From MATM: Cultural Intersections in Hong Kong

The following post is from my urbanism/research blog: Mo and the Metropolis.

I started my exchange student semester in Hong Kong on Tuesday night and there are many things about this city I’m looking to explore more of, particularly aspects of pop culture and visual culture, and how it intersects with identity development, as well as urban development. Within these intersections, I am also interested in the presence of brands and the relationships individuals build with them as they develop these identities.

I just found this video exploring the “underground” hip hop scene of HK, and in it, you’ll see street artists and crowds of people invested in the lifestyle presented to them by getting into hip hop. A narrator describes hip hop in HK as “premature, underdeveloped and undervalued,” and notes that a barrier to the growth of this underground culture is the tendency of youth to fall so much into trends that they don’t invest in something substantial.

In the video, you’ll also find several shots of the brand “WeSC.”  This brand describes itself as a “street-fashion brand for intellectual slackers,” and though the video doesn’t seem to be a commercial for WeSC, it could very well be one in that it represents the ideal WeSC customer in their prime environment.

The sentiments expressed in the video are largely of people who have found something they are passionate about in a city where it’s “undervalued.” WeSC’s presence here is one that seems to own this space of identity. A visit to their Hong Kong page shows that WeSC is proud of it’s ability to represent hip hop in a place where it’s not popular.

In a way, this brand now creates a space of refuge for these dancers and others interested in the underground scene.

I stumbled across this video this morning while wondering about the dance culture in HK, and had these thoughts come up as I watched it. I’m hoping to find a lot more insights like this while I’m here!


New York: Two Months Later

In June, I went to New York City for the 25th anniversary of the Emma Bowen Fohndation, a nonprofit that seeks to bring social change by putting minorities in the media. I'm so proud to be a part of it, and this year's conference reminded me that being successful in this industry means doing the work that Emma Bowen and the community leaders set out to do. 

Plus the food and desserts I happily obliged in presented a nice perk!


My TCF Class Update: To My Fellow Seniors

Now that I’ve had all summer to think about what I would include in this update, I feel some sort of pressure to make sure that it’s worth reading. Bare with me and tell me if it is.

First, welcome to my blog!  (Make yourselves at home as I'll be posting about my travels here and
on this blog, too.) I created it in 10th grade and if you go back far enough, you’ll see some pretty pathetic teen-angsty posts sprinkled among articles and posts I published when I was planning to become the next editor-in-chief of Vogue. I’ve redesigned it several times, changed the name, and went back and forth on deciding if I was going to delete posts that were evidence of that awkward stage. I’ve decided not to. Instead, keeping them reminds me of the journey I’ve been on that eventually lead me to where I am today: reminiscing on 3 amazing years at USC, and now ready to follow God to Hong Kong.

I spent my summer as an intern for Turner Broadcasting [a media company] focusing on the strategic communications for internal changes going on within the company, and learned the corporate side of taking care of people in your organization.  What God showed me here is that our experiences as members of TCF have far more significance than we realize. Being able to mentor people, identify their strengths and weaknesses, exhort them, encourage them, and check in on them-- are people development skills that will yes, make you an amazing area leader, employee, manager or boss. But also, these are traits needed to truly be a person of God in the workplace, and particularly in the industry you find yourself. God constantly reminded me of the significance of media in society, and to see my place in it as leveraging it as a tool for change.

The other half of this is that right outside the CNN Center, are many displaced homeless people, a few of whom I’ve gotten to know over the five summers I’ve interned at Turner. In past years, I spent a lot of time talking with some of these guys, even being late to work to get them breakfast and hear their story. This year was a little different in that though I used a lot of my resources on helping these men, my heart was not open to getting to know them, and I occasionally took a longer route to work in order to avoid a particular older guy I knew from last year. (There's a specific reason for avoiding this guy, ask me personally on this one.) I thank Keely for helping me conclude that this diminishing sense of openness and increase in feeling a burden came from the fact that I was trying to serve these men on my own strength, and not seeking God for how I should relate to them, like I did in the past.

There’s something about the brokenness of homelessness, sitting right outside a multi-billion dollar company every day. God has made this awareness pretty significant to me and I have an idea of where I want to go forward with reconciling this.

Though I spent my summer very aware of God’s presence in my life and my family, I struggled to spend regular time with Him, and even to understand the state of my relationship with Him. I have a hunch that I (and I’m guessing you, too) am experiencing the awkward transition of following Jesus as a student minister amidst community, to figuring out how to do life well and continue following Him after college and secure situations.

It’s clearer to me now that God is giving me a new way of seeing Him, as well as seeing myself. A lot of junior year was spent wrestling with Him about vulnerability, and stepping up to challenges raised because of it. My hope for my time in Hong Kong (while deciding to go) was that I’d get to experience a new side of God, one that would guide me in life without community, in my singlehood, and a side of Him that I could know even more intimately, especially as the upcoming changes in our lives begin to take place.

