Adventures in Cultural Competence

Originally a blog for my 'bewildering' experiences as an international, it has since evolved into... something else. Though not entirely. The point is, when I say 'stupid foreigner', I do sometimes mean myself.

For the curious: home was Philippines for most of my life; then sixth form at a British school in Italy; then college in the grand ole US of A (East Coast). Currently I go back and forth between Rhode Island and Manila.

'Cultural Competence' is a reference to a mandate that my school issued to many of its organisations, which probably tells you something about my school.

     “I just did eight and a half years in federal prison.”     “What was the worst thing about it?”     “The racial tension.”     “What else was really bad?”     “The guards. They hate prisoners. If you hate children, would you work at a kindergarten? If you hate animals, would you work at a zoo? Why work in prison if you hate prisoners?”     “What do they do?”     “They mess with your mind, try to break you down: cold room, one blanket.”     “You think they do it on purpose?”     “Why else would they do it? They know you’ll be cold. They know it will mess with your head. That’s just one small example—there’re many other things. If you don’t find a way to keep yourself sane, you’re going to re-enter society as a nutjob, a weirdo, messed up—all of the above. It’s called a correctional institution, but their goal is to mess you up: the guards, the system, they want you back.”     “What do you do to stay normal?”     “You think about your family—but some guys don’t have families.”
Scranton, PA


     “I just did eight and a half years in federal prison.”
     “What was the worst thing about it?”
     “The racial tension.”
     “What else was really bad?”
     “The guards. They hate prisoners. If you hate children, would you work at a kindergarten? If you hate animals, would you work at a zoo? Why work in prison if you hate prisoners?”
     “What do they do?”
     “They mess with your mind, try to break you down: cold room, one blanket.”
     “You think they do it on purpose?”
     “Why else would they do it? They know you’ll be cold. They know it will mess with your head. That’s just one small example—there’re many other things. If you don’t find a way to keep yourself sane, you’re going to re-enter society as a nutjob, a weirdo, messed up—all of the above. It’s called a correctional institution, but their goal is to mess you up: the guards, the system, they want you back.”
     “What do you do to stay normal?”
     “You think about your family—but some guys don’t have families.”

Scranton, PA

(via sugahwaatah)


the thing about chemical weapons and war contaminants—including tear gas—is that their use is always deliberate. they have their immediate effects—killing and injuring people—but the long term effects are even more insidious. chemical weapons (and I use this term deliberately) can cause long term disability and illness in people immediately exposed to them—think cancer, chemical injury, nerve damage, pulmonary and respiratory illnesses, etc.

but even more distressing than that, is research that demonstrates the long term impact of these chemical agents on environments and communities. this shit stays in the air, the soil, the water. exposure causes not only injury and illness to people immediately in the line of fire, it can cause birth anomalies long after the conflict has ceased. add in the fact that these kinds of weapons are deployed against marginalized populations whose access to healthcare is restricted, and you have effectively suppressed and marginalized not only the current generation, but future ones as well.

There is not a lot of research on this, because these weapons are deployed against people the state wants dead anyway— in our current context, Black people in the US and Palestinians in Gaza. let me be real clear about this: chemical weapons are being deployed against Black people by police; this is directed chemical warfare motivated by racism. 

So with tear gas, you get this funny thing where police are praised for using “less lethal” measures, when in fact the long term consequences are pretty damn lethal, but all of that gets covered up by time and distance and “lack of research”. 

There is a pattern here of dumping toxic shit on people, either through outright violence or through industrial environmental degradation (or both!), and then shrugging when a host of ongoing health problems emerge. In particular, use of chemical weapons constitutes an ongoing act of violence designed to disable and surpress populations. Tear gas is different in degree, not in kind.

Some links on this below the cut:

Read More

(via susurrations)




There are many ways to kindly and respectfully compliment the way a woman looks. But one descriptor that should be left out of such comments? “Exotic.”

Cristen Conger of the How Stuff Works podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You, takes on the topic of “exotic” beauty.

