Double-Edged Sword of Modern Technology in Vietnam–Increased Connectivity and Human Trafficking

 

I recently came across a very disturbing article in last month’s The Independent Voice.  Vietnam is a developing country in Southeast Asia and its people are anxious to connect with the world using the latest technology.  Studies indicate approximately 68% of the Vietnamese have smartphones and an even higher percentage have internet access.  So while it is still often difficult for those located in rural areas to obtain running drinking water, technological use is widespread. However, internet use is unfortunately far ahead of safety awareness. Nowhere is this more alarmingly apparent than the growing problem of organized groups of young men sending friend requests to young girls on Facebook in an effort to trick them into forced marriages.

These men act as agents to lure young girls living in villages close to the Vietnamese-Chinese border. Why? Because in China men greatly outnumber women, and there are Chinese men so desperate to find women to marry that they solicit the services of these unscrupulous profiteers. These agents often travel to a well-known trading post on the border to sell young girls. Since Facebook is banned in China, Chinese clients are using “WeChat, Weibo, and Viber” as dating apps to purchase kidnapped brides.

Fortunately, charities like Pacific Links Foundation are working hard to combat human trafficking by doing what they can to prevent this criminal activity as well as provide support and resources for survivors. Written on the Pacific Links Foundation website are these frightening statistics:

  • Human trafficking is a growing $150 billion a year business, enslaving over 40 million women, children, and men in forced sexual and forced labor exploitation.
  • The chance of being enslaved in the Asia Pacific region is twice as high compared to developed countries.
  • Vietnam is a source country for cross-border sex and labor trafficking.*

Human trafficking in this region is only getting worse. Advocates insist more safeguards for internet users in developing countries must be put into place on par with users in the developed world in order to combat trafficking. Please check out their website at https://www.pacificlinks.org to learn more.

*Information taken from http://www.pacificlinks.org/counter-trafficking

Interested in reading a novel about the international human trafficking crisis? Check out True Mercy. Available on Amazon, IngramSpark, and Smashwords. True Mercy would make a perfect holiday gift for friends and family—designed to provide an engaging read as well as to inform the public on the evils of human trafficking.

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Networking for Introverts

 

Introverts Can Network Successfully

  Most writers are introverts. Networking can be particularly difficult for them. But they can still network successfully to find jobs and to market their writing. Dana Kaye, the owner of Kaye Publicity (https://kayepublicity.com), recently released the helpful video “Networking for Introverts.” This video is helpful not only to writers but also for anyone who is introverted and could use some help. Kaye explained the fundamental difference between introverts and extroverts: while both enjoy socializing, introverts find doing too much drains their energy. They require time alone in order to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, are the opposite: they feel drained when they spend too much time alone and renew their energy by socializing. Kaye offers practical suggestions for introverts while they are networking in a room full of people: If you find a person to chat with in a crowd:
  • Introduce yourself
  • Wait for their introduction
  • Shake hands with eye contact
  • Ask a question and listen to the answer.
  • Let the other person talk! (People love talking about themselves and the pressure is off of you to be charming and engaging.)
If you go to a group of people talking:
  • Apologize for interrupting.
  • Introduce yourself with eye contact.
  • Listen to their responses and introductions.
  • If they resume the conversation, listen and respond. If they don’t, ask questions and start another conversation.
  • Ask meaningful questions.
  • Listen!
As mentioned earlier, too much socializing can drain an introvert’s energy, so here is how to make a GRACEFUL EXIT when you meet someone new:
  • Shake hands, make eye contact, and say “It was nice to meet you.”
  • Swap business cards and provide a reason to follow up.
  • If needed, make an excuse such as you must make a phone call or use the restroom. Then leave the room temporarily so they see you are credible and not just want to get away from them.
Don’t forget to mingle! You’re there to make connections. At the same time, take breaks so you can recharge. Before you know it, you’ll be making connections!  
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Austin, Minnesota: An Autism-Friendly Town

 

The Famous Hormel Historic Home

In my novel True Mercy, Bruce often had to worry about his son Adam’s behavior in social settings. But if the story took place in Austin, Minnesota, he would have had much less to worry about. That’s because Austin is an autism-friendly town. Ten years ago, the community used their resources to educate local business owners about autism and train them to be aware of these customers’ needs. The town even has a community autism resource specialist. Therefore, Austin’s residents are probably more aware than most about the signs of autism that my story’s character Adam displayed: intense fixation on specific topics, unusual body movements like hands flapping, echolalia (word repetition), and meltdowns caused by feeling overwhelmed.

So how did the small town of Austin make itself autism-friendly? Just go in the Hormel Historic Home, a nonprofit museum dedicated to all things Spam, the canned meat that has been produced by Hormel Foods there for 81 years. Mary Barinka works there. She once worked as a Hormel marketing executive and is now the town’s autism resource specialist as well as a museum employee. Barinka has a sixteen-year-old daughter with autism. Along with working at the museum, she handles questions and requests from parents that can range from how to give a presentation to new business owners and their employees on becoming autism-friendly, where to find a good speech therapist, and how to help a local community college launch a special autism program.

