Thursday, 8 September 2016

On Oneness – O’ahu, Hawai’i

By Jasmin Winter, soon-to-be 2nd year MDP student 

Although my tan may already be beginning to fade, my memories from this summer certainly won’t any time soon. I can honestly say that the transformative nature of the time I spent in Hawai’i merits the cheesiness of that opening sentence. 

In three months I went through the process of first adapting to and then striving to understand Honolulu and Hawai’i to the best of my ability. I learned so much from the team at We Are Oceania and my friends in Honolulu about Hawai’i, the Pacific, and new ways of looking at the world at large. The challenges and experiences that I encountered this summer also taught me a lot about myself, my values, and my priorities. 

The We Are Oceania 'ohana
In the weeks since I wrote my first blog post, my role at WAO shifted incrementally. After completing a digital storytelling project about the cultural importance and relevancy of basket weaving, I was asked to create more educational, informational videos regarding migration, health care, and tax systems and processes. My projects changed in tandem with the advent of WAO’s deadline to become an independent charity. By the end of my placement, WAO’s parent organization had yet to decide if they wanted to continue the mentoring relationship that had been established, and WAO has therefore not met this goal. Although tensions rose during this transition period, I would not have wanted to do my placement at any other time, because I grew that much closer to the team at WAO and felt genuinely invested in their success. In this way, my placement is not really ending even though I have left Hawai’i. The expression “A hui hou” means “Goodbye, until we meet again,” and I will definitely be keeping up my relationship with WAO until I can physically return. 

The final product of the basket weaving workshop
There’s a lot of talk about “culture shock” when going to a new city or country, but this trip is the first that I have taken where I have felt a sense of shock coming home. Although I have always been very analytical about Canada, having this experience in Hawai’i as a direct comparison has further widened my perspective, shedding new light on both positive and negative aspects of the place that I have come back to.

The piece of insight that I think most resonated with me is the distinction between “oneness” and “sameness,” which, when intersected with the nuances between “equality” and “equity,” teaches the need to be open about engaging with multiculturalism or any inter-group dynamic through the understanding, not the dismissal, of differences. Oneness acknowledges the importance of history, heritage, and traditional knowledge, and helps us paint a much more complex picture of humanity and society.

I am really excited to begin the new school year with this, and everything about this summer in mind.

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