“Awkward!!!” Says the Serious Me

pullen park

It was a clear sunny day and I needed to just get out and relax. I wanted to go somewhere I could spend hours at, and perhaps even grab a bite to eat at the same.  There was only place I had in mind: it was the nearby park. It boasted locally grown food at its snack bar, a carousel and a train track a third of a mile long that circled the entire park, as well as paddle boats—all for park goers to enjoy.

On this particular day, there were mainly kids with their adult guardians. For example, I noticed one blond woman in her early thirties texting while attending to three young kids.

I went from one bench to another by myself, watching other people’s children as well as people and kids leaving the carousel. I walked around the pond twice.

I got a salad and side popcorn and proceeded to walk to a shady spot that overlooked the lake. One duck came by, and later, three ducks surrounded me during my entire meal.  A Hispanic woman and her two other family or friends sat nearby as well as two young kids.  One girl, bi-lingual, chased after the ducks and sat on a man-made turtle with her younger brother while an adult took their picture.

After I finished my lunch, I was still stressed from work. I needed a complete diversion.  By now, it dawned on me that I may be the only adult visitor who doesn’t have an accompanying child. Was I perceived as a crazy, forty something year old Asian lady who likes to spend time by herself?

The inner child started to think, “It would be rather nifty to ride the merry-go-round and the train.”

And then the serious me kicked in, “Are you crazy? Riding this merry-go-round and train alone?  People will think you are from the looney farm!”

I sat at a bench at the carousel staring into space, paralyzed in a type of fear for about 10 minutes. The internal silence was deafening, as I haven’t ridden a carousel since my child was a toddler, which may have been over ten years ago!

The serious me gave up.

My inner child said, “Well, who the hell cares?

I sort of timidly went to the ticket booth and asked for two ride tickets.

So far, so good!

The person at the ticket booth didn’t give my any weird stares for not having a child in tow!

I walked around the carousel to get to the entry gate of the merry-go-round and it was empty except for me and two 20 something year old attendants who worked there.

The young female attendant let me in onto the carousel.  I had a Hawaiian printed dress on and I hopped onto an ostrich.

The serious me says, “I better not fall off trying to get on this Ostrich!  There is practically no one around. I can’t hide!”

My feet are half way dangling while I’m waiting for an Ostrich to move.

“Awkward!!!” again says serious me.

“Hey! Ostriches are known to be fast!” my inner child says.

The serious me says, “This ostrich is moving in a circle, silly!  It’s not going anywhere!”

The carousel starts.  I look at my watch. It’s one minute till noon.  I feel like Michael Jackson, alone in my amusement park!  An inner smile came upon me.  I stared out into the distance, onto the trees, which were moving.  I looked at the gears which were moving and I looked at the animals, most of them were moving up and down.

“This is fun!” the kid and the serious me said.

After getting off the merry-go-round, I regressed to age 10. Now, I head over to the train and riding on that was just as fun: adults and kids waving to kids on the playground while the train was passing.

After riding on the merry-go-round and the train, I was in a much better mood.  Work was a million of miles away!

Chinese-American Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1993, she has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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Pre Ala Wai Canal, 1900 – 1920

Ala Wai (1)

Waikiki Ponds (1916), Hawaii State Archives

Ala Wai (2)

Waikiki Ponds (1916), Hawaii State Archives

Ala Wai (4)

From Kalakaua Ave. looking towards Wa’ahila Ridge and Manoa Valley (1900-1920), Hawaii State Archives

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Waikiki – Olohana Street (1900-1920), Hawaii State Archives

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Waikiki – Olohana Street (1900-1920), Hawaii State Archives

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Old Road to Waikiki (1900-1920), Hawaii State Archives

 

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Ho’okuleana: The 2016 Hybrid Re-Design Plan for the Ala Wai and Waikiki

July 12, 2016
by Emy Louie
HONOLULU, HI.

2016 Hybrid Re-Design by Emy Louie Opt. 2

Diagram of Waikiki
2016 Hybrid Re-Design Plan by Emy Louie – Opt. 2

This 2016 Hybrid Re-Design Plan Proposal is in response to the pollution in the Ala Wai Canal as expressed in this article and video.

The 2016 Hybrid Plan for the Ala Wai and Waikiki would transform the Ala Wai canal and its new tributaries with tree-lined esplanades which would provide a more enhanced and culturally sensitive experience of Waikiki.

This plan is in addition to the intention of the Army Corp of Engineers to construct a wall along the existing Ala Wai Canal to address future flash flooding in the Manoa and Ala Wai water shed.

The Role of the U.S. Park Service

Under this plan, the United States Park Service which would serve as an umbrella organization to provide the appropriate resources to restore and preserve the general feel of the cultural resources and activities that existed in this ahupua’a, past and present. 

Structures that Have Fallen Into Disrepair

Other related features included would establish a symbiotic relationship of cultural and educational activities. Also, other structures, like the Natatorium and the Zoo, which has generally fallen into disrepair or experienced a lack of sufficient attention would be brought into this plan.  

The Design

To download pdf files of drawings, click here:
2016 Hybrid Re-Design Plan by Emy Louie – Opt. 1 – 3
2016 Hybrid Re-Design Plan by Emy Louie – Opt. 2

2016

Diagram of Waikiki
Outline of Existing Waterways – 2016

Additional Tributaries

In addition to the existing tributary at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor, there are three options for new tributaries:

Option 1

Diagram of Waikiki
Option 1.
New tributary at the Diamond End of Kapiolani Park, near Poni Moi Road and Kalakaua Ave. A tree-lined espalanaded tributary would grace Paki Avenue!

Street Name Legend
a. Kapahulu Ave.
b. Monsarrat Ave.
c. Kalakaua Ave. & Poni Moi Rd.

Option 2

Diagram of Waikiki
Option 2.
New tributary at Ewa end of Fort DeRussy Beach. A tree-lined espalanaded tributary would grace Kaumoo Street!

Street Name Legend
a. Kapahulu Ave.
b. Monsarrat Ave.
c. Kalakaua Ave. & Poni Moi Rd.
d. Ala Wai Blvd.
e. Kuhio Ave. & Kalakaua Ave.
f. Kalia Rd.

Option 3

Diagram of Waikiki
Option 3
New tributary at Diamond end of Fort DeRussy Beach. A tree-lined espalanaded tributary would grace Kalaimoku Street and Saratoga Road!

Street Name Legend
a. Kapahulu Ave.
b. Monsarrat Ave.
c. Kalakaua Ave. & Poni Moi Rd.
g. Ala Wai Blvd.
h. Kuhio Ave.
i. Kalakaua Ave.
j. Kalia Rd.

Convert the Ala Wai Canal to Taro Patches

A 200 feet wide by a 2.7 mile-long segment of the Ala Wai Canal marked by McCully Street on the Ewa end and Noela Place on the Diamond Head end would become taro patches, fish ponds, etc.

The Ala Wai for Cultural Groups

On the mauka side of the above mentioned strip of land, a 50 feet wide by 2.7 mile-long strip would be primarily for cultural and religious groups and those who are directly working the taro patches. This particular strip of land would also contain a sewage plant.

Significant Features of this Plan

(*Brand new)

2016 Hybrid Re-Design by Emy Louie Opt. 2

Fresh Water Clean Up and Brackish Water Management

1A – Tributaries*, consisting of brackish water, work hand in hand with the esplanades and would provide transitions areas between the fresh water coming from the watersheds and the salt water from the open ocean.

1B – Watershed/streams would be cleaned up and pollution levels monitored as water quality in the mountains affects the water quality downstream at the Ala Wai Canal.

1C – Fish Ponds* would work in conjunction with the Lo’i Kalo as needed.

1D – Lagoon

Structures Such as Lava Rock Walls

2A – Lava Rock Walls*, whole or in part, would be the main flash flood mitigation feature.

2B – Esplanades* along the Ala Wai and its tributaries would provide grand vistas.

2C – Natatorium, a significant WWII landmark in it own right, would house regularly scheduled activities.

2D – Hale Pili* — traditional ancient Hawaiian buildings — would house culturally significant activities.  

2E– Heiau* would be a sacred site. From a specific vantage point, the Hale Pili, Heiau, Lo’i Kalo and Fish Ponds would dominate the scenic vistas.

2F -Heritage Center* would offer interactive activities and programs.

2G – Residences* would house those who directly work the taro patches and the fish ponds, as well as house significant religious and cultural groups.

Natural Areas to Fall Under Forest Management Practices

3A – Lo’i Kalo* would filter and clean the water from the watershed, absorb and slow down run off, provide a way of life for those tending to it and offer a glimpse into the past regarding what happened here in ancient times.

3B – Culturally significant trees and plants* that existed at this ahupua’a over a hundred years ago would be planted.

3C – Arboretum* would house wetlands type of plants.

3D – Bamboo Forests would be managed as part of an agricultural extension service which would study forest management practices as well as to establish micro-businesses via public private partnerships in order to harvest and preserve the bamboo to be sold in the open market.

Other

4A – Public right of ways of Waikiki, including 30 miles off of the shoreline would go under this plan.

4B – Zoo

Street Name Legend

a. Kapahulu Ave.
b. Monsarrat Ave.
b-1. Noela St.
c. Kalakaua Ave. & Poni Moi Rd.
d. Ala Wai Blvd.
e1. Kuhio Ave.
e2. Kalakaua Ave.
f. Kalia Rd.
g. Ala Wai Blvd.
h. Kuhio Ave.
i. Kalakaua Ave.
j. Kalia Rd.

Timeline

Expected commencement of construction of this plan, minus the Corp of Engineer work to mitigate flash flooding, would begin in 2031 after community input, economic and environment studies, environment assessments, design and design phasing, funding mechanisms are in place.

Emy Louie is a consultant and the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future.” Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. Since 2008, she has taught continuing education classes on design and urban development to architects and engineers. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. Emy has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

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Visual Report in Waikiki and McCully, February 3, 2016

2016-02-02 Ala Wai (3)

Figure 1. Standing at a small bridge on Ala Wai Park Trail looking onto Kuamoo Street (mauka).

2016-02-03 Ala Wai (6)

Figure 2. Intersection of Citron and Pumehana Street looking mauka.

2016-02-03 Ala Wai (34)

Figure 3. On Keoniana Street

 

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Common Words Used by Hawaii Locals

by Emy Louie
RALEIGH, NC.

In Hawaii, these terms denoting people seen in Hawaii, are commonly heard in conversation among locals. Note: the word “haole” has a double meaning.

LOCAL
—Japanese
—White AKA Haole (Locals say Haole to refer to a white person.  They never say the word “white.”)
—Hawaiian or Part Hawaiian*
—Filipino
—Chinese
—Korean

SOMEONE IN BETWEEN A LOCAL AND A FOREIGNER
—Someone originally from Hawaii
—Military, a person stationed in Hawaii
—Someone from the mainland , referring to a newcomer (Locals never say the word “newcomer.”)

FOREIGNERS (Locals never say the word “foreigner,” they say the below terms.)
—Japanese tourist
—Haole
—Tourist–catch all phrase for any tourist who is not Japanese and not a white tourist. For example, Latino tourists.

*Full blooded Hawaiians are seldom found among the general population.

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Ancient Hawaiians Weren’t Dummies

by Emy We’i Louie
RALEIGH, NC.

My husband in front of The Hōkūleʻa at Yorktown, Virginia.

At Yorktown, Virginia, my husband and I were fighting to get a picture in front of the Hōkūleʻa.  I thought, “Why does my husband want have a picture in front of the Hōkūleʻa?”  But he did, he was all proud of the picture and of Hōkūleʻa.  This moves me to tears, because if my haole husband can have a change of heart, anybody can have a change of heart.  When we toured the double hull canoe, we already had basic knowledge of it, due to us watching “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau.”

You see, prior to all this information about the Hōkūleʻa, it’s been generally known that Thor Heyerdahl implied that ancient Hawaiians were “dummies” (for lack of a better term) when it came to seafaring skills and with “primitive” materials, ancient Hawaiians just “drifted with the current” in the seas.  Of course, Thor Heyerdahl doesn’t say this, but that is the implication!

Quite the opposite of this implication!

In this way, to visit, see and feel the Hōkūleʻa is justice that ancient Hawaiians could navigate the seas and go against current!!!  My husband’s change of heart and even pride about the Hōkūleʻa is vindication of ancient Hawaiian seafaring skills.

Emy Louie is a consultant and the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future.” Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. Since 2008, she has taught continuing education classes on design and urban development to architects and engineers. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. Emy has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

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The Presumptuousness of Many Dog Owners

By Emy Louie

RALEIGH, NC. On a sunny Monday morning in early Spring, I decide to make a visit to the most visited 55-acre tourist attraction in the region.  The spring blooms here are spectacular!

Midway into my visit, I make my way to the snack bar located right among a terraced bed of flowers, where there are the largest amount of flowers at this tourist site and there are many photographs being taken. Hundreds of tulips and irises, etc., in a symphony of purples, yellows and array of many colors!

I was sitting on a stone bench right outside of this snack bar which looked on to this terraced flower bed area. I opened a brownie I just purchased from the snack bar and two feet two in front of me stands a lady with a Great Dane.  All eight of our legs are sharing a six-foot-wide walkway. The lady is looking at the Great Dane. The Great Dane is looking at me and my food. I’m looking at my food and towards the flowers, honoring everyone’s desire, including my own desire, to enjoy the gardens however one wanted without infringing on another’s right to enjoy the garden.

However, my own desire to enjoy the garden is being challenged by a dog and its dog sitter, such as the example here.

The woman with her dog stands at this snack bar entrance perhaps thinking any and all strangers are going to lavish attention on her Great Dane at the flowers beds of this garden???  I think it highly presumptuous thinking, like how many dog sitters think, which really surprises me!

