Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Typhoon Signal 8 and HK family time and Wall Street

This means Hong Kong shuts down. So a nice break for us. We get to eat dinner as a family during the middle of the week. This never happens other than on weekends or holidays. This type of crazy schedule is not unusual here in HK and simply accepted as normal, and a typical example of the long hours in HK. Granted, Stephen's occupation means terrible hours, but his seem to top the list of most expat families I have met, unless one parent is doing something like working in Macau. And many expats are on the road traveling, so again, this too interferes with family time.

I realize that my childhood of 40 years prior of my father coming home in time for dinner at 5PM was most unusual. My father loved his job and was very committed, and works still now at the age of 76--active in his research and patient load, but people did eat dinner with their families.

Ever wonder how computers were supposed to make our lives better? How we were supposed to have more time for each other, for creativity, for simple contemplation of life? Nope. As the world gets faster, we require longer hours, destroyed labor unions, and have now convinced ourselves that work is our reason for living. It used to be living was our reason for work.

I had some students some years back telling me that their ambitions were to work for Google. Why, at Google, you could eat all of your meals there! I told them that the fact of the matter was this: sure you could, and this may be very convenient. But companies are not stupid. You can get and demand more from your employees if you provide such things. Now, you can stay all day at work. Eat a meal, and then work some more! Hooray! Woudn't it be better if you just knocked off from work at Google or wherever else you were working at 5PM? Arrived at 9AM? This was a cause of a bit of reflection and then one of the boys said to me, okay, you've now destroyed my dream job illusion. Glad I did. Hopefully he's smart enough not to get suckered into that and has a job that allows him to have another life OTHER than the company he works for.

Protests on Wall Street! I have to admit, I never thought I would see it happen. Well, hard to move the capitalist system, but I'm impressed.

Back to family time... What I find paradoxical is that this idea of the Asian family being of primary importance is rather mythic as opposed to a reality-based idea. For many in Hong Kong, work hours are so long that people are prohibited from having a "normal" family life and I read a year ago that the average father spends about 12 minutes per day with his child. For our family, such precious minutes occur in the hour before Stephen takes the 8:05AM ferry. While he gets ready for work, bathing, changing, shaving, Keohi and I eat breakfast on the little Korean style table on the floor of our bedroom. I found that this was the only way we could actually have some kind of time and interaction together as a family from Monday-Friday.

Family, in importance and how it is perceived in Hong Kong (not necessarily with us, but from what I can perceive in general here) is not about time spent with family, I'm beginning to think, but just a drive to survive or provide for your family. I see many people and hear people talk about family this or that, but the truth is, how much time is spent with family? Not a helluva lot if you count the hours. Then again, given the work hours this is maybe just how this is for expats and locals. I actually don't believe that the ideas of how we measure family priority can be really compared easily across cultures. There's a different way of framing family in terms of a network and an idea of the construction of a child's self. Not sure if HK people can brag that they are more family oriented though compared with Western countries. Family time or contact time here seems rather minimal for most. And children are folded into the idea of family in a different way, as part of the overall unit, not, as it is in the US, at the forefront of the family unit. My European friends tell me that this is very American. Perhaps. Anyway, this idea of how children are perceived would explain the lack of facilities for children here, like parks, gardens, and educational opportunities that are recreational.

Anyway, Typhoon Signal 8 was good for us. We ate dinner together. A family.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Young Children and Competitive Sports

I am not a fan of this. At all. To add, I am not a fan of teaching a kind of athletic competition at a young age at all. Case in point: the swimming lesson parents.

I will save the details of ethnic and national identity of this family because should I mention it, they would be easily identified. A few weeks ago, mom was at the lesson screaming GO GO urging on young (age 8?) boy to beat the other kid in their semi-private swimming lesson. HOW INANE IS THAT? There are two kids in the lesson and you're screaming at your kid to GO and SWIM FAST and RAH RAH and BEAT the other kid during a swimming lesson? Lady, you have seriously weird ideas of cultivating friendship and swimming skill. Then tonight, ole dad was in the pool, doing the same thing! Unbelievable. These people are MESSED UP. I will not reveal any more but to say that anyone like that should definitely not have a family as they do, and they are headed for some serious messed up identity issues in the future. I can just imagine them yelling at their kid in the future: CONFORM CONFORM. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? Enough said.

