Introduction A Long Story Made Short All's Well That Ends Well Repatriation The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Let's Celebrate

Getting Off to a Bad Start

2007 started behind my back when HO Chun Hung, my adversary at the High Court, collaborated with my former friend, dentist, landlord, and Hong Kong sponsor, Dr. SIU Hin Ho, to plunge my company into bankruptcy.

Unscrupulous, extralegal tactics were not unusual for HO Chun Hung. Already he had contacted a previous employer, the manager of my previous residence, my current landlord, the Eastern District Magistrate Court, Hong Kong’s Inland Revenue Department, and likely numerous other people and offices of which I was unaware. His goal was to obtain incriminating evidence to soil my image before the court. For none of these queries had he obtained court approval. Nearly all of them had nothing to do with the case at hand. From this “evidence” HO Chun Hung would then piece together phony stories about my person and present them before the court with quotations from the Bible about how goodness conquers over evil. When I sought to defend myself against these slanderously composed, randomly distributed, and religiously bigoted submissions, the presiding officer would accuse me of being argumentative, confused, and deviating from the legal substance of my case (see Registrar CHAN Cheuk, Court of First Instance. 7 July 2006 Judgment, The 1st Ground, §15, 16, and 17). When I chose to ignore them, the entire court was made to listen -- including me ad infinitum.

Similar behavior went nearly unchecked at the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, the High Court, and the District Court -- every court where HO Chun Hung sought to evade trial. Indeed, after more than two-and-one-half years of slander in four different Hong Kong courts I had developed a strong body of evidence for a second lawsuit. In an effort not to increase my already overburdened legal calendar, however, I demurred, forewent the additional cause of slander, and sought to push the case forward, as best I could.

In the end, I had learned that my adversary’s slanderous remarks could easily be turned away by simply pointing out their falsehood and/or irrelevance to my case. This would never obviate my having to listen to them, and it did not prevent HO Chun Hung from further sullying my good name before the Hong Kong public. Important was that I no longer felt compelled to spend very much time defending myself against them, as the court was used to this sort of nonsense, and my case would eventually speak for itself at trial. What made HO Chun Hung’s most recent initiative particularly pernicious was the nature of his cause and my current situation.

My Then, Current Situation


I was unemployed and living off meager savings.

My hope lie in a new business strategy that I had initiated already during the summer and the expectation that my deceased mother’s estate would finally be dissolved. Finding new part-time work was pretty much out of the question, as the Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau had for all effects and purposes black-listed me from Hong Kong's public school system. My new business strategy was to circumvent the Bureau's interference by avoiding the public school system and those schools that sought public certification. Already I had developed a new, very attractive, business brochure offering a variety of corporate services including instruction, translation, research, and publication.

In addition, my deceased mother’s estate was substantial relative to my own financial position. Simply, the housing market was down, and my little brother and the personal representative of my deceased mother's estate had sat on their hands for nearly a year-and-a-half waiting for the US housing market to recover. The decision to sell well below the estate's estimated worth had finally been reached, because no one had the money to sustain the house while it sat idle on the market. It was just a matter of lowering the price until a buyer could be found.

Despite these obvious difficulties my situation appeared normal. I had been struggling for nearly five years to establish my company, and my friends and family had always stood by me in the past. Some years were leaner than others, but always I was able to find a new source of income, and the HKLNA-Project continued to move forward.

Suddenly, I was confronted with a statutory demand and formal bankruptcy proceedings.

HO Chun Hung's New Initiative


Birds of a feather.

It was no coincidence that HO Chun Hung had sought out Dr. Siu in his ploy to drive my company into bankruptcy, because it was HO Chun Hung who was ultimately responsible for the rift between my former friend and me and my continued trouble at the Education and Manpower Bureau. Though just another attempt to avoid having to go to trial on the part of HO Chun Hung, this joint effort turned out to be an act of vengeful folly for Dr. SIU Hin Ho, who after several warnings to be patient and not to engage me in a second legal battle, was unable to recover anything of what I owed him and was compelled to pay legal and court costs for his involvement.

A Long Story Made Short

With important Hong Kong societal and autobiographical insight

A Particularly Lean Year Among Many Lean Years


In April 2004 Time Enterprises Company, HO Chun Hung’s part-time, educational, employment agency, promised me employment in one or more of his contracted schools. Initially I had asked for 20 teaching hours per week, because this was all I needed to make ends meet and still have time for project research, company development, and my recreational pursuits. It was not until August that 20 hours were finally found, and even these would not be realized until September.