Now dogs themselves are just dogs.  If left to their own devices, they are predatory animals that hunt in packs.  However, it’s the dog sitter’s presumptuousness that surprises me time and time again because the dog sitters cannot see that others may not like their dog being there because the dog’s presence may prevent others from enjoying the garden.

Perhaps a percentage of people don’t like dogs or don’t like certain dogs or don’t like dogs at certain locations that don’t have the physical space and the atmosphere for dogs and humans to enjoy at the same time.

The primary discussion is the appropriateness for the dog to be a certain place and the attitude of the dog sitter. This is no different than the appropriateness of bringing a preschooler to a movie theater and the attitude of the babysitter of the preschooler!

And if one has to question if it‘s appropriate to bring a dog somewhere outside of the home, don’t bring the dog!  Please.

Back to the story of the Great Dane…so this dog is standing right before me, I’m thinking, “If I open this brownie in front of this Great Dane, I hope it doesn’t crane its neck, sniff my brownie and snatch the brownie out from my hand,” not knowing if it could or would.  But that’s what I thought anyway, trying to enjoy a desert and the flowers all around me.

The dog sitter got the hint. She then moved the Great Dane to the back patio eating area, and away from the flower beds, probably realizing I wasn’t giving the dog attention or her and her Great Dane going somewhere out of the way was just the most logical thing to do.

Chinese-American Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1993, she has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

 

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The Places in and Around Cherokee Tribal Casino

2016-03-27 001

Large carving from a Sequioa Tree. Obviously, this carved figure is weeping and (not shown in this picture) people were sitting in front of the statue smiling and taking pictures. I wonder if they knew the sacredness of that carving. The lines between the sacred and the profane are blurred.

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At the base of the large carving.

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Three flags flying near the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds. On the left is the  flag of the “Seal of the Cherokee Nation September 6, 1839” and on the right of the United States flag is the POW-MIA flag.

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Likely the most popular destination in Cherokee–Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort straddles a river running right through the resort. This is the casino in which “Family Guy”—the animated series– made a spoof of.

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Inside the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.

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One of the main drags in the town of Cherokee, North Carolina.

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The Cherokee Welcome Center has the Cherokee words first before the English words.

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One of the rules posted at Oconaluftee Island Park.

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One of the rules posted at Oconaluftee Island Park. Perhaps because dogs and registered sex offenders were not allowed, the park seemed more peaceful and quiet than other similar type parks.

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Bamboo plantings at Oconaluftee Island Park in Cherokee, NC which is 52 miles from Asheville, NC, which proves to show bamboo can be grown and maintained at that altitude and climate. The bamboo appears to have been planted in order to stabilize the island’s erosion due to the water flowing by on all sides of the island.

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Educational posting on energy efficiency.

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This area attracts a number of tournament fisherman.

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An old Tribal Business License.

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A talking stick with an Indian head attached to it. The lines of the sacred and profane are blurred.

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A street sign with Cherokee words.

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A restroom sign with Cherokee words at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds.

Emy Louie, a consultant and speaker, is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. Meanwhile, she teaches continuing education classes on design and urban development to architects and engineers. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

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Downtown Detroit Composed of Gleaming Office Towers Set Amongst a Ghost Town

Two Downtown Detroits

There are two downtown Detroits.  One is deserted looking ghost town of Detroit—the image portrayed on film and television.  The other is the pleasure seeking Downtown Detroit.  This pleasure seeking Downtown Detroit is rarely known to outsiders and experienced by outsiders and only known to those who actually work in downtown Detroit.

The Ghost Town Version of Downtown Detroit

Let’s talk about the ghost town version of Detroit composed of ground floor retail units devoid of people amongst a hodgepodge of modern and historical buildings.  When I was there on January 31, 2016, the weather was overcast and it was slightly drizzling off and on, so it would it make a lot of sense if the workers in the office buildings did not go outside to the public parks for lunch.

Less Than Ten Office Works Seen on the Streets of Downtown Detroit

Even if there was a slight drizzle, I saw less than ten office workers walking on the sidewalks of downtown Detroit during the middle of the day.  What I encountered while walking through the streets of downtown Detroit were three young white men and about 20 black people in winter clothing—dark jackets and ski hats, etc.  Some of the both blacks and whites were loitering.

Three separate black people who passed by me said they liked my red fringe suede jacket that I was wearing along with my blue jeans and cowboy boots.  I was also carrying a black carry on and a somewhat large and lightweight box.  On such a dreary day, the fact that I did not look like a street person or a typical office worker, I was alone, I am a middle aged Asian woman and I was taking pictures, must have been a sight to see.

Three Individually Aggressive White Men

Of the street people I saw, the three individual white men were aggressive.  One approached me while I was waiting at the bus stop to take the bus to the airport.  He said, “You ‘wanna buy?” He showed me two rings on his fingers.

I ignored him.

Another white man stopped me on the streets.  He said, “Excuse me.” He paused slightly. I slowed down. “I’m homeless.” When I heard that, I increased my pace and kept on walking.

Probably the most underhandedly mean of the encounters was when I passed by a black man and a white man hanging out together.  I nodded to them. The white man mumbled something to the likes of “I want your ass.” He said it in a sneering way. It was definitely not said in a loving manner.  It almost appeared as if I was one of the few outsiders walking in front of them all day in the slightly soggy downtown Detroit.

I was thinking he was trying to confuse me with his words so what initially turned out to be a friendly nod on my end, ended up with me ignoring the white man as I walked pass both of them.

The general feel based on passing by the three white men were unfavorable. The general feel based on passing by the black people on the streets were neutral and even urban “cool.”

Office Workers Who Act Like They Are Compensated for Life

The other Detroit is the well-to-do Detroit—the pleasurable Detroit composed of office workers in gleaming glass towers who appear to act like they own all of Detroit and possibly the world.  They behave like they are compensated for their entire lifetimes as if they have generous expense accounts, good employee benefits as well as a hefty retirement benefits. When I was walking in the lobby of some glass tower, one middle aged black woman—very professionally dressed—came up to me very politely and asked me, “Are you lost? Many people who visit here are lost.” She smiled and went on her merry way, like I just entered the hallowed grounds of the world headquarters of some religious institution.

It was eerily creepy how “happy” these people acted during lunch.  A cheerfulness I rarely seen from office workers–ever.

Here are pictures of the physical environment of the well-to-do in downtown Detroit:  https://www.pinterest.com/emylouie/the-detroit-you-dont-see-on-tv/

Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. She has taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to architects and engineers.

 

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A Bad Prayer Topic

I asked someone the other day, “What do you pray for?”

She said, “I ask God to help me be polite and nice to people.”

I said, “That’s not a good prayer topic. What if one day you had to fire someone and that may be the best thing that happened in his life?” I sternly told her, while I was in her middle class house in the suburbs which was 300 feet from a lake.

Don’t confuse politeness with love.

Don’t confuse politeness with love. One may be doing things to be polite out of a fear of not insulting someone or out of fear of not making mistakes.  So the overall feeling is of fear. One is generating fear! Not love. One can be cooking, cleaning and picking up kids from school and still, underneath, feel a fear of doing the wrong things.  It’s more important the vibrational energy one is carrying when performing an act of service verses the actual act itself.

How lovingly is one doing something?  What is the underlying feeling? Otherwise, any supposed “good” act can be subverted by overall feelings of fear.

It’s amazing how so many are adamant about how polite others should act that. I’ll call them the “politeness police.”  These same people when taken to the extreme are deep down afraid and in fear.  Of course these people would be fearful.  They are not easy going and they do not allow people to be themselves.  They hold people to their type of high standard of how people should behave and live their lives.  Because of this, they themselves are just fearful of making mistakes. The net result is fear.  They just live in fear.

Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong, was raised in Hawai’i and is fluent in Cantonese—the language of Hong Kong.  Her parents were born in Guangzhou, China. They relocated to Hong Kong during the 1950’s, and then to Hawai’i. Since the early 1970’s, Emy has made a handful of visits to Hong Kong and visits Hawaiʻi annually.

Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future.” She has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted “The Emy Louie Show” interviewing the movers and shakers of Feng Shui, Sustainable Urban Design and Green Building.

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What Do You Suppose Was at 1 Main Street?

At a party at a posh two-story house, with a panoramic view of a golf course, this was overheard at a party. It goes something like this:

“Emy here…advocates for trains.” As this person introduces me to her friends, “I’m all into riding the bus,” she says with emphasis. “Yeah, I arrive at Raleigh/Durham Airport,” as I see her visualizing the airport, “and they make like they so high-tech,” as she starts to get upset, “and then I got to drive [a car!!!]”  She rolls her eyeballs. Knowing that she will get angry, she stops short of it and walks away with a mock (and real) disgusted look on her face,

The above is indicative of a person who traveled to high-tech cities and upon arriving, there are modern people mover systems, usually in the form of a convenient and quick electrified tram system, which eventually connects to a much larger transportation network, in the form of a metro system and a bullet train system.  This is in order to get a large number of passengers from one place to another in a very short amount of time.

Even now, four years after writing Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future, it breaks my heart go to an unpretentious, yet highly popular event like the North Carolina State Fair, stand at Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road and see the North Carolina State Highway Patrol directing pedestrians, numbering in the thousands, and automobiles, numbering in the hundreds.  All of these fair goers are doggedly finding parking and trying to get to the fair. And within stone’s throw of this intersection lay train tracks and a train corridor.

All the while, in the early 1900’s, fair goers went to this same fair via streetcars!

Similarly, upon traveling to another city such as Los Angeles, it breaks my heart to arrive at LAX and not easily see a tram.

What is wrong with this picture?

Likewise, upon doing research to travel to another city such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and carefully studying the map of Las Vegas, and trying to get my bearings and trying to understand the neighborhoods and where places are relative to each other, I see the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas.  And guess its street address.  Take a wild guess.

The answer is 1 Main Street.

Now what do you suppose was at 1 Main Street and the reason it is called 1 Main Street?

99.9% of the chances were, in most these places and where other 1 Main Streets are in the United States, there was a train depot here.  And at one time, this was a center of town.  Passengers got on and off the trains at this location.  It was the hustle and bustle of town!

But now 1 Main Street is just a pathetic relic of its heyday.  The train station at the Plaza Hotel is nonexistent and the train tracks behind the Plaza Hotel is lying virtually vacant. No train is lying on the tracks. The tracks here are practically “boarded up” : there are boards along the train track, like it is or will be some type of construction site. Talk about a 99.9% real estate vacancy rate for passenger trains, while a few automobiles go by in the historic downtown area.  All the attention formerly granted to downtown in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the form of hotels and restaurants is shifted 90% to The Strip. When I look at the map of Las Vegas, downtown is sometimes not even shown on the map.

Thus the train tracks at 1 Main Street is misused, underused and misappropriated in a convoluted way.  This historical pattern is further explained in Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future, a simple book I wrote about taking bullet trains and why passenger train service is so lacking in the United States.  And this just breaks my heart!  One wants to cry! And this situation at 1 Main Street, Las Vegas, like many of the 1 Main Streets in the United States, lacks of a train station and lack passenger train service. This is the norm, not the exception!

And until passenger train service is the majority of the transportation market share, like how it was in the 1910’s and 1920’s in the United States, I will continue to cry!  Because until that happens, we will continue to get the grinding automobile traffic congestion which plagues every “high tech” city in the United States.  Yes, I roll my eyeballs, too.

Because until one arrives at each major airport and city in the United States and one can hop on a train to get to the main destinations in the city, I will continue to cry.  Otherwise, cities, don’t bother calling your city high-tech and a world-class destination.  Don’t even bother. Just call it what it is—Podunk.

Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. She has taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to architects and engineers.

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Técnicas Bambú Construcción Sin Inspectores de Construcción

08 de enero 2016
por Emy Louie

Se trata de un 20 de Diciembre 2015 informe de 24 de Diciembre 2015 de campo sobre la construcción de bambú en Monpiche, Ecuador. Lo que estoy informando a ustedes aquí se basa en lo que he entendido lo que la gente allí me dijeron que ya que refleja lo que estaba ocurriendo allí en el momento en relación con la construcción de bambú. Tuve que pedir alrededor. Por otra parte, mi español no era tan bueno y Inglés la bambú maestro de localidad era inexistente. Términos también son específicos del sitio, ya que estos términos podrían variar de lugar en lugar. Las técnicas de construcción se ve mejor en el contexto de las condiciones del sitio.

Probablemente la pieza más interesante de esta configuración construcción: Monpiche, Ecuador no tiene códigos de construcción ni los inspectores de la construcción. Las personas que viven allí son tener margen de maniobra para construir lo que quieran porque el pueblo de Monpiche es visto como demasiado pequeño como para justificar los códigos y las inspecciones.

Las imágenes que se muestran aquí muestran el bambú se utiliza en la mayoría de los principales componentes del edificio. Vi principalmente cuatro tamaños de bambú:

Extra Pequeño (alrededor de 2.5 cm. de diámetro)
Caño Pequeño (alrededor de 7.5  cm. de diámetro)
Guadua (aproximadamente el diámetro de una botella de un litro de sosa – 12.5 cm.)
Bambú Grande de Asia (sobre el diámetro de una corteza de pastel – 20 cm.)

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Extra pequeño cañas de bambú se utilizan para las barandillas que se conectan a la Guadua vertical. A la derecha de la Guadua es el bambú Asiático grande que se utiliza como soporte para el asiento.

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Guadua cerca. Las paredes de la Guadua son cerca de 2 cm. de espesor que proporciona una superficie suficiente para tornillos para incrustar en.