Then two weeks ago I see an old Brit (was beer in hand? can't recall, but wouldn't be surprised, this is Mui Wo, after all) chant CHELSEA CHELSEA in the ear of a one year old child. Perhaps it was not a beer. Perhaps it was just a burp I overheard.All I could think was GET ME OUT OF HERE. What? You want the child to evolve into a football (soccer) hooligan?

Let me explain to a few Americans. It would be like someone chanting at your son, uhm I dunno 49ers, or COWBOYS COWBOYS. To a one year old? Is that all there is to life? Is that supposed to be endearing? I think if anyone chanted that to Keohi Stephen would really be disturbed (same with CHELSEA CHELSEA). I would madly bike away.

I'm all for fighting childhood obesity and being physically active, but I'm finding it odd that simply because I have a son I'm expected to a) understand this sports obsession and embrace it and b) be interested in sports. There are many people in the world who like physical activity, but who don't necessarily participate in terms of watching or playing organized team sports. Sports kids can like include kickball, tag, swimming, rollerskating, biking...later kayaking, scuba diving, rock climbing, mountain biking, martial arts. Sports do not have to involve a ball to be legitimate.

My friend who has a son in the US told me she completely bowed out of attending any athletic stuff for her son because she couldn't stand the whole vibe. So her husband has to go if he does do any sports. I know I am not alone in this, but here it sure feels like it. And it's probably me, but I start to get these body memory sensations of deep anxiety, kind of the feelings I used to have in Iowa when I was 8 and mentally tortured by athletes who scorned any kind of imagination or difference. Sports do not bring out the best in everyone, a certain kind of sports, that is. The promotion of a certain type of sports or attitude of competition can cause normally balanced people to hyperventilate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

In Memoriam: To Those Who Die in a Distant Land (2011)

To Cecilia

In Memoriam: To Those Who Die in a Distant Land (2011)

Late spring news of the first death: an email
written by a mourning spouse.
Mad (mentally ill and vehement)
she died broken, riddled with cancer
like her father decades before.
Insane, her psychiatrist mother did nothing.
She believed in the elusive and the impossible,
like violets sprouting from the wall,
floor lights on her shoulders.
Colors poured from her brain, but the crop withered with neglect.

Prompted by news of the first, I indulged and clicked,
the modern search for a past.
A second death. A blog. A eulogy.
She, a stone pure and hard.
Softness petrified, bent and sharp, refracted in light.
Oh, how she shimmered and clawed.
Dry wit, flirtatious eyes, beautiful slender fingers that moved with shadow puppet skill.
Her ruthlessness came and swiftly departed, and always, a strange repentance.
Yet these moments gallop by: hikes and poetry on a grassy hill,
a brave drive through a deluge,
laughing in the cold air of Venice,
clapping to flamenco through the night.
California, long ago.

Celestial creatures make difficult friends, bewitching
and paralyzing mortals, they squeeze and suffocate in the name of love,
tidy collapsed and strangled bodies strewn at their feet twice a day.
Later, such women sip fruit tea and lacquer their nails.
They wield a blunt lance. It punctures steel,
drives a black hole in a helmet of reason.
Such bellicose belles howl and never surrender.
Parentless, childless, friendless, middle-aged
at their final bedside: a cousin, a partner.
Like moons in a darkened sky, some court clouds that obscure,
cultivate people like constellations of light,
or crawl into caves hell-bent on anonymity and adulation.
Cliffside acrobats, they push you from behind, watch you fall,
clean grime with sanitized wipes.
Lead the way!
They teach the pointlessness of it all,
the futility of dignity,
revive and resuscitate through mirrors and art,
the delicacies of cannibalism.

