Lisamaree / Writing

Revisiting Project O

Last year in August/September blogger Opinionated Man did a project to look at a range of opinions from around the world through his blog readership. I participated in this project which was aptly titled Project O. Unfortunately all those posts are now gone from his blog. It was an amazing project to follow and see the diverse range of people who read his blog, their opinions and  how their global location and interaction influenced their answers. I ended up following several of the bloggers who responded because I found their responses so interesting.

I’ve been asked by a reader if I could repost my answers so here they are. The questions were written by Opinionated Man. My answers are in italics.

Question 1: Please provide a window into who you are, some background information in a not too overwhelming profile here. I am allowing you as the writer to immediately connect with your audience so take advantage. Remember the point of ordering these questions is to arrange this project so it is easy for comparison and not to constrain you as the writer. Write as long as you need to for each question to get your point across just remember not to lose the reader.

I’m Lisamaree, a kiwi girl and expat mum in Hong Kong with my husband and two children. Prior to children I was a geographer. Yes – geographers are real and we do more that point to where a country is on a globe. I loved my job, and I love natural geography and geology in all forms. While working I met my husband, and eventually several years later became a mum. It was a conscious choice to “kill” my career and be a stay-home mum for a while. Nowadays I volunteer with charity work, blog and write while I decide what the next chapter of my life will be.

Question 2: If you haven’t already done so please provide your country of origin, whether you are male or female, an age would be nice, and where you currently live if that differs from the country of origin. If you are in America this might be a nice time to explain what state you are from. Also try to give us a brief view of your current neighborhood and what it is like in as specific terms as you like. Why is this important? I believe our surroundings and where we come from have a strong impact on our development of opinions. It would also be highly likely that depending on the safety of the country might also determine how willing one is to express their opinions aloud. Does sex also have something to do with this, as well as age? These are all characteristics that can definitely affect a person’s outlook.

As I mentioned before, I am from New Zealand. But I consider Sydney, Australia as home. It is where I finally felt at peace with myself. It is the one city I can fly into, sigh and before the plane even reaches the gate know I am HOME. It is also where I met my husband. I am at the magical age of 40, at which childhood ends and adult life begins, although I am challenging the whole idea of having to ‘grow up’ as much as I can. I live on Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong – one of the special administrative regions of China. My neighborhood is very local – very Chinese. The languages heard on the streets in my neighborhood are Cantonese and Mandarin. Not many people speak English (my mother tongue), but I don’t mind as it challenges me to learn more Cantonese. The neighborhood is heavily built up (as is most of Hong Kong Island) with a mixture of high-rise apartments and offices but we are surrounded by food. Fresh produce from the local “wet” markets line several roads in our neighborhood. You’ll see stalls with every piece of a pig hanging from hooks as old Chinese ladies argue with the butcher over which piece they want, how they want it chopped up and how much they want to pay. One vendor still has a license for live chickens in a range of colors and sizes – choose your bird, continue your shopping and come back to find it plucked, gutted and ready for cooking a ½ hour later. Nearby, the fishmongers display a vast array of very much alive (and often eager to jump off the stall) fish and seafood as they all compete for business. The fragrant smells of raw meat, fresh seafood and pungent fruits (such as the overpowering durian) invade the senses the deeper into our local markets you roam. As you come closer to our residential block the smells change to those of garlic and chili, of pork and duck as the aromas of the restaurants waft enticingly through the bustling streets luring local residents and tourists alike into the Michelin starred restaurants, hole-in-the wall food outlets and everything in between. The streets are always full of people hurrying off to whatever they need to be doing. Hong Kong is certainly not idle. It is fast-paced and efficient, and if you wander too slowly the congestion behind you can get very loud and grumpy in complaint.

Question 3: Recount the first time you remember having a differing opinion from someone significantly older than you. Do you remember what the topic was about? Did you voice your opinion or hold it to yourself?

I was around 11 or 12 when I had a significant difference of opinion with several adults around me. The topic: women and the workforce. I shocked my teacher when he asked what I hoped to do when I grew up. I proudly answered back I wanted to fly planes or sail a ship. I wanted to explore. He frowned and told me young ladies don’t do that type of thing. I was disappointed and felt bad I had upset him with my answer. I said nothing and listened to him explain what young ladies should aspire to. I got the same story from my family and other adults around me every time I hinted that I wanted to do more than be a secretary or teacher. I remained silent for years until I went to university. It was only then I found the voice I needed to say, “This is what I want to do.” I ended up leaving my homeland to find work where I was accepted for my skills rather than my gender.

