Being a lesbian in China was hard for Lexi Zhang. After she came out, Lexi’s family shamed her, and she fell into depression. Leaving behind a "toxic" environment, Lexi immigrated to Canada, where she began building a new life for herself, and literal homes for others–really tiny ones. Many Asians can relate to this: sacrificing the majority of your life trying to please your parents. After college, when Lexi realized she liked girls and came out to her family, she also learned that she would no longer be able to please them–because she was gay. Her long-term partner, Da Cheng, became a cornerstone in Lexi’s journey back to herself. They now live together in Calgary, where Lexi has joined a tiny home construction company. She is working towards becoming a Red Seal carpenter and has learned about her own strength through this journey. She also has learned that the LGBTQIA+ community is stronger when each member finds their individual power. And for ordinary girls like her, who may not have believed they can live out of the box that other people have placed them in, Lexi says you need to believe in yourself enough to try.
Did you know Boho Chic furniture is rooted in an Asia torn apart by war? Rattan is a material indigenous to Asia, and has been utilized in South East Asia for centuries. But most Asians didn't sit on chairs, they sat on floors. European colonists influenced these pieces. Rattan can be found in tropical palm trees in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Today, Indonesia is the world’s largest supplier, providing 80% of the world’s raw rattan. The ‘Manila Chair’ became a fad for celebrities and politicians like Cher, Diana Ross, and John F. Kennedy. Western designers have integrated many designs that look like Asian rattan furniture, without crediting the cultures they come from. Instead, “Boho-Chic” furniture and aesthetic is often categorized as “ethnic” or “tribal,” grossly generalizing and erasing their roots. And the appropriation is expensive. Rattan chairs are sold for $800 at Pottery Barn, without clear understanding of how ethically the rattan was produced and manufactured.
Cox’s Bazar is now the biggest refugee camp in the world. Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are at a breaking point, with almost 1 million refugees. And the Rohingya, a Muslim minority who have suffered decades of persecution, are left with little basic rights and no secure way of returning home. More than half of this vulnerable population are children under 18. Refugees are not only banned from education and work, they are vulnerable to trafficking. The fragile temporary shelters are prone to fires, floods and landslides every year. Myanmar's Buddhist-majority state cracked down on the Rohingya in 2017, killing at least 7,000 people and forcing almost 700,000 refugees across the border. Today, human rights and aid groups say these camps will collapse, and are calling for the Bangladeshi government and the UN to work together to come up with measures beyond confinement. Here is a list of non-profit organizations that are helping the Rohingya on the ground rated by Charity Navigator: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=5522
Fan Qinhui, records sounds of a quiet trail in Taiping Mountain, Taiwan to find warning signs of environmental change. Qinhui says listening can help you create a relationship with land--and listening in the quiet trail isn’t about hearing silence, it’s about hearing clearly. Taiwan’s dense population and narrow land doesn’t make it easy to hear nature without people, cars, or planes–so Qinhui records at 5 am before anyone arrives. She isn’t focused on the quietness of the quiet trail–she’s documenting sounds of a monsoon, forest birds chirping in the fog, and how sounds change in the four seasons. Though Qinhui didn’t study biology, she’s gradually created a unique sound map. She’s translated this sound map into a website where you can hear what species there are and see what they look like. She encourages everyone to take the 1km path quietly, and change our way of listening and reconnecting with the land.
Colonization historically undervalued, if not rejected, traditional Eastern medicine. Today, these same practices are making billions in the West. How has skepticism and superiority impacted our relationships with Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Eastern sciences? Globally, the Ayurvedic herbs market was valued at $9.5 billion in 2020, and is anticipated to reach $21.6 billion by 2028. The acupuncture (a traditionally Chinese procedure) needles market is estimated to reach $177 million by 2026. Alternative medicine is making a resurgence, spurred by the pandemic. Western science and medicine have been regarded superior, while centuries old Eastern practices are depicted as mysterious, exotic, and even false. Today these holistic approaches to physical and mental health, including relying on herbs, spices, balance, and diet, are reemerging with force. What does it tell us about global power and control? And is it shifting?
Vietnam loves instant noodles more than you. South Korea used to be number one, but now Vietnam is the world’s top consumer of instant noodles per capita. According to the World Instant Noodles Association, Vietnam’s consumption rose steadily from 55 servings in 2019 to 87 in 2021. Meanwhile, Korea consumed 80 servings in 2020 but that dropped to 73 last year. COVID lockdowns and inflation both point to why people keep coming back for instant noodles. Here are three Vietnamese favorites.
Heesco, a Mongolian-Australian artist known for his murals, speaks on being born under communist Mongolia, and how he used graffiti to escape. Today, when Heesco paints with the next generation of Mongolian artists, he reminds them that dreams are greater than environment. When Mongolia’s economy collapsed overnight, Heesco’s mum moved to Poland, where he began drawing for his schoolmates to avoid being picked on for being a “foreigner”. From an early age, Heesco was drawn (no pun intended) to graffiti because it was a culture built by kids, and rooted in freedom of expression. He also loved that it cut out galleries, critics, and collectors from dictating what art is, or isn’t. Heesco shares that as a kid growing up in a rough area, he can empathize with how difficult it can be to keep dreams alive and not fall into depression. Today, he is an ambassador for ‘Lantuun Dohio’, a non-profit that crowdfunds to build services and libraries for children in Mongolia. He paints with Mongolian children, and has learned that creating on walls with them is healing and inspiring to them both.
