Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hong Kong job offer

The Hong Kong Human Rights Press Awards is looking for a coordinator. 
It is a paid, part-time contract position that runs from January to late April or early May.
The project is co-organized by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club, Amnesty International (Hong Kong) and the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

* Fluent spoken and written English
* Fluent written Chinese and spoken Cantonese and / or Putonghua
* Education or job experience in one of these fields: journalism, media, rights or NGO work
* Ability to be highly organized and work independently
* Basic online skills -- for example, updating a blog -- are a plus
* Experience with fundraising is also a plus

Job Description
You will:
* be the point person between the three organizing bodies, and take direction from various staff
* contact media to encourage them to submit their work
* coordinate meetings with our panel of judges
* do administrative and office work
* help organize an awards luncheon

* Hours would be flexible -- some weeks will be busier than others, but you will be expected to organize your own time.
* You would work out of one of the organizing bodies' offices, though some of the work can also be done at home.

To apply, send a cover letter and cv to the FCC at, attention Ms. Chan Hoi-lo.
Please note "Rights Award Job Application" in the subject field.
You can also contact me at the email on the right-hand side of this blog if you have questions.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why has eBay rejected me?

I should add a blogging label called Help! Joyce Is Tech-Clueless. I feel like I'm always asking my blogging friends for advice, whether it's on buying a smartphone for my dad, buying a Kindle for myself, fixing Mac upgrade problems or figuring out Googe AdSense -- which, by the way, still has not paid me anything. 
My latest problem? I've been rejected by eBay.
I've been clearing out closet space to make room for baby stuff. (The extra bedroom we used to use for storing our clothes, shoes and bags is now the nursery). I also have a bit  -- a tiny bit --  of extra free time between feeds, since I'm a stay-at-home mom now. This is a good opportunity to go through our piles of junk, before I head back to work and get really busy.
Most of the stuff -- like clothes that don't fit --  I'll give to the helper or to charity.
But for a long time, I've meant to sell two beautiful pieces of full-length evening wear: one gown in peach-colored satin, one 100% silk Chinese-styled robe from Shanghai Tang. They were bought for my wedding -- oy, that is long ago, five years -- and never worn.
So I logged into my long-inactive eBay account to post them. And I got this error:
Your account is currently ineligible to sell this type of item.
Some items are subject to selling limits which help us maintain a vibrant online marketplace. These limits affect many sellers.
Sellers who have both exceptional performance metrics and a proven history of selling similar types of items for a minimum of 90 days may be eligible to list these items.
 What's up with that? I went through their list of forbidden and restricted items -- like human parts, live animals, Nazi propaganda, guns, etc. -- and Shanghai Tang jackets are definitely not on there. 
Does anyone have a clue what's going on?
 By the way, I'm using the U.S. eBay site. The English-language Hong Kong eBay site seems to be under construction. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Is it wrong to say I'm bored? Should I write a novel?

I've finally emerged from the fog of the first two months of motherhood. 
For a while, when Chloe was feeding every 2-3 hours round the clock, it took all my effort just to find time to eat and catch a few hours of sleep. I'm glad I'm nursing her naturally, but nobody tells you how hard it is. I would sometimes go for 48 hours without changing out of my PJs or leaving the flat. It is a strangely isolating and mind-numbing experience.
It's better now. She still feeds every 3 hours all day, but at least she usually sleeps through the night, except for waking up once to feed around 3 am. It's funny that I'm so happy about this -- that I've reached the dizzying heights of actually getting 4 or 5 hours of consecutive sleep.
The first month, I was too tired to feel much except for love for my baby, and extreme fatigue.
But now that Chloe is 2.5 months and I am (relatively) more rested, I am beginning to feel restless.
I remember a few friends telling me about the boredom of early motherhood. At the time, I thought it a cold-hearted thing to say. What mother would be bored with her child? But now I understand. 
The baby, as lovely as she is, can barely communicate. There are a few moments of sunshine -- when she  looks at me and smiles, or when I take her to the park. But a 2-month-old baby only "plays"  one or twice day and for about an hour max, before she cries to be fed or coaxed to sleep again. The grand majority of the time is spent nursing, spitting up milk, napping, wetting diapers and crying.

