Final Update Before the Conference

Since there was a change of plans, I am now partnered with Julian Pang and Kay Cheng. Together we will be leading a Global Action Network Group (GANG) workshop on the topic of poverty. Below is the breakdown of each of the GANG workshop sessions.


Session 1. (11:30 – 12:20) – 50 minutes

· Ice-breakers: leader(s) help participants get to know each other
       – intro (name, school, hobby, why you signed up for GIN852)
· Participants sharing: participants share what they know or what their school is doing about the particular issue ( 7 schools including ICS)
· Interactive activity: Poverty simulation (~30 minutes)

Session 2. Sustainable Planning Exercise (16:05 – 17:05) – 60 minutes
 – Simulation debrief (15 minutes)
– Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU4jjdRzy3w (15 minutes)
– Research: split into 3 groups (30 minutes)
     – Unemployment
     – Housing (Cage Homes, Government Housing)
     – Poverty disparity
– Talk about ways Hong Kong students can take action on the particular issue
· Begin to form a SOLID action plan

Session 3. Immediate Action.
· Each GANG needs to come up with:
• A logo and a statement that summarizes their target issue
• An action plan (needs to be something realistic and relevant, something that students, not the school administration can do)
• A presentation on the action plan—2 minutes max (optional ppt. slide)


Session 4. Discussion and Signups
· Students sign up for different action plans (service projects)
– Conference final debrief


I am also in charge of buying pens for the keynote speakers as well as introducing the fifth and final speaker of the conference, Kester Yim, from Habitat for Humanity. I have already ordered the pens for $275 each. Below is the final draft of Kester’s introduction.

Our final speaker for the conference is Mr. Kester Yim from Habitat for Humanity China. Mr. Yim is the Managing Director of Habitat for Humanity China and is responsible for the overall management and development in both the China and Hong Kong markets. As an initiator of Habitat for Humanity’s projects, Mr. Yim has led projects in Guangdong, Sichuan, Guangxi, and Yunnan to help with disaster relief, poverty housing, and homelessness in China. Having a background in business administration, Mr. Yim is also a market professional and has worked in the business field for over 30 years. With his vast experience with customer loyalty and marketing, his vision is to design lifestyle programs that would improve the living conditions for those in need. Let’s give a warm welcome to Mr. Kester Yim.


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Trust and Insecurity

In The Kite Runner, Rahim Khan played a crucial role in Amir’s life. Rahim Khan was the one to fatherly support and advice to Amir and had always been there to help. In fact, Rahim Khan had been in Amir’s life since the very beginning, as Amir said, “I am a baby in that photograph and Baba is holding me, looking tired and grim. I’m in his arms, but its Rahim Khan’s pinky my fingers are curled around. Rahim Khan was also genuinely supportive of Amir and his desires. He was the only one who encouraged Amir to be a writer and recognized that he had talent in writing and that he would grow up to be someone worthwhile. Although Rahim Khan knew all along that Amir was desperately trying to get Baba’s attention and approval as well as Amir’s betrayal to Hassan, Rahim Khan continued to put faith in him. Even after Amir left for America and had a family of his own, Rahim Khan trusted that Amir would be willing to take care of Sohrab, that he will become a man who ultimately would stand up to anything.

Though Amir made numerous mistakes throughout the book, he was indeed too hard on himself. Amir had always believed that Baba was never proud of him and that in some ways Hassan was better than him. He was burdened by Baba’s expectations for him and by the fact that he was nothing like his father. Amir constantly tried to prove that he was capable and worthy of being Baba’s son and to redeem himself of his betrayal. Meanwhile Rahim Khan knew Amir suffered because he grew up without the foundation of Baba’s love and support. He also knew about the rape scene, the betrayal, and the Amir’s framing of Hassan. However as Amir continued to live in guilt after twenty-five years after what happened in Kabul, Rahim Khan dropped the bombshell that Baba slept with Sanaubar, Ali’s wife and, most shocking of all, that Hassan was Amir’s half-brother. Because Baba couldn’t love Hassan openly, he felt guilty and took it out on Amir, whom Baba thought of as his socially legitimate half. As Rahim Khan said, real good came from Baba’s remorse. The orphanage that Baba built and the poor that he fed were his way of redeeming himself. Baba was no longer a “god” in Amir’s eyes; Amir saw that Baba was just like him. Amir wanted to share the best of Baba’s traits, but instead what they shared was the betrayal of their best friends.

