This Year’s Women’s March–A Slightly Late Account

IMG_7606I just got the job at the UH student newspaper the Ka Leo, and did my first official story. The story itself was published in a more timely fashion than this one, but I wanted to make sure it was fine for me to publish it elsewhere. So I’m posting my original copy of the article here…

Hawaii’s 2018 Women’s March was more than a rally on the feminist social movement; it was called the People’s Rally, marking the one year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. It had all started last year on the day Trump was installed as president, when retired Hawaii attorney Teresa Shook first started off the nationwide movement. A year later, people have once again gathered together across the country to not only empower women but to get people to the polls and encourage them to really get involved in bringing about social change in their community.

One of the rally’s most conspicuous features was the grand spectacle of women wearing bright pink caps. When asked what these hats were for, Vivian Carlson replied, “The Women’s March last year, they put the knitting pattern for this hat up with the idea that all women would wear pink pussy hats. And so this is the anniversary…so bring out the pussy hats!” This very satirical display of pussy-hat-wearers was meant to represent society’s concept of women and broadcasted dissatisfaction about recent events that have disrespected women.

This year’s rally in Honolulu again took place at the state capital, where hundreds of individuals and many organizations congregated to do what they could to promote change. Lisa Grandinetti, a UH alumni who had graduated in 2017 with a double major in ethnic and women’s studies, came to the rally representing the organization Local 5, “We’re with Local 5, we’re a union for hotel workers, and we’re here to support progressive politics.” Joli Tokusato, a hotel worker at Local 5 and former city council candidate, added, “We have to take care of women, we have to take care of immigrants, we have to take care of our children and make sure they have healthcare. All those things are super important as well as jobs and unions and power to the people.”

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were also present at the rally. Kit Grant, Deputy Director of the ACLU of Hawaii and 1988 liberal studies graduate from UH Manoa, was present to inform the public about the ACLU’s purpose, “The ACLU is the nation’s foremost guardian of civil rights. We work in a lot of different areas, a lot of which touch on women’s rights. We’re here to show support for the women’s march and to do some education about the constitution, your right to protest, and also about a bail reform push that we’re making.”

IMG_7521Clearly, with the Local 5 and the ACLU attending, this year’s Women’s March is bringing together people from all walks of life and with diverse political and social focus in a single rally for the people. When asked why she was here at the march, Punahou student Claire Cutler made it clear that it was not only in support of the female gender, “[I’m here] to show my dissatisfaction with everything that’s happened in the past year…specifically women’s rights, and then also since this is the People’s Rally it’s a little bit more general: also the environment and then the bill he just passed about treating LGBT people.” The Women’s March taking place on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration certainly makes this rally a passionate one for a lot of people.

It’s not surprising, then, that such an all-encompassing rally like this one would also include organizations like Refuse Fascism, which focuses more pointedly on the Trump Administration. “I am in solidarity with the movement that says no to the agenda pushed by Trump and the conservative parties: attack on immigrants, permanent war, removal of regulations that protect health and the environment, racism…income inequality, increased subsidies for big business and less benefits, less education for the lower income classes,” said Hector Valenzuela, a member of Refuse Fascism.

With so many organizations to choose from, and so many social issues to fight for, the Women’s March is not only a display of people’s ability to unite against adversity, but also a reminder to get more involved. Jennifer Hsu, a current UH Manoa student majoring in social work, is a perfect example of how students at UH can contribute. “This is part of my practicum for social work,” she declared as she stood behind the Planned Parenthood booth, fighting for birth control and healthcare. “This is my first time here,” she said. Of course, in order for any of these organizations to get here, or any of these social movements to begin at all, someone had to step up for their first time in their effort to make a difference. Students from UH Manoa as well as the rest of the community are given a chance at events like these to become inspired and do something for the community. We are also reminded of the democratic power that can be wielded by going to the polls to support candidates that will make such issues their priority. In short, as said in the opening speech, this march reminds the people that women “are the mothers who raised nations,” and today these mothers strove to stay true to that pledge.

To see the edited and published version, visit Ka Leo.

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Pending Impending Doom

I woke up this morning with the impression that I was going to die in less than half an hour. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” I read, the notification having flashed on the screen of my phone only minutes earlier. There I was in bed, having just become a legal adult less than a month ago, and was now about to see those very precious eighteen years flash before my very eyes with my imminent death. Only last night had I been dreaming about my future, and now I was gathering in desperate fistfuls whatever I had left of my past memories.

At least, those were the thoughts that swept through my head in the beginning. I mean, along with those feelings of fear and loss, I must admit that incredulity and disbelief were also in the mix. How could this actually be happening? I asked myself. Of course, horrible disasters take place everywhere. But what was missing from the end of that question was the final phrase “to me.” How could this possibly be happening to me? Sure, I had liked to see the world as a place of beautiful chaos, a conceptual balance of supreme goodness as well as absolute terror. But somehow, with the sky falling at that moment, I couldn’t really do justice to the whole very extracted perspective of the balance in any of this turmoil.