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Caño Pequeño (bambú roto ) de cerca.

Diferentes Maneras de Decir de Bambú Pequeño de Emy Louie en Vimeo.
La misma o similar proceso de construcción de caño pequeño en Monpiche se manifiesta de forma diferente en Columbia. Escuche las diferencias de redacción .

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Aplicación caño pequeño en la pared de una cocina

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Aplicación caño pequeño en la pared de una cocina

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Aplicación caño pequeño en la pared de una cocina

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Aplicación Caño Pequeño en la pared de una cocina

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Aplicación caño pequeño en una pared exterior, que parece teñirse de un color café cremoso.

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Bambú colocado utilizado en una aplicación de cubiertas para techos

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Recientemente instalado caño pequeño

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Recientemente instalado caño pequeño. Uno puede ver el bambú roto se convierte en el listón en la que un tipo de yeso y / o eventualmente se aplica un estuco. Este tipo de construcción compuesta de bambú roto más de yeso más estuco debe ser llamado caño pequeño.

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Caño Pequeño

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Caño Pequeño

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Escudo de pared enyesada del caño pequeño terminado. El bambú roto no es visto nunca más.

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Escudo inacabada de un tipo de yeso del caño pequeño . El yeso se aplica sobre las paredes rugosas e interior del bambú aplastado .

Emy Louie , un consultor y conferenciante, es el autor de “Los Trenes Rápidos: Alta Velocidad Futuro de Estados Unidos,” publicado en 2012. Desde 2009, Emy ha desempeñado como Director de Relaciones con el Público de la Asociación de Tren de Alta Velocidad de Estados Unidos. En 2007 y 2008 , fue la anfitriona de su propio programa de radio. Mientras tanto, ella da clases de educación continua en el diseño y el desarrollo urbano a los arquitectos e ingenieros. Emy es licenciado en Arquitectura por la Universidad de Hawai en Manoa .

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People Who Don’t Learn English

by Emy Louie

Roles make “how to behave” easier, but it’s just a guideline.  Sometimes, interactions are just as golden with strangers as I recently had the best conversation in the world with a stranger in Los Angeles and part of it went like this:

Stranger: “How do you compare Los Angeles to Raleigh?”

Emy: “You can’t. Los Angeles is 15 times bigger than Raleigh in every which way.  One can live all their lives in Los Angeles and know only 10 percent of it…For example, there are people that live in or near East L.A. and never speak a word of English…That is their world…My husband and I were saying the other day…perhaps the third generation Chicano (Mexican American) lose their Spanish language abilities. ”

Stranger: “Do you know there are Chicanos that are born in this country that deliberately do not speak English because they don’t want to assimilate to American/Western culture?”

Emy: “I never thought about that.”

Then later, on some written brochure I saw when I was in Honolulu Chinatown, the brochure said, “only 30% of /Chinatown-Kalihi] residents speak English at home.”

This statistic was couched as a liability.  Every liability can be seen as an asset somewhere.  Seen another way–it shows how multi-cultural Chinatown-Kalihi residents are and their unwillingness to speak English and thus assimilate into Western culture.

So to my father, who doesn’t speak much English, and thousands of people like him who are illiterate in English, the benefit of not assimilating into Western culture MUST outweigh the disadvantage of being illiterate in English!!!

It occurred to me–people do not speak English because they do not want to buy into a certain type of culture.  Then, in Hawaii, I look at all the immigrants who have lived 40 years in Hawaii, like my father, and don’t speak much English.  It’s not because they can’t speak English, they don’t WANT to speak English!  Because if they wanted to speak English, they would have learned it after 40 years.

Add to that, if he assimilated and spoke English, I wouldn’t be bi-lingual in Cantonese. My life would be very different today if I wasn’t bilingual.  I wouldn’t experience two starkly different worlds growing up. There are people out there that would die to be bi-lingual, especially be a native, fluent speaker.  Pretty amazing if you see it that way!

All these realizations because I spoke to a stranger!

Emy Louie, is a “kama’aina/haole” (native/non-native person) adventuring to people, places and things on Oahu, Hawai’i, where kama’aina don’t usually go to–that tourists GO to, and vice versa.  She lived in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s and visits Honolulu annually since then.

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Town of Monpiche Composite Pictures

by Emy Louie
Pictures around the town of Monpiche, Ecuador, taken  December 20, 2015 – December 24, 2015.

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The requisite nativity scene at the (only?) school in town.

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The sand roads

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One of the dozens of unleashed dogs around town.

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On the main street: notice the Direct TV satellite and the palm tree decorated with compact disks.

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A building evocative of the typical composite construction: (shown) thatched roofing, stucco wall, wood railings; (not shown) bamboo, metal, concrete, concrete masonry units.

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Surfing is popular here.

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Surfing is popular here.

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Surf town and fishing town (not shown).

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Chickens roam around freely everywhere. These are the “town chickens?” They and the dogs eat food that is dropped on the sand.

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No building codes. No building inspectors.

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Tide or flood wall damaged from the encroaching, pounding tides.

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Tide or flood wall damaged from the encroaching, pounding tides.

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Bamboo Construction Techniques Without Building Inspectors

January 8, 2016
by Emy Louie

This is a December 20 – 24, 2015 field report about bamboo construction in Monpiche, Ecuador.  What I am reporting to you here is based on what I understood what the people there told me as it reflects what was happening there at the time regarding bamboo construction. I had to ask around. Furthermore, my Spanish was not that good and the locale bamboo construction expert’s English was non-existent. Terms are also site specific, as these terms could vary from locale to locale. The construction techniques is best seen in the context of the site conditions.

Probably the most interesting piece of this construction setup: Monpiche, Ecuador does not have building codes nor building inspectors.  The people who live there are have leeway to construct what they please because the town of Monpiche is seen as too small to warrant codes and inspections.

The pictures shown here show bamboo being used in most of the major building components.  I saw primarily four sizes of bamboo:

Extra Small (about 1″ diameter)
Caño Pequeño (about 3″ diameter)
Guadua (about the diameter of a one liter bottle of soda–5″)
Large Asian bamboo (about the diameter of a pie crust–8″)

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Extra small bamboo canes are used for the railings which connect into the vertical Guadua. To the right of the Guadua is the Large Asian bamboo which is used as support for seating.

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Guadua up close. The walls of the Guadua are about 3/4″ thick which provides sufficient surface area for screws to embed into.

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Caño Pequeño (smashed bamboo) up close

Diferentes Maneras de Decir de Bambú Pequeño from Emy Louie on Vimeo.
The same or similar construction process of Caño Pequeño in Monpiche is pronounced differently in Columbia.  Listen to the wording differences.

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Caño Pequeño application on the wall of a kitchen

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Caño Pequeño application on the wall of a kitchen

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Caño Pequeño application on the wall of a kitchen

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Caño Pequeño application on the wall of a kitchen

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Caño Pequeño application on an exterior wall, which appears to be stained a creamy coffee color.

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Smashed bamboo used in a roofing decking application

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Recently installed Caño Pequeño

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Recently installed Caño Pequeño. One can see the smashed bamboo becomes the lath onto which a type of plaster and/or eventually a stucco is applied. This type of composite construction of smashed bamboo plus plaster plus stucco should be called Caño Pequeño.

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Caño Pequeño

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Caño Pequeño

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Finished coat of plastered wall of the Caño Pequeño. The smashed bamboo is not seen anymore.

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Unfinished coat of a type of plaster of the Caño Pequeño. The plaster is applied onto the rough and inner walls of the smashed bamboo.

Emy Louie, a consultant and speaker, is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. Meanwhile, she teaches continuing education classes on design and urban development to architects and engineers. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

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Los Angeles: Either Cheesy, Vacuous Entertainment or Beautiful Beaches–Both Take Much Effort and Time to Get To

by Emy Louie. RALEIGH, NC.

The Best Way to Divide People

What a great way to divide groups of people from each other! One doesn’t need to build a physical wall. One creates a lot of physical distance between one and another group. Exacerbate that by automobile usage.  And then advertise those automobiles to the haves, saying that it is the best thing in the world to have an automobile.

It’s as if the main attractions in Los Angeles are either cheesy, vacuous entertainment or beautiful beaches-both of which take much effort and time to get to.

Automobile Drivers Partner with the Automobile Companies

Getting into an automobile also forces people to experience meandering on their own in one certain way, behind the wheel and looking out of the windshield and automobile window. From the automobile it may be heaven, as how automobile advertising pushes another automobile on you, the consumer. Interestingly, the consumer buys into automobile culture, feeling there is no other option, thereby unwittingly or witting partnering with the automobile companies in creating the dystopic land use of Los Angeles.  One does not need another automobile commercial!

Do not Los Angelenos not see what I see? It is the city of sin because people seem to be putting up with automobile culture and they feel trapped. At the same time, they all the same benefiting from being in the same region. It’s all symbiotic: they need each other to exist in their world. It’s like big co-dependent relationships gone awry.

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Aviation / LAX Metro stop on the Green Line

If Los Angelenos Were Really Aware of What Was Happening, They Would be Up in Arms

Unlike every place I have been to in the world, the more I visit Los Angeles, the more I hate the land use decisions that have been made that affect every person living there, regardless if they are aware of it or not.

If they were really aware these land use and transportation decisions and if it was on the forefront of their minds, they would be up in arms and upset,

similar to how Chicanos and Blacks got upset at things in the past in Los Angeles: for example, the 1968 Chicano Student Walkout and the 1996 and 1992 riots.  Race relations and land use decisions go hand in hand as there is a tendency for those of similar races to live together on the same street and block.

Los Angeles Has the Infrastructure to Be a Great City

But there is a bigger picture. Los Angeles is like a huge experiment to see how much people will live in their own world and buy into the automobile culture, implicitly or explicitly.  If one looked at how streetcars ruled the day in 1910s and how Europeans first lived in streetcar suburbs close to the Los Angeles City Center, one would be crying at what Los Angeles turned into. After all, downtown Los Angeles has the infrastructure to be a great city like Chicago and New York City.  And parts of Los Angeles did look like Oak Park in Illinois: families pushing baby strollers on tree-lined boulevards with dog in tow.  There was a healthy streetcar use with a few automobiles here and there.

Fast forward to 2015, and instead, Los Angeles has turned into a bombed out wasteland with some undesirable train and metro stations, a few pedestrians, a few homeless walking around in certain areas, rare tram/streetcar usage and some automobiles driving by.  Or conversely, some popular areas are just choked with automobiles—all of which results in an uneven spots of automobile and pedestrian activity.

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Passengers leaving the Aviation / LAX Metro stop

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Aviation / LAX Metro stop on the Green Line

“That Place… I Stay Away from that Place. I Never Go into Town”

Los Angeles has no cohesive way to just meander and get around. Suburbanites live in their own version of an ivory tower, will no desire or incentive to visit other diverse places.

It’s horrible how drivers need to a do a bunch of preparation to just drive.

For example: check on the weather report, listen to the traffic report, wake up super early or get home super late to avoid driving around rush hour unless absolutely necessary and add additional minutes or hours to the commute. And this is just the daily commute.

To actually go somewhere outside of a regular commute is challenging—bumping into traffic congestion perhaps due to a special event or an accident, taking the wrong turn and having to back track to the original planned route.  In addition, they can’t or don’t want to go somewhere because “the traffic is bad there” or “there is no parking.”  So all that most drivers go to is work, school, the large shopping mall because they know, for sure, where the parking is at.

If people do desire to go to diverse places, it occurs rarely, while city people are left to deal with a wasteland of partial ghost towns of concrete jungles in the city mostly consisting of boarded up or vacant buildings or empty and unused lots.  It’s a place where suburbanites want to run away from.

Because it’s hell to navigate the streets on foot, this forces people to move to the suburbs to experience nature and get away from the noise of the automobiles and the concrete jungle, but as a result,

masses of suburbanites become easily separated from interacting with other people in society.

There is a lack civic participation and interaction. It’s modern-day white flight—the “haves” and affluent who don’t pay much attention to other people who are different from them.

This is how hell looks like and how it continues.  The worse hell is the pain that is not easily remediated, but it is painful enough.  People avoid the pain and end up in a lifestyle that is narrow in scope.  It’s pain “creep.”

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Aviation / LAX Metro stop on the Silver Line

The “haves and the “want to haves” are busy being in their automobiles and in the meantime the city that can’t easily be accessed by automobile or is not given much attention is left to rot. One in an automobile can ignore people like one ignores the homeless and the down and out. One in an automobile can also ignore entire communities, neighborhoods and cities and stay in their own self-created heaven. You can hear this when one says,

“That place… I stay away from that place. I never go into town,”

as images of Watts, South Central and OJ Simpson come to mind, without the person even having to mention the specific uprising, which evokes images in one’s head without having to overtly say these things.

Mainstream news can be one big tool to scare people and it works!  People have become overly scared of other people and other places. Some fear is warranted and healthy, but most of it is composed of paranoid delusions which are dystopic, destructive and isolating.

It’s the ultimate Boo Radley from “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Inadvertently, they are running away from reality and leaving entire communities and places behind.

Interesting how this is actually a manifestation of fear or lack of compassion for entire groups of people and physical places. One can argue, “I’m staying away from that area so I can help it.” Neighborhoods are like people.  How can one help someone or a neighborhood without getting to know it? Take for example,

a friend of yours, how can you begin to offer any advice or help, unless you know where he or she is coming from?

Places operate the same way. Places are just like people.  Each place has a specific vibe and personality.  Each place also changes through time and they go through cycles of change.

