When I first arrived in Delhi I was horribly homesick. I wasn’t experiencing the traumatic, volatile “culture shock” that we were warned about at various Study Abroad meetings but I just really missed my family.
I still obviously miss my family, but now I just sit around thinking about the little things I never appreciated at home:
- My university. I’m thinking about this only because an article popped up on my News Feed about my university (Hawaii’s flagship university) being one of the most beautiful campuses in the country (I really don’t think so – it’s nice, but I think it’s on the list just because it’s in Hawaii). My university in Delhi is extremely small, not even a quarter of the size of my university. My university at home is very green while Delhi is a concrete jungle. One of my favorite study spots at my university in Hawaii is on the second floor of Holmes Hall. It’s the engineering building and for some reason, not too many people hang out there. It’s always quiet, the tables are large so I can comfortably with with my laptop, Hydroflask, home-packed lunched, and notebook all sprawled out before me without cramping anyone else’s style. The building is rectangular, broken into two sections. In the middle of either side of the rectangle there is an opening through the middle of the building which houses a small patch of plants on the ground floor (my descriptions are so bad – I don’t think I’m getting the point across…I could never write novels!). The area in which I always sit has tall bamboo that sway in the wind as I study. It’s always breezy there, too.
- Food. I love Indian food. I’m not sick of it like people expected (and for some reason many people didn’t know that I like Indian food?) but I miss food from home. I miss poke (chili pepper ahi from Tamura’s is my favorite). For those who do not know, poke is raw fish, usually ahi (I think this is bluefin tuna? I don’t know the English names!), diced and mixed with oils, green onions, onions, some salt, and some mystery ingredients for flavor (I’ve never made poke at home so I honestly don’t know, haha). That’s usually the base, but there are many variations including, but not limited to: shoyu ahi (with shoyu, or soy sauce), shoyu limu (shoyu with limu, a type of crunchy seaweed, also my favorite), oyster sauce, spicy ahi (ahi with a spicy mayo mixture and tobiko – small fish eggs), etc. The list goes on. It can also be made from other fish like salmon, or other sea creatures like scallops, tako (octopus), or crab, or other things altogether like pipikaula (cured meat, essentially), kamaboko (fried or steamed fish cake), cucumber, etc. That’s just one thing! I also miss laulau (steamed fish and pork wrapped in leaves), poi (taro grounded to a paste), kalua pig (slow roasted pork, often with cabbage), and okazuya food from Sekiya’s…oh how I miss Sekiya’s! Okazuya food is generally quick bites in the form of Japanese food, but “local” Japanese food like fried noodles, inari (cone sushi), tempura, hamburger, shoyu chicken, etc. Sekiya’s is a small restaurant in Kapahulu. My mom and her sisters grew up there, so I also grew up eating at Sekiya’s. We often drive all the way from Mililani just to eat at Sekiya’s (my mom also makes the trip out there for Rainbow’s, where my grandmother worked until she passed away in 1996). Sekiya’s serves really feel-good Japanese food. They’re a little pricey but I love the food there, but maybe (actually, I am) I’m a bit biased because I have an emotional connection to the place. I’ve never been there without my family, never. The last time my aunty and cousin from Washington visited in May, we went there about four times in one week. We usually get the same things. My mom will get fried saimin with teri beef sticks, my brother always has saimin, french fries, and an orange freeze, my cousin has fried saimin with french fries, my aunty Cin usually has fried or regular saimin, and lately I’ve been stuck on the sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a dish containing broth, ito konnyaku noodles (clear, chewy noodles), an array of veggies, tofu, and usually some kind of meat. The day before I left for India, I had dinner here with my family and I had pork sukiyaki. Also, the same day, my boyfriend and I had lunch at Pho My Lein in Aiea. Pho My Lien is a small Vietnamese restaurant run by two cute people we affectionately call Uncle Tommy and aunty Lien (they recognize us because we’ve dined there regularly for the entire five years we’ve been together). We always order the same thing: one regular pho with thinly sliced beef and boiled shrimp summer rolls. My boyfriend will usually eat 1/4 of the summer rolls and I’ll eat whatever he doesn’t eat of his pho. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about food, I know…I could go on forever. And OH! How can I forget about my beloved Yanagi Sushi?! I go even more now that a few of my friends work there. Yanagi Sushi is located on Kapiolani Boulevard and is popular among people my age who want good sushi and Japanese food for a low price, but the catch is that we’re normally there only after 10:30pm for their late night specials. For $7 I can get a plate full of salmon sashimi (at least 12 pieces) which would normally cost $20 – $30 anywhere else. It’s served with sweet Maui onions and tobiko. My boyfriend will usually get the K Combo (I think this is correct!) which includes miso soup, a mini udon, and assorted nigiri (tamago, sake, maguro, and I think tako, plus kappa maki). I’ve also taken a liking to the fried baby octopus (exactly what it sounds like). If I’m particularly hungry I’ll also order extra fried baby shrimp in addition to my salmon. My mouth is watering! Since we usually arrive at about 10:00pm, we don’t often leave Yanagi until about midnight or 1:00am, as we usually also have drinks (pitchers are cheap too but since I don’t drink, I don’t pay attention to the price). I think I should zip it on food for now. I’ll make myself even more homesick!