If only Amir knew the secret twenty five years earlier, the whole plot would have taken an entirely different course. Hassan and Ali would have probably stayed with Baba and Amir. They would perhaps move to America altogether. But of course The Kite Runner is a book of twists that portray reality. Without all the decisions and mistakes that were made by each of the characters, this novel would have lost its true essence.


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Identity and Redemption

Throughout the first few chapters of The Kite Runner, Amir constantly feels insecure about his identity and how others view him. He is especially concerned about how Baba, his father, treats him and sees him as his son. Since Amir is far from Baba’s expectations, Baba always seems to be unsatisfied and disappointed at Amir. Baba was a man full of charisma, respected by the entire city of Kabul. No one dared to stand up against him and his reputation is well established. On the other hand, Amir was the complete opposite, a weak 12-year-old coward who only likes to read books and write stories, which were not signs of masculinity. Amir wants “to be good again” and wants to redeem him in order to receive Baba’s infallible love, to mend their relationship between father and son. Above all, Amir may have superiority over Hazzan in status, but he actually lives in jealousy and shame in the presence of Hazzan. Amir often feels ashamed when Hazzan can see through him and receives the same amount of love from Baba. Meanwhile, Amir lives a life of guilt because he didn’t have to the courage to stand up for Hassan while he was raped in the alley. He even frames Hassan of theft in order to find a way to be “good”.  Ironically, the departure of Hassan and Amir’s betrayal still haunts him 25 years later.

Like Amir, we look for ways to redeem ourselves in our everyday lives. As humans and sinners, the search for redemption is never-ending.  No matter how hard we strive to be “good” again, we still live in shame and guilt. However because of the grace of God, as Christians we can be forgiven from all our sins. Every time people sin, they try to look for ways to make them feel better, to have a clean slate again. For me, rather than being concerned with finding ways to redeem myself, I focus on looking for ways to forget about the past and to move on in life. We still need to confess our sins and to ask for forgiveness, but after we’re forgiven, we should learn to forgive and forget, to throw away our guilt and shame. People tend to live in the past and constantly remind themselves of all the sin that they have done in the past. However, being able to learn for our mistakes from the past is much more important than being consumed with the search of redemption.


The Merchant of Venice: Comedy or Tragedy

The Merchant of Venice (1973) DVD

Renowned as the greatest playwright and poet in history, William Shakespeare has transformed English literature with his vast collection of comedies, tragedies, and historic plays. His works are especially susceptible to various interpretations due to his use of language and artful expression of radical ideas. While many of William Shakespeare’s plays unquestionably fall under the genres of comedy or tragedy, The Merchant of Venice has heated debates among scholars and writers for its ambiguity. However, from the amount of comedic relief and irony displayed in the play, the lack of a tragic hero, and the happy endings of all the protagonists, The Merchant of Venice is without a doubt a comedy.

Throughout the entire play, Shakespeare inserts comic relief, humor, and irony.  Let’s consider the time period that the Merchant of Venice was written in. This play heavily reflects the anti-Semitism of the 16th century. During the Renaissance, Jews were hated in Christian Europe for the most part. There were laws which kept them segregated and prevented them from interacting with basically the Christian society. To the audience of that time and even today, The Merchant of Venice can be seen as a comedy because of its religious stereotypes. Shylock is presented as a typical Jew. He is a moneylender, portrayed as a cruel materialistic father who values money more than his daughter. What makes the play ironic is that Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, falls in love with a Christian and steals all of her father’s money. Shylock, the antagonist that no one roots for, ultimately loses all of his possessions, even his identity as a Jew. In addition, Shakespeare sprinkles in humor in the scene where Bassanio tells Antonio that he “would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all here to this devil [Shylock], to deliver” Antonio (Act IV Scene I Line 286-287). When he gives the lawyer the ring which he swore to Portia that he will never lose, it shows that Bassanio values his Antonio over Portia. Hilariously, Portia, along with her servant Nerissa, happens to be there at the scene disguised as the lawyer defending Antonio. Of course, no one takes notice of their true identity. In the end, Portia jokes that the ring was a gift from the lawyer after she slept with him, which she actually got from the very hands of her husband. Shakespeare is also known for his use of comical relief in his plays. This is especially prevalent in the Merchant of Venice, in which he includes not only comedic twists but also interesting characters to lighten up the mood after intense scenes. Launcelot Gobbo, a clown and Shylock’s servant, is introduced in Act Two, where he has a scene with his blind father who fails to recognize him. He also performs an entertaining soliloquy, arguing with himself in the lighthearted scene.

