Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mele Kalikimaka

Merry Christmas in Hawaiian--Season's Greetings to All. Happy New Year. It's another year in Mui Wo coming to an end. Life in our sleepy village on the South China Sea is what it is...the herd of cattle now has three new calves, Keohi has now morphed into Ironman/Hulk/ Ninja, and there are three new ugly lampposts by the ferry pier that will wreck the view of the water, but such is life in this part of the world...wonder, industrial waste, subtropical green, the steam of fishballs, and the clicking of bikes speeding down a brick path...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get or death

Thought I'd post this public service announcement. Women need to get mammograms after the age of 40 every year, and if breast cancer runs in the family, every year from age 35. Self-check is possible, but the mammogram is important.

I had this done at the Prince's Building. I recommend this place. I've had quite a few mammograms as breast cancer does run in the family, and my age, and find the Prince's Building service and technician very good. OK, it doesn't look like the Tucson Breast Center--no pink curtains and magazines and clean slick dressing rooms. But frankly speaking, the people did a better job, and there was less hassle.

For those who cannot afford it, you can get a referral through the public health clinics here in HK and they will refer you to a specialist who will in turn refer you to someone to help you to get this done. It's a little more hassle, but is very inexpensive compared to many places.

While on the subject I must raise my opinion here about standard habits and ideas about gynecological issues here in HK:

Let me be frank:

---First of all the dearth of female practitioners is nothing short of astounding. I've never had a male gynecologist in all of my years of getting checked in the US, and while I know gender does not matter, some like to have a doctor with the same physiology. That said, it is not entirely necessary, but the fact that you have to seriously HUNT AROUND in HK to find a female gynecologist says a lot about the status of women, and healthcare for women in Asia's World City....

You can guess where I am going here...

---People need to get a pap smear every year. Or close to every year.

Now I heard this from another woman about the UK and the healthcare system which is obviously great--but under stress, that standard practice is only every 3 years, on average. This is too long. Get checked every year. There's a lot that can change within 3 years. Understand that a public health system may be under duress. 3 years is not bad, but 3 years is a little too long if you want to stay on top of it.

---To dispel some archaic ideas out there--I know they exist. I know they exist because we're here in HK and I had a gynecological nightmare experience here in 2002 (enough to put any sane woman off of getting a pap, but I had to remind myself that this was HK and therefore this is why this happened).
If you don't like your gynecologist--WALK AWAY. That's right. You don't have to have someone you do not get along with poking around in your vaginal area. Simply dress, walk out and get another appointment with a doctor you like. If you feel uncomfortable, RAISE THIS ISSUE. Your doctor should accommodate. If not, same as above. Get dressed and walk out. YOU ARE IN CHARGE. You're the patient.

Check-ups and pap smears and the like have nothing to do with sexual promiscuity, sexual proclivities, or anything like that. It's simply basic healthcare. Take care of yourself. Take care of your family by getting yourself checked out.

Let's be real, women. If you can pony up for a facial a few times a year, drag yourself to a hair salon and get your nails done, you can get your mammogram and pap smear. It can be a matter of life or death!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Profile of Stephen Aldred

Profile of Stephen Aldred

Adam and Eve versus The Cavemen The Smith’s: Part 2

Adam and Eve versus The Cavemen
The Smith’s: Part 2

On Saturday morning in the 1970s, there was a TV kids game show, wherein teams competed answering basic textbook questions. The announcer would rattle off what was the capitol city of Utah, and the contestants would run under flashing lights that decorated a big doorway. The answer would either light up if correct, or a buzzer would sound if wrong.

The Smith’s recreated this kids TV game show in their basement. It was pretty exciting. The neighborhood gathered to play while Janie Smith read off the cue cards. We competed in teams, but there was only one member at a time who ran to the answers, unlike the real TV show.  Everyone played. To their credit, the Smith’s did a great job. They put up huge oaktag white answer boards, and laid down black plastic garbage bags that served as a runway for us. Questions similar to the TV game show were read by Janie and everyone ran to the right (or wrong) answer boards. The only issue was that it took so much time to make these large answer boards and come up with the answers, that after playing only a few times, everyone knew most of the questions. Still, it really didn’t stop the fun. And it got complicated.

Janie stood in the corner and read out: “Who were the first people on earth? Run to answer card number one if you think it was Adam and Eve. Run to answer card number two for cavemen. Run to answer number three if you think it was Abraham Lincoln (or maybe some astronaut, I can’t honestly remember). By the age of nine, I had already been through a religious quest, including a brief semi-conversion to Mormonism that my mother halted (thanks for saving me, Mom) and was unusually contemplative when it came to religious issues. But I knew my cavemen story. While the rest of the neighborhood ran to the Adam and Eve sign, card number one, I ran and sat under card number two for the cavemen.

Oh the outrage that ensued! On everyone’s part. Mostly it was me against the Smith clan and the entire neighborhood that day. A few other kids from various families also yelled I was wrong, but I held my ground.

“It is impossible for everyone on earth to be related to Adam and Eve!” I said.

“No it’s not,” said Jane.

“The cavemen were first!” I argued. “Adam and Eve is a Bible story!”

This went back and forth for some time. I was only a point behind as I recall, so not getting the cavemen point actually cost me the game. But I refused to capitulate. I had science on my side. Did these people really think that Adam and Eve were the only two people on earth? Didn’t they watch any of those TV shows? What about school and those science books on early human beings in animal skins?

Even with the entire neighborhood arguing against me (my sister wandered off by this point, at five she wasn’t that involved) I refused to listen. Jane proceeded to march upstairs to confirm with her mother that Adam and Eve preceded the caveman. To Mrs. Smith’s credit, she was diplomatic and told Jane that everyone believed different things…going against Mrs. Smith of course, was her refusal to acknowledge human evolution. But never mind that. This was Iowa, 1972.

Jane was rather flummoxed, but didn’t want to risk losing a game participant. So she told me: “Okay, so it can be both. BUT in this game Adam and Eve is the right answer. When you are playing, you have to say Adam and Eve or you won’t get the point. C’mon. Let’s keep playing.”

Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what happened other than being mad at what Jane said the new rules had to be. I think I continued to argue.

I recall that due to the ruckus and a bit of boredom with the entire argument, the game ended. People scattered. Some headed outside to play kickball. Everyone knew all the answers by now. These days I might call Jane’s behavior coercion or ignorance, but at the time I simply wanted to continue to be accepted and have fun at the Smith’s. The TV game was up for a few more weeks, but I didn’t play it again.

What do I remember? 

The words Adam and Eve scrawled in black block letters against the white board, the feel of a tight woven carpet and plastic on my bare feet, the basement’s wood paneling, and the sight of dark green bushes at the window. Bill Smith throwing a red rubber ball against the wall and saying he was sick of playing. Katie Smith sharing a piece of strawberry sour taffy with me. Robert Edwards telling everyone that it didn’t matter if it was Adam and Eve or the cavemen, though it really was Adam and Eve and everyone knew that, Stephanie, but who cares, let’s play some kickball.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Memories. Iowa. 1972. The Smith Family.

The Smith’s. Iowa. 1972.

The Smith’s were the type of family that one might call All-American, of mixed European heritage, though they claimed primarily German extraction from some relative of yore, who ambled over to the fields of Iowa a century back.

For years they stood to me as a testament of a type of American, correction, a type of white American family, by which I compared my own family (Korean/Korean American). Unbeknownst to the Smith’s, we were engaged in a complex relationship that was easily dismissed as a general neighborly disjointedness. It’s origins however, I see now in my adulthood, were far more complex and built on a general ethnocentric attitude that made an indelible impression on me.

At the time, I had no vocabulary for the Smith’s behavior or outlook. Instead, I spent a great deal of time wondering why my family was so different and so strange, and why, oh why, did we not resemble these American car dealership owners who boasted minibikes and motorcycles, and a garage of cars. I envied their big screen color TV, their meals of bland boiled potatoes and vegetables, their vacations houseboating down the Mississippi River, and yes, their membership to an Elks Club. (I believe I even asked my father to join; pretty sure in the 1970s there were no non-white members). Their house had no books, but had lots of board games. Their lawn mower tractor never broke down. Their lawn was always properly mowed. They were PTA attending, godfearing, football lovin’ hearty souls.

In stark contrast was my own family. I went to exactly one football game ever in my lfie with my father. The Hawkeyes lost. My father spoke with a Korean accent and our house featured a combination of Western cooking alongside traditional Korean fare. My father had no toolbox, just a PhD in biophysics and a medical degree. Our dog never learned to fetch a stick. My mother grew a Hawaiian orchid in the middle of an Iowa winter on our coffee table. Our lawn was riddled with weeds. We had black and white TV until it finally exploded decades past its warranty. Mom forbid us to ride minibikes and would bang a bronze gong to call us in for supper. We all played classical instruments. Vacation was to Hawaii or Korea. It would be fair to say that my parents’ idea of hell would be to hang out on a houseboat. Opera would blast from our house and my father wore bow ties. Like most university faculty families we had cars of the more ordinary variety—both well-worn.