During this long waiting period Dr. Siu advanced me several months rent. The rest of my needs were met with several short term loans from TANG Hin Ting, another good friend with whom I had become acquainted while he was still manager of the Ma On Shan Public Pool. By mid-July both Dr. Siu and I realized that my situation was sufficiently precarious and that Dr. Siu could not subsidize my unpaid rent indefinitely. He had just completed the building of a new house and had a family to feed. Moreover, he was still recovering from a financial setback incurred during a previous Hong Kong real estate boom. My apartment was one of his several failed investments. So, we struck a deal that payment would begin again in September or I would vacate my apartment voluntarily.

Other part-time employment had permitted me to accumulate enough income to cover my rent payment for the month of September, and both Dr. Siu and I were expecting my up-coming, one-year, 20-hour-per-week employment at the Buddhist Lam Bing Yim Memorial School to cover my October rent and allow me to begin paying back my debt to Dr. Siu. At the time I felt that Dr. Siu was a generous individual, that he believed in the HKLNA-Project, and that he wanted me to succeed in Hong Kong.

A Particularly Vengeful Cover-up


Just how wicked can one be?

In effect, as wicked as one falsely accuses another to have been.

When the crisis that became the basis for my lawsuit against HO Chun Hung broke out at Lam Bing Yim in late September, HO Chun Hung sided with my accusers -- the school’s pompous Choir Director, LUT Wai Ying, and the school’s over ambitious Junior English Panel Head, Miss Lee. It was unfortunate, because I enjoyed a good relationship with the school’s Senior English Panel Head, Stephen Chung, the Headmistress TSANG Wai Mi, many of the school’s faculty, and, of course, my students among whom I was very popular. Indeed, there was no good reason for me to exit the school. Ms. Lut had her ideas about how I should behave in the classroom, and I had my ideas about how she should behave. We had a personal falling out that could have easily been resolved, had I only been able to make my argument to the Senior English Panel Head more timely. Unfortunately, I was compelled to wait until the following day, as I had a medical appointment for which I had already waited six months and could not easily forego. I never felt my job in jeopardy and reported to the Headmistress on my way out that Ms Lut and I had quarreled. The Headmistress agreed to an appointment early the next morning before the start of class.

What followed was a petty act of vengeful cover-up on the part of Ms. Lut and Miss Lee. A call was made, a letter was written, the Head Mistress signed, and HO Chun Hung was notified. When I returned home from the hospital, I found a message waiting for me. I was told not to report to work on the following day and that my contract had been cancelled. It was simply unbelievable.

I kept my appointment with the Headmistress on the following morning, and we clarified things in a long, serious, but amicable talk. Mr. Stephen Chung was present and served as our interpreter. Neither Ms. Tsang's English, nor my Cantonese, was sufficient for the task at hand. HO Chun Hung, who had been asked to attend on the previous evening, did not appear. In the end, were I to remain at the school, the matter of Ms. Lut, Miss Lee, and myself would have to be settled, and both Ms. Lut and Miss Lee would have had to account for their action. Both teachers were full-time, I was only part-time. Moreover, I had only been at the school for three weeks, and it was too easy for the Headmistress to replace me. She had only to turn to HO Chun Hung, and ask for another teacher. This was the nature of the contractual relationship and an important source of legal cause.

During the meeting HO Chun Hung's absence at the meeting became clear. My reputation had been soiled to protect Ms Lut and Miss Lee, and Ho Chun Hung had arranged with the Junior English Panel Head to find a new teacher to replace me. So, I forsook my post and asked the school to do everything within their power to secure my past wages and mitigate further fallout between HO Chun Hung, the school, and myself. Neither was I shown the letter that was used to seal the deal between HO Chun Hung and Lam Bing Yim, nor did HO Chun Hung pay me my wages for hours worked. No one with whom I spoke -- neither Dr. Siu, the Senior English Panel Head, the Hong Kong Labour Department, nor the Labour Tribunal -- agreed that HO Chun Hung should have withheld my wages. The man had behaved as a scoundrel.

In his counterclaim that he would later submit to the Small Claims Tribunal, and again at the Labour Tribunal, the High Court, and the District Court, HO Chun Hung claimed that he had suffered losses because of "my misconduct" (see Registrar CHAN Cheuk, Court of First Instance. 7 July 2006 Judgment, Claim A, §32-36 and Background Paper, 6 April, 2005, page 5, "Thirdly ..."). My defense to this bombastic claim consisted of a single piece of paper in which I calculated the profit that HO Chun Hung had made from my dismissal. It sailed through the High Court unchallenged.