Nonetheless, along with my fear, I also found myself laughing. Laughing because I couldn’t believe this notification could have actually been true. Laughing because, on the brink of death, the natural reaction almost always begins with denial. Laughing, because life is a comedy, and we need to live it with a sense of humor.

Only half believing the alerts, my parents and I, along with family and friends who were panicking even more so, were extremely relieved to be informed about half an hour later that it was a false alarm. Of course, it would’ve been nice to know this before so many families had said their last goodbyes and “I love you”‘s, but there’s not much to complain about when the alternative would’ve been our instantaneous demise. Being exposed to this close encounter with death, especially as I live day-to-day in my youth chasing on my hopes and dreams of the future, I have come to realize how much we take for granted in our daily life. Especially with the gift of youth, all we seem to think about is the future. Now, however, as I felt the closest to death this morning than ever before, I’ve been reminded that youth doesn’t guarantee longevity. We must all live by each day, and, although it’s cliche, we must remember to truly live life to the fullest. Because you never know when that next missile threat will really not be a drill.

Growth for the New Year

IMG_7456Each day we are given the gift of a fresh start as a new day emerges. But with the new year, we are given an even greater chance to truly renew ourselves. Unlike the days of monotony in which we perpetuate our already existent way of living, when we begin a new year we experience a sort of wake up call in which we remember that we must continue to grow throughout our lifetime.

This new year I was reminded of the fragility and determination that comes with growth when I successfully coaxed to life the seed of a silk cotton tree I had pocketed from a botanical garden a while back (I know, you’re not supposed to do that. But I just love plants!). Of course, since my thumb has never been the greenest, I doubted that it would ever actually grow under my supervision; I couldn’t even find any information on growing your own silk-cotton tree, even though you can find hundreds of websites instructing the right conditions for planting a tomato plant.

Nonetheless, about a month ago, I decided to plant the seed (in fact, the reason why I decided to go through with it anyway was partially due to another failed attempt at keeping a plant alive; I now had an empty pot for a new botanical experiment:)). I just thought, what the heck, at least I can say I tried.

But then, only two or three weeks ago, I noticed a small, yellowish sprout had broken free from the soil, and was reaching out to the sun. Soon, two perfectly formed leaves emerged, and the sprout became a bright, youthful green. You don’t understand how excited I got when I realized I’d actually sewn the seed of the miraculous silk-cotton tree! One day, when it grows into the big tree it’s destined to become, I thought, I can start making my very own silk-cotton-stuffed pillows! I know, I’m a weird one, but nonetheless this occurrence was quite magical for me, being the clumsy nature-lover I am.

On a less giddy note, this sprout came into being just at the cusp of the new year, and has become a sort of symbol for me, reminding me of the need to break through the dark clutter and reach toward the sun. Wow, I just reverted from giddiness to cheesiness. But really, I have so much that I want to do in my life, and now that I’m in college, I feel that I’m truly beginning my journey on the path to my future. I just need to figure out what exactly that future will be.

More broadly speaking, as the seasons begin to change and the leaves turn vivid green once more– note that I’m using the seasons as a mark of passing time even as I live in Hawaii where the seasons hardly change at all– we must all remember the immense nurturing and care that it takes to make such a beautiful plant grow, just as we must all strive to focus on ourselves as well as others in our own personal growth. Only when we improve ourselves can we hope to improve the lives of others.

And so I will end with a beautiful quote from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.

“Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.”

–Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Life is a growing process; every day shapes us, making us a slightly newer person with every moment. And with the new year, this maturation becomes more apparent. Remember to nurture your personal growth, and in turn help those around you to grow as well.

 

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This post was inspired by this week’s photo challenge: Growth

A Blast to the Past in California

In the midst of the immense change I’ve been experiencing in rapid succession in this new collegiate chapter of my life, I have forgotten just how sentimental a person I am.

There I was, walking meditatively throughout the beautiful campus of Caltech, where my aunty works, and although before me spread a familiar tree-lined path devoid of people, I could still see my seven-year-old-self with my two Taiwanese cousins running around together beneath the sifting shadows of the trees. Retracing the footsteps I had taken so many times, so many years ago with those I loved so much, it seems as if my present surroundings take on a certain golden glow of precious antiquity. Such a precious place that had been the setting for the making of so many wonderful memories becomes an almost holy ground of one’s own spirit, where everything seems just a little more magical than they would have been in an everyday context.

In this manner I walked the streets of Pasadena, making new memories all the while as I pondered in bittersweet recollections. I guess this is how one’s entire life seems in old age, if one’s life is lived to the fullest. Luckily, I’m still young. Although many of these sweet memories sadden me because of their expiration, I am so thankful to have such a place to revisit and feel what I had felt before, and have the chance to make new memories that will incite these very romantic, loving feelings in the future.

