Thursday, March 10, 2011

Challenging Her Comfort Zone

Leilani H. Powers ‘13

I come from Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.  I have a native Japanese mother and an American father (from California).

As I grew up, I was fortunate to have parents who found it essential to be able to communicate with my Japanese family.  They chose to raise me learning both English and Japanese since birth.  I have been lucky to be able to visit my Japanese family steadily throughout my life and to be immersed in the language and culture of both Japan and Hawai’i. 

However, as I grew up, I never had much of a chance to visit my father’s side of the family on the mainland very often.  So when I first came to Pacific University I had the natural shock, which many Hawaiians do, of the cultural differences between Hawai’i and mainland United States. 

Although Hawai’i is part of the United States, I was able to see a very big difference in the lifestyles of those who live here and those back home.  This may be true for everybody when they go off to college, but because of the remnants of the native Hawaiian culture, Hawai’i has a culture of its own.  Although it’s not the strongest example, Pacific’s lu’au does give some idea of certain cultural aspects of what I am used to at home.

However, I can’t say I was completely shocked by the difference in lifestyles.  My father’s parents, who are originally from New York, lived down the road from me and would occasionally watch my siblings and me while my parents were at work.  They always stressed the importance of education and the power of knowledge. They walked the walk just was well as they talked the talk.

They would tell us stories of the places they had been and the people they had met, and they emphasized the importance of leaving home to truly understand and learn more about the world we live in, stories that made me want to go explore, learn, and experience for myself. 

So here I am, thousands of miles from home, a Hawaiian, Japanese, and an American who is learning about the world through exploration, education, and experience.  I am an International Business and Japanese double major and since being here I have taken advantage of being in the mainland and traveling in and around Oregon.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone lately?

Powers ‘13 holds an internship as marketing assistant in the Office of Alumni Relations. She chronicles her adventures on her personal website.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sydney's Night Colors

Reese Moriyama '10

When I was a junior at Pacific, I decided to do a travel abroad semester in Australia. Why Australia? Well, first of all, I was very curious about the Australian culture and landscape, given its significant isolation throughout history. Secondly, Australians spoke English, which I needed since I wasn’t a language minor or major. Lastly, and most importantly of all, I wanted to meet Bianca and Bernard from Disney’s Rescuers Down Under (just kidding!).
All that aside, I must say that my experience in Australia completed my college experience. It broadened my vision of what was beyond my own country, and presented me with new friendships and experiences. I studied at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, and met a wide range of international students, while getting the chance to take some very specialized history courses in genocide and Australian history.
Before I flew back to Hawaii, I stopped over in Sydney for four nights. I felt like my Australian experience wouldn’t be complete without Sydney, and was determined to explore the city to the fullest of my ability during the four days. With camera and map I hand, I embarked on an adventure each morning, leaving at 8 a.m. and returning around 9 p.m. I went inside the Sydney Opera House, which apparently two-thirds of the world’s population can identify. I took rides on the famous Sydney Harbor ferries, exploring several beaches that give Hawaii a run for its money. I walked through downtown Sydney, watching street performers playing didgeridoos and selling CDs. But the experience that stood out the most to me was my night exploration of the city.
On Friday night, I decided to shoot long exposures of the Sydney Skyline from a remote viewpoint in the Botanical Gardens. I huffed it over to the location with my tripod and camera, just in time to get the turquoise dusk light. I took some 30 second exposures, but had to time them because boats would pass through the frame and ruin the shot. After I got the shots I wanted, I prepared to leave, but realized there was a tiny, little problem.
Security had closed down the park! I frantically tried to find a way out, but all the main gates were closed. Being locked in a park at night is one thing, but being locked in a park at night, in a foreign country is quite another. I was weighing my options when I saw a jogger going by. She must know the way out! I thought, and tried to see where she was going. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she went out a small, side entrance that only the locals would know about. I was overjoyed, and followed the path to freedom. As soon as I stepped out, I realized I was in a district of Sydney I had never seen, and spent the next hour and half, wandering past Friday night parties, trying to find my way back to the hotel. Got back around 11 p.m., totally exhausted, but totally stoked about the skyline images.

The next night went a lot better, and I was very fortunate to watch a fireworks show over the Opera House! I also got to see the colorful night lights of the Circular Quay, the central hub of night life in Sydney Harbor. My camera was snapping like crazy, but I also made sure to spend some time taking in the sights myself. Sometimes, you get so caught up in trying to photograph all the cool sights around you that you forget to savor the moment, the fleeting slice of time, in which you are surrounded by beauty. But I savored that moment. And looking back, I’m glad I did. 

Reese Moriyama '10 holds a degree in history and uses photography to become more observant and appreciative of the world. When he is not photographing weddings or simply daily life in Honolulu Reese is pursuing a graduate degree. More of Reese's work can be viewed on his blog Observe. Compose. Capture.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Alumna Teaches in South Korea

Heather E. Douglas, MAT '08

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." – Martin Luther King Jr.

Suffering fresh jetlag, I was jolted awake by the cruel sound of my alarm clock. It was my first day teaching at a private school in South Korea and I wanted to make a good impression.  The dress I put on came straight from the suitcase I had packed in Oregon three days earlier.  For breakfast, I ate cold tofu because it was the only familiar food I recognized.

With butterflies in my stomach, I said silently to myself “be brave” as my shaky hand locked my apartment door.  On the outside, I was elated to have a real teaching job, but inside I was terrified.  My ability to communicate with my students and can I survive living in a foreign culture were only some of many questions racing through my mind that morning.

Like a school of fish flooding onto the immense sea of sidewalks, I joined hundreds of blue and white uniformed Korean children walking to school.  I felt curious stares as I adjusted my messenger bag. Classical music was piping through loudspeakers over the sidewalks, which were lined with trees full of pink cherry blossoms, and for a moment I forgot my angst and simply enjoyed.

Six months ago, I was a different person.  As I look back, I want to tell my old self “just enjoy the ride.”  At the beginning, I had no way of knowing the amazing adventures that awaited me. Simply visiting a foreign land only offers a taste, whereas immersion in a culture is life changing.  And (let’s face it) while the prospect of getting a teaching job in this economy can be quite daunting, international teaching opportunities abound in many fantastic countries around the world.

In 2007, when I began the MAT program at Pacific, Dean Ankeny professed to our fresh cohort seated in the room that first day:  teaching will take you on many adventures.  

It turns out he was right.  Sometimes I shake my head laughing at the randomness of life as I find myself gazing at a Buddhist temple or hear my students giggle and yell “teacher, teacher, anneyonghaseyo,” or as I ride my bike through the neon lit streets of South Korea inhaling the smells of exotic street food.

Although Douglas, MAT '08 originally graduated as a Language Arts teacher in the MAT program, through this international experience she has discovered her passion in working with ELL students.  She is currently working on an ELL endorsement, and hopes to continue to work with students from other cultures.  In her free time, Douglas enjoys photography and nature.