These deaths from a dimension I no longer open.
I have left the continent and memories are reduced to scents of chance,
Footprints of sand disappear and distance means tidal forgetting.
Before lives were compressed to bytes,
stored and exchanged from wire to screen
we had to let them go.
In modern purgatory: we search, boot up, click to find.
Memory and past endlessly surface.
What is death and mourning? An accident of geography, biological misfortune, conversations between those who knew you,
a shift in money and belongings, a knowledge of suffering abated.
I too wait and avoid.
In middle age, I no longer live by impulse
am hostage to yesterday’s diaphanous grip,
to burning sticks and twigs, pyres that call to the sky,
thick sweet incense, a black silk dress stored in mothballs.

Before I tuck into permanent night
I take a direct flight home.
Quiet, I break the sound barrier, move past gravity’s pull,
retrieve the lost and abandoned
float in stardust higher and farther.
A woman of no god and no faith
I mourn through my pen.
My cells collapse, gingerly step in lines around my eyes.
I exchange perceptions for light
abandoned by a twist of love
by the memory of nothing
by the memory of more.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Opened the sliding glass door and spotted one. Screamed and then ran up the stairs, of course forgetting to close the glass door. Stephen came down and killed it with bamboo. Every since the cobra was on our doorstep I have become, admittedly, completely irrational about snakes. Then heard only a week ago that a cobra was in Keohi's teacher's house and she had to get a neighbor to kill it. Then several months ago, that our neighbor spotted a python on our path near our house. Stephen said a little snake was in our house and went out a few weeks ago. Snakes!

Hawaii has no snakes. Yet another reason why I will prefer this tropical locale to other tropical locales. Growing up in Iowa, there weren't a lot of snakes around--everyone said to avoid water moccasins, but I never saw one. Before coming to Mui Wo, my most recent snake story was the one I heard of a rattlesnake encounter in Arizona.

At age 3, my father was a doctor at a camp for kids one summer and there I held a boa constrictor, but since that brief amphibian-lovin' summer I have had little fondness for them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Execution of Troy Davis

It just happened. There are ways that China and the USA strongly resemble each other. Both have and use the death penalty, both silence dissenting voices in the name of supposed expediency.

Life in the American South is not easy if you are non-white, not that it is easy if you are white, actually, because discrimination and the longterm legacy of slavery and racial injustice affects everyone. Living with fear, shame, and guilt, living alongside poverty and racism is not easy for anyone with a conscious mind. It's not about being white, it's not about being black, it's not about being any particular ethnic group;it's about being an individual who yearns for a society that is just and democratic.

The execution of Troy Davis, the many who sit on death row, the numerous wrongful convictions, the accepted level of violence and poverty affects every American, and non-American, really.

Oh, humanity...Troy Davis, rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mid Autumn Festival 2011 and Musings on a Small Village Victory

I will post the photos soon, but this was a very good Mid Autumn Festival...Keohi was even one of the winners of the Lick Hang lantern festival contest. I'll post a photo of that. We drank a lot of milk to get those octopus was an Octopus Lantern. Specifically, a Giant Pacific Octopus lantern.

Mid Autumn festival this year was the first time that Keohi could really enjoy the event. Tuesday night we headed down to the playground and Fion, Tiffany's mom, a former art teacher had prepared a lovely evening for the small Mui Wo kids. There was a shadow puppet play, a brief explanation of the different types of special Mid Autumn foods and fruits, and then the lighting of the lanterns that floated up to the sky.