LAX: The Transportation Nightmare–When Automobiles, Buses and the metro Go Slow

For a large international city, Los Angeles International Airport is one of the most unwelcoming airports. Once there, one just wants to get away from it as fast as possible. Getting in and out of LAX and transferring in LAX is slow compared to the airports of Dallas Fort Worth and Atlanta. As I just traveled to Hong Kong for two weeks, I had a layover in LAX and that experience was just as bad as this most recent experience at LAX. Comparing the two airports and its ease, convenience and flexibility of getting to the major destinations, to me, Hong Kong ranks the best compared to Los Angeles which ranks the worst.

It took me 30 minutes to get from LAX curbside to the nearest metro line, the Green Line. There wasn’t even a sign outside the LAX baggage claim areas to say there is an option to take the metro.

The LAX metro stop is pathetic.

I saw only one ticket machine and the machine was hard to navigate and understand even in English, especially compared to what I experienced with Hong Kong’s metro system. I’m surprised the Los Angeles metro ticketing machines have not converted to being pictorial and they don’t have multiple language options. Ticketing machines should be ranked on how fast a passenger retrieves a ticket without the assistance of another human being standing over one’s shoulder.  Thus, adding an additional annoyance to commuting via metro.

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The foreboding Hall of Justice

Perhaps the metro and its connections times were so bad that tourists avoid the metro in Los Angeles altogether. As a result, automobiles, buses and the metro went slow. What a transportation nightmare!

Private shuttles seem to benefit from all this congestion; however even small buses didn’t solve the overall vehicular congestion at LAX.

Now for transferring from the Green Line to the Silver Line: I got off the airport metro stop to get on the Silver Line. I thought the line was a tram line. It was misleading that the Silver Line is a bus. The bus ride to downtown Los Angeles on the Silver Line was so bumpy. That Silver Line at the LAX metro station is horrid. (See video). No dog or cat or tree would want to be there let alone a human. It’s under a gigantic freeway interchange. While standing there, automobiles are zooming by from two directions.

It’s too bad that Dallas and Atlanta’s airports have top-notch people mover systems, while Los Angeles doesn’t have anything remotely as fast. Any good weather to be had in Los Angeles is choked by vehicular congestion as result of horrid, pathetic and disgusting land use decisions made over decades, under the noses of suspecting and unsuspecting citizens!

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The foreboding United States Courthouse

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The foreboding space between the Hall of Justice on the right and the United States Courthouse on the left (not in the picture)

A Cavernous and Dimly Lit Concrete Encasement

The Wilshire / Vermont metro stop is just as horrid at the Aviation / LAX metro stop. The escalator at Wilshire / Vermont metro stop goes down four stories, it appears, in a cavernous and dimly lit concrete encasement.

The inside surely looks dystopic.

Add to this, a panhandler asked me for money while I was looking at the metro map on the wall.

How Chicanos Feel About Los Angeles

Compared to other non-Chicanos, Chicanos (Mexicans and Mexican Americans) must have an interesting relationship and feel for Los Angeles because they could feel Los Angeles should have been Mexico and don’t wish to assimilate (in total or to a varying degree) into the American culture.  Add to this, from what I saw on the bus and metro lines, Chicanos are more likely to take public transportation than gringos.

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Appears to be someone sleeping on the grass

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Finally saw a directional sign

The Hispanic and Gringo Communities

In the hell of Los Angeles, there are a few walkable places which dot Los Angeles.

In the Hispanic communities, these include Paseo De La Plaza, parts of East Cesar E Chavez Street and Westlake / MacAurthur Park metro stop.

In the gringo communities, Central Hollywood is hopping.   But then again, Hollywood Boulevard between Hollywood / Vine and Hollywood / Highland metro stop boasts mostly cheesy and vacuous entertainment further promoted in Hollywood movies and films.  During regular business hours, these places offer eye candy with its signs flashing and actors walking around dressed up as film characters. Pershing Square is a general delight. Grand Street, at night, near the Museum of Contemporary Art is very swank, somewhat quiet, chic and classy.

These swaths of walkable places are oases and are far and few in between.  For the most part, superhighways, highways, roads and the automobiles on it, swallow up the pedestrians.

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After one man used the toilet, another man walked into the toilet after him and did not appear not to let the door close after the first man used it.

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The homeless next to the Hall of Justice (in the background)

The Foreboding Los Angeles County Criminal Appeals, the Hall of Justice and United States Courthouse

The area around the Civic Center / Grand Park Station right around Los Angeles City Hall was barely walkable.

There may be greenery and there may be Grand Park and perhaps even a tour bus nearby, but in a sense of having an interesting collection of sites for all ages and walks of life, there was none in just one walkable area.  I have a teenage child and wondered what she would be doing at Grand Park.  She would think “it’s too boring.”  Add to the lack of interesting attractions is the lack of appropriate signage.

I did not see a “You Are Here” marker on the maps at the metro stop.  Just one touristy sign was spotted in that vicinity further making the area tourist unfriendly.  A set of buildings that are foreboding are the following:  the Los Angeles County Criminal Appeals, the Hall of Justice, United States Courthouse buildings. It may be there to serve the public, but they are not tourist friendly for sure.  For example, I saw a cafeteria at the Criminal Courts Building and the sign said the cafeteria was closed to the public. What a tease to see that when a tourist or passerby is tired and hungry!  Furthermore, there was no nearby coffee shops in sight to hang out at.

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Harbor Freeway Station

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The concrete structures of the Harbor Freeway Station–the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange Highway Intersection of I-105 and I-110

Hell to Walk and to Take Public Transportation & to Experience the Lack of Nature

And when you get out of the automobile or private bus and start walking and taking other forms of transportation to other communities, it’s hell or let’s put it nicer, it’s almost impossible or it’s very challenging! And this has been happening for decades!

Having explored Los Angeles not by automobile, but by foot and by public transportation, I have come to the realization that if people live in town, they make a comfortable place out of their home, find a routine they are comfortable with, interact with a more diverse group of people; however, they don’t have much interaction with a lot of “quiet” nature on a daily basis.

So for most of Los Angelinos, it’s either lots of nature and limited social interaction in the suburbs. I know I felt this way when I lived in the suburbs and most of the time, the only person I saw during the day was the delivery man. Or alternatively, it’s social interaction with little nature with lots of concrete jungle street living in the city.

 

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Harbor Freeway Station–the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange Highway Intersection of I-105 and I-110

If Area is Desirable to Live or Be in, It is Choked With Automobile Traffic

If one thought Middle America was a collection of asphalt parking lots and strip malls, Los Angeles takes it to a whole other level. It’s the best example of dystopia realized. It’s hard to move around anywhere around town. And if one has an automobile, getting around casually is a chore. If an area is desirable to live in, it is choked with automobile traffic, leaving it difficult for locals and visitors to just visit places without having to plan out their trip.  Even with a trip planned out to avoid automobile traffic, it is usually choked with automobile traffic!

Most automobile drivers are so selfish that nobody (even those who take public transportation) wins and nobody is happy with the transportation situation in Los Angeles.  Rarely does an automobile driver come to the realization to want to give up/reduce/eliminate their own privilege of driving an automobile.

As a result, no one enjoys the real benefits of driving an automobile in Los Angeles—the ability to get somewhere easily, unless one is traveling at 3 am in the morning.

Funny how people sacrifice certain things in their lives.  For example, a politician forgoes a hefty salary in a private company to serve his constituents; an academic forgoes a hefty salary in private practice to work at an academic institution; parents forego nice things to send their children to a better school; veterans risks their own lives to serve in wars; immigrants forego vacations so their children can have better lives.  But somehow, this very last thing, most drivers won’t forego their automobiles or at least curb its usage, so all of us can have a good to excellent daily commute and ease of getting around anywhere. Most drivers…except for the brave few.

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City of Los Angeles in the background at the Harbor Freeway Station

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Harbor Freeway Station–the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange Highway Intersection of I-105 and I-110

The Advantages of Both Worlds

These brave few are the people who have the option to use the automobile and then forego it or curb its usage, affording the benefits of both the advantages of using an automobile and the advantage of seeing things on foot that being in an automobile would miss. These brave few are noticed and admired for exercising restraint and judgement. These brave few reap the most benefits of a dystopic transportation system.

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Some person(s) living under the huge overpasses at the Harbor Freeway Station–the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange Highway Intersection of I-105 and I-110

Bring Back More Park, Animal Refuges, Farms and Forests!

In other cities, the footprint of downtown Los Angeles would be thriving places with nice parks. But the cancer called sprawl has taken over. At the very least, have corridors where it’s more walkable and livable, more tourist friendly streets.  Fill in streets with activity where there is some activity. For example, Yucca Street in Hollywood has quite a few new gentrified developments.  South Figueroa Street all along from the city center to north of I-105 has a few new gentrified developments.

Yes, most Los Angelenos may hate living in Los Angeles and we know the biggest culprit is the automobile and the culture built around it.  In order for Los Angelenos to have pride in their place, they need to forgo some or most automobile usage and live closer together and then

have the rest be parks, animal refuges, farms, and forests.

There is a very critical thing to do regarding land use: the next time you relocate, consider very carefully as to where you will live.  Many consider the options of ease of getting to work place(s), school(s) and ease of getting to the freeway and to the airport.  However, consider the ease of getting to a transit stop.   As a result, we find creative ways to commute whether it be by foot, bicycle, bus, metro, automobile, or plane.  I did just this when I moved my family into town in a medium-sized city in the Southeast United States.

Suburban living only by automobile is nice for a few to do—not for everyone to do.  There eventually isn’t enough land for the automobiles to move around in without almost everyone in the area getting upset over automobile congestion and painful commute times.

Take back the neighborhoods! Take back the city!  Take back the nature!  Take back Los Angeles, Los Angelenos!

Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012.  Recently, she moved her family to the downtown of a Southern City. Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. She has taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to architects and engineers. She walks regularly to destinations and takes public transportation at home and abroad.

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The Ethnicities/Races of Pico Union/Westlake District

by Emy Louie, RALEIGH, NC.

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Formerly known as the Westlake District, Pico Union, starting in the 1880s was a fashionable streetcar suburb of downtown Los Angeles.  It boasted beautiful homes and buildings—some of them still intact and preserved quite well, even though the streetcars were beginning to be removed in the 1920s in Los Angeles!

Here are some of the notable historical buildings of Pico Union.  The oldest of which were built in 1880. Architectural styles include “Mission Revival (stucco walls, tile roof), Tudor Revival (stucco and wood-beam detailing), and Shingle style (masonry and shingle cladding).”

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Notably, the Milner Apartments, an apartment building built in 1928, perhaps reflected a larger national trend of flat dwellings, also called “flat fever” was all the rage, which turned up in New York City and other large cities in the United States starting in the 1880s.

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The Milner Apartments, a reflection of “flat fever” starting in the 1880s.

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Racially, here is the lineup of the ethnicities/races which lived here—past and present.  Note the dates mark historical happenings, but the in migration and out-migration of Pico Union/ Westlake District happened over a period of time:

  • Before 1769 –  Hokan-speaking people and then Tongva people
  • 1769 to 1821 –  Spanish
  • 1821 to 1848 – Mexicans
  • 1848 to 1913 – Europeans, notably Swedish and Scottish
  • 1913 to present – Mexicans, Mexican Americans
  • 1980s to present – Salvadorians and Guatemalans
  • Currently – Central Americas, Cubans, and Koreans

Starting around the 1913s, Pico Union or the Westlake District is a great example of white flight as Europeans and more affluent people moved out further away from the Los Angeles city center into newer suburbs.

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Strip Mall Sign in Pico Union representing Hispanic, Korean, Chinese and American influences.

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Emy Louie, a consultant and speaker, is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. Meanwhile, she teaches continuing education classes on design and urban development to architects and engineers. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

References:
Jackson, Kenneth. Crabgrass Frontier: the Suburbanization of the United States. c1985. p.89-90.
https://www.laconservancy.org/sites/default/files/files/documents/PicoUnion_Tour_new.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Los_Angeles#Sixteenth_Century_to_today

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Sights and Sounds of Los Angeles

by Emy Louie, RALEIGH, NC.

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Los Angeles City Hall

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Square tower of Los Angeles City Hall

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Employee Entrance to Los Angeles City Hall opens onto Grand Park

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Ascot Hills Park

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View of downtown Los Angeles from Ascot Hills Park which is located in a predominantly Latino area.

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Public School 213

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Gastropub offering “Liquid Education”

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The Broad Museum

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The hottest new museum in town

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Pershing Square

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Some type of public input for Pershing Square

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Pershing Square

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Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles

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“Please Do Not Enter” Store. Yes, that is the name of the store.

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Mesmerizing Sculpture

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Grand Central Market

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Chinese-American Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1993, she has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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The Most Sidesplitting Dinner Party!

by Emy Louie
RALEIGH, NC.

Have you ever had the most wonderful and sidesplitting group conversation ever—with a bunch of strangers?

Special Dinner Lecture Held by a Manufacturing Company

I did–on a beautiful spring day in Charlotte at the none other than American Institute of Architects national convention in 2002. There are special dinner lectures held by manufacturing companies as part of continuing education for architects. I was at a one dinner lecture hosted by a window company at a moderately nice hotel/conference meeting hall.  There was a dinner with a lecture to follow.

I sat amongst other architects.  These architects may or may not all have known each other.  They were from Georgia.  I was from North Carolina.  Don’t know where the window representative was from.  It was a round table of about ten people: nine were men and one a woman. The men were white, ages 30 – 60.  More seemed married than not married.

I was an outsider, but I sure didn’t feel like it.

