Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Monday, December 16, 2013

Build a Home for Christmas

Participate and help build a home. This is from our friends Maddy and Liam Fitzpatrick who live in Parkview. A helper in the building lost everything...

This is a superb Christmas gift to give someone who has everything--a little note saying that the gift given is a contribution here:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Object to Developments in Mui Wo by December 18, Wed 2013 URGENT

I have listed this from a facebook post for Mui Wo to Tai O Families by Angharad Hampshire
Please note that this must be done by Wed December 18 2013
Please object to new developments in Mui Wo.

The government is planning three tower blocks. A 49m (16 storey) block of 160 HOS flats on Ngan Kwong Wan Road Estate (between Regent Villa and the existing public housing at Ngan Wan Estate - behind post office). Two 55 m (18 storey) blocks of 460 HOS flats on a site known as Ngan Kwong Wan Road West Estate (next to Mui Wo Fire Station and overlooking the fishponds and wetland off the west of Ngan Kwong Wan Road), plus rezoning
the Fishpond area from GIC (Sports Stadium). The deadline to complain is next Wed 18th December. I was told only this week that building works will start next summer so PLEASE OBJECT NOW (details of how below).

If the proposals are implemented, the total population of Mui Wo will expand by about 2,000 in a very short period of time. This represents a 40% increase on the existing 5,000 population virtually overnight, placing enormous strain on transport, parking, schooling, and all public facilities.

Further, no assessments have been carried out on either the likely demand for HOS flats from the demographic in question given the inconvenient location given the high cost of transport to work and school or the economic and environmental impact on Mui Wo.

The scale of the buildings is out of keeping with all current planning guidelines for Mui Wo (low and medium density housing), and the towers blocks will be visually highly intrusive, dwarfing all existing buildings and breaching the ridgeline, as well as adding significant light pollution at night.

The Living Islands MOvement also believe the fishpond area zoning should revert to recreation in line with the surrounding area, to avoid the suspicion that further development of the remaining wetland area is on the agenda. Now is the ideal time to revisit planning intentions for Mui Wo’s remaining wetland area.

If you agree please send in your objection to the Town Planning Board via their website.

Then look down for “Mui Wo Fringe - S/I-MWF/9” and click on “Make Representation”

A suggested response might be:

“I object to this application, Mui Wo Fringe - S/I-MWF/9, due to there being no meaningful information provided to the community or a public consultation or even an exhibition of plans for Mui Wo.”

Please also demand a public consultation exhibition of plans for Mui Wo in your representation.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Village Property and Food Chain Truths

1. If you buy property in a Hong Kong village, understand that even though tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars have been exchanged, the mentality among the vast majority of people who have resided in the village is that you, a sort of perceived of interloper, do not really own your property.

2. While you may not think that it is such a good idea to bury plastic waste, have septic dumped into stream, set fire to chemicals sprayed on weeds, and throw refrigerators into open spots, understand that this will never change. Understand that even if you call the authorities and they bring in a fire truck to avert disaster, it will happen again. Try not to think about it too much.

3. Understand the East-West hierarchy. Know your position. NOTE I did not include language skills. This can affect social order to some degree. In any event, it goes like this:

Chinese male with money and lineage

Chinese male with money

Chinese male with lineage

Chinese male no money

Chinese female money and lineage (at times can overtake Chinese male with lineage, but not always--her position in flux dependent on if she is partnered with non-Chinese male)

White male with money (specifically European origin--otherwise would potentially include African descent males or South Asian males) At times White male with money can overtake Chinese female with money and lineage. If Chinese female is married to white male with money however, this is cause of upset from Chinese male with lineage no money and Chinese male no money. Also Chinese female usually lower than white female on totem pole in eyes of white males unless said white males are married to Chinese females.

Chinese female lineage no money

White female with money--okay, here it gets tricky. If white female and married to Chinese male, she may possibly ascend the hierarchy a bit, if Chinese male has money/lineage. She may even overtake White male position.

Also, to further complicate matters, both Chinese female and white female assume mutual superiority over each other. This does no good to either party and leaves both in a position of supplication to males of both Chinese and European extraction...

 Moving ever downward...

White male no money

White female no money. Note how I do not mention lineage with non Chinese--this has little bearing in HK unless of royal/titled background.

East Asian male non-Chinese money

OK, here is where it gets tricky. This person can ascend social scale, definitely above white male no money and even potentially above white male with money, if not Japanese and not South Asian or Southeast Asian. UNLESS Southeast Asian, South Asian and fair skinned and/or married to European extraction person. In this case, individual ascends, but cannot go above European female extraction with money.

East Asian male non-Chinese no money

East Asian female non-Chinese money

East Asian female non-Chinese no money

East Asian female no money

UHMMMMMM....yeah, no wonder why life can really be a drag.....I cannot get any further as I think I am lower on the village food chain...I also cannot discuss the mixed ethnicity factor as this can also put the hierarchy into question--AGAIN dependent on the nature of the mix.

And for more sociology of Mui Wo...stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Two current interests of mine. This has to do with my research as well as how I have continued to reframe my own existence as an expatriate.

First of all, a word about diaspora...

Apparently you belong to a diaspora when you still seek an acceptance or a place in your previous homeland or society. You feel that the current residence is not quite where you belong--you attribute your diasporic origins to another place.

The deal is that if you are of Asian origin, there exists an assumption that of course, you are of an Asian diaspora. That makes sense, after all--you could be Japanese in Brazil, but you would look to Japan for an acceptance that you cannot have in Brazil.

To a degree, I engaged with such feelings of diaspora when living in the United States--Korea being the site of my ethnic origin, though many in my extended family on the Mainland wouldn't go so far back and cite Hawaii as the point of origin for such ideas of belonging and place.

Here in HK however, I realize the true nature of my expatriate status. I am part of the American diaspora, much more so I feel than the Korean diaspora. Due to my ethnic origin people would assume a greater feeling of sentiment when it comes to Korea, and would never attach me to an American diaspora, but I feel no such longing, (food aside).  Korea is a great place to visit and will always be a spot I will return to on some level at some point simply due to family ties--distant or not. I maintain an intellectual curiosity about the place simply due to my own background. But I do not seek it as a place for completion at this point in my life and not sure if I will ever do so again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

U.S. Shutdown From a Distance

I hold citizenship in a country that definitely subscribes to some crazy ideas and elects some really unreasonable people to higher government office.

Just when I think that it can't get any worse, it gets worse. Living in Hong Kong with the Mainland government just a short trip away is also disturbing. The people in power in the US are so inured to what is going on with the vast majority of Americans, it's rather astounding. Then again, the bottom line is that they don't care.

My son has been pointing on the map to various islands in the South Pacific as his desired destination. This is another method of avoiding the madness--run away!

