Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reasons We Write Letters

A few nights ago Stephen and I were talking and he said, remembering when he came so many years ago to HK, "This was essentially an apartheid system. I had to make a conscious decision, as a British person, as a white person, how I would negotiate it. I couldn't stand most of the attitudes here. And everyday, it's (still) my obligation to educate or to start conversations or to show people or to demonstrate on some level a different way of thinking."

I agree, but it does get tiresome. But...still, one goes on. After all, the choice otherwise is to shut down completely (my frequent choice) or to join up with the narrow-minded, or to just get pissed off (another frequent choice of mine). Sometimes it is hard to be level-headed.

So, Keohi attended, briefly, a one week, two hour a day theatre camp this summer. I thought about writing this letter a long while before sending it. Mainly because, frankly, I was feeling apathetic. Why should I bother? It's a camp, he will never attend again. And it's the American South and entrenched ways are hard to battle. But I decided in the end to do so. Why? Because the camp and the people were nice and community minded. So they deserved to know...maybe what people might not tell them ordinarily. Anyway, in the US, these are simply issues that children of color face. By now, I might have more of these issues if were were not in ASia and/or if Keohi was not attending a local Chinese school.

We face these complications here too, but the dynamic is different as there becomes the strange issue of living in a relatively new (1997) post-colonial society. And the majority is, of course, Asian.


The Letter to the Community Theatre Camp...

Hi XXXX,

Since I am now again overseas, I probably should be taken off the mailing list and will simply look up what is going on before we visit next summer. I wanted to thank you for your summer program. I believe that Keohi enjoyed it.

I hesitated to mention this at the time, but decided to do so as however sensitive this may be, I think it may very well be an issue in the future given the changing demographic of the XXXXXX community. What was once an all-white community when my family first moved to Memphis in 1980, has shifted as much of the population of Memphis has also changed. I was a little taken aback by some of the children's theatre casting decisions. As an educator (having taught K-12 and now university) and having studied acting, I am aware of the complications of casting, but figured within the context of a children's theatre, that there might be a few considerations regarding how such decisions are made.

I'm speaking of James and the Giant Peach, which we attended with Keohi after the summer school session. It was a charming production. The children all did a fine job, but of course, myself, as an Asian American, I could not help but notice that the roles of the two "ugly" sister/aunts were played by young girls of color. They were both, rather visibly, the only minority presence in your cast. I realize that they both had fairly good physical acting abilities, though at times, the diction of one girl was not as clear as some of the other cast members. Casting is complicated and requires not only the problem of skill level, but especially with children's theatre, one must take into consideration the diversity of the audience. Yet, the message sent by having young minority girls play these roles in the context of an otherwise all-white children's theatre production is uncomfortably clear and sends a not-so-subtle message out to the audience, mainly one of children and their families.

There are, of course, a multitude of studies done on standards of beauty and attraction and role modeling. I'm fairly certain that even the girls themselves might not have noticed that their roles as the "ugly" sisters were not an indictment of their own status of young girls of color, but I would hazard to guess that looking back as adults, they may potentially rethink how they came to form opinions of their own physicality as young girls. Such casting may also reinforce ideas in impressionable minds who not only participated in the project, but who watched the show. Children and many adults often do not understand differing standards of beauty and appearance, and the complexities of images of television, theatre and mass media, and how this shapes our ideas of society, beauty, and women.

Again, overall, it was a truly enjoyable production and I thank you for your time and consideration. Keohi enjoyed the camp and the show very much. We hope in the future, to attend further productions of the XXXXX theatre group when we come back to the States for a visit.


Cheers,


Stephanie

Monday, August 22, 2011

Historical Novels

Finished The Known World by Edward P. Jones. A brilliant book. Beautiful prose and the fascinating subject of black slaveholders in the American south. This book should be taught everywhere and tells the reader more about American history and the complexities of the American multicultural society better than most.

Am now reading I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita. A zippy great read of the Asian American movement from the 1960s. The political movement of Asian Americans is quite unique and created a radically different environment for Asian Americans in the US as compared to most other Western countries.

