Chinese Work Ethic Sunny Fong

Men's fashion carnage etcetera in all its naked glory…

Month: August, 2010

Someone on my mind (but not Georgia)

One of my favourites… And so fitting for my mood tonight…


Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp – 3

August 3, 12:05 AM – The Roster

I haven’t heard a Western accent in a long time. Even I’m starting to have an inflection in my speech. I tend to mumble all the time anyway so it has been really good practice for me to speak clearly for those who don’t speak English as a second language. I love that Ashitha makes fun of how we say “internet.” She claims it almost has a Southern US drawl. “Innernet.”

I’m starting to really care about people and I think it’s going to be incredibly emotional. We’ve gotten to know each other so well l in such a short time. It will be sad to see people leave.

Ahmed is a very religious Muslim but has such a rebellious spirit. He challenges my opinions and his leadership comes from a place of contemplation. I liked watching the tennis match between him and the Orthodox Jew. They left disagreeing but they were basically saying the same thing: God is great.

Sarah is my Canadian sister. Though she comes from the same country, we live in very different cultures. We are supposed to be rivals but together, we represent. She is wise, ambitious and generous. I am excited to visit her with other WYSE participants.

Reza’s accent is easy to make fun of but his objective in life is incredible. Creating real ties between religions seems daunting but I have the confidence that if he is involved, the world will be a better place. Though he’s tyrant facilitator of the game Mafia. I feel like crying each time I think about him.

Aisha is so classy. She has a youthful spirit despite being a Financial Analyst. She really knows how to have fun and is a natural leader.

Sarah, who I call “Capetown,” is the one I turn to for laughs. She is an intelligent and articulate. Sarah is an Engineer working on infrastructure and hydro development (I think). I am excited to have her visit Toronto next summer.

Geshii is doing her Masters in International Law in Holland. She has opened my eyes (and soul) to have a closer relationship with God. She is calm but powerful. Quiet but when she speaks, people listen.

To be continued…

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp – 2

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp – 1

All Saints

I found my new favourite store that completely matches my current style mood. Summer has been Italiano chic, classic American preppy stuff and cheap comfort. Winter for me will be about black, white, grey and knits. Attitude, baggy vs. skinny and elongating my silhouette. I’ve always loved the whole rock and roll look but kinda hated when I looked too much like a Queen Street West rat. I want real dirty leathers, interesting shapes and a certain kinda snugness that’s more Rolling Stones than Hot Chip. More gothic than hipster.

All Saints wasn’t always a brand I enjoyed. If I am not mistaken, I found it too European preppy for me. The puffy coats, the indigo jeans and sheeny clubwear. It wasn’t ever on my radar and I always assumed it was an overpriced A&F. But a pitstop into the Berlin store was the beginning of an addiction for me. Walking through the men’s section (which was ALL on sale), I think I picked up 20 things I wanted to try on. I even made a second trip to the store to use the pile of change I was carrying around. $120 USD t-shirts for 20 euros. Can’t beat that. I ended up getting an antique brass anchor pendant that I absolutely love.

Here are a few of my picks (and recent purchases):

I didn’t end up buying this but I did try it on twice. A super thick and well cut Oslo chambray shirt. I found this outside of my comfort zone but enjoyed the pattern anyway. I probably would’ve been the butt of many of my friends’ jokes if I had actually purchased this. Now I regret it as it’s actually a super unique shirt.

All their t-shirts were luxurious and comfortable. Good cuts too for a skinny guy. Anchors were a big theme.

I couldn’t find this shirt but will try to order it once my finances are back in order.

This shirt is called Law & Order. Dun dun.

I really like slouchy Oasis-esque winter coats. These are hard to find in North America.

They had a lot of fantastic distressed leathers for under 100 euros (on sale). The prices online don’t reflect the manager’s markdowns at the actual store. Don’t laugh but I actually bought a faded t-shirt like this. I don’t usually wear the faded trend but hey, when in Berlin…

I originally looked at an Alexander McQueen cardigan that was baggy and deconstructed but settled on this one instead. I like the subtle armbands and the thinness of the knit. It feels like it’s going to fall apart but in a good way if that makes any sense. If it gets some holes in it, it would still work.

I bought this double-breasted cotton cardigan as well. How many cardigans does one guy need!? But it was so cheap and fit so well, I had to have it.

These were pretty sweet boots. Inexpensive at 70% off. I started wearing slouchy rocker boots two winters ago and it doesn’t look like my boot fetish is going away.

More European purchases to come!

Berlin – 4

Levi’s 201

Yes, I still like men’s style. Let’s take a break from the UN…

Could these be the new It jean?

Levi’s is reissuing this jean from 120 years ago. Built to be incredibly durable, these are an affordable raw selvage denim in a newer straight cut. The brick-red 201 is in canvas and retails for about $100 while the blue jean version is only $80. Look for it in NYC’s Levi’s store.

I have a feeling this colour is going to leak into the next collections.

I’ll wait for a skinnier vintage version from Value Village.

July 29, 9:22 PM – Emotionally Exhausted

We left the dining area and it was still sunny out. My eyes were puffy but I forgot my sunglasses in my room. We had a debriefing session at 9:30 so there wasn’t enough time to reflect. Hilary sat with me and asked me a lot of probing questions. I told her what was going through my mind and she said that it was very powerful from her vantage point. I thanked her for letting me purge and lit a smoke. I had exhausted all my emotional energy tonight. I’m going to spend the rest of my night doing things that will make me laugh. And maybe sneak in a midnight snack at some point. Word has it there is leftover tangerine and tomato soup from the night before.

