image courtesy of Bob Callaway, by way of Ernst Haeckel.
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You know how 2-part TV shows always used to begin episode 2 with “Previously, on Falcon Crest“, and then gave a quick recap of what happened in Ep 1? I dunno: they probably still do that now, but I don’t watch much current TV, so I can’t be trusted on such matters.
Anyway, the “Previously…” feature was particularly handy growing up in Malaysia, where the the local stations (all 2 of them) generally showed imported TV shows in whatever order/season they felt like, so without those recaps, we’d have no idea what had happened the week before. Which is much like this blog. Well, Wofford’s plotline has been hither and thither, this way and that, for some weeks now, so this recap is as much to clear her head of the chaos as it is to fill your with it…
So. Here’s as compressed a version as I can give you of the past couple of months of scattered posting:
May 28: leave Bay Area for Czech Republic, move immediately to Brno. Lovely city, great place to adjust to a new culture, but Wofford’s internet access more or less confined to being a regular lurker in a local vegetarian organic food restaurant. So Woff gets her wegetables and her wireless for about an hour or two, but only every every day or two (so as not to seem too lurker-like at the cafe). Decompression/adjustment/culture-shock in full-effect, alongside trying to tie up loose ends long-distance in the US, and working on applications for various creative prospects here in Europe.
June 19: Wofford and the Pirate realize that the only truly tragic thing about Brno is its profound lack of full-on Middle-eastern food, and its apparent zero-hummus-tolerance policy. The quest for hummus leads to one of Europe’s great hummus cities, Vienna, for a weekend of hummus-ing. Um, and art and culture- experiencing, at places like the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
June 27: The official move to Prague, into a bizarre, Matrix-like, very un-Prague-like, apartment compound. Temporary, teensy-ish digs for 2-3 months, but courtesy of Pirate’s employer (ie freee), so no complaints here. Also, 24/7 internet access at home. (AND Prague is absolutely stunning. And there’s hummus here, too!) Woff’s newfound fixation has nothing to do with 6 centuries of architecture: she’s utterly obsessed with the 1992 Å½iÅ¾kov TV tower. The view from it is lovely, but the view OF it is divine. And the interior decorating in the tower is the BEST!!! Like a Czech version of a Miami Vice/Madonna Inn hospital waiting room.
June 29: Another day of solo travel back and forth between Brno and Prague, shepherding luggage to its new location. Very warm long-distance buses + older Czech gentlemen who don’t bathe daily = you do the math. BTW, Woff is generally not a fan of bus travel as it is, as she gets easily bus-sick, so she can’t read or do anything (as opposed to on trains, where this is not an issue).
July 2: And away again! Planes, trains and automobiles to get to an unbelievably epic Nigerian wedding in Portofino, Italy and 4 days of all manner of affiliated shenanigans with the P’s far-flung international crew all reunited for the occasion. This, followed by Wofford swinging from train to train (7 total) for a day, to catch up with the elder Woffords who just happen to be travelling in Europe, anyway. Crazy, right? But the Woffords miss each other a lot, so they’re happy to find a reason to see each other. Woffords x 3 spend time travelling in Switzerland, also bickering over who gets to drive and who’s getting car sick through all sorts of gorgeousness in Switzerland, France, Belgium and Holland.
(last photo courtesy KSD-thanks, k!)
Switzerland cable car, Grindlewald:
Tha Dom, Epernay France:
Tourist photos and Belgian Woffles, Bruges Belgium:
Important Latin Phrase, Amsterdam:
July 14: Finally back in Prague, to settle in, at long last.
(Um, so most of you don’t know, but my friend and former colleague “Lyle” and I have a porta-potty fixation. Long story. As part of a way of collapsing the distance between us, we’re working on a new collaborative photo essay entitled “Porta-Potties Of The World”, where we just…send each other pictures of porta-potties, in lovely places. Sort of a “Just Thinking Of You” greeting card kind of thing.)
I can’t complain about any of the fun adventures of the past month, but I am at that point where I’m feeling substantially unmoored, and feeling very ready to get some structure back into this screwball life of mine…I basically still know no one in Prague, other than P and a couple of his colleagues, so it’s time to hustle and make some new friends. And I’ve got major moolah woes to boot, so, time to hustle and start working in earnest, too! Have just cranked out another application for something else here in Europe, have to finish my mail-art piece for this project that Christine Wong Yap has put together back in SF, have to start working on drawings and paintings for a fall show I’m in in Manila. Have to start contracting some freelance work (so if you kind folks know of anyone who needs illustration/design work done, send them my way) too, have to start taking proper Czech lessons in earnest now that the ground beneath my feet’s a bit more stable. Have to really get to know and appreciate all aspects of this city, finally!
