Family Portraits (and a Petition)

While I was having fun with my new iPhone, I came across the Hubba Hubba app that so accurately captured the finest features of my family. My mom, a.k.a. Goody Two-Shoes, thinks Daddy-O looks like Saddam Hussein, but I think she’s crazy because Daddy-O’s got a heart of gold. “Sweet Mama” (that’s me) doesn’t quite fit my image, but that’s because it takes time to grow into the title and I’m still young! By the way, don’t be fooled by Goody Two-Shoes’ name folks. Once she finds out I posted that photo  online for the world to see, she’s going to pick that feather from her hat and shove it up who-knows-where! No, no, I was just joshin’. She wouldn’t do that. I’m an only child! Anyway, that’s my family in a nutshell!

Another thing now that I have your attention (hopefully), while I’m here downloading useless (but fun) apps on my iphone, tens of thousands of other Chinese people are suffering from exposure to toxic chemicals, losing their hands, and even attempting suicide from the horrible working conditions of Apple, Inc. factories. Like most people I’m sure, I was totally unaware of this fact, and to be honest, the thought to ask where my iPhone and Mac laptop came from didn’t even occur to me.  While the American version of the iPhone might say “Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China” on the back, my Chinese version somehow forgot the “Assembled in China” part. Oops. How clever! The Chinese 1% doesn’t want anything Made in China. They want Made in America/Italy/France/Japan/Anywhere-but-China, and Steve Jobs and gang knew just this!

Now, I’m not asking anybody to discard their iPhones and iPads–I’m certainly not. What I’m suggesting, and it’s not a lot for you to do, is to click here and sign the petition to “Apple: to protect workers making iPhones in Chinese factories”. As you may have seen in the news, Foxconn, one of Apple’s main suppliers has already increased their workers’ salaries (probably to the salary it should’ve been in the first place) showing some success in the case. Apple is obviously not the only corporation that exploits its workers. However, with Apple being one of the most powerful industries in the world, it should do more–and quickly–to demand safe working and living conditions and fair wages.

I was taxed up-the-butt for this darned ol’ thing. That extra cash should go straight to the pockets of the overworked factory laborers, not California.

The Petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/apple-ceo-tim-cook-protect-workers-making-iphones-in-chinese-factories

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The No Good Do-Gooder

I have long been confused by what doing “good” means. Is it giving food to someone who doesn’t have any? Is it donating your clothes to Goodwill? How about donating thousands of dollars to charity? Or flying to Africa to build wells? Aren’t all of these things good???????? From what I learned in college, the answer is Yes and No. That got me nowhere except to a greater state of confusion.

I was on the subway today, a smelly one. The stench was oozing from a teenage boy who was sleeping soundly in his seat. He had dirt on his clothes and it covered his face, neck and unwashed hair. He wore his raggedy old shoes on the wrong feet, and his sweatpants were covered with short white animal hairs. His face was red and eyes puffy as if he had cried, or was just exhausted. He had no belongings with him. At first I too was bothered by the smell like those around me with their fingers rammed up their nostrils. But then I noticed his boyish features and began to feel intense sadness for him.

Homeless people are everywhere, I know. But this boy sat right in front of me, sleeping, not noticing my rude, but heartfelt staring. I was carrying a bag of pastries and asked my dad if I should leave one for the boy. My dad said there was no need. But right before we got off the train, I left a pastry on the seat anyway. When I told my dad who hadn’t noticed, he said it wasn’t the right way to “do good.”

When I lived in NYC, I worked for a bakery that wasted a lot of food, like any food business. Sometimes I took whole cakes with me and left them on benches at Union Square or Washington Square Park where I knew a lot of homeless hung around. Sometimes I left things on the subway, hoping a hungry person would snag up the free goods. Then one day my friend made an excellent point that homeless people shouldn’t eat things like cake and cookies because it could cause long-term health problems that they can’t afford to cure. Instead, I should leave them apples and bread.

Well that got me in a bind. There I was with bags of free food and the worry that people are hungry, plus the awareness that cash isn’t always spent in the “right” places. So what was I to do with the food and my dilemma? Did I want to be the cause of someone’s diabetes, obesity and cavities? On the other hand, did I want to waste perfectly good dessert when there were starving children in Africa? 