An Informal Moderator

It’s was the perfect dinner conversation!  We laughed almost every minute.  No one person monopolized the conversation.  Everyone had a chance to speak for an equal amount of time.  There was an informal moderator—the window representative, and there was one group conversation going.  There were silences.  But it wasn’t an awkward silence.  No one spoke up randomly for a need to fill in the silence.  Instead, the moderator just went to another person and asked another person a very benignly pointed question that went into the flow of conversation.  It didn’t seem like the moderator was even trying. Then another architect spoke and cracked a joke, and then everyone was laughing again.  No one person was funnier than another.  Everyone appeared funny and I wasn’t drinking alcohol or anything!

I think about this event every once in a while when I’m stuck in conversations were one person is monopolizing the conversation and there seems to be little conversation flow and there is little laughing—almost as it was a business meeting or a lecture in a classroom.  Or when people break off in smaller conversation groups.

Heightening the Enjoyment and Flow of the Conversation

It takes a certain person to groove with the group, let other people speak and even be quiet and add in comments that heighten the enjoyment and flow of the conversation and then make everyone laugh, without looking like a person is greasing or forcing the conversation to flow.  Perhaps it takes a sensitive and creative person that’s grounded and not off in la la land—an architect!

Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. She has taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to architects and engineers.

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What Happens When Halloween Lands on a Saturday

by Emy Louie
RALEIGH, NC.

Dressed Up As Mattresses
Earlier in the morning, I drove by the stately Broughton High School building.  About ten teenagers were standing along St. Mary’s Street to announce to passersby their annual mattress fundraiser. A few waved signs, a few played the drums and a few dressed up as mattresses, which turned out to be a great opener for Halloween on a Saturday!

Caught People Off Guard
Afternoon approaches. My husband dresses as Indiana Jones. I dress as a construction worker.  We walk around in costume around South Wilmington Street and East Martin Street, catching the black people on the streets off guard at the nearby bus station, barber shops and stores of all types.  This is what happens when Halloween lands on a Saturday.  You can start festivities much earlier–before it gets dark! Like at noon!

Three Stunning Performances
At City Market, which is made up of 1914 quintessential Spanish Mission Style brick buildings, I saw three stunning performances at Kaleidoscope 2015, whose venue was located under the exposed trusses of the main building there.

The building’s doors opens out equally on all four sides to cobble stone streets making for an unusual music venue.  At least three Segway tours passed by around the building.  Performance highlights included the following:

  • Nola Baldwin, Montessori School of Raleigh’s own, debuted at with three original songs and one cover. She’s the next Nora Jones.  I went teary eyed during her first and last song.
  • Then, La Fiesta Jazz Quintet — a band straight from North Carolina roused the audience to dance. Danced the merengue, salsa and samba.  The last tune was mostly all syncopated rhythms—stopping on and off—flying off in all directions.  My husband didn’t know when to clap at the end because the end of the tune appeared a number of times.  If this tune looked and tasted like food, it resembled a buffet of tempos.  Whew!
  • Enjoyed the soulful Raleigh native Cynthia Jones—Neo Soul AKA gospel—which turned out to be religious revival—which was fine with the audience! Also, she sang “happy birthday” to two people in the crowd who came up to the front of the stage to be serenaded. Alleluia!

The Best Fried Chicken in Town
In between performances at City Market, walked over to South Wilmington Street and ate at the Beasley’s Chicken + Honey.  The people at the next table came all the way from California to taste the fried chicken here!

“We Are Not Your Costume Characters.”
After leaving Kaleidoscope 2015 via automobile to head to the next venue, the night was momentarily jarred as I saw, outside the car window, a Native American protester holding, verses wearing her Feather Dance outfit, standing at the corner of South Wilmington Street and East Morgan Street near the State Capital Building.  Her sign said “we are not your costume [mascots] characters.”

When the Sacred and the Profane Collide
This made one reflect: as a deeper subconscious aspect to the fun of the Halloween, people do dress up as a certain character to be an alter ego in order honor the spirit of the character and become the essence of the character.  What if one dressed up as Captain America in wishes to have superpowers? Likewise, what if one dressed up as Pocahontas to honor the land? This is when the sacred and profane collide.

After this momentary reflection, I mentally geared up for the next venue as the day fell into the darkness of the night and things started to turn ghoulish.

Halloween in Historic Oakwood
At 7:15 pm, the first treat-or-treaters were spotted.  Went to the most famous haunted house in historic Oakwood, which was not appropriate for preschoolers at all as some were crying. Jason, the character from Friday the 13th movie and about ten other horror film characters were scaring people on Oakwood Avenue and North East Street. Most of the trick-or-treaters were black from the neighboring black neighborhood, trick or treating in the historic Oakwood neighborhood.  Some houses were so elaborately decorated for Halloween resembling a whole neighborhood of Halloween horror sets.

Boo!

Characters Come Alive!
Went home to rest before the finale—seeing the Halloween costumes at Glenwood South.

At 9:30 pm, Cornerstone Tavern at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and West Johnson Street was especially hopping, resembling a fraternity party on steroids. I must have seen all of the top film and television characters ever invented and then some.  A rarer sighting—Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a man over 60 years old in 1920’s high-water pants.

Don’t lose the inner child of fun!

Chinese-American Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1993, she has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

 

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Marc Thompson: What to Get Out of Wild Plants

by Emy Louie, RALEIGH, NC.

Located in Carrboro on a sprawling site with potential for additional structures, Pickards Mountain Eco Institute was a 20 minute drive from downtown Carrboro.  After arriving at a gravel parking lot, clothes were hung outside to dry right there, even though it was drizzling during the afternoon—so much that class was indoors and walking outside was optional.  There were a few goats, a few horses and a community garden.  The parking lot abutted a large composite barn structure, which was half barn and half classroom/kitchen/office designed by Architect Giles Blunden. The barn structure is pretty much symmetrical along its length. Pickards Mountain Eco Institute is so large—it feels like a farm vs. the Piedmont Wildlife Center in Durham feels like a forest with a small house in it.

Pickards Mountain Eco Institute half barn, half classroom

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Marc Thompson, ethno-botanist

The wild foods class started on time.  The guest lecturer Marc Thompson was introduced by the farm owner who then said her goodbyes.  Marc Thompson, an ethno-botanist, is a lanky man with a beard.  I couldn’t tell his age.  He could have been in his late 30’s or 40’s. Looking and sounding white, he has textured hair like a black person.

After each class attendee introduced him or herself, we went to a nearby table laid out with wild foods that were picked ahead of time.  Marc used the Socratic Method to teach.  He pointed to something and asked the class of about a dozen people, “What is this?”

I guessed out loud “mustard,” which turned out to be wood sorrel. I was so wrong.  That put me in my place regarding how much I identified wild food correctly—not much. Now a mistake was made in front of a group of people, wood sorrel will never be mis-identified.

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Pickards Mountain Eco Institute

Marc’s goal is to break down the “green wall” with a book called Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification by Thomas J. Elpel.  Marc suggested to memorize groups of families of plants in order to understand how to identify flowering plants.  That type of memorization was not mentioned from Sarah Haggerty from the Piedmont Wildlife Center in Durham.  Sarah does more group reflection; her classes feels almost like a refuge center for group retreats.

Marc says he tries to eat something wide every day; however, the majority of food he eats is regular non-wild food, while Sarah seems to be living in the forest and eating the wild foods there all the time.  In her house in the woods at the Piedmont Wildlife Center, there are bottles and bottles of what appeared to be teas, infusions, and tinctures—illustrating the different ways to ingest wild foods.

During the lecture, Marc made a point about honoring the sanctity of plants, and not just thinking “take, take, take.  What can I get from this plant?”  He said how “would it sound if I asked ‘what could I get from Frank?’” pointing to a colleague sitting next to him.  After he said that, I felt a tinge of guilt of being predatory and of hunting wild plants.  In this regard, both Marc Thompson and Sarah Haggerty stressed the sacred act of selecting wild foods.

Pickards Mountain Eco Institute

Pickards Mountain Eco Institute-the other end of the barn structure


Chinese-American Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1993, she has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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Hours of Music at the 2015 African-American Cultural Festival

September 5, 2015
by Emy Louie

RALEIGH, NC.  The weather had been so nice the last two weeks—mostly in the high 70’s and lower 80’s—I needed to get out and also enjoy some good music.  So I went to the African-American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County in downtown Raleigh.  We arrived at 2:30 pm to watch Al Strong.  As Al wasn’t coming on until 3:30 pm, my husband and I opened our lawn chairs we brought with us and sat and danced for 15 minutes listening to Sandra DuBose.  Al Strong did perform at 3:30 pm.  After he performed one song, it started to storm and thunder so the all-day concert temporarily stopped.

Instead, we headed to Clyde Cooper’s BBQ to snack on brisket, butter beans, corn, collards and pork rinds.  After having tasted the hush puppies, I realized missed them after being out-of-town for a month.  Went back to the African-American Cultural Festival while my husband went back home with hush puppies to-go and the two lawn chairs.

“Apache” got the most people laughing and dancing. 

Glad I went back, as Al Strong played about four songs. It was sweet and it ended with his original work.

Then there was break time between live music as music was piped-in, where the audience just broke out dancing.  About 25 of the most memorable (relatively clean) black dance songs though the decades were played.  For example, “Apache” by the Sugarhill Gang got the most people laughing and dancing.  “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang got the most people rapping. “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson got the most people dancing. Each time a song came on, it’s as if each person liked it or not and judged if the song took them back to a certain time or place or memory.  It was a walk down memory lane to the most memorable times in their lives.  It was a personal and group reminiscing.

A number of people pointed at this Indian Man.

The people present, mostly African-Americans, were dancing and bumping to the music everywhere.  The whole place became a dance floor: men and women, solo or in a group. It didn’t matter. There was very little “couples dancing.” Many were in their 40’s and 50’s and just bopping everywhere: 20 women in their 40’s.  There was a lone Indian guy (from India) who danced with abandon in front of hundreds if not thousands of people.  Perhaps he came from the nearby convention: more on that later.  This Indian man didn’t seem to know anybody in the audience and he just faced the audience while a number of people pointed at him and sort of laughed at him.  Granted almost everyone laughed at almost everyone else after the “Apache” song came on.

After sitting in the third row from the front stage for five and a half hours, listening to almost non-stop music, one would naturally need to rest one’s ears.  So I climbed over aisles of seats to get to the front stage to exit.

Getting majorly penalized by not saying “thank you”

Went to the restroom nearby.  A young black woman opened the door for me and I smiled.  Then she said, “You’re welcome.”  I felt a split second, back-handed mockery, implying that I should have said “thank you.”  It’s true a simple “thank you” can get one far in everyday interactions.

I just wanted to enjoy myself and not be interrupted, so I get penalized for not saying a “thank you.”

Apparently, these misunderstanding happen all the time.  It just seems weird that some people worry about not being nice or they get furious when other people come across as impolite.

I have seen such fussiness over manners in certain locales in the South.  If doing business in the south is slow-paced, the expectation of only one way to be courteousness (their way) is NOT laid back and slow-paced.

By then, it was around 7:30 pm.

Went into the Raleigh Convention Center. There was an Indian cultural convention of a certain region in India. I loved the energy: there were families posed for pictures in front of a deity with many flowers.   They didn’t say “hello” to me; they didn’t really ignore me.

Right outside, women and girls in saris (traditional Indian female dress) walked out of the convention center, while a wave Muslim ladies wearing scarves walked by.  I thought perhaps some (other) Indians would head to the African America Cultural Festival and perhaps break out in lighthearted Indian dance.

Young Indian girl was small enough to fit between the legs of a statue.

Near the cordoned outdoor seats near the 15 feet tall bronze state of Sir Walter Raleigh, I sat down. Short thereafter, two Indian girls (ages four and ten) climbed on the Sir Walter Raleigh statue platform and posed for a picture in front of it.

The younger girl was small enough to fit between his breeches.  “I bet they don’t even know who the person–Sir Walter Raleigh–is,” smirking to myself.  But it didn’t seem to faze these people.

A person who recognize me that night.  

Then I went to get Thai fried rice and samosas.  While eating, there was a huge 190 pound–what looked like–a Bull-mastiff dog, drawing people’s attention.

I did run into a person who recognized me that night.   The counter help who bumped to the music as she was taking my order, asked, “Are you the lady that went to this black church one day (10 months ago)?” she pauses slightly,  “Louie, right?”

“Where you the one whom I gave my business card to?” I asked, amazed as we met for several minutes back then and she remembered my name.

“Yes, ma’am.  How are you doing?” she said. I’m feeling old, being addressed ma’am.  It also creates a formal distance.

“Good!” I said, still pleasantly surprised she remembered my name and embarrassed I didn’t remember hers. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Lauren,” as I handed her some cash–such a clinical interaction compared to the experience we had together at the church.

“Thank you, Lauren,” I said, making sure I remember her name as I took my drink order.

My ears would have been shot.

It was getting dark now and the band Arrested Development was starting to perform. Either it was the African-American Cultural Festival or it was the Arrest Development concert with opening acts all day. Many of the African-American “old school” hip hop crowd in their 40’s and 50’s showed up for a music reunion.  I walked around.  My ears would have been shot.  I watched some boys play football on where the skating rink usually is.  By now, it should have been around 8:40 pm and the crowds were packed.  I could not fit between two people in the crowd.  However, I did walk around and there was a two feet wide swath of clear space I could walk through.  I loved the energy.  Even though the music was blaring, I felt a sense of inner quiet around these African-Americans.  Maybe it was me; maybe I was projecting.

After Arrested Development played about seven songs, they played their 1992 hit song “Tennessee.”  Got home around 9:30 pm.

Whew!

