A Thousand Words

The age old saying of “a picture is worth a thousand words” has a lot of truth behind it. So I wondered, how many words could I convey if I combined picture AND words? Taking great inspiration from photographers such as Jim Goldberg, I embarked on my little project.

In each picture I wanted to convey the suffering of either an individual or of a group of people. For example, in the ‘Kurdistan’ photo, it is a reflection of the pain undergone by the Kurdish people. Though there is only one Kurdish boy portrayed in the piece, the text in Kurdish is a poem about the atrocities of the Halabja chemical bombing in 1988. Its a symbol of the ongoing discrimination against the Kurdish people int he Middle East, of which the incident in Halabja was a prime example.

Other photos in the essay, such as the ‘Bhai Saab’ photo, portray the internal suffering of a single man, growing up between worlds, and fitting into neither. The text in this photo was chosen by the subject, and is taken from the lyrics of an Outlandish song, one which he felt resonated for him. It is about growing up in the UK and being of Asian background, amidst a tense political climate.

The photo named ‘Afa’ is symbolic of the suffering of women in South Asian societies. The text is a piece from daughter to Mother denoting her understanding of her sacrifices and her immense gratitude for them. On a technical note, I decided to do portraits because I want the viewers to focus on their expressions and the emotions denoted by them. Please leave comments at the bottom of my blog and let me know what you think of my work.

Hong Kong’s Secret: Tai Long Wan

It’s often said that Hong Kong is lacking in natural beauty, and is often characterized by its dull, polluted skies and towering skyscrapers. However, anyone who says that, has just been too lazy to get up and explore. Sai Kung boasts two country parks, of which on the east-most coast is Tai Long Wan (TLW).

A set of three white-sand beaches; Tai Wan, Ham Tin and Sai Wan. Tai Wan is the hardest to reach, and therefore is the most unspoilt of them all. Sai Wan is the most frequently visited beach of the area. The one we visited was Ham Tin, a 2-hour trek from Pak Tam Au along the Maclehose Trail No.2. There are endless blogs and posts on HKexpat, describing different ways to reach TLW. Here I’ll tell you the way we went.
Our journey began from Hung Hom. Firstly we caught a red public light bus (minibus) to Mong Kok from Ma Tau Wai Rd. Then from Dundas Street in Mong Kok, we caught a red minibus to Sai Kung. Then at Sai Kung after stocking up on water, we took the KMB double-decker No.94 towards Wong Shek Pier. We got off at the 19th stop, Pak Tam Au. If you sit on the top deck, you can follow the stop announcements on a board at the front. When you get off, if you walk about 10m in the direction the bus was going, you should see some toilets and the beginning of Maclehose Trail 2 (clearly signposted).

The trail is clearly marked all the way to Ham Tin beach. Keep an eye out for unusual wildlife on the way, such as lizards, crabs and snakes. There is a stop on the way to get emergency drinks, which are priced at double the normal price. Also, when you reach Ham Tin beach, there will be a simple cafe, with a friendly owner and a bunch of assorted dogs greeting you. Once you cross the rickety bridge made of splitting planks of wood, you’ll finally reach the solace of Ham Tin beach. Enjoy the waves but do be aware of a hidden undercurrent.

Hmong Girls, Sa Pa, Vietnam

In the Summer of 2009, my travels took me to the hills of Sa Pa in North Vietnam. Unlike the rest of Vietnam’s smoldering Summer heat and pollution, Sa Pa is a refreshing escape, with a cool, fresh breeze and an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. Characterized by green rice paddies high up on the mountain-side, a midst the spray of the clouds, its like a heaven on earth.