So I have these odd pockets of free time when I'm just sitting at home alone, when the baby is asleep or with the amah. 
As someone who's never had house help, spending 9 hours a day with no adult company except for a Filipina helper is very weird. She's nice -- and I am thankful for the help -- but I don't know what to say to her all day.
I've also never gone any period of time without working.
(I fully acknowledge that motherhood is hard work -- Here I mean paid work outside the house.) 
I started freelancing when I was 19 and never stopped writing. The only break I took off work was six months to do a journalism program, so it's not like I was lounging on the beach. 
And while I'm eternally grateful that my company has allowed me an extended maternity leave -- a rarity in Hong Kong -- time off is strange to me.

Because my free time is just an hour here, an hour there, I can't do any serious work -- I can't imagine researching or writing an IHT article.
I'm too tired to really focus. I can do mindless stuff, like reading the paper, surfing online or casual blogging, but can I really do a proper feature story now? 
Before I had the baby, I had all these plans on what else I could do with my half-year off work. Helpful (childless) friends had all sorts of recommendations -- like brushing up on my poor Mandarin, helping a volunteer group, joining exercise classes, or reading more books. 
In fact, since I announced my maternity leave on this blog, I've gotten a few offers for paid freelance work, all of which I've turned down. Working professionally is very different from blogging -- it means being able to respond promptly to an editor's phone calls and emails; hitting word counts and deadlines; and doing rewrites as needed  -- and I don't feel up to it yet.
That said, I'm also itching for some intellectual stimulation -- to put pen to paper again.
I've been thinking of participating in National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo, a U.S. online project that encourages amateur writers to finish a novel in the month of November. It would let me work at my own pace. But more on that later. It's baby feeding time again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I almost forgot about "The Opium War"

Dear God. This article came out months ago. I must have totally forgotten about it. Though I forgive myself this time, as it looks like the NYT / IHT ran it the day before I gave birth, so I was already in the hospital. It's a good book for any history or China buff -- highly recommended.

Highlighting Differences in Interpretations of the Opium War

HONG KONG — Julia Lovell’s book tour for “The Opium War” sailed along the historic path of the conflict itself.
The book was introduced last month in Hong Kong, a city whose modern history began when it was handed to Britain after China’s defeat in the first Opium War in 1842, marking the start of 155 years as a prosperous crown colony.
Fourteen years after returning to Beijing’s control, the city still bears the hallmarks of that conflict.
The convention center where the Hong Kong Book Fair attracted 950,000 visitors sits on a harbor still dedicated to Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch during the Opium War. The labyrinthine streets around the SoHo district are still named after Lord Elgin, a high commissioner to China; Sir George Staunton, who worked for the British East India Company; and Henry Pottinger, the colony’s first British governor.
“This is where the story starts,” Ms. Lovell said.
Her Hong Kong hotel suite had a view of Jardine’s Lookout, which commemorates William Jardine, an opium agent and one of the founders of the powerful trading company known today as Jardine Matheson Holdings. “Hong Kong’s origins are steeped in opium,” Ms. Lovell said. “For better or for worse, Hong Kong would not be what it is today without the Opium Wars.”
Her tour continued onto Singapore and India, also former colonies whose modern histories were entwined in the violent drug trade.

Cambridge University Library

A view of a street in Canton, a major site of hostilities during the Opium War.

“The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China,” which will be released by Picador in Britain in September, is more than just a history. It examines why the 19th-century conflict still holds so much weight in 21st-century China, while it is regarded as little more than a textbook chapter in other places it touched, like Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Britain. By looking at the conflict from a contemporary viewpoint, “The Opium War” offers insight into an Asian superpower still uneasy with its trade relations with the West.