Chinese-American Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s. Since 1993, she has been a resident of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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Enjoyed a Secretary, Quiet Lunches and Spartan Accommodations in Hong Kong

The building of the accomodations

The building of the accommodation

Lack of Variety of Music

Went off of any regular routine for a month in Hong Kong and Hawaii: no cell phone, no iPod or musical device, no books.  During this time, it was not my bed I was missing.

I was surprised.

What was missed was any type of jazz music.  I experienced a lack of a variety of music in Hong Kong.  Whatever was heard, it was a generic house music with people babbling in English.  I can thank my African brothers and sisters for the jazz contribution in the States. I like music and I like to dance.  If I can move to the music, it’s good for me.

Not Handicap Accessible by American with Disability Standards

Accommodation was less than 100 square feet space.

Accommodation was less than 100 square feet of space.

Granted, the main accommodation during the visit in Hong Kong was basic and spartan with a few extra touches that was rather delightful.  The accommodation was a 5 feet by 15 feet room—less than 100 square feet space.  The accommodation included:

  • 4-inch thick mattress
  • Hot water
  • Air conditioning
  • Ceiling fan
  • Telephone
  • Television with remote control
  • Hand-held shower unit
  • Toilet that doubles as a shower seat
Toilet is in the same place as the hand-held shower unit.

Toilet is in the same place as the hand-held shower unit.

There is a small sink right at the toilet.  This room is in no way handicap accessible by American with Disability standards.  There are three separate switches: one is for the hot water heater, one is for the fan and one is for the air-conditioning, so if those items don’t turn on, it’s because the switches are not flipped to the “on” position.  It’s a great way to conserve energy: having master switches.

There are a few things which enhanced the spartan accommodations. Because of the plain steel bed frame, there was space (where a box spring would normally go) to store stuff under the bed. The sheets were changed every two days.

People Can’t Do Things as Fast in a Large House

In many ways, living in a very small room saved me a lot of walking around and energy to find stuff and put away stuff.  All I did was take a few steps and voila, there was all my things, similar to tight quarters on airplanes and marine vessels where every inch of space is used up.

Which leads one to think of the design of spaces.

I was always weary of losing something in a large house.  The lost item could be anywhere.  One could walk miles, say for 30 minutes, to find something.  Could it be that in a large kitchen, room, house, building, city or town, people can’t do things as speedily because they are busy getting from one space to another?

Conversely, life is infinitely simpler with less things and less space to use.  I can see the benefit of such an arrangement.

Getting to Really Enjoy Having a Secretary

The most delightful aspect of my stay was the limited secretary service:  my friend called the hotel at 11 pm and the receptionist picked up the phone and said I was sleeping.  The receptionist knew my schedule, as he usually waved to me when I came back to my room.  The next morning, he said there is a message for me.  There were a number of calls and each time, when the receptionist saw me, he or she said someone called.  I was getting to really enjoy having a secretary. People working there waved at me when leaving around 8:30 am, and upon returning to the room, around 8 pm: the rooms and elevators are situated so the receptionist can see about dozens of lodgers coming and going.

What would come across as unprofessional in the States–people working at the hotel ate lunch out in the open in the reception area–is a quite common practice in Hong Kong.

This place had no specifically designated lobby just for the hotel.  The ground floor was a shopping bazaar.  Not that having a lobby mattered too much; however, a designated lobby would have been great for waiting for a cab, a tour or friend.

At the ground floor of this place, besides having a number of shops, there is a 24-hour self-service laundry and foreign money exchange.  The 4 feet by 5 feet elevators, which to go up to the rooms, are much smaller than walk-in closets in the States.  There is a security camera to see activities in the elevator.  Where there are lots of people using the elevators around 8 pm, there is also a security guard present.  At this time, the elevator squeezes in about seven people like sardines.

Perhaps physical space for each person is limited in Hong Kong; however, the quality of food and public transportation makes up for the perceived disadvantage of having less personal space.

Aren’t Policeman Usually Busy Catching Criminals?

Physical security in public was first rate.  Of course, at any street, even an alley, there are at least one or two people around. In the Wan Chai district, policemen were passing out brochures on the streets, which is never heard of in the States.  Aren’t policemen usually busy catching criminals, not soliciting brochures on public street corners?  Maybe per capita, compared to non-Asian countries, crime is low among Asian countries.

Nobody Bothered Me

No one bothered to say hello to me (for no reason) in public, when walking on the streets or taking public transportation.   During lunches, especially on the second floor in commercial areas, with exception to this buffet place and tea house, there was zero conversation. There could have been 20 people at these lunch places on the second floor, and no one said a thing. During my stay, quiet lunches on the second floor of buildings consisted of two Indian Vegetarian lunches, one Chinese vegetarian lunch, one Korean buffet, one dim sum lunch, and one Chinese seafood lunch.

So this is the secret of how so many people can crowd into a tiny swath of land together and exist harmoniously! The secret is to be quiet among lots of people during lunch hour.*   This proves to show that people don’t have to get many feet away from other people to rest. They just have to stop thinking much and rest, whether at a restaurant or in a subway.  That is if everyone is quiet: a few loud people spoil other people’s quiet enjoyment.  No other place in which being quiet is most important for resting is in a hospital.  Quiet enjoyment is also appreciated on public transportation, at airports, at lap pools and at parks.

So people have privacy in public by not talking and by people not paying attention to others’ minute behaviors.  Others may know you are there and taking up space, but they generally leave you alone.  So nobody spoke to me in public when I was just sitting around and doing nothing.  Nobody bothered me—even in relatively less populated places.

Regardless if people are speaking or not, one can feel the energy of the increase of thoughts.  Thoughts take up space so one feels crowded when too many people are thinking excitedly.  Imagine a university with no trees or no places to rest, as thinking requires bouts of resting.

The double decker bus: how many people pack into one area

The double-decker bus: how many people pack into one area

In order to live with many people around, one must self-regulate thinking and resting.  Think when working, and then cease thinking when resting.  This self-regulation also includes resting out in public: good examples include sleeping in the subway train and relaxing at the beach.  So in order for many people to pack into one area, they must be able to rest out in public—which usually means being quiet and quieting the mind.  Those who can’t do that burn out very fast.

Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong, was raised in Hawai’i and is fluent in Cantonese.  Her parents were born in Guangzhou, China. They relocated to Hong Kong during the 1950’s, and then to Hawai’i in the early 1970’s.  Emy has made a few visits to Hong Kong since she left.

*See blog article “The Definition of a Waiter Exemplified“: I only talked when I wanted to speak, not when someone wanted to talk to me.

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The Definition of a Waiter Exemplified

It all works so well.  The process was the same:

Either a hostess seats you or you seat yourself.

Consistent Service in Restaurants—from Threadbare to Fancy

After sitting down, someone might immediately ask you what you want to eat.  Otherwise, signal by raising your arm (like how you raise your hand when you ask a question) and ANY wait help (not just one or two people) walking by will help you.  I have had this consistently happen in almost all the Hong Kong restaurants from threadbare to fancy.  There might be 20 people working there, dressed in a uniform and anyone of them can help me.

When you have eaten every morsel, someone may pick up your dish.  And there is usually no question about if you finished your meal.  Until there is nothing on your plate will the wait help take the plate off the table.  If you want to order something else, you SIGNAL for them.  If you want the bill, you SIGNAL for the bill.  They RARELY come over and ask if you want anything until you SIGNAL for them.

As a result, the service is consistently very good.  Rarely did I even wait more than one minute if I wanted something.

I always thought it strange in the States when I’m in the middle of a conversation and the server interrupts my conversation and asks if I want something else. I thought it is rude to interrupt people’s conversation, but in the States, wait help interrupting conversations is the norm in restaurants.

Isn’t that the definition of a waiter?  He or she is waiting on you?  Not you wait for them to be available.

This is what happens, I suppose, when wait help serves any and all the tables, there is no separation of waiter/server and bus boy duties.  No one waiter is overly strained and no one waiter is not doing anything.

Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong, was raised in Hawai’i and is fluent in Cantonese.  Her parents were born in Guangzhou, China. They relocated to Hong Kong during the 1950’s, and then to Hawai’i in the early 1970’s.  Emy has made a few visits to Hong Kong since she left.

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Feeding the Homeless is Easier than Providing the Homeless with Sanitary Conditions and Services

Homeless Person with a Bachelor’s Degree from a Prestigious University

I have a very close, formerly homeless friend (name will be withheld), who stayed at my home for two weeks this past year.  He told about his first-hand experience of being homeless for a year, on the streets of Washington, DC.  This man was 57 years old at the time, is Caucasian and even has a Bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university.

The following is my interviews with him and what I saw first hand of the homeless during my recent visit to Honolulu.  There was a remarkable change since last year’s visit to the islands: the homeless presence is much more visible and felt to tourists and locals alike. Because my formerly homeless friend told me about the homeless, as you will read here, I wasn’t afraid or repulsed by them, so I was able to get as close as possible without creating any fuss to the homeless.

For most of us, even if the possibility of not having a place to stay, could happen at any time – given a set of events and circumstances that befall us should we make a set of unfortunate decisions, most of us don’t become homeless, so what is it with the people who eventually end up on the streets and become homeless?

They Don’t Want to Pay Taxes

One group—perhaps the most independent and self-sufficient of the homeless—are people who live pretty much independently of government–the ultimate don’t need government type of people.  Most notable of this trait is these people don’t want to pay taxes and bills.

What’s on Independent Homeless People’s Mind Daily

This group especially knows how use all types of free resources—and there are free resources if one just looks around, sometimes not even look around very carefully, also.    Three things on these people’s mind every day: Where will I defecate?  Where will I take meal(s)?  How will I sleep soundly?

In less traversed areas, these are three examples in Honolulu of a typical homeless set up which answer the above questions:

The All Too Familiar Blue Tarp

I walked on a 50 feet wide swath of lush vegetation near a major stream up in a valley, which is government property, located next to a number of heavily populated condominium buildings. There was no public parking near this property (I got there by bus and walking).  It was demarcated by a chain link fence which separated this property from the private condominiums.

Ability to Spot an Intruder from a Fairly Far Distances

Walking in 150 feet, the all too familiar blue tarp was spotted and a man was perched underneath it.  The blue tarp was situated at the end of a 250 feet path, so when one walked along this path, a person at the blue tarp can spot an “intruder” from a fairly far distance and not have the intruder creep up onto the tent.  Likewise, a “intruder” can see the tarp from 100 feet away, also.

A “Left Over” Triangular Piece of Land

I saw another place, within walking distance of a park, which again, was not easily accessible by automobile, but only accessed really by foot.  Again, there was no public parking nearby.  It looked like a seldom frequented area. In contrast, perhaps one-half the district’s automobiles, traversed around this lonely triangular piece of land created from three highways.  Again, I saw the fundamental animal instinct of territoriality.

Same thing for another piece of public park.  In broad daylight, I heard music coming from close by, even though barely anyone was around except for one other pedestrian and a bicycle rider, so I assumed the music was coming from another homeless tent.

In all three settings mentioned above, if evidence of a homeless person wasn’t there, I would have gone to the end of the path. Instead, I felt like I was intruding on the homeless person’s space, which is their home for the time being.

Reminders of the Homeless Diminishes Others’ Enjoyment of Recreational Property

Because these pieces of land appeared to be occupied by the homeless person, reminders of their presence makes the visitors have uncomfortable, sympathetic, often conflicting, feelings for the homeless.  For example, reminders of the homeless presence disturbed my enjoyment of the area, and likewise would have diminished other people’s enjoyment of the recreational area turned into a make shift residential property. Also, this type of residential arrangement deters the visitors from not visiting again, and then the place starts to feel derelict.  It starts a disagreeable and unconventional cycle of public property management.  It also makes ones think “why does this person have a right to stake out this property verses anybody else?” and reminds one of the fundamental animal instinct of territoriality.

In more traversed settings, where there are many more people, homeless people rely on and bump up against other homeless.

Regarding restrooms, the homeless have a verbal network of friends as word gets out fairly quickly about where a person can use the bathroom.  It could go something like this, “The bathroom on the first floor of so and so restaurant is closed, but the one at this other place is unlocked today.”

What Restaurants Do When Any Person Can Get To Their Restroom With Relative Ease

For example, in Honolulu, to deter and prevent the use of restaurant toilets by non-patrons, specifically the homeless, keypad locks are installed at practically every private eating establishment and their facilities that any stranger can get into with relative ease straight from the outside. At such food establishments, patrons memorize keypad combinations in order to use the restroom.

In addition to using keypad locks to deter restroom use by outsiders,  main or secondary restaurant entrances are closed off, making it difficult for someone to just walk off the streets, run in and out of the restaurant, and not be detected.  For example, a popular restaurant in town has three entrances.  Throughout the years, patrons have been able to enter through all three.  Through the years, two entrances, the one nearest the bus stop and main entrance nearest to the most pedestrian traffic is closed.

At the time of this writing, these types of procedures by food establishments have become normal for these restaurants in Honolulu.

The Impromptu Doling Out of Food on a Field on a Table

So it comes to no surprise that free food comes about much more easily in the U.S. than easy access restrooms.  There are free meals via organizations: soup kitchens, shelters, houses of worship; just impromptu meals—the doling out of food on table in a field, or just the eating out of packaged food dropped off in a box placed on the sidewalk. Feeding the homeless is easier than providing the homeless with sanitary conditions and services.

Regarding sleeping conditions, the independent homeless types sleep in shifts.  Seldom do homeless people sleep unguarded.  Other homeless people watch out for the homeless person.  For example, one person sleeps a shift, while his friends watches the area.  Then the friend sleeps during another shift and vice-versa.  This makes total sense because it would be hard for anyone to sleep if he didn’t feel some safety and security in his mind.