Watch the full video with Conger explaining how Lupita Nyong’o was “extocized” during the 2014 Oscar season here. 

My personal favourite is when they spend time and you can actually see them looking you over and you can see the brain ticking over as they try to fit you into a box. Sorry but I find it funny. Few are brave enough to come right out and say “what are you?”

The one idiot (a woman) tried it. I answered my ethnicity, but I know that is not what she was asking lolol. I enjoyed torturing her. It is actually fun.

I think too many, too often, take the stupid factor too seriously. Flip it off and move on.

(via fuckyeahmixedbeauty)

천 달러 미만을 아동 친 가족에게 제공해 주면 아동이 친가족과 함께 살 수 있는 상황에서 아동을 해외입양하기 위해 수천이나 수만 달러를 소비하는 것은 윤리적으로 맞는지 우리는 질문해 봐야 한다. We must ask ourselves if it is ethical to spend thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands of dollars) to arrange an intercountry adoption, when aid of less than a thousand dollars would have kept the child with their birth family.

—김성수 (via susurrations)

(Source: peaceshannon, via susurrations)




I’ve been devouring backpacking blogs. Turns out they’re all kind of messed up in a really homogenous way! Enjoy this Backpacker Blog BINGO Card, courtesy of me and my pal Maria.

Lol…thankfully I’m only guilty of having stretched ears, and the occasional toilet post >_>

oooops we had a couple of dutch guys who spent 4 days in our hostel talking about how much they hated Korea and were constantly trying to hook up with korean girls. they were the worst. also every ESL teacher/backpacker looking for Korean women THE MOMENT THEY GOT IN. 




I’ve been devouring backpacking blogs. Turns out they’re all kind of messed up in a really homogenous way! Enjoy this Backpacker Blog BINGO Card, courtesy of me and my pal Maria.

Lol…thankfully I’m only guilty of having stretched ears, and the occasional toilet post >_>

oooops we had a couple of dutch guys who spent 4 days in our hostel talking about how much they hated Korea and were constantly trying to hook up with korean girls. they were the worst. also every ESL teacher/backpacker looking for Korean women THE MOMENT THEY GOT IN. 

(via sugahwaatah)

10 Evil Crimes Of The British Empire


10. The Boer Concentration Camps

Pitched under the white hot African sun and crawling with flies, the camps were overcrowded, underequipped, and lethally prone to disease outbreaks. Food supplies were virtually non-existent, and the callous guards would dock people’s meager rations for the slightest perceived offense. The result: sickness and death spread like wildfire, killing women by the thousands and children by the tens of thousands. In a single year, 10 percent of the entire Boer population died in the British camps—a figure that gets even worse when you realize it includes 22,000 children.

But the atrocity didn’t stop there. While rounding up the Boers, the British also decided to detain any black Africans they encountered, 20,000 of whom were worked to death in slave labor camps. All told, British policy in the war killed 48,000 civilians.

9. Aden’s Torture Centers

The Aden Emergency was a 1960s scramble to control the once-vital port of Aden in modern Yemen. Although the port had long been under British rule, a nationalist wave sweeping Yemen led to strikes, riots, and a general desire that the Brits leave as soon as possible. A desire the British decided to quell by opening torture centers.

Detainees were stripped naked and kept in refrigerated cells, encouraging frostbite and pneumonia. Guards would stub their cigarettes out on prisoner’s skin and beatings were common. But perhaps worst of all was the sexual humiliation. Locals who had been detained could expect to have their genitals crushed by guards’ hands, or to be forced to sit naked on a metal pole; their weight forcing it into their anus.

8. The Chinese “Resettlement”

In 1950, the Empire had a problem. Armed Communist insurgents were trying to take over Malay and most of the population seemed willing to let them do so. Reasoning that their forces stood no chance against a hidden army that could call upon the peasants for supplies, the British hit upon an ingenious solution. Rather than fight, they’d simply imprison all the peasants.