- My car. I have a pretty typical college-kid Honda Civic. It’s a 2002 model and according to my boyfriend (he was a mechanic for a bit) and his friend who works at Pfleuger, my particular model just happens to be the worst one ever made. It’s given me problems over the last five years but my boyfriend has always been able to fix it. I miss my car just because it was…mine. It was a small space that said a lot about me. I have a Mamegoma sticker on my gas cover, my backseat is full of books (Korean, Japanese, Okinawan, and Indian history), the back windows have been so heavily smeared by my dogs’ noses, and I also have dog leashes and balls on the ground. I also have a 2015 HNL Marathon sticker on my back window (bragging rights, baby).
- Driving. I drive a lot. I drive every day. I don’t usually mind traffic because I like spending time in my car singing to myself, or if I’m with my boyfriend, I like sitting in my car talking to him about nothing, or arguing with him and telling him that if he was going to complain, he should have driven, and that if he doesn’t plan on stopping his squawking, he better be ready to walk home or to wherever we were going. He only ever complains about me getting into the right lane too early when I know I need to take an exit eventually. But still…ugh. Driving gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I needed to go. If I needed to get to school faster because I left the house late, I’d just drive faster (I know this isn’t good logic). Here, I cannot make the metro go faster, and the metro always runs late or hangs out at stations almost as if it knew I needed to be somewhere in less than ten minutes. It’s just weird having to plan my day around the metro.
- The ocean. I don’t like going to the beach because I don’t like sand and I don’t like being wet. I miss running along side the ocean during my runs from Kapioalni park to Kahala and back (about 10 miles). I come home caked in sweat and salt and I love it. There’s also a spot that my best friend and I love, Spitting Caves. It’s near Portlock in Hawaii Kai and it’s just a ledge of lava rocks on which one can sit down and look at and listen to the ocean. It’s beautiful. He took my college graduation photos there for me. He first took me there in high school and I think we were seniors, so I was just about to turn seventeen. We go there at least once every time he comes home to visit (he lives in Vegas now) and we just sit and talk. Below is a photo he took of me in May (I’ve lost almost 10lbs since then, okay!) Despite my lack of affection for being in the water (I only actually swim when I take my dogs), just being able to look at the sea whenever I so desired was nice.
