A Piece of Hawaii in Forest Grove, Oregon

Forest

 

At Pacific University, we boast a large population of students from Hawaii. Many students will meet these Hawaiians and experience the island culture. The food, greetings, music, and their Pidgin (or Hawaii Creole English) will seem very foreign. Even I, who was born and raised in Hawaii, was initially unfamiliar with it.

I am what people call the first generation. My parents, born in Japan, immigrated to Hawaii where I was born on the island of Hawaii (same name as the state). They both lacked the ability to speak English fluently so their community consisted of fellow immigrants from Japan. That is why I grew up in a culture that was halfway between the Japanese culture and the local Japanese-American culture.

The first time I heard people talking in Pidgin was when I entered middle school. By then people who knew how to speak Pidgin knew how to distinguish the authentic Pidgin and the mimics. Like all middle-schoolers, I was trying hard to fit in, and I didn’t want to risk being outed for being a fake so I gave up on speaking Pidgin.

For the most part I have a feeling most of the islanders gain their cultural experience through the gathering of their relatives and/or their parent’s friends. From what I noticed, the relatives of the cultured islanders all live near or on the neighboring islands. On top of that their parent’s friend who decides to stay on the island all live close together. After all, the most you will have to drive is probably 1 to 2 hours if they live on the opposite side of the island.

Because they have friends and relatives nearby, they have more opportunities to have gatherings and parties. There, the kids will mimic how all the adults speak and eventually learn how to speak in Pidgin, just like how I learned to speak Japanese. There, they will experience the friendly greetings and kisses from their relatives.

For me, all my relatives lived back in Japan. Unlike most of friends who went back to Japan every year, I only got to visit Japan once every 5 years or so. That’s why I don’t have the experience of meeting with my relatives over holidays. I never grew up with the island style gatherings.

It was a strange experience when I first visited the Hawaii house.  Let me describe that moment: at the door, I hear the muffled island music that I never really listen to. As I walk in I am greeted with hugs and smiles from strangers that I have never met. People laughing and talking in mixtures of proper and Pidgin English.

As I sit down on the sofa, bewildered and confused, someone tosses me a bottle of Heineken.

“Cheers, braddah” he says.

I enjoyed the rest of the night with these friendly strangers who treated me as if I was part of the family already. The house had a special kind of welcoming feel that is unique to the islands.

When I came to Pacific, I was excited for the new mainland experience that everyone back home talked about when they went to college. But I never expected to learn something about my home during my stay here. While many people experience the diverse cultures of other places in their stay here at Pacific, I don’t think many people get to experience the diversity of their home.

 

By: Michael Sakai

A Primer on Non-Binary and Transgender

Rainbow

Gender identity is becoming an increasingly prevalent matter as transgender and non-binary individuals are more visible now than ever before, banding together, campaigning for fair treatment, and asking people to question the binary that has been touted as the end all of gender in western society, despite examples of people who have broken the mold throughout history across the world. Younger generations especially are becoming more open to the idea that gender is not one of two options assigned at birth, but rather a spectrum.

Who is transgender? Well, anyone who identifies as a man if he was designated female at birth (a transman), and anyone who identifies as a woman if she was designated male at birth (a transwoman). Non-binary people are those who identify as neither man nor woman.

How can cisgender people (those who are not trans or non-binary) accustom themselves to the existence of transgender and non-binary people? Ultimately, it comes down to respect, and acknowledging that everyone’s reality is subjective. If somebody tells you which pronouns they go by, and what name they’d like to be called, use those pronouns and that name for them (as you would for someone who goes by a nickname). Do this all of the time and not just in front of them; it is not respect if you use the pronouns they were given at birth and their birth name (commonly known as a “dead name” in the trans community) behind their back. When people do this, it indicates that they actually don’t respect trans and non-binary individuals. Closeted children who hear their parents misgender and dead name people who they know are trans or non-binary come away with the impression that their own identity will not be respected by the people who are supposed to unconditionally support them.