Known as “New Villages,” the camps constructed to house Malay’s poor were heavily fortified and watched over by trigger-happy guards. Inmates were forced to do hard labor in return for scraps of food, and contact with the outside world—including family—was forbidden. Once in a village, you lost all right to freedom and privacy. At night, harsh floodlights flushed out the shadows to stop clandestine meetings. Expressing any political sentiment could get your rations docked.

7. The Amritsar Massacre

On April 13, 1919, thousands of peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British rule in Amritsar, India. What happened next was one of the lowest points in British history.

At 4.30pm, troops blocked the exits to the Garden and opened fire on the crowd. They kept firing until they ran out of ammunition. In the space of ten minutes, they killed between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injured another 1,100. A stampede caused a lethal crush by the blocked exits. Over 100 women and children who looked for safety in a well drowned. Rifle fire tore the rest to shreds.

The British public labeled Brigadier Reginald Dyer, the man responsible, a hero and raised £26,000 (around $900,000 in today’s money) for “the man who saved India.”

6. The Cyprus Internment

The big myth of the British Empire is that it nobly withdrew from its colonies when it realized the days of Imperialism were over. Yet one look at Cyprus proves the myth to be just a feel-good fairy tale. Between 1955 and 1959, the British responded to a Cyrpus rebel bombing campaign by rounding up and torturing 3,000 ordinary Cypriots.

The victims of this internment campaign were often held for years without trial and violently abused for being “suspected” terrorists. Detainees received regular beatings, waterboarding, and summary executions. Children as young as 15 had burning hot peppers rubbed in their eyeballs, while others reported being flogged with whips embedded with shards of iron. Those found guilty of rebel sympathies were relocated to London, where a UK opposition party inspection found inmates with their arms broken and jagged scars running across their necks. 

5. Crushing the Iraqi Revolution

In 1920, the newly-formed nation of Iraq was tiring of British rule. Charged with guiding the new state towards independence, the Empire had instead installed puppet leaders. turning the place into a de facto colony. Fed up with their imperial overlords, the Iraqis turned to revolution, only for the British to unleash wave after wave of atrocities against them.

First the RAF conducted nighttime bombing raids on civilian targets. Then they deployed chemical weapons against the fighters, gassing whole groups of them. But the real horrors came in the aftermath, when the victorious British decided to use collective punishment against the offending tribes.

From that point on, any tribe that caused a fuss would have one of its villages randomly annihilated. Specific orders were given to exterminate every living thing within its walls, from animals to rebels to children. Other villages were subject to random searches. If the British found a single weapon, they would burn the place to the ground, destroy the crops, poison wells, and kill livestock. They’d sometimes target weddings to terrorize the population. In short, the British deliberately targeted civilians in a campaign that lasted the better part of half a decade, all because a few Iraqis had dared to ask for their country back.

4. The Partitioning of India

Cyril Radcliffe has the distinction of killing more people with the stroke of a pen than anyone else in history. With almost zero time to prepare himself, Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the border between India and newly-created Pakistan that would split the subcontinent forever along religious lines. It was a tricky task, one that had the potential to cause massive displacement and ethnic violence even if handled carefully. Radcliffe, on the other hand, was asked to make some of the most-important decisions during the course of a single lunch.

The result was a border that made no ethnic or geographical sense. Terrified of being caught on the wrong side, Hindus in modern Pakistan and Muslims in modern India upped sticks and ran. The result was 30 million people trying desperately to escape one country or the other, a situation that quickly spiraled into mind-numbing violence.

Gangs of armed Muslims held up border trains and slaughtered any non-Muslims onboard. Hindu mobs chased and battered Muslim children to death in broad daylight. Houses were ransacked, villages burnt, and half a million people killed. It was a ridiculous waste of life, one that could have been largely avoided simply by giving the unfortunate Cyril Radcliffe enough time to do his job properly.

