. There was a watchmaker showing at the art show. Well, in all fairness, there was a microscope set up so he liked viewing that, even if it was simply to have a closer look at the machinery. Geez can't believe people try to hock a watch at an event. Or did I miss the meaning. Was it making fun of people who wear expensive watches? Oh, I only wish...There was lots of anime kitsch stuff too from Japan and Taiwan, mostly stuff that is so boring and overdone. Exotic in the West, but here, really unbearable for its ubiquitous presence. And of course, some really truly awful macrame knit type of birds from where else--San Francisco? Sometimes it's really embarrassing to be from California. Some of the most boring stuff was from that gallery.

A good contemporary art exhibit with lots of installation work and sculpture is an excellent way to expose kids to art. He likes the temporary exhibits set up around town and crawled in the one by the Central Ferry pier a few times. I always stop for that stuff and am surprised that more people don't. I guess they want their kids to learn how to spot real Prada or something, so hurry off to drag them to the mall. I rarely ever see kids participate in public artwork displays as they would back in the US. I think it's new here and have come to the conclusion that people who know about this stuff who are Westerners here, wouldn't be that interested in having their kids participate in it. Certain types...

The first show and only other real art show he has been to other than that was in Los Angeles. He was only several months old and he went on Mother's Day with my sister and my cousin to the Women's Art Retrospective, a feminist art show, at the contemporary museum. He loved it--lots of ceiling pieces looking like his mobile, I think. I don't miss traffic in LA, but I do miss really good exhibits hitting town and some decent collections. I also miss talking about art and creative expression. Since LA was more of a town based on the film industry (though I am not a fan of that), the basic interest level in such expression was probably higher, and the average Joe had some passing interest in it. Here, the average Joe has a passing interest in real estate prices and the stock market index. There is a big difference in attitude. When I went to the art fair I realized how much I have been STARVING FOR SOME VISUAL or MENTAL STIMULATION in that way. STARVING FOR SOME DECENT conversation about ART. And I am not talking about the bad Asian version of Monet crap with people running around in silk clothing, the beautiful faux lotuses and Chinese women giving a docile smile as they wave a red fan against a butterfly background. GROSS. TASTELESS. BORING. YUCK YUCK YUCK. Give me the overblown milk powder car. The neon of mice running up the wall. It's fun. Some of it may be junk. But god, at least you know some brain is out there trying to express and create. Sure, a lot is hype, (that ugly macrame bird was around 5000USD, really, damn tasteless), but it also allows people to have some conversations and the fair had some stuff that moved art beyond the purpose of being an interior design product.

I love the water buffalo and green, but everyone needs some interesting provocative human man expression to inspire. Last time I was in Hong Kong I'd hit the galleries, mostly crap in them I must say, really, but that's also due to a lot of buyers here with terrible plebeian taste, but I now vow to get off the rural island a little more.
We will go next year. Wish there was a contemporary museum here, I know that they are planning one. Knowing Hong Kong it will have a Gucci boutique over it.

OK, time to prep the ballot. If anyone visits next May, we'll go to this event.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Few Words About Flatulence

And this entry is about the first definition having to do with the alimentary canal, not the second--which is about elevated or pretentious speech, according to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary).

This subject comes up and is clearly an area that is a source of embarrassment to many people, mostly Westerners, or Western oriented people. 'Farting', 'flatulence', 'wind', 'gas' and any other of those sorts of words, is an area where we see true cultural conflict.

Koreans call a fart a "Pahngoo". They even have a word for people who fart a lot, not farthead, but "pahngoo jengy." Now an individual who talks a lot is called a "pseuda jengy" so my Korean is not good, but I think the suffix "jengy" probably means "excessive" or "frequent."

My family was one that greeted farts with loud laughs and the occasional, hey, it stinks! But, mostly it was just viewed as a part of human biology, nothing to get worked up about. Everyone does it.

And my father told me: "A family who farts together, stays together." Translation: A family who is relaxed enough to fart together, laugh about it, not get worked up about it, is probably one that is comfortable around each other. So they'll stick together.

My sister reported going over to another Korean friend's house and piling into the car. The father farted and then stuck his rear end out the window while all the kids and mom laughed. Yeah, people call Asians uptight, but hey, I don't think I've EVER heard of a Western family doing that. So really, how we define "uptight" needs, well, redefining...

My friend from your standard WASP background from prep school told me she never heard her mother fart. Ever. In her entire life. That's 40 years. Wow. I said, gee, what would she do if she had to do it? Mysteries of life...where does Mom fart?

Our approach to Keohi farting is usually to greet it with laughter. He's Korean in that way. In other ways he's Western, but we're going with the Asian side about flatulence for a healthy attitude about bodily functions. I've started to sometimes add, "Excuse me for farting" but I don't want to overdo it. It's mostly because I realize he will not be completely around other Asians. And may have to deal with Western attitudes about I did.

Grade 1 in Marin County. Me...story circle time. Steph lets out a huge fart. What can I do? I'm 5. The teacher stops reading the book and announces that whoever did that must apologize to the entire class. RIGHT--LIKE I AM GOING TO DO THAT? So she waits. Story is stopped. Everyone waits. A few people around me stare, as if that will pressure me to apologize. But the longer she waits, the more I am determined not to say anything. So I sit there. Silent. Look ahead. Ignore everyone. Flush bright pink, I'm sure...and so finally, the teacher must resume the story.

Moral of the story: Don't assume everyone has the same attitude about farting. Shaming a kid is not the best way to explain etiquette. And finally, never mess with a stubborn Korean. Even one who is 5 years old. If it's a contest of wills, very few can out-stubborn the ole Koreans...

My son has a book of Korean Folk tales. The very first one features a tiger who farts. This story is called THE PIPING TIGER. I have copied it here:

"pilipili, ppilili, ppilili"

One day a young man was walking along the street playing his pipe. "Oh, I am getting sleepy. I'd better take a nap." The young man slept snoring under a tree.

Then something happened! A tiger was sprinkling water with his tail on the sleeping man's face. "Oh my god! What a disaster! What should I do?"
Pretending to be asleep, the young man thought what to do.

"Oh, I got it! What a good idea!" The young man stuck his pipe in the tiger's rear end. The startled tiger let out a fart. "Ppilip Bbung..Ppilili Bbung"

The tiger, more startled by the piping sound, began to run off like a wind.
"Ppilip Bbung..Ppilili Bbung"

But as the tiger ran faster, the piping sound with the fart became louder and louder.

All animals in the forest laughed out loudly. "Hahahaha, a pipe in the tiger's rear end!" "Hohohoho, a fart with a pipe sound." So, the tiger became embarrassed and ran off deep into the forest.

The end.

This story has illustration of a little musical pipe instrument stuck in the tiger's rear end...

And so goes my son's education and his development as a hapa child.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Reread this book. It's been over 15 years. Great lively read and interesting structure with the recipes and food. I love reading about food. I was wondering about some of those recipes. The cake--no mention of baking soda or powder or yeast. How did it rise, exactly?

Then I was thinking about life with no electric mixer...Strong arm muscles required for baking.

I'm on mixer #4 due to geographic upheavals and constant moving.

Mixer #1 bought by my mother, Mixer #2 bought by myself at a yard sale for $5, Mixer #3 bought by me from Target, Mixer #4 bought here in HK, I think at Fortress?
Some people say that they feel they must have a salad spinner (yes, I have one of those too), but without a mixer, I can't bake. I've imagined myself as some prairie woman in the 19th century baking away in my calico number as I've tried to whip up some cream or butter, (leftover from reading too many Laura Ingalls Wilder books), but the result was poor. Really, how did anyone whip anything without getting tendonitis?

This also made me think of Barbara Kingsolver's book. Something about the protagonist. People like plucky heroines. Then thought of some unlikeable characters--in Susan Sontag's Volcano Lover, or Timothy Mo's Sour Sweet.

This book is a recommend. But gee, I'd think almost everyone had read this by now? It was a very popular read in the 90s. If you have not read it, I'd read it. I think there's even a movie about it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Recommended Reading: The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee

The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee. By far his best book. Beautiful. Sharp. Intense. I'm very impressed.

I had been thinking about him and Kazuo Ishiguro and here we see how Lee's vision and talents really unfold. I had slightly favored Ishiguro, but with this book, no.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Outdated Forms and Online Systems

OK-I have a beef. Tried to get my ticket online from Cathay. Serious issues. First of all, many Asians have hyphenated first and last names. This is CATHAY PACIFIC. They don't allow for hyphenated names. OK, well there are yep, a BILLION CHINESE PEOPLE with HYPHENATED NAMES CATHAY. GET WITH IT.

Secondly, many modern families have children or spouses, mostly women, with HYPHENATED last names. My son has the last name Aldred-Yoo. Now the hyphen is important. It means it is joined and that the name in full includes both last names. Some people do not hyphenate, but that is a little sneaky. That would mean that one name, usually the wife's name, can be pushed to a middle name. Whether or not my son intends to keep both names is his own business. But right now legally, he has both names.

Some HK ID forms are really outdated esp. linguistically. They say you must check a box that says SPINSTER if you are a single female. There are many negative connotations with this term.

Then there's the MRS problem.

NO, I AM NOT MRS. ALDRED. That's my mother-in-law.

I AM MS. YOO or MS. HAN (my pen name-my mother's birth name) or MS. HAN YOO.

HELLO HK. Many people have adapted and use the TERM MS. I AM NOT A MRS. ANYTHING. SORRY. This is 2010. The MRS. term is REALLY OUTDATED and very retro. Amusing in that sense, but no, please address me as MS.

And I never see MS.

Since when should we reveal our marital status on basic forms when men aren't required to do so?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

South China Morning Post Insight April 30 2010 p. A17

My Mui Wo School story ran side by side in the SCMP with a piece from the Christian Zheng Sheng Association. Here it is in a slightly different form. I will upload the picture eventually.


It’s 4AM and you’re probably asleep, but a 14 year old boy in Bui O, Lantau has already begun his long day which includes a grueling four hour commute. He will travel by bus to Mui Wo, ferry to Central, and MTR to Mei Foo, Kowloon for an 8AM start and may return home as late as 9PM, collapsing in bed after homework and a snack. The next day, the alarm sounds, and it begins again. His father, Edwin Pun, 56, says, “I would prefer to send him to school in Lantau, but I have no choice. By the time he gets home he is worn out; he’s tired. No time for friends, no social life, no family life. It’s not much of a life in that respect.”

Far from unusual, this is a typical commute for many students the South Lantau district (which includes Peng Chau). Around 700 students commute from two-four hours a day, and families may spend upwards of 1500HKD a month on transportation. Children as young as eleven commute long distances, putting an immeasurable stress on families who have no choice but to send them far from home. Health, academics, social and family life inevitably suffer. There are untold stories of fatigue along with transportation disasters that have endangered children’s lives. These include one youngster falling overboard from a ferry, and the many who are forced to make their way home on their own after dark.

Yet the logical solution of opening a secondary school in South Lantau with a population of 18700 with over 3000 full-time students, remains clouded by government bureaucracy and politicians who refuse to acknowledge that places in distant schools do not serve the needs of a diverse and thriving community. By 2014 the area’s population will be 21000, but it has no local secondary school. Further compounding the community’s challenges are that one-third of the students attending local schools are non-Chinese speaking. While the privileged may afford ESF, South Lantau’s median monthly income is around 10,000HKD a month.

So why are the needs of this community being ignored? Firstly, the government has used incorrect statistics to bolster its argument against community interests. Contrary to the claim that South Lantau has only 50 primary six students, each year over 100 students in the educational district graduate to secondary school, the vast majority of whom would choose to attend a local secondary school if it was one that served their needs. Government statistics also fail to take into account geographic location when measuring population growth. Families are moving to Lantau for clean air in droves and the area’s birth rates are over 30% higher than they were a decade ago, defying Hong Kong’s trend of a decreasing population.
Secondly, government states that the previous secondary school was shut down in 2007 due to lack of enrollment, but refuses to acknowledge facts. This gravely mismanaged school had nine headmasters in 10 years during the 1990s and resident requests to design the school to meet local needs were ignored by the authorities.

Finally, government has seen that in difficult times, it is best to give a nod to popular sentiment without deep probing, instead of leading by pragmatic analysis, numbers, and long-term vision. The press savvy and extraordinarily wealthy Christian Zheng Sheng Association plans a school that would serve 200 students at its maximum and wields more clout than a Mui Wo school that can serve 1300 students. Locals have no objection to Christian Zheng Sheng College’s mission. They only ask this: Why must the community’s one secondary school be seized by a large outside organization that has 17 location choices across Lantau and millions of dollars behind it?

Plans for Mui Wo’s school have been drawn up by noted academics and both local and international school teachers. To meet student needs it would be able to run both Chinese and English classes, and have an environmental focus to maximize its rural location. Educators, parents, and community leaders are dedicated to building a 21st century school and to fully participate in Hong Kong’s plan to be a regional educational hub.

South Lantau locals lack wealth and political clout, but they remain steadfast in their belief in the sanctity of family and education. People here prefer bikes to cars, watch cattle amble through the green, and listen to drums from the village squares. Merchants know residents, neighbors watch each other’s children, and the playground is filled with the sounds of Cantonese, English, Tagalog, and Putonghua. A microcosm of Hong Kong, South Lantau residents understand this: a solid community based education changes the lives of all residents, unites everyone in its mission, promotes family unity, and is by far the best method of drug prevention around.