I lived on a small island - almost ironically - referred to as "the Big Island of Hawai`i' but probably to diffuse some of the confusion from the name of the actual island and the name of the whole state. We just call it "the Big Island" or even "the Big Isle" and if you consider landmass it's the size of Connecticut but the population is around 80,000 last I checked - it's been a while so sorry if I'm off.
It's kinda funny, living here for most of my life, you start to think that the place you live in is rather large and sometimes you get blind-sighted by only what's in front of you.
I'd have to say my anagnorisis moment or moment of realization came in 2007-08 when I lived abroad for a year. Before I left Hawaii, I knew it was going to change me, but I never really knew how much until after. I still look at that trip and think about how that was a pivotal point in my life.
It was the first time I left home - namely Hawaii and California - and the first time I lived on my own and internationally. '07-'08 was a lot of big firsts for me but mainly the opening of my eyes the most and significant of them all.
It was the first time I lived in a different lifestyle other than one in Hawaii and Mainland USA. At first, I idealized and even fetishized a lot of what I thought Japan was. In my mind, Japan was perfect and very cultural and cute and a whole bunch of other stuff but living there sure cured my of that way of thinking. I'm not being negative but I feel like media and our imagination puts places like Japan or other paradise destination on a pedestal.
You would think my living in Hawaii would have cured me of that but living is believing and I feel like living in these places have given me a different perspective. After living there for a year, people in Japan weren't 'cute' or 'kawaii', but they were human. Yes, there are a few that were quite literally cute, but I feel that the image or ideal of what fashionable and cute Japanese stem from a small area, on a small street in Tokyo. Takeshita Doori (also coincidentally same as my last name) is home to the most famous of those fetishized and iconically fashionable Harajuku Girls/Boys. Having gone there, it's tiny and I couldn't believe a whole ideal of what subgenre of Japanese were based on was mainly found on that small strip!
"Well,' I thought to myself, 'if that's just one ideal and their origins, I can just imagine where the rest of those stereotypes come from.'
Slowly, Japan started to look like Hawaii just more...Japanese - yeah, that doesn't make sense but bear with me. People went to work, school, had families and lived normal lives. It wasn't all fun and games as many would like to think and Japan still has issues with people working way to hard based on expectations and peer pressure that suicide is still a huge issue. I remember reading earlier this year, PM Abe was promoting and work hours cut from 60 hours per work week to 40 hours because too many people were overworked, so he led by example and left his at the end of the week to promote this new change in the work place.
Does the Media really cover that? Sorta, but not really. It's not glamorous enough or whatever the reason but all these stereotypes that we pin on these people and places really do make them less than human. When we finally meet someone from one of these places we idolize, we are disappointed if not upset that they don't meet the image or ideal we had in our head.
Living abroad once again has given me many opportunities to have more and more opportunities to dispel prejudices and stereotypes that I didn't even realize were ingrained in me for who knows how long!
Moving to Thailand actually made me realize how xenophobic many of us Americans are and it never became more evident they started to ask, "Are you sure you'll be safe?"
Let me just say, WTF?
We live in a country where people are gun crazy and tons of civilians are killed by urban gun violence and you're gonna ask me if I'm gonna be safe there? I should as if you're safe in America because the likelihood of me being shanked is a lot lower in all the countries I've lived in when compared to America.
Oh, don't get me started about the comments we got once we announced that we decided to move to China.
"Oh, is it safe there? It's a communist country."
"You'll get cancer. Have you seen the pollution levels."
"It's dirty. People spit all over the place and there is trash everywhere."
"People are rude and loud."
Let me tell you, I've met some of the nicest people here in China, not unlike those I've met in Japan and Hawaii and though there are slight cultural differences, it's nothing as bad as everyone make the Chinese out to be. I feel like China has become a second home more so than Thailand and being here as been a great learning experiences of tolerance - for myself as well as other from US - and also keeping and open mind and heart.
I feel that living abroad has opening up the world to me and made me realize that we're not all that different with the same basic wants and needs.
More on this no my next post. Until then!