Sunday, August 11, 2013

Multicultural'ing Through Manga

Okay, so there are a multitude of avenues people can explore to bond themselves with members of different cultures/ethnicities. I am one of those people who wish he could take them all. I mean, everyday we see people finding ways to learn from other people with all discrepancies aside. So I write this in the wake of watching cultural expressions/performances via foreign television shows, wishing for the opportunity to once again trade ideas with someone foreign to my cultural background. I am almost anxious for the opportunity.  Seeking a fresh connection outside of my past memories.

I suppose food is an obvious choice for cultural exploration because it allows easy access for people to share and discuss the variety in their taste.  It also enables a glimpse into cultural traditions and unique dish-making techniques. Sharing literature is another tool of cultural discovery.  It opens the doors of communication, comprehension, and acknowledgement of differences that could equate to similarities. A given to sharing cultures is building relationships and connections.  Healthy relationships with people can transcendent just about any barrier when we put work into it. So to do so with someone of another culture not only awakens awareness in each person involved, but it also builds community. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to live next to people who have something external to teach the internalness of me.

When I was in high school I learned much of this firsthand from a girl who became a good friend of mine for a short period. She was a foreign student from China named, Amy. Now, I had many American friends from Asianic backgrounds, so there never was a blockage of language. Despite the thick language barrier I had with Amy, I learned to connect with her through books and comics. While she was not necessarily shy, she was not forward in seeking friendships either. In other words she would smile at you, but you would have to come to her. 

When I found her reading a manga (though manga is Japanese for “comic“, her version was translated to Chinese which would be better defined as manhua), I was generally curious about the writing, pictures, and content. She shared them with me.  I found myself intimated by the Chinese characters, regardless of being moderately proficient at reading Japanese Hiragana and Katakana. Chinese characters just seemed too compound; difficult and hard. The strokes appeared far more bulky and indecipherable in print than the Japanese I was familiar with, which mainly came out of children's books should that count for something. Nevertheless, Amy and I found ourselves friends as she best explained Chinese characters to me, while I shared my