Hooray Collective: My Heart Belongs Everywhere and Nowhere

On the 30th of every month, I post on the awesome collaborative blog Hooray Collective. Here’s what I wrote for this month.

Origami boats and globe.

I’m preparing to go on vacation and see my extended family for 10 days, no small feat considering the flight costs four figures and it takes ~20 hours for me to fly there. I can’t put into words how much I look forward to seeing all of my relatives and to soak in all of the sights and sounds and smells of the city of my birth, the city half of my roots come from. Opportunities for me to go back to visit happen all too rarely and this one, this chance visit, is some I’m still pinching myself to ensure that no, it isn’t a dream that I’ve managed to work out this unexpected trip home.

Read the rest of the post at HC!

Protests, Tear Gas and Uncertainty about Hong Kong’s Democratic Future

hong kong flag

“Are you going to go to Occupy Central?” a friend asked me over dinner a month ago when I told him I was going to Hong Kong to visit family.

“Like Occupy Wall Street?” I asked.

“No, Occupy Central,” he said. “There’s a lot of political turmoil going on in Hong Kong right now. China’s cracking down and Hong Kong isn’t having it. Haven’t you been keeping up with it?”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “Not much,” I admitted. I almost felt ashamed that my friend had called me out on not knowing what was going on in my birth city. When I went home that night, I stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading everything I could possibly find about the Occupy Central movement, and just what the latest developments were in the constant tug o’ war between Hong Kong and mainland China about civil rights, freedom and universal suffrage.

In 1997, Hong Kong was transferred from Great Britain to China in accordance with the end of the 150 years of imperial British rule on the city. The two powers decided on a “one country, two systems” policy for Hong Kong for 50 years after the handover. Because Hong Kong has always enjoyed an autonomy that mainland Chinese citizens have not enjoyed (i.e. civil rights), the 50 year window was intended to ease a smooth transition.

China promised Hong Kong and Great Britain many things in 1997. One of those promises was that in 2017, Hong Kong citizens would be allowed to democratically elect their top leader for the first time ever.

Hong Kong’s leader is known as the Hong Kong chief executive. Although the current chief executive is Beijing-appointed, in 2007 China reaffirmed that Hong Kong would have universal suffrage in 2017. However, recent developments have shown very strong indications that China has every intention on reneging on its promise. In July, the Chinese government issued a white paper that essentially warned it had the power to dilute or completely revoke Hong Kong’s freedoms. Thousands of Hong Kong citizens marched in peaceful protest once this white paper was issued.

A month ago, Beijing formally announced that while Hong Kong citizens would be allowed to vote for the chief executive in 2017, the candidates would have to be vetted and approved by a special committee similar to the current committee that appoints the chief executive. (Current Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is Beijing-appointed.) This allows Beijing to secure pro-Beijing candidates for the job and eliminate any potential for pro-democracy or anti-Beijing candidates to be elected. Clearly, this is anti-democratic and a violation of the promise of universal suffrage. It feels like the beginning of taking away the democratic rights that Beijing has always promised Hong Kong would be able to have.

If world powers are afraid of standing up to China or taking a stance against it for fear of what China might do in retaliation, what is tiny little Hong Kong to do?

Formed in March 2013, the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong has been growing in size and scope since its formation but especially in the last few months. There are also other protests groups currently active and while there are differences between all of them, currently they are united in the quest for universal suffrage. In truth, the issue of universal suffrage, freedom and civil rights has been building up for at least 20 years, or the amount of time Hong Kong has been under the “one country, two systems” policy. 2017 was seen as a milestone, a test as to whether or not the Chinese government would actually allow Hong Kong to be fully democratic and/or keep the freedoms and civil rights granted under British rule. By all means, it looks as though China is failing the test 2017 represents. But it also looks like China doesn’t care.

I woke up the morning of September 28 to the news that tear gas had been used on the peaceful protests in the Central and Wan Chai districts of Hong Kong. Seeing the images of the police in riot gear and of tear gas being unleashed upon the students who are protesting the infringement China is imposing on Hong Kong’s universal suffrage absolutely broke my heart. I can’t emphasize strongly enough that peaceful protest is fairly common in Hong Kong; violent ones involving police crackdowns are a rare occurrence, if not unprecedented. I’ve certainly never heard of any other situation involving the police using tear gas on a citizen protest.

Beijing has endorsed the Hong Kong police’s actions; so has the pro-Beijing Hong Kong chief executive. Yet there are news reports and photos pouring in that the protesters have consistently been peaceful, and even are cleaning up and recycling after themselves. China has condemned the protests for being illegal. Yes, protests are illegal in mainland China, but they are not in Hong Kong; Hong Kongers have the right to protest and have always exercised that right.