[or you know, letting the Indians figure shit out instead of a white guy who had never before even been to the subcontinent]

3. The Irish Famine

What started out as an ordinary if brutal famine soon became something more like genocide when London sent the psychopathic Charles Trevelyan to oversee relief work.

A proud Christian who believed the famine was God’s way of punishing the “lazy” Irish, Trevelyan was also a fierce devotee of Adam Smith. How fierce? Well, he passionately felt that government should never, ever interfere with market forces, to the extent that he refused to hand out food to the starving Irish. Instead, he instituted a public works program that forced dying people into hard labor building pointless roads so they could afford to buy grain. The only problem was he refused to control the price of grain, with the result that it skyrocketed beyond what the road builders could afford. Trevelyan thought this would encourage cheap imports. Instead it led to a million people starving to death.

Trevelyan was later officially honored for his “relief work.”

2. The Kenyan Camps

In the 1950s, the people of Kenya decided they wanted their nation back. Fearing a countrywide rebellion, the British rounded up 1.5 million people and placed them in concentration camps. 

Under slogans like “labor and freedom” and other variations on ” Arbeit macht frei,” inmates were worked to death as slave labor filling in mass graves. Random executions were not-uncommon and the use of torture was widespread. Men were anally raped with knives. Women had their breasts mutilated and cut off. Eyes were gouged out and ears cut off and skin lacerated with coiled barbed wire. People were castrated with pliers then sodomized by guards. Interrogation involved stuffing a detainee’s mouth with mud and stamping on his throat until he passed out or died. Survivors were sometimes burned alive.

The official body count is under 2,000, but more reliable estimates place the total dead in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Most of them were civilians or children, detained on vague, trumped-up charges of aiding the rebels. 

1. The Bengal Famine

In 1943, a deadly famine swept the Bengal region of modern East India and Bangladesh. Between one and three million people died in a tragedy that was completely preventable. At the time, the extent of suffering was put down to an incompetent British government too busy dealing with a war to look after its empire properly. But in 2010 a new book came out claiming the lack of famine relief was deliberate and that the deaths of those millions had been intentionally engineered by one man: Winston Churchill.

According to the book, Churchill refused to divert supplies away from already well-supplied British troops, saying the war effort wouldn’t allow it. This in itself wouldn’t be too damning, but at the same time he allegedly blocked American and Canadian ships from delivering aid to India either. Nor would he allow the Indians to help themselves: the colonial government forbade the country from using its own ships or currency reserves to help the starving masses. Meanwhile, London pushed up the price of grain with hugely inflated purchases, making it unaffordable for the dying and destitute. Most-chillingly of all, when the government of Delhi telegrammed to tell him people were dying, Churchill allegedly only replied to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

(via sugahwaatah)

American Military Crimes in South Korea and the Military Towns      


This article is a bit out of date but it will explain why Eleanor and Park is so problematic.

"In South Korea there are currently 37,000 U.S. military personnel that conduct most of their business within the military installations or the military towns. The South Koreans who most frequently interact with the American military are the prostitutes in these areas. Consequently, these women bare the brunt of American military human rights abuses. Ignoring the existence the injustices these women face on an everyday basis will inevitably result in the continuation of these violations."

"Hence, the social deterioration caused by the U.S. forces in the military towns, such as; GIs who refuse to use contraception and thereby promote the spread of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), GIs who promise to marry these women and leave without notice, and GIs who physically and sexually abuse these women, must be recognized and thoroughly analyzed. In addition, future analysis of the military towns must account for the U.S. militaries manipulation of the power imbalance, which in turn stimulates social ills such as extreme poverty, rampant spread of sexual diseases, and difficulties faced by Amerasian children."

"After the Korean War, in the late 1950s and early 1970s, in order to accommodate the U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea, the U.S. initiated a joint effort with the Korean government to modernize the Rest and Relaxation (R and R) facilities around the military bases. As Cynthia Enloe declared, "Military officials imagine male soldiers as men whose morale is sustained in part by social and sexual access to women wherever they are stationed." Due to the social chaos resulting from the war, families were separated, children were orphaned and women were widowed. Subsequently, poverty became rampant and leagues of prostitutes were created due to the large number of women left without homes or livelihoods. The U.S military’s conception of R & R was the utilization of these women, who lost their families or were in financial straits due to the tremendous destruction caused by the war, as prostitutes in order to keep the GIs morale intact.

