Lesson 1: Going Home

Entry from June, 2009

Some people move a lot throughout their lives. From house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood, state to state. These people have a good idea what I’m talking about. For those who live in the same house they lived in ever since they can remember, I hope you can take the following as food for thought.

I was born and raised in Hawaii. After I graduated High School, I spent 5 years in Oregon at Portland State University. Currently I live in Shiga, Japan. I’ve been here for 10 months and will stay for another 14… at least that’s the plan.

Here are some typical responses I get when I say, “I’m going home.”

In Japan:

“Oh, you’re going back to America? That sounds fun!”

“Wash your hands, gargle with warm water, and wear a mask.” [massive influenza scare]

“Don’t forget to bring back Omiyage!”

In Oregon:

“What?! I want to go to Hawaii too!”

“Tell your mom and Tai I said hi.”

“You’re so lucky! You get to be in the sun, go to the beach….”

In Hawaii:    

“Ho, you goin Honokai? Shoots den.”

“Can drop me off in Kapolei?”

“Rajah. Hit me up tomorrow.”

It seems my life can be traced alllll the way back to my hometown, Honokai Hale,  just by saying, “I’m going home.”

HOME: a familiar or usual setting; a place of origin; the social unit formed by a family living together; a vital sensitive core.

When I was in college I only had two places I called home. So when I told my friends and co-workers, “I’m going home,” they all knew I was talking about Hawaii. In Hawaii sometimes I would say, “I’m going home,” but more often I’d say, “I’m going back,” so my friends and family in Hawaii knew I was talking about Portland and not my house in Honokai Hale. However, now that I’ve moved once again a whole new ‘home’ has been introduced into my life. Now when I say, “I’m going home,” it’s like “Which one?”

I will always call Hawaii my home. It is inseparable from my identity. In Oregon I have family and friends who are the foundation of my Oregon experience. I can’t thank them enough. I’m currently making a good living here in Japan. Day by day my Japanese lifestyle is getting more and more familiar. Things that surprised/annoyed/confused me when I first got here seem usual (see LESSON 2). Basically, I feel comfortable calling these three places home. These places meet my definition as they all have family and friends, a place to stay, good food, and extra-curricular activities that keep me sane and happy.

Next time you say, “I’m going home,” think about it for a minute. Where’s home for you? Are you going to the house you were raised in since you can remember? The house you just started paying rent at? Your girlfriends house? Your dorm room? The city you work in? The city you go to school at? The country on your passport? Do you call every place you’ve lived at home? And when you say home you really mean more than a house and a street right? Flexible definitions make this a topic worth pondering.

A few cross-cultural observations I made while visiting The United States of America.

–          BIG PEOPLE: horizontally & vertically

–          WHEELCHAIR ACCESSABILITY: close to none here in Japan

–          GETTING ID ed when buying alcohol: I never get ID ed in Japan. Drinking age is 20. Alcohol is sold 24/7. There are beer vending machines anyone can operate. Drinking in public is normal. No open-container policy in vehicles. It’s just my opinion, but I think because alcohol is the only legal and socially acceptable escape from sobriety it’s easily accessible.

–          PROFANITY: How would you translate/interpret the word fuck? You would probably end up giving lots of examples and situations right? How about shit, bitch, asshole, cunt, douche-bag and the like? These words have literal definitions but carry alternate, more popular meanings for which they are mostly used. Only those familiar with this part of the English language, the part that never finds it’s way into textbooks, can understand their meanings. To mostly everyone else these words are simply foreign sounds and letters. Profanity is interesting don’t you think? Especially when you consider its’ wide array of use in American life, how common place they are, and just how much some of us use it as a crutch in times we can’t articulate our thoughts in proper English.

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