With this sentimental post, I wish you all a Happy New Year. Make sure to remember and love your past as you embark on your future this new year.

Merry Christmas

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Happy Holidays everyone! Yes, the most wonderful time of year is finally here, and I’m sure everyone is hustling and bustling from store to store by now to get those presents for all the people you love…and even the ones you don’t. Christmas lights have been strung, ornaments hung, and Christmas carols will be sung. I of all people have experienced the absolute joy that comes about during Christmas time, as it’s my favorite time of year.

The thing is, the happy holidays aren’t happening everywhere. As we max our credit cards here, in a place where materialism is considered almost equivalent to expressions of love, somewhere far away is a mother and child struggling to salvage enough for their next meal.

I know what you’re thinking: Whoa, this writer is one of those super cynical types who makes a downer out of all the fun. But no, I’m actually one of the happiest people I know, and am one of the most fanatical about Christmas Cheer. Only, as we open our wonderful gifts on Christmas morning and spend time with our family and friends, along with all the happiness that we feel in those wonderful moments, we must all also remember that the whole world does not share this epidemy of joy. We must remember to be humbled by the diverse states of human existence, and feel compassion for those who will not be waking up on December 25th to the sound of laughter. And therefore, I ask you all this Christmas season to appreciate the life you have now in the vast scheme of things; don’t be bummed because you didn’t get those really cute shoes you’d been dying for, or that super-sleek skateboard that you told absolutely everyone would make you happy for the rest of your life. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of someone who has none of those things, someone who may even be working long, hard hours to make those very things, and let that perspective make you feel even more joy this holiday than all preceding years as you appreciate what you do have rather than what you don’t.

This year, see the world and your own life from a bigger perspective. Commit a random act of kindness. And remember: presents aren’t the only things one can give to those they love.

Wandering Writings: The City

Since I’m on my winter break, and have finally had some time to write for the pure sake of writing–versus a grade or assignment–I wrote out this little tableau today and thought I’d share it. It’s just a little rambling of my mind, put into story form…

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He saw the city as the biologist sees both the subtle beauties and horrors of nature, saw the culmination of injustice and success as well-played roles of romantic grandeur and torment. To him, us petty humans were the most heart-rending beings of evil and goodness who went about in our daily lives steeped in ignorance and hope. He saw us all as a hopeless cause of beautiful dreamers trying to calculate the fastest route to heaven. He was in love with Man, writing poetry on the subtle as well as grand achievements that had been accomplished by this great object of his meditations. Yet, as he walked past the young boy who sat in grey-brown rags at his feet, he didn’t think twice about leaving the spare jingling change inside of his pockets, regardless of the sound being music to the boy’s dirt-laiden ears.

She saw the city as a horrible, belching, bureaucratic machine, whose tiny moving parts went unnoticed within its shiny veneer. She was well aware of the stratified organization of the city’s inpalpable–but very real–borders between the classes. She would see it as she walked from the gleaming city capital to its crumbling ghettos, seeing inside the windows of both the faces of dreamers, even though only a few of them would actually have the means to see their dreams fulfilled. She scoffed at the miserable state of the city, as its factories burped out puffs of blackness that tightened around its citizens very throats. Yet, as she passed by that very same boy, she too made no move to pull out her coin purse and ease his hunger, at least for one more night.

No, between them, stuck in their own wandering minds of love and hatred for their grandios city, neither made a move toward its actual betterment. Only when another child, a young girl similarly dressed in torn clothes, walked toward the boy did he find any relief. For she had just been able to salvage enough to buy a pastry at the bakery across the street, and, seeing him sitting out there all alone, came over to share it with him. They ate quietly together that summer evening as the sun went down, neither saying a word, but within that silence hung words of unspeakable thanks and understanding that neither the man nor the woman would ever understand.

A Beloved Book Quote: Winter’s Tale

Now that my first semester at UH has come to an end, I have had the wonderful opportunity of actually reading my own books once again. As you can probably tell from my most recent blog post, I really like to learn. So everything I was learning throughout the semester interested me greatly. But I’m also a book-lover, and have been deprived from my beloved novels for too long. So to pay homage to my euphoric winter break filled with the written word, I’ve decided to highlight one of my favorite quotes from the book I’m currently reading: Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale.

I may be dead wrong, but I do believe that every act has significance, and that, in our time, all the ceasless thunder is not for nothing. (pg. 346)

I really love this book. Not only is the prose beautiful, but the way Helprin portrays the city and life in general makes the world’s very horrible and obvious imperfections seem like part of the inevitably diverse mosaic of a worldly masterpiece. He portrays both beauty and torment in a way that is holisticly romantic and reminds me of the preciousness of life, regardless of its flaws.