A Treacherous Friendship


Like all things in life, even friendship knows its limits.

When I discovered that HO Chun Hung was not going to pay my wages, I appealed to Dr. Siu for further delay of payment. He refused. As I understood well his position, I did not argue and turned again to Mr. Tang who readily assisted me. I then paid Dr. Siu my October rent and headed off to the Labour Tribunal to reclaim my wages from HO Chun Hung -- the beginning of a two-and-one-half year court struggle.

Was I ever surprised when I received a letter from Dr. Siu's solicitor inviting me to pay Dr. Siu the money that I owed him or appear in court. At first, I believed that it was only a serious reminder from Dr. Siu not to miss my future payments, and that it would be retracted, were Dr. Siu to receive my November rent on time. When I was invited to appear in court even before the month of October was complete, I realised that Dr. Siu had broken our July agreement and that he was no longer my friend.

I quickly relocated to avoid further trouble and to encourage Dr. Siu to drop his claim against me at the Hong Kong Lands Tribunal. When the court ordered me to pay, and I could not, Dr. Siu hired an extra-legal debt collector to shame me into payment. Although Dr. Siu’s agent was eventually driven from my building, my reputation in my new residence, and my relationship with my new landlord had been severely jeopardized. So, I wrote a letter to Dr. Siu’s solicitor reminding Dr. Siu that I was not in a position to pay, and that his extralegal machinations would not be viewed favorably by a Hong Kong court should he pursue the matter further. I further encouraged Dr. Siu to be patient, as my case against HO Chun Hung at the Labour Tribunal was scheduled for trial in late January 2005.

Although the trial never took place, and the case was moved up to the High Court, I did not hear from Dr. Siu for nearly two years.

Defeat doesn't finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he's defeated. He's finished when he quits.

Source: Richard Milhouse Nixon, 37th President of the United States. No date.

All's Well That Ends Well

Well sort of . . .

The Bandwagon


The Beginning of an unexpected, undesired end.

In early summer of 2006 one of the three Defendants in my case against HO Chun Hung was struck by the High Court Registrar, and I was ordered by the court to pay US$1,118 (HK$8,710) in damages (see Registrar CHAN Cheuk, High Court of First Instance, 31 August 2006 Decision, §36). When HO Chun Hung won an appeal to have the amount nearly doubled and won, I objected and appealed the matter. In the meantime HO Chun Hung took advantage of his temporary victory (two of the defendants were not so lucky) and my tenuous financial situation and turned to Dr. Siu to force my company into bankruptcy. Joint statutory demands from Dr. Siu and HO Chun Hung initiated from the same legal office were filed against me. As I clearly owed the money, I had no defense. My former friend had raised his ugly head again.

In order to cover myself I sought a long term loan from the only bank proximate to my deceased mother’s estate and offered my portion of the family’s inheritance as collateral. I was told by the bank that no money would be forthcoming, as the estate belonged to the State of Michigan until it was dissolved and was thus a poor source of collateral. I turned to my friends to whom I was already indebted and pledged my inheritance as collateral while giving assurances that my case was well under control, my new business strategy was promising, and the HKLNA-Project was as invaluable as ever and moving forward. I even offered to sign over my inheritance to anyone who would assist me for the modest amount I was asking.

Leaving Hong Kong was what everyone wanted, except for me and my Hong Kong friends to whom I was not indebted and who saw the wisdom in what I was doing. What was particularly unsettling was the way that I was abandoned by those friends to whom I already owed money.

To me, it was just another crisis in a long series of crises from which I had always recovered in the past with their help and would continue to overcome with their help in the future. Moreover, my dependence on them would be greatly reduced, if not completely extinguished with the dissolution of my deceased mother's estate. Indeed, after many weeks of relentless persuasion I was ready to drain my body of its vital fluids, just as my friends were draining my spirit with their indifference, callous rebukes, calls for prayer, endearing counsel, token compensation, and for all appearances sake, phony excuses.

Rather to nourish the barren earth, from whence I had come and to which we must all someday return, with my blood, than to abandon 16 years of my life, some two-and-one-half years of judicial proceedings, and a five-year research and business project worth many hundreds of millions of US dollars to its ultimate beneficiaries, was my only thought. My friends had abandoned me, and in so doing dealt my courtroom adversaries a winning hand. My defeat was imminent.

A Calculated Risk


Who was I to be so certain that nothing good awaited me? Had I allowed myself to be duped?