On my way to the train, my dad and I passed a man selling a boxful of chicks. My initial reaction was ANIMAL CRUELTY! Then I thought, This farmer is just trying to make a living. And then, How cute would it be to have little yellow chickens running around my room? I could be their saviour.  My dad, being the more rational adult, pulled me away before I could whip out a few bucks that would ruin the lives of the little fur-balls forever. They might be suffering in the tiny living quarters, but they would also suffer from my neglect. These chickens are living beings, I can’t mess with that. Meanwhile, there’s the potentially hungry farmer I could’ve made a purchase from so he had some daily earnings (but he has all those chickens…) What is a gal to do in this situation? I did nothing except take this picture.

Compassion and generosity are qualities I’m proud to claim, but naive and impulsive tag along. I admit I tend to romanticize things. I’m happy I have a “good” heart and optimism, but my friends and family are right when they say I am naive. The world seem a lot simpler to me than it really is. This obstructs my ability to think holistically and do effectively, and instead leads me to act impulsively. It would be awesome if I could solve all the world’s problems. But I can’t. Nobody can. I’ve given up on that dream already, but I still believe one person can make a difference, and that making a difference to one person is still “good”.

But how? Was leaving a pastry for someone who might not even eat it or is too afraid to take it what I should’ve done to “help out” this kid? Is handing out dollar bills to homeless children who might work for abusive bosses going to benefit them or hurt them in the long-run? Here’s the question of the century: is it better to do something than nothing at all? These are the daily conundrums I have to deal with in my head. You should see what big ideas I’ve got stored upstairs. Anyway, that’s why I’ve decided to go to grad school. Maybe Professor Wong or Doctor Chan can tell me if I should’ve left a cupcake or an apple, or nothing at all.


What a Heart Attack Looks Like and Why China’s Obesity Rate is On the Rise

This month’s special at Mickey D’s: Double beef-patty burger, topped with two slices of “bacon”, a little greenery and a dollop of special sauce, all nestled atop a thick layer of buttery mashed potatoes. The meal includes a side of French Fries and a soft drink. Supersize it for a dollar more! All of this to your door for 27 Yuan, or $4.50. Now that’s a killer bargain!


Sonya, will you be my Valentine?

In light of V-Day, I dedicate this post to my best friend, Sonya (don’t cry, Sonitchka!), with whom I have already shared 15 years of Grade A friendship.

This is Sonya kickin' butt all over the globe.

It all began in Mr. DeLong’s 4th grade class. At 9 years old, we went on our first double date to see The Man in the Iron Mask, chaperoned by her mom who ate all the popcorn (don’t deny it, Sonya). We spent so many hours of our childhood playing Rummikub and Spit, eating McDonald’s sneakily behind the bushes in front of her apartment building, hanging out on street corners and at each other’s homes playing Mario on old-school Nintendo, having sleepovers, watching Pay-Per-View and eating the best Russian food at her house, and giggling about boys like any girl at that age. I also spent Hanukkahs with Sonya’s family and their Russian friends. Then on Christmas Day, we would go to our school field to make snow angels while singing Christmas carols. That is one of my all-time favorite memories of us.

When we got to high school, we still spent every waking hour together. We walked to school together every morning, until I could drive, then I would pick her up. Sometimes we’d stop in Starbucks for a slice of Lemon Loaf and a Caramel Frappucino, or at Finagle a Bagel for Lox. At lunch, we’d go to Sealey’s, a nearby diner, for tuna melts and turkey clubs until we decided it was too greasy and changed up our routine to include Virginia’s deli-sandwiches. For dessert, we’d pop by Eddie’s, a snack truck parked at our school, for ice cream. Sonya and I were obviously very health-conscious.

Without exaggeration, Sonya and I were attached at the hip throughout elementary, middle and high school. It was rare to see one of us without the other.

Unfortunately, college severed the invisible cord and we became individual beings, an inevitable part of growing up. While she stayed in Boston I went off to Ithaca (is Gorges), NY. We made new friends and new memories that didn’t include the other. Naturally, we grew apart a little bit even though we saw each other here and there. We reunited after college when she moved to New York City, and while it wasn’t the same as our childhood years–we were more health conscious, more mature, had jobs, and had our own friends–Sonya and I still share something untouchable.

A happy Sonya is a happy Emily.