As summer ends, I feel a lot stronger in Him than I have in a while.

I knew this before this summer, but my family members are pretty awesome. I got to spend a lot more time with each of them (my parents and five siblings--I’m the middle child), and that has ultimately been the highlight. There’s been a lot of hearing stories of my parents’ earlier years and realizing that they too are human(!), seeing my younger ones grow in their personalities and encouraging them to pursue hobbies they are interested in--I feel like a proud parent and could go on for days about these guys.

A main highlight has been seeing my older sister move to start graduate school this week, and be completely provided for by God. She used to be the state director for a campus ministry affiliated with our church denomination, and her team threw her a surprise farewell dinner, where I felt deeply inspired by the legacy she’s left with them. (Her position was basically that of Old Chung, but all volunteer, while she worked full time for the non-profit function of a university biology department.) I’ve seen her be faithful in costly ways, and I’m so proud of the fact that she’s now seeing fruit and experiencing God’s provision in her new role in Pittsburgh.

What’s Next
In a few days, I’ll be in Hong Kong. I’ve been interested in the Asian diaspora for a long time, and I’m excited to enter by spending a few months in Asia’s “World City.” Even in deciding to go to HK, I felt that I was being invited to experience God in a semester without titles. I didn’t realize how much I would miss campus, and you guys, but I feel a lot more excited than scared of this next step.  

I don’t really have expectations--shocking for me-- but my hope is that I will truly experience that new side of God I’ve been desiring, while truly letting myself be free from the pressure I used to hold myself to. I’ve been on a long journey of learning how to give God control, and it seems like I’m beginning to understand how this whole thing works (haha!)

Like Neriah mentioned last week, I hope that we as a class are very intentional about finishing well. Just how we’ll navigate being great students, impactful upperclassmen, and prepare ourselves for transitioning out and into postgrad life--I don’t know. How I’ll do that while spending half my year on the other side of the world? I also don’t know.

What I do know, is that God has always been very faithful to me and this summer was no different. Please pray for me as I experience life with Jesus in HK, and figuring out how to be a light to the people in my exchange program.

That all being said, I miss you guys already and hope to catch up via Skype and the many gifts of the interwebs. By God’s grace, I’ll see you in January! [Unless you happen to be making your way through East Asia this semester!]

Thank you for reading this, and being a truly amazing family!
--We've come so far!--


To Myself

And now, a brief entrée into my line of reflecting on personal growth this summer. Excuse the amount of times "Me" and "I" are repeated.

Even when I forget you
I go on looking for you
I believe I would know you
I keep remembering you
sometimes long ago but then
other times I am sure you
were here for a moment before
and the air is still alive
around where you were and I
think then I can recognize
you who are always the same
who pretend to be time but
you are not time and who speak
in the words but you are not
what they say you who are not
lost when I do not find you

-"To Myself"  by W.S. Merwin

I posted this a few years ago, it's one of my favorite poems. I've been toying with the theme of the art of identity for a while, and this poem resurfaced as an utterly appropriate way to view the relationship one has with herself in times of transition and growth. (Even this blog's evolution is a perfect example of the way I've changed, and I'm still figuring out exactly where to take it.)
My summer has been... a lot of things; dry, nostalgic, exciting, busy, fleeting, long, short. A journey and a destination all at once.
Externally, I faced challenges in trying to be an intentional lover of people around me, from family, to my internship co-workers, as well as the displaced [homeless] people outside of our building. Internally, I've been trying to come to terms with what it means to be strong but vulnerable, and reconciling where I desire to go in life with God's purposes for me. (Next stop, Hong Kong! More on this in a few posts)
I've felt everything from happy, to empty, confident, insecure, inspired, heartbroken, on top of the world, lost, content, as if I'll never be enough and then again completely satisfied.
I always have to remember to be patient with myself. The only person that has a right to be frustrated with me is God because I am His, yet He is the only person who can truly show me patience. Even as I type, I acknowledge that my inconsistency in believing this is--quite frankly--pathetic. Yet, His love and the grace that comes with it is very real.
I like that this poem reminds that I'm not done becoming Myself. I have a long way to go before I become Me ("Me"--with the capital M--refers to the person God designed me to be).  But in that journey is identity, a substantial concept of a fluid process of knowing and becoming. This poem totally captures the stream of consciousness that plays throughout our lifetime, even when we're not listening. Especially when we're not listening. But when we finally do, when we finally turn away from the distractions of broken dreams and fleeting wishes coming true, we are left with ourselves.
Perhaps I'll stop waxing existential now-
Until then,