But it was the Smith’s (and some other neighborhood people) who inculcated a rather orthodox view of what was acceptable in terms of behavior. From the start it was clear in their minds, no doubt, that we weren’t going to tow the line. For starters, well, Dad was from Korea. He may have been a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and have two advanced degrees, but gosh darn it, he wasn’t American. Translation: he wasn’t white.
He ate with those sticks every night. He wasn’t busy in his tool shed sawing on a piece of wood on the weekend. When he BBQ’d, goodness, it didn’t look like anything the Smith’s BBQ’d. The long and short of it was, that we weren’t going to fit in, because the Smith’s had defined fitting in as suiting their behavior patterns and culture. The Smith’s would give us small subtle hints about how to do things. They suggested tractor brands, I believe. But mostly, they watched with a great deal of disdain as my family navigated this small Midwestern town. My family came to ignore the Smith’s. There was a mutual politeness based on my friendship with the Smith’s kids (more on the tyranny of their Christian fundamentalism later--), but they were convinced of their superiority due to their ownership of a car dealership (no comment) and my parents frankly, had little interest in cars. Dad was a lab rat and a classical music lover. Mom liked travel and books.

The blowout came fairly early on: our dog was going crazy, as the Smith’s ever the All American family, were having their teen party blowout with lots of firecrackers going at all hours. The Smith’s place was known as a teen haven. Their teens were cool. Pregnant at 16, but who cares? They were American Elks, damnit. Upstanding. Anyway, Dad mentioned on the phone that our dog was going crazy, could they quiet down the firecrackers? This was when Mr. Smith reared his ugly white American head.
He marched over to his house, towering over our family and yelled. He yelled that our dog popped their ball (true) and pooed in their yard (also true, but not always). He yelled that he could do whatever he damn well pleased. He might have also yelled that we were yellow people he could not stand living in his neighborhood and that he taught his kids to be racist toward us, as they should be as how did we even end up in his neighborhood, but that was not the focus of his yelling. He was yelling because we were everything he didn’t understand. He was yelling to exercise his white American dominance, because even if my family had been in the US longer than his (in Hawaii) he was white, and he ate potatoes, and damn it, he knew how this country worked. He built a doghouse! He pruned hedges! My dad meanwhile, was trying out a pogo stick on the sidewalk and voting for McGovern. Mr. Smith was yelling because we were different. He was yelling because he felt like it. He was yelling because this is what white people can do when they are mad at people who don’t look white, and a lot of times, the non-white people take it. The Smiths of the world yell or look down upon them or belittle them, instead of examining their own behavior because they are never wrong. They were here first! They can exclude, they can dominate, they can decide.  Smith was yelling because we had moved into the neighborhood and we weren’t behaving to code. My family all sat in silence. He yelled more. My dad tried to calm Mr. Smith down. But nothing makes a white man more angry than a non-white man trying to tell him to calm down, especially when the yellow man is shorter than he is (never mind smarter).

I will never forget this. I will never forget or forgive Mr. Smith. I will never forget his attempts to humiliate my father and our family, his blatant racism based on his perceived superiority due to his whiteness. His beloved status based on the ownership of a car dealership (went broke, folks). His self-righteous sense of superiority based on such things as eating of potatoes instead of rice and his blatant failure to understand immigration, history, and diversity. My encounters good and bad with the Smith family, shaped a lot of my perceptions about how insidious and far reaching aspects of white privilege extend, and to what degree they can in not-so-subtle ways, inflect social damage on those who suffer under its tentacles, and those it claims to protect. I am fairly certain that Smiths of the junior variety have not ventured far from the mindset of the senior Smiths—narrow minds make narrow minds.

There are Smiths everywhere. And, in all fairness, there are Smith’s of all persuasions and ethnicities. One who is subjected to Smith behavior and the Smith value system, should one survive, becomes extraordinarily tough, in surprising ways.

So hey you Smithies out there, yeah, you’re in Mui Wo too…Think before you cross me or my family. Unlike my father, who understood the feeling, but might have been at a loss with the nuance of the language, I have superb English language skills (native speaker)---written and spoken. Unlike my mother, I never shy from conflict. Do not impose, please, your Smith ideals upon us. We are perfectly fine, in our bi-continental, bi-racial household and appreciate your withholding of judgment and your curbing of your white privilege in our direction, thank you very much. No, we don’t do everything the way you do, but we have our way. And it suits us just fine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pondering Post Turkey Day

Thanksgiving was good. A big potluck. Americans plus one Australian and one English family and oh--two Indonesian families. We still have leftovers...we actually have not really hosted anything in a few years. Too busy. Maybe we'll start again...

Obama sign down. Xmas tree up. 

Keohi says to me: "I'm to love with X. And I don't know, but she's to love with me, but she doesn't know."
I say: "In love"
He says: "Yes, in love."

We're wearing the sumo ponytail everyday. Some frustration on his part--people do not understand his hairstyle. He is a sumo! I said, oh, well, you have to tell them. He is still waiting for it to grow long enough to stick in a little topknot on top of his head.

I have to give Keohi credit for doing his own thing, no matter what anyone says. It's good practice now, such small steps. When it comes time to take a stance over a serious matter, it will be such things as this that pave the way for remaining firm in one's convictions, no matter public opinion.

Pondering the following:

Intellectual migrants
Symbols of myth and stories
Feminism through writing
How some people never get beyond the social dynamics of public high school...lemme tell you, you really see this in a small village.
Global warming

Heading into a wet wet winter....

Monday, November 19, 2012


I asked Keohi what he knew about Thanksgiving.
"Thanksgiving is when people all boil a chicken," he said.
I said, "They roast a turkey."
"What's a turkey?"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Post Election 2012

OK, I have no choice--I must state this truth: if Obama wasn't elected an entirely different tone in the U.S. would have also greatly affected world politics. I know that most citizens from other countries wanted Obama to win. The U.S. often sets the economic, political and social attitudes for the rest of the world--like it or not. I'm not being a wildly egotistical American saying this--these are facts. The US is an international power and has the world's largest standing military. What it does with its military power affects people around the globe.

In other words, if Romney won, there might be some different challenges the world would have to face. So, you people who think oh yes, it's not a big deal that Obama won, after all, it doesn't affect me--you are dead wrong. We should all be RELIEVED that Romney did not win. We'd probably be looking at the U.S. entering another war...

So stop being so parochial and yes, so nationalistic. The leaders of all countries affect all of us. We're in this together here on earth. It's about recognizing leadership and electing people who ALL OF US hope will stand for tolerance, fairness, equality and humanity.

I know that there has been some terrible outcry against Obama since his win. Racial hatred. Bigotry. True ugliness. But these people have to come around and will. Obama is the face of the United States too--a man raised and influenced by many cultures around the world. A good choice for the U.S...

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I FEEL GREAT TODAY. This election has completely consumed me--I didn't realize to what degree.

I'm wearing my 08 Obama shirt. Cycling with my Obama sticker on my bike. I feel rejuvenated. I'm ready to forge ahead. I have a little faith now that things can happen to improve society, that people are out there. People like myself need to know that there are those who can represent our beliefs, elected officials who are willing to fight the good fight.

When I saw the debates this fall, I found myself staring at the TV thinking this: "C'mon, you have to do it for us. We are counting on you. DO NOT LOSE. DO NOT GIVE IN. WE NEED YOU."

When the American people stand up for the right ideas, as difficult as it is to coalesce and unify a nation so big and diverse, it can change the way the world thinks. Citizenship in this type of country is a responsibility and sometimes a burden. But you always have to stand up for greater ideals, no matter what anyone says.

About a year ago I found myself in an argument with a woman (now in remote Tasmania I believe) who started on an anti-immgrant, anti-developing country rant. (She was trying to tell me that people from Afghanistan should not be allowed into the US even if the US bombed the hell out of their country) Now, what has astounded me is that so many people assume that simply because I do not speak English with an Asian accent, I am going to join in with their hegemonic oppressive racist rants. Go figure. Anyway, as she is rattling on about how she resents immigrants, problems they bring, etc... I finally had to tell her this:

"Listen, there happen to be a lot of people who disagree with you about what it takes to make a nation work. There are many who believe that a diverse nation is a better one, that there are problems, but that this is simply part of what it means to have a better society in the end. There are people who think and know that part of the wealth gained by Western countries has been at the expense of and due to the exploitation of more poor countries. We must pay the price on some level. It is our responsibility and we have to give refuge and shelter to people who COME from places that OUR COUNTRY has leveled, flattened or ruthlessly exploited. And many nations arise due to genocide and slavery. No one has more rights than any other person in this sense. A diverse country makes for a better country. And you know what? It's not just a few people like myself who believe it. It's an entire country who thinks this. Yeah, about 300 million people who believe in this ideal. And they are called AMERICANS."

She didn't really talk to me after that. And frankly, it's not entirely true...there are many Americans who don't believe the above. But enough do. And those who do, who believe in a diverse and better society, who believe that a nation should embrace all kinds of people elected Barack Obama.