Today's highlight was that I collected enough Angry Bird stickers to get a piece of luggage from the Wellcome Supermarket chain. Pondering anything more than this has just been too disturbing...Seriously, I've had insomnia about this American economic situation. I am very upset.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Visits from Overseas

Always good to get a visitor from overseas--in this instance, my cousin Annette. She was swinging through on her business trip in Asia and it was her first trip to Hong Kong. My cousin Annette is half Chinese American and half Korean American (I think 6th generation and 4th generation, respectively) and 100% Northern Californian. My uncle Roger, her father , is from the oldest historical Chinese village in the U.S., if not the only one--Isleton that shaped farming and other practices in California from the late 19th century, so it was interesting to hear her thoughts on her visit. Since I am not Chinese, but of Asian ethnic origin, my ties to Hong Kong are vaguely continental/remotely historical and then through a British spouse which throws in the colonial/postcolonial perspective. and a general angle on the place that lacks a sentimentality or feeling about Hong Kong other than what I have experienced personally. No "Homeland/Sinophile" stuff, in other words... And for her, it's a place to visit, but she is maybe even more removed from Asia than myself given both sides of her family as so firmly entrenched in U.S. life.

Since my father was an immigrant to the U.S. in the early 1960s and made periodic trips throughout his life, and now lives in Korea, more or less, Asia as a place configured into our family's life--if only on one side. I said to me what was relevant about the experience I feel a child can understand here is a reckoning with manufacturing, sourcing, another way of being--this is where the stuff is made that everyone in the West sees as an end-product. I think it's important to understand, even in basic terms these types of difference that result from this economic reality. We lived in Seoul only for a year when I was about five years-old, but I remembered dirt roads, my father bringing water in plastic jugs from the U.S. base home, mangy looking animals, plastic and bamboo umbrellas, carts pulled by cattle and images of tin homes. There were great grandparents who wore traditional costume, heated floors, and my aunt's courtyard home with chamber pots. There was the night that the kimchi was buried in tall ceramic pots in our yard. And sounds: of dogs, languages--Korean and English, pop music that my young uncle danced The Jerk to, Korean traditional songs, and piano diligently practiced by my uniform wearing older cousin. I still recall rides in my grandfather's shiny black chauffeured car, visits to the graveside stacked with fruit, the dog that came to the window of my grandparent's courtyard garden, and the long bus rides to the U.S. Army base where I attended school. By the time I returned to the U.S. I had, I now realize, an entirely different set of experiences than the vast majority of the neighborhood children. It served to set me apart, scramble for acceptance, and probably, in some odd way, laid the foundation for my existence here in a rural Chinese village so many years later. My sisters and I all ventured back at age 12 or 13 to Seoul for several months, and then not again for years later--but those visits shifted a perspective on what it meant to belong--or not--to Asia, to the West, to any particular space or country. 

These days I'm thinking that nations are seemingly benign compared to the might and ferocity of the multinational corporation. Nations do their bidding at this stage--this is where real power is centered. It's not what country you are from, it's what corporation do you work for that seems to matter...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


A very interesting area of study. How does place define who we are? How does geography affect our emotional state and reconfigure ideas of belonging, friendship, and culture? How does space affect our behavior?

One might ask such questions before making assumptions about an entire group. Is this behavior really how X people behave? Or do X people behave this way because they live in this type of space (small apartment, large green area, in mountains, by the ocean, near a mall etc...). Space cannot be separated from cultural assumptions about groups or individuals.

A brief discussion today about what happens as an expatriate. You leave in year X. But since you don't join the host country's cultural milieu, except in a very peripheral way, unless you happen to join it through marriage or other means, you don't move forward with it. You don't move forward however, with your home country. So you are in stasis--never moving anywhere. This can be quite severe when you are talking about politics or social morays.

This puts me in April 2008.

I heard a crazy story about the U.S. today (and not the default thing going on either) from a former expat who now returned to the U.S., and I caught myself thinking, as she was thinking: what awaits when one returns?

Does one return? Can one return? Really--where, when, how and why do we go home?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ampersand Review

My poems 'Sea Mother of Ocean Park' and 'Countries Follow' from my collection-in-progress EXPATRIATE appeared in Ampersand Review.

They did a great job with the layout...

The Continents Rhyme and Lessons in Place and Diversity

I have noticed that aural skills in young children are quite remarkable--and that this is a good way to engage them in factual information. Visual cues are effective, but a good rhyme leads to repetition and word play.

I pointed to a world map, chanted this rhyme below, pointing to each area mentioned, back and forth, repeated this, and then we (my son and myself) tossed around a blow-up globe back and forth for awhile saying this.
Brief discussion of citizenship involved pointing out how we have passports, how we are guests in Hong Kong. Our family is still split by passports, but we hope to resolve all of this (not a big issue, merely line waiting) in the next year. Ideas of permanent residency, migration, exile are important--but impossible to explain at this stage. However, from very early on, we have always pointed out that our son's home village is in England--where his father's home village is, and his little friend's home village is here. His mother's home is not Korea, (where grandfather lives now more or less) but Hawaii and California--the USA. This is the reason we are to be respectful and understand the rules of the village. We also point out however, that inside our home--this is our home, period.

There has been an increasing discussion in our household about difference--racial difference and appearance and what this means. What does it mean that people look different? I had to explain that on different continents, people may look different. That many look like X in Africa, everyone looks like Y in Asia etc...and that everything is subject to where you are living. He mentioned how A said he didn't like B, and I had to explain that was potentially because B looked different and that if A said this, it was wrong, and that if A said this in our house, he would no longer be able to come. We like people no matter what they look like. Difference is good. The usual stuff.

I had read that non-white children in the US usually discuss racial difference by age 3-4 as children, but white privilege allows white children to negotiate without this discussion until age 13. I believe that here, this is not the case, as the non-white children constitute the majority, expats must discuss this (though to be blunt I am rather intellectually terrified by what the discussion may constitute given the Capuccinno Incident a few weeks ago and that the British white male was racially dismissive of Asians despite his own Asian progeny--Burmese Days all over again!) but we have had this discussion early as I believe Keohi is biracial and it came up very early.  Also, here people accept societal segregation due to language.

Children from this village ride the ferry side by side in silence. The local children who are Cantonese speaking sit next to the English speaking children on the ferry into Central every morning and do not exchange any words. It very subtlety teaches a few things:
a) English is the language of privilege and wealth (from all statistical analysis, this is true on a world scale level
b) From one side--people speaking Cantonese become part of a large mass horde of people that one frequently, automatically, learns to possibly ignore due to language
c) From one side--people speaking English are oppressive and yet, we are supposed to learn the language etc... ('Can We Say Colonialism'? Aw, shucks...)

Ahh-so where does this put me? 4th generation Asian American with minimal French and Korean skills. Sort of in nowheresville, really...Mandarin being at lesson 8 level in Beginning 1 series (about to resume again) and Cantonese very minimal level.  But I do have to say that my most meaningful relationship exchanges in recent months have been with Cantonese speakers who speak little English and most significantly with a woman who speaks little English--and that she has fundamentally changed my life and opened my world---and this did not take language. There are other ways to show appreciation, depth, affection and laughter. Food and sharing crosses boundaries. I am in great admiration of her exuberance, generosity and warmth. I try to be a better person here because of her.