I headed to the United States Embassy to discover what would happen to my body after I disposed of myself, and discovered another alternative -- a short term loan from the United States government with an unconditional promise of departure.

Going down with my ship would have been an act of disdain toward my reluctant East Asian hosts and unfaithful friends, rather than a victory over my enemies whose hearts would have delighted in my self-defeat.

  • Where would be the honor in such an act?
  • Where would be the sense of lasting achievement?
  • Was there really nothing to salvage?
  • Could I never recover from the loss?

Besides, the US government appeared delighted to have me back and thought far better of my resumé than I had ever imagined a US employer could. Perhaps, the consulate officials were just telling me this to make me feel good, so that I would take advantage of their offer. Perhaps, I was too eager to hear the good news. Simply, I was not keen on the idea of reverse cultural shock from a position of poverty. Moreover, I have never been a keen supporter of the US social welfare system, and I was about to become one of its recipients.

In the end, 16 years is a long time, and both the United States and I had changed a great deal in the interim. Who was I to be so certain that nothing good awaited me, and who was I to say that my 16-year investment in East Asia could not be turned into a valuable employment asset in the United States? So, I set my sights for the West Coast and looked for a port of destination that would likely bring the greatest promise. I finally settled for Seattle, because it was the home of my second graduate alma mater and would soon be hosting two international conferences: one in economics and the other in teaching English as a second language (ESL).

There was one important catch: the loan would not cover the cost of shipping my belongings -- including many decades of accumulated books, notes, and research papers -- from Hong Kong to my point of reentry. It would be as if I were on a sinking ship or a victim of a natural disaster and told to abandon everything save what I could carry on my back. So, I initiated the dissolution of my Hong Kong retirement account, and in so doing promised never to return to Hong Kong as a permanent resident. I also applied for a loan against a life insurance policy that would not even have covered the cost of my burial. Together these would provide me with enough income to salvage my belongings and have them shipped to the United States.

I also paid a visit to the District Court where my case against HO Chun Hung had recently been transferred from the High Court to request that my case against HO Chun Hung be withdrawn. At the subsequent hearing HO Chun Hung asked the court that I promise never to reinitiate the case. He must have been in a quandary as to why I was abandoning it. I said nothing of my imminent departure. No promise was made.

A week or so later I was issued my new temporary passport and watched as someone else formally denounced his US citizenship. “One in, one out”, I thought, “I hope you are better prepared for your next move than I am for mine”. In the end, suicide is our freedom of last resort, and it is something that I could just as easily commit on US soil, as in Hong Kong.

A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life's mountaintop experiences. Only in losing himself does he find himself. Only then does he discover all the latent strengths he never knew he had and which otherwise would have remained dormant.

Source: Richard Milhouse Nixon, 37th President of the United States. No date.


What it means to be foreign, and think you're native.

Jazz Without a Saxophone?


Welcome Home!

In several days I landed in Seattle where I was warmly received by Sadykh Sadykhov, Social Worker, US Department of Social and Health Services. I was escorted by him and one of his colleagues to a Seattle shelter for the homeless.

In the car from the airport to a federally sponsored social services center and later to a shelter for the homeless, we discussed drugs, psychiatric care, private plane travel, the importance of the quality of life, and suicide among other topics. While at the center I was asked to choose between a federal loan designed for refugee repatriates such as myself or matriculation into a state-sponsored social welfare program. With the hope that my deceased mother’s estate would soon be dissolved (in effect, banking on the same promise that I had made to my many friends) I chose the federal loan elated that I would have money to act freely. Whereupon, Sadykh helped me keep my feet on the ground as I tried repeatedly to escape the reality of my true situation.

After an exhausting night at the shelter I moved to Seattle’s only available international youth hostel, the Green Tortoise. There I was able to find an internet connection, a secure place for my carry-on belongings, a place to do my laundry, an ironing board with a steam iron, and a very amicable crowd of youthful travelers of all ages. That night my bunk was in a room with five other people, rather than 106. There were no heated discussions in the middle of the night, and we could turn the light off and open the window when it became our collective desire. I slept well. Most importantly, I did not have to take my PowerBook into the shower room with me the next morning to protect it from theft, because I had a private bath and a storage locker with my own padlock and key.

Within the same week I was at the Washington State Convention Center dressed in a coat and tie and in attendance at my first international TESOL conference -- compliments of a very understanding and most helpful conference director. As expected, but not as hoped, my resumé attracted few takers. Several weeks later I received an email thanking me for an interview that I never had and inviting me for another over the telephone. It was this email and telephone call that eventually led to my current employment in Saudi Arabia. Had my presence paid off?

