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About Me

Moni Storz (Phd)
I am a cross cultural consultant, writer and specialist in Chinese and other Asian business cultures. I train and educate people on how to navigate and manage Asian business cultures, and give them the how to's regarding doing business in Asia.
I am the artistic director for the ACT (Australasian Chinese Theatre Company) and founder of ACCS (Australasian Centre of Chinese Studies).
Melbourne, Victoria
AUSTRALIA

AN AUTHOR'S ANGST: The Search for Xiao Li's Head: A Magical Tale of Female Re-memberment:

This blog is more like an author note or an afterthought for this magical tale had sprung out of an unconscious need to be whole again. After living in Australia for several decades,  I woke up one day and asked myself - who am I?
I wrote The Search for Xiao Li's Head: A Magical Tale of Female Re-memberment  to remind myself that as a Chinese woman, my journey is much like Xiao Li's. In this short story, Xiao Li, the young protagonist lost her mother and was tortured by a stepmother who chopped her up into little pieces and scattered her to the mercies of the elements. Xiao Li's search for her scattered fragments in order to be whole again, depicts the search for identity, the search for self. In the history of the world, whether Chinese or non Chinese, this tale is told many times over. In fables, poems, ballads and in songs. It is archypal. For me, it was a personal dilemma then at the time of writing this tale. The dilemma is now no longer. Instead it has matured into a quest for answers.
I wrote this short story in Australia  a few decades ago, and it was published in HECATE, a feminist literary journal. As I was writing it, I remember thinking, my search for wholeness was more problematic because I was living in a "white people world' so to speak, as "an overseas Chinese". The question that arose for me was - is it possible to focus on my woman identity without taking into account my ethnicity as a Chinese. Can this be done in a lineal fashion, a question of "prioritisation" as in which comes first - me, the woman, or me the Chinese? Can I separate the two? Of course, I can separate the two conceptually and theoretically as a Sociologist.  And I have often done this in my academic writings. But can I, in my consciousness? A question such as this throws me into a whirlpool of many more questions. All without easy answers. A short story, a fable, a magical tale, is one form that some of these questions can be articulated. Hence, when I wrote The Search for Xiao Li's Head, it was as if that I, too, had lost my head. Will I find it again, living as I still do in "white people country"? or do I call China home? Or Will I go back to China one day to be buried as the Chinese in my parents generation had wished for themselves while living outside the mainland? Will I become whole then, all my scattered bits and pieces can be put together again, and I do not suffer the fate of Humpty Dumpty when "all the kings horses and all the kingsmen could not put Humpty Dumpty together again". I am afraid for me, and for the overseas Chinese like me, whether in "white people country" or in any other, we are the Humpty Dumpties, neither armies, acquired citizenships nor permanent resident visas, can make us whole again. This can only happen when we continue on the search relentlessly as Xiao Li does. She seeks the Goddess Nu Wa's help, the mythological giver of life. Perhaps we, too, need a bit of help from the gods and goddesses.

Cousin-Brothers Ah Meng and Ah Chew: A Little Tale About the Big Chinese Diaspora



Cousin-Brothers Ah Meng and Ah Chew: A Little Tale About the Big Chinese Diaspora


I am writing this in England, squatting at my cousin’s cosy apartment and I can’t help but think how lucky I am to have found him late in my life.  Virtually fatherless when born in Sungai Patani, Ah Meng (or Alan) is the son of my father’s youngest sister. We call her ku chai, meaning “aunty little” (she was shorter than I and that is short if you happen to be in Australia living amongst giants!). Ku means paternal aunt and yee means aunty on the maternal line. As a very young widow, ku chai lived within an extended family situation while her mum, my paternal grandmother, was still alive. Over the years as our family situation changed, hers did too. Eventually she ended up with my father’s, her 4th brother’s, family. Ah Meng must have been 5 or 6 years old at that time.  So in many ways Ah Meng is really more a brother than a cousin and in actual fact, we Chinese often use the term cousin-brother to refer to cousins. Over a period of fifty years (while living in Australia )   I didn’t see Alan nor hardly communicated with him.
Alan has become a Chinese Briton, member of the Chinese diaspora, just as I have become a Chinese Aussie. He is fair and white haired and speaks with a quiet gentle voice so reminiscent of English gentlemen and scholars. We chatted to each other in the English language, sharing a vocabulary that only people in my generation brought up in British Malaya could have acquired and I marveled at this. As children, Ah Meng and I spoke 3 Chinese dialects: Hokkein, Cantonese and Hakka! We were both sent to Mandarin schools but did not stay, and ended up in mission schools which used English as the medium of teaching.  During one of our conversations we reminisced on using Mandarin and how in our post middle age, we have forgotten most of it. He in turn said if given a few months with Mandarin speakers, he would probably regain his Mandarin.  I wonder how we can forget our languages learnt in childhood yet we don’t so easily forget our customs. For example, I noted that Ah Meng gave me a cup of coffee with both hands, he addressed me as elder sister  in Hokkein (Ni Chi) and showed a Confucian deference towards me which I found touching. So all the years in England did not erase some of his cultural ways. I must say all the years in Australia did not erase the deep Confucian roots that had shaped me although ostensibly I am in many respects perceived to be “westernized” or “Australianised” (whatever that means).