Today I felt proud to be an American.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


 If anyone who reads this blog votes for Mitt Romney, please do not discuss this with me.You are  one of the following:

a) Delusional about your own economic and social status
b) Lack compassion about healthcare issues
c) Have no understanding of civil rights issues
d) Do not understand the basics of US foreign policy


Monday, November 5, 2012

Do Not Burn Trash

For crying out loud--will you pyros stop burning trash? We live in a place with a high level of air pollution. Those ladies in the straw hats and wellies and blue cotton outfits will take your trash and properly dispose of it. Just put it near the bins.

I cut and pasted this FYI:

I have been burning my leaves for years. Is this legal? What types of air pollutants are emitted from burning leaves?
The burning of leaves has been prohibited statewide since 1995. (Note, this is Delaware) The purpose of the prohibition is to lower your exposure to toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. The burning of leaves produces a considerable amount of airborne particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and at least seven known carcinogens. One of the most notorious carcinogens is benz[a]pyrene, a polyaromatic hydrocarbon. Benz[a]pyrene is believed to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke. It is also formed when leaves are burned. Like the secondhand smoke from cigarettes, benz[a]pyrene from leaf burning endangers us all.
What is particulate matter, and why is it a health concern?
The visible smoke from leaf burning is composed of tiny particles that contain toxic pollutants. If inhaled, these microscopic particles can reach deep into the lungs and remain there for months or even years. Breathing particulate matter increases the chances of respiratory infection, and causes other problems such as coughing, wheezing, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Particulate matter can also trigger asthma attacks in some people.
What is carbon monoxide, and what are its health effects?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which prevents oxygen from being absorbed by the blood and lungs. Carbon monoxide can be especially dangerous for young children with immature lungs, the elderly, and people with chronic heart conditions or lung diseases.

Mom and Mui Wo

Mom left Mui Wo late last week. As usual, mom is on-the-go. This meant I was riding the three wheel bike and carting her around so any extra food eaten was burned off by my position as her personal chauffeur.

Highlights of Mom's visit include Mom cracking open a beer at Ace's birthday party and then saying: "Oh perfect! Cold beer! That guy Paul Ryan is really scary. He likes Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand! Who believes this way of thinking once you are past the age of 19! That is ridiculous! Well, the people who vote for Romney are the ones who need Obama's policies and they are going to get what they are asking for's the TV GENERATION. They expect EVERYTHING to be solved in 4 years!"

What I like about my mother, not love about my mother, is that she has always voted in a way that I can respect. We've had conflicts in the past, but not about voting. I feel lucky in this way. She's definitely more conservative than I am about politics, but we can vote on the same ticket and there is some solace in this as I know that many people do not vote the same way as their parents vote...until they get to their parents age.

Then there's the usual hunt-for-socks-for-church shopping trip. She takes lots of new socks, underwear or T-shirts back to her church to give to the homeless kids. I have to give mom's church some credit. Every month or so, they sponsor a homeless family who lives at the church for some days while everyone helps them back to work, and getting a life back after living in a homeless shelter. Her church is moderate if not progressive--a place that is hard to find in the American South.

Mom read River of Smoke by Ghosh and the memoir Gweilo by Booth when she was here. She used up a box of tissues. This is another image I have of my mom--a great big book and a great big box of tissue for allergies. (Here, it was pollution)

Keohi said: "I want Grandma to live with us."

A good visit...

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8 1997-2012

October 8, 2012

I have crafted a short story based on the post by the same name: Happy Anniversary. It will be appearing in an anthology on Expatriate Women in Asia end of 2013 so have taken off the blog post for now.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Obama 2012 in Mui Wo

Yes, 'tis the season.

There have been ways that I have been frustrated with the Obama Administration, but I also acknowledge a situation that he was given--financial collapse and a two front war. Some of my issues are to do with the US two party system and the general nature of rampant uncontrolled capitalism.

I am not sold on the joys of weird accounting practices and would have a heart attack if Keohi announced he was going to work as a banker, or worked for the American Enterprise Institute...

 Like the vast majority of people who live outside of the United States (excluding for some strange reason, expatriate Americans in Hong Kong, most in the financial services sector), I am rather incredulous that Americans would potentially pick Romney over Obama. One Australian said, "Well, Americans did pick Bush before!"

At the Democrats Abroad meeting in Hong Kong (the very small sanctuary of Americans who may actually not be held in perpetual thrall to the $$$ of China in such an overt manner and ponder its civil liberties issues) I saw the replay of the debate.
Conclusion: More mugging of the camera by Obama was in order!
Conclusion 2: Wow, incredible that Americans would believe Romney. He's like a used car salesman, a game show host, a guy who...well yeah, made the bulk of his money doing unscrupulous things financially. Slime-bag city! Never mind that he is a sexist, racist homophobe!

So my homemade sign is up. Mui Wo villagers like it. These hardened rural folks rarely like anything, like most rural folk everywhere, so hey, that tells you something. I have a feeling that they wouldn't be smiling if I put a Romney poster up...just sayin'.

And what does my son know--a future progressive? That Obama cares more about regular people and poor people. He cares more about girls and women. He thinks about people of color, about being different.  What I can't believe is how the Republican party blathers on about "values" when their values are basically discriminatory--and we're talking their political platform! Where's the Equal Rights Amendment? What happened to women holding up half the sky? Oh, yeah, that's a Maoist saying..yeah, that's right. Call me a Commie...geez. Unlike the vast majority of Asian Americans who are first generation, my parents were hard-core liberals and believed in the possibilities of a tolerant society. They constantly voted AGAINST their own personal financial interests if it was to better the greater majority of society and told me that it was their job to do so. It is MORAL to do so. Society is not built on thinking of one's own interests all the time. Society is a collective project. This is what it means to be a community. How can anyone vote against the interests of people who are less fortunate than they are? They passed this idea down to me. We're all in this together. I'm pretty sure that Keohi gets the picture...

Obama 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canto is kicking in...slowly

Had a conversation with another parent trying the Canto schooling route to gain some language skills in the K1-K3 years. It's really hard for all parties--parents, teachers and kid. It has not been an easy route for Keohi, and nothing is really certain about the outcome or the effect of pedagogical styles or expectations given his cultural context and background...there have been many sleepless nights and lots of agonizing. It has not been easy. But I will say this proudly on his behalf: Canto is finally kicking in!

There are now some words or phrases uttered with some serious mimicry of tones. He's getting it. It's limited. But it finally began to click this summer. We have started Year 3 of Canto. We did have some tutoring. No, we were pretty bad at doing the homework (but I don't care about the writing -- I just hoped he could speak and make friends). I hope that it sticks as Canto schooling won't be forever. Given the status of my Canto, it's nice to know that in a desperate situation I will be able to call upon my son for some basic translation.

My father, my husband, and my son claim childhoods in different countries: Korea, England and Hong Kong. There is clearly some larger aspect here that could provide hours of psychoanalytic amusement, but suffice to say, a good portion of my life has been in some kind of cultural or linguistic translation...One might frame this romantically. Or one could say that it's like permanently riding a train because you have no real final stop...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sumo Mania and Sumo Lantern 2012

Time for the annual lantern making. This is how you know you have a Hong Kong kid. The annual fall project...

Sumo Mania has hit our house…well, it’s been here for about 10 months…I introduced Keohi to sumo wrestling via Youtube clips from National Geographic as I thought he was getting too obsessed with unrealistic body images of muscle bound freaks.

But, yes, the passionate nature of my son took over, as usual. Whatever Keohi does is full on and very take-no-prisoners. Unfortunately, this may be a genetic trait as this is clearly something he shares with his father, myself, and every other member of my family! We’re a family of fairly fanatical types. Only my logical mom, who at times is very random, is there to mellow us out.

These days we are running a one-boy sumo stable. I found if I actually tell Keohi that sumos do X, then there is a little more enthusiasm--like, sumos help their mommies set the table...Keohi says he wants to bulk up and downs bowls of udon noodles (chonkonabe, as the Japanese say) and is a sumo fanatic. Loincloth has been again pulled out. Last night he was slathering lotion all over his body so he could get that smooth sumo skin and has been asking me daily to stick his hair up in a topknot. He was also doing the pre-match squat in front of the mirror and marching around with his arms bent at his side (like he is really big, so his arms can’t touch his sides!) and murmurs the Japanese he hears on the youtube. For all I know he could be saying, give me another beer. He pretends his apple juice is a beer as sumos drink beer and then sleep. He has requested a futon on the floor (we have one on our bed, so no big deal), and has tried to throw salt on the ground for the pre-match ceremony. I am involved in daily matches on our small rug. So is Angie. Stephen gets the weekend rotation of this. Since he told me his main goal in life is to become a sumo wrestler (or a fish market worker who kills squid) and this was now nearly a year ago, I’m thinking that this could be my future—me cheering for my 400 pound son…

Instead, it was a family effort and we made this sumo, from recycled paper, toilet rolls, plastic bottles, tofu container stomach, finger and regular paint (yellow, red and white make peach), string, glue, wire and doublestick tape. It’s Asashoryu, the Mongolian former Yokozuna until he got kicked out as he beat up a bouncer (I explained to Keohi, this sumo had NO SELF CONTROL. Self-control is our mantra for the fall…this will clearly be a lifelong challenge for him…)

So we also watched a short doc on white American guys who do sumo in SoCal (where else but LA?) and various matches with the Fijian and Estoniana sumo. So Keohi says to me: I’m going to be ALL sumos when I grow up. Japanese, Korean, Mongolian and English ones. I say, what English sumos? He says, the ones in the gym on youtube. I realize, oh yeah, those white guys in LA.

