Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Just Met A Very Racist Chinese !

Interesting! I have always joked with my close Chinese friends that I think Chinese are one of the most racist people around. Some agree with me, but than they are my close friends, where jokes are taken light-heartedly.

Yesterday, I arrived KLIA from KK and my wife from Phnom Penh, after visiting our daughter and grandchildren there.My wife's plane arrived 20 minutes earlier but she said she would wait for me so we can take the same taxi to our hotel.

I bought a ticket for a limousine at the airport. More often than not, most limousines that I can remember taking before have had Malay drivers, but for today, we have a Chinese driver.

On our way to the city I noticed the driver constantly talking in Chinese to his friend over the VHF radio. Half way to the city it started to rain heavily and my wife started talking to the taxi driver in Cantonese. There was a moment of silence and a slow response from the driver and I can't help noticing that blood have rust to his head, he was red-faced and shocked.

I asked my wife what she said that have made him blushed so badly, not that his colour is much brighter than pale. She said she asked him whether it is always raining in KL and told him to drive carefully as the road might be slippery. I asked why he looked shock and almost speechless? 

My wife said "I will tell you when we get to the hotel."

Here go the story.

While this guy was talking to his friend on the VHF radio his friend asked him whether he is taking passengers to Genting and he said no, that he is going to the city and that his fare are two lalat (flies), husband and wife going to a five-star hotel. He didn't realise my wife fully understands the exchanges in Cantonese all this while.

My wife is half Malay and half Chinese and speaks fluent Cantonese, Hakka and Mandarin. I scowled her for not telling me while we were still in the car and she told me what she did was more appropriate than me picking a fight with a low-life taxi driver.

She told me she purposely spoke to him in Cantonese to embarrasse him, which she did well to impound his rudeness without being rude herself and probably taught this low-life a good lesson that there are non-Chinese looking people who understand and speak Chinese.

This brings us back to the subject of stereotyping all Chinese as being racist, which I believe is more cultural than actual racism. 

To the Chinese, anything they find repulsive will constitute name-calling, which bring us to Chinese against Chinese. 

Insults swirl as Hong Kong Chinese called mainland Chinese locusts and complained that mainland tourists bring their less-than-refined social habits and women on the verge of childbirth into the territory. 

The Hong Kongers only want their bulging wallets but not their fetishistic bad manners.

The common Chinese term for anyone not Chinese is kui,  the lesser beings to the Chinese eyes. No other races are spared from the kui, including the kwailos that once ruled Hong Kong from 1841 to 1997 and one that have taught social finesse to the Hong Kong Chinese, who now feel, theirs, are of superior culture than the nouveau riche mainland Chinese.

Kui is less repulsive than flies or locusts, one that carry diseases and the other one eating everything in its way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

China's Unlivable Cities


In Invisible Cities, the novel by the great Italian writer Italo Calvino, Marco Polo dazzles the emperor of China, Kublai Khan, with 55 stories of cities he has visited, places where "the buildings have spiral staircases encrusted with spiral seashells," a city of "zigzag" where the inhabitants "are spared the boredom of following the same streets every day," and another with the option to "sleep, make tools, cook, accumulate gold, disrobe, reign, sell, question oracles." The trick, it turns out, is that Polo's Venice is so richly textured and dense that all his stories are about just one city.

A modern European ruler listening to a visitor from China describe the country's fabled rise would be better served with the opposite approach: As the traveler exits a train station, a woman hawks instant noodles and packaged chicken feet from a dingy metal cart, in front of concrete steps emptying out into a square flanked by ramshackle hotels and massed with peasants sitting on artificial cobblestones and chewing watermelon seeds. The air smells of coal. Then the buildings appear: Boxlike structures, so gray as to appear colorless, line the road. If the city is poor, the Bank of China tower will be made with hideous blue glass; if it's wealthy, our traveler will marvel at monstrous prestige projects of glass and copper. The station bisects Shanghai Road or Peace Avenue, which then leads to Yat-sen Street, named for the Republic of China's first president, eventually intersecting with Ancient Building Avenue. Our traveler does not know whether he is in Changsha, Xiamen, or Hefei -- he is in the city Calvino describes as so unremarkable that "only the name of the airport changes." Or, as China's vice minister of construction, Qiu Baoxing, lamented in 2007, "It's like a thousand cities having the same appearance. Read more.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Once Upon a Time in London

London has spent lavishly in preparation for the XXX Olympiad -- some $15 billion, according to the New York Times. In spite of the hefty price tag, cities around the globe compete for the honor of hosting the Olympics, not only because it means being the center of the world's attention for two-and-a-half weeks, but because it affords the host city a rare chance to reinvent itself. Indeed, after the 2012 games, East London will have a new cable car, the Royal Docks will have significant new developments, and the city's skyline will boast several additional skyscrapers. But this is not the first time that London has grown overnight. The tail end of the 19th century was also a period of rapid urban transformation -- one in which many of the landmarks that now define the city were constructed.
In the throes of the Industrial Revolution, London was where working horses suddenly began to compete with railroads on city streets. "Day was shining radiantly upon the town then, and the bells were going for the morning work," author Charles Dickens wrote a little more than 150 years ago about Coketown*, a fictitious northern English industrial town. "Domestic fires were not yet lighted, and the high chimneys had the sky to themselves. Puffing out their poisonous volumes, they would not be long in hiding it; but, for half an hour, some of the many windows were golden, which showed the Coketown people a sun eternally in eclipse, through a medium of smoked glass." Read more.

The London that Dickens captured was chaotic -- one of smog, children running on the street, and venders hawking wares -- but it was also a modernizing city. Historian Alex Werner* says that Dickens must have had a photographic memory, so clearly did he shape his work around the lives he witnessed. Indeed, Werner named his latest book of photographs, Dickens's Victorian London, for the English novelist and social critic. Using the archives of the Museum of London, Werner has gathered some of the oldest photographs of London, taken at a time when the city was "the global capital in the century of empire." Here, Werner's curated photographs show what London looked like the last time it underwent major transformations.