Sunday, August 7, 2011

I'm on a Mission

The teenagers who don't speak it say it sounds "ugly". I say knowing how to converse in this second or third language of Hawaii may save their lives if they are stranded in a rural community like Nanakuli.

One teenager told me he doesn't and won't go there.

So, I'm actually on TWO missions.

First: I cannot let pidgin English, aka Hawaiian Creole English die out. To that end, it must be taught or conveyed somehow, and used along with the first two languages of Hawaii - English and Hawaiian.

No, I do not speak Hawaiian. Rightly or wrongly, I see a prejudice towards non-Hawaiians like me who want to learn Hawaiian. For those of you in the larger world, yes, I am a citizen of Hawaii, but my grandparents came from elsewhere to work on the sugar plantations and settled here. "Settler" has the same ugly connotations it has elsewhere (like the Middle East) but I accept that. I am a settler.

Unlike many of my elementary school classmates, I did not go to Japanese language school. Instead, I watched my younger brother and sister after school. At the time, I was happy about that, but in retrospect, I regret it. My grandmother spoke only Japanese and broken English - pidgin English. I understood her perfectly, and she understood me. Pidgin was our common language.

Pidgin still exists in those rural areas, in local writing, and to some extent in local theater. In the decades between my public schooling, and that of my son's, some of it was even taught in schools. That has disappeared with the advent of NCLB and standards-based education. And more's the pity for it.

The celebration of May Day in elementary public schools has also disappeared for the most part. It was such a time-consuming production involving finding music and/or musicians, teaching dance, sometimes song, writing a program narration and choosing student narrators (my son did this in fifth grade!) Some programs involved music and dance from around the world, others an all-Hawaiian slate.

The disappearance of pidgin and May Day mean that we lose the "flavor" of Hawaii - what it is that makes us truly different and unique from the other 49 states.

OK, with the May Day issue, I've strayed slightly off topic.

My other mission is to see as many corners of my own island and the others as I can. For example, I've been to some parts of Wahiawa, in the mountainous middle part of the island, but not others. Our friend is now working there, which provides an excuse for a visit! Earlier last year, we had an errand in Kapolei, on the west side and also took a quick trip up the mountain to see a friend who was staying in Makakilo.

There are folks who live as much as 45 miles - one way! - from where they work. But there are others who have never left the south or east side of the island to explore the north or west.

We'll have a long weekend after the next couple of weeks, so we plan a trip up to the North Shore - for the farmers' market, for lunch and to sit by the beach.

So, join my mission: learn some words in a language other than your own, or speak or teach them.

And see the world beyond your little proscribed neighborhood and environs!

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