Palette

Three newsy items from around the Pacific Rim.

Falun Gong: Cult or Cultivation?

Story by Lisa Thé

Everybody has seen the morning Tai Chi group that works out atop Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park, but less prominent is the much smaller Falun Gong gathering that meets there on weekends. Falun Gong, (aka Falun Dafa), combines ancient Taoist and Buddhist thought with founder Li Hongzhi’s own philosophy. The practitioners perform slow, graceful exercises with names like “Penetrating the Two Cosmic Extremes” and “Strengthening Supernormal Powers.”

Fanny Qiu, an SFU grad student who has been doing the moves for three years said, “I need less sleep now, because the sleep I get is better quality. Also, it’s easier for me to concentrate on my studies and I have a happier mood in general.”

Ironically, as the local Falun Gong crowd exercises in the greenery, fellow practitioners in China are being incarcerated for doing the same movements. The Chinese government banned the practice in July 1999, alleging that Li, who lives in New York, is a charlatan with political aspirations in Beijing.

The Emerging Immersion

Story by Lynda Yepez

Shihori Wada came to Canada to learn English at a language college in Nelson, but it just was not happening. Fluency is next to impossible when living in residence surrounded by Japanese-speaking classmates. So she boarded with the White family in North Vancouver after spotting their ad on a bulletin board. That was six years ago. Today, Wada is completing her Bachelor’s degree in Multicultural and Ethnic Studies at Simon Fraser University. And still living with the Whites.

According to Cheryl Humphries, a faculty member at Canadian International College—a school strictly dedicated to Japanese international students—those who continue their studies in Canada constitute a minority of foreign students. Most return to Japan or travel to other countries.

“Originally, I didn’t think I was planning to stay here forever,” Wada said, “but now I’m totally adapted to Canadian culture, total freedom, and my goal is to get immigrant status.”

Her host mother, Vivian White, is an occupational therapist who has hosted ten students in the last eight years. White feels the key to a successful homestay is to assess the relationship between the student and the family. “For example,” she explained, “when a host family suggests an idea and the student picks up and runs with it, that’s great, but if not, then you just leave it alone, because we do not force our North American values on an individual from another culture.”

With such caring hosts, it is not surprising that foreign student enrolment in Canada has steadily increased over the past few years.

Quest for Sustainable Development

Story by Tess deHoog

Replete with world-class hotels, shopping malls, and enough high-tech office space to house a city of computer geeks, Malaysia continues to build its Multimedia Super Corridor outside Kuala Lumpur. The challenge is to complete the 699-square-kilometre project without creating an urban mess. Rising to the occasion, Lestari, a Malaysian environmental institute, and Envision Sustainability Tools, a Vancouver environmental software developer, have joined forces to create an interactive planning program known as Quest.

Quest can be downloaded or purchased on CD-ROM. The first component in the series is called Invent-a-Future. It allows the user to combine criteria such as water quality and labour force, and to view the potential outcomes for a year 2030 scenario. The program is fine-tuned for every country, area, and situation; it recognizes the differences in development between Malaysia and Vancouver, and realistically calculates the environmental impact accordingly. The final variable is the Malaysian government, which will choose whether or not to adopt Quest as part of its sustainable development plan.

*The Multimedia Super Corridor is now called MSC Malaysia. Visit MSC Malaysia for more information.

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