Last Wednesday’s episode of ABC’s “Grown-ish” featured the first Indian lesbian couple on American TV. Zaara Ali, played by Queer model, comedian, and actor Tara Raani, is a recurring character in the show. Her recent lover Yazmine, played by filmmaker, comedian, and actor Sahana Srinivasan, shares an intimate bed scene with her in the latest season. This imagery, reflecting the lived reality for many, is something considered by some to be inappropriate, taboo, and even shameful in Asian culture. For others, this is the most representative the South Asian experience has ever looked. From shame to pride, this mainstream imagery has surfaced a spectrum of feelings in the South Asian community. Both actors are known for leading conversations about identity–from queerness to being South Asian. Raani has amassed a TikTok following of nearly 300,000 followers for her comedy skits, and Srinivasan is known for silly one liners about her cultural identity. “Grown-ish” is known to address issues around sexuality and identity, as exemplified in this latest season. Much like other series have begun exploring previously hidden parts of many people’s identity, such as Partition and Islam in Ms. Marvel, and colourism in Bridgerton’s latest season.
The Vietnam War left over 800,000 mines that have killed and injured over 100,000 Vietnamese people after the war ended. An all-female team through Project RENEW, has taken on detonating bombs in Quang Tri province, where 80% of the land is riddled with mines. Trinh Thi Hong Tham is the leader of this emergency response team. As a child, she would hear bombs going off, and witnessed people dying long after war was over. It left her traumatized, as well as determined to make her homeland safer. Project RENEW has completed over 1,000 missions today using strategic surveying, as well as relying on their own courage. Tham feels proud of the work she is doing to keep her hometown safer, regardless of how dangerous it is, and her family feels the same.
India’s Silicon Valley Bengaluru is flooded, forcing tech workers to ride boats and tractors to get to work, contributing to larger climate-change-induced damages across South Asia. Record heat waves & monsoons are worsening issues of water logging, which left a 23-year-old woman dead. The heavy rain and waterlogging has led to traffic jams, flooded apartments and lack of drinking water. A 23-year-old woman whose first name Akhila has been released, has died after being electrocuted when she grabbed an electrical pole to stand up after her moped skidded on a flooded street. On Tuesday, Karnataka state officials said they would release 300 crore rupees, or over 37 million US dollars, to restore infrastructure in Bengaluru alone. But the lack of stormwater management system remains a larger, long-term problem as unpredictable weather conditions are only expected to get worse in the future.
Humaira Chuhan fell in love with somebody outside her Pakistani culture. But when she told her dad about her interracial relationship with a Black man, she faced a traumatic rejection and was almost disowned. She channelled her experience through art and shared it on the Blindian Project - an online community supporting Black and Brown people in interracial relationships. Soon, she got floods of DMs from people with similar stories, making her believe even more that love is love, no matter what!
The Rohingya people have faced persecution under the Burmese government for decades. Now they've fled to the struggling state of Bangladesh, who are carrying the weight of a million refugees. How did this happen? What's going to happen to these stateless people next?
Stefan He Qin didn't think his life would go this way. At 24, he had scammed 140 million from investors, family and friends. We captured the only interview he did, 3 days before beginning his 7.5 year sentence at Fort Dix Prison.
Cheung Tze Keung may have been the ballsiest gangster in history. He extorted Hong Kong billionaires for over $300 million dollars and spent lavishly on mansions and luxury cars before gambling it all away.
When Faye Wong began her career, she was restricted to drive her creative career the way she wanted. She would move out of Asia to New York out of frustration, but Faye would return home to dominate the Canto-pop scene with a brand new attitude. This is the true story behind the ‘Diva of Asia', who would retire at 35 to play mahjong.
Tony Leung is considered Asia’s most successful actor. Born in Hong Kong, Tony grew up without a father, he found refuge in Hong Kong cinema during his youth. Connecting with his emotions through cinema would end up paying off for Tony, who would take up acting because his friend, Stephen Chow, told him to audition. This is the story of an acting legend: “the man who can speak with his eyes.”
The Police force in Pakistan is changing. Women only make up 1.5% of the police force in Pakistan, but Neelam Shaukat is trying to change that. She's training the next generation of police women to protect communities, in ways that aren't possible without more women. In Swat Valley, a conservative part of Northern Pakistan where honor killings still happen, Neelam is one of few female police chiefs. There she and her crew of other police women have to be ready for everything from supporting domestic violence survivors, to being ready to protect if a terrorist strike happens. This is a day in her life.
The Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Getai Festival, is an ancient part of Taoist culture where spirits are honored. It happens every year, during a time when the gates of the afterlife are believed to open up for a month and our spiritual ancestors come out to partake once more in the life they once lived. This festival is special, because here the entertainers are singing not just for the living, but also for the dead. Family members bow to shrines of their ancestors and people perform for wandering spirits. There is bias beneath the surface of a seemingly harmless festival: Getai singers are often stigmatized as lowly and disreputable. Some younger members of the Getai community are trying to change that, with genuine passion and appreciation for their culture and ancestors, as they sing and dance for those they cannot even see.
Meet Jihuan “Green Xia”, the young Chinese “sneaker king” with a net worth of 1 billion RMB (156M USD). His path to success wasn’t easy and his grind is certainly something to respect.
On March 26, 1991, five innocent boys trek out into the woods. They never make it back. The police brushed it off, saying they'd simply run away. But when days turned into weeks with no sign of the boys, their parents decided to take matters into their own hands. The parents started a nation-wide search to trying to find their kids, and the story spread like wildfire. Soon all of South Korea was on a wild search, looking for the group who became known as "The Frog Boys" based off a report that they had originally been searching for frogs. 11 years goes by, and then one day, a hiker finally comes across the Frog Boys.