One Can’t Stay at a Homeless Shelter Indefinitely

Another group of the homeless population is the homeless shelter group.  Keep in mind, in most or all of these shelters, one can’t stay there indefinitely, so eventually a homeless person has to go someone else, whether it is after staying there for days or weeks.  Depending on these homeless shelters, which are housing, say dozens of people at a time, these shelters have their downsides…Just imagine yourself being in a residential like setting with 50 other people in a large space.

No Females near Males during Lunch Time

The most obvious downside is just people not getting along with each other in the same space, room, or facility.  This can easily happen, say in a shelter with 50 men, fresh out of prison, quarreling over a female, for example. Therefore, it would make a lot of sense to keep the sexes separated and not even have any females near males during mealtimes or any other time where there many other men around.

In addition to the prison element, some of these people have drug dependencies and you will begin to see that a homeless shelter is not a very desirable for the first group (the most independent group) mentioned above, because one’s enjoyment of the facility is dependent on the interaction with others staying at the shelter, also.

The last component is mental illness.  Perhaps addressing mental illness is the most confusing part of the homelessness crisis.

Other things to keep in mind about the homeless in general, some of them don’t want to wear new things for fear of looking “rich,” so they can keep on getting a certain type of treatment.  So beware of giving the homeless really nice things that would stand out should they wear it.

So once one understands the basics of how the homeless see the world: what they go through day-to-day, what their daily challenges are,  one can better understand, interface and take the appropriate action to address serious concerns and crisis that are facing the homeless and those around them.

Emy Louie, is a “kama’aina/haole” (native/non-native person) adventuring to people, places and things on Oahu, Hawai’i, where kama’aina don’t usually go to–that tourists GO to, and vice versa.  She lived in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s and visits Honolulu annually since then.

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A North Shore Beach Slopes Considerably Down Into the Ocean Water

1-1/2 Hours since Leaving The House

I didn’t believe it.

I caught The Bus from downtown Honolulu to a beach on the North Shore of Oahu and got lost.

Took a bus, thinking it would circle the island. But no more.  There is no bus that circles the island, as least for not right now.

Found myself in front of Matsumoto’s Shave Ice with 70+ people in line.  Around the corner were new tourist style restrooms.  Was there was a convention or something—maybe the shave ice convention in Haleiwa?

Nah!  Just kidding.

Missed seeing the shrimp trucks. Perhaps next time.

Got on the #55 bus, surely headed to my destination now.  It’s already been 1.5 hours since I left the house.

“You going Waimea Bay?” I ask the bus driver.

He nodded, so I was on my way. After studying the map of bus route, I see before me a small bay—a paradise–Waimea Bay, and get off the bus at the appointed place.

I stop at the bus stop to take off my shorts and just wear a one piece suit and put on sun-screen, while two other young East European sounding female tourists figure out where they are going.  I say nothing to them.  After all, there’s fun in an exploration they themselves will experience.  Why spoil their fun and tell them where anything is (unless they ask)?  The nature is so stunning; people are secondary.

Opalescent Green Water with People Half Clothed

Kamehameha Highway is mainly for vehicles, but since there is a bend in the road, the car traffic on this two lane highway slows down here for pedestrians to pass onto the other side, where the beach is.

It’s hot as the Hawaiian sun is out in full force.  Upon approaching the entrance to this piece of paradise, the view is stunning: blue sky, azure water in the distance turning into an opalescent green close up, a gentle breeze, people half-clothed.  The soft sand is hot and one cannot step in it without slippers. Even the local chickens and her chicks roamed freely and picked food happily in the nearby shrubs and overgrowth.

I head for a spot on the beach and cross this 150 feet wide swath of hot, soft sand, heading towards a 15’ wide swath of sand and the ocean itself where the people are.   Then, this sand slopes, rather dramatically, down into the beach.  I put my things here, before it slopes, and wrap them with a faded black, worn out old beach towel with “Hawaii” on it.

I slip down the sloping sand and into the water where a few people are.  I never go where there is no people—just in case there is something undesirable there.  Safety in numbers.  I practically slid in the clear, cool water because the beach slopes down into the ocean water. If I wasn’t so sweaty, I would think the water is cold, but the water temperature is PERFECT!

The few people around me are saying the temperature is perfect, too.

Paradise!

North Shore Waves Are Known To Pound

Those same few people were starting to float?

Floating?  Floating in the beaches of Hawaii?  Usually, the waves are slapping against the shore, ideal for some level of surfing.   The waves on the North Shore are known to pound in the winter, but it was a hot summer day today.  Today, I floated in the water for 10-15 long minutes, twice.  The water was that calm.

I floated several times and did the backstroke toward a nearby cliff.

The 25 – 30 feet high cliff has a sign that says something like “No diving,” when, at the same time, several people were climbing onto the cliff and about a dozen people at the top of the cliff were contemplating and waiting to jump from only one spot off of the cliff. Perhaps jumping off the other places of the cliff might just get one’s head or body bashed into the rocks below.  Nothing like a good old fashion feat of jumping off of a cliff and into the ocean!

On the cliff, a female in her 20’s, spent more time than the others to make her 25 – 30 feet dive.  Perhaps she was praying or contemplating the consequences of the dive while also checking out the waves and water currents.

Two girls, held hands and dived off the cliff.

Missed the Plastic Walkway

After getting out of the ocean, I walked to the showers and realized there was a plastic walkway going right into the beach which I missed getting to the beach.  After a nice shower, I changed and enjoyed the rest of the day from having taken in sunshine, stunning natural beauty and refreshing tropical water.

Emy Louie, is a “kama’aina/haole” (native/non-native person) adventuring to people, places and things on Oahu, Hawai’i, where kama’aina don’t usually go to–that tourists GO to, and vice versa.  She lived in Honolulu in the 70’s and 80’s and visits Honolulu annually since then.

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Street Smarts: Knowing Where to Walk and Who to Avoid

When was the last time you entered a territory of space and felt you were being watched—perhaps even watched very closely?  Did it give you the chills?  Did it make you want to exit really fast in the opposite direction from where you came? Did you stay calm and collected?  Did you grip your purse?  Or did you slowly exit the place trying not be noticed?  Or did you hang out in the same place and check out the place yourself, all to find it wasn’t a bad place after all?

Well, I have consistently visited the two places (actual place names omitted to protect the innocent) and it appears each place gives me the same feeling every time I visit it.  It’s a replicable reaction.  It’s the same feeling at each place:  although each place has its different ambiance, so to speak.

The two places I will speak about are a public place where predominantly men loiter and a bus terminus/transfer station:

Not All Strangers Are the Same

When I go by a tree-lined area on a pleasant weather day, where dozens of men I may or may not know, are dawdling, I see a few of them watching me watching them.  Right there, I felt like a broke a bubble of the first layer of territory.  It’s a rather subtle feeling, but it’s there.

And I stop and I don’t go any nearer as I will break their innermost territorial bubble.  I don’t even get close enough to see what they are doing around the tables.  Is it checkers or cards they are playing?

After all, the area is a public space, so the men there are likely to know who is a regular and who is a not.  If not, are they tourists, locals, kids, thieves, spies, drunkards and menaces? And within split seconds, one can distinguish friend or foe.

Bus Station: A Place of Distractions

Another place, a bus Station Depot/Terminus/Transfer Station I know of is most frequented by dozens of people anytime the buses are in operation.  Even with two police occupied cars nearby, I feel as if I am being sized up.  Is any person recognizable or a not? If a person is not recognizable, is it friend or foe?  Is it a tourist, local, local being a tourist, thief, drunkard, predator or scam artist?

From a predator’s standpoint, can I fool or swindle this person?  Can this person be distracted and thus robbed? What are the consequences of this action and where and when can I do this?  Who are the trouble-free targets?

And when the area is being scanned, professionals can do this in split seconds.  It can become an habitual and instinctual process—perhaps eventually leading to ability to do this automatically and to not even think about it.

By the way, scanning abilities come in handy, especially when on foot—knowing where to talk, who to ask a question to, who to have a conversation with, who to eavesdrop on; knowing where not to walk and what places to avoid; knowing what places to go to even though it may look intimidating at first glance, but not really, as you hang around more.

Often, locals and tourists may not know how to scan and see an “oasis in a desert”; thus, they miss many things, even around their own neighborhood or neighborhoods in far off places.

At this bus station, there are so many people (could be up to 100 people at pear hours). Many are waiting for another bus; some loiter and some looking for another person to take advantage of.

What to Do When You Are a Tourist

At a bus station, I was wearing a white top, white sweater and white skirt. I looked like a complete tourist, like I was going to see some rose garden (which I was–pretty much) + I’m Asian in the U.S. South.  This black man came up to me, verses of all the people in the bus station, and asked for a pen.

I didn’t smile, ignored him and pretended he wasn’t there and went about my business, figuring out where I needed to go—what bus to take, if I should take a taxi and when a restaurant opens.  My 14-year-old daughter who was present, took my cue and also ignored him.  Because the last thing a newcomer to a crowded bus station needed was to be distracted.

So next time you traipse into new territory, before you make a quick exit back to the direction from where you came, look for identifying ques. Being polite may not work in your best interest, or else you get taken advantage of and robbed, etc.

Feeling Overwhelmed at a New Place

If you feel any sense of apprehension—even a little, go back to the same place–perhaps earlier in the morning and start to break down the components of the place.  Is it the people or the number of people? Is it the movement of people and the transportation? Is it the physical environment itself–dimly lit, too much noise, unfamiliar smells, lack of a breeze or littering?

Identify what bothers you and make a note of it.  Be aware.

Just because you may be overwhelmed upon your first visit, you may find, as you visit this place more and more, it’s not a bad place after all, and there is a really good reason why many people are at this place to begin with.  With time, you avoid the deficiencies of a place and enjoy the most alluring parts of it.

You’ll be a pro in no time.

Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. She has taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to architects and engineers.

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What Three Separate Masseuses Did

Three Massages in Hong Kong

The three massages I had in Hong Kong couldn’t have been any more different. One costs $175 US in a posh place.  All names will be withheld to protect the innocent.  One costs $50 US, and the last one costs $15 US. Interestingly enough, the cheapest one was the best massage.  I will elaborate.

First Massage: Private Room and Bath with Every Physical Amenity

The 175 dollar massage was for a 90 minute massage and the facilities had all the fixings of a world-class spa.  For 90 minutes, there is a veritable slave whom one could order around and perhaps even ask for her to bathe a customer in the 15+ jet shower, upon request.  Perhaps this is an exaggeration.

This took place in a private 15 feet x 15 feet room with its own private restroom. Every detail was not left out: the slippers, the bath robe, the locker located in the closet, comb, hair dryer, essential oils, and of course, ambient music.

Beige hued walls, natural wood panels and eight foot high doors went to the ceiling.

The masseuse seemed rather hesitant—like she was a newcomer.  The pressure was weak.  Afterwards in the waiting area, tea and fruits were served, while saw a man/woman couple sat at a posh seat opposite me.

This place provided over the top ambience which made up for the average massage.

I didn’t tip. The tip could have been built in and the cost was pricey any way.

Second Massage: Regular Massage in Dim Room

The next massage for $50 US for 50 minutes was okay.  In the 25 feet by 25 feet relatively spacious room where the massage took place, there are about three rows of three recliners each, all facing one way.  There was slight ambient music; lighting was dimmed.  I was guided to sit in a recliner and was served hot tea.  I put my bag next to my legs and very hot water was poured in a large square bucket, lined with a plastic bag in which I soaked my feet. A man/woman couple sat in the first row, while I sat in the last row of recliners.

The massage service was professional.  I gave a tip here.

Third Massage: The Strange Feeling of Being Unclothed

The last place for $15 US for 50 minutes was a dump, relative to the first two massage places.  There were towels on each recliner and it didn’t appear the towels were washed in a while.  I was served tepid water in a Dixie cup size plastic cup. There was no ambient music and there was television with programming all piped in from mainland China, all in Chinese.

The place felt rather “icky.”  The air conditioning wasn’t strong, so it felt a little humid.  Perhaps that’s intentional, in case customers get fully unclothed, I suppose.  Two rows of three recliners faced each other in a 12 feet by 12 feet room—which was rather strange—having to look straight on at a row of customers (if there were customers sitting on the other side) while one’s foot is being massaged.  Compared to the first two places, this place is cramped—not according to Western standards.

However, this massage and the feeling was the most foreign and un-western and unprofessional or professional from a sensual standpoint.  It’s what people think of erotic massage parlors in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.  One smelled or felt sex or love in the air.  It’s almost as if one didn’t know what the masseuse would do the next moment.  In this case, the lines between petting, love-making and massage were all blurred.  And I’m not even a man.  Something was going on; I could feel it.  It could have eventually turned illegal and illicit.  Regardless, any customer who walked out of there would enjoy a pleasurable and loving massage.

Two Male Customers Asked to Come Back Later

While I was there getting my foot massage, two men (by themselves) walked in and asked to come back later.  Uh? Interesting.  Why not want a massage now?  Was it because a lady customer was there?

More Love Among the Workers

For example, for a foot massage, she massaged almost up to my hips.  I guess all the nerves are attached from the foot eventually attached to the hip, I suppose.  At the time, two masseuses were there and their manager/boss would call one of the masseuses, “mui mui” which means “little girl” and speak to her in an endearing way similar to saying “sugar pie.”    In that way, I feel more love among even the workers themselves.   Interesting how love can exist anywhere simply by how lovingly people address each other.

In the end, the masseuse asked for a tip, which I happily gave.

And the massage itself felt as if eroticism was lurking behind my eyes.  I guess you will need to frequent an Asian massage parlor yourself one of these days.