While still in attendance at the conference I received the loan for which I had applied against my life insurance policy and began searching for a more permanent place to stay. Seattle is an expensive place to live, and housing -- unless you are of significant means -- is difficult to find, especially when you are a recent refugee without a savings account, a housing record, good friends, and an employer.

As I could not stay indefinitely at the Green Tortoise, I found a room at the historic Panama Hotel in Seattle’s International District (the only Chinatown with a Japanese Village that I know) for only US$200 per week. It was a small, but important step when I moved into the NP Hotel -- a low income housing project and historical monument that would accept my deposit money in installments -- just around the corner. Every morning I was awakened by a flock of cooing pigeons that would gather somewhat distant from my open window. It was frightening.

Most of the hotel’s residents were immigrants, and after several weeks of dread, boredom, and uncertainty I took the initiative to make new friends. We spoke English and Cantonese, and I was treated to a Chinese 4th of July celebration whose organization I initiated.

Luckily, the income from my dissolved retirement account arrived on time, and I was able to cover the cost of shipping. I rented a truck and moved my things into a semi-permanent storage locker in Federal Way where they remain to this day.

By the time my mother’s estate was dissolved and my inheritance received, it was, of course, too late for me to return to Hong Kong. Permanent residence was no longer possible, and my company had been forced into bankruptcy. With the exception of Dr. Siu who is now my enemy, I paid back all of my friends everything that I owed them -- less interest that they no longer deserved. Paying them back at all was a matter of honor; never in my life had friendship caused me so much pain, anguish, and disruption.

My former employer and legal adversary was left to pay his own court costs and likely protested all the way up to the Chief Justice. He deserved far worse. My legal obligations were dissolved with my company.

In Search of Continuity


Had I not allowed myself to be momentarily duped by the Vice Council in Hong Kong?

For nearly six months I applied for employment throughout the United States. I focused primarily on the Pacific Northwest and Northern California where I believed that my graduate degree from the University of Washington might carry some clout. Unfortunately, I was able to secure only two interviews, neither of which came close to the offer that I had already received from Saudi Arabia -- my current employer. Even my attendance at the Western Economics Association International Conference at Seattle’s Westin Hotel in June, the second of the two international conferences that I had targeted before my departure from Hong Kong, failed to yield anything tangible.

Most of my days were passed on the University of Washington campus in search of new employment and support for the HKLNA Project. Between university offices I shuttled from one library desk to the next in search of the office that I had forfeited with my departure from Hong Kong. At Seattle's coffee shops and restaurants I looked for new friends that I badly needed, but barely knew how to find. Pouring my heart out would have only chased people away. Holding back would have appeared dishonest. So, I simply sat, listened to the words of many a new song, and waited for social inroads to appear from behind my tiny 12" PowerBook G4. There were few.

Though some progress was also made on the HKLNA-Project's CD/DVD, it was no longer easy to focus my attention on a social topic that now appeared so distant. My sense of direction had been blurred by the rapid turn of events, and I had been robbed of an important source of motivation -- my company and the grass roots movement that it once represented. So, I spent most of my free time drinking bubble tea and working on Adobe's Action Script -- a more universally applicable investment in time and energy.

Even the prospect of moving to Saudi Arabia, my new unwanted source of worldly adventure, could not still my distraught heart. It had taken me two long years to put President Bush’s War on Terror behind me, and I was very glad when the 2004 election was finally over -- not because George remained in office, rather because I no longer felt compelled to devote so much time to the thought of suicide bombers, Israeli injustice, the plight of the Palestinians, and the shortcomings of Western democracy. Now it appeared that all of these thoughts would be reawakened.

Perhaps my newly begun studies in Arabic script were to avoid having to think any more about what it meant to be a USAmerican overseas with George Bush as President.

Reverse Cultural Shock


For the first several weeks, even months, it was difficult for me to distinguish between my poverty, sense of desperation, and the distance that had grown between USAmerican society and me.

My reception at the University of Washington was neither warm nor cold; rather, it was indifferent.

My own generation appeared as if they were frozen in the past, and the new generation was barely recognizeable. Long hair, pot, and even the way they spoke, dressed, and behaved reminded me of how I was shortly before I started graduate school in the early 70s. Self- mutilation, unbridled self-expression, and obesity were omnipresent among the younger generation.

