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

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

Bridging the Immigration Culture Gap with Language

 

Market

Image Credit: WikiCommons

My sophomore year of high school I traveled to Mexico for a fifteen day trip. I had one year of Spanish under my belt, and on the way I felt like I could already speak the language.

“Hola ¿Cómo se llama?” said a stranger with a friendly smile and an outreached hand. And then, with a still friendly, but slightly impatient look: “¿Cuál es su nombre?”

I could only stare blankly. Hombre? Was that man or hungry? No…wait, that’s hambre.

With a more impatient expression this time, he asked, “Hi, what is your name?”

I was flooded with relief at the sound of English. For the rest of the trip I couldn’t even bring myself to try to speak in Spanish to anyone. Surrounded by Spanish posted in street advertisements, scrawled across the sides of buildings, and thrown between the shops of the open air market, I couldn’t escape my insecurity in the language.

Navajoa

Image Credit: WikiCommons

Putting aside the comforts of familiarity and home, I had wanted to understand the people of the small unfamiliar Mexican village we stayed at.

This feeling however, of being the stranger, unable to speak in the way I wanted to, was a better insight into the lives of hispanic immigrants and their children in the United States. In the social systems of the United States, speaking English, especially with the general American english accent, is considered a privilege.

This fall, after four more years of Spanish studies, I listened to hispanic staff at Pacific University as they went about their days. These friends and coworkers, speaking to each other in Spanish, conversing and sharing stories, I realized I wanted to be a person that meets people in their culture, their perspective, and with their language–if possible– to hear the stories that make them who they are.

Gloria Anzaldúa, one of the foremost scholars on feminism and chicana culture,   discusses the process of her language being taken away from her in her writing, “Cómo domar una lengua salvaje.” In U.S. schools she was punished for speaking Spanish or put down for speaking English like a Mexican. For many chicana people, Spanish may not even be a relief or safe haven.

Anzaldua

Image Credit: K. Kendall Flickr

A few weeks ago I finally challenged myself to speak Spanish out of my comfort zone. All I needed was a simple, “I’m doing well, thank you. Y, ¿Cómo está usted?” in response to a greeting to find out more about the people living around me as they are. I recognized the feeling of excitement and relief of hearing one’s fluent language on the faces of the people before me. A few words opened an important door.

For me, Silk Road is a place where we meet to share our stories and learn about international perspectives. When the fall 2015 staff first met, we read over the Asia issue, describing what we liked about the entries. Those pieces exemplified Silk Road: relevant, interesting, diverse, well-crafted, a new perspective, cultural. The most effective submissions, and published pieces, are those that share a new story, bring a new and rich setting to the forefront, and come from the heart of a culture. Silk Road is the opportunity to give voice to the displaced and hear about the lives that make up an international culture.

By: Karissa Mathae