The Chinese diaspora has been making its way to the West, and the Japanese, for that matter since the mid 19th century, but the 1960s created a platform of academic study about the community that widely influenced how Asian Americans perceive themselves and negotiate American society.

They expect full participation in American society and have contributed on that level moving beyond the confines of their own community and much of the Confucian baggage of obligation to the immediate circle instead of societal that can often plague Asian communities overseas. While the East Coast of the US now has as many Americans of Asian descent as the West, the communities are entrenched differently and have not defined the local wider culture in the same way as Asian Americans have on the West Coast.

West Coast Asian American signing off...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Announcements Necessary

Today I hit the Mui Wo playground. The swing set area. It stank of urine.

Oh, for crying out loud. Do you have to let your kid PEE in the playground? The ground tiles absorb the pee. It just reeked. I've actually seen and know of parents who have let their kids pee around the playground (city services, call out to you--install a bathroom, please) in the grates.

And before you ask--no, such parents are not only of Asian extraction...everyone gets desperate, especially small children, but at least go by the bushes. Geez.

So I take back my previous post. Maybe people here DO NEED announcements constantly blaring!

Here are my suggestions to make HK life more pleasant:

1. AVOID URINATING or DEFECATING ON THE PLAYGROUND/POOL/BEACH. USE PUBLIC TOILETS.

2. DO NOT SPIT. ESPECIALLY IN FRONT OF SMALL CHILDREN. THEY WILL IMITATE YOU AND THUS PERPETUATE THE LEGACY OF SPITTING.

(Do not laugh about this--tuberculosis has been on the rise in HK)

3. DO NOT LITTER.

4. BIGOTRY NOT APPRECIATED. FROM EITHER SIDE. FROM ANYONE...THAT'S RIGHT.

(As they said in LA back in the day, No Color Lines...or as my cousin said, Assholes Come in Every Color)

5. SMOKING SUCKS

6. PICK UP YOUR DOG POO

7. WHENEVER POSSIBLE, PLEASE TRY TO USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.

(Hello, global warming...)

8. MASKS ARE NICE BUT THEY DON'T WORK. STAY HOME WHEN YOU ARE SICK.

(HKer are perpetually sick as a doctor told me, we are at the epicenter of international flu and cold bugs--proximity in Guandong of fowl, swine, water, and humans make us beginning point of every bug in the world--us and Mexico)

9. THINK OUT OF THE BOX

(That's right, if it's not in the instruction booklet you were given on your first day of work, think how you can still make something work.)

10. HAVE A NICE DAY

(People here need this sign. All of the signs indicate a level of confusion and misery or general chaos as they are so directional)



Saturday, August 20, 2011

Announcements over loudspeakers

I'm back and forgot about this aspect of life...one of my least favorite aspects of life here in Hong Kong. Yet it is a very integral part of life here in Hong Kong that I think people might want to know about back in the U.S.-- there is no such thing as a quiet day at the beach, a silent swim at the pool, or even a day on a school playground WITHOUT a loudspeaker constantly going. The announcements are made on the ferry, on the train, and in nearly every public place you may step. The announcements are not confined to an auditory assault, but also are visually present in the form of signs announcing everything from instructions about warming up before swimming, to not peeing in the pool, to how to wash your slippers before stepping in the pool shower, no playing music on the beach etc...

I can only compare this to having FOX News channel blaring in your ears continuously, or a kind of rolling announcement of a natural disaster running across your screen.

I'm not sure what can be done about this type of invasive noise. What's interesting is that members of the society are trained to think that this is normal from a very young age. There are blaring instructions made over a loudspeaker, even in Keohi's one room schoolhouse on days where there are parties or other events.

Today's non-peaceful swim reminded me of going to a movie in Seoul in 1977, the national anthem coming on and the entire movie theatre standing up when the flag came on.

Indoctrination. The imposition of rules. I know it happens in every society. And maybe, given the influx of people, it is somewhat necessary (what would happen if they stopped the DO NOT POOP IN PUBLIC POOL stuff? Horrors....) But there's no subtlety about public instruction here in Hong Kong.

