Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

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.