This discovery has now led to a strong suspicion that any male in Mui Wo with a large beer belly is a possible closeted sumo wrestler! This is a little embarrassing. We were in the swimming pool a few weeks ago and he says to me, MOM. LOOK. I glance over. It’s a British guy with a very large stomach. DO YOU THINK..Keohi says excitedly…I say NO. Keohi, no, please, don’t ask him. He’s not a sumo. He just has a big tummy. Keohi is visibly crushed. Still, he is suspicious. He wants to ask the guy. So I have to add: He’s very big, and maybe his feelings will be hurt if you ask him if he is a sumo wrestler. Some people are just big. And they aren’t sumo wrestlers…

 So Mui Wo guys, hope you aren't offended if Keohi asks you if you are sumo wrestler. If it's any consolation, he thinks you are super cool. The bigger the stomach, the better...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Environmental Action

The only time ever I've seen Keohi slightly interested in copying down letters was for this sign. For a bit, the sign was leaning against our house. He requested these words and traced them. I suggested potentially wording it differently--i.e. not so many 'NOs',  but he told me: "I like 'NO'!"
Lots of angst about plastic. He knows Ultraman is made from plastic and while he's seen a picture of the big floating mass of plastic in the ocean, he has mixed feelings about not spending the remaining of his piggy bank money on the Ultraman at the grocery store across from Wellcome.
Such is the conflict we all face...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Random Conversations with a 5 year old

Random Conversations with Keohi

K: So last night my invisible sensei came in my dream and told me that I had to go fight the oni (monsters in Japanese). Then the oni have beng hey (weapons in Cantonese, but I must still battle them on my honor.
S: What’s beng hey?
K: Weapons. You know why can’t I get up to the gods and visit them on Olympus? I need to do battle!
S: It’s very high up.
K: Are they real? I need to fight monsters. Where can I fight real monsters?
S: What kind of monsters?
K: Like Medusa. Is Medusa still around?
S: Didn’t someone kill Medusa?
K: Oh, yeah. Perseus. But what monster can I kill if there aren’t any? I need to fight some real monsters!
S: Hmmmm. Well, maybe some of them are extinct now.
K: What are the monsters that aren’t extinct? I think I had better climb up a really high mountain, and then take a cloud and ride the cloud to Olympus and see the gods. Are those gods around?
S: I think they might be in Greece.
K: So Jack told me that he and his Dad built a boat with a place to sit and then they both went in the boat and it went over the waterfall. Can I build a boat and go over a waterfall? Hey, what if I just go and jump down the waterfall?
S: Are you sure that Jack went down the waterfall in his boat?
K: Yes. And then he built a spaceship and went up to space and he had a party there. He told me.
S: Maybe he went on a waterfall. Maybe in Australia.
K: Yes, I am sure. I want to go. Or I can just go to this waterfall here.
S: Gee, maybe he should invite you the next time to that waterfall he went on, how’s that?
K: Well he ran out of paper. So I didn’t go.
S: What do you mean he ran out of paper?
K: He ran out of paper! So I couldn’t go because the spaceship couldn’t deliver the piece of paper! For my birthday I am going to build a spaceship and then here’s what I will do, I’ll get up to the mountain and then tell the airplane man-
S: The pilot
K: Yes, the pilot that this is the paper about my party
S: The invitations?
K: Yes the invitations. And then the pilot can give this so that everyone remembers to come and go to the spaceship. Or I can just get on a cloud.


To preface, he has recently watched the Pepsi ad on youtube from 2002 featuring sumo wrestlers and various Euro football players.

K: Why are those sumo wrestlers drinking Pipsi?
S: Maybe they don’t know it’s not healthy. Pepsi, you mean.
K: So is the Pipso make their bones bad? Do you think that they listen to their mommies about this? And the football players were also drinking Pipsi.
S: It’s a television commercial. So it’s not real anyway.
K: What’s a television commercial?
S: It’s a short show where they try to sell you things. Like Pepsi.
K: But why do they want to sell Pepsi when it’s bad for their health?
S: No, well, they get paid money for putting on the show for Pepsi.
K: Maybe they drink it when they’re about 45?
S: Maybe.
K: Do you think I can wear my sumo loincloth on the football court? Did you see that sumo wrestler and the ball hit him in the nipple, and he didn’t feel it. Probably because he is a grown-up.
S: Even grown-ups feel it when a ball is kicked in their chest.
K: He was in the goal. So I can wear my loincloth.
S: I think you should wear your loincloth only at home because otherwise people might laugh and hurt your feelings. Besides, people don’t wear loincloths to play football.
K: Well how come they were wearing loincloths on the football court and playing football! And they drink Pipsi!
S: They do that because the someone is paying them money. The company pays them the money to wear the loincloth and play football and drink Pepsi. Because it’s bad for your health if you’re an athlete.
K:So I will wear my loincloth on the football court and someone will pay me money for it.
S: No, that’s the TV commercial.
K: Well who can pay me money to wear my sumo loincloth! The government?
S: The government will not pay you money to wear your loincloth.


K: How come I can’t marry two people?
S: Because you can’t marry two people because one will get very sad.
K: Why will one get sad?
S: Because you’ll spend all of your time with the other one. People don’t want to share their marriage.
K: Well, why not! I want to marry two people. How can I marry two people.
S: People don’t marry two people at the same time. Only in some countries.
K: I’ll have to go to these countries. What countries are they that you can get married to two people, India?
S: Uhm. Yes, well, I don’t know. Not in all places. Actually, I don’t know. I’ll have to find out.
K: I’ll go to India.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Biking in the Rain

Typhoon Vicente is over. Mui Wo was covered in tree branches and leaves and twigs--not a big deal, but can be perilous on a speedy bike in the rain. A big tree in the garden area behind the basketball court was down.

This morning's bike ride was memorable. This is what I will remember when Keohi is older, some year when we are no longer in Mui Wo...

I pick up Keohi from Winky's dance studio (hip hop class) and it is pouring, absolutely coming down hard and we have no raingear. But I unlock our bikes, and he hops on his and I hop on mine and we ready to go. He clicks his helmet on. The old men from the dai pai dong look at us and smile. It's pouring. Everyone is waiting it out. Except for us.

We're drenched after unlocking our bikes and I tell Keohi we have to bike home fast. I'm wearing my glasses and rain is in my eyes--slight sting--pollution, hard to tell, maybe...and we head off. Something overcomes I yell FAI DI LA (hurry!) and we're OFF! Wiki wiki (fast in Hawaiian), Bali bali (fast in Korean) I say, and we're hitting top speed on our bikes. WHOOOWEEEE yelling and yelling as we bike up up the hill!

Keohi starts going through all of the puddles and howling and laughing and we bike up and up and are thoroughly soaked by now. We turn into our sidewalk path in front of our house...Watch out for the cow poo! I remind him. (Yeah, the entire herd was in our garden a few days ago and left some big cow pies)

We bike into the yard, park. Drenched. Wet. Out of breath. Laugh. Keohi and me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

McDonald's in the Cooked Food Market and Coca-Cola Babies

Hey Fast Food Lovers--

It is very uncool to bring your Mcdonald's french fries into another restaurant--like the Cooked Food Market. This is the second time I've seen this happen. For the sake of being exacting, I will say this:
tonight's family was Filipino, the other night's family was Western (white/British). Tonight's family with the french fries had a small 4-5 year old child, the other night's family had two children, around age 5 and 9.

So why mention this? To shame you, guys, geez. C'mon. OK, eat your fast food. But don't bring it into another restaurant! It shows that such behavior has yes, NO COLOR LINES, as they said in LA, back in the day. It seems McDonald's crosses international boundaries of class, ethnicity, and nationality. And geez, the Cooked Food Market has some of the best food in Mui Wo. Fresh Canto food, hot from the wok, that wok-hay going strong.

Also, speaking of junk food behavior-- the worst was last week. A woman jabbering on her cell phone, pushing the stroller as she's walking with two kids, the stroller riding 18 month old (to my best estimate) was sucking down a plastic bottle of Coca-Cola. I felt like I was in some watching a rehearsal for a TV ad for malnourishment.

A scenic Mui Wo...and gee, you thought it was all green mountains and beach? No, to get the full experience one needs images like these;)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hong Kong Will Never Improve the Quality of Life for its Citizens

Hong Kong lawmakers, and dealmakers, business community and tycoons fail to understand that one way that people define quality of life is air quality. Actually, this is not just in HK, but make this all of China.

