Reflections

That Western Lens That Filters Our Words (written in USA)

At the Muse and the Marketplace conference, someone said American publishers are looking for stories not filtered through the American lens. I almost laughed out loud. Well said, but it was a false statement.

I’m not the only one upset. After Maurice Ruffin’s session on writing taboos, I had an unprecedented conference experience: Throughout the day, attendees came up to me to thank me for my question. This was my question: “I’m in trouble. An agent told me that since I’m not...

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You Know What's Sad? (written in Brazil)

In 2013 I was in India. In 2016, Kenya. And in 2019, Brazil. Three very different countries on three continents---why do I list them? Because of one similarity: the ENORMOUS gap between the countries' rich and poor. India, Kenya, and Brazil may be top examples, but this is a common phenomenon in fast-developing countries. In a way, it's sadder than the whole country being poor. Let me tell you why.

On day one I travelled from the airport to my hostel in São Paulo via bus 257 & metro. Within the 10min walk from the station, I saw a huge spread of rubbish blocking the pavement, a man... Read more about You Know What's Sad? (written in Brazil)

So You're Not Racist, What Next? (written in USA)

Living in Boston for the past four years has been overwhelming, not because of my PhD, my three stolen bikes, not because it's the longest I've lived anywhere since the age of eighteen. It's overwhelming for it's a frontier of knowledge and ideas.

In this day and age, as a female “person of colour” living in a first-world country, I have many opportunities to indulge in the love of Western progressives. Nonetheless, I invite you to look at the big picture, to stop pampering some of us more than we deserve. You’re not racist, good. The next step is to distinguish—really, really...

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Nothing To See? (written in Guatemala)

Why do visitors care about only ancient civilizations---not present ones?

Take Guatemala. Everyone's here to see the Mayan ruin at Tikal; everyone's gathered at the old capital of Antigua. You find almost no foreigner in the country's current capital, the City of Guatemala--- "Guate" as locals call it, which tells me the story of their current civilization better than anywhere else. And it's fascinating, if you look closely and experience alongside the people. Take their crowded transmetro, eat their spiced street fruits, talk to them.

Do most visitors think they...

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Leaving With a Heavy Heart... (written in Cambodia)

So far on our trip, Cambodia's attractions have been the most expensive by far, but the country's infrastructure has been the worst. A natural question to ask is WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING? As it turned out, the locals we talked to were wondering about the same thing.

From being asked for $3 pp "processing fee" at the Thailand-Cambodia border (which we refused to pay, and our visas were granted anyway) to paying $37 pp for Angkor Wat (mind you, a meal at an average restaurant costs $1.5, the average salary here is $25 PER WEEK), to being quietly asked for a bribe at a boat trip...

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Multicultural? (written in UAE)

South and Southeast Asian workers. White expats (non-Whites aren't generally referred to as expats, but that’d be the subject of another piece of writing). Some Blacks. A small number of Arabs. Standing in the crowded rush hour Dubai metro, I was again struke by the question: Exactly what do you mean by MULTICULTURAL? I’ve experienced many kinds of multiculturalism, and I find referring to all the associated cities with the same adjective misleading.

Let’s start with American cities on the coasts. Quoting Claire Messud, there “you're given an entirely new suit of...

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Do We Understand How Fortunate We Are?! (written in USA)

In academia, it's inevitable to come across comments like PhDs who become bankers are, in one word, bad. And there they are, judged by the fortunate us who make lighthearted comments like: "I don't do academia for money" all day long. Wait a sec. If your family member in a third-world country is diagnosed with cancer, what you can do is precisely to become a banker. And if we call them unethical, well, they have all the right to call us evil, because let's face it, we live in the luxury of doing something we like, often farfetched, while getting paid. And that's selfish as...

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Thoughts on Life, Corsica-Inspired (written in France)

I often get the question: “Given all the places you’ve been to, do you think people are more similar or different?” Cultural elements (encompassing religious, historical, etc) constitute a part of us, leading to differences. But fundamentally, I believe we are more similar. Whether it’s the African boy begging in a touristy town, the young Hindu getting ready for tonight’s ritual of aarti, the Ivy League PhD students, or the emperor of Qin Shi Huang, at the basic level, similarity wins.

So, is there a purpose of life that's more or less common to all of...

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Western Isolations (written in Canada)

The further a society progresses, the more people are isolated from each other. Is it that less harm must be accompanied by less interaction? Do we really not need to rely on each other anymore---emotionally? In rural China, India, Philippines, Thailand, and a few Central and South American countries, it's the ties among human beings that moved me more than anything else.

At the same time, there are more people in developing countries who abuse others' trust and use ties for unfairness and corruption. Looking at these countries is, in a...

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