Thursday, August 18, 2011

If You Missed It...

Here they are--the inspiring, wise words of "Myths and Misconceptions" on

"Writing is really hard. It's a career...You can't ever stop reading, and learning." Holly Root, Agent

"Live! And have experiences." Martha Mihalick, Editor

"Being happy and supportive for other people will put you in a better mind frame for your own career." Molly O'Neill, Editor

So good!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

About Oahu

Four blocks up from the Hilton Village is an Oahu few tourists choose to see.

It's just past the canal that runs through Waikiki, a vessel for rainwater run-off and hotel sewage, that crew teams paddle their boats over. Just past this canal, barely out of range of the luau ukulele, are high rise apartment buildings strewn with strings of drying laundry, with strings of children running up and down the stairways. With skateboarders in the parking lots.

Between these skyscrapers are tiny, flat-roofed huts, upon which mango trees release their fruits that roll onto the dirt. The siding of the huts is plywood and aluminum, and lizards slip in and out of the chain-linked fences.

Piles of trash wait on street corners: stained, saggy mattresses; broken bookshelves. Diapers spilling from opened bags.

In the afternoons, tents sprawl around swings and slides: a city park for the homeless, whose scruffy shoes park outside the door flaps.

There are feral cats and enormous cockroaches and birds who sing above it all.

There are few big gas companies and no "mainland" banks.

Each street you cross has a disabled pedestrian with a tiny arm, a shortened leg, a hunched back. The result of lack of prenatal care? Of alcoholism? Of nuclear fallout?

For these kama aina ("Children of the Land"), Life Cereal is $9. A loaf of French bread is $7.29. It is cheaper to eat a McDonald's Big Mac than an apple. And a two-bedroom apartment costs

There are lots and lots of service jobs--hotels, restaurants, shops--but really, no other industry.

And the public schools are irreparable.

You'd think this poverty and collapsed infrastructure would get these natives down.

Not so much.

On Saturdays, they open their trunks and drag their Weber Grills over the sand, and they raise canvas roofs and play the guitar from their tattered Coleman camp chairs. They gather as brothers and sisters and cousins and grandmas, and they grin and flip their ono chicken, and shoot around the soccer ball at Ala Moana Beach.

The sun sets and the coffee-colored babies sleep on turtle-printed towels, and everyone listens to Auntie talk-story about the time before the Hilton Village and the skyscrapers, the time before the '60s. Before Life was so expensive. The brothers and sisters and cousins, they listen. And they eat the bread Auntie has made from the bananas in her yard.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What's Fascinating About SEA?

"How could you spend five weeks studying South East Asia," I've been asked since I've been home.

It's a good question, really.

Those ten (or eleven, depending on how you count them; different post) seemingly insignificant countries on the way other side of the earth wouldn't appear to affect us much here in the US.

In order for me to make sense of it all myself, I deconstructed everything I learned at the National Endowment of the Humanities' Institute (on Oahu). Oh, we had experts--speakers flown in from Indonesia, from Wake Forest and other east coast universities, from California, from the midwest. We were learning about things as they were happening. It was crazy.

Then, I reorganized all that information according to discipline, and analyzed it for a so...what? Where does it all lead?

Here's what you might find interesting:

The islands and mainlands are diverse in many more ways than they are unified: by geography, outside influence (including that of South and East Asia, Europe, and the US), religion, political authority, culture, and the 1,000 languages among them.

Japan bombed Pearl Harbor for access to SEA's rubber, oil, tin, iron; and to prevent US access to it.

The concepts of time (minutes, hours, days) and printing emerged with Buddhism in the region.

Indonesia is the world's fourth largest country. (And is the largest per-capita Facebook-using nation!)

While globally, the birthrate is declining, in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, it is spiking.

This region shares the same issues as the US: our relationships with China, terrorism, trade, the environment). Our citizens also strive for human, labor, and women's rights.

It comes down to the dollar; 6 of the 10 or 11 nations rank in the top half of world economies, some of which have catapulted themselves from the bottom within the last several years.

Is it clear--the economic power here?

That's one of the places all this goes.

I found the bottom line with SEA film scholar Wimal Dissanayake, a bright, lovely man, who said pointedly: "While SEA is a rapidly expanding region, it is severely understudied."

This area is sure to keep rising, in wealth, in population growth, with technology.


Do you know how the US will be affected by that?

By trade, sure.

But also in our higher education systems. We'll be competing for the earth's top potential innovators. Within the next 20 to 40 years, our classrooms are likely to be filled with the greatest thinkers on the planet.

And, since 4 out of 5 foreign scholars end up staying in the US when they complete their programs, we'll be competing for jobs, too.

What do you think? Is that good or bad?

Will more and more university slots go to Jakartans, ManileƱos, taking up seats from Americans who "deserve" them?

Or will the ambition of these academics add to our melting pot, spawn our creativity, help us stay a super power?