I didn't actually hear all of the shadow puppet play, but it was all in the spirit of the genre as actually, this particular genre does not follow traditional narrative structure. What may actually transpire in most shadow puppet plays, and certainly in the play I saw in Bali, are a series of short scenes, some linked, most not, and this upends the narrative expectations of the stuck-in-the-three/five-act structure audience that all of us have come to be, inured as we are by Hollywood films and novels. So to these who want to break out of the rut of standard literary narrative--go to a shadow puppet play! This one was no exception, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Then came the explanation of fruits and the like--I suddenly understood WHY there were so many pomelo lanterns made at Keohi's Lick Hang kindergarten. Pomelos for lanterns are a bit like pumpkins and jack o lanterns. They are carved up, fruit eaten, and maybe pieced together with wire to make a lantern design. Back in the old days, people might not be able to afford paper and so would use this special fruit for this purpose.

Then was the lighting of the lanterns. Big paper ones that went up and hopefully did not come down until the candle part was all burnt off. I can only say that these lovely things are a firefighter's nightmare. I think that these would be great to light anywhere, but definitely you'd get a citation and fine if you would ever dare to light one of these in the US, given the way they might just land anywhere. We watched these ascend from the playground and the beach.

Then, the bike back up to the Tai Tei Tong village square. The big BBQs were scattered about the square and the stage was set up and little Gin Ho was dancing, as were a few others from Lick Hang. A big evening. Keohi carried his panda bear lantern, saw his former teacher Miss Yeti and ran around a bit with his pals. A good time. We went in quite late.

A good evening in Mui Wo, made special by someone who wanted to share her cultural background with others. We were lucky to be a part of it.

As for small village victories.

There was really only one. And it just happened. HOORAY. CLP will NOT install the light at the back of our house! HOORAY. Stephen wrote to them, we discussed this with the village head, we tried unsuccessfully to get others this would affect to agree and to also voice their opinion, but in the end it happened. Yes, independent individuals can make a difference. Yesterday I went and knocked on our neighbor's door to get a yea or nay about the light. The older local neighbor who has been here forever admitted that he put in a request for a light years ago, before all the houses were up in this neighborhood. Now there is too much light streaming in his house. So he told the village head today that he too did not want it!

I'm pleased about this for a few reasons.

a) It's an environmental blight that was stopped simply because we voiced our opinion. Imagine if CLP went ahead with this unwanted streetlamp and it blared all night long for the next 50 years or more. How much energy would be wasted? If you believe in environmental change you have to voice your opinion about it. Light pollution in HK is terrible.

b) If you want to be a part of a community, then it shows that you have to participate, and if you participate by voicing your opinion and caring about what happens, good things will come your way. People can be silent because they feel that this is not their home country. But environmental pollution knows no national boundaries. It is a problem for everyone--we're all on the same planet. We voiced our concerns and I'm very glad we did.

Now we just have to get rid of some of the lights that are already ON.

The only way to improve things is to stand up and say something or act upon it. You know what is crazy? People say, oh this isn't our country, so we can't. But there are things that are beyond national lines that you have to stand up for. The environment. Fairness and tolerance to human beings. Certain ideals are universal. I think that it just boils down to this--are you the type of person that stands up for things in your home country? If you really are, then you will remain that way. But if you never were, then you won't here, but you'll just think that you are different because you are now an expat. But you're not. You're the same as you always were...yep. Wishy washy. People don't change unless there is a very good reason to do so. And HK usually doesn't give people a reason to change for the better. Here people become more insular and as a result of wealth due to lower taxes and the status bestowed upon individuals by virtue of speaking English, usually more narrow in thought...that's just HK...signing out.

Pleased and proud to be from a member of the vocal family from Sun Lung Wai...

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Ten Years On

Overseas here in HK, this is not the big news story, of course, that it is in the US. Nevertheless, it is in the news. The anniversary of 9/11 remains significant given how its aftermath affected the world--a two front war that has resulted in thousands and thousands of casualties that effectively, solved nothing and divided nations and people. Then came economic recession. And we are still left in relative confusion. We, the United States, remain a powerful country that has yet to figure out how it will navigate the 21st century. In many ways, this is what 9/11 came to be, the division of the America of the past, and the one, still unfolding, still undefined, of the 21st century.

