Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Feeling somewhat obliged to continue the on and off discussion we've been having since Keohi was about 18 months about gods and ghosts, I offered this up, given it is Christmas season:

Steph: So, Christmas, some people think, is the birthday for a baby. Uhm...some people believe this is a birthday for a god. They think that this baby Jesus is a god. Other people believe in the gods like you see in Tai Tei Tong square in the temple.

Keohi: And I believe in Zeus and the gods.

Steph: Oh...ok. (I had forgotten about our discussion of Zeus. But let's face it. The Greek gods are pretty exciting. Sort of like superheros, after all.)

Keohi nods...memory of the recent story of Hercules is clearly more interesting than any discussion of Jesus or the gods of Tai Tei Tong village temple. Fair enough. Hercules, depicted by Disney, that the storybook that contains various stories inspired by Disney movies. Stephen hated Mickey Mouse and the Beanstalk. (Keohi has not been to Disney. It is a non-subject in our household.) The Disney book has been removed from his bookshelf.

Keohi: But why is Hercules showing his nipples?

Steph: Because he isn't wearing a shirt.

Keohi: You think he feels cold without a shirt?

(This is an indirect reference to Tarzan. Once inside, Keohi's latest thing, actually until the past few days, has been to peel off all of his clothes down to his undies, beat his chest and declare he is wearing a loincloth and that he is Tarzan. However, given that his Santa Claus outfit was just pulled out today, we may be leaving that character behind. He tried to go to bed in his complete Santa outfit plus big bag of toys over his pajamas.)

Steph: Yeah, I'm sure he gets cold.

Religion 101 conversation over...potentially revisited at a later date...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lick Hang Boyz in the Hood

Here's a picture I took today of Keohi with his pals biking in Tai Tei Tong square, as they often do, in the late afternoons during the week. They were having fun, racing bikes, pretending to be astronauts, yelling and shouting, swapping helmets and running, as the old grandmothers and grandfathers looked on, and their child minders (myself included) called out: "Do not crash into each other!" There was a good deal of dodging swerving bikes, the usual water bottle break, Baa Siti and myself telling the boys not to jump on and off the ping pong table, and the chaos that ensues when another boy hops on his bike and rides over to join the fray.

Respectively, the boys are Keohi, Marvin, and Ace, all of them in the K2 class in Lick Hang Kindergarten, a 30 second walk from the square.

Looking at this picture, as we approach the end of the year, I feel more assured that we made the right decision for our son to attend the local kindergarten next to our house. Every parent has a different idea of what type of educational experience she wants for her child (or his, but am using the feminine pronoun here...). They also anticipate through their choices, a certain educational outcome. This picture is a reminder that for Keohi, I hope, it will slowly come together and unfold in a positive way. We wanted him to speak Cantonese. We wanted him to have local friends. It's happening...slowly.

It has not been an easy situation for him or for us as a family. We've had our ups and downs about the entire educational process because of his personality, because of our backgrounds, because of our ideas that we practice and hold about how a child's education and life should unfold. But, we made the decision very early on in our house, that since we live here in Hong Kong, he must learn the local language. This would be key to him feeling that this was his home.

And, significantly, but often forgotten in such discussions about children and language, while this was a British colony, it no longer is. As a result, there are a wide range of feelings about the position of English speakers in this city. The relationship between the native speakers and non-native speakers of English is complex, and part of this complexity is Hong Kong's colonial past. English is the currency for those who aspire to a certain economic class and job, but it is still a Cantonese society (Mandarin, of course, the national language) and Cantonese, as complicated, impossible, and difficult as it is to learn, for an outsider, is what the locals speak.

I see from this picture, that slowly, that Keohi's sense of belonging to a community is taking hold. This is a good thing. Through language, he is becoming part of a community, in a way his parents will never be able to claim membership. And through him, we too, as a family, are slowly being pulled along. With a British father and a Korean American mother, and a household that speaks English only, if not breathes in English, (we're both writers), it would be easy for Keohi not to speak a word of Cantonese. (His father speaks more than I do. I've had and still do get lessons, but my Cantonese is abysmal.) I hope with the knowledge of this local language, he will take something more, something I will probably not understand or even comprehend, from his childhood here in Hong Kong. Language, is how we define who we are, what the world is, understand life...Expression...

I see this photo and think how lucky he is to share his childhood surrounded by linguistic diversity. In this picture are two friends, Marvin, a local, who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin and some English, and his other pal, Ace, an expatriate child who speaks Bahasa Indonesia and English (Scottish parent). Front and left, there's Keohi--the monolingual English speaker, (with a few words of Korean and Hawaiian).