Sa Pa is predominantly inhabited by the Hmong people, making up around 52 per cent of it population. Outside of Vietnam, the Hmong also have significant populations in China and Laos. Although Hmong society is traditionally rather patriarchal, there seems to have been a shift in female attitude in the mountains of Sa Pa. A possible cause of this change in mindset may be down to the daily interaction of the Hmong girls, who mostly work as tour guides, with Westerners. Not only does their English improve, but they also seem to be changing attitudes about the role of women in society. In the Hmong sisters bar, where many of the girls relax after work, and enjoy the company of foreigners, I played pool with some of them. When they played against male competitors, they seemed to enjoy beating them even more, as they jeered at their male opponents, whilst being more respectful to female ones. Even in Western society, we don’t often see women mocking and challenging men in sports, but the Hmong girls seemed intent on crushing whatever ego the men had. This could be their way of expressing their freedom outside of their home, where they may be expected to act in a more submissive way with men of their own tribe.

Whilst walking with a Hmong girl and two male trekking partners, the female guide expressed that I should not let men treat me in any way disrespectfully. She made it quite clear that she regarded women very highly and that they should be treated with respect. She said she wanted to study and go to university too, showing the ambition of Hmong girls to eventually leave Sa Pa. The level of English of the young Hmong girls was astounding, considering that they had only learnt it from tourists. As a fellow woman, I found my stay in Sa Pa very comfortable. Even male tourists there seemed to enjoy the feisty, energetic personalities of the Hmong girls, as a stark contrast to the stereotypical, quiet, shy Southeast Asian girls. I will leave you with these images of the beautiful landscapes and people of Sa Pa.

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>Strangers into Citizens Rally

>Thousands of people, from all nationalities, came together to give a voice to the migrant worker population. Many gathered in Trafalgar square to hear the Asian Dub Foundation play and various political speakers from across Europe and the World give their opinion about how Britain treats migant workers. Overall, there was a concensus that there needs to be change by regularising undocumented migrants who have worked in UK for years but do not enjoy any rights. It also highlighted the plight of Malaysians with British-overseas-citizenship, who are often turned away by their own country (UK) eventhough they were born with only British passports.

For our group, the events began in Chinatown where the speeches drew attention from hundreds of Chinese migrants. After the lion-dog and dragon performance, the crowds of hundreds of Chinese followed the lion-dogs on a march to Trafalgar square chanting about workers rights. The event was an overall success which we hope will catch the eye of the Conservatives and Labour (as Liberal Democrats already support us), in order for the regularisation of migrant workers to be passed in parliament. It was touching to see the Chinese community stand so strong and united, of all ages. Those who could not join us, gazed out of their shop windows to watch the march. One man held a sign which struck me most. It said, ‘black cats can also catch mice, ability has no ethnicity.’ And this captured the essence of the campaign.

The Roma People, Rhodes

In the Summer of 2006, I spent a lot of time alongside the Roma whilst I was working in Rhodes in a Chinese Restaurant. In order to understand them, I spent a lot of time talking to them in Greek, as it was our only common language. Maria, who was the same age as me, became one of my close friends and they seemed to appreciate that I was treating them as equals and they reciprocated in the same way. As most nations have done, Greek society has also rejected the Tsigganoi (gypsies) and they are treated lower than the Albanians who live there. Many of them are children who lost their child-hood for begging on the streets to feed their brothers and sisters and parents. The gypsies come out every day at 6 to sell roses and toys to Tourists who may give them enough money to feed themselves that day and a few pennies to save for those who have rent to pay. Others live in caravans. Maria always told of her dreams to marry an Italian man who she had fallen in love with but she is now married to another Roma, whom her parents chose. Though only 19, her dreams of life have disappeared already as she has already become a Mother herself. Her worries will now be how to feed her daughter. All these children have no dreams, they will just follow in their parents foot-steps until their own children are old enough to beg on the streets for them. Throughout the world, gypsies are disliked, simply for the fact that they don’t have a stable home. But I saw a different side to these people when I lives alongside them. They accepted me because I treated them as friends, as fellow human beings, not as ‘scum’ on the street. They even shared the little food they had with me.