But to return to the prior discussion of knowledge acquisition and young people and formal learning...
The DEARTH of African characters in children's books is PALPABLE if not downright appalling. I realize that our library, even at home, built on my own past children's library some 40 years old, has few images of black or Asian characters. I have remedied this to buy Asian character books, and this was more easily addressed in the US where there is a large and vast selection of multicultural or rather polycultural children's books. We have stories about Native Americans, Mideastern traders and Hawaiian dolphins. But it is not easy to do here. I spend a lot of time rummaging around in used book stores and scrounging up stuff and shipping it back when I head back to the US every summer. In Memphis, we read about children in Cameroon, the history of slavery, and Russian immigrants. Here in HK, it is tough to replicate this diversity. So the other day, Keohi expressed delight and surprise seeing a black police officer in his children's book. 
"I didn't know that you could be black and a police officer!" he said. He seemed excited about this. I felt depressed that I hadn't included a black police officer in his stories. Here I make a huge effort to make him understand that people don't have limits according to difference--yet he was clearly thinking that this was not a reality. Wow. And he is only 6.5. How early these lessons are learned. How hard to unlearn them as adults. How deeply rooted we are in ideas of self and nation from what we see, experience and come to understand.
Well, why would he know about police offers of African descent? A) He only sees Chinese police officers--all male here B) He sees very very few people of African descent here period  C) Characters of African descent aren't featured much even in the kids literature we do have from the US D) We spent part of the summer in Memphis for the last 3 years, but we rarely encountered a police officer and probably if we did, they were white!

My god, and we wonder about our communities. How can we expect more when we don't provide examples for a younger generation? Some of the challenges are due to where we are--what we can do, what we see, what we can explain. And I am only left with trying to do more for him to understand this.

The Continents Rhyme
by Stephanie Han
Asia Europe
East and West
North America, South America
Citizens and Guests
Australia Antarctica
Bears live there
Koala and polar
Mammals beware!
Africa the original place
Where we all began
The start of the race!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Microagressions and Hong Kong

This is a really interesting blogsite because it goes over samples of microaggressions--microgressions are a deep source of mental health issues and anxieties within the Asian American community, and let's face it, for many many people. Microagressions seem nearly invisible and the object of such aggression is often left wondering if such an act truly was one of aggression. This is the terrible thing about microaggressions.

Here in HK many of the minor microaggressions that are par for the course in mainstream American life, don't exist for me. But of course, there are a host of other microagressions--cultural and due to linguistic nuance and often my ability to understand English--with all of its nuance, implications, and subtleties.

I actually found myself reassuring an Indian woman the other day that in parts of the United States there were whites who were liberal, tolerant, and who would speak up for social justice issues and racial discrimination. In all fairness, they are in the UK too. But it was significant to me to think that she had never encountered this in her life here in Hong Kong. To have her think that this is how an entire group (white Brits) thinks or operates is seriously depressing. How awful is it to have never experienced ideas of social justice from a white British person despite claiming HK as home your entire life and what must be regular interaction due to a shared language of English. But this is the legacy of recent colonialism. I said to her, really, it's true. There are whites who will stand up for your rights too. And let's be realistic about the injustices that she must also experience at the hands of the indigenous Chinese population. Life can be very disappointing when you think of human vulnerabilities. People need empathy and compassion. Individuals can thrive in places where diverse populations have a sense of shared purpose and social justice. But then I confessed to her what has made me think quite deeply about much of this in recent weeks was that I realized, for the most part, the only white person I know who regularly questions, fights, confronts, and interrogates this type of racial social injustice, and who would call out someone about it publicly, loudly, and vocally, out of anyone I have met here in HK happens to be Stephen.

Good to know. But sometimes a little isolating...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Future Blogposts

Okay, so since we have more or less entered Keohi's slightly later years (age 6.5) I think we are going to slightly back off on some family coverage on this blog. The reason is that he will soon be reading online. I want him to make some personal decisions about how he wants to frame his early childhood and not be uncomfortable with his presence on my blog. He may not appreciate me discussing how he is at this age later in his life. (ie "Did you have to write that I sit in a half-lotus, pretend to meditate, and talk about air bending?" Stuff like that...) I'm trying to avoid him having future therapy sessions about privacy violations surrounding his early elementary school years.

That said, since I am now heavily involved in aspects of his schooling, I will probably be discussing ideas that interest me that relate to pedagogy and education. (i.e. Keohi and I dissected a fish last week--I know this is not done til later years in school, but frankly, based on his response, I am wondering why since it seems early learners greatly benefit from hands-on learning and do not necessarily have the social hang-ups with blood and guts that are inculcated by the time you reach junior high level). I'm always interested in expatriate life in practical and theoretical terms as it relates to migrancy and citizenship, national identities, calcification of creative thought or the freeing of creative thought, and how expatriatism affects the general hum-bug and joys of indigenous village life. This village is an interesting time-warp and has been an often trying, but good experience in terms of it engaging my perceptions of Hong Kong culture, postcolonial life (people can rabbit on about it theoretically, but try LIVING in it for some time--especially since this place doesn't even run according to HK law).

So new dawn...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hong Kong Museum of History Fall 2013 Field Trip #1

This academic year 2013-2014 Keohi will be exploring Hong Kong (with me) -- hitting all the major sites and studying the local environment.

Our first stop (last week) was the Hong Kong Museum of History. I was curious how this would fly with a 6.5 year old boy. I last visited over 10 years ago--twice actually, once with my father. I remembered a video about the Japanese occupation of HK, but didn't see it this time.

We briefly watched the temporary exhibit video made on the production of palace clothing. It was animated, very nicely done.

Then we went in to the permanent exhibit wherein we saw arrowheads and early tools, stuffed animal displays including a fake snake, and stepped aboard a display of an old style fishing vessel. The exhibits were, for the most part, fairly well done and he seemed interested--highlights included an old drawing of a pearl diver off of Lantau in something like 678 or was banned as there were too many drownings. They would attach rocks to the diver. Uhm...yeah, really, not such a good idea.

Some of the village life exhibits were interesting because it's what we live around and participate in on a regular basis. We did the wishing tree, watched the movie on the Opium Wars. "What is opium?" "A drug that makes you sleepy. You want to sleep all the time so you don't do anything else." Try telling that to a kid. I think he thought that was probably the craziest thing he had ever heard. Who wants to sleep? Ever! How boring is that? 

Other highlights included: Cannon display. Plastic guns in a case as an example of HK as a toy manufacturing capital. A big plastic toothbrush. Sat on the trolleycar bench (which we ride in Central anyway). Diorama of opium containers being split and dumped in ocean.

All of the video and film displays were trilingual--UNTIL you reach the China Reunification film which you can watch only in Mandarin. Not in English. I can see why there are protests about history teaching in HK. That in and of itself was a bit weird. If you have international tourists and everything else features English, why not have the last and final video segment only in Chinese? My guess is that they probably were blathering some propaganda. Surprise, surprise. I recommend however, the Opium War segment--it's a decent video.