While confidence in the U.S. remains low due to misguided perceptions that everything is swell, if not better in Asia, the fact remains, that for the vast majority of people, no matter your income level, no matter where you are living, your quality of life is infinitely superior in the U.S. or any Western country, and this is for one reason and one reason only: You can actually BREATHE air that is reasonably clean!

I came back from Beijing in June and was coughing for 10 days. Beijing is so filthy, it makes HK smell like a field of wild roses...

In this way, HK will never be the world-class city it aspires to be, or thinks of itself to be, nor will it ever be deemed a place that is ideal for anyone inhabit. Everyone here suffers from air quality. The excuses that everyone makes are astounding. While cities around the world are closing off streets, increasing bike lanes and routes, urging people to prioritize air quality--HK is building more roads for more cars. HK has superb public transportation, there is no need to clog up the city with more cars.

I feel bad for the people here (myself included). They are hostage to outmoded thinking, to leaders who have failed to look outward and beyond to see what mistakes have been made, in the West, in particular, regarding air quality. The lack of imagination in this way, the inability to see how air quality affects everything we do is astounding.

I said to a person in Beijing from Mainland, that I feel bad for the Chinese people. Their air is so bad. She nodded sorrowfully and said thank-you. She added "Air quality is a human right."

No wonder no one cares about it here...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Mui Wo Child Questionnaire

How to tell if your young child is having the full Mui Wo experience---

  1. Does s/he ride a two-wheel bike at an extremely fast clip and ignore parental warnings to slow down?
  2. Does s/he have some basic smattering or knowledge of a language other than your native tongue, and if older, try to translate for you?
  3. Does s/he have friends of different ethnic origin?
  4. Did s/he ever attempt to mimic some very aged seniors and spit on the ground, much to your consternation?
  5. Did s/he ever have a hacking pollution-inspired phlegm-filled cough?
  6. Does s/he take particular joy and interest in watching a fish/live animal get flayed alive for dinner?
  7. Does s/he enjoy a snack that you yourself never enjoyed as a child?
  8. Does s/he have a basic knowledge about or cautious attitude toward snakes?
  9. Does s/he regularly hop/bike over bovine excrement?
  10. Do the local shopkeepers/business owners/downtown employees know him/her by name?
  11. Does s/he tell you that s/he hates the ferry?
  12. Does s/he try to pray in a temple, no matter your religious/non-religious persuasion?

10-12 YES answers…Congratulations, your child is having the full Mui Wo experience.

7-9 YES answers…Your child is enjoying a significant part of village life.

5-8 YES answers… Fear not. Cultural transformation takes time.

0-4 YES answers….You are brand-new. Or, if you’ve been here a while, you really need to relax a bit.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Little Libraries

I thought that this was a fantastic project. I wonder if it could work here in South Lantau. We have a little library in Mui Wo, but this would be a nice idea in other parts of our village.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cats and the Eco system of South Lantau

Those who support the maintenance of feral cat colonies should understand that cats are not indigenous to South Lantau. They are predators and result in a fair amount of native species such as snakes, lizards, birds, butterflies and other small animals or insects, being killed off. Sure, who needs rats, or snakes, we all might say...but we have actually witnessed birds killed from our window by such predators, and this is a cause for concern (despite my personal dislike of amphibians and reptiles).

People who are animal friendly have to also understand that animals do affect the native environment and it does a greater disservice over the long haul to our environment to simply sustain a population without monitoring their overall impact on an ecological system. Given that people will and do keep domesticated animals, it would behoove those who support the cultivation of cat colonies to actually measure the population and proportion of feral cats and domesticated cats, and to note and measure the effects of such species on native plants and animal life on Lantau island. The invasion of non-native species greatly affects an eco system and should be monitored. Monitoring does not mean blindly feeding or sustaining non-native species without measuring the consequences good or bad of their imprint on this island.

That fluffy thing you think is so cute may in fact be killing off an endangered bird or rare lizard. Wherever people move, we inevitably affect the local environment, and the reality is, we kill off what was there prior, no matter how conscientious we may be about doing so. So have a think about what your beloved pet or your nearby colony of feral cats may be doing. Domesticated animals and even feral ones, particularly cats or dogs, give human beings much pleasure in life, and we all realize the importance of pets in individual lives, that is a given. But we must also weigh the consequences of all animals, as they are, like us, non-native species to this place.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Ordinary Life

I thought this was a great piece from the NY Times on parenting...on life.

Having my fairly ordinary, but on occasion, extraordinary life here in Mui Wo. And I'm doin' just fine, thanks.

Opting out of most things is not such a bad thing. And actually, what I am finding, is the more you do, the more extra-ordinary (potentially meaning 'strange' or 'different') you seem to most people, except your self. Which is rather peculiar, in and of itself...

But it is hard to have an ordinary life...because modern life does not prize ordinary. Or normal.

Normal is to object to a 60 hour work week. Normal is to complain that the air is filthy. To think that good healthcare is a human right. To believe that the violation of human rights is an abomination.

The world...does not really celebrate normal or ordinary...but I think that we should all try for it...

Glad that so many people marched today in HK. HK people deserve a better government. Let's hope they get it soon.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tokyo Winter, 1996

My poem is on Cha Literary Journal online this month--June 2012

Check it out

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ballet Class for Keohi

Today was Keohi's first ballet class. It was great! I highly recommend Winky's dance studio for dance classes, particularly for children. It's supporting a local Mui Wo small business owner, plus she's a great teacher. There was a combo of Cantonese and English used in the class. It's dance class, anyone can follow. There were three little girls (two native Cantonese speakers, one English speaker, and Keohi) dressed in pink, and Keohi in his white shirt and black spandex ice skating pants. Not a lot of fluffy tutus. It was a dance class. Winky had interesting ways to present movement and Keohi enjoyed it--arms up like a giraffe, balancing, lots of floor work.

We've discussed how important ballet can be for his future as a kung-fu master. So he was in. Since martial arts was a part of my life and Stephen's, and is actually significant within my extended family, I consider martial arts and this type of movement training and study to be a part of a well-rounded education. So dance is important for a variety of reasons. He likes it.

What I was also pleased about was that we have tried very hard to parent him with a mind of being open to gender roles and to be gender tolerant. So there was little question about whether this was a boys or a girls activity. He just went with it. He really wasn't concerned one way or the other in the extreme. Of course, we're living in the stone age in Mui Wo, and let's face it, such Neanderthal attitudes about dance and art extend well beyond our village, so there aren't many boys running to dance class. (We will not discuss the number of obnoxious comments I have fielded from various parents of all nationalities on my son, but I warn you all--I remember every single one of them...and they will come back to haunt you...just kidding...sort of...)

So to be blunt, I don't expect a ton of boys to rock up to Winky's ballet class with him. But too bad for them. The class clearly teaches agility, rhythm, coordination, balance, and strength. Dancers are athletes. Period. One does not have to always kick a damn ball to be an athlete--I mean, geez, must boys be constantly relegated to this type of activity simply because of their damn genitals? Keohi likes playing and kicking a ball as much as any other kid, but he can develop in other ways too.

Of course, I can't help but be a little concerned about him feeling self-conscious in the future in this class, but so far so good and I have confidence that it will go well. And a warning to anyone out there who passed the class as it was going on and saw Keohi dancing in it. You are free to compliment, but will have to answer to me if I hear anything other than that. Watch out. Stay safe:)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sundays in Mui Wo

There are times when I think that nothing can beat a Mui Wo Sunday.

There was a casual invite for a little AM beach rendez vous. We weren't sure if we'd take it, but got up and thought, hey why not. Left Stephen who was completely crashed and decided to head out.  Keohi and I  put on our backpacks and walked to the beach. In the backpack is a hunk of mango bread and some slices of sour cream coffee cake leftover from last night, some water, a change of clothes for Keohi, and sunblock. We did not bike today because I refused to carry the lance with me on the bike. People are free to pretend they are knights or Perseus, but this does not mean that Perseus' mommy carries the weapon. Mommy is not Pegasus. She is not a squire. So the choice of no lance and bike or lance and walk, means that we walk.

Beach is empty. Pretty soon some of his pals show up on the beach--children from Wang Tung, Caitlin and Cathy, Kirsty and Albert's family. There are very few people on the beach. It's not particularly sunny, but still the heat is there, but we've parked ourselves under a shady tree and have claimed a wooden picnic table and bench. All is well. His pal Marvin's dad is a lifeguard. No rope in the water please! (Perseus/Belleraphon also carries white rope in his backpack, not sure why, but something to do with slaying Medusa) then the other children from the village pass by and play. Finn's family shows up, we decide to eat lunch there, and Susan heads to the local take-out and we are soon eating on the beach. Baby Isla is gurgling. Susan has been slain, I think. She was Medusa. Not sure. Briefly later, a sand fight. A time out.  More people show up from HK Island.

Stephen shows up. Ball is kicked. Sand stretches before us. Water is splashed in. Neighbors chat. The breeze keeps us cool and the sticky air is not so bad. The kids run from one place to another, but are pretty much always in sight, and besides, this is a small village, so most people know each other. There are weekend visitors, for sure, but enough locals who pass by on bike or foot who know each other--greet hellos and pass.

