30 March 2007

lost in translation

i just finished reading lost in translation by nicole mones (nothing to do with the film of the same name). i enjoyed the use of mandarin in the novel, as well as the cultural and historical references that were so easily weaved in. what i found strange though, was the obsession of the female protagonist, an american, to 'be' chinese. perhaps in another culture she might get away with it, i don't know, but in china her attempts to be one of them just makes her that much more 'other'. i could not understand her compulsion, although i would guess it was simply a need to belong somewhere; she had long ago stopped thinking of herself as american.

i do not usually think of myself in terms of nationality. my overriding identity would be bohra. and yet, i definitely consider myself to be a hong kong-er. this is home, this is where i belong. i can speak the language, love the food, am familiar with the mannerisms. but i am not chinese. these are in no way conflicted though.

this could largely be due to the fact that hk is a city of migrants, and as such, everyone is from everywhere. china on the other hand, is very different. i don't think i really understood the difference (nor do i quite grasp it even now). this novel was an eye opener, as was my recent conversation with hunaid.

this country is on my doorstep, and yet i know almost nothing about it. i have a sudden urge to relearn some mandarin! i'd forgotten how poetic the language was, and how replete with cultural mannerisms. all languages must reflect their cultures, but i have always felt this to be the case more in chinese and arabic than the other languages i know--which are not many!

18 March 2007

from russia with love

extracts that i came across from 'a russian diary' by anna politkovskaya, (the prominent russian journalist killed in october 2006) were informative, to say the least (largely because of my woeful ignorance of russian (and european for that matter) politics).

politkovskaya describes the dismal state of russian voters at the time of the 2003 duma elections- "the electorate agreed to be treated like an idiot"; the increase in violence and rascist propaganda; and most fascinating, the apparent abduction and drugging of presidential candidate ivan rybkin. she destroys any notion of russia moving towards genuine democracy.

her book will definitely be on my to-read list. you can find the extracts here.

16 March 2007

film festival

hk's 31st international film festival starts next week. those of you around can check out the schedule and see what strikes your fancy. there is a lot of good stuff to choose from. having said that, i am confused as to why 'don' (farhan akhtar, 2006) is showing..

as for me, i think i will start with an egyptian film, 'the yacoubian building'. if anyone has recommendations, let me know!

13 March 2007

deteriorating standards

while reading this new york times editorial on the recent controversy regarding the US attorney general, i had a disconcerting sense of deja vu. change a few names, and i could have been reading one of many weekly reports on the politicization of public institutions and ineffective rule of law in numerous asian countries.

there are many groups and individuals, within the US as well as outside, who have been commenting on the country's gradual move away from established legal principles and human rights standards, so this comes as no surprise. in fact, the katrina fiasco came as more of a shock--the blatant mismanagement and how michael brown came to head FEMA were definitely an eye opener for me: corruption and nepotism within the government is not only to be found in the developing world.

regardless, reading about the relationship between the bush administration and alberto gonzales was distressing. it didn't help that i had just read up on pervez musharraf's removal of pakistan's chief justice. and some other depressing news stories (what happened to happy news?).

no matter that george bush is appalling, that american arrogance, intervention and double standards in internatonal relations is appalling; i still expected better from the US attorney general and justice department.

05 March 2007

IR class blog

one of the classes i'm taking requires students to participate in a blog. i have been dithering about whether or not i will publicize it. regardless of the pros and cons and what finally made me decide to share the link, here it is- http://ponderingir.wordpress.com/


while reading the guardian, i came across an 'alternative' to wikipedia, conservapedia. according to the site, "Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American... Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America... You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of 'political correctness'."

from what i could tell, the anti-americanness comes from wikipedia's (alleged) preference of british spelling.. um, ok. so does 'political correctness' equate to anti-christianity??

03 March 2007


some days ago i sent pictures taken over the lunar new year holidays to a few friends. i wanted them to admire my new nephew. instead, they admired me. it was unexpected, but very nice. what was also fun was how these different individuals (most of whom have not met eachother) agreed on their favourite pictures or had similar comments to make.

i do not usually share pictures (perhaps because i don't usually have any to share!) but this may now change.. and if this post sounds silly and sentimental, whatever :)

02 March 2007

i not stupid

logically i understand there is no connection between intelligence and public speaking skills. since when however, did logic have to do with anything? i HATE the fact that i cannot speak. i don't know why my brain simply shuts down in those situations. take last night's debate for instance. i couldn't even coherently read the words on the paper in front of me. to make things worse, when the floor was opened for questions, all i could do was stare blankly. what? american foreign policy? what would that be? jee-ez.

my classmates (and professors) must think i am a total idiot. nowadays i am embarassed to go to class. paranoia is starting to kick in, and i imagine that everyone is smirking at me. that this is why i have no friends.

this is all insane. i am not 18 anymore. i HAVE to get over this. how though?

01 March 2007

OPCAT project

for the past three days i've been attending a meeting on campaigning for the ratification and implementation of the OPCAT (optional protocol to the convention against torture) in four asian countries. this is an EU funded project, coordinated through the RCT (rehabilitation and research centre for torture victims, denmark).

it has been very interesting; it is the first time for me to learn in so much detail of the various campaign techniques and activities to be used in the different countries. ahrc work is quite different (and we definitely do not plan in such meticulous detail over such a long period!). in particular, i was fascinated to learn to make use of the principle 'everything is about something else'. there was much creative discussion on how visits to places of detention can be used as an entry point to general torture prevention policies, how documenting police torture of ordinary citizens can get civil society involved in demanding for the ratification of OPCAT, how school essay competitions can promote youth interest in human rights, and so forth.

the project has national coordinators for each of the countries, as well as one regional coordinator to be based at our office in hk. there will be numerous visits to the four countries as well as elsewhere, and there are so many components and actors involved. one of the RCT staff who was involved in writing the project proposal for the EU was excited to finally see what was on paper coming into practice; i couldn't help but share her excitement. i am involved in the project in the tiniest of ways, in that i will be writing an hrcs lesson on it, which will then be used as part of the campaign material. that task should be over in a month or so, but i hope to continue being involved .. i will have to think about what else i could do (in particular, what else that would require me to tag along on the various visits!).. the project just seems like a wonderful platform for me to get involved in other things, as well as do more writing and research..