It is also essential to disregard any stereotypes concerning trans and non-binary individuals. Like everybody, trans and non-binary people are unique and have their own experiences relating to gender and society. Just because there are certain ideas of how trans and non-binary people should present, does not mean that they are obliged to fit with society’s expectations, which often coincide with the gender binary. Like color, how a non-cisgender person presents themselves exists on a spectrum. A transwoman can have a beard and is still a woman, a transman can have breasts and not desire to medically transition or bind and is still a man, transwomen can dress traditionally masculine and transmen are free to wear dresses as they please. Not every trans person or non-binary person defies expectations, but some do, and their identity as trans or non-binary is as valid as those whose experiences more closely align with typical gender norms.

Empathy in Difference

Books

Though modern culture continues to grow away from traditional mediums; replacing the journal with the phone and intimate conversation with online chat, the art of telling a story will always be a new concept. Not only does literature serve as storage for scholarly findings or political developments, it also works to express ideas and personal thoughts of the individual. As such, there is more to the book than cold facts for our own personal gain. What creative literature provides is a way into foreign living and interpretation. This is how we understand other cultures, how we empathize and relate to one another regardless of the fact we’re not the same.

In telling our personal stories, we share our individual view of the world. We inspire and shape new culture with our ideas for a better future and bring light to our unseen lifestyles. I’m not strictly talking biographies, I’m referencing the concept that within our creative works we share a bit about ourselves and how we view the inner workings of our society. Take any fiction novel, series, whatever, and find what makes that story relatable to you. In my case, Homestuck, a story about nerds who get trapped inside a game as the Earth is obliterated. Alien creatures called trolls band together with them to beat the game, and they’re able to create a new home planet for everyone to share. It’s very engaging, and the plot makes it easy to empathize with each character. How can this be? The story is fiction. The universe doesn’t exist. The characters aren’t even human. Yet I found something I could relate to. This is because the writer included a bit of their familiar world within their work, many times simply for the reason that readers would be able to follow along. No matter how hard we try, our own values and perception of life creep into our work. This is how we expose ourselves to our audience, how we let others in and help them understand our backgrounds. This goes for the conflict of our characters down to the way we write.

Everything we do is influenced in some way by culture and society. This is why fictional literature is just as telling as biographies. Just because it’s not factual, doesn’t mean it’s clean of personal experience. And this is what I’m getting at. Literature tells our story. It’s how we interact and empathize. It’s important. It’s us. It’s all we know. And we need to learn from other people. We need to become aware of foreign cultures, and different ways of thinking, and how to improve as one big family, and just how to get along. We can do all these things by reading and writing creative works. And the concepts within the works will always be relative to modern concepts. This is how literature stays current, how it stays alive amongst the frequent turnover of technology. Like paper and pen. What happened to that? Now it’s all typing. But who cares, that’s not what I’m talking about.

So what about me? Let’s change the subject for a minute. I consider myself to be a fiction writer. I spill beans about myself and my culture with every word on the page. This is how I input my experience, this is how I express my background. What do I write about? Little things like culture, love, and people. That’s what I’m passionate about. I like to write about embracing our differences, and sharing our views of the world, and finding hope. I was raised to believe these things, so my writing reflects it. Just how someone who was raised in a poor environment, and longs for more money, might write about finding success and how their characters struggle with their financial background. Or maybe they’ll write about rich people who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. It’s all relative to how we’re raised, where we come from, what we believe.

I’m thinking once we read a variety of works by a variety of people, we’ll start to understand one another, and even though we may not agree, we’ll grow closer as human beings and learn to accept those who differ from us. That’s what it’s all about. With the current topics in creative works like gender, sexuality, politics, all that stuff that makes up who we are as individuals, it remains in public interest. This is one art form that will never die. It’s just too much of an outlet for people. Humans are going to tell stories, it’s what they do. And hopefully those stories will open our eyes to each other. And I don’t know, maybe we’ll let live.

 

By: Stephanie van Schijndel