While in England during this trip I sought out another cousin-brother whom I had not seen for a long time, probably about 20 years. Ah Chew is the son of my father’s elder brother. So we share the same surname and definitely a very important first cousin as he is on the strict Lai paternal line. According to Chinese tradition, cousins of the same surname must not marry each other. (In fact traditional Chinese practise exogamy which means all kinsmen and women of the same clan along the paternal line cannot marry each other! )  A very strong incest taboo indeed. Ah Chew had left Malaya at the same time that I did so for nearly 50 years we had studied and lived away from Malaya. We were the first in the Lai clan to go to universities and abroad to study, no mean feat for kids whose paternal grandfather was a wooden clog maker. Ah Chew is a scholar and a musician (plays the violin and mandolin).) Having a chat with him I wondered at his present lifestyle: a global gypsy (he is Hakka like me, the Chinese gypsies) with a PhD in agricultural science, working in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, and in between his business trips, he plays music. In the 68th year of our lives, I sat in a church in London listening to him play the mandolin in the Mandolin Festival of London. As I sat and listened to the music, my Sociologist mind turned to issues of the Chinese diaspora, the great dispersal of the Chinese globally. On different occasions, as my cousins kissed me on my cheek in greeting and parting and in our embraces, I know with a deep sense of wonder that they are “fusion”, just like me.  We can practise some of the ways of the West like the social kiss, yet we still adhere to traditional Confucianist ways unconsciously. We are members of the Half Luck Club’, members of the global Chinese diaspora, neither completely Chinese nor completely English, Australian, Canadian, etc. In seeing my cousins in their adopted homes, I felt again the roots that bind us across time and space,  the family and clan kinship ties which in some mysterious way define who we are as members of the Chinese diaspora.

UPDATE ON THE ACT
Our Man in Beijing, my inter-cultural play about Chinese and Australians  will be performed at La Mama, Carlton. La Mama is probably the most significant independent theatre company in Melbourne and many of our most famous playwrights such as Hibberd and Williamson had their plays first performed there.
Please put these dates in your diary now as La Mama is a small theatre with limited seats. Contact me for further details or check out La Mama website and our ACT facebook page and group.
Shows:
Saturday 25 August 2012  4:00 pm   Premiere
Sunday   26 August 2012  4:00 pm

Saturday 01 September 2012  4:00 pm
Sunday   02 September 2012  4:00 pm

Saturday 08 September 2012  4:00 pm
Sunday   09 September 2012  4:00 pm


 


Western and Chinese Marriages: One Wife or Many?


Western and Chinese Marriages: One Wife or Many?
An interesting comparison between what I call western marriages and Chinese marriages in China. I use the term western very loosely to include those in Australia, NZ, UK, USA and Canada for example. I can speak about these countries because i know the marriage and divorce statistics. And of course I can speak about China. China is my specialised study for many years and I was born into a Chinese family. In modern China divorce is common. Since 1978, it is even more common. What are the factors for this high rate of divorce? The factors are to do with dual careers, pressure from in law's, high cost of living, and so on. Much the same as in western societies.
However, in spite of these similarities. the divorce rate is still lower in China. This is because of a number of Chinese women especially in the older age group say in their fifties and sixties did not see that infidelities is their husbands cause a marital breakdown. No, they tell me, when a husband goes off to another woman's bed, it is OK as long as he continues to support his primary family and their children. I am not surprised when these women tell me this. In Chinese culture marriage had been polygamous meaning a man can have more one wife unlike in western societies where monogamy is practised. Deep within the Chinese psyche is still the acceptance of polygamy as a custom. Although Chinese wives, like all wives anywhere, experience jealousy and unhappiness when theeir husbands go prancing off to other women, they often swallow the bitterness and put up with their husbands' concubines or mistresses. Mu own mother had to do this. She took my father's concubine into our home and we children had to call second mother (yee ma in Cantonese). We were told to show due respect. How many of us can welcome our husband's mistresses into our home? I often wonder about that. Can I? Could I ? Well, until we are put to the test, this is a challenging question. My mother's advice to me was: always kill his mistress with kindness. Hmm old Confucian wisdom which could work. In my mother's case, it did. Second mother felt an obligation to leave my father in the face of my mother's kindness to her.My mother reclaimed my father and lived unhappily after.

