Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Lau Family & The Christmas Deities

I grew up with the idyllic New England Christmas of snow-frosted wooden signs, rosy-cheeked carolers and midnight Mass. Even our neighbors' home decorations were relentlessly quaint -- fairy lights, flickering candles, and hand-woven wreaths. Dads dragged home live Christmas trees smelling of fresh pine, while Moms baked turkeys and hams and pies.
In the midst of all this WASP-y good taste was the Lau Family Christmas Tree, a large some-assembly-required plastic model from Sears -- adorned with ornaments, plus tinsel, plus popcorn strings we made ourselves, plus multi-colored flashing lights. In case our neighbors couldn't see it, we put it right up next to the French windows that lined two walls of our living room. Plus, our house was on a hill, so tree could shine down on the rest of the street -- the Hong Kong immigrant disco-ball of a Yuletide celebration blinking and throbbing, its rainbow-colored lights reflecting off the snow.
Nobody celebrated Christmas like we did -- literally, since nobody else in Simsbury would mix up Santa with the Kitchen God.
Of course, we didn't literally mix them up. We knew the Kitchen God visited the night before Lunar New Year to inspect your home and bestow his domestic blessings, which is why Chinese households do a major spring cleaning before each holiday -- in the old days, people even threw out old furniture.
But after years of cross-cultural living, mythologies get mixed, and Mom started doing pre-Christmas clean-outs, too, to prepare the home for Santa's inspection and blessing. Explanations that Santa wasn't judgmental like Chinese deities fell on deaf ears. After all, didn't he have a list of who was naughty and nice? 
And didn't the rest of it fall into place? The cookies and milk left by the hearth were directly in line with an offering of food to the Gods, only Western spirits preferred chocolate chips to oranges, which was probably why they were so round.
Think of American Christmas celebrations from an outsider's point-of-view. An elderly spirit dressed in lucky red is carried through the sky by mythical animals. He enters your home and consumes an offerings of sweets. He makes a moral judgment on your family, and fills the empty pouches you've hung from the chimney --  treats for the good and a lump of coal for the bad. Under a symbol of growth and renewal, he leaves an appropriate blessing of gifts.
"Dear Joyce," said the annual letter, written in my mother's fine cursive. "You were a good girl this year. Love, Santa." And tucked into it would be my Christmas laisee.
My brother and I are now in our 30s. Now that we have children of our own, the Lau tradition continues. While the rest of Hong Kong fights over overpriced restaurant meals, we will stay home to have a quiet turkey dinner, as we always have.
The helper and I have spent our morning making apple sauce and trimming Brussels sprouts. The same creche I had as a girl, dragged from continent to continent over the decades, has been set out, even if Hugo the Cat keeps trying to eat the Baby Jesus.
The gifts are wrapped and waiting under the plastic tree for Santa's blessing. The stockings are ready for their Christmas laisee.
A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Art development job offer

The AAA is a great resource -- one I've used many times for researching my articles. It also looks like a sunny, pleasant, calming, rewarding place to work.
I'm just passing on the below job ad. Please don't cc:d the messenger! Contact details for the job are at the bottom.
Asia Art Archive, one of the world’s leading public resources for contemporary Asian art, seeks an accomplished professional to assist the Head of Development. The individual will work closely with the operations and development teams to support organisational development needs. This is an exciting opportunity to gain substantial arts administration and development experience in a dynamic organisation at the centre of the regional contemporary art scene.
In addition to day-to-day development duties, responsibilities include:
• Liaising with existing and potential corporate and individual patrons
• Thinking creatively about new/improved ways to encourage the community to actively support AAA
• Thinking of innovative ways to engage the younger community
• Organising and involvement in the execution of fundraising events
• Preparing applications for government and institutional grants
• Managing reports to funders
• Preparing funding analysis reports and monitoring budgets
• Assisting with development programmes
The ideal candidate should be polite, out-going, motivated, passionate, organised, and articulate and will possess:
• A degree in the arts or related discipline
• Excellent organisational skills and ability to coordinate multiple projects at a time
• Excellent interpersonal and communication skills (both written and spoken)
• Flexible attitude and willingness to put in extra time in the evenings and on weekends
• Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Photoshop
• Excellent command of spoken and written English and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin)
• Work experience in the contemporary art field an advantage
• A strong understanding of the art scene and life in Hong Kong is crucial
To apply, please send a cover letter and resume with salary requirements, as well as a reference to
Closing date for applications: 16th January. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eveningwear for sale

Who needs eBay when I have Joyceyland?
O.K., that's not quite true. eBay gets millions of hits and I get, like, two. But eBay has rejected me, presumably on grounds that I'm a Chinese scam-artist peddling fake goods.
doesn't seem to be working.  And I don't know any good second-hand shops in Hong Kong selling such high-quality items. Though, if you do -- please let me know where.

So here it goes. If anyone is looking for beautiful eveningwear for the holiday season and happens to be my size (or, ahem, my pre-baby size), drop me an email.
I bought these outfits for my wedding and never wore them. No, I wasn't stood up at the aisle. 
The Shanghai Tang outfit was replaced at the last minute when an elderly aunt looked in a cardboard box under her bed and found an exquisite vintage piece -- a 1950s hand-embroidered "kwa" or Cantonese-styled wedding top, with gold thread pounded into the black silk. So I chose the family heirloom instead, as anyone would.
As for the peach satin gown, I ended up wearing the exact same cut -- only in ivory -- as my wedding dress. The ivory one is stored in my wooden wedding chest and will stay there forever -- maybe, it will be Baby Chloe's wedding dress someday.
The peach one was supposed to go back to Seibu -- but I forgot or something. So that has also been left, unworn, in my closet. I was much more cavalier with money back in those days!

Shanghai Tang, 100% silk, full-length Chinese robe / jacket.
From the Shanghai Tang flagship store on Pedder St., Central, Hong Kong.
U.S. size 6. Never worn. (I'm 5 ' 1" and it comes down to my ankles)
Silver-gold embroidery depicts flowers and lucky coins. Inside silk lining is the same silver-gold color.
Has six traditional butterfly clasps, and slits up the sides for ease of movement.
Pair it with black silk trousers and high heels for a different twist on eveningwear.
Selling for HK $2,500 or US $320.

ABS by Allan Schwartz. Peach-colored satin full-length gown.
From Seibu, Pacific Place, Hong Kong.
U.S. size 4. (I'm 5'1" and it goes down to the floor)
Never worn. Original tags in place.
Steel boning under the bodice. Gathering on one side of the waist makes the nipped-in waist look smaller. Skirt is cut in a gentle A-line. 

Original price HK $2,650. Now selling for HK $1,200, or US $150.