A Piece of Hawaii in Forest Grove, Oregon



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

Their Struggle, My Future

Su Family Photo

Credit: Kimberly Su

I am the child of refugees.

And being the child of refugees carries more weight than anyone could ever realize. My parents both struggled in their lives to come to America, to escape the hellish environment of their beloved home country. They fled to to a country that had promised help their homeland, only to watch from the sidelines as their new home withdrew from the war and left a mess behind. My parents were refugees of the Vietnam War.

Children of refugees are constantly told about the struggles that their parents went through to give them the life they have. I can’t describe how many times my parents scolded me for wasting precious moments of my privileged life, as if I didn’t understand what their hardships were worth. It’s sad to say, but as a kid, I really didn’t. I remember one day, sitting and staring out the window, watching the bright, California sun. I wanted to be out there, playing in the grass of the front lawn instead of being inside doing multiplication tables.

I whined my head off to my parents. My mom scolded me fiercely for taking my life for granted. She would go on about how I was lucky to have this free time to focus on my studies. I never understood why she felt so strongly about those multiplication tables. I can still hear her scolding me–in a voice full of anger, frustration, and a hint of wisdom–tell me time and time again about her own childhood. How she barely had time to study because she had to arrive home from school and immediately clean the house, cook meals, help her four younger siblings, and every other chore my somewhat absent grandparents doled out to her.

Getting older and going to college teaches you to appreciate so many things. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand so much more of my family’s history. I’m a first generation American, and although my dad went to college in the U.S., he had to supplement school with numerous jobs: working at a library, in a mailroom, as a janitor, as a tutor, and other meagerly-paid jobs. He told me stories of endless lunches of cheap white bread sandwiches with cheap off-brand mayo. Stories of wearing shirts until they practically fell off his body before buying new ones from Ross clearance racks. Stories of living with eight other people in an apartment made for two, so as to avoid paying on-campus housing. My dad got a good education in computer engineering around the time the field started picking up in popularity so he could help his parents and sisters. He worked hard every day of his life and saved every piece of spare change in a water jug since the day he left his home in Vietnam. He wanted to create a future that would be better than the life he was living.

My mom was no different. She couldn’t get a college education due to finances, so she worked a cubicle job at a company that made computer chips. A dead end job of long hours and taking plenty of overtime so she could save for the future of my brother and I. Growing up I rarely saw my mom, as she left home early in the morning and didn’t return until well after eight or nine at night, often working during the weekends. I vividly remember hearing her car start up at five, staring out the window to watch her leave for work. I remember thinking, “Why is Mommy leaving without saying goodbye again?” Well now I know the answer. It’s because she wanted to make sure I could get a good education, so I’d never have to face the same difficulty when I had my own child.

Ever since my junior year of high school, around the time I started to look for colleges, an anxious terror has taken over a part of my mind. A fear that grows every day and makes me reevaluate every little detail of my life. I sit in class, in my room, and everywhere in between, feeling the fear sink its claws deeper into my mind.

It asks, “Are you doing enough for them? Is this the best you can be?”

After all my parents went through, I am currently attending college for free. My parents are paying for the entirety of my education. That knowledge is terrifying. I am constantly afraid that I will not honor my parents’ hardships and struggles. That if I choose wrong then I might render their sacrifice worthless.

I don’t know if what I’m doing in college is truly honoring what my parents had to struggle through to get me this life. I’d like to think that as long as I make the best of the life I have, I am doing them justice. If I take pride and make sure I have no regrets at the end of the day, I am on the right path. Maybe that’s good enough and maybe it isn’t. I can never really know, but I can always keep trying.

I’m lucky enough to get that option.

By: Kimberly Su