The Congnizance of an Unconvinced Collegiate

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When I returned to my Hawaii home after my around-the-world trip, only to start getting my books and myself together to go to college for the first time, it all seemed pretty surreal. I mean think about it; here I was, a seventeen year old girl who had just seen most of the world’s beauty as well as ugliness flash before her eyes within the meager span of a month, now being thrown back into society to pursue the beginning of the rest of my life. It was definitely a disorienting experience, since my mind remained in the heat and blaze of Africa as I rode my bike beneath the all-encompassing canopy of UH Manoa’s  McCarthy Mall. Starting off in such a new environment was a little scary, but as I began to get accustomed to this new way of “college life,”  pieces of my heart still remained scattered at different parts of the globe, and this new experience did not appear quite as exciting as it seemed superficial to my newly globalized way of thinking.

As I completed the daunting and very unromantic task of registering for classes and freaking out in the attempt to locate my daily routes throughout the enormous campus, I had no idea of the ensuing inspiration that awaited me. This was just another school, after all.

Or so I thought. But I came to realize –and, mind you, this perspective may stem from my preexistent nerdiness– that my starting college back in my island home was not a trivial backstep in my overall idealistic footprint on the world, but instead has become a vehicle for further inspiration of catalyzing change. I came to realize that this whole college thing was not just school anymore; we were no longer learning the basics. No, now we were getting the chance to connect our prior knowledge and see how what we learn is relevant to the world we live in. It’s miraculous how much value knowledge can hold when you can connect it to the human experience. Especially now that I’ve been introduced to the studies of sociology and geography, I have come to integrate these concepts into my travel-based schema of the world, enabling me to make neural as well as intuitive connections and better understand what my human family is going through. Although I had walked into the classroom in doubt, feeling that it had no more to offer than that of which I was already aware, my awareness of the state of our world has expanded to much greater breadth than I would’ve ever imagined.

In this way I close my very first semester in higher education, and write as a tribute for my appreciation of this great, eye-opening experience.

Another Poem: Ivory-Like Shoulders

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The wind pushed her sleeve off her shoulder

And it billowed lightly in the breeze–

A little mindless Monroe moment

In a place far off the set and screen.

She didn’t bother to fix it

–she wasn’t that kind of girl.

Didn’t bother to conceal her newly exposed shoulder

Bare and pale against the flash of hot pink–

She liked that the burning contrast made her smolder

Liked to imagine what others would think.

No, the wind continued its due course

Moving across her body in fluttering caresses

She let it move willingly,

Throwing at it all her cares and stresses.

Her life was one of the many messes,

And she didn’t even know it.

Oh, but did she show it.

Her hair had dyed long ago,

Once platinum as snow,

Now a deadened shade of green.

She’d been all but mean,

But when I’d see her screaming at her folks

I could see through the impalpable facade she wore about her

–An invisibility cloak draped around her shoulders

Made of bitter words and dejection.

I must call to attention

That, casting aside that veil about her shoulders,

She was but a lonely orphan girl.

But the veil held strong,

Winding its way about her,

Cutting off her air

Until she could no longer cry out that she was scared.

She convinced herself that this was who she was–

An independent woman

Age fifteen, hitting the streets.

She’d laugh and talk about the easy money,

Her bright future of illegitimate success

She would not confess

Her disillusionment, could not voice her great regrets

For she’d chosen this path for herself

–or this path had chosen her

And, during late nights in the streets of Waikiki

The veil tightened its hold around her shoulders.

There the mysterious Marilyn remained,

The wind carrying her hopes and dreams away.

I waited not too far away, ready to catch them

Bring them back–

If only she’d too come back some day.

A Little Poem I Just Wrote

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Although I normally find myself writing free verse poems– I find that the lack of structure gives you more freedom to express yourself– my eccentric yet nonetheless interesting English class focuses almost completely on song lyrics, and therefore sort of got me into writing a more structured, song-like poem myself. Here’s a little something I wrote when I heard a song that reminded me of my high school life that now seems so long ago…

Reverberating Heartstrings

Sound danced upon the once still water,

Creating reverberating lines

Of trembling light.

 

I could see the music as it started over,

Notes strummed on a guitar,

Fingers taking flight.

 

The bittersweet sounds in the air hovered,

Reverberating heartstrings

Echoing into the night.

 

Memories in my mind’s eye were muttered,

The past left vibrant,

The future looking bright.

 

Who knew the past would so soon be covered

By the sands of time;

Solemnly taking flight?

 

The past left me moving ever farther,

Pursuing present dreams

Of greater height.

 

But he played the music of a life no longer,

Strumming tightened heartstrings

No longer in sight.

 

Now I see the sounds dance upon the water,

Strumming abandoned heartstrings

Brought back to light.