As an expatriate American (four generations via Hawaii, Korean American) with an Asian ethnic background, and one who has worked extensively in education, contrary to general perception, I had and still do have complicated feelings when it comes to the differences in local and international or Western schooling systems. While Mandarin is the national language and undoubtedly important, we live in Hong Kong and Cantonese is the language of this city's people, not Mandarin. To be a part of the rhythm and life of this city and this region of the world, to call this province, this city, this village, his home, to understand what his early childhood was about, he needed, I felt, to have a basic command of the language. That said, I know why many people do not choose a local school for their children, for any number of reasons. It's hard. It's different than what we know in the West. Part of me worries about the unknown outcome of a system I know to be so polar opposite of my own educational ideas, but for now, at least, I know it was the right choice for him.

No matter where he ends up in the world, he can look back at his early childhood, and know that he belonged, in a profound and powerful way, to a little village on the South China Sea. Why? Because the language you speak, is often the language of your home. And as much as expatriates wander and travel, knowing you have a home is a very important thing indeed. It gives you the power to leave it. The power to return and better it. The power to understand who you are, and the world you belong to. Hong Kong, for now, is this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reading and Writing

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

Really interesting and accessible book. Creative and thoughtful. I must recommend.

The Chomsky-Foucault debate on Human Nature

Would rather have read this with someone else. This belongs in the category of books you need to read with another person so that you can discuss the ideas. Reading this alone does not allow for the same kind of synthesis and dynamic experience.

Writing: I am behind. But I need to read more -- before I write anymore.

What else? Lots of VERY BAD chick lit books for my chapter on chick lit. I actually cannot believe HOW BAD some of this stuff is... I can't even get through it. It's really painful. How can people publish this stuff? Let me put it this way: Bridget Jones Diary reads like the poetry of Keats if I compare it with the stuff I am reading.

Reading old editions of Oxford American. Some good writing. Especially from the old classic Southern writers--Flannery and the like.

Also for mental health escape--my Poetry magazine subscription. I've been reading poetry to escape chick lit (now this says something, I know), lit crit, online news, and life in general.

My entire life, when I have fled the rigidity of logic, I have turned to poetry for some respite and mental health....entering again, one of those phases...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lazy Sunday Diving at the Mui Wo waterfall

Well, one of the reasons I like living in Mui Wo definitely happened today. I was so tired, but any attempted nap was thwarted by Keohi throwing pillows at my head, stacking blankets in a pile and jumping on them from the bed. So much for lazy Sunday afternoons. I have hazy soft focus memories of this Sunday indolence, but it's not happening with a 4 year old. So we decided to head up to the waterfall instead. Keohi packs up his scuba diving gear and we hop on the bikes and go. No car seats, no shopping mall destination, just a bike and a walk and we're there. Tried to explain that scuba diving at the waterfall was probably not so easy, managed to convince him not to use the fins, but that was about it. He put on his wetsuit top, kept on the corduroy pants and T-shirt, and stuck the snorkel in his mouth and mask on his face. The HK tourists were looking a bit, but given that many show up with serious winter hiking outfits (wooly socks, big vests with deep pockets for provisions etc...) in the middle of the summer, they took it all in stride. Keohi had a good diving session, then met a fellow villager who told me she read the blog. Miracle. Someone out there reading it. Nice to know sometimes you are just not writing into the Black Hole of Cyberspace...

Oh I wanted to comment, as I often do, about childhood or aspects of child rearing based on what is happening with Keohi. Since this blog will mostly serve as his own record of what was happening in the far future, I figured that's fair enough. At least he can know my perspective on things and what and how I attempt to negotiate his childhood as his parent.


OK, this hasn't really come up yet much. Not that much...there was a little incident yesterday though, so I have been thinking about it... He's still in the preschool phase of life, but I suspect it may rear its ugly head much earlier than one would suspect here.
I really can't stand it and cannot let it go as simply a normal aspect of childhood.