It’s been almost 2 weeks since I left the US, and I’m adjusting to Brno pretty well. It was a little hard at first: it took a while to decompress from all the overwhelming insanity that accompanied my departure, and to adjust to a new culture and language.
Brno is fantastic, but not nearly as international as Prague, which is mostly good, a little bad. The good is that it’s utterly gorgeous but not touristy at all, and it retains its Moravian regional authenticity and Czech language. Bad in that because of the lack of other languages, I’m definitely struggling much more to get around, understand, and communicate. I needed to buy some hair conditioner the other day, and it took easily 20 minutes of staring at bottles, trying to find just one consistent descriptor that I could decipher. Oy.
Brno in the distance: view from Villa Tugendhat, considered to be Mies Van Der Rohe’s private residence masterpiece
It’s definitely motivating me to learn Czech faster, but as it’s a language with very little in common with neighboring ones I’m more familiar with (Spanish, French, Italian, German), I really can’t intuit the words or pronunciation easily at all. (A copy of David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day” would be very handy right now. I’m not even at the point with my Czech-learning foibles that Sedaris describes his French-learning foibles as “talking like an evil baby” yet: I’m still sub-larval. Lots of nouns and pointing: very few coherent phrases or full sentences.)
Younger Czechs tend to speak a bit more English which is much appreciated, but in somewhat limited supply. Culturally, Czechs are polite but reserved in casual conversation: little of that exuberant, goofy “hey, I can’t speak much English but I’ll just mangle the language and chat you up anyway” gregariousness that you find in, say, Italy or the Philippines. I appreciate the personal space here greatly, but feel a bit more isolated because of it. Plus I’m reminded that I’m also surprisingly shy with new languages/cultures, so I’m not my usual gregarious self, either.
The weather here wasn’t too accommodating at first (hence the overcast skies and the heavy coat I’m wearing in the previous post), but this week has returned to real, glorious summer sunshine and warmth. The city is really coming alive for me now: I’m a little confounded as to why it’s not more of a tourist destination. It’s incredibly lovely and mellow. And Erik’s place, where we’re staying, has a fantastic deck, with a phenomenal view.
City, church spire, cooling tower, smoke stacks, rainbows: gotta love it.
I’ve also begun running outdoors again, which makes me feel so much better. And it is connecting me to this city in the most marvelous way: having spent the past year on a treadmill at the Oakland YMCA was great, but, well, it was running on a treadmill at the Oakland YMCA.
I begin with a warm-up hustle down Masarykova, the street where we’re staying, then charge up the cobblestone paths that lead up to St Peter and Paul, the 12th century Gothic cathedral on Petrov hill (where I was in my previous post’s pic). After huffing and puffing my way up there (who knew that Brno had San Francisco-grade steep hills?), and getting fully warmed up, I go for a nice long sprint back down and along Husova or Pellicova (streets just go by a single name: there’s no “avenue” or “boulevard” appended) to the base of the next hill, to the park surrounding Å pillberk, the 13th century castle-fortress-prison-museum.Â There’s an amazing series of up and down paths, both dirt and cobblestone, meandering around the park, leading up to yet another spectacular panoramic view. After tearing around there for awhile, I trot back into town, through ZelnÃ½ Trh, the old cabbage market which is one of Brno’s two main squares, and then back to the apartment. The Czech word for beautiful is “krÃ¡snÃ½”, which is easy to remember because A, it makes me think of KQED/NPR’s Michael Krasny, and B, hella stuff is hella krÃ¡snÃ½ here.
One of the stores that carries a modest selection of books in English has a copy of Haruki Murakami’s new book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which I think I’ll be picking up shortly. It might be about the perfect read for me right now. While I’m not as fixated on Murakami as I was a few years back, I still gravitate towards the weird logic that governs his fiction: I’ve read little of his nonfiction, though, so this seems like a timely book to start with. Exercise in general, and running around outdoors specifically, provides such clarity and comfort: having spent many years as a card-carrying member of the Sedentary And Proud club, I think I got the memo on the benefits of exercise a little late in the game.Â It’s harder to go stir-crazy when you’ve just exhausted/invigorated yourself.