But I think that a constant barrage of noise and signage telling you to do this or that has got to affect the psyche of people. If you are constantly commanded what is the result? Obedience? Or do you just ignore it all?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back in Mui Wo--end of summer 2011

Back in Mui Wo. For the first time ever, my plane landed about 45 minutes early. This meant me, Keohi, four 50 pound bags/boxes, 3 heavy carry-ons and some serious logistical maneuvering. Just sign me up to a shipping company. Greeted by the bovine blocking the road by the swimming pool and then Keohi and I just wait on a curb. I am back in Mui Wo. So of course I sit on dried cow poo...heat is coming down. It was a 14 plus hour flight that started at 1:20AM in San Francisco. I feel like vomiting because of the taxi ride, as I do after every taxi ride from the airport.

I think to myself: "How did I get here?" (meaning Mui Wo)

The answer: Completely randomly. If I had not been walking down the street in Lan Kwai Fong in 1997 the night before Handover, I never would have ended up in Mui Wo. Let's face it, one does not grow up fantasizing about a life in Mui Wo...not usually, though it's been interesting enough.

Some hours later, I fall as I bound down the stairs to greet Stephen. Was wearing socks--who knew a wooden floor could be so clean? My ass/back is bruised. Stephen greets me with this: "Ah, the calamity that is my wife."

Yes, I am back home. Jetlag meant we were up at 2AM. It was a good and productive trip. CA a good stop. Keohi caught his first fish (trout) near San Gregoria past Half Moon Bay, picked a Fuji apple, visited the fire station and a Japanese tea garden in San Mateo.

A good summer...coming to a close.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Keohi and the Tofu Fa Uncle

This is a little late, but the photo of Keohi staring at a beloved bowl of Tofu-fa, a dessert of tofu with ginger and sugar, is one of the images I will carry in my mind of his childhood. Unfortunately the Tofu Fa Uncle, or Tofu Fa Man--both monikers we used, died several weeks ago. I tried to explain this to Keohi, but it will only sink in when we return to Mui Wo and he searches for the Tofu Fa Uncle himself and does not find him. Still, the past several weeks, after I told Keohi, he has been pretending to be the Tofu Fa Uncle, scooping out pretend tofu with a pretend paddle, from a large wooden teacake carrier my parents had bought from Ho Chi Minh years ago. It's tall and worn and wooden and dark, which is a fair enough resemblance to the Tofu Fa Uncle's pail he would carry around Mui Wo, filled with fresh tofu.

I admittedly let the Tofu Fa man's dessert spoil more than one meal...anytime we saw him, I'd buy some, and often for Keohi's friends, if enroute to a playdate or if kids were coming over, all of whom seemed to eat the tofu fa with equal gusto. It was a Mui Wo childhood village pleasure and it seemed to also be an interesting demarcation in terms of eating habits--the kids who downed that tofu dessert usually ate more Asian food, of course, and I'd hazard to guess, among expats at least, rolled with village life in a different kind of way.

(I had the unfortunate and sad experience of being met with a OOH YUCK glare from one expat kid when Keohi was eating his treat, the father, of course, trying his best not to poo-poo my child's eating pleasure and ignoring us when I had said that Keohi liked it. The mother tried to be polite. Yawn. All I could think of was memories of being mercilessly teased for eating Asian food as a kid in Iowa and I hoped that Keohi didn't notice her reaction. Luckily he was too involved in eating to care. I used to be embarrassed eating things like dried squid when I was a kid, but the one thing about Keohi being in Mui Wo is that he can eat all of that stuff with utter abandon and pleasure, and for the most part, not suffer people's narrow-minded bad culinary habits--to think that people pass it on from generation to generation is truly pathetic. Anyway, too bad this family missed this part of village life.)

I digress...

Anyway, it got to the point where we had started to carry around a little plastic bag with a spoon and bowl, when we went out, though for some reason, we always ran into him at times when we didn't have it.

As Stephen said, Keohi will have sticky sweet memories of this part of his life in Mui Wo.