Funny thing is, we are very different people. She’s clean, I’m messy. We have different interests and taste in men, and we view the world differently. Somehow, even though we agreed we could never be roommates because we would eat each other alive, we are still friends. What I love most about Sonya are her sense of humor and maturity. She’s very different from most people because she’s real and does this thing I call “craugh” where she laughs and cries at the same time. She doesn’t beat around the bush like I do, and she’s a fierce debater. We often bicker about stupid things like whether palm trees can grow indoors (she won this one), but we get over it and laugh about how ridiculously the other person behaved.

(circa 10th grade)

While I am showering Sonya with compliments, here’s another one: Sonya is a goddess in the kitchen (and probably in other rooms, if ya catch my drift…oh lala!). She can bake a mean apple crisp and stir up chicken fajita like nobody’s business. I haven’t had this in years, but I’m still reminded of it any time I see strawberries. In middle school, Sonya blended me the best strawberry milkshake in the world, one that I cannot recreate without her magic touch. Whoever she ends up with–somebody who will never be good enough for her according to my standards–will be one damned lucky fella.

Sonya, I know I can be difficult and say stupid things and date even stupider men, but I still hope you can be my Valentine…for the rest of my life!

LOVE YOU LIKE A FAT CHINESE KID LOVES DUMPLINGS (I’m talking about myself of course)!

Me and Sonya all grown up with the tip of our triangle, Jett. We are the Triumphant Trio.

UPPITY WOMEN UNITE! UPPITY WOMEN UNITE! UPPITY WOMEN UNITE!

(I had to come back and insert this video:)


Ancient Chongqing

Two hours outside the city center is Mount Baoding, one of two mountains in Dazu County (I wrote this incorrectly in my last post), a World Heritage Site (checkin’ it off my bucket list, oh yeah!). On the mountain are Dazu Rock Carvings of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian influence from the days way before yore. People back then obviously had a lot of time, patience and unmatched artistic abilities as they were able to produce these magnificent sculptures and carvings. Here’s what I’m talking about:



Guanyin and the Thousand Arms

The rock carvings are some of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s amazing to me that something from centuries ago (7th century AD to be exact, thanks Wiki) can still exist.

Dazu county, besides the mountains, is known for its quality knives. Many modern rock sculptures–lions that guard banks for example–are also made here. I guess the skills from sculptors of the Dazu Rock Carvings were inherited by today’s Dazu residents; it’s in their blood.

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Not quite as old as the Dazu Rock Carvings is Longxing Ancient Town, which I dub “Mahjong Heaven.” Despite it being a tourist attraction, fortunately still a minor one, my walk through the old alleys felt more like a stroll through the locals’ neighborhood. People hung out everywhere–a girl washing her hair in a bucket on her doorstep, kids running around being kids, all the cafes filled with people playing mahjong, clothes drying outside, the elderly on break from mahjong resting on benches chatting away, vendors selling goods at their front door. It is the friendliest, most bustling and homey town I’ve come across in a long time, perhaps because it is small. But actually, in general Chongqing gives off a friendlier vibe than Beijing. Maybe it has to do with the climate. Colder weather, colder people? Warm sunshine, warmer people?

Mahjong Madness!

 

Longxing used to be farmland, but the Chongqing government in its endeavor to develop the city bought the land (I believe for a fair price) and began building it up. My aunt says the reason people there have so much time to play mahjong (aside from it being Spring Festival) is because these former farmers have no more land to cultivate, and also because they are much better off than when they were farmers (they now run all the small businesses in town). My aunt also says in 10 years this part of Chongqing will become the next most developed area of the city. If this is so, I’m glad I got to visit Longxing before the streets become crowded with tourists.

We bought two chickens from him. (Is that a beer in his hand?! I just noticed this! I've been noticing a lot of new things in my photographs since this new WP theme displays HUGE photos!)

Here they are! (Sorry chickens, but you are guaranteed fresh. I hope you have a better afterlife.)


This little one's got the blues.

and this little one is pooping in the street hehehehe (I didn't notice the poo under her butt until I uploaded this photo!!)

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<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Warning: I’m about to get cheesy.

I just wanted to say how much I love, appreciate and admire the individuals I have met on WordPress. I never thought my blog would last this long, but my readers — strangers, friends and new friends — keep me at it, and I am so grateful to you all for keeping me company during this transitional phase in my life.