I was amazed by the number of East Asians on the University of Washington campus and the tidy order I found on University Avenue. Downtown Seattle had also changed. Coffee shops were as numerous as convenience stores in Tokyo or MacDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Hong Kong. No city block was without one, and on many corners there were more than one. The parade of cups filled with Latte, Double Americanas, and Mocha every morning was comical. At the Zeitgeist, where I would regularly arrive before the morning crowd, clerical workers would stand in line for 10 to 15 minutes just to obtain their favorite brew before heading to the office with cup in hand. My sudden, intense exposure to these caffeine dens left me in desperate search for a toilet on not a few occasions, as the urge to urinate was seldom near the same shop where I had just imbibed. No one would give me a key!

The number of beggars roaming Seattle’s city streets was also a new phenomenon that I had not experienced during my 17-year sojourn in East Asia to the degree that I was now finding it in Seattle. I could not leave my residence without being asked for money in one form or another. As I had spent my first night in the United States in a shelter for the homeless, I was particularly sensitive to this phenomenon. Each time I said no, I felt like I was casting a vote for government social reform and an end to liberal hypocrisy. The people in real need were surely not receiving a cent of what was supporting Seattle's many ambient freeloaders.

What saddened me most was the self-mutilation that many Seattle city dwellers had undertaken to make themselves different from their friends and neighbors. This exaggerated sense of individualism through appearance carried directly over into behavior. Personal space could rarely be taken for granted and another's was easily trespassed. It was as if everyone were challenging everyone else’s level of personal and social tolerance, rather than anyone who was not in uniform seeking to maintain civil order. On not a few occasions I was made to feel uncomfortable on my bus, because I had asked someone to open a window, stop eating, read quietly to themselves, or even curtail their relentless personal mobile chatter during the long ride from one city district to the next.

What made things worse was that I was the true stranger in this society of individualism gone amok and would eventually become the target of social backlash.

Homeland Security


I remember being treated better at the US Consulate in Hong Kong.

When I discovered very early in my “new” home that my only substantial employment offer was from overseas, I applied for a new passport. When I was turned away at the Federal Building in downtown Seattle for want of valid US primary I.D., I applied for a new passport by mail at the US Post Office. After two weeks and still no passport I began to wonder. The turn-around time in Tokyo and Hong Kong had been much faster. Then too, I had never been refused entry into a US Embassy or Consulate. While on the internet I queried the US National Passport Agency’s website and discovered that I still had another several weeks wait ahead of me. Had the new World Trade Center in New York been completed yet?

Setting up an appointment at the Agency’s regional office in Seattle would have been futile, because Homeland Security would not let me into the building. Numerous emails to the National Passport Agency were machine acknowledged, but rarely answered in a way that demonstrated an understanding of my situation. After several missives to Agent 1237, Agent 1865, Agent 2032, Agent 1633, and Agent 2120 I understood the futility of any further such effort and inquired about obtaining a Washington State I.D. -- the only other I.D. acceptable to Inspector Deaver, Homeland Security.

It took me six weeks to obtain my fifth piece of secondary I.D. so that I could obtain my first piece of primary I.D. This was still faster than the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia, who failed to inform me that the US Post Office had issued me the wrong form.

Apparently, neither Homeland Security, nor the US Post Office had ever seen a refugee passport, and did not care to inquire about how it was different. When I finally obtained my Washington State I.D. I went straight to the Federal Building, obtained my passport, and inquired at the General Services Administration office about Homeland Security in the Federal Building on my way out. What I eventually discovered was the basis (07/04/30 and 07/06/22 letters to the FPS/DHS) for still another lawsuit -- this time against the US government.

Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation


The search for continuity took many forms.

During my last two years in Hong Kong I had discovered a sport that I had always been out of my reach during my youth -- springboard diving. As a result, I would rise at 6:30 in the morning three times a week and travel 20 to 40 minutes to a diving tank in Kowloon where I was, for all practical purposes, the sole diver for 90 minutes.

Springboard diving is a highly visible sport that requires a significant amount of discipline and physical grace. Each new dive, at least for me, also required an important amount of trial, error, and courage. Physical grace does not come without a price, and I did not have a coach to guide me. Moreover, I did not always discover what I was doing wrong and what I needed to do right until after many failed attempts. I rarely gave my age much thought and often received praise from observant lifeguards after overcoming the major hurdles of each new dive. It gave me something to which I could look forward each week, and it was great training for my poise and self-confidence at the High Court -- to say nothing of my repeated rejection from Hong Kong public schools and Hong Kong's Education and Manpower Bureau. Alas, it was an excercise in overcoming repeated, sometimes very painful, failure.

