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

Rewriting History

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, James J. Williams

Credit: James J. Williams

“History is written by the victors.” – Winston Churchill

The history that we are taught in school is a very narrow one. It is framed in victories, accomplishments, and the Western world’s ideologies. Very little is said about those who’ve suffered from these accomplishments, and over time, we’ve accepted that to mean this: their stories don’t matter. However, this teaching is wrong– and they do.

In the fourteenth issue of Silk Road Review, a themed issue titled Voices on Asia, I was struck by a piece on the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy and the destruction of the Hawaiian Nation and its people. Elinor Langer contributed “Bayonet,” the first chapter of her novel, “The Trials of Lili-uokalani,” which detailed the political takeover which occurred in 1887. This eye-opening counter story to the dominant narrative is all at once saddening, horrifying, and inspiring as the Hawaiian Nation’s trials and tribulations were glossed over as simply the annexation of Hawaii, America’s 50th state.

One segment from the text particularly haunted me as I read about the decline in the native Hawaiian population.  “A report dated June 30, 1887…puts the native Hawaiian population at 44,232, a decrease of 41 percent…[since] the year of the King’s birth. The losses were at once personal and universal. Whole families and villages simply disappeared.” The loss of 41 percent of anything is staggering, but 41 percent of a human population is…beyond comprehension and expression. I cannot help but think back to the genocide of the America’s indigenous peoples by colonists, explorers, and business men trying to expand their property and profits at the expense of human life. It is a pattern that should not be so easily left out of history and forgotten. It should not be admissible by omission as responsibility cannot so easily be sloughed off.

The actions of the Honolulu Rifles, the Caucasian militia group that backed the bureaucratic coup, personally disgust me with their pride and lust for conflict. Records from their meetings before and after confronting King Kalakaua show that they vehemently supported a violent coup if the King were to resist and “waited as long as we could stand it, and when our Anglo-Saxon blood could endure it no longer we screwed our courage to the sticking point and went in for revolution.” It’s hard to comprehend why they believed that their, to use their term, “revolution”, was for a righteous cause. Led by business men with personal interests in the reallocation of political power, it was an aggressive business plan at its most basic level. These men hid behind their hoity-toity colonial mindsets to justify the destruction of an entire nation and its culture. The fact that they got away with it directly correlates with the history it subsequently aligns with.

Langer recounts the difficult choice that King Kalakaua had to make in 1887 to do what he thought best for his people. While it put the first nail in the coffin for his sister’s subsequent usurpation from power, he did so to try and protect his subjects from violence. The complexity of these actions is difficult to capture in a way that grants them the dignity they are deserving of. Being forced to give up their lands and culture, as well as many lives, has shaped the Hawaiian Nation in a way that will continue to resonate for generations to come. And in order to give them the justice they deserve, we must hear their stories. That is why this piece moved me so. I was glad they were finally given a voice, and hope to hear it in their own words soon.

It seems wrong to label this as a counter story to history, as it is in fact a historical account. However, it is a counter story to colonial European and American history which has flourished as Truth. By presenting the events of the Bayonet Constitution and the conflicting interests of the people involved, a more rounded account of the event starts to form. No longer is history just a unilateral narrative when counter stories emerge to give voice to those who “lost.”

“The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.” – Oscar Wilde

By: Sophia Backus

Finding a Home Across the Pacific: My Experience in Hawaii


Photo Credit: Jordan Helton

Thin-strapped sandals and water shoes were piled haphazardly to the side of the welcome mat adorned with bright flowers.  Tables were set up in a long line in a garage lit by string lights, an array of food displayed as a banquet.  The six of us carried hot trays of chicken katsu and sticky rice covered in saran wrap up the walkway like a procession.

I was an honorary member of this newly introduced family of five for the beginning of the summer after my freshman year of college.  I’d met and befriended many different people over the course of two semesters, but my roommate Shawny had quickly become my best friend. She had invited me to stay as a guest at her family’s home on Oahu, and our day so far had consisted of body boarding at Lanikai beach and visiting a Buddhist temple. Shawny’s family is Japanese, and over the course of my first week on the island, I had tried more new foods and visited more places than I ever had before. As I entered her family’s potluck to celebrate her second cousin’s graduation from the University of Hawaii, I was immediately pulled into a hospitable hug followed by a kiss on the cheek by her elderly grandpa.

This ritual continued as I was introduced to her entire extended family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and family friends.  I was accustomed to my reserved and detached family members, who rarely even greet each other with polite and awkward hugs.  We held hands in a circle extending to each corner of the room to pray over her cousin’s accomplishments and each shared something we felt thankful for on that particular night.  Mine was simply being there.

I learned that her whole extended family lived in the Honolulu area, which made me think of my own family spread all over the country in far away states, like Utah, Nevada, and Florida.  We only see each other during big holidays or weddings, sometimes not even once every few years.  To live together on one island, congregating for every occasion and accomplishment felt beyond my comprehension.  We only focused on being thankful together on one day of the year, forgetting to concentrate on our many privileges on every other day that passed us by.

Shawny’s family sat around me and inquired about my family and upbringing in Montana, a place as unfamiliar to them as their home was to me.  They tested my pronunciation of vowels in the Hawaiian alphabet and my opinion on the gelatinous poi offered on the side, and laughed when I had to ask for a fork—my talent with chop sticks is severely limited.  Shawny and I recalled our shared experiences during our first year going to school in Oregon, and they listened in earnest. As we ate and conversed, I never felt like an outsider tagging along to someone else’s family event.  There existed a sense of belonging and unity I seldom felt even in my own family gatherings.

As we said our goodbyes, we were sent away with plates of leftovers that would last for days—chicken long rice soup, edamame rice, kalua pig, and butterfish.  Parting was the same as greeting—a strong hug and a kiss, maybe two, on the cheek, for which Shawny apologized embarrassedly.  I didn’t mind—to me, the opportunity to be welcomed into her family’s home and witness their love for one another, and their values of togetherness and inclusion taught me more about them than she could ever describe to me in words.

By: Mikelyn Rochford