You may wonder what business owners must do to make their establishments autism-friendly. Often individuals with autism react negatively to overstimulation, so these changes can include dimming the store’s lights, lowering the music volume, and training employees to speak slowly and in short phrases, and to be prepared to have more patience than usual.

The program began when retired Hormel executive and family friend Gary Ray asked Barinka if her then six-year-old daughter was able to participate in summer camp. Barinka told him she and her husband would like her to attend camp but it was not possible because they would need the camp to understand their daughter’s special needs and they would have to hire a helper. Ray and his wife then offered a donation for Barinka to start a camp. She jumped on it. The Ray’s have since donated over $100,000 to fund more programs such as a monthly respite night with children’s activities to give parents and caregivers a break, a peer program at the high school where student volunteers to spend time with another high schooler with autism one-on-one, day camps, and of course, the museum.

Hearing about the town’s programs, new families have moved in. Barinka also gets calls for advice from other towns who would like to set up their own autism-friendly programs.

Perhaps someday I will be able to visit Austin, Minnesota. I am sure my fictional character Adam and real-life individuals with autism would thrive in this town.

Information for this post came from The Washington Post article “The town that gave the world Spam is proud to be ‘autism-friendly’ by Amy Ellis Nutt.

True Mercy can be purchased on Amazon, IngramSpark, and Smashwords.

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Book Review: Library at the Edge of the World: Moving Forward after Personal Setbacks

My apologies for this late blog. It has been a hectic few weeks. Hope to get back on schedule

 

I recently read the book The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy. Taking place in a small seaside community in Ireland, Hanna Casey returns to her mother’s home after living in London for years after her divorce from her cheating husband. Before marriage, Hanna had dreamed of studying to be a librarian and eventually working at a major public library in London. But when she met her English husband in her teens, she gave up her dream to support her husband’s burgeoning career as a successful attorney. Upon finding out he had a mistress for years who was a close friend of the family, Hanna took their daughter and returned home to Ireland. Deeply embarrassed, she appears standoffish and churlish to members of her community. Her relationship with her overly critical mother grows increasingly tense and she becomes determined to fix up a run-down cottage that was left to her by a great-aunt. She now runs a tiny library in town and drives out to distant communities with her mobile library van.  It was certainly not the life she had planned or enjoyed with her husband in England. But when the town council plans to close it down, Hanna discovers she has the support and affection of her community. She also discovers she has more strength and confidence than she realizes as she fights the powers-that-be to save her job and continuing her mission to provide books to those in her far-flung community.

Even though Hanna’s original plans do not materialize, she learns to appreciate the richness of her present life and make peace with it.

Quote: “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

–Joseph Campbell

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Pachinko: A Potential Modern Masterpiece Falls Short

 

 

When I began reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, I initially thought this was the best book I have read so far this year. I had planned on writing a stellar book review. A National Book Award finalist, it tells the story of an impoverished sixteen-year-old girl named Sunja in 1930’s Korea. Sunja has a relationship with Hansu, a wealthy, powerful, older businessman who frequents her region. Sunja naively believes Hansu will marry her. Only when she gets pregnant and reveals she is carrying his child does she find out he is a married man who lives in Japan. Hansu, who has three daughters with his wife, wants Sunja to be his wife when he travels to Korea.  Knowing this is not honorable, Sunja rejects his offer for a much easier life and stays with her mother while they struggle to make ends meet. Soon, she meets Isak, a Korean missionary on his way to Japan to help build a church. Isak is willing to marry her and does not even question who fathered her child. He selflessly wants to give the unborn child a name. They move to Japan where Sunja gives birth to a son.

Unlike the first half of the book where the reader encounters characters living lives of quiet nobility, the second half is filled with vengeful and sexually depraved characters who wreak havoc. The writing is polished and author Lee offers beautiful imagery in her descriptions (“The sea was bluer than she had remembered, and the long, thin clouds seemed paler—everything seemed more vibrant with him here.”). But unfortunately, the characters go from Biblical in majesty to wreaking sensationalized tragedies. Lee spends too much time on the challenges of minor characters and transforms a few from kind and friendly to malicious in a single scene. The emphasis becomes Japanese racism of Koreans, depriving them of good careers and citizenship, despite their families having lived in Japan for generations. Lee never clearly explains what pachinko is, but I gather it is a gambling casino, one of the few jobs Koreans can work and make a decent living in Japan. By the end, the beauty of the story and its characters are lost and all the reader is left to contemplate is Japanese bigotry and foreign powers taking control of Korea itself, splitting the nation in half. Koreans in Japan no longer have their homes in Korea and those from the North who return end up starving to death. Thus, most have no choice but to endure the ongoing discrimination in Japan. An unsatisfying read after a remarkable beginning.

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