Born and raised in Hawaii, I, like the majority of locals, am a classic example of racial diversity. The cultural mixing pot that is Hawaii has prompted many culturally diverse experiences not unique to my own Filipino-Chinese-Caucasian heritage. I’m able to explain how my family celebrates New Years eve, eating Hawaiian chicken long rice, Puerto Rican pasteles, Japanese sashimi, and American foods potatoes, just to name a few. Or how everyone, without question, takes off their shoes when entering another’s house, a Japanese custom of politeness. I could even elaborate on the many struggles of local teens trying to decide which one bubble to fill in to define their ethnicity on formal documents; is the fact that I am more Caucasian than I am Filipino mean that I identify more with that ethnicity? Not necessarily. Although I can describe all sorts of culturally unique affairs, lately, I have come to realize I really am lacking in experience with classic American culture.
On a recent trip to Massachusetts, I spent a day visiting family in Plymouth. While there, I was introduced to an entirely new phenomenon, cranberry harvesting. First of all, I’d like to point out that my only previous knowledge of cranberry farming was what they showed in Ocean Spray commercials: farmers standing in water filled with cranberries. Being the naive Hawaii girl that I am, I thought cranberries were grown in lakes and ponds as an underwater plant, sort of like seaweed. Once the berries were ripe, I assumed they were scooped up with giant nets of some sort, or painfully picked by hand. Little did I know that bogs are actually flooded as a harvest mechanism, and harvesters use massive vacuum-like devices to collect the berries efficiently.
I was absolutely astonished by the entire process while my New England-native cousins stood by, less amused. Usually, I’m the one explaining customs to visitors. This flip-flop of positions was a change, but a welcome one. I may bring a diverse, Hawaiian lifestyle to a college campus, but in reality, the college, and life in an entirely different region of the country, will bring a diverse lifestyle to me.
I know my curiosity will help dip my paintbrush in a variety of cultural cans, whether it prompts me to join new campus-based organizations, study abroad in a completely new culture, or just learn which colors are appropriate to wear during different seasons. I start with an open mind, ready to transform from a clueless tourist to an experienced collegiate.