Overall a good way to spend the day. We ate Korean across the street and the restaurant had these bumper stickers that read I LOVE BORDER COLLIES and broadcast a border collie competition. I'm pretty sure that the show featuring dogs jumping through obstacle courses, plus getting to drink a sprite were the highlights of the cultural tour, but such is life.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cappuccinos in Wellcome

Tonight -- at Wellcome, our local supermarket. One older British man screaming "HK CHINESE" and bullying a local older Chinese man. Pretty bad scene. He was terrorizing the staff with his quasi colonial outburst (very uncool post 97). I really couldn't bear it. I told him he should not have brought up racial identification. Wellcome staff seemed glad to have me speak; whites silent--of course no one defended the Chinese guy, christ; local Chinese/Filipino customers quiet, but also slightly relieved. Linguistic frame here: speak perfect English in Asia with an Asian face--and whoooeee, you get a little different reaction from some unreformed Western types. Anyway, had to come to the local man's defense. I must say, in the US there is always a random white guy or woman who says HEY DUDE YOU ARE SO UNCOOL, but no such liberal outreach in HK from the Western folks for the most part, I have found, which is one of the uber downers of life here. (Except for Stephen who is not to be messed with should anyone utter such crap) Anyway, since when does one scream "YOU DO THIS BECAUSE YOU ARE HK CHINESE". As an English person in postcolonial HK this is very uncool. I said, "I am not HK Chinese, but as a fellow Asian I find what you are saying really offensive!". Then he called me a "CAPPUCCINO." I was on my way out. I had no idea what to think other than I drink lattes. And was this insult because I looked like some effete snob who chugged down espresso in various forms and hung out in seedy coffee shops clutching my Foucault reader? (ie would it be better if he called me FOLGERS INSTANT?). His insult failed to register. Stephen (now on the warpath...) explained to me later this meant I was brown on the outside white on the inside. I've heard twinkie and banana, but never cappuccino. Actually, it is empowering to be grouped with the mass of people who range from yellow to black, so no worries there:) As for the acting white, it is because I have no accent when I speak. The guy has a Filipino partner. We can deconstruct this event on so many levels. I am mellow about it though was pissed right after briefly. On the up note, this is HK, so no one has a gun:) . I note that this guy did not DARE to pick on the young local men, but would freely bully an older man. Ahhhh postcolonial HK.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bellows Beach, 2013 Hawaii

Hawaii 2013. Keohi's first Hawaiian summer. Above is a picture when the kids had a day out at Bellows Beach. This is the site of numerous family picnics and BBQs over the years. There is part of the beach that is open to the public on the weekends, but in order to get inside further--where this is, you have to have a military pass. Not sure if that is reason to join the U.S. military, but there are enough of the older generation in my family who have this pass, the beach is beautiful, and hence, we see have enjoyed this place immensely throughout the years.

He met up with his cousins Kalei and Christopher, my cousin Sharon's children. It made both Sharon and I nostalgic for the time when we were young during those summer days in Hawaii when we would squeeze eight kids in my grandma's Pinto (circa 1971) and my mom would drive us around the Island to beaches and a shave ice after. Times have changed. Honolulu is a congested city. It's noisy. But when you look out at the ocean there is little to do other than to laugh and exclaim at the raw extraordinary beauty of the Islands.

Hawaii forever tainted my vision of what an ocean could be. I love the California coastline, having spent the majority of my adulthood there, and I have seen many many coastlines since, and we live on one here...but few match the beautiful blue, in memory and in reality of Hawaii. Hawaii was the home of my mother, Oahu, the gathering place, as it is called, the place where we flew from the Mainland to see family, to experience a feeling of belonging.

Lately, I think of questions of home. What constitutes how we see ourselves as people who belong to a nation? Where is this place we belong to? How does memory work in our idea of who we are, where we belong, and what we think of as home? What does it mean to move countries and to live unmarked and marked by borders?

Going to Hawaii as a child, it was a place that reaffirmed my Asian Pacific American identity. I learned to sew flower leis from my uncle's plumeria tree, watched Japanese cartoons in translation, ate spam musubi, kimchi hotdogs and stacks of kalbi. I hit the beach, snorkeled, boogie boarded and picked liliquoi from Grandma's vine, and learned hula songs. I swang from the banyan tree and laughed with family. I learned to play blackjack, watched the aunties play mah-jong, and went for malasada runs certain that it was the most delicious thing ever made.

For Keohi, growing up in Asia, and in a former British colony, Hawaii is a place to be American. From what I can gather it meant eating a hamburger from as many different places as he could (I have never in my entire life ordered two burgers at one meal and watched my 6 year old son do so), marvel at the yellow school buses, swim in clean ocean water, shout at the air quality (MOM it is NOT POLLUTED!), note how the elevator buttons looked different, and plant himself in front of his grandmother's enormous television (no TV at our house). He fished, went to a nature camp, and swam-swam-swam. Grandma's highrise garbage chute was a thrill, as was tetherball at his great aunt's.  I had to explain to him how TV commercials worked as he kept screaming  PAUSE PAUSE!  He saw many men with long hair (though in emulation of his older cousin, just got his hair cut short for the first time ever) which he noted to me, and many overweight people ("Mom are those people big?" "Yes, they are. Don't stare, it might hurt their feelings.") As a child I screamed to my mother with excitement: "Look at the Orientals!" so I suppose observation of difference is the main lesson here. He learned to boogie board, made a few local friends, and cried when we left: "Mom, I'm sad to leave Hawaii."

I said, "I'm sad to leave Hawaii too, but we'll be back. We're going home to Mui Wo."

Looking at him at the airport giving me the hang ten wave with his hands I realized that he too will need this place to belong to. He's hapa, of two nationalities, the son of rather transient parents, and part of the reason we gave him the name Keohi was so that he could feel there was a place where he could belong and could fit in, and giving him a Hawaiian name was part of this. I am not Hawaiian, but I know the aloha people hold in their hearts in the Islands is intrinsic to the Hawaiian cultural sense of possibility of love, forgiveness and possibility.

I remembered when I would leave at the end of those childhood summers my cousins saying a casual goodbye masking their own sadness, presenting my sisters and I with leis for our journey home. What was home? Where is it? I left so many as a child and as an adult, now see there are few places that I will ever return to. Hawaii is definitely a place to go back to. Traffic and highrises, increasing crime and people squeezed out of a living to make way for tourists from the U.S., Japan, Korea, China, and everywhere else rushing to the malls to buy the latest Louis Vuitton bag (go figure, don't you have one of those stores everywhere?). The aloha feeling is going, my relatives said. They worry, their way of life has disappeared. Honolulu is a big city. It is no longer the place from which to run from the plantation, but an American city with all of its complicated issues. But cities hold pockets of open-space memory, and this is what makes Oahu different for me.

How does memory make a place? Who are we, if not defined by nations and groups? Where is it that we truly feel we are home? And why do we run or return to this?

A good trip back.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Expatriate Pondering the American Dream

I have been giving serious thought to the idea of nation and culture--what does it mean, what is its importance individually and to society. How can we free ourselves from these often constricting definitions and when do we seek them as refuge and strength? What is the American Dream?