News of tear gas used on the protesters in Hong Kong evokes slight parallels to Tiananmen Square, an event that is seared into the memory of Hong Kong (and likely the rest of the world) but is so heavily censored in mainland China that many young Chinese have no idea why June 4, 1989, is a remarkable date in Chinese history.

A few summers ago, I attended a vigil in Hong Kong for Tiananmen Square on the June 4 anniversary. It was incredibly powerful, and when I returned home that night my mom shared that she had taken part in the protests Hong Kong held in 1989 in the aftermath of the events in Tiananmen Square. I had a hard time imagining my quiet, reserved and shy mother taking part in a protest, but she told me that the entire city was fearful of what was in store for them after the 1997 handover. Tiananmen Square seemed like am ominous omen, a sign of what Hong Kong could be subjected to when no longer under British rule.

“Never forget how fortunate you are to be an American. You have the luxury of freedoms and privileges and rights people are willing to die for.” These are words my mother has repeatedly told me growing up, and they came rushing back to me as I read the news reports coming in indicating that Hong Kong police were donning military-like uniforms and unexpectedly cracking down on protestors using tear gas, pepper spray and batons. Pepper spray they were prepared for, and perhaps were even expecting — but not tear gas. It was something I never would’ve expected to see in my peaceful, beloved home city, and it struck my heart.

The protests towards Beijing’s decision on how to handle the 2017 election are just a microcosm of the larger problem at hand: will China grant Hong Kong its inherent right to remain fundamentally free?

The protests in Hong Kong are no longer just about the 2017 election and universal suffrage, and probably never were. No one knows what will happen next, regardless of the outcome of the protests. Hong Kong public opinion is divided on how to handle its future with China; some say to accept Beijing’s deal for the 2017 elections while others say to reject it as being not democratic enough. The stakes get higher every day; how far are Hong Kong and Beijing willing to go before one gives in to the other? In all likelihood, Beijing isn’t going to budge on this issue. The actions shown so far from Beijing in answer to the protests has indicated that many times over.

This Friday, I return to Hong Kong. I have many things planned for when I’m in town, most of them involving food and spending as much time with my relatives as possible. But if protests of this scale continue into next weekend, I plan on being there and maybe even taking part — peacefully, of course. Perhaps by then the protests will have grown as people galvanize around this issue, or perhaps it will have collapsed under police pressure. (I am personally very concerned that the use of tear gas, pepper spray and batons will escalate to something more drastic, like rubber bullets. Tear gas is just so unprecedented in Hong Kong’s protest history that the order had to have come from much higher up.) But history is happening and I need to be a part of it because how could I ever forgive myself for not speaking up about something that I believe so strongly in?

As an American citizen, I have always enjoyed the rights that the people of Hong Kong are protesting so hard for. It kills me that my extended family, friends and citizens of my birth city are protesting and facing tear gas and pepper spray and batons and police in riot gear without any certainty that they will be able to enjoy rights that I have had my entire life and can’t imagine not having. I may no longer live in Hong Kong, but my family is there. It’s a place I would always consider returning to at some distant point in the future. (Whether or not I do so I have no idea, but I always want it to be an option.) It is where some of my roots are, and it is one of the only places in the world I am certain I can always go back to.

Hong Kong’s democratic future has never been more uncertain.

But at least there’s something I might be able to do about it.

(For copyright purposes I can’t show photos of the protests — the police in military gear, tear gas being unleashed, the crowds amassing — on this blog. Please check out the photos Vox posted for visuals of what’s going on in Hong Kong or images of the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture that was used in Ferguson, Missouri. Other news websites are sharing similar photos that I very strongly encourage people to see in order to get a better understanding of what’s going on in my home city.)

Link Love, Vol. 69

link love

Last week I got a letter in the mail from my old workplace about my 401(k). I changed jobs in January but kind of just… left? my 401(k) with my old job as it was, while opening a new one with my current job. Does anyone know what one is supposed to do with retirement savings accounts when one changes jobs? No one has ever really told me what to do about it all and Google searches prove to be more confusing than helpful. I assume I’m supposed to roll it over or merge it all into one account. Is that easy? (It sounds hard!)

This kind of stuff makes me wish that I had learned about these things in school rather than, I don’t know, how to identify cellulose under a microscope or something. Because when is THAT skill ever going to be of use to me? I WOULD RATHER KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH A 401(K)!

Nouveau Cheap breaks down “reverse washing” for hair and why it might be the right fit for you.