Keohi first tried the dessert a little over a year ago. We were biking and noticed our friends Margaret, with her daughter Miriam, and Margaret told us to try some--it was delicious and a fave treat of her daughter's. So he did and had been hooked every since. I feel lucky to have done this or we might have missed out too. Myself, I carry memories of my father taking me to the Buffalo Zoo every weekend and buying me Cracker Jacks (carmelcorn and sugary peanuts with a small prize in the box). Keohi will carry this one, I think.


RIP Tofu Fa Uncle--you made a lot of village kids very happy and they were lucky to experience this part of Hong Kong life that is slowly giving way to fast food and candy from 7-11.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Serendipity in the Rhodes College Library

So earlier I had mentioned I had bought a Kindle to read some academic text, Specifically, a book on narrative theory called NARRATIVE FICTION: CONTEMPORARY POETICS by Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan. This book is available for 110USD or for rental online for 30 days for about $5, plus a conversion fee to Kindle, another buck.

Let me say this: it is a significant book, but it is not exactly a page turner. And given my work, it has been, more or less, a source of angst for a few weeks. Mostly because it is hard to stay awake while reading ole Shlomith's work. Sorry, Shlomith. I know you are a brilliant scholar, and this is a very significant book, but this book is just not the most fascinating read, if I do say so...

So today was my last day at Rhodes College library (beautiful small liberal arts college library in Memphis where I have borrowing privileges). It was a great day. I was thrilled that the book I wanted was about to be shelved and the librarian caught it in time for me to make a page number notation. (those damn page numbers) And then I was perusing the for sale for 50 cents shelf, and what do you know--next to a book on Marxism and Formalism (which I also bought) was Shlomith's oeuvre! It was a divine moment. I felt I really scored with this book for only 50 cents.

I got this kind of pleasant feeling though, about Shlomith's book, and me searching for this everywhere and then finding it right in Memphis. An ole worn copy. So much better than the Kindle version. And then, there was this feeling about the amazement of minds meeting. (Mine is far smaller, so maybe just my mind hanging on to Shlomith's...) Here's Shlomith at the University of Jerusalem, author of this rather old book by theory standards (1984) that is still relevant to me, at City University of HK, some decades later. This is the magic of books and the library...reading across time and cultures and places. Connecting mentally in a space, through words. Reading has always been a place of sanctuary for me, even when faced with .... sigh... the likes of Shlomith's works. So I figured there was some kind of larger meaning to this finding of her book at the library...

Avoid the Kindle?

Always check the library book sale items? (Very dangerous in certain places...we had SO MANY BOOKS in storage before coming to HK as we were swept up in the fever of library book sales...most gone now to a drug rehab center in LA)

Shlomith--don't underestimate her?

Maybe a little of all of it. Thinking hard today about libraries though and how one goes in and out of them and certain books, reading them in the library.

For some reason the book I really remembered was reading THE WOMEN'S ROOM by Marilyn French when I was 13. That was mind-blowing. I sat reading it on the floor of the Iowa City public library and was FREAKED OUT by what the reality was for most women. It as at that point in time I declared myself a feminist, actually, though a broader and different perspective on the nuances of feminism would come later. That book, is true, now, I am sure, dated, to some degree. But I was slightly reminded of it, in terms of content during part of the period I was at home with Keohi. Women's lives can become very narrow and that is not in a positive or a negative way--just narrow is all.

Anyway, ruminating on libraries. I invite anyone to share a library story and to post...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Quotes of the Week

"Mom, are you ready for me to be a teenager when I grow up?"

"There are NO doughnut shops on the moon, okay?"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kindle and I Pod Shuffle and gadgets

So not only have I entered the technology era and use the Information Superhighway, but I recently have two new tech things in my possession, adding ultimately to the vast floating barges of waste in the ocean, or at least landfill mess.