The longer I am away from the United States, the more I find myself both appreciative of aspects of its national culture, and simultaneously, appalled and at serious odds with its claims to greatness. On one side, I'm four generations into the American project--and I find the chaos of what can be a very open society liberating. It's true. What I miss about American life, due to where I have found myself living in post-colonial Hong Kong, is a sense of possibility that many Americans grant another individual. It is true: friendliness and openness are American cultural traits. Americans are often exuberant, enthusiastic, and unabashedly vocal. I'm sure everyone agrees that this has its positives and negatives, but most Americans are by other cultures standards, upfront and refreshingly open. They also respect an individual's right to dream. This is no small feat and this cultural trait cannot be underestimated. It plays a huge role in how Americans treat each other and how they function politically, emotionally, economically and socially. Americans dream and they expect you to dream with them, or at least on your own, and failure to dream--well, it's simply unAmerican.

Most Americans operate under the illusion that their society is a fluid one, offering great economic and social mobility, though this is increasingly less of an option for the general population, mired in debt and inequality. The elusive idea of the American dream continues to hold many in perpetual thrall. In the dream, all are equal. Because dreams are private, dreams have no hierarchy. So if the dream is framed as the be all and end all--this will silence most. The dream is seductive and profound. It can also be debilitating, terrifying and willfully ignorant. The dream may be large or small, but is usually tied to some form of capitalistic endeavor or material object. In a way, it is not unusual or different from the dreams that are held by individuals in other countries, it's simply that in the U.S., the dream is holy. One must have a dream. And the most American thing one can do, is to pursue this dream. I have witnessed the erosion of many economic opportunities and increased levels of corruption in nearly every aspect of American life due to the seemingly insatiable appetite that American people have for material goods--and other people's desire to meet this demand at the expense of sound governance and economic policy. The dream has become for most, more impossible than ever, but it continues to be the foundation of the American cultural ideology and myth,  clouding the conscious mind, and controlling the population. In fact, I believe that many of these strange laws and policies and practices in the US are due to how one interprets the American dream in general, and the American dream on a highly personal level. Some dreamers face the truth of the U.S., but most, dream into an idea of the U.S. that is impossible without some serious structural changes.

Oh--the opposite of the dream is not hell (well, maybe a kind of hell); it is depression.

I should round up some stats on Americans on mood enhancing drugs, but it is quite high. The reason for this I feel is that Americans think that they must be happy and live their dream, and if they cannot, they seek to alter their present with something that makes them feel as if they are in the dream.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Arvo in Mui Wo June 2013

This is a random sampling of a Mui Wo afterschool afternoon the very last week of school June 2013

Keohi cycles home with Angie, arrives home really sweaty. He threw the glass recycling in today, showed Angie where it was.

Lunchbox check. No, didn't finish. This means you get it for snack.

I refuse to capitulate to terrible eating habits. I can't stand adults with bad eating habits and children who have them turn into adults who have them. Talk about ruining a meal.

Random recap of a few school happenings (but often not).

Intense studying of Ninja Turtle book. We read Curious George. Head out on a walk to do the rest of the recycling and return a book to a neighbor in Luk Tei Tong. Cow pies on the sidewalk. Men on the three wheel tractors.

Dump the recycling. A troop of matching T-shirt born again Christians, or some other religious group passes us. They are from the City. You can tell they never get out. Plenty of pear shaped young boys. Gasping and teetering. Can't stay up on a bike. Uncomfortable but enjoying it all. Sort of. Nervous, but feeling free. Sweaty. They're having great fun, and I wonder how much they might have benefited from more time out of doors when they were younger.

Pass random dogs. Discussion of if the dogs should be touched or not. We avoid them. Run into a friend's sister. Chat a few moments. Slap sand flies.

Pass cows.

Drop off the book.

No, you cannot go surfing in that waterway. It is filthy. It has people's dirty water in it.
On the way home, hit the village square. Go back and finally pull out the ping pong paddles and head to the village square. Volleying is impossible. The concrete table makes it difficult. But old Lick Hang people swing by. No, don't want to play ping pong. And then his other pals come up and there is ping pong, hide and seek, and running around and then finally, time to duck back inside for Canto lesson and I am back to work in my study.

An afternoon as a 6 year old. Final week of kindergarten in Mui Wo, 2013.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer 2013

Soft focus and pink is good at our age. You know you are old when you think blurry photos are just fine. So here we are Pretty in Pink (I feel like I should hum this 80s song).

I am still trying to post and detail our trip to Lombok May 2013. We stopped in Singapore to see former Muiwonese and then went to hoo-ha it up in Lombok for Keohi's godfather's 50th. A good time was had by all.

It is now officially HOT weather season...

Keohi told me tonight he is trying to mix a potion so that he can turn into a Ninja Turtle. Like most children, he has a very deep imagination. I would say that he spends quite a few hours a day not being Keohi, but inhabiting various characters. I think a lot about how this level of concentration and focus on pretending to be someone or do something that is make-believe gets torn down by society the more one is institutionalized, the more one enters the adult world, or even the world of children affected by an adult world. People learn to exit this pretend land and instead scrape and survive in the so-called real world.

I suppose this is why reading and writing became so crucial to who I am and what I am--asocial as it may read is to escape, to write is to inhabit a world that is often much more preferable to real life...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bombay Cafe Mui Wo Summer Nights 2013

Every Sunday since we've moved here in April 2008, we head out for dinner. There are Sundays that we stay in, but we've done an even rotation of a variety of restaurants here--about 6 months at each place, move on, and recycle some in between for a few Sundays, then back again for another 6 months somewhere else. Food choices are limited here in Mui Wo, but for Keohi, the routine and companionship make up for it.

Growing up, I remember eating out every Friday night with my family. During our years in the Bay Area when we lived in the Presidio, we ate at Korea House. Dad ordered the same mandoo guk--or dumpling soup and we would be presented with a rumpled brown paper bag of the crispy rice that the restaurant owner had saved for us to munch on. She would also give my sisters and I one stick each of Juicy Fruit gum. This was a thrill. Mom, when she did buy gum, would only by Spearmint. Years later, the baby in the back of the restaurant was briefly my younger sister's boyfriend in Los Angeles! Talk about a small Korean world. And the grandmother remembered my father's Friday night order. To this day I have a fondness for the light brown rice that remains at the bottom of a rice pot if it's cooked over a stove.

So Sundays have been our Mui Wo tradition:

OK, here the gang is all out in front of Mr. Gordon's (Uncle Gordon's) Bombay Cafe in Mui Wo, while we wait for a curry. Our standard order: Stephen-lamb, Steph-veggy, Keohi-fish. Drinks? Stephen-grapefruit soda, Steph-2 boxes of fruit juice, Keohi-soy milk/juice 2 boxes. Keohi likes to come down to run around with whoever is out--Kimmy most often, Gordon's daughter, Justin lives upstairs, and then that night, Jamu showed up. While Gordon did the curries, Keohi would and still does run up and down the drag with his pals. If I go early with Keohi and have to go to the store, he'll run there with Kimmy under Gordon's watchful eye while I bop into the Wellcome. It's an old-style neighborhood. Keohi will have a lot to remember when he's older--this is HK at its best, truly.