Bullying is damaging to the victim. As an adult, I know that bullies are often very troubled children who have learned this type of behavior due to their surroundings and express their own hurt through aggressive behavior, but as a former victim of bullying, I really think parents need to look out for signs of bullying and call bullies and/or bullies parents' out on this. It's not about learning to tough it out on the playground. Most kids need the support of their parents to help them through this type of challenge. They might be provided with tools about how to talk to or how to avoid a bully, when to involve a teacher or adult, or a little physical self-defense (for all those who suspect their child may get bullied, I strongly advise martial arts lessons--it teaches physical self-confidence. I'm biased, I did it and taught it, but it's true, it can help smaller kids navigate a tough playground)

Within the situation of bully and victim is also the possibility of a third very important player--the empathetic child. The empathetic child will see what is happening and may also learn an important lesson about human power struggles and relationships. Empathy is one of the most important and difficult skills or qualities to cultivate in a child. Sympathy is quite different, though also necessary to have as a developed rounded person. An empathetic child, is a compassionate child--one who will learn and understand what it means to be human, what it means to participate in the grand scheme of human relationships. An empathetic child will think about community and groups quite differently, and is most likely to develop a one on one relationship that is based on a mutual understanding. Empathy means you can not simply see, but you feel what the other person is thinking or going through. To be empathetic, however, is to make yourself vulnerable to the difficulties and troubles of humankind, which may be painful, but think of what kind of society we would have if we were all a bit more empathetic? The third player, is often the friend of the victim or simply stands in solidarity with the victim or who also, in the worst case scenario, also suffers with the victim, as he or she knows what the victim feels.

When I was a kid, part of the reason I was picked on was because I stood up for other people, but to not do that? I would suffer the repercussions of my own guilt and that simply was not how we were taught to think. We're connected was the message that my parents tried to impart. If people suffer discrimination, bullying, or what have you, you cannot just stand aside. You have to take a stand, or you're one of the people who is doing the bullying. I will say frankly, to live like this means you are usually on the outside of whatever is going on. But there are many people who are on the outside who think the same, and in the end, you can only live with yourself about this.

So this ramble just ends up a ramble...with me thinking I will soon be telling my son, "It's okay to be different. It's called thinking outside of the box. It's called standing up for something. It's about living a life of meaning and prioritizing what is important: humanity."

It's tough out there...but in the end if you know someone in your family stands behind you, you can get through it all...the challenge of growing up...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mui Wo Halloween Video

This Mui Wo Hallowee video by Andrew and Ivy Wood is a nice depiction of the community.

Stephen as Red Devil.
Keohi as Spiderman #2.
Steph, cameo appearance (flip flops and ankles)

Monday, November 7, 2011


Mom made one of her yearly whirlwind (this time) tours. Given mom's age, you'd think she would slow down, but I'm still trying to keep up with her. So I was the one who got sick, vomited from motion sickness, felt tired from the bus and the smog and the markets, and she was the one, still wanting to walk, shop and everything else.

Things have improved much since her last visit (fall 2010) in our lives overall, so I felt different about saying goodbye to her, but the distance is long, as any expatriate will tell you, and to know that your child is living far away from his or her grandparents (in Keohi's case, both directions--Europe/America) makes one reflect upon the influences of various generations on a child's growth. My grandmother lived far--in Hawaii, while we were on the Mainland growing up. And my other relatives in Korea. Visits were infrequent. We were a modern nuclear family--kids and parents. No grandparents. No cousins, except on visits.

Also, was thinking about my parents' household and the climate that my mother created based on her own varied interests which were everchanging and never dull. She was, until very recently, (with my father) the type of person who threw regular parties for 50 people featuring string quartets in our living room. There were people from all walks of life who entered our house--of every ethnicity, background and country of origin. People from various countries from Asia to Africa to Europe came through to work in my father's lab or simply visit and my parents loved meeting and hearing about everyone's culture and experience. Growing up, I remember being entertained by once, a play performed at the bottom of the stairs, adults dancing to whatever pop tunes, watching from the top of the stairs as they played a parlor game, and always, classical music from of course, the children in the neighborhood, every one of whom was expected to have played, or did play a string instrument. Randomly there would be Korean fan dancing, Hawaiian ukulele from someone, and my father singing along to some opera at a very high volume. Mom would throw down Korean or whatever type of food and people in general, had a good time. They learned from each other. They had fun. They tried new foods. They laughed. My parents could make magic happen in their living room.

Only several years ago, I had someone tell me that they learned much from my parents, from the parties they threw, from the people they invited into their homes. While my father was and is an active research scientist and physician, my mother's educational and other projects were outreach of a different kind, but as I understand now as an adult, no less significant. It takes a special type of person to introduce lives and worlds to people, to have people meet and intersect and enjoy each other. I certainly do not have this ability, nor do I have this patience, but mom enjoys it and does it well. From her, we learned to appreciate food from every culture, art, music and intellectual exchange. My father is about scholastic pursuits and achievement and outbursts of creativity. My mother is about seeing that in life, there is an art to the everyday.

Thanks Mom.