Photo courtesy Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

With almost 100 pages of maps, notes, timelines and footnotes, “The Opium War” moves along with a quick pace and simple language. Parts are even dryly humorous in describing the absurdities of war: There was no lack of greed, racist stereotyping, bureaucratic bumbling, infighting and aggression on both sides. There are also about 50 photographs and illustrations, showing everything from opium dens (in both China and London) to depictions of China in Western pop culture, like a 1932 publicity poster with the actor Boris Karloff playing the character Fu Manchu in yellow-face.
Peter Gordon, editor of the Asian Review of Books, called “The Opium War” a “good and, importantly, very readable book.”
“What stands out, in my view, is how realistic, and human, the protagonists on both sides seem,” he said in an interview.
According to Mr. Gordon, the questions in Hong Kong were mostly about “the differing ways Chinese, Hong Kong and British people — and the author herself — view history today.”
The legacy of the Opium War, which was actually made up of two conflicts, looms large in mainland China, where it is an integral part of “patriotic education” and is still invoked in political discourse. When President Hu Jintao spoke during the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party last month, it was one of the first events he mentioned.
“In the 170 plus years since the Opium War of 1840, our great country has weathered untold hardships,” Mr. Hu said, according to a translation of his speech by Xinhua, the state news agency. “Following the Opium War, China gradually became a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society, and foreign powers stepped up their aggression against China,” he added.
“It is a useful event marking the beginning of a century of humiliation that ends, inevitably, with Communist victory,” Ms. Lovell explained.
A University of London history professor and translator of Chinese literary works, Ms. Lovell began researching “The Opium War” in 2007 while she was a visiting scholar at Peking University.
She mined archival Chinese-language materials, like official correspondence between emperors and generals, as well as poems, essays and fiction. She also interviewed textbook writers and students in patriotic education classes.
“The Opium Wars were taught with a depressing Power Point presentation about the British pushing deep into China,” she said of a high-school class she attended in Beijing. “It was highly emotional in tone, and was accompanied by gloomy music. It was portrayed as the tragedy of modern China.”
In a survey of historic textbooks from England and China, Ms. Lovell found that there was initial shame over the opium trade in her home country, but that the conflict quickly faded into the broader history of British colonialism and imperialism.
In China, the opposite happened. The big stories of the 19th century were civil wars like the Taiping Rebellion, not foreign ones. It was only in the years between the two world wars — when Mao Zedong’s Communists and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists were battling for control — that the Opium War became a handy propaganda tool. It was spun as “the beginning of a longstanding, ongoing Western conspiracy against China,” Ms. Lovell said.
Some of those sentiments remain today.
“If the West criticizes China, the state media can push what I call ‘the Opium War button’ even if they don’t actually mention the war: It reminds the Chinese people that the West has always been full of schemes to undermine China,” she said. As examples, she cited Beijing’s response to Western reactions to the arrest of the artist Ai Weiwei, or the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the writer Liu Xiaobo.
What struck Ms. Lovell was the ambivalence, even self-criticism, of some of the young Chinese undergoing patriotic education.
“Students would stand up and say ‘It was our fault. We were high on opium. We were weak and backwards,”’ she said. “There was a sense that the Chinese were victims, but there was also self-disgust.”
Ms. Lovell also met with some of the angry nationalist youth called the “fenqing,” who are known for their anti-Western sentiments.
“The fenqing are a contradiction you can’t reason away,” she said. “One told me he was ready to send an army to the British Museum to take back looted treasures. When our talk was over, he asked me for advice, as he was going to an interview to attend a British university.”
“China exhibits self-confidence, but also a sense of insecurity and inferiority,” she said. “Because if you are really confident, you don’t need that external validation. That’s why Nobel Prizes, or the Olympics, are so important: China feels that it needs international face.”
Her own interest in China began when she studied Chinese at Cambridge.
“I read that, during the Ming Dynasty, there were more books in China than in the rest of the world combined,” she said. “By studying Chinese, I felt like I was opening up something extraordinary and intimidatingly complex.”
She paused when asked if she felt that the Chinese version of Opium War history was inaccurate.
“The British national character is portrayed very negatively in Chinese textbooks, which is right and proper,” she said. “The British are ashamed of our imperial past: the racism, massacres and involvement in the slave trade. But we’ve somehow overlooked our role as opium traders.”
But she implied that Beijing’s version was one-sided in its black-and-white portrayals of patriotic Chinese resisters and manipulative British drug-pushers.
“The problem with these Chinese textbooks is not one of accuracy, per se, but of balance. China’s education system spends far more time remembering the Opium Wars than the traumas of Communism, such as the man-made famine that killed tens of millions, and the crackdown of 1989,” she said. “It offers a skewed sense of history.”

