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Hapa in Honolulu: Homecoming?

March 22, 2009

This photo pretty much sums up my return to Portland this evening: blurry, empty, blue.

Coming home is supposed to feel like a relief. It’s supposed to feel comfortable and welcome. Something like how it felt for me to arrive in Honolulu. Not like my return to Portland.

I walked through the terminal towards the exit, and I kept looking around, expecting the people around me to turn around and look like me. Or be Asian. Or at least not pale and white. But my expectations were not fulfilled.

Welcome home.

But I don’t need to dwell on the negative right now. Instead, I shall give a little preview of what’s to come in over the course of the next week on this blog:

The “Hapa in Honolulu” series (that’s right – I’m doing a “series,” and it even has a cheesy-yet-catchy name to it). Most people go to Hawaii for sun and beaches – I went to relax on a more spiritual level (the relaxation of finally letting my guard down a bit and “blending in,” phenotypically-speaking).

In just one week on Oahu, I was filled with probably a couple weeks’ worth of posts about identity, racial politics, American government, immigration, and my own place in it all. I received a blast of inspiration to write like I haven’t felt in quite some time (essays as well as lyrics). I walked with my head held high, pondered things big and small and just thought and lived in a way that I haven’t really been doing in recent months. So I’m going to let it out in a slow trickle (or maybe more like a couple downpours) over my next few posts.

So that’s what you all have to look forward to. If you’re mixed like me, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, but don’t worry – I’ve got plenty of thoughts that should keep all you monoracial folks involved, as well.

Enjoy.

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5 comments

  1. I’m monoracial but looking forward to your thoughts. I’m also moving to Portland in September (to become a Reedie). What’s it like for you?


  2. “Or be Asian. Or at least not pale and white. But my expectations were not fulfilled.”

    Choptensils, that was a very racist statement and very uncalled for.


  3. ve only been to Portland once, but I’m pretty sure it’s a true statement. Did you read the post before this one? Maybe that’s why you don’t get it.


  4. @ Angela –
    Is the “racist” statement the one in which I describe white skin as “pale”? It is. By definition. Especially when I compare it to where I just came from, where even the white folks are NOT pale. Was it “racist” to point out that EVERYBODY in the airport (save those from the flight I was on) was white? And that, after blending in – for once – it was a bit disappointing for me?

    And – honestly – will you please tell me why you read this site if this is all you see in it? If you’re going to continue to try and find every “racist” element, why are you here? And if you’re going to do this, at least respond to my last lengthy comment (from when you were “Anonymous”) in which I addressed this.


  5. @ Soude –
    Uh – oh. Right now might be a bad time to ask me about Portland. But I will answer you as best I can:

    – First and foremost, Portland is the whitest large city in the U.S. Literally (it’s been ranked). And it stands out (when PoC stand out so much). It’s something that slowly weighs on you as a PoC here (it’s a conversation-piece with all of my other friends of color).

    So, to handle that, you’ve got to take active steps to put yourself in situations that are more colorful. As a black woman, it should be a bit easier – a bit – for you to find something reflective of you (most of my friends of color here are black, actually – it’s a lot harder to get plugged in to Asian, let alone mixed folks). For instance – I’ve found my “one spoken word venue that caters to folks of color.” I’ve been able to build some community of color here – but it’s something you have to do, actively. And it gets fatiguing at times.

    – The lack of sun. It takes a while to matter, but it really does get to you. It’s not necessarily that COLD, but you really don’t see the sun for a half-year stretch (or longer), and it brings you down. I actually use a Light Therapy lamp, which makes a HUGE difference, but it drags on everybody to some level (not everybody is as affected as me on this one, though). If you grew up somewhere with a lot of light, though – I recommend looking into a Lamp, it seriously saved me.

    – Portland attracts the “well-meaning, liberal, but surprisingly culturally-incompetent” crowd (I’m sorry to say Reed will be no exception). You will often have to “pick your battles” on when to let something go, and when to speak up. It happens most often with attempts to “honor” other cultures (see my “cultural appropriation” post) or in the social work field in which I find myself. Good people, overall, but not as enlightened as they believe themselves to be.

    – HOWEVER, there are a lot of good things about Portland (otherwise, obviously, I wouldn’t have spent the last 5+ years here). It’s a great size – still a city, with all that entails, but it feels manageable and “town”-like. It’s really easy to get around, traffic never gets too bad, and there are a lot of little neighborhoods that are like their own town.

    – The surroundings are gorgeous. Greenery all over the freaking place, the beach is a little over an hour away, as is the snow and skiing/snowboarding. If you’re into hiking or anything like that – this is the place.

    – Folks are definitely kinder here, overall, than in a lot of other cities. It’s that “town” feel – folks seem friendlier; it’s common for people to thank the bus driver as they walk off public transportation – that’s pretty cool.

    – When you finally make it to the summer, it’s BEAUTIFUL. Probably the best summer weather anywhere in the States. I actually think I mean that. Might be partially due to what you go through to get to it, but even taking that it into account – it’s beautiful in the summer. You’ll get a taste of that when you show up in September.

    – As far as food goes, it’s no California (or Hawaii), but it ranks right up there with most other cities. A pretty good variety of restaurants and such (Chinese isn’t so hot, but I can direct you to the one decent place, if you’re so inclined).

    – If you’re into coffee, it sure has coffee.

    That thorough enough for you? If you have further questions, I’d be happy to tell you more (it’s a good exercise for me to think of all the reasons I STAY here, instead of bogging down in the more difficult aspects of this town).



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