The kids embody a part of Mui Wo I hope will stay with Keohi for the rest of his life--moments of play on sidewalks crowded with chairs and a few bikes, a random car, a dog and a kid with a new toy that everyone clamors for. The Philippine products store next door that stocks the dusty boxes of puzzles and pork rind chips and peanuts. The smell of spice and curry from Gordon's cafe. The banyan tree across the way and the red and white stripes of the tricycle awnings as people laugh and call and yell. At tourists. At each other. Alive in the heat of summer. I think and hope this will be embedded somewhere where he can retrieve it all---a hazy memory of his early childhood, resurfacing when confronted with what the world can be in all of its transnational, polycultural and wonderful mixed up possibility.

The backgrounds are interesting: Keohi-British Korean American, Justin-HK Indonesian Mainland Chinese, Kimmy-Thai Indian British, Jamu-Nepalese. It's a group of kids you'd see in many urban areas, but particularly in HK. They speak English together with probably a random word of Canto, is my guess, the parents calling to the kids in every language configuration that they know.

Curry arrives. Keohi: Sihk Fahn! we say. NOW. Sihk Fahn!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Traffic in Lantau

I think that there definitely should be more police assigned to this district or beat. After the motorcycle death and the bovine deaths (8 cows),  I would hope that there could be some organization to this area in terms of policing. They are really short staffed and need to do more traffic monitoring.

The road works through the main drag in Mui Wo will end in a death or terrible accident. Even with the traffic lights, people jump it, buses push their way through, and it is simply too chaotic. It is easy to blame one group or another, it is not an "expat" or "local" issue, but a Lantau problem for all members of this community. Everyone is pressed in this situation--police, cars, pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation...South Lantau is getting busy and this requires a cooperative effort from all parties.

Be patient. Yield appropriately. Don't speed. Park respectfully.

I think that the following ideas for South Lantau traffic would work:

a) more police assigned to Lantau Island district
b) one traffic cop assigned to the Mui Wo road works to direct traffic
c) issuing of permits for all vehicles that transit through Mui Wo--and there needs to be a limit on these and/or very high license fees to discourage easy access and encourage more use of existing public transportation
d) more blue taxi licenses
e) more monitoring of public transportation vehicles like buses
f) more ticketing for cars--no parking in pedestrian areas like sidewalks, speeding, driving up the fire roads
g) more community action--reporting speeding cars and those that are illegally parked to ensure public safety; active carpooling to combine resources, save energy and cut down on traffic

Maybe these recent fatalities will push a re-examination of these issues. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

R.I.P. Speed Ironman the Turtle (2013-2013)

Dearest Beloved Speed Ironman, our pig-nosed Papua river turtle (a displaced possibly illegal Indonesian turtle presented to us in a bucket) was only with us for 24 hours before ascending into the Great Turtle River in the Sky. He enjoyed three pellets of turtle food and his temporary home of a plastic Ikea box decorated with Mui Wo rocks and water before his untimely death--right before the DVD showing of Ice Age II. He is survived by six siblings at an unknown location. His mother was not informed of his death, but according to Wikipedia, the fact that she even reproduced in captivity is a testament to Speed's hearty genetic inheritance as most don't. Private funeral services will be held tomorrow. Keohi has requested that we burn incense. We're also supposed to put an X someplace to mark his grave. Stay tuned for possible updates on Speed Ironman II...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thatcher is Dead

She was a terrible leader. An embarrassment and amoral leader who hated the poor and the working class, despised women and people of color, and sympathized with those in power who terrorized, plundered and killed.

We are not mourning her in this household.

She did her damage.

Glad she is dead, though her legacy of misery lives on.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mui Wonese--Definition of....

Mui Wonese...are a large polycultural group of various national origins inhabiting the island of Lantau, specifically, the small village area of Mui Wo. Main languages spoken: Cantonese, English, Mandarin, Tagalog, but also known to speak French, German, Visayan, Bahasa and various Chinese dialects. Ride bikes. Swims. Enjoys BBQ. Some are vegetarian, but most are omnivores. They are familiar with the sounds of the bullfrogs in the spring, the small sandfleas and mosquitoes in the hot months, and the march of the bovine throughout the year. They drum or are very familiar with the sounds of drummers. They love children. Even the ones they beat on the legs with a bamboo switch. Smoking and mah-jong are frequently indulged. They find life off the island interesting enough, but most agree that their parochial village lives of cleaner air and quiet more suited to their rather slow movements--this may or may not include brain synapse activities... 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mui Wo to Pui O

This picture says everything about why we live in South Lantau. There are times when it looks spectacular and I feel happy to know that such images will shape how Keohi views his childhood. It's not easy to live here for some. Commutes are long. It can be inconvenient. But we are all here because the air is better, and because we want our kids to have a different kind of life than the kind they might lead in the city. Casual. Spontaneous. Step outside and hit the green and enjoy the view.

Keohi has been seeing some of his pals on the weekend, and sometimes the moms and sons have all hiked. A few weeks ago we went from Mui Wo to Pui O. The boys were great. It was a long day. We stopped along the way for snacks and rest, but our Mui Wo boys are healthy guys in good physical condition. These kids run up and down hills (and in the case of Cillian, literally hike home into the country park!) and ride their bikes. Three sweaty little guys. They hiked with little complaint all the way there. That's around 9km.  Moms were tired. The end result was a beautiful view of Pui O and later a quick splash in the water (no extra clothes, so the boys wore sweatshirts around their waists).

Childhoods are never perfect. But there are moments that are nothing short of beautiful and one can believe that these experiences will shape the way the kids view the world. In 15 years,  there's a good chance that South Lantau will be a transport hub full of diesel farting trucks, cars, tall buildings and chain stores. There will be more traffic and probably shopping malls. It will be ugly and prosperous. I tell Keohi he is enjoying the last of South Lantau, that when he is an old man, the Mui Wo that he now knows and loves will be gone. I tell him that I hope that he will remember a time when he was a little boy who lived in a quiet village near the South China Sea and to do what he can to protect the environment. He tells me he doesn't want Mui Wo to look like Central. I tell him that it's up to him to fight it every step of the way.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rewind... Xmas 2012

Catching up a bit. These are old friends from Munich who came to stay with us over Xmas. Andi and I met in the Yonsei University Language Institute, the fall of 1996. His Korean was better than mine. It still is. At the time, he was finishing up his doctorate and briefly, we studied ki kong together, which is like chi kong, a meditation style. Andi stuck to it (standing in one position for 30 minutes nearly killed me) and is now a Korean acupuncturist and herb doctor. Dagi works for a television company. In 1998, he and Dagi came to visit us in Los Angeles. We were the first to know that Dagi was pregnant with Moritz. We saw Mortiz for the first time this past Xmas. In between, Andi flew to our 2001 wedding in Honolulu.  Over the years we have managed to keep in touch via email, phone calls, and now, skype. It is a special thing to have a friendship that crosses cultures, languages and time zones. Dagi and Andi are accomplished martial artists, well-traveled, and politically open-minded. Somehow in my younger days, I thought the world would be filled with people like this--I know now that should you have the luck to meet such individuals, it's important to maintain the friendship. It allows you all to understand the world a little better.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Heading into Easter 2013

At last. I downloaded some photos. So I will upload. And if I can figure out how to make a slideshow and all of that I will...