Friday, November 4, 2011

Another round of our dinky elections

For "Asia's world city," we've got pretty dinky elections.
We can't vote for our chief executive. He's like Hong Kong's president, I guess, only much dinkier and prone to wearing bowties. He's chosen by a small committee of elites with business and political ties to that great big non-democracy to the North -- so, essentially, he's hand-picked by Communist Party heads in Beijing. Some free society this is.
We also can't vote for about half of Legislature -- a situation that is neither here nor there.
So, when we get a chance to vote for the measly other half of Legco that is not chosen by business interests, I at least try to show up.
The last thing I voted in were the 2010 by-elections. Loyal Joyceyland readers may remember that I let Hugo the Cat decide. That's how poor the candidates were.
Now we're in the run-up for District Council elections. In my mailbox, I found a candidate list so amateurish, it looks like it was drawn up by some kid running for high school class president. No, I take that back. In the States, high school races can be pretty sophisticated.
Here are my choices for West Kowloon:

#1. Chu King leung Alaric Bazanio, 53
People Power Party 
The "leung" is lower case because that's the sloppy way in which he hand-wrote his name on his candidate card.
I have received no correspondence from him -- not a pamphlet, not an email.  I Googled him and found zero online presence. All I know is that the People Power Party is a recently formed splinter group from the pro-democracy camp. Other than that, I have no idea what this guy's platform is.
Not only did he fail to set up a simple website -- or at least one I could find easily --  he apparently couldn't bother to find a computer to type up his candidate card. Or a typewriter. Or capitalize letters properly. His job title is written "legislative Councilor Assit". I wouldn't hire him  as an English tutor, much less choose him for elected office.
First impressions count, and the lack of effort is not good.

#2. James To Kun-sun, 48
Democratic Party
James seems to be trying more than Alaric, though that's not saying much.
He's sent me two emails and set up two websites, one in Chinese and one in English, that are unintentionally humorous, they are so earnest. The top post is called "My First Poster." It's like some kid saying "Look, Momma! I drew my first poster at school! It's a flower."
But he gets an A for effort. There are signs around the neighborhood and sweet elderly ladies  handing out bilingual pamphlets in Olympic MTR. As far as I can tell, his party is the only one with English materials, which is not stupid considering the area's quickly changing demographic: Our neighbors are Indian, the family across the hall is Korean, and that whole ICC complex is filled with expat office workers. For some reason, there are an inordinate number of Japanese housewives who shop at Elements.
At least James has something of a platform. He clearly took time to figure out real local concerns, like that weird garbagey smell that comes from the harbor, or the fact that useful local businesses are being priced out to the inconvenience of residents. I think of district councillors as something like mini-mayors who take care of stuff like this. There used to be a small grocery, stationary shop and bakery next to my home, and they have all closed. I wait with baited breath to see if my local laundry will be next.
James -- save the laundry and get rid of that weird smell, and you have my vote.
He also has stated opinions on larger issues, like democratic reform. Whether you like what he has to say, at least he has something to say.

#3. Lau Kai Kit Vincent, 40
 Liberal Party
Like our friend Alaric, this guy has no obvious online presence except for a one-sentence mention in a Standard article.
I did get an email from him with a PDF attachment of a Chinese-language campaign poster. (Personally, I hate PDFs, but that is not his fault.) But I do hold it against him that he couldn't add two sentences in English.
Other than the usual political-babble on his poster, the most I know about him is that he is an ophthalmologist. If West Kowloon was hit by an eye-disease-related crisis, we'd be in good hands.
Here's Wikipedia's take on the Liberal Party: "[It] is an example of a political party with libertarian economic policies such as the opposition of a minimum wage, collective bargaining, and antitrust legislation.... The party does not advocate welfare entitlements."
So, it's basically a bunch of greedy rich guys? Considering that the West Kowloon voting district also covers areas like Shamshuipo, where some residents still need food donations, does this guy fit at all?
Saturday addendum: Vincent has sent me yet another Chinese-only email. And Liberal Party people have been standing in Olympian City mall for the last two days, though you can't really say they are canvassing exactly, since they have no pamphlets or materials, nor do they speak to anyone. They're basically human campaign posters staring inanely into space next to the Cafe de Coral. You know those pretty girls that shops employ to smile at customers, but who do nothing else? I encountered one at Broadway the other day -- she couldn't even tell me how a camcorder worked. Anyway, the Liberal Party people seem a little like that.

Once again, I am so underwhelmed I don't know what to say.
The first thing I ever voted in as the citizen of a free nation was the referendum on whether Quebec should separate. It was a close call. I highly doubt that it was my vote that did it -- that stopped separatists from breaking up the country. (Honestly, I think they would have failed even if they had won the vote, but that's a whole other blog post). But I remember feeling involved in a way that I never had in Hong Kong.
Still, I will be out on Sunday to vote. I may even wheel Chloe in for her first experience in a voting booth.