As I have complained again and again — and you’re probably sick of hearing it — making friends has been quite rough for me in China. However, coming home to my computer and finding new comments and “likes” demonstrates another kind of friendship that I used to doubt (gotta love the digital age!). Meeting people online has always sounded a little strange to me, but the WordPress community has proven me wrong. Knowing that people read and sometimes even care about what I have to say is so reassuring that 1), my life is actually pretty interesting (no matter how much I insist it isn’t), 2) I am still capable of making new friends in new places, and 3) there are so many good people in the world!

I realize this is very cheesy, and I get this way sometimes a lot, but I’m going away for two weeks to celebrate Chinese New Years and Spring Festival in Chongqing where I expect to be internet-less. And the only thing that keeps running through my head is, How will I keep up with everyone’s blogs? How will I stay in contact with my WP friends? I’m going to miss them so much!! I know, I know. Only 2 weeks. Actually, less, just 10 days. But see!? That’s how inseparable I am with you all!

(My parents hate it because once I turn my computer on, that’s where I’m glued for the next several hours. I sacrifice the size of my bum for you all. That’s how much I love you.)

See you in 10 days! Until then,

HUGS

and KISSES TO YOU ALL!!!

<3,

Emily

 


My Identity Crisis

Chinese people call me ABC, American Born Chinese; Americans call me Chinese American. “Twinkie” is what I and my closest friends call me (you know, yellow on the outside, white on the inside). Growing up, I didn’t want any of these identities. I wanted to be white like most of my classmates. I wanted a big house with a furnished basement, a backyard and a golden retriever; not a 3rd floor apartment with a live-in grandma who slept below me on our bunk-bed and who snored so loud I used to climb down my bunk to tickle her feet so she would stop snoring for a precious second. (Wait, I had to edit my post to add this: I love my grandma!)

In elementary and middle school, I secretly resented being Chinese. I refused to go to Chinese school every Sunday like most Chinese kids. I spoke only English to my handful of Chinese friends, and together we would make fun of other Chinese people. I never hung out with the Chinese kids at school, nor did I join the Asian Pacific American Club. I had nothing against them, I just didn’t want to be a part of them.

A college dorm-mate left me a surprise on my computer one day. Thanks for the reminder!!

Aside from Chinese holiday gatherings, growing up in a home that smelled like mothballs, eating rice everyday, and speaking Chinese at home, I was totally Americanized. I mean, I am American. Right?

My identity crisis hit really hard when I started settling-in in China. To Americans I look obviously Asian (many can’t figure out what kind of Asian I am) but to Chinese folks I look foreign/mysterious/Chinese-but-not-that-Chinese/different/mixed. A lot of Chinese people think I am half-Chinese half-white. That flatters me, but also troubles me because they don’t regard me as Chinese so I am treated differently. Bargaining, for example, is tough because vendors jack up the price when they see me in case I am foreign. My funny unidentifiable accent and nose ring don’t help. In America my nose ring was cool, in China I’m a bull on the loose.

Internally I identity with the foreigners living in China and get overly-excited when I see one (when I was young and fearless, I would run up to any white-looking individual and tell them I was American and could speak English), but they don’t see the bond with me because outwardly I appear Chinese. The one time I actually was approached by someone, I startled him and he ran off. My newly acquired inability/obvious discomfort/awkwardness in socializing with strangers makes the process of making friends verrrry difficult in this country.

The thing that confuses me is I am Chinese because Chinese blood runs through my veins (a fact I grew to be proud of). But I was born on American soil so my nationality is American. I used to tell people I was American when they asked me “what” I was, but today, I think it’s weird when people ask Chinese-looking people (like me) “what” they are and they respond “American.” When people ask me that question now, I don’t know how to answer. Even my salary reflects my identity crisis: my salary is higher than my Chinese coworkers but less than my white English-teaching counterparts. I AM SO CONFUSED!

It’s not that I don’t feel like I belong here. I believe I belong everywhere! I felt like I belonged in Bushwick, Brooklyn where people thought I was the owner of the local laundromat, and when people called me “Jackie Chan” in the streets of Barcelona and Marrakech. When I was staying overnight near Erg Chebbi, one of Morocco’s sand dunes, the man who worked at the lodge asked me if I was a girl from the neighboring town! I belong. I just don’t know how to identify myself.

In these past few weeks, I’ve more or less come to terms with my exhausting identity crisis, perhaps a first step in “finding myself.” From now on I should just consider myself a unique individual. Maybe that’s the answer I’ll give the next time someone asks me, “So what are you? I mean, where do you come from?”

“I am a unique individual. I come from nowhere in particular. And yourself?”