There’s definitely been some stir-crazy-ness here, too: true, I haven’t been here very long, but I’m itching to feel a bit more purposefulness here. I didn’t move halfway around the world to be a couch potato on holiday. It’s likely to be a little longer than I’d thought before we move to Prague and have a place of our own (and I have a proper studio of some sort). I’m grateful for the soft landing and the lack of pressure for a change, but I’m itching to make my time as an artist here productive. Still, I’ve had the enormous luxury of time to focus on putting together applications for other arts oppsÂ here in Europe, so I really can’t complain. And it’s summer, so perhaps that is as it should be: soon enough the weather’s going to get drearier, and that’s when it will be much easier to justify staying indoors and making work again.
More soon: expect sporadic posts for a bit longer, as my wireless access is still a bit spotty.
Night view of St Peter and Paul Cathedral, from Å pillberk
I made it to the Czech Republic, and am finally beginning to calm down and adjust to being here. It was most definitely a screwball month of pandemonium, tears and drama trying to make it out of the Bay Area with all loose ends as resolved as possible. I’m still working on getting a regular wireless connection for my laptop, but in the meantime, I’m making do with about an hour of access every dar or two. (This is not so bad, of course, but it is considerably less than I was online in the US.)
P and I are crashing at a colleague’s apartment in Brno for the next couple of weeks: we’ll be relocating to Prague soon, but no real details on that just yet. For the time being, just letting you good folks know that I’m here, and I’ll have more to say about all of this soon enough.
Here’s another Asian-American immigration narrative for the Joy Luck Hub blog carnival, from dear friend and galleonista-in-arms Johanna Poethig: American-born, raised in the Philippines, who moved to the US as a teenager.
My name means mud. My first venture across the big ocean was at 4 months old.Â My family took a ship to Manila and arrived in early 1957. I grew up in Malate to the sounds of roosters in the morning and pigs screaming at fiesta time. The rain stung my skin before the big typhoons. I got H Fever during the 1960’s epidemic from the mosquito with white stripes on its legs.Â I believed in aswang and the spirits of dead teachers roaming school halls.Â My first profanity was “putang ina mo”. My best friend in 3rd grade got mad at me after she learned the Americans killed Aguinaldo.
My parents had their customs. My Dad taught us the tricks of New York city street life as we made “hot mickies” over carabao grass. My mother tried desperately to keep me from eating with my hands. My mouth still waters for sour salty food on my fingers.Â In 5th grade I finally got to be in a school performance. The Ifugao ceremony where we all moved together around a fire did not require pairing me off with a boy half my size.
Fifteen years later I immigrated to Chicago. My batik dresses did not keep me warm in the sub-zero weather. I sprained my ankles walking in my winter boots. My fellow waitresses at the Mellow Yellow lunch spot in South Chicago called me a “virgin white”.Â I wore my malongs off my shoulder and snake vertebrae on my head. The lack of food at parties confused me.Â As time passed I searched for what was familiar to me; warmer weather, mixed up communities, Tagalog and nicknames. I have been back to Malate where the acacia tree of my old school still shades the children at recess.
Something that I learned a couple of years ago when I attended a weekend-long professional development workshop for artists is how desperately many of us need these kinds of services (and we don’t even know it!). Many other careers consider professional development an integral part of success: somehow, in the arts, there remains this bizarre romantic notion that success happens by magic because artists are special creatures, and acknowledging that this is a career, not just a life-pursuit, might compromise the mystique of what we do.
Granted, many of us have long been leery of cheesy Anthony Robbins-style corporate motivational seminar hokum, which never looked all that related to our endeavors. And granted, some creative personalities really don’t want or need PD. But for many others, it might have made things a whole lot easier a lot earlier if the process were demystified a bit, by other folks from within the arts.
Most of us who did that workshop (run by fellow artists and creatives from Creative Capital‘s professional development program) were overwhelmed by how much it helped, and how little we knew (about what we didn’t know we even needed to know): at the time, I remember feeling like we had all just been air-lifted out of our own chaos! It felt way more like liberation than indoctrination, that’s for sure.
I’ve been thinking about a Seth Tobocman quote lately, which was intended in a slightly different context:
“You don’t have to fuck people over to survive.”
You don’t have to fuck people over or self-sabotage your life as an artist to succeed, either.
Therefore, it’s truly splendid news that the Center for Cultural Innovation and the San Francisco Creative Capacity Fund are supporting a number of affordable workshops for artists and arts orgs to learn how to grow and sustain themselves more capably.Â (I’m going to the Strategic Planning workshop this Monday the 27th: hopefully, I’ll see some of you there?)