Recent happenings--

Becoming lego expert...ME that is. Pirate ship. Ninjago something or other. Last time I was like this was when I put together Keohi's plastic crystal Buzz sculpture.

Read Toure's treatise on Post-blackness. I like it and highly recommend. Some sections move better than others. He really captures certain experiences, however, for me too growing up as a person of color in the United States. His discussion about debating in the prep school classroom--wow, I could really relate and remembered those experiences from my formal learning time at Andover and Barnard. Later, at UC Santa Barbara, I was older. I did remember a few incidents, but the faculty, I felt was far more progressive at the UC schools than in the private elite institutions in the East. And it was a decade later. For those who need a pulse on the current conversations in the US, I think this is a good book. I always tell people if you really want to understand the core of American history delivered in a single book, read The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Trucking along with our Mandarin may be hopeless, but at least I enjoy it. I thought Stephen and I needed a hobby or activity together, so we're doing language learning. Someone asked me once if I shared any hobbies with my husband. Like sports. I said we're studying Mandarin. I think the person thought I was crazy.

And yes, this weekend was the Rugby Sevens, the time of year when you see men who are too old to be wearing rugby kits wearing them. A) Such people should NEVER make fun of Asians wearing matching tracksuits. HELLO. What do you think you guys look like?! At least the vast majority of Asians in matching tracksuits are not overweight in such outfits! B) Why is it that the vast majority of people wearing rugby kits are wildly out of shape? C) Yeah, go ahead, call me shallow. I admit to being from Southern California. Higher standards for such things. In LA, if you look like X you certainly do NOT RUN AROUND wearing a sports team outfit, unless...unless...uhm...well, you just don't! Geez. Pride, folks. Pride. Really...

This month have to grind it out with the diss. Serious damn grind.

Taught American Born Chinese and watched the youtube of the Back Dorm Boys. They are two kids from the Guangzhou Art Institute. Very funny. Cute. Love the guy who sits at the computer the whole time. Really funny. Spending some childhood years in Asia has its benefits for someone like Keohi--feelings of emasculation, what it means to be male, half Asian, will be different for him than if he were in the US or any Western country. I see this as a positive thing overall. I remember before we had a kid that I told Stephen if we had a son, we would send him back to Asia for awhile to combat any of that. It's important. Relevant for females too.

Drain is being covered. Small village victories that make our life here better.

Responsibilities have really started to kick in for Keohi. He does our recycling, we take it out together, folds back the curtains and ties them every AM, helps to set the table, water plants, tidy up toys, and is actually pretty good with helping out. I hope it becomes inculcated so he simply does this and never demands that a woman do this stuff for him ever. HEY---Mothers--it is YOUR responsibility to raise a son who is a feminist. Stop adding to the jerk quotient. Train your son to listen, be considerate, pick up after himself and cook a meal. I figured out actually, that if a guy can cook and clean on his own, he can actually have a decent relationship with someone that moves beyond a basic idea of chores. Conversely, it's up to people too, to make sure their daughters are not suffering from a princess complex. Then again, you create that, then you create someone who will be with the guy who demands rigid sexual roles, so there you go, the princess will be darning socks and doing menial labor for the one who was supposed to be her charming prince. So, feminism cuts all ways, folks...thou shalt reap what thou shalt sow...

Oh--check out HK Intl Film Fest April 1 and 2, i particular. There's a doc film on Chinese female director in Hollywood Esther Eng. I'm in the voiceover. She was a film director pioneer in the 30s.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Death of Soul by Renee Simms

I will be teaching this poem during an African American History and Cultural Studies lecture I will give at CityU this week. This poem was written by my beautiful and brilliant friend Renee Simms--a writer, poet, and professor at the University of Puget Sound. She follows in the tradition of writers in the post Civil Rights era and is likely to be classified as an artist of the New Black Aesthetic. We met during the PEN West Fellowship, a very important period for me as a writer. To this day, the writers that I met through the PEN program I think of very fondly. They were and are the real thing--writing from the gut, writing with anger and honesty, and with a larger idea of their purpose in the world as artists. Most have published stories, poems, books etc...some write privately, but all continue to write.  It was a privilege to have briefly met them and while I don't know what happened to some of them, I feel it was an honor to have been among them for that brief period in LA.

Years ago, when we were in Arizona and Stephen first read Renee's poem, he told me: "She's talented." I will tell you that he does not say that about anyone. In fact, she may be the only person I think I've heard him ever say that about ever! Read this and I am sure that you will agree...

The Death of Soul by Renee Simms

My first love did not come for me
On horseback, that was impractical.
Too much concrete on my block.
Too noisy for a horse, as well—
The tambourine shakes, doo-wop harmony &
In every other house lived slick, pretty
Men who could sing.
So he rode the FM airwaves, instead,
Guitar riffs on his tongue.
We were post-Motown but miracles
& temptations still lingered in
Our men with bass guitar voices
Our men who built pyramid homes. Our men drove
Cadillacs glossed by the moon & all this magic made me
One peculiar girl.
On our first date my love handed me
The center of a flower, no petals.
“Seduction is a principle,” he said &
Because he was royalty, I believed.
Pamela’s daddy, who sang backup, did not like him.
“Pornographic,” her daddy said, “The devil,” Mama would say
But what did they know? Pam’s daddy had
Mistresses as vacant as Smokey’s house
& Motown was dead at the edge of a continent,
The pious heel-spins by suited men
Cliches we no longer used.
I tape recorded my lover’s songs,
Sketched his impish face upon schoolbooks.
One night I cried to him about the future
& he cupped my face inside his purple hands.
It was 1977.
“Nothing is permanent,” he whispered,
“Not neighborhoods or soul music,”
Then my street went quiet as catholics &
All the dark, polished men were gone.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nam Shan Tsuen, Pui O

We had the best day on Sunday. Keohi's little schoolfriend's family lives in a South Lantau country park--they're the only family there and have a right to live smack in the park because they have been there for 50 years. It's a Swiss Family Robinson existence--beautiful, green and wildly unique. They have a series of small cottages for each room function--one for Grandma, one bathroom, one living room, a few bedrooms,  and we ate and BBQd in the centrally located concrete patio area under a tree filled with butterflies. A kumquat tree was nearby and we drank the preserved kumquat tea served by our gracious and fun hostess, and the kids ran around and played in the green, up and down the mountain areas, by the woods and fallen trees, in the flattened area getting now primed for planting, and and downed BBQ and cold drinks. Four dogs, a duck, a rabbit and a cat live without attacking each other (duck follows black dog) and there's a new pair of hamsters inside. It was a downright Eden.