I am reading Jeff Jarvis' WHAT WOULD GOOGLE DO?

Reading this book makes me think : that is a good thing. I haven't thought for a long time. Google makes me think about the Chinese guanxi. I like the fact that google and guanxi both begin with a "G" and so does the word God. Jarvis makes Google sounds like God... as for us Chinese we really don't have a god - our unconscious culture is shaped more by Confucianism than Taoism. For those who designate ourselves as Buddhists, well,  we all know that Buddhism is not a religion, let alone it having a god of any sort. Google and guanxi have a lot in common. For a start both are webs. Guanxi is best described as a web of connections and interconnections. A knows B and B knows C and this looks like three people. In actual fact, it is more than 3. It is infinite. Sounds familiar in the internet age. Reminds us of facebook and linkedin, doesn't it? And of course, google. Hence when doing business with the Chinese, guanxi is important. If you had grasped the significance of google, then perhaps you are beginning to understand the significance of guanxi. Connection, connection, connection, that is the most shared recipe for success when doing business with the Chinese. Yet the hardest recipe to follow.

The Tao of Being Chinese

in ancient taoist literature, the yin and yang symbolises the masculine and feminine forces within an individual.

Cristina del Sesto on Ian Teh's Dark Images of Coal-mining Pollution

Sometimes when a reviewer or writer has fallen into love with an image, a person, or an object, our subjectivity deserts us, rather like falling in love…it is an obvious emotional state…decisions become flawed with our bias. Reviews of art are by nature intrinsically subjective, although we delude ourselves that we can be objective… hence it is intelligent, if not wise, to listen to other writers and reviewers, and then construct a collage of the reviewed works of art. Digging through some of the things written about his works, I find a piece that Cristina Del Sesto wrote for the Journal-Constitution (Dark Images of China’s Coal-mining Pollution.
"In his image workers at a Coking Palna (Benxi,China 2007) ghost like figures of coal miners covered in coal dust make it seem as though Teh had traveled to Hades. In another image, a seemingly peaceful sunset over barren trees turns out to be flames from a tar refinery in Linfen, China. These powerful images had their first showing China…"
Reading the Cristina Del Sesto’s article which was an interview with Ian when he was on an assignment in Beijing, I cannot help thinking that for her, a photo has evoked imagery of hell. The same photo of coal miners brought forth a different feeling in me, one of relief. The coal miners had made it. They came out alive. This photo caught a mundane moment in the lives of humans doing very dangerous work. This is one of the appealing things in Ian’s works for me: his photos capture one of the great things about life - contradictions and constrasts. Just a man finishing a day’s work and going home. Nothing can be more mundane than that surely. Or is it?

The Australasian Chinese Theatre Company (the ACT)

Being Chinese in Australia has been a long interesting fascinating learning experience for me over forty years. Perhaps the highlight of these decades is trying to find myself and my Chinese identity through re claiming the mandarin language. Having found no one who could teach it properly to me, i opened a school using Accelerated Learning techniques of drama, music and whole brain tools. When ACCS is successfully running, i have turned to the performing acts and opened up a theatre company that will focus on creating intercultural performances among Australians and Chinese and of course our little brothers and sisters across the Tasman sea: the New Zealanders. the ACT's inaugural production was fun and successful. However looking for Chinese actors and performers was like looking for a needle in the haystack. Where are the Chinese Aussies who like to act? or are they engineers and doctors and dentists? Chinese parents like to steer their children away from the stage and performing arts into more stable and lucratice careers. And when some of these children insist on the arty farty pursuits, often they end up finishing their degrees in medicine or engineering first, then turn their attention to a performing arts career. I know of a brilliant violinist who is now a business man, a brilliant ballerina who is now a doctor. I often wonder what if... my dream for the ACT is that one day we will have musicals, plays and films created from the synergy and fusion of Australasians and Chinese.