One of my first goals in Seattle was to find a place similar to the one that I had known in Kowloon. The intended goal was to provide myself with badly needed and healthful diversion from my new, or perhaps better stated, ongoing plight. Unfortunately, my circumstances worsened, as I gradually found myself at odds with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and a long vertical line of female, municipal bureaucrats, who surely believe they understand male pride and politics better than males.

What started as a sincere and worthy effort to help the City of Seattle develop its springboard (07/04/14 Letter and 07/06/18 Letter) diving policy turned into a xenophobic witch-hunt against my good person. Some 24 pages of accumulated incriminating trash were written about me, nearly all of which was fabricated by various department officer’s who thought it better to sling mud rather than to pursue facts.

After many weeks of inquiry on my part I was finally ready to present my case, whereupon the Department's Interim Operations Director hid behind a city ordinance to avoid having to participate in a formal review of what had truly happened. The backward twist that I had learned in Hong Kong never became a forward twist in Seattle. Seattle's city bureaucrats had won, springboard diving for the general public remains a hindered sport.

What I learned from this experience is that government bureaucracy is pretty much the same everywhere you find it, and I yearned for my friends in Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department who had supported me in the carving out of my diving niche in Hong Kong.

Hall Health Clinic


Just how much should you tell your physician?

That I had received above average marks from the cardiology department at the University of Washington Medical Center appeared to make no difference to my attending general physician at the university’s Hall Health Clinic. She could not understand how a person could have thoughts of suicide and not suffer from bouts of severe or even mild depression.

It had taken me three weeks to withdraw from the sudden infusion of caffeine, and my blood pressure -- well within the limits of clinical normalcy -- still appeared high to me. Moreover, I had been deprived of my regular springboard workouts by the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and was rejected by Homeland Security. I was concerned that I would not receive a good medical report to send to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, D. C., and my examination at the Univeristy's Regional Heart Center had not been ordered yet. So, I told her briefly about my recent experience as a refugee to help guide her with the examination.

When all of my tests had been completed, and I discovered that she had entered my mention of suicide in her report to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D. C. I broiled with anger inside and asked her what right she had to perform the role of an attending psychiatrist. I further asked her to revise her letter or order a psychiatric examination, if she felt that I was such a danger to myself and the university community. She omitted the paragraph, and I relented.

As a small note regarding the matter still appeared at the top of another document that had escaped my attention, I was made to answer for it by a Saudi physician. Fortunately I had a ready explanation that he found amusing. I told him that I had had trouble with my Hong Kong girl friend and had not eaten for three days. We both laughed. I do not lie very often, but when I do it is for a good cause -- in this case, financial survival and a good start at my new post.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

My third home in a year.

Social and Technical Isolation


A wealthy, but still developing country.

Well, I have made it to Saudi Arabia, where I have been teaching for more than four months. Unfortunately, I am in a remote area of the Middle East in a land whose calendar began only 1,428 years ago.

Although a very wealthy country Saudi Arabia is still a relatively new nation with important gaps in hard and soft infrastructure. Moreover, many Saudis lack the talent required to manage Saudi’s vast work force of foreign labor. Global business appears afraid of the Middle East and the Islamic world in general.

Although you can purchase an iPod and even an iMac, you cannot download music or movies from the iTunes store! After more than three months I am still waiting for my 12” PowerBook G4 to be returned from a shop that took me more than a month just to find! A Saudi Apple distributor in Riyadh, many hundreds of kilometers from my home, is still waiting for spare parts from another shop in the United Arab Emirates.

Adobe Products has no official office in Saudi Arabia. I will not trouble you further you by telling you what I have gone through to find a reliable Adobe distributor. . . .

It took me two months to obtain the authorization required to have two holes drilled into the frame of my apartment window, so that the wires from my satellite dish could be entered into my apartment without my having to subject my living area to the elements. The satellite dish was necessary, because the only way to access the WIFI connection provided inside my building is to sit outside my apartment in the hallway.

It took two trips to the telephone company, numerous telephone calls from my mobile telephone, and three visits from two different companies to have my landline telephone service finally put into place. The water supply is frequently interrupted without warning, while they rebuild the drainage system outside my building. The building has no central heating. During the summer the temperature was regularly over 41 degrees centigrade (105 degrees Fahrenheit). The current low is 8 degrees centigrade.

The three-meter diving board at the public recreation center near my residence is broken, and the one-meter boards are locked into place for lack of an adjustment wheel -- this, despite the director’s claim that he was a gymnast during his youth. Jumping from these boards is like walking Captain Hook’s plank; one must run down the board in order to obtain enough momentum to initiate an interesting spring. I do not dare use the word dive!