I got an IPod Shuffle. A gift from my mom. Pink. Very cute. Now to figure out how to music on it. This may take me another three months, but I got it to try to help me exercise more. Yes, back in the day, I did have a Sony Walkman. Remember those? And versions of it with radios or whatever and used this to run or rollerblade. The shuffle is for sitting on an exercise bike or to use in the Mui Wo gym. This gym needs some biophilia action, or at least some kind of decor update. The plastic plants are a downer and one does not feel inspired in this kind of place. It would behoove the powers that be, whoever updates the gym, to take a brief look on the internet at Southern California exercise facilities. I know people are proud of the aerobics photos on the wall from the 1980s, but they fail to motivate.

Kindle. AHA. Had to get this. We've been a Kindle-less family and it has been the source of heated discussion in our household. We swore never never to buy a computer reading device. But I did. I was overseas and noted that a lot of the materials were online for my research and thought it would be cheaper than buying all the books. I was sort of right. I would have had to pay $110USD for a book on narrative theory (yeah, that's just flying off the shelves! whoo eee!) but instead rented it for $5. So that in itself was worth it. But THEN (here's the caveat, aside from how long it took for me to figure out how to turn the thing on and off) there are no page numbers issued! A disaster for an academic book. Then I had Kindle transfer my PDF to fit a Kindle--a PDF of another academic book. It was what, 50 cents, or a dollar? But when I booted it up, the font was so small I could hardly read it. I tried to read it, simply as a matter of proving that I didn't waste my money, but it was impossible. So ended up being hunched over my computer to read that book.

Kindle--jury is really out for me. Not sure about its use given how I like to read books in the tub, spill drinks on it and stuff them in my bag. And the page number thing makes it not good for academic books--though Kindle assured me they were telling publishers (I called to complain). They have good tech support though. Big plus.

The one tech object EVERYONE should own who writes is a KINESIS KEYBOARD. I was obliged to buy another here given the state of my hands with RSI/carpal tunnel and the writing I had to do. We have two others in our household, though Stephen doesn't use it quite as much as I do.

This is a LIFECHANGING keyboard system. Any other keyboard is just a joke. This curves to the digits of your hands. I had 3 of the older models in the past and was such a fan they asked me and I wrote a testimonial about my belief in the Kinesis product.

I have pointed several people to this keyboard and I recommend it to anyone who spends time on the computer of any length.

As for other gadgets or appliances I have enjoyed this summer in what I have called The Suburban Palace (my parents home in Memphis):

A. Dryer

(Keohi also enjoys helping with pushing the buttons and doing laundry)

B. Coffee Maker

(Mr. Coffee is pretty exciting, but just went back to the Italian press after I ran out of filters. I'm cheap and they're not great for the environment)

C. Answering Machine

(OK, we have one in Mui Wo. I just haven't figure out how to work it. We've had it for 6 months)

D. Car


E. Car Radio


F. Exercise Bike

(This is like the ones in the gym. My mom got this some years ago when she had a problem with her hips, now solved by pilates. Anyway, a good 20 minutes of sweat whenever you feel like it is convenient, not that I have gotten wildly fit or anything)

G. Ceiling Fans


H. Teller clerk phones in Target

Wow. In 60 seconds after you put the phone down a salesclerk will come to help you. And it is 60 seconds. American service is usually very good, case in point.

I. CD player

We have our IPod connected, but it's nice to pop in a CD. Or maybe I should just figure out how to use the IPod one year.

J. Automatic Ice Cube maker

K. Dishwasher

L. Garbage Disposal

M. Garage Door Opener (this is with the car)

Well, the list goes on. But what I realize is that these are pretty much bog standard aspects of basic middle class life in the US, especially in the suburban areas or outside of major metropolitan cities. But such items are not easily used, acquired, or thought of in other parts of the world.

So, do I miss this stuff?

It's fun, but now I think about how to get that stuff fixed in Mui Wo. Talk about hell.
So forget it. Also, I don't think about it.

We got our SUV (Our 3 wheel passenger bike with canopy plus storage below!), our fleet of bikes (3, plus 2 kids bikes), and we've now owned a TV, our very first one we bought ever in our household. Most of the other stuff just doesn't come on my radar at all in HK...if it's not around, you don't miss it.