The American military used the imbalance of power between the U.S. and South Korea in order to justify the practice of prostitution within the military towns. The American soldiers conception of R and R entailed club hopping, getting drunk and picking up Korean prostitutes. These drunken GIs often became unruly and committed crimes, directed towards the women in the military towns. The U.S. justified the GIs conduct through international treaties, such as the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Security of Forces Agreement and an overtly patriarchal stance, which views military town prostitution and other vices as a necessary evil.

After the Korean War, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Korean government and society responded to the GIs activities in the military town with cool disregard, ignoring the unhealthy conditions in the military towns. From the Korean government’s perspective the center of the cold war was in East Asia and the U.S. commitments toward a non-Communist Asia, allowed Korea to maintain political leverage. Thereby, the international environment sanctioned Korea to ignore the U.S. pleas for control of the health conditions in the military towns. As Catherine Moon points out, The Korean government considered camptown(military town) prostitution primarily a U.S. problem and a matter between GIs and prostitutes. However in the 1970s, through manipulation of the power imbalance between the U.S. and Korea, the U.S. established a political foothold and forced Korea to make socio-political reforms in the military towns.“

"In the domestic arena this power imbalance is played out also in the unequal relations between the Korean prostitutes and the low and high level military officials. Frequently, the only Koreans that American soldiers associated with were prostitutes. These prostitutes were to serve as personal ambassadors to the GIs while working at the clubs. In order to give the American military a positive impression of the military towns, the Korean government, in cooperation with the American military, established the BCCUC. (Comprehensive Plans for the Purification of Foreign Military Base Areas). The BCCUC sponsored programs for the prostitutes, such as, Etiquette and Good Conduct, in order to improve relationships between the military town sex workers and the GIs.

Faced with the prospect of a further reduction of troops, the Korean government bent over backwards in order to accommodate the high-level American officials. High-level officials were thrown kisaeng parties, where the main attraction was the prostitutes. On the American side, officials intentionally took advantage of Korean “hospitality.” As Katherine Moon, a professor of political science at the University of Connecticut wrote in her book, Sex Among Allies:”There was a deliberate effort on the part of the Korean government to brown-nose the U.S. military {in Korea} so that they would speak up against troops withdrawals and speak pro-Korea in general. There were kisaeng parties virtually every night that U.S. generals would be taken to It was taejop [general hospitality]. The American military loved it.”“

"Through the BCCUC, the Korean government in cooperation with USFK, "cleaned up" many of these military towns, not on behalf of the prostitutes, but rather for the comfort of American soldiers. Through the BCCUC, the Korean government provided funds for the refurbishing of the military towns, especially bars and STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) clinics. However, conditions for the prostitutes were nevertheless, unbearable.

By law, a prostitute working in the military towns was forced to take and pass a weekly medical examination for STDs. The facilities that provide the STD examinations were created by the BCCUC in collaboration with the U.S. government. These facilities provided only STD examinations and in case the women encountered other medical problems, they were left to fend for themselves. ”

" To mention a few diseases, these women often suffered from alcoholism, drug addiction, and severe depression. Although many of these diseases were introduced as a direct result of interaction with the GIs, the U.S. military offered no medical assistance. Obviously these government-sponsored establishments were not created out of concern for the Korean women in the military towns but rather to ensure that the GIs "R&R" was ‘healthy.’