In the end, the play concludes on a comical note as all the protagonists have a happy resolution. Portia eventually marries Bassanio, whom she was initially interested in. Although Portia was bound by the lottery in her father’s will, which forced her to marry whichever suitor who chose the correct casket,  she gets to be with the man of her choice in the end. Meanwhile, Antonio is miraculously spared from his charges and cleared from his debt from Shylock, his cargo ships which were rumored to be wrecked at sea come home safe and sound, and he even receives half of Shylock’s money. Even though they are not the main protagonists, with their efforts of elopement, Jessica and Lorenzo are finally together. As a bonus, Lorenzo gets to have all the money and riches that Jessica had stolen from her father, Shylock.  Just as we think that two marriages are more than enough in one single play, Gratiano and Nerissa randomly fall in love with each other in the end. In short, the play ends in favor of all the protagonists of the play.

If we look at the bigger picture, the overall mood of The Merchant of Venice is relatively lighthearted compared to the other Shakespearean plays, specifically tragedies. This play cannot be characterized as a tragedy because a tragic hero doesn’t appear anywhere in the five acts. Although some may argue that Shylock qualifies to be a tragic hero, he does not evoke pity from the readers. Not only does he have countless villainous traits, he is narrow-minded and values money over his family. Even when his daughter Jessica elopes with Bassanio, Shylock is more concerned and infuriated by the fact that he lost all of his wealth rather than the safety of Jessica, born of his flesh and blood. He also lacks compassion and mercy as he refuses to forgive Antonio and insists that Antonio must serve his punishment cutting a pound of flesh from his body. However with help of Portia who cleverly manipulates the law in Antonio’s favor, Shylock falls under his own trap in the end. Although he is the only character who suffers from a tragic ending, the audience does not feel obligated to sympathize for him. Rather than having pity on him, some may even cheer for his deserved conclusion.

While William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice can be interpreted in numerous ways, the play is definitely a comedy. Through Shakespeare’s use of comedic relief in the plot and his characters as well as having a happy resolution for all the protagonists in the play, the overall mood is lighthearted and comical. The lack of a tragic hero further supports the fact that The Merchant of Venice cannot be a tragedy.


Favorite Poems: since feeling is first – e. e. cummings

images (2)

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Cummings believed that feelings should come before everything else, and since this is so, anyone who pays attention to how things are supposed to be will never be capable of knowing another’s true nature. During Spring, he approves of pure foolishness. He believes that love is much better than being wise, and swears to his love that any gesture he could come up with could never compare to something simple like her eyelid’s flutter, since it shows their love for each other. He tells her to forget everything else and just enjoy the moment because life must not be a certain way; each person can decide their fate, and he thinks that death is not a sign that anything has ended between them.
Cummings was also known for his eccentric style, such as using unusual typography and deliberate misuses of grammatical structure. In the poem, he used metaphors comparing life and death to a paragraph and parenthesis, respectively.


Favorite Poems: Because I Could Not Stop For Death – Emily Dickinson


Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

In this poem, Emily Dickinson is describing her journey with Death, which is personified as a gentleman, from life to afterlife. In the opening stanza, the she was too busy for Death (“Because I could not stop for Death—“), so Death kindly takes the time to do what she couldn’t, and stops for her. This kindness that Death exhibits in taking time out for her leads her to give up on those things that had made her so busy (“And I had put away…My labor and my leisure too”) so they can just enjoy a carriage ride.

In the third stanza we see how the author’s life was like before she died, with children playing and fields of grain. The word “passed” is also repeated four times in stanzas three and four. They are “passing” by the children and grain, both still part of life. They are also “passing” out of time into eternity. The sun passes them as the sun does everyone who is buried. With the sun setting, it becomes dark, in contrast to the light of the former stanzas. It also becomes damp and cold (“dew grew quivering and chill”), in contrast to the warmth of the first two stanzas. After seeing the coldness of her death, the carriage pauses at her new “House.” The description of the house, “A Swelling of the Ground—“, makes it clear they have arrived at the grave, and not an actual house. Yet they only “pause” at this house, because it is really only a resting place as she travels to eternity.

Finally the last stanza shows a glimpse of this immortality, where she says that although it has been centuries since she has died, it feels no longer than a day.