Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

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?