In addition, more often than not, the spread of STDs was due to the negligence of the GIs rather than the military town prostitutes. Many GIs would insist on having sex with women outside the bars; that is, younger women, call girls or streetwalkers.24) Moreover, military officials authorized the direct busing of prostitutes onto the American military bases. Army officials used military buses and transported approximately 200 women per trip. These prostitutes were free-lancers and were not subject to the STD tests. Upon the institution of the military clean-up programs, the U.S. military arrogantly charged that the STD epidemic in Korea during the 1970s and 1980s was a result of the women’s uncleanliness and not the fault of the GIs. However, even after army officials instituted the STD clinics, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases continued to run rampant and it became obvious that the GIs were the real culprits. The paradox of this policy was that the U.S. provided no programs for the testing or prevention of STD among American military personnel. Without methods of preventing STDs among GIs, Korean prostitutes were subject to the dangers of these deadly diseases because of the arrogance and superiority complexes of USFK top officials, who were unwilling to take serious steps towards rectification of the STD epidemic.

Furthermore, the GIs often left the military town prostitutes with Amerasian children, most often promising to marry the women and then skipping town. These women were left with the huge burden of having to support themselves and their children. In the 1950s, these illegitimate two- and three-year-old Amerasians started to appear in Korean society and after the Korean War, 1,500 “war babies,” children orphaned because of the war were left to fend for themselves.”

TL;DR: Park’s mother was probably a camptown prostitute with an unfair power balance with Park’s father and was probably subject to numerous abuse. This is not a relationship that should be glorified. It is a direct example of American imperialism and exploitation of women in East Asia.

(via susurrations)

[TW: rape]
We do know something about most men who rape. For example, numerous studies have found that while they tend to be more emotionally constricted than nonaggressive men, and are often angry and hostile to women, most of them are psychologically “normal.” The psychologist David Lisak points out that the old stereotype of the rapist was derived in part from extensive studies with incarcerated rapists, many of whom committed acts of grievous violence against their victims, who were often strangers. But according to Lisak, research over the past twenty years clearly demonstrates that the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by what he calls “undetected rapists,” and they usually know their victims. Undetected rapists are men who typically behave in stereotypically masculine ways, see sex as conquest, and are hypersensitive to any perceived slight against their manhood. But they are not crazy, and they are not sociopaths. “There is simply no evidence, save the rape itself,” Katharine Baker writes in the Harvard Law Review, “suggesting that all or even most rapists are objectively depraved.” Chillingly, she goes on to say that given the social norms that encourage it, there is evidence that rape is “culturally dictated, not culturally deviant.”

—Jackson Katz, Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help (via wretchedoftheearth)

(via susurrations)

I repeat: these stereotypes are dangerous. Reducing Asian women into a sexual object is not funny, it is not flattering. It is perilous. We can see this when Asian women are subject to race-targeted sexual violence. The racist nature of the crimes go unrecognized and unpunished, as if there is nothing wrong with choosing a rape victim because she is Asian.

In Spokane, Washington, two white men and a woman specifically hunted random Japanese women in an elaborately planned scheme to kidnap, rape, sodomize, torture and videotape them. Their motivation? According to police reports, the rapists had a sexual “fantasy” and “fixation” about young Japanese women, who they believed were “submissive.” (The very same beliefs so blatantly bandied about by Gawker and some of its readers.)

During a one month period in Autumn 2000, the predators abducted five Japanese exchange students, ranging from age 18 to 20. Motivated by their sexual biases about Asian women, all three used both their bodies and objects to repeatedly rape — vaginally, anally and orally — two of the young women over a seven hour ordeal.

In Spokane, one of the attackers immediately confessed to searching only for Japanese women to torture and rape — and eventually all pled guilty and were convicted. It clearly was a racially-motivated criminal case. The victims also believed they were attacked because of their race, the prosecutor told me.

What is astonishing, however, is that the district attorney failed to bring an additional charge that would have tagged the crimes as motivated by racial bias. The police also neglected to report the crime as a “hate crime,” as demanded by the Justice Department to keep accurate statistics of all bias-driven crimes. Although the attackers all received long sentences, an important opportunity to raise the nation’s consciousness was lost. We, as a society, were told that it’s not a hate crime to rape an Asian woman because of her race.