The event, the largest domestic terrorism act in the US, was horrific in and of itself, but what marked it further, was the aspect of it being live on television--viewers watched the tower(s) fall, and people dive to their deaths. I was watching the report of the first one when the second one came down, live on television. There were email accounts sent around of people from the City and what they did and where they were when it happened. I flew back to the Bay Area a few days after from Memphis. The airport was completely empty.

It was such a terrible act, there are no excuses, but unfortunately, our government launched a war that could never, and can never be won ("War on Terror"). Looking back, I recall the many people, who instead of calling for a careful examination of our foreign policy in the name of those who died, the innocents who died, instead called for vengeance and hatred. To respect those who lost their lives, we, as a nation, should have proceeded more cautiously and pragmatically. Instead our government--our supposed representatives who had NOT A SINGLE MEMBER of their FAMILY in ACTIVE DUTY COMBAT, sent American troops to die, pressured other nations to join, and thus began the tragedy of thousands of innocent civilians dying on another continent.

In the name of those who died on 9/11, we should also remember those who died in its aftermath, Americans and non. And we should remember that any act of war, is also an act of terrorism.

RIP to those who died on 9/11.

RIP to all those who died in the years following as a result of 9/11.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Taxes, Reading and Mui Wo


It is late. I am finally doing the U.S. taxes for 2010. I am staring at a pile of receipts and pieces of paper and thinking OH MY GOD. HELP. Yeah, I have an accountant. That doesn't make the pile go down any faster.


OKAY, I read a great book I HOTEL by Karen Tei Yamashita. I highly recommend it.
I think it is her best book. It is also a welcome antidote to these tiresome stories about Asian American immigrants who become successful a) doctors b) lawyers c) bankers d) engineers. This is a story about Asian American political activists, radicals, union organizers and artists.

Then, I read a truly TERRIBLE book for my chick lit research called China Dolls. But it shows it takes all kinds--sincere and vapid, to make a community, I suppose...but geez, talk about bad writing. Then I think to myself, it is really true, if you can just remove some of that gray matter, life is probably a lot easier. When you don't understand how inane your perspective is, you're a lot happier than those who understand the impossible reality of the entire absurd universe we live in. I would have to conjecture that there would be some difference in the Chinese American and Korean American community chick lit. Haven't read any Korean American chick lit. But I would guess that Koreans would discuss church a lot more, in-family fighting, and Confucian hierarchy. There would be some intense lie involved. A big theft or sleazy act. And a cheating spouse or boyfriend somewhere. Maybe this is why Korean dramas are popular. Nothing like dysfunctional Confucianism combined with capitalism to make for some interesting TV serials. The Chinese American chick lit book I read seems fairly simplistically happily capitalistic and consumer oriented with a few food references and mother headaches...

Mui Wo

As for recent developments. We have agreed to share the bananas from the tree in front of our house with our neighbors. The property line goes between the banana trees. Some difficulty communicating this, but all is now friendly with a delivery of banana muffins from yours truly.

Stephen remains the crazy white guy who unearths building rubble with the shovel all weekend long. Seeing him out there takes me back to those fixer-upper Tucson, Arizona days. I have few fond memories of my actual MFA experience, but I made some good friends in Tucson, was broadened intellectually, actually, mostly by the women of color I met in other programs, and learned to love the desert. That old house looked great, Stephen worked like a dog on it (as did I, but I wasn't clipping electric wires, so can't claim endangering my life to fix the house) and we sold it within four hours of it being listed. We enjoyed the finished product one night, or if you get down to it, just about 1 hour because he screwed in the electric light plates right before we drove out of town to Los Angeles.

Nothing much new in our 'hood other than CLP adding to the light pollution and obscuring our night sky. While many are concerned about conservation of energy and light pollution, CLP and others are hell-bent on having bright yellow lights glaring into people's homes all night long.

As we have said before, we are enjoying the very last of Mui Wo as a nice village. Ten years from now it will look like...TST...