My first two paychecks were carried in my pocket in the form of a bank wad, as I had no bank account, and could not obtain one until I had received my iQama -- the Saudi national identity card -- nearly three months after my arrival. Each government agency appears to require its own medical examination. The results from my over US$2000 physical examination at the University of Washington, that were sent to the Saudi Embassy to obtain my work visa, were simply ignored after my arrival in Saudi Arabia.

In order to reach the nearest grand shopping mall -- an eighty minute ride one-way -- one must either hire a taxi or rent a car. As it is cheaper to rent a car, this is the preferred means. Unfortunately, taxis are rarely available when you need them most -- on the weekend. Although the signage to Al Khobar is good, the way back can be a real adventure, unless you have traveled the same route several times before. Have you ever ridden a one-way road for 60-kilometers at night with no means to turn around? It is like entering the Twilight Zone. Then too, many Saudis drive as if they were playing a video game. Tailgating at speeds well over 160 km/hr (99 miles/hr) is common. Lane weaving with cuts of only one or two meters (3 to 6 feet) in length at similar speeds is not unusual. Margin of safety? I wonder, if this is even a word in the Saudi vocabulary. Hardly a day passes when I do not see someone run a red light. Many Saudis appear to believe that the yellow light is their last chance to get through an intersection before the light turns red -- not a time for clearing the intersection for cross-traffic to enter. Many Saudis step on the gas, as they approach.

I like driving fast, but time and cost are not the only reasons that I often prefer to stay at home . . . .

The Saudi government confiscates your passport upon arrival. To leave the country requires special permission and a week's worth of processing. If you want to see a movie, find a discotheque, or simply meet a girl, you must cross a national border into Bahrain. Though nicotine is everywhere, alcohol is forbidden.

Recovery and Prospects for Advancement


What will next year's New Year's greeting bring?

Saudi Arabia is far safer than it would appear from its proximity to Bagdad, Gaza, and Kabul. Where I am living it is assuredly much safer than living in most major cities of the United States. Although there is little life in the desert, local desalination plants provide plenty of fresh water, and my recently acquired PADI license will eventually provide me with an abundance of wildlife underwater when the new underwater diving season opens this spring. My underwater diving instructor from the Saudi Coast Guard has assured me that the Persian (Arabian) Gulf has many beautiful coral reefs teeming with aquatic life.

According to my physician at the Al Huwaylat Clinic, the polluted air emanating from nearby petroleum refining plants is no worse than living in most of the world's large metropolitan areas, and Saudi air standards are well within those prescribed by the World Health Organization. When I went to the WHO website in search of air quality information about my area I was unable to find any. The verdict is out.

My new satellite dish and membership in a local health club have helped me to overcome my feelings of isolation, as these are places where I can meet people from all over the world. With no diving board I have returned to weight and endurance training to keep myself physically and mentally fit. As my school does not offer Arabic classes, and my computer has been dysfunctional for over two months, getting started with the Arabic language has proven challenging. With my new internet connection and iMac, as well as several good online resources my ability in Arabic should begin improving soon.

My new iMac, Apple’s new MacOS 10.5 (Leopard) operating system, and a forthcoming upgrade to Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 (CS3 - Master Collection) will soon provide me with what I need to upgrade the HKLNA Project website. With forty-hour work weeks I will no longer have the time I once had to work on the Project, but with EARTH dissolved and my legal battle at Hong Kong’s High Court and District Court well behind me, I should be able to find time to finish the project. Besides, I will no longer have to waste time looking for part-time work, as I now have a relatively secure source of income.

Jubail, Saudi Arabia


A great place to write a book, so long as you already know what you want to write.

I get along well with my supervisor, and most of my colleagues are pretty professional in what they do. The school’s director also responds to my needs, if I can prove that they will be of benefit to other faculty and the school as a whole. Students are pretty much the same everywhere in the world, and respond as best they can, if provided with what they need given their circumstances. Indeed, I see little problem in completing my two-year contract and hopefully obtaining a solid footing in the Middle East. Who knows? Maybe I will receive a promotion, and decide to remain where I am.

A travel grant to attend a conference or two on language policy and applied linguistics would also prove a valuable incentive to stay.

So long as I do not try to match my previous rate of website updates, I should also be able to find time for the Tsong Kit project. This leaves only mastering my software upgrades and continued acquisition of Action Script. One either keeps up with ever changing technology, or one lags behind. Life is what you put into it.

Who knows, I might even find a new diving board come spring!

Happy New Year!