Just a warning: this post might be a bit disorganized, it's kind of a rambling of my thoughts.
When I traveled to Ireland, I did so with my good friend, Erin Steward. She happens to be very Irish, and going (back) to Ireland was a must for her spring break. I also wanted to check out Ireland (also London, which didn't happen), just because I thought it would be cool. However, when we traveled, I could see there was an obvious difference in our interests. Erin wanted to go since she could relate to everything: the culture, the history, the people. I wanted to go for kicks and giggles, and I couldn't relate to anything. Since I didn't relate to anything in Ireland, it was a little hard for me to be as enthusiastic about anything there. That's when I realized that there's the possibility that I couldn't really relate to anything anywhere.
In terms of ethnicity, I am a mix of the following in no meaningful order: Japanese, German, Spanish, Guamanian (Chamorro), Hawaiian, British, French, and probably more that I'm missing or don't know about. I'm approximately 1/2 "white", 1/4 Japanese, and then 1/4 mix of everything else. In my family home, it's kind of hard to pinpoint which parts we identify with most. Some might say it's the Japanese and German parts of my name (Takahashi-Brummer) that show what I identify with most, but that doesn't mean anything. Even though we cook a lot of Asian/Pacific Islander foods, that doesn't mean anything either. Even then, we cook just as much "American" food. Just because I have "Asian" hair, but more "Caucasian" eyes, and a mix of skin tones, that doesn't mean anything. In my case, I think I kind of pick and choose things from each cultures to identify with. I can't really pinpoint which parts of which culture I lean towards most, but I think it's usually the Asian/Pacific Islander side, since my parents spent a large part of their lives living in that region, bringing that culture into their home.
Even so, I think that even if I went to Japan, I wouldn't have some kind of deeper understanding of what's going on. I don't think I would appreciate things more or less, nor would I admire anything more or less. I've been to Hawaii (even though it's been awhile), and I only remember loving the beaches, which isn't something specific to Hawaiian culture. Don't get me wrong, if I had the chance to go to Japan or Guam, or to go back to Hawaii, I'm sure I'd think certain things would be incredible or super cool, but to me, that's not a true connection with the culture.
For example, my friend Erin grew up around Irish traditions, like music, and it was one of her favorite parts about going to Ireland. To me, this shows a deeper connection with her heritage and culture. However, I was raised on classic rock, like the Beatles, and other musicians from the 50s-90s. I was never raised with a heavy influence of Japanese/Hawaiian/whatever music, so it never connected with me (but this doesn't mean I didn't listen to it). In fact, the only aspects of Asian/Pacific Islander culture that I was raised with, at least that I can remember, was food, decor/art, tools, and small mementos like shells that my parents had in the house. If I went to Hawaii, I don't think I would freak out about eating an authentic version of a certain dish or hearing traditional music.
To me, it seems like there's a cultural disconnect somewhere. I'm not sure where this is, but it seems as if because of this disconnect, my experiences here haven't been as "eye-opening" or "authentic" as others. I think what I'm trying to say here is that appreciating a culture is completely different than experiencing/living/connecting/understanding it. It's hard for me to see or figure out what culture I can experience and connect with. For all I know, maybe it is Asian/Pacific Islander culture, or German, or Spanish, or something else. Who knows? I'm not trying to say that I'm too ethnically diverse or that my parents made a mistake in not raising their kids with more cultural references, but that those raised with a deeper connection to their heritage, at least in my experience, have a more fulfilling time and experience being surrounded by that culture.
I'm only speaking from my experiences, and I know there are others out there that are able to have this connection with their culture(s) even though they weren't necessarily surrounded by it. I think what I'm trying to say here is try and appreciate those around you, as well as your experiences and theirs. We're all so different and diverse, so there's no way every single person will react the same way or have the same experiences while abroad and in life in general. Take advantage of the different experiences, even if you can't or don't relate to or are enthusiastic about them. Enjoy what you can and be humble.
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<p>I'm Iggy Takahashi, a junior studying biochemistry and French studies at the University of Portland and studying abroad in Nantes, France. I love baking, cooking, travelling, exploring, and of course spending time with my family and cats. I have traveled to Spain, China, and throughout the United States, and I hope to continue to do so after graduating!</p>