Strategic Planning for Individual Artists:
From Vision to Reality
Evolving your arts business begins with articulating goals that are ambitious, inspirational and accomplishable. You will learn how to use coaching tools that provide a foundation to the strategic planning process, keeping it grounded and solution-focused.
This workshop will cover:
* Strategic planning
* Mind-mapping, past, present and future
* Articulating goals in your stretch zone
* Using the GROW3 coaching tool to create a plan
* Thinking partnerships: peer coaching
Date: Monday, April 27, 2009
Location: SF State, 835 Market Street, 6th floor, San Francisco 94103
(next to Westfield Shopping Center, Powell Street BART/Muni stop)
Cost: $35 (BOA / CCI Members) / $40 Non-members
Marketing 101: Creating a Marketing Plan that Works for You
CCI’s Marketing Plan Seminar for Individual Artists
Nancy Hytone Leb
Marketing is the key to developing any business. You know you need to do it but where do you start? Understanding the basic fundamentals and creating a marketing plan is the first step. In this 2-day workshop, you will begin to:
* Explore strategies that will help you identify your target audience
* Learn to communicate what your work is about
* Analyze the ever-evolving list of marketing tactics so you can determine the most strategic way to reach your audience.
We will cover the planning process in detail and provide you with definitions, concepts, tools and resources that you will need to create a marketing plan that meets your needs as an artist entrepreneur.
Dates: Wednesday, May 27 and Thursday, May 28
Location: SF State, 835 Market Street, 6th floor, San Francisco 94103
(next to Westfield Shopping Center, Powell Street BART/Muni stop)
Cost: $105 (BOA / CCI Members) / $120 Non-members
Double-duty on the strong women front, all around!
I just discovered that two other fierce friends of mine, Nicole Hsiang and Sasha St Denny, are both participating in this weekend’s San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) fundraising event, Walk Against Rape. They are both soliciting donations for their participation in the walk.
I’ve learned more about SFWAR through Nicole, who worked there for a long time. It’s an organization well-worth supporting. And Sasha put the need for supporting SFWAR simply and eloquently in her donations message:
As some of you may know,Â I recently started an internship with San Francisco Women Against Rape, the primary provider of rape crisis services and sexual violence prevention education programs in San Francisco.Â I hadÂ a sobering moment during one ofÂ our training sessions when the group of about 15 people was asked to walk across the room if they or someone they knew had been a victim of sexual violence. Without a moment’s hesitation, every single person walkedÂ to the other side of the room.
Rape is a difficult subject to talk about, but it is an epidemic that we cannot ignore.Â Please sponsorÂ me as I join many others in the Walk Against Rape event to benefit SFWARÂ this Saturday,Â April 25th. By donating to SFWAR you are not only supporting survivors, but making a statement that rape will not be tolerated in your community.
No donation is too small!
Skip thatÂ cappuccino orÂ packÂ your lunch for the day and know that your donation is helping us to make a difference!
Joy Luck, show me loove, up in the club!
(That’s the line Ice Cube forgot.)
(Which, come to think, is a song from the soundtrack to Mr. Cube’s cinematic masterwork “The Player’s Club“.)
(Which naturally, begs the question:
Does Joy Luck Club + Player’s Club = Movie:
1. The Joy Luck Player’s Club
2. The Mahjongg Playazz Klubb
3. The World of Suzie Wong
4. Fight Club?)
My 300 words, in response to Claire Light’s ‘Joy Luck Hub’ Blog Carnival call:
Not long after WWII, my lolo (grandfather) decided to move from Manila to Guam with his wife and 3 kids. He was offered an engineering job there with an American contractor at a time where good jobs were hard to come by, plus he was fed up with Manila cronyism, and wanted to make something of himself on his own terms.
Tito Sonny, Tita Lety, Mom, Lolo, Lola in Guam, 195os
My mom, tito and tita spent their preteen and teen years on Guam, attending a tiny missionary school there. It’s a little unclear financially how, but somehow Lolo sent all 3 kids off to college in the U.S.. My mom and aunt were probably the only 2 Filipinas/Asians in Walla Walla, Washington in the late 50′s: they quickly bonded with 2 Japanese-American sisters there as well. (The foursome have stayed dear friends their whole lives: Nobe and Kaz are very much my “aunties”, which actually brings this narrative dangerously close to JLC territory.)
After Walla Walla, my mom and Aunt Kaz moved to Portland to complete their nursing degrees. And then, in a reversal of the classic Filipina nurse immigration saga, Mom moved back to Manila, to work in the 7th Day Adventist Hospital there. My grandparents had gone back to Manila forÂ awhile as well, so as their unmarried bunso, she was obligated to be with them, since my tito and tita had both married Americans and settled in the US.