By the way, it was the best of the three massages, so don’t say this dumpy massage place has lower quality massages.  A place which publicized itself as a massage place must have a certain quality of massage; otherwise, these places could not stay in business for long.

Note: Everyone mentioned here (including the author) is Asian.

Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong, was raised in Hawai’i and is fluent in Cantonese.  Her parents were born in Guangzhou, China. They relocated to Hong Kong during the 1950’s, and then to Hawai’i in the early 1970’s.  Emy has made a few visits to Hong Kong since she left.

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Public Transport in Hong Kong is Amazing!

Subway station: it’s so easy to travel around Hong Kong via public transportation.

Subway station: it’s so easy to travel around Hong Kong via public transportation.

It’s so easy to travel around Hong Kong via public transportation.

Subways Makes Traveling Very Easy

Without a Peep

The subway stations are uniformly clean and when one travels during weekday rush hour perhaps going to Admiralty Station Subway stop on Hong Kong Island, thousands of people, mostly local Hong Kong people, hop on the subway and without a peep.  So despite a lot of people, it was quiet–not a sound from the crowd.

Transfers at Opposite Side of Platform

Transfer to another line, such as at some subway stations at major transfer stops, is amazingly simple.  Just walk across the 500 feet on the opposite side of the platform to transfer.

At each subway stop, one can easily read a map which shows the area right around the stop--in this case--schools, public services, shopping, residential areas, and public transport. The map also tells what subway exit to exit off of in order to get to one’s destination.

At each subway stop, one can easily read a map which shows the area right around the stop–in this case–schools, public services, shopping, residential areas, and public transport. The map also tells what subway exit to exit off of in order to get to one’s destination.

Down a Short Flight of Steps

Also, there is very little need to walk down long flights of stairs especially at the main subway stations such as Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, and Mong Kok on the Kowloon Side and Causeway Bay, Wan Chai and Admiralty on the Hong Kong side.  Instead, just walk down a short flight of stairs, likely meaning the trains are located just meters below ground.

Open Time and Tickets

At 5:50 am, watching the subway station open and the first subway train glide in is a treat.  At 5:49 am, the ticket kiosks are not open and then at 5:50 am, the kiosks are open to give tickets.  The public address system goes on and several pedestrians stream in until, minutes later, hundreds of people are boarding the first subway trains of the day.

The one stop Octopus Card makes traveling very easy. No need to pay each time one takes the subway. Cash needs to be added to the Octopus Card in HK$50 increments.

Likewise, getting a single ride ticket is very easy.  Just press the desired destination on the kiosk screen and the fare is computed for you.  No need to look at tables.  The less reading the better!

Recycling is the norm especially at the subway stations.

Recycling is the norm especially at the subway stations.

The Airport Connection

There are at least three major ways to get to Lantau Island, where the airport is located: subway, bus, ferry, which is the beauty of public transportation: subway to get there fastest, bus to the sight see—as like a tour bus, ferry-to see the sites from the harbor.

Taking the subway to the airport on Lantau Island was a little disjointed as one needed to get a separate subway ticket to get to the airport.  So any type of smooth walking rhythm was interrupted by figuring where to get this subway ticket to and from the airport.  Despite this, public transportation in Hong Kong is smooth sailing.

Hong Kong 2015 (114) 16 seat bus

The smaller bus shuttle consisting of the 16 Person Bus connect areas in Hong Kong to subway stops and busier street intersections.

The 16 Person Bus

The smaller bus shuttle consisting of the 16 Person Bus are amazing. They connect areas in Hong Kong to subway stops and busier street intersections.

Either the bus fills up to 16 people or a person stands at the side of the bus and decides when the buses leaves—regardless of how many people are on the bus.  So in essence, there is no “bus schedule” so to speak.  This insures that even if a few people wait and ride the bus, those few people don’t wait for the bus for an unusually long time.  Interesting because this is not a science, but based on the feel for when the bus “should” leave.

Bus shuttle takes one from the main shops of Causeway Bay to the hilly residential developments nearby.

Bus shuttle takes one from the main shops of Causeway Bay to the hilly residential developments nearby.

Another notable bus shuttle is from the main shops of Causeway Bay to the hilly residential developments nearby. This is where the bus shuttles and the double-decker buses can climb the hills with ease.  And it only takes less than ten minutes to get from the shopping areas to where people live via the bus.

Riding at the front on the second level of double decker buses

Riding at the front on the second level of double-decker buses

The Comfy Double Decker Buses

Riding at the front on the second level of double-decker buses is especially fun.  The most exciting is riding alongside a streetcar especially along Hennessy Road on the Hong Kong side.  Not only does one experience the bus, see the people doing their activities on the streets, and see other forms of transportation go by, but one feels the architectural space created by the abutting modern high-rises.  And in front of and between those sleek high rises, tanned workers load goods in shorts and slippers (in the summer) with hand trucks and hang out in the alleys between these sleek high-rises and high-end shops.

A double-decker streetcar next to an open top double-decker bus on Hong Kong Island.

A double-decker streetcar next to an open top double-decker bus on Hong Kong Island.

Double-decker bus uses less space than a single-decker bus; therefore, more people can pack onto to double-decker buses and live in high rises on hills.

View from double deck bus: workers doing industrial activities out in the open.

View from double-decker bus: workers doing industrial activities out in the open.

Compared to the double-decker buses, the streetcars hark to an earlier era when many streetcars coasted on streets all around the world. They have no air-conditioning and have no cushions.

Offering more comfort than streetcars, the double-decker buses have air conditioning, cushioned seating, adjustable air vents and adjustable volume control in case one wanted to watch television. (The subway ride to and from the airport also had similar amenities with different television programming, likely more educational programming, geared toward tourists.)

On the bus, there two interesting rules worth noting: do not clip finger and toe nails and do not jiggle the seat in front of you.

Bamboo scaffolding is the norm.

Bamboo scaffolding is the norm.

“Do Not Walk” Signals

Crossing crosswalks at the appropriate time is strictly obeyed.  At a major pedestrian crossing near the Peninsula Hotel, only what appeared to be one person, a foreigner, out of 200 people crossing the sidewalk, dared to cross the sidewalk during a “no walk” signal.  Everyone else obeyed the “no walk” sign.

In Jordan, I accidentally jaywalked in a hilly, residential high-rise area after being in an idyllic park for two hours.  The driver of the double-decker bus honked at me madly and he didn’t slow down his bus at all.  After all, it’s his 60+ people on the bus vs. one lone pedestrian (me).  On the streets, vehicles have the right of way on a green light and pedestrians have right of way when the walk sign is on.  No exceptions!

Typically, one can get to the high-rise development usually by subway or bus.

Typically, one can get to the high-rise development usually by subway or bus.

No Drying of Clothes; No lying on Benches; No Dogs Allowed; No Cycling and No Smoking

At a typical residential high-rise developments, a large sign with its Chinese name and its romanized English translation is prominently attached to each high-rise.   One can get to the high-rise usually by subway or bus.  Shops for basic daily needs as well as restaurants are located at the base of the high-rise.  There is space for exercise and usually, there are a few outdoor exercise equipment.  There are a few trees in and around the development, unless the development abuts a large park, which means the development could have views of even more trees. The plumbing chases are usually visible to any person and clothes are can be hung outside the window.

The plumbing chases on high-rise residential buildings are usually visible to any person and clothes are can be hung outside the window.

The plumbing chases on high-rise residential buildings are usually visible to any person and clothes are can be hung outside the window.

Larger developments has full-blown outdoor markets and air-conditioned shopping malls.

Notable rules: no drying of clothes, no lying on benches, no dogs allowed, no cycling and no smoking.

Notable rules: no drying of clothes, no lying on benches, no dogs allowed, no cycling and no smoking.

Notably, a housing development built a few years ago is noteworthy for the services it provides and the things one is forbidden to do. This one development boasted a tai chi court, a senior citizen center, toilets, fitness area, plant nursery and community farm (although I did not really see the plant nursery and community farm in action myself).  Notable rules: no drying of clothes, no lying on benches, no dogs allowed, no cycling and no smoking.

A housing development built a few years ago boasted a tai chi court, a senior citizen center, toilets, fitness area, plant nursery and community farm.

A housing development built a few years ago boasted a tai chi court, a senior citizen center, toilets, fitness area, plant nursery and community farm.

At one park, there was an interesting rule: no bringing on the park premises poultry and fowl.

How to Get Back to the City Center Fast

If one understood the general layout of the tourist districts of Hong Kong, one can’t get too lost in Hong Kong via public transportation.  For example, the epicenter of Hong Kong on the Kowloon side is Tsim Sha Tsui. The epicenter of Hong Kong on the Hong Kong island side is Admiralty.  All other developments radiate from those stops.  Both Hong Kong side and Kowloon side of the main city is surrounded by mountains, which are taller than the tallest high-rises.  These mountains are what locals view as looking like the back of a dragon—and it does look like a back of a dragon.  As one gets away from the city center, there are more residential only developments, more mountains and trees vs. the city center, which has more pedestrians, shops and less trees.

In order to get one’s bearings, one should know the relative locations of Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, and Mong Kok on the Kowloon Side; Causeway Bay, Wan Chai and Admiralty on the Hong Kong side.

So when on the bus, one looks at the stops and if one wants to get back to the city center pretty fast, get off at a subway stop and take the train or bus back into town near one of the above mentioned locations.

Harbor front view from Kowloon looking out onto Hong Kong Island.

Harbor front view from Kowloon looking out onto Hong Kong Island.

Well Designed Buildings

The harbor front view from Kowloon looking out onto Hong Kong Island consisting of a backdrop of modern high-rises, is particular stunning.  Billboards sit atop of about a dozen buildings, with accompanying night-time light shows.  So stunning are these high-rises that the images of a couple of notable buildings are printed the Hong Kong currency.

Lee Gardens, one of the most upscale shopping complexes in Hong Kong has its own live human attendant.

Lee Gardens, one of the most upscale shopping complexes in Hong Kong has its own live human attendant.

Lee Gardens, one of the most upscale shopping complexes in Hong Kong, is especially notable, architecturally speaking.  Not only are there high-end designer shops with well-designed storefronts and interiors, and top-notch goods for purchase, the entire complex of the shopping mall is well designed, architecturally, including the front reception desk as well the as the restrooms with its own live human attendant.

There is an entire floor solely dedicated to high-end children stores such as Ralph Lauren for Children and hair styling shops where a child can ride on a horse or motorcycle and play a simulated game while his hair is being cut.  And yes, the local Hong Kong people were shopping there.

So this is how one city demonstrates the seamless integration of public transportation, urban planning and architecture for its inhabitants.  Beautiful and world-class!

Emy Louie is the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future,” published in 2012. Since 2009, Emy has served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. Emy has a degree in Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her own radio show. She has taught continuing education classes on sustainable design and urban development to architects and engineers.

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Hong Kong: What Has Changed Since the Mainland Chinese Took Over*

by Emy Louie

What Has Stayed the Same

  • The savior faire of the Hong Kong people.
  • The basic cuisine: the foodie culture.
  • The major tourist spots.  The main urban and architectural fabric. The main transportation network including The Star Ferry.  The level of service at hotels.  The fast pace lifestyle in the main city.
  • The Confucian ideals, plus respect for the elderly, combined with partial or full Western lifestyles.
  • The questioning of government–whether it’s it the British rulers or the Chinese rulers.  Having an identity separate from mainland China.
  • The lack of English translations (especially on restaurant menus) as one gets away from the main tourist spots.
  • International trade and business dealings.

What Has Changed

  • Increased Pride in Speaking Cantonese. Because Mandarin speakers outnumber Cantonese speakers, there is an unconscious wish to keep alive and strong the Cantonese language, with its street language culture, and accompanying pride in interacting with others who also speak Cantonese.
  • More Mainland Chinese. Hong Kong becomes a destination for the mainland Chinese, coming in droves, to play and shop for such items like baby formula, as baby formula in mainland China is known to be tainted. Most mainland Chinese tourists are loaded with new money and are often loved and hated by the local Hong Kong people, because the newly wealthy tourists buy expensive things and generally lack the outward poise and charm of a local Hong Kong person. More mainland Chinese mandarin speakers are found in the main tourist areas; likewise, the shopkeepers there are bilingual in Cantonese and Mandarin.
  • Less Caucasians. A few reservedly behaved Australians were spotted. Didn’t spot any British or Americans. Take for example, the famed Peninsula Hotel with gilded ceilings and ornate columns. Back in 1997, one saw a mix of Caucasian and Asian people lounging in the hotel lobby. Fast forward to 2015, one saw in the main lobby, mostly mainland Chinese having afternoon tea with seven other people per table, nibbling bite size sandwiches, which are taken from three tiered china plates, all the while chattering away.
  • A few public park signs with not the best English translations, similar to what one would see on a website directly from China.  In others words, from reading the signs, the wording hasn’t been adequately reviewed by an English speaker in which English is his/her first language.
  • Increased numbers of Hong Kong people wanting to make money in mainland China. More interactions with Chinese mainland people and frequent travels to mainland China.
  • Almost zero leisure boats and yachts seen in the Hong Kong harbor.  Not even a real Chinese junk was seen. Every vessel resembled a cargo ship or freighter, carrier or tanker.
  • Slightly more multi-level marketing companies and Christian establishments?  Not sure about this one as I didn’t notice these things back in 1997.

* Emy Louie visited Hong Kong in May, 1997, right before the handover, and in July, 2015.

Emy Louie was born in Hong Kong, was raised in Hawai’i and is fluent in Cantonese.  Her parents were born in Guangzhou, China. They relocated to Hong Kong during the 1950’s, and then to Hawai’i in the early 1970’s.  Emy has made a few visits to Hong Kong since she left.

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