This is the Lantau that I love and am grateful I can experience. English was translated through my bilingual English/Canto and English/Bahasa/Canto speaking friends and we watched our four single boys, all only children, play tag in the cool mountain air and I thought to myself that life can't get much better than this.

When the expats and air and the commute get me down, and the distance between continents seems vast and impossible, I am brought back to the possibilities of life in HK in unexpected serendipitous moments like these. Encounters where people cross cultures, generously share food and laughter--the former frankly, in that amazing way that seems to happen here with locals who understand the value of food and open hearts. Here I see see the human side beyond the grind of the capitalist machine of HK, the petty bourgeoise desires of the accountants who flood the city from distant shores, and the cruelty of concrete skyscrapers that dwarf dreams.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hong Kong Maritime Museum Review

I went with Keohi to this museum on Pier 8 yesterday. It was a day out together as my schedule is very heavy this week.

We did the museum, rode a tram, ate frozen yoghurt two times, xiao long bao-his fave, and played in Victoria Park--the latter was empty (yep, all kids on the Island are clearly scheduled to death. He was the only 6 year old there, and this was at 3:45. And people wonder why there is no creativity? You don't let your damn kid play, idiots!) except for small babies. Oh, he came home with a cough due to the heavy Causeway Bay smog, but now after a day in Mui Wo is much better.

The museum was great--lots of displays and things he loved--boats, computer interactive buttons to press, and the like. They could have used a few more light up maps, in my opinion, and also some more real life rooms that modeled exactly what a ship was like back in the early trading days to get really into the spirit of showing the kids. But for HK, it was quite good. Lots of glass of course, preventing tactile experience, but the spices smelling in the wood barrels was good. I'd recommend it as museums go here for kids his age.

BUT and this is a big BUT, for crying out loud, does anyone in HK think about the effects of ethnic representation and public perception? There was a huge life model of two Somalian pirates. With guns, of course. Modern piracy is an issue, fair enough, and the Somalian people have made international headlines because of this. BUT THERE IS NO discussion of WHY people turn to piracy! Any mention of destroyed fishing grounds? Seas and lands overtaken by corporates and others in power? People who once led a dignified life now turning to crime? Talk about simplistic! I was WHOLLY annoyed. It's not like there are a lot of African descent folk running around in HK, so all this museum does is further perpetuate an extremely narrow image of black people, in my opinion, with absolutely no in depth explanation.

I felt obliged immediately to rectify this, so discussed with Keohi that people are not BORN to be criminals and that ALL people in times of poverty, desperation, starvation and everything else, may turn to crime. That this was not a good thing. But that crime was often not as easy as we think it is. That not all black people are pirates and holding people hostage. We talked a little about destroying the environment and overfishing. what happens when people who fish can't feed their families? What do they do? What can we think about in the larger picture?

Like most kids--if you explain it in easy terms, he got it. Take the time. Do this.

I really get worried, the longer we are here of this type of image being shoved down his throat with little to combat it and in my estimation, very few people who would bother discussing this anyway! Asians are not the most broadminded when it comes to African people.

SO in conclusion, a good place to visit--well worth it. But note the pirate sections requires some more in depth explanation. If your kid has half a brain and you don't want him to end up a narrow minded bigot, you might try to offer a more nuanced version. After all, history is something we can all tell...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Discussions about Games of the Video Nature

Keohi: So some people have the same phone you do and they have games on the phone.
Me: Oh. My phone doesn't have room for games.
Keohi: You, you can I know. You can load it and get games. This is what XXX told me.
Me: But I don't want to play games.
Keohi: But I want to play games.
Me: But it's my phone and I use it for calls, texts, and pictures. Thats it.
Keohi: There are many games you can get on your phone. Really. OH. OK, I will ask XXX at school and then write it down on a piece of paper and so you have instructions about how to put the games on your phone.
Me: Hmmm. Well, I'm not really a game person.
Keohi: What about when I'm 7. Maybe then you'll like some games. Right?
Me: Maybe. Maybe 8. Well, maybe a Chinese game.
Keohi: There are some games, not Chinese games, that are good.
Me: I don't like games that much. They're not that good for you. And my phone doesn't have room for the games.
Keohi: But I like them. OH. You can BUY THEM. Yes, you can buy the games. Load and buy I think. And then you press the game center button.
Me: Keohi, Mommy is not going to get any games.
Keohi: Why?
Me: Because I don't want to buy any games.
Keohi: But I want to buy the games.
Me: OK, when you want to, you can go buy the games when you make money to buy the games.
Keohi: Like when I do recycling.
Me: Uhm...well, we can think about it. Can we think about it?
Keohi: It's just loading. You can do it. You can get ENGLISH GAMES. NOT CHINESE GAMES.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Ironman--December 2012. Time flies. There's actually been a shift in interests--away from Ironman and various superheroes. Keohi has embraced Ninjago. Ninjago or Ninja GO and the Spinjitsu is a marketing tie-in product bonanza. We have many Ninjago toys at our house at the present moment. It all came on the heels of Xmas. The names make no sense. Chinese names for a Japanese idea of a ninja. I've been reading a graphic cartoon -- a book for kids on the legend of Hong Kil Tong. He likes this--we read it this summer at the Memphis library.

The library in Memphis which has a much smaller Asian population readership, has a far superior children's book selection than the Hong Kong libraries when it comes to English language books with an Asian theme. Only a few of the books featuring Asian protagonists or stories in Memphis can be sourced here in HK. One would think that if learning or reading English language children's books, parents in HK or people residing here might enjoy books with an Asian protagonist or theme or setting for their kids. In the US, my guess is that giving children a literature that they can visually identify with or that helps them to understand a diverse population is also considered part of a nation building exercise. I note that English language children's books are primarily here associated with all images, people or things Western....can't get worked up about it. But you can be sure I lug books back with me every summer to supplement Keohi's reading material. It is crucial to visually see yourself represented, culturally or ethnically in literature as a child. It has a profound impact on how the self develops.


The big news of January was that the air pollution was HORRIBLE. In Beijing there were thousands, I believe 6-7000 children per day being hospitalized for respiratory illness. I got bronchitis over the holidays and part of the reason it was hard to shake was the air quality. Very upsetting. What astounds me is that the government in Beijing, or even here, doesn't really do ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Incredible. They are slowly shortening their own lives and the lives of their families. Yes, I know about air purifiers, and we run them too, but let's face it--that is not the solution and I am well aware that I am probably deluding myself about the impact long term of breathing this air on my child and my own health.

When you get right down to it--clean air is a human basic human right. It can really get much more basic than that. Breathing. But I will not go down that road at the present moment because all that will come out will be vociferous remarks that would be highly critical of Hong Kong because of this air quality issue.

What good is culture, money, difference, experience...if you can't breathe?


Lunar New Year coming up! Hooray! I know I've been here awhile now because I think of this as the start of the real new year. Happy Year of the Snake!