- Grocery shopping. I don’t do too much of that here since I don’t cook for myself here. Grocery shopping is something I do at home every Sunday because that’s when sales start at Don Quijote. However, I always make sure to go in the evening around 6:00pm or so because if I go in the morning, I find myself battling old people for $1.99 natto (oh how I miss this as well!). My boyfriend always comes with me even if there isn’t anything in particular that he needs to buy. It’s just something we do together that I enjoy. I suppose this could extend to our random trips to Walmart (how American!). There’s a Walmart about a five-minute drive from our home and we usually go there anytime after 9:00pm (it’s too crowded any earlier). We usually end up buying a bunch of snacks we don’t need. We always, always stop in the snack aisle even if we have a substantial amount of snacks at home. He usually leaves with another bag of kakimochi (I have no idea how to explain this, honestly – rice crackers coated in shoyu?) and I usually leave with chocolate or li-hing sour belts. I’m getting tired of trying to explain local food/snacks…li-hing is a red powder that is sour in taste and it put on things like candy, shave ice (not at all like snow cones – shave ice is 100 times better), margaritas, etc. From experience, people don’t tend to like it unless they’re from Hawaii. My family in Washington no longer likes it because they’ve effectively become katonks (Asians raised on the mainland). Or as my mom and I more affectionately say about them, “haolefied.” “Haole” generally means “foreigner,” but it is colloquially used to describe a person of Caucasian descent. Most times it is used in a playful manner, but it can be used maliciously.
- Pidgin. I hate pidgin when I’m at home. To me, it is worse than nails on a chalkboard. My family speaks pidgin but for some reason, my cousin and I, despite being brought up around it, do not. But here, so far away in Delhi, watching WeAreHawaii and Tuntadun Films videos on YouTube, I really miss it. “Tuntadun” is also another slang, but I can’t quite articulate its meaning. One can “be all tuntadun,” and it is usually a bad thing. My boyfriend, friends, and I often speak pidgin just as a joke because we all actually hate it but it’s just fun to do at times. Some of our most frequently used phrases include:
- “Ho, howz you? Who you tink you is?”
- “Brah, I sed -“
- “Make (mah-keh) die ded. D-e-d, ‘ded.'”
- “Brah, no ack” / “Ho, how you goin’ ack?”
- “Howzit? Waianae, brah.”
Those are just a few random ones. I can’t say exactly when they come up, but they come up a lot. I work in Kalihi so I also make a lot of Kalihi jokes, but I actually really like Kalihi. Kalihi has a reputation for being a rougher part of the island, but it houses a lot of good eateries (like Richie’s, right next to my work place) and Kam Bakery, known for its poi donuts.
Lastly…I really miss my boyfriend. Sorry, “fiance.” I just miss doing nothing with someone. Grocery shopping, running, cooking, cleaning the house, etc. Falling asleep and waking up without someone by my side wasn’t quite jarring, but it doesn’t feel right, either. I usually sleep with him to my left, and our dog, Logan, either between us or lying on my legs. Myron doesn’t like sleeping on the bed and has his own mini sofa next to the bed. We usually wake up at the same time (5:00am) and if I’m still sleeping, he’ll wake me up to say goodbye and to give me a goodbye kiss. Here I just wake up and get my day started. It’s weird not having three fur babies to feed before leaving the house. I say “three” because he also have a cat, I just don’t talk about him much because he irritates me. But I miss him a lot, too. His name is Marco and he’s an orange tabby. We got him last October when our friend found him and three other kittens in his garage. One of our other friends took the other girl, and the last two went together to live with another one of his friends.
When I’m at home, I’m always excited to leave it. When I was in high school, I always used to tell my aunty that I’d move as soon as I graduated and live with her in Washington. I didn’t move because my brother was born when I was a sophomore and since I had wanted a sibling my entire life, it didn’t make sense to me to move right after I got one. But now, even though things about Hawaii irritate me to no end (traffic, pidgin, high cost of living, etc.) I can’t quite imagine myself living anywhere else now. I’ve been thinking about this the last two or three years, and I think I’m really anchored there. I’ve said this before, but something about Hawaii is extremely special and I would want my children to grow up around it. My cousins say the same, but say a huge fault is that people from Hawaii are too timid and soft-spoken. They’re correct, but there’s also a sense of warmth that comes with it, and with calling anyone older than you “aunty” or “uncle.” Hawaii’s truly a wonderful place, and not only for the beaches and weather. The people there are very special, and I cannot imagine living away from my dozens of non-blood aunties and uncles, women coming into my workplace and calling me “tita,” little children calling me “aunty” (I’m an aunty sometimes!), or hearing the vernacular with which I have a heated love-hate relationship: pidgin. I think I may just kiss the ground when I get home.