Question 4: What levels of respect were practiced around you when you were a child? Was there bowing involved, handshakes, “yes Sirs and yes Ma’ams,” or some  other equivalent respectfulness in your culture’s tongue? Is an honorific given to someone older than you and do you often respect and practice that? How might the culture you were brought up in have affected the growth of your own opinions?

Our family in many ways had some quite old-fashioned rules. Our father was the head of the household and what he said was always followed. My upbringing was to “do as you are told”; disobedience was not tolerated. The hardest rule for me to follow was “speak only when you are spoken to”. I loved to talk in general conversation to gain and share knowledge and this was frowned upon. Honorifics were reserved exclusively for immediate family when I was a child. To use them with a non-blood acquaintance was a complete no-no. We took care of our grandparents generally but as I have since learnt, didn’t go out of our way to respect them.

We were always told to respect our elders, but until I met my husband (who is of Chinese descent) I never truly knew what that meant. Chinese culture takes the protocol of respect (within families at least) to a whole different level and one I have learnt to appreciate.

I realized after being immersed in my husband’s family how different each culture is and how important it is to try and find a balance of respect and appreciation in the traditions you practice. Something we try to do every day with our own children.

Question 5: How traveled are you and to what degree do you keep up with international news? You might also provide an educational background if you wish and if that education was gained from somewhere other than your current location. How available is the news and what goes on in the outside world to you in your country?

I have a foot in several countries, so by necessity I am well travelled. Tripadvisor claims I have visited 24 countries, so I’ll accept that. I don’t keep count. I have always loved to travel and explore new cultures, seek out new people and learn about what lies beyond. Living in Asia my family and I take the opportunity to explore the region when we can, while we can. I read the New Zealand, Australian and Hong Kong news daily. I like to keep abreast of what is happening in my homelands. I periodically look at the US and British news sites depending on which stories are making global waves. Despite popular belief, Hong Kong has excellent access to local and international news. In fact, I would hazard to say issues in China are better covered by Hong Kong journalism than elsewhere often than not. We have freedom to access all opinions on all issues from all over the world. I thrive on knowledge so I love having the ability to access news whenever and wherever it happens.

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

This is probably the single hardest question for me. There are so many topics worthy of exposure and discussion it is hard to choose.

I think perhaps the topic that ANNOYS me the most is the evolution of journalism. In the digital age we put so much trust in the media, when in fact they are more prone now than at any other time to sensationalize and blur the boundaries of fact and fiction. Can we trust what we read online, in the paper or hear on the news? Is media using our trust in them to manipulate our opinions and views on events happening around the world? As a reader of several international papers online I find it curious how the slant and opinion on a story is altered depending on the paper it is published in.

Things that make me go HMMM…

Question 7: What does the right to an opinion mean to you? Is it essential to freedom to have this right? How far would you go to protect that ability? The world is on fire with people of passion, how passionate are you about things you value?

Having an opinion makes us who we are as individuals. If we all had the same opinion, we may as well be part of a Borg Collective.

Question 8: Is it ever right for you to be allowed an opinion while someone else is denied that same right on the same topic?

I believe in equality. I believe everyone has the right to voice an opinion. I believe we as individuals have the right to agree and disagree. We cannot make an educated decision on something without hearing both sides of an argument. I don’t think you can effectively defend your opinion unless you understand all sides of a topic.

Question 9: The last question. upon completing this template and hopefully contemplating the issue what does this project mean to you? How can Project O potentially enlighten or help the world?

Project O to me is a fascinating experiment. It offers us the opportunity to see how different and wide-ranging peoples lives and experiences are … and yet, that we can all find commonality through our interests, passions and aspirations otherwise we wouldn’t be part of this. It has given us the opportunity to share and learn with complete strangers across the planet.

For those curious to SEE what my local neighbourhood markets look like, I posted about them here.

I wish you could see more of the responses as they really were fascinating to read. I can’t remember how many people responded but he was posting a new set of opinions around every 4 hours every day for a month; a pretty phenomenal response.

How would you answer these questions?

Feel free to comment below, flick me your answers (especially if you’d like me to share them on here for others to see) or maybe write a response in a post on your own blog.

Opinions are the right of all sentient beings… what’s yours?


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