Everyone heads out. Swimming lessons. Perseus' chariot is the back of Dad's bike. Mom is stuck walking with the wooden lance to Tom's for a cup frozen coffee. Pick up a copy of the paper, walk/bike home.

Mom orders new bike from Merida! 4 years and it's time to orange version of my same bike...which has somehow nearly doubled in price! This time a padded seat on the back for Keohi in case he gets tired. We've now outgrown two sizes of plastic seats on the back of my bike. It's true, I feel a little sentimental about this. He's 5 now and mostly bikes on his own zipping in front of me, me, desperately peddling to keep up as he races down the hill through the village like a madman. My former village baby, now a village boy...time passes so fast.

Mui Wo Sundays. Casual. Spontaneous. Outdoor life. Environmentally friendly and hey, free. Hard to beat a beach by your house and nice take-out as entertainment. No shopping. No traffic. No scheduled activities....aaaahhhhh....HK Island people, you have no idea what you are missing...we are lucky here. Mui Wo Sundays. Our village on the South China Sea...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Typical Mui Wo Saturday for our 5 year old boy: Get up, eat breakfast, make bed, and have neighbor 'round for a play. Protest brushing teeth, but do it anyway. Feed fish. Eat lunch followed by ice cream, cycle to the football pitch to kick ball with dad. Sweat like mad. Cycle to the pool with mom and dad, splash and swim a few laps (mom walks beside me). Cycle to the playground and meet up with pals. Cycle home, take shower, feed fish and eat pulgogi and rice. A little tidy up. Attempt sumo wrestler moves. Wear outfit and pretend you're Perseus. Brandish sword. Watch DVD with mom. Stories and collapse in bed. No cars. No taxis. No skyscrapers. No guns. Hard to believe he's having a 21st century childhood.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Keohi, Vocabulary and Identity

You know you are in trouble when your 5 year old knows a word that you don't. Today I had to look up the word "garot" online. Thought it was...uhm...maybe a French scarf, some kind of wrap? He had wrapped all of his action figures in cloth napkins. Some had blankets, he said. Others were wearing a garot. Garot? I said, Oh, yes...

I guess he got the word from the National Geographic sumo clip. It's often a persimmon dyed cloth, traditionally a Korean hanbok worn by those who lived on the island of Jeju. Figured there must be some connection with this and the sumo. Will have to watch the sumo clip more carefully.

It's amazing how much children absorb at this age, how they repeat the words and phrases and the intense level of mimicry that they exhibit.

It's hard to know how to analyze and discuss complicated historical (and let's face it, present-day in many parts of the world) subjects. There was a National Geographic map of the Civil War. He had read a story about a slave last summer who had escaped to the North, so I had to draw upon his remembrance of that story when he asked about slavery.

Here in Mui Wo, he is aware of ethnic difference, but due to us living in Hong Kong and the number of mixed families and couples there are, he doesn't seem to be made to feel as an Other. I remember myself, at age 5 living in Seoul and going to the U.S. Army Base school which was fairly diverse. I also was told by my mother, how excited I was when I first went to Hawaii. I told her excitedly: "Mom, mom, look at all of the Orientals!" At the time, I was 3 years old. So I do not take it for granted that he can have the experience of feeling that he is anonymous or like the majority (which, actually, given he's biracial, he's not in HK). Having grown up as a person of color in the US, I know that it is actually a privilege to feel this.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mui Wo Days and the Beginning of Summer

It's 7AM and you're awake. It's also Saturday. But if you have a child under the age of 9, you're awake. Keohi and I head downstairs and leave Dad to catch some Zs...whip up a little french toast for Keohi, and for me, leftover banana muffin with chocolate (dark orange chocolate, the banana muffin elevated to cake I'd say). It's time to collect money for the Lantau Outlying Islands Women's Association. I'm not sure why I agreed to do this for Keohi's school, well, it's a community activity. It's supposed to be for Flag Day. I go around thinking we are raising money for the flags that are periodically hung up around our village (festivals, funerals, and general holiday events) but later find out, it's not for flags, just for the association. That's okay. Given my Cantonese level is basically non-existent, I spend a lot of time bumbling around not really sure of what is going on, and sometimes this is not such a bad thing. Times like this, it neither discourages nor encourages me...

Anyway, by 8:40AM we're knocking on doors. Keohi has refused to wear his Lick Hang school shirt and I'm generally apathetic to such causes, so we hit up the neighbors, some of whom have agreed to donate the night before. Whenever there is a school volunteer activity and it involves the under 9 set, it's basically a parent activity. We bike to Luk Tei Tong and collect money. Conveniently, our former landlord, the village head is asleep. We will have to ask for donations from him at another time...then we come back to suit up and bike down to the swimming pool.

Lick Hang gang is there--his pals Caitlin, Ace, and Finn, ready to jump in the pool. This is what makes Mui Wo a good community for kids, I'd say. We get everywhere on bikes, everyone kicks in when it's for the kids, and for the most part, we do not worry about the things that make most modern parents  of small children freak out: Perverts, Cars, and Guns.
No, instead, in Mui Wo, we have stumbling village old man with mental problems (but everyone knows it, so nobody is bothered, he's harmless), teenagers or commuters on bikes and the rogue cyclist with a MOTOR ATTACHED to the bike (a big no-no here), and bovine urine and feces.
The latter is a drag. The playground really stinks and that old person's exercise spot across from the swimming pool needs some serious monsoon rains to wipe out the smell of cow pee. Wheeew...
Anyway, a good hour long splash in the pool and then a nice dim sum/yum cha at the corner where the ole dai pai dong used to be, across from the church. The kids eat, then run outside. Everyone bikes and walks home. Time to look around for the superhero costumes. It's a birthday party later in the day at the verboten Old MacDonald's on the waterfront.
This dining establishment has not really been on Keohi's radar. Mostly because Old MacD's makes his mom feel slightly sick--the smell of it. I ate it as a kid, but don't like it for the same reason that most people don't like it. It's junk food. Doesn't taste that good. I watched Supersize Me and read Fast Food Nation too we just don't go. I've been able to avoid it because I just tell Keohi that the people inside of it, when he sees the place, are having a birthday party there, and he's not invited.
He's only 5, so he still believes that. Today, his second visit, his first, was also a birthday party.
I attended neither, but today, he went with Dad...
Mom then came home, did some work...and K went to the football pitch with friend.

Typical Mui Wo weekend. No trip to Central. The kid bikes and swims and sees friends. A birthday party. No car rides. No malls. No shopping. Kicking the ball around with friend and Dad.