I will need energy to eliminate world poverty.

July 29, 8:17 PM – The Special Dinner

There was a lot of hype for the special dinner we were being thrown. All day, everyone gathered in groups to give their prediction of what treats the staff might be hiding from us. After all, we had worked so hard for the last few days and we deserved a break. There was talk of wine or even meat. I was extremely happy with the vegetarian menu (who is going to complain about feta and spinach tarts with caprese salad?) but a glass of wine was something I was craving in this heat.

We even got a little dressed up. My luggage had finally arrived at the villa during a session and I decided to bring out some colour for the special occasion: red shorts, plaid shirt and leather sandals. We waited anxiously at the arch and when it was 8:15 PM, we were let in one by one. When I entered the dining room, I was handed a piece of paper with a story on it. We were told not to look at it. Mystery theatre perhaps? Reading proverbs before dinner maybe?

I was ushered to my designated area and told to sit down with the others. We stared at each other in confusion. I sat down on the dirty mat and I noticed how dark it was on our side. The rest of the group were divided and sent to other tables dressed with candles and wine glasses. I looked back to the centre of the mat and there were two metal bowls covered with tea towels, 5 plastic cups and a few bowls. Japanese fried rice? A curry dish? Ethiopian?

The dinner bell rang and we were told to read our pieces of paper out loud to our group. Everyone had a different character and all the stories were supported by Oxfam. I still remember my person and his story even though it has been a few weeks since this dinner:

I’m Tran. By day, I’m a field labourer but the jobs are slowly disappearing due to economic reasons. I can try to find a job as a night labourer in a factory but available positions are scarce.  I work all day till sunset but I make a mediocre salary equivalent to 80 American cents a day. I have a young son and a teenage daughter.  My son will finish primary school this year but I cannot afford to send him anymore. Next year, he will be working with me hopefully. My daughter stays at home and takes care of all the chores, cooking and takes care of her brother. Once my son starts working, my daughter will look for a job in a factory. We cannot afford to eat most of the time so we go days without food sometimes.

When I read it, it hit me really hard. This is basically the story of my mother. She dropped out of school at 11 and started working in the fields. Then she moved to Hong Kong to work in a factory in which all her earnings were used to support her mother and 5 siblings.

After I listened to everyone else’s stories, I started to get really sad. We were then told to eat so we lifted up the tea towels to reveal a bowl of burnt rice and a bowl of tap water.  I distributed the bowls and only the more vocal people took the initiative to distribute the food. Staff came over again to warn us to stay in character. We were being tested. Our hunger was being tested.

I tried chatting because like my mom, Tran was probably a sweet person with a sense of humour. In Asian culture, when there’s food, you eat it. Because produce and meat is so scarce in villages, food should not be taken for granted.

The silence in our group was deafening, interrupted every few minutes by someone’s stomach growling. The hunger was not only palpable but absolutely real.

I started to overhear the other conversations happening around the room. The far table was busy sharing cheese plates and chatting about the stock market. The middle table chatted about the long work hours but the great benefits. Someone from the middle class/working class table handed us a bowl of vegetable soup. I felt ashamed and pitied. How dare he treat me like a charity case! How dare he think I would be desperate enough to eat his half-eaten scraps! Samia commented that she felt that this gift of pity was a blessing and that we should store some veggies for our children.

A staff member gave me an information sheet to read out loud to the entire room. I didn’t look at it but dreaded having to show any emotion to my colleagues. My mind wandered as my hunger grew.

I thought about the refugees I used to work with for so many years.  How they lived these horrible lives and left everything they earned and built to come to a strange country. I thought about Kumbi who escaped mass genocide and made it to Toronto. I thought about how she had to leave her grandmother and son behind at a refugee camp. I thought about when she came to me to tell me that she couldn’t reach them. She had a standing phone call each weekend with her little boy but for the last two weeks, he has been unreachable. I thought about how she didn’t seem to be distraught but kept her professional demeanor. I thought about the two jobs I got her and her Monday to Sunday schedule. I thought about how surprisingly young she was.

As the hour approached, Mirna was a crying mess. I was happy to get some water since it was so hot in the room. Kim came up to me and passed me an information sheet to read to the room. I was afraid to look at it. After the wealthy and middle/working class got up to read their sheets, I knew that mine was going to be difficult to get through. In the middle of reading about the world’s poor and Oxfam’s depressing statistics, I started to think about my mother and my former clients again. And I choked up. I looked at my roommate who gave our group the soup and I just started to cry. I suddenly remembered why I was here at this program: to challenge myself and others around me. I came here as a first step to changing the world, whatever that even means. But I had an assignment and I was here in Lucca to complete each and every one of my assigned tasks. I quickly recovered and my voice got louder.

I looked at the wealthy table and made eye contact. A few tears came down and fell on the photocopy. Normally, I’d try to hide my face if I was welling up but this time, I looked people in the eye. It was a liberating experience as I’ve never cried like that in front of people I had just met.

I read the information about world poverty with conviction. I wanted to give these people who we have been playing a voice. Seeing names and small blurbs on these individuals was humbling and disappointing at the same time. I immediately wanted to find Paulo to help his children pay for primary school. I wanted to fly to Bangladesh and help Noorani pay for her brace. I wanted my character Tran to know that money was coming for him so that his son can finish high school and his daughter can enrol in reading classes. But all I could do at that point was to finish my reading and sit back down to finish the rest of my burnt rice and water.

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