Eventually, Mom returned to the US, and worked at a San Francisco hospital while living with her sister and her sister’s husband. My lolo died early of a heart attack not long after, leaving my lola alone on Guam: she soon moved to California to live with her children. Residency in Guam qualified everyone in the family for U.S. citizenship once they reached adulthood: my mom became an American citizen soon after she turned 18.
Tita Lety, Mom, Lolo, Lola, Tito Sonny in Guam, 1950s
It’s been twenty years, yo.
Aunties An-Mei, Lindo, Ying Ying and Suyuan have got to surrender the torch one of these days, right?
I absolutely adored Joy Luck Club (book and movie) as a wee pup long ago, when both first came out. But both have been subjected to their fair share of critique, particularly vis-a-vis representations of the Asian-American experience, in the twenty years since Amy Tan‘s book was published.Â While I kinda doubt I could ever shake the sentimental hold that the J.L.C. has on me, I definitely wonder how I might respond more critically to it now, in a re-read. (Is it possible to be sentimental and critical simultaneously, I wonder?)
Therefore, thisÂ J.L.C.-inspired “Blog Carnival” project by writer Claire Light couldn’t be better timed:
From Claire, via Hyphen:
Help us honor and argue with The Joy Luck Club on the 20th Anniversary of its publication AND celebrate API Heritage Month in May! Send us your immigrant story in 300 words or less!
This year is the 20th Anniversary of the publication of The Joy Luck Club, the book that, for better or for worse, defined Asian America to a generation of readers, and opened up mainstream American fiction to Asian immigrant stories. (I celebrated its 15th in an essay in Issue 4.) I say “for better or for worse” because, although it was wonderful for people of my generation — who were reaching adulthood just as Joy Luck was hitting the bookstores — to finally see Asian immigrant families in fiction, the book also limited a generation of writers to a particular narrative.
We don’t all suffer an immigrant generation gap with our parents; many of us are 1.5s, and many of us are 3rd generation or deeper; many of our parents are culturally competent in the US; most of us didn’t grow up in Chinatowns. Half of us aren’t women; we aren’t all Chinese … or Japanese, or Korean; our cultures of origin don’t always center around cooking rice, or mahjong games in the kitchen, or the insulting mistakes our white boyfriends make at the dinner table; the racism we experience isn’t always the blatant kind.
So, for a book that didn’t intend to cause all the controversy or inspire all the ambivalence it has, I can’t think of a better way to honor its birthday than to talk back. For May, Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let’s tell more stories … stories that aren’t like The Joy Luck Club at all.
I’m declaring a blog carnival of short, personal Asian American immigrant narratives.
These will be YOUR families’ immigration stories in 300 words or less.
Very short, so don’t try to tell the whole thing.
Pick out one important anecdote or detail that you think is unusual.
Some questions to get you started:
- What about your family’s immigration experience is unusual, not like the stereotypes?
- Did your family immigrate all at once, or over several generations, and just to the US, or elsewhere? Did anyone go back?
- Did your forebear/s have a goal in immigrating? Do you think this was their only purpose?
- Did something funny or strange or sad happen when they got here?
- Has your family been here so long you’ve forgotten the immigrant experience? Tell us another story, then!
We’re looking for a diversity of stories: East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, Central Asian, North Asian, women, men, transgendered people, all ages and generations, all regions of the States (and we’ll fudge “American” if you’re not from the States or even from North America), all kinds of stories, all ways of telling them.
Here’s the process:
- Write your immigrant story of 300 words or less.
- Post it to your blog or somebody’s blog.
- Post the URL in comments below, or send me the URL at claire (at the domain) hyphenmagazine (with a dot) com. Please put “Joy Luck Hub submission” in the subject line.
- Deadline is May 1.
- Depending on a number of factors, we might reprint a few here on Hyphen Blog (with permission). Or we might not.
Please post questions, comments and suggestions below in comments …
and PLEASE FORWARD THIS CALL for submissions to your Asian American friends!
Folks, start your engines.
(A direct, easier to cut-n-paste link to this same post on the Hyphen Magazine blog is here):
(woff confession: I went on Youtube loooking for The JLC clips right after prepping this post, and got ALL kinds of choked up watching it! OY. I’m still a sucker for it…)
I’ll post my family’s (well, my Mom’s side, anyway) story on my blog shortly, too.