Can't beat that as a good day for a 5 year old, or the parent of a 5 year old. Good ole Mui Wo, our little village on the South China Sea...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chen Guangcheng, Blind Dissident, Sold Down the River to American Corporate Interests To the English, who may or may not read this blog, the phrase "Sold Down the River" is distinctly an Americanism, and it refers to those African and African Americans, who were enslaved, who may have escaped, and who were subsequently recaptured and imprisoned once more, and sold "down the river" into the Deep South. Congratulations, America. You did it again. It is often an agonizing and completely enraging truth that to be an American means that you, as a passport holder, are party to this type of behavior as a result of your government. Stephen always said, when I had asked him why he didn't want an American passport, that he would never want to run like hell from one Empire to join up another Empire. This is a perfect example. From the NY TIMES. God, I am so pissed off. Dissident Exits U.S. Embassy, Leaving a Trail of Questions By JANE PERLEZ BEIJING — Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident who fled house arrest and came under American protection, left the American Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday and immediately ignited a new controversy over the way his case was handled by the United States and China. In a day of dramatic twists and turns, Mr. Chen went to a hospital in Beijing and gave up American protection after State Department officials said they had secured assurances from the Chinese government that he would remain safe. The agreement initially appeared to ease tensions after a six-day standoff that threatened a major breach in Sino-American relations just as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Beijing for strategic talks. But the future safety of Mr. Chen — and his reasons for agreeing to leave American protection — immediately came under scrutiny, setting off a firestorm among human rights activists, some of whom questioned whether Mr. Chen acted under duress. Mr. Chen also gave evolving accounts of his own decision-making in interviews with Western news organizations, and his lawyer, Teng Biao, said he had “changed his mind” and decided he did not feel safe remaining in China. American officials had initially described details of the negotiations between both governments and Mr. Chen as well as a telephone call to the dissident from Ms. Clinton after he left the embassy compound for treatment at a medical facility here. They said all the parties reached an agreement that involved significant concessions from the Chinese and was the best that could be achieved given Mr. Chen’s desire to stay in China rather than to seek asylum abroad. Mr. Chen will be permitted to study law at a major university in the city of Tianjin, far away from his home village where he had been subject to harassment and intimidation for many years, they said. Mrs. Clinton said in a statement that she was “pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s stay and departure from the U.S. Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values. I was glad to have the chance to speak with him today and to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children.” “Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment,” she added. “Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task.” But in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his hospital bed late Wednesday evening, Mr. Chen said American officials told him while he was under American protection that Chinese authorities had threatened to beat his wife to death unless Mr. Chen left the American embassy, and that Mr. Chen therefore left under coercion. An American official denied that account. The official said Mr. Chen was told that his wife, Yuan Weijing, who had been brought to Beijing by the Chinese authorities while Mr. Chen was in the American Embassy, would not be allowed to remain in the capital unless Mr. Chen left the embassy to see her. She would be sent back to Mr. Chen’s home village in Shandong, where no one could guarantee her safety. “At no time did any U.S. official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children. Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson, said in an e-mailed statement. “U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the Embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification.” Mr. Chen told another media organization, Britain’s Channel 4 News, in a subsequent phone interview that he hoped to leave China and seek safety abroad, expressing regret that he no longer had American protection. American officials said he had consistently spoken of his desire to remain in China during the time he was under U.S. protection. “At no point during his time in the Embassy did Chen ever request political asylum in the U.S.,” Ms. Nuland said. “At every opportunity, he expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with his family, continue his education and work for reform in his country. All our diplomacy was directed at putting him in the best possible position to achieve his objectives.” As word of Mr. Chen’s account filtered out on China’s version of Twitter, the community of human rights activists inside China and supporters in the United States questioned the United States’ decision to allow Mr. Chen to leave under a degree of pressure. Bob Fu, president of the United States-based ChinaAid association, which has defended Mr. Chen and other human rights activists in China, issued a statement saying he feared that the “U.S. side has abandoned Mr. Chen” and that his departure from the embassy was not necessarily voluntary. “We are deeply concerned about this sad development if the reports about Chen’s involuntary departure (from the U.S. Embassy) are true,” Mr. Fu said. He added that he did understand Mr. Chen’s desire to remain in China rather than to seek asylum in the United States or another foreign country. The dispute over the terms of his departure erupted even as American official provided fresh details of the six-day saga involving Mr. Chen and his efforts to seek American protection, as well as the negotiations over his status inside China going forward. Mr. Chen entered the American Embassy late last week with the assistance of American officials because of the “exceptional circumstances, including his disabilities,” a senior American official told American reporters traveling with Mrs. Clinton. “On humanitarian grounds we assisted him and allowed him to remain on a temporary basis,” the official said. Mr. Chen, a lawyer who had campaigned against forced abortions and sterilizations conducted as part of China’s policy of limiting families to one child, suffered an injury to his foot during his escape from his house in Shandong province last week and was walking with the help of a crutch, the official said. During his time at the embassy, Mr. Chen adhered to his position that he was not seeking asylum in the United States but wanted to stay with his family in China as a free person, said the official, who was involved in the three-way negotiations that involved Mr. Chen and officials from the United States and China. “He expressed his hope to stay in China and he never varied from that,” a second senior official involved in the negotiations, who briefed reporters, said. On Wednesday afternoon, after Mrs. Clinton’s arrival about six hours earlier, and after the Chinese had made commitments to guarantee his safety, the American Ambassador, Gary Locke, asked Mr. Chen if he was ready to leave the embassy. Mr. Chen, who speaks broken English, said in Chinese: “Let’s go,” one of the two American officials said. As he left the embassy for the hospital, Mrs. Clinton phoned Mr. Chen in what the two American officials said was an emotional conversation since both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Chen knew of each other but had never met. At the end of the talk, according to one of the officials, Mr. Chen told Mrs. Clinton, also in broken English: “I would like to kiss you.” Mr. Chen subsequently told reporters that he told Ms. Clinton he wanted to “see” her, not to kiss her. The officials said that during the negotiations inside the embassy, Mr. Chen at times would sit with the two main negotiators, holding each one of them by the hand. The two negotiators were the State Department’s legal adviser, Harold Koh, and the assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Kurt M. Campbell. After driving a short distance to the Chaoyang Hospital from the embassy compound, Mr. Chen was reunited with his wife, Yuan Weijing, who was wearing a gray shirt decorated with a rainbow across the front, and their two children, whom he had not seen in some time, the officials said. Ms. Yuan had traveled from Shandong Province the previous day. He was being treated by American and Chinese doctors, the officials said. Mr. Chen had agreed that his medical records be given to the Chinese doctors, they said. Under the arrangement agreed to by the United States, China and Mr. Chen, he would be relocated to a different part of China from his hometown in Shandong, where he was under house arrest and where he says his family had been physically attacked, the officials said. The officials said he had been given a choice of seven locations agreed upon by the Chinese and Americans and that Mr. Chen had chosen Tianjin, an industrial port city east of Beijing. Mr. Chen would be allowed to enroll at a university to pursue his law studies, his self-taught profession, the senior official said. “He will have several university options,” one of the officials said. The American officials said they were satisfied with the pledges from the Chinese authorities that Mr. Chen, 40, would be allowed to live a normal life. The Chinese promised to report any actions against him, they said. Precisely what the Chinese government offered as a way of protection for Mr. Chen was not immediately clear. The American officials went out of their way to praise the Chinese negotiators. They described them as working “intensely and with humanity.” According to the American officials, negotiations began on April 26. The American negotiators met with their Chinese counterparts, led by the vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and relayed the issues to Mr. Chen at the American Embassy. Mr. Chen never met directly with the Chinese officials, the American officials said. There appeared to be no similar case in which a high-profile Chinese dissident had sought protection at the American Embassy and then returned to Chinese custody. American human rights officials and lawyers have often questioned whether the Chinese would provide the protection they promised in such a situation. “This was not easy for the Chinese government,” one of the senior American officials said. Only hours earlier, the crisis that has swirled around Mr. Chen seemed far from abating as China accused the United States of interfering in its affairs and demanded an apology from Washington for taking a Chinese citizen into the embassy “via abnormal means.” “The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied with the move,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin, as saying. “The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has the obligation to observe relevant international laws and Chinese laws and it should not do anything irrelevant to its function.” The two American officials declined to address the demand that the United States apologize for sheltering Mr. Chen and that the United States investigate the circumstance in which the embassy was used in what the Chinese said was an “abnormal” way. “Our actions were lawful,” one of the American officials said. Mrs. Clinton is in China for two days of scheduled talks with senior Chinese officials on economic and security matters. She landed in Beijing shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday local time. Whether she took charge of negotiations was not immediately clear but Mr. Chen was admitted to the medical facility some hours after her arrival. Mr. Chen’s case will continue to overshadow the talks, known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which are scheduled to begin Thursday. But movement toward a resolution may ease some of the pressure. The Obama administration and the Chinese government have been anxious to ensure the case did not dominate the talks, which will cover subjects from North Korea to the global economy. The last Chinese dissident to take refuge in an American diplomatic compound was Fang Lizhi, an astrophysicist, who walked into the embassy in Beijing with his wife in 1989, the day after the People’s Liberation Army crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government regards foreign criticism of its human rights policies and practices as undue interference in its internal affairs, and it will almost certainly use the occasion of the talks to drive that point home, diplomats in Beijing said. This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: May 2, 2012 An earlier version of this article misspelled Hillary Rodham Clinton’s middle name as Rodman.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Here are Keohi's great-grandpa and great-grandma. Married at age 17 and 16--an arranged marriage. My grandfather was the son of an herb doctor, a family whose fortunes had fallen over the years. He rebuilt the family's name and standing through education. He had an opportunity to be a high school teacher, a teacher wanted to help him. But he wanted to be a medical doctor. He managed to become a successful obstetrician/gynecologist, owning clinics, a hospital etc... and proceeded to send every single one of his brothers and sisters to university and medical school. Rare for a Korean family--even my aunts age 70 and up did work outside the home--one a doctor, another an opera singer and professor.

My grandmother was the one who held the family together. She died when I was 4 years old and we lived in Queens, NY when she came to the US to visit. I remember her wearing sometimes these old style dresses--hanboks. She also had the scent of ginseng and would feed me dried squid.

My father was the beloved middle son. A scholar and medical doctor. As a young boy, however, Dad was something of a rascal, I believe. He said that his mom would get regular visits from other mothers because he was always causing trouble. One example was when he was running for class president at age 10 or so--he hit some kid over the head with a wooden board because he didn't vote for him....

Ah--Korean politics!

Monday, April 16, 2012

TCK, Expatriate, and more

Pondering this idea a little more...

OK, I should not conflate a) the Third Culture Kid with b) Third Culture Kid parent. As actually, they are two different experiences and types. For the sake of this discussion, I will call the TCK parent, the Expatriate.

Most of what I previously referenced had to do with the Expatriate, though some thoughts definitely apply to the TCK. After all, most people are a product of their environments and do not end up very far in ideology, behavior or lifestyle from their families. It can happen, and perhaps the experience of the TCK does this, but hard to say. I will though, hold to what I said before, that the adherence to limited beliefs and ideals from Expatriates is rather surprising given the amount of travel they have done and the wide exposure that they have had to difference. But I remember long ago a friend told me: "I think travel is sometimes the worst thing that some people can do. It can confirm their worst suspicions about the world. It can make people more close-minded.Some people should just stay home!" This was said by an old Chinese Canadian friend years ago. I think it applies to everyone.

