You’ve probably heard of what happened in Hong Kong last year, when Occupy protestors took over some of the city-state’s busiest streets, calling for the right to vote freely and fairly. The protests were shut down by police in early 2015, but, last week, activists...Read More
Thoughts based on Omar Akbar Qais phenomenal book, A Fort of Nine Towers
Afghanistan. A country of deep beauty, a rich, multi-ethnic and multi-faith culture, and, conversely, atrocious brutality. In Qais Akbar Omar’s book A Fort of Nine Towers the three are presented as one, coexisting in disharmony through the oft-confused eyes of a young boy who loves his Grandpa.
Afghanistan has a unique history. It was never colonized alongside the rest of South Asia, three times fighting off the British, but it was never peaceful either. It was long the crossroads connecting the kingdoms of India, central Asia, and the Middle East when this was the most advanced region in the world. Its people are a mix of Aryan, Turkic, Persian, and Arab cultures. It was also a crucial piece in Europe’s disastrous quest to control the world, fought over by the French, British, and Russians, whose disregard for the Afghan people created the instability that has led to the country now being a symbol of destruction and chaos.
As Qais reminds us, it wasn’t always like this. The book starts with a beautiful image of Kabul, Afghanistan’s wondrous royal capital, a city of less than 100,000 filled with gardens and trees. Images of kite flying, apple trees, and a culture in which people trusted and loved each other – though with the subsets of racial tensions that would explode during the civil war – made me ache to visit this Kabul. A Kabul that has been completely destroyed by war.Read More
My first ever date was with a Vietnamese-American from the same summer program at Brown University during high school. She came up to me at the end of the first day of class, me, frozen, I watching in slow motion. Petite, baby faced, wearing a tight fitting yellow tank-top, with a big smile on her face.
“Hey, you’re in both my classes, aren’t you? Isn’t that crazy!”
Right behind her, I could see, in the hall, five others also in both classes.Read More
69 years. Have we learned from the past? I wondered that when, recently, I had an enlightening conversation with an elderly American social worker in Kansas City, my hometown. Talking about traveling in Asia turned into a discussion on the Pacific theater of World War II. And the bomb.
“It’s terrible we had to do it, but, we had no choice,” she told me “Japanese culture is just like that. They would never give up otherwise. That is how they are.”
Kamikazes, imperial spirit, a “love of their homeland” for which they would fight, inch-by-inch, the rhetoric has been flowing non-stop for decades. It was embodied in the racially driven propaganda of the 1940’s, the same propaganda that led to Japanese Internment Camps.
We had to kill 120,000 innocent civilians, mostly women and children. We had no choice. Because they were Japanese.
“You’re too young. You wouldn’t understand,” she said, a look of pity on her face.Read More
Stories have incredible power. Even before there was a written word, tales passed orally, from person to person, generation to generation, connecting people through the long eons of human history. It is narratives, whether it be narratives about lives, or stories about fantastic world ,that exists just beyond reality as we experience it, and help define our very humanity. Life is literature.
These seven books touched me and drove me. They were stories that connected with my life, or exposed me a larger, wider world, one where I could fulfill my desire to make a difference.Read More
There is surprisingly little writing on the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia, especially if you’re looking for local, creative voices. Yet, few regions of the world suffered as much during World War II. Millions were imprisoned and many perished in resource rich countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, forced into slave labor for the Imperial war effort.
Living in Southeast Asia, I often wonder; who were those millions? Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng weaves, through the mists of fading memories, the story of two sisters whose lives were tragically affected by the war. But what is even more impressive is that the story also includes voices of the oppressors, the Japanese, with the entire story told though the images, visible and hidden, of a Japanese garden.Read More
Last October, news broke that Couchsurfing CEO Tony Espinosa suddenly stepped down, the latest in a long line of setbacks for the newly private company. In this article, originally published in Bootsnall, I explore how an idea with so much promise lost its foundation – its member-build base – leading to its present day downfall.Read More
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