Man Repeller discusses what your bun says about you. Personally, I’m a messy bun kinda girl!

In light of my recent post on being biracial, I adored Mary’s post on her experiences as a half Asian in China and Japan.

The sexual attacks on Emma Watson are an attack on women.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about fresh starts and renewals in recent days, so Betsy’s post on Rosh Hashanah and renewing and changing resonated with me.

NZ Muse seeks catharsis in writing about learning to let go.

I’d never heard of Carhenge till Amanda’s blog post but now I am so intrigued!

Cait shares what she learned about herself after traveling for six weeks.

My Favorite Things: The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil


In my post about double cleansing, I mentioned that The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil is my cleansing oil of choice. There are several reasons for this, which can be summed up as follows:

  • It’s affordable, both for the quality of the cleansing oil as well as the amount that you get. The Body Shop also has a ton of promos so I’ve never had to buy a bottle of this stuff at full price!
  • It decimates all of my makeup with just two pumps’ worth of product, including waterproof mascara.
  • It’s incredibly gentle on my combo/oily skin.

I’ve tried some pricier cleansing oils but once I tried The Body Shop’s offering, I returned the pricier ones I’d been trialing and never looked back. While I’m a proponent of investing in skincare, I find it a little pointless to spend oodles of money on the kind of product that ultimately will get flushed down the sink. Cleansing oils, obviously, fall in this category.

I always, always use this oil as the first step in my double cleanse routine to remove my makeup and sunscreen at the end of the day. When I’m on the road, I’ll use The Body Shop’s Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter simply because there’s no chance of the solid cleansing butter leaking in my bag, unlike the liquid cleansing oil. Luckily, it doesn’t matter if I’m using the cleansing oil or the butter; both are fantastic at removing makeup while keeping my skin feel soft and nourished.

Have you ever tried using a cleansing oil as part of your skincare routine?

A Day in the Life: September 2014

On a designated day each month, I post a linkup where bloggers can showcase what “a day in the life” that month is like with photos, text or a combination of the two. For more information about this project, click here.

a day in the life

In the nine months that I’ve been hosting the A Day in the Life linkup, several participants have showcased a “travel day” in which, well, lots of travel took place. (The Asian Pear and Aisling come to mind — who else am I forgetting?!) So, in that spirit, I decided to show a travel day where I flew from DC to Baton Rouge, with a layover in Houston.

Packing a suitcase

8 a.m.: Packing! Because there are always some items that need to wait until the last possible minute before they can be thrown into a suitcase. Like face wash and a toothbrush.

Taxi to airport

9 a.m.: Taxi on the way to the airport.

Checking in with United

10 a.m.: Checking in! I checked in online, but I needed to check my bag at the counter.

On an airplane

12 p.m.: On the airplane! I got an aisle seat, which is nice, but I’m kind of indifferent to what seat I have on an airplane for shorter flights. However, I had a tight connection in Houston so the aisle seat was much appreciated on this flight.

Houston airport

3 p.m.: I may have had to sprint through the Houston airport, but I couldn’t resist stopping to snap a picture of these longhorns. So Texas.

On an airplane

4 p.m.: On an airplane again, waiting for takeoff.

View from an airplane

5 p.m.: Somewhere between Texas and Louisiana. Bird’s eye view!

Welcome to Baton Rouge

6 p.m.: Welcome to Baton Rouge! Or so the airport greeted me. (Thanks, airport.)

Hotel room

7 p.m.: My hotel room! Since I have status, I seem to have been upgraded to a two bedroom suite. The hotel room is literally 2.5 times the size of my studio apartment back home. I mean, I have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and three TVs. I don’t really know what to do with all this space!

Cucumber Cosmo

8 p.m.: Drinking a delicious blood orange and cucumber cosmo served IN AN ICE GLASS. The glass is literally made of ice. So delicious and refreshing in the Louisiana heat!

Working at a hotel

9 p.m.: Just because I spent a workday traveling doesn’t mean that I don’t have actual work to do! My makeshift workstation until I called it a night and went to bed.

I’d love for YOU to participate in this linkup and share what your typical day in the life is like! If you’re participating, please check out the brief linkup guidelines below and submit your link to the linkup at the bottom of this post. Next month’s date is October 30!

Rules for Participating in “A Day in the Life” Monthly Linkup

  1. Write a post that documents “a day in the life.” The link you submit to the linkup must be the actual post URL. All other links will be removed.
  2. Comment on the post before yours in the linkup. This linkup is all about getting to know each other and making friends!
  3. Link back to this project in your post. A free button is provided below.
A Day in the Life: A Linkup by Break the Sky

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