A good many TCK are also the products of missionaries. Nearly 20%---17%, maybe. Then there's the 20% who are military, and the 20% who are foreign service, 20% whose parents work for multinationals. In other words, I am not sure of the diversity of the social and economic backgrounds to begin with. For the most part, this is a rather narrow socioeconomic group to pick from (literature touts the TCK's likelihood of obtaining a college education etc...). Diversity arrives from the origin of the passport, but not necessarily from the economic factor which often determines cultural outlook.

OK, back to reading a great book (for my conference) which encapsulates ideas of the possibilities of the TCK and the expatriate, the migrant, the emigrant/immigrant and adventurer--The Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Myths and Realities--Third Culture Kids, Travel, Expat Life

I've been reading more on Third Culture Kids, prompted, obviously by my raising one. However, what I find interesting is not so much that there is a perpetual idea of the TCK being homeless or rootless or nomadic, nor that the supposed world becomes smaller due to a broad exposure to different people, but that the truth is, one can find diversity in any country. The question is about how one approaches the search for difference and the cultivation of culture, intellect, art, and life.

Obviously there are aspects of life that are different should one be raised out of one's own passport or home country. I find here that the children are often (BUT NOT ALWAYS!) aware of language difference, nationalities versus ethnic origin, and a variety of behavior. The sensory stimuli is different (all covered in a healthy aroma of pollution...) but, yes, countries differ. Quite often, depending on income level, children travel to different countries and are exposed to a variety of cultures (where if they have certain kinds of families, or even if the families are more open, they will probably eat banana about 15 different, the variations however, amazing!).

But I am very blunt in saying, all of this difference does not necessarily broaden their horizons. The fact is, people are also products of their families and the attitude that their families inculcate. In other words, you can travel to Dubai on the weekend, jet off to the US, party in Bangkok, climb in Nepal, but yes--still be completely narrow-minded and closed to cultures, difference, and ideas. And this is because of your family.

Let me be frank: being a progressive person from California, a majority minority state, and having been itinerant as a young person due to my parents (mostly in the US, but not exclusively so), and having as an adult and child traveled, though not nearly as much as many people I encounter here, I'm fairly astounded on a regular basis here in HK at how closed people are to difference, the conservative nature of their ideas about gender and race, and their lack of exposure or thoughts about poverty, globalization, cultural exchange or the environment. I'm nothing unusual in California or in other parts of the world. There are millions like me. Fairly bog standard type.

Most people of color in the US or in the West have a Third Culture Kid experience. It's what it means to negotiate in a society that often doesn't reflect your reality, identity, beliefs, culture etc...While not fully, most people of color in the US at least (can't speak for everywhere) definitely understand this Third Culture Kid stuff. It's just what it means to not be in the majority. We don't get worked up about it and talk about how we're so enlightened by it, not like a lot of this Third Culture literature proclaims. (Not being a community informant here, but that's the reality). So what is it then, about the illusion of the sophistication of TCK that seems to have gripped a lot of HKers that I find so odd?

I guess to me it's about recollecting people I know, some of whom have not necessarily ventured as far as many of these globetrotting HKers, and thinking of them respectfully and truthfully. And I have to say that what I note is that for some, physical travel does not change one's mindset. If you are ready to be open, you will be and it will increase with travel. But if you are narrow minded to begin with, visiting 25 countries won't do you a bit of good. And there are those who stay in one place most of their lives, like a good many I know, who are surprisingly tolerant and open. Maybe this type may not know the ins and outs of what is going on in Jakarta or Paris, but this person who stays in one place, often due to economic factors, may have been more strangely propelled to read, discover, seek out, and learn from the smattering of people or opportunities that present themselves that seem unique. This person has potentially discussed or read about difference, thinks about it, lives it, but maybe from a smaller geographic circumference.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that the "oh wow, such exposure" types, actually, were probably so SO narrow-minded in their way of being in their home country, that it would probably terrify the average progressive thinker. You know what I am talking about, the person who only knew people of their same ethnic background, who only ate one type of food and poo-pooed various cuisines, who cared nothing for trying to understand different ways of thinking about the world.

Yeah, for this type, coming to HK is a major heart attack. Why? Because all of a sudden the person has to think about what it might be like to uhm...a racial or ethnic minority. Or maybe, golly, not think like the majority about religion. Or uhm...hear another language! Yawn. And god, get treated like crap because you are different, or you look strange, or people think you are strange. Hello. This is just life if you are a person of color in most of the developed Western nations around the world. So for expats like myself, and for our TCK, our negotiation is very very different in how we perceive of life here. Often for us, it is not the culture that is hosting us that is the pain in the neck. It's the other people we are supposed to be like because we are expatriates!

Now, for Joe Blow or Jane Main from Mainstream Western Developed Nation, HK may be a good thing all around. Exposure can't hurt and the person may become more tolerant. If Joe or Jane is open to begin with. But if Joe/Jane wasn't the type who was that curious prior to landing in this place, chances are, this person won't exactly try to negotiate difference all that well. And therefore, the entire idea of cultural exchange is pretty much of a joke. And that Third Culture Kid? The progeny of Jane and Joe? Probably just a ravenous capitalistic consumer of goods on an international level. Yeah, maybe speaks another language, but will mostly utilize this to oppress someone in an underdeveloped area of the world, or simply make a wad of cash without thought to anything else.

Expats often point to Obama as a prime example of a Third Culture Kid who made good. But they fail to point out his mother was a community activist who worked on behalf of the impoverished in Indonesia, his father, an intellectual from Africa. He was no ordinary Third Culture Kid. He was biracial. He was raised in the only (at the time) US minority majority state--and it was Asian to boot (and he wasn't). He was very unusual to begin with, as were his circumstances.

Just rambling thoughts. It all comes down to what's in the mind, what is perceived of as possibility. How one thinks of difference. Of nations. Of gender, race, religion and everything else. How one is willing to reconfigure an idea of self, community, evironment and culture. Hard questions.

No easy answers. And now, back to my reading...tomorrow a school day for my Third Culture Kid.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sumo Wrestling

Move over, Spiderman. Yeah, the world of sumo has taken over. Stephen and I have been concerned about Keohi's body image obsession, modeled on superheroes (we are trying to avoid a steroid taking teenage boy) so I thought to combat this and to show him a different idea of what strength is, in terms of body types, I'd show him some sumo clips. We watch the National Geographic clips on sumo now (there are two, 2 and 4 minutes in length) and Keohi is a serious sumo wrestler. Last night I made him a loincloth from my old white T-shirt and he was so thrilled (it also works as a Tarzan number, and he has a favorite Native American story about the Mud Pony, a little boy who with the help of his horse, becomes a chief (boy also wears loincloth)). So now for hours, we do sumo matches, purify the ring, cook up some chonkonabe soup (sumo favorite, Keohi's pretend soup includes plastic pink doughnuts) and he tells me he can speak Japanese and needs to bulk up for the match. He's picked up some sumo terminology from these short clips and when I pointed out that his friend's mom speaks Japanese, he tells me he speaks a different Japanese. Sumo Japanese. What I like is that there are clear rules to sumo--no kicking, no hair grabbing (okay both are done when the opponent loses, but I said we don't do that part of the sumo match after he whacked me once) and no punching. We've discussed how the younger sumos are not as big as the older ones, and all in all, this is a much superior obsession to the superhero one. There are no tie-in products, nothing to buy (have loincloth, desire settled), and it is fairly entertaining all around for his parents.

Keohi the Sumo Boy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Papers Due

That's it. Papers due. April 16 and less than a month past that. And I am barely going to get there...signing off.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Poetry Reading March 29 Th. 7-9PM City U

I will be participating in this poetry reading, please come. Wine served. Certain end time for those who need to exit, and open mike for those who have a poem...

I will be reading from my work-in-progress, nearly done collection EXPATRIATE (mostly done, some drafts of work have appeared on this website).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Two Crazy Months

Now entering two crazy months wherein I must complete two papers I have not begun to write, though did some research...

Recent discussions about homework--often now, and in very sought after US primary schools, homework is non-existent until age 10. All that you need to teach should be able to be taught within the confines of the 7 hour day of school, especially at that age. Many educators here fail to understand that creativity and innovation emerges from time spent pondering problems and ideas, game playing, imaginary play, and not memorization.

This brings me back to my recent thoughts about the memorization of characters and how this affects the larger society. Wondering this--if written language is extremely difficult to master, does this mean that a culture negotiates the nuance of oral communication differently? Does it become more of an oral culture? And if not, is this the society's internal conflict? The supposed stress of writing, yet the near impossibility for many to have more than a basic command of the language in written form and thus, the skewed power dynamics? The relegation of the vast majority of the people to an agrarian underclass existence? If pinyin were fully adapted as a written form, what would happen?

OH, and to address the jingoistic freak who will probably write to me and send me emails about the glory of China, this observation is NOT China bashing...sigh. This is just a few of my questions about oral and written culture, memorization prioritization and how that might affect individual thought and childhood development, what makes a culture work...