Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Signing off...

Paper to write on Meena Alexander, then 60 pages due in August. So signing off for awhile unless, of course, I don't feel like it...but swamped with reading.
Thinking though of migration, expatriation, nation-building, transnationalism, and identity. HK, the former "borrowed place, on borrowed time," is a good place to ponder such things...

Hong Kong and The Poetics of Dislocation (by Meena Alexander)

Hong Kong Island life. You miss the 9:30 fast ferry by 10 minutes and are stuck on the 10:30 slow ferry. You read HELLO magazine at the coffee bar and learn that Prince William's fiancee wore a "stunning blue dress" at something or other. You eat a tea boiled egg from the newsstand and drink a latte made by a Nepalese woman whose daughter is at your son's school. You feign interest in an article on Meena Alexander in your backpack and her blatherings about dislocation. This is Meena's main thread through her oeuvre. She is dislocated. She is American. But not. She is Indian. But not. She lived in Sudan. She speaks multiple languages. Meena, you think, you have to get your butt over here because you are like every other person in Hong Kong. This is the LAND of dislocation. You wait for the ferry. You chat with a former Cameroonian and learn of the country's police state and hear the running Cameroonian joke about the police shaking down the mother-in-law. You get off the ferry and cycle by drunken Brits and Aussies at the Turkish restaurant. You look in at your son, and talk to the Indonesian helper who is a character straight from a Pramoedya Toer novel and drink a glass of red Bordeaux from the Canadian houseguest your husband knew 21 years ago in Australia. Screw dislocation and Meena's theories about confused cultures. There is nothing to be confused about. This is simply modern life in the 21st century for many many people. That's four continents of people, goods, services, ideas, politics, numerous languages and serious culture clash, in two hours. No one is pledging allegiance to HK either, except maybe, the tea egg guy. Everyone retains their nationality and sort of collides with each other, lots of bumps, but it works in a weird messed up way. Yep, this is Hong Kong. This is expatriate life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


This is how you live: nation-less,
disguising one self for another,
invisible, depending on the audience and inclination.
You subscribe accordingly:
an object of curiosity,
a subject of castigation or rumor
a being with no allegiance.
A turncoat or traitor to nation (any nation and all).
Conversant in the ways of both countries
you are a delight/pain, dependent on the leanings
left or right of Others—the white/yellow/brown horde.
Passports, languages, stamps? Who cares?
That’s for travelers and you speak
in terms of domicile, residency, property and taxes.
You belong, or want to (you think)
for convenience, expedience,
and maybe, have no choice: there is no return.

For the sake of interest, you must have a tale of danger
involving the police, a corrupt regime,
or simply a bad night out with a person
of questionable intent. The incident may be tragic or humorous.
You must also have a buried sorrow of love
You may/may not share this, dependent on
audience/amount of alcohol consumed.

There is no loyalty to the state
when it is far away, a century or more,
an overnight flight with no stopovers.
Your present culture, you inhabit on the margins
and it has marched on with little interest in you or your kind
for the length of oh-so-many thousands of years.
News of deaths and births
delivered late, if at all,
as continents are far and you have strayed
beyond borders you should or should not have crossed
in love and family and so, the question arises
as it does—of permanence
which you know changes from
country to country, depending on how the day went.

You are not sure when/where/if/how/why you will
return back home, which is one place or another
and you decide you cannot answer where this home
is unless it means the place
where you cook and eat, where you shower,
look in the mirror, figure out what laundry you have to do,
and scribble your thoughts,
which is then here, the only home
you need to have in a present
where dreams are remembrance of what you were,
tomorrow may be another country and now
is the moment where you sit and look
out the window at water buffalo
as your child chases a gecko out the door.

You amble up the path to swipe paving stones
behind the trash bin that once lined the village road
stacked up in a pile for anyone to take.
You load the stones onto your cart
side-by-side with a young woman
who grows rubber trees and dreams of birds nests’ towers
in another distant land.
Your close your eyes to palm trees
smell the lush green and the day’s heat shimmers.

There—a flash: glorious carpets of
cornfield carpets in an endless gold
dotted by weathered gray barns that call
to cerulean skies and pearly clouds
streaming the presence of a god
you abandoned the further you moved from home.

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

© Stephanie Han , 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cinderella is Pregnant Barbie

We've been reading a few different versions of Cinderella. This, combined with a few playdates with friends has sparked an interesting outcome. First, Buzz Lightyear has gone to a ball, this was when he played with his friend, Miriam. And Keohi has declared in my old beaded necklace, that he cannot go to the ball because all he has is his old petticoat. I told him not to worry, I was sure the godmother would show up pretty soon.

Tonight I played Cinderella with his doll Pregnant Barbie who sports a purple and pink minidress (Barbie has removable stomach w/baby, gift from godfather). Cinderella is missing one purple platform shoe, so the story works nicely with the missing shoe reality of Pregnant Barbie. She danced with the Prince at the ball. Prince is what you'd expect--a short squat guy, more specifically an ice cream spoon with a handle in the shape of a plump penguin. Godmother, is the other ice cream spoon--the handle in the shape of a pig. Coach is a Halloween pumpkin, and the evil stepsisters and the coach footmen are those old Fisher Price figures from my own childhood, plastic and wood squares and circles.

I was thinking a lot about re-enactments and games of imagination and how they may or may not be encouraged based on gender. I have noticed that boys are more likely to be encouraged to play games with vehicles, but that with rare exception, human and animal figure games, which would give rise to a potentially more complex level of play--nuance of emotions, situations, plots, and characters, are encouraged more in girls, simply because girls are given the opportunity to play with human figures, like dolls, and may have a larger collection of stuffed objects. This is not to say that boys don't have their fair share of animals, very often not stuffed, but small animal figures, but what does it really mean that boys are not given human replicas to play with as frequently as girls? How does that foster a certain kind of learning, and thus, a certain kind of play, and therefore, a certain type of human interaction and emotional development?

I was thinking of my friend Renee's son and how he had the Little Bill doll, and trying really, racking my brain to think of other little boys who play with dolls, and cannot think of many, if any, offhand. Keohi's first doll he really likes is Buzz Lightyear. He had another generic baby doll, but never developed a strong passion for it. Then there was a brief fascination with his friend Emma's orange haired battery doll that had a godawful song it sang (Emma gave it to Keohi, and Keohi has now passed that on to a little girl...and the girl's parent has told me he wishes the battery would die! Of course it won't. It's made in China. And toys made in China that you want to break, never break!). Anyway, I digress, but thinking of how what we foist upon our children is really gender based, one has to make a conscious effort to avoid gender based toys and it is not easy.

I actually asked him if he liked playing with cars recently, and he said no, and his cars now seem to serve a function for the other human or animal figures and don't exist as a toy in and of itself as much as they did a year ago. It's all about imaginary play now and the interspersing of a few films with book plots and random events. And guns, he got a gun for a birthday gift. But after its limited play arena (ask for it, an adult takes it out of the bag, then you play with it alone because you can't shoot the sponge bullets at anyone, especially mom, and let's face it, he's an only child so who else gets to be shot at in the house?) he grew tired of it. That said, there was a lot of pretend gun stuff on the playground a few weeks ago, and he's always doing the Buzz laser to me, so his interest in annihilating someone like his mom has not totally left. I also know that pretend guns do not necessarily lead to real guns. I played with a water gun. I have not killed anyone...yet.

The other day Keohi was crying about something and Stephen said, don't tell him not to cry. He'll get that all the time as a boy, and it's not healthy. Boys have to cry too. I said, what about the fake cry? I've told him that there's crying for a big thing and then crying for s small thing, and Stephen said, that's confusing, just don't say don't cry. I thought about this and still try to reason with Keohi about this, but I'd have to agree with Stephen here. There is a way that people treat boys that can be quite different from how they treat girls. Very complex. And saying that boys don't or can't cry is such a wrong thing to do, but it's done all the time in very subtle ways.

I believe the last time someone said something inane to me about boys and girls with regards to my son, I finally said this: OK, you tell me, you want your daughter to marry a jerk who expects her to cook, clean, take care of him, and thinks she is less simply because she is female? Or do you want her to end up with a guy who thinks she's an equal and can talk to her and respects her? That's what I want my son to be.

Women are often the primary caretakers and are most definitely responsible for creating ideas of gender. And they say the most outrageous things! And if I hear one more person blather about how boys are genetically programmed to like automobiles or girls the color pink, I really will eat the person for breakfast! AUGH.

Looking for Feminist Mothers in Hong Kong. Are you there? I feel like I'm in a goddamn desert sometimes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tokyo Winter, 1996

We walk and laugh, snug in down-filled coats, yours gold, mine pink,
hold sweet potatoes, bite the chestnut flesh
as steam fills the night.
Tucked in my wallet, stickers of our faces framed in aqua and purple
animal cartoons. For this, we waited two hours in line
as the world in Technicolor filled my eyes.

In my window, the bluish glass bottle from the robotayaki,
my son shakes it when he enters the room,
a small marble trapped in the neck
a permanent curiosity. It has moved through
three countries, a decade of different homes.
I can’t remember what I drank,
in that noisy nook of light and sizzle,
only I loved the shape, the smoothness of the glass,
the tiny sphere, a hard globe that rolled from side to side.
Your friend gallantly presented it,
a token of drunken flirtation and kindness.
And then the four of us climbed in a shiny black car,
a fast spin through the night streets
and there and then we could all feel
the raw possibility of love and surprise.

I heard your voice a few days ago—the fear and sorrow,
the hope of clinging to what we know.
Ordinary lives we share: work and husbands, sons and parents.
This is what we are. Across the oceans and years
we have confessed compromises
laughed with regrets, wept in disappointment
and promised to meet soon. Yes, we will meet soon.
I watch and read: earthquake, tsunami, nuclear explosion.
I think of you, my friend, and how this world
collapses, of what we seek in memory,
of dreams that promise refuge
of streets that wind past to a future
we could never imagine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Toy Story and Buzz Lightyear (formerly known as Keohi)

Oh boy, Toy Story fanaticism is in full force. Our child does not want to be called Keohi, but Buzz. And has started to introduce himself as Buzz. He also tells people that he is a toy. Hours are spent re-enacting Toy Story (1 and 2, he has not seen 3, but was sent 3 as a book). A girl at school told her father that Keohi thinks he's Buzz Lightyear. Stephen has started to call tie-in products EVIL because such things have prompted a level of material desire for Buzz Lightyear/Toy Story anything that is fairly unprecedented in our household. Santa brought the Buzz doll, and he got the costume from us (Yes, he spent one night sleeping in full regalia, with purple hat on. It fell off and at 2AM he asked me to put it back on, no joke.) He got a lot of Toy Story stuff for his birthday--books, stickers, pencil case, Woody figure, pajamas, T-shirt, erasers, pencils, pens, not sure what else, but I feel like we have a lot of the stuff.

We have a houseguest from Canada visiting. This means showing Uncle Guy around a bit. I was a little freaked. This is what happened.

Keohi: Uncle Guy, do you want to see my TV?

(TV! He wants to show him our TV! What?)

Keohi goes upstairs and Guy follows. I trail Guy. Our TV is on Stephen's desk, behind a bunch of stuff. Not bad viewing from one end of his study. There's a blue line down the middle of the screen and it's not that big, but it's our first TV we've ever bought, so it's really much better than the one we inherited from my grandmother which was circa 1988, which was the only other TV we ever had...

Keohi shows him the TV and then walks over to his father's cabinet. He carefully opens it and takes out the DVD copies of Toy Story 1 and 2. He holds the two DVDs very delicately.

Keohi: This is Toy Story. This is the one with the Beetle baby in it. This has Zerg. This is the other one. These are the DVDs.

Guy smiles...what else can you do? A four year old dressed in Buzz LIghtyear outfit is showing you his most prized possession--the DVDs. Weird...

Guy: Those are the DVDs. Wow.

At this stage, I am thinking that I really learned my lesson, to control the flow of tie-in products of other franchises and films. I was more cautious about this before but kind of didn't think too much about Toy Story for some reason, and now I am mother to Buzz Lightyear. If he can't play with someone who has some products he doesn't have, it causes hours of misery. It's intense. I do not wonder what my child is doing when he is talking to himself in the corner because I know--he is repeating all the lines from Toy Story 1 or 2. Our houseguest is fairly amused by this.

A few weeks ago Keohi asked when he could have ANOTHER Buzz Lightyear doll. I said to him, "When you get a job, you can buy a Buzz Lightyear doll." He keeps talking about how he's going to get a job and do just that.

And it has led to strong feelings.

Keohi: My friend X, said my Buzz pants looked like pajamas! (Anguish, great upset)

Steph: He did? No, your Buzz pants look like astronaut pants. X is just being silly. Don't worry. You look like Buzz. He probably just liked your Buzz suit a lot.

All I can think about is how my sister at age 4 was a Farrah Fawcett freak. She had the cup, a red bathing suit, Charlie's Angels baseball cards--though I'm not sure she even watched an episode.

Signing off--Steph, mother of Buzz Lightyear...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Time passes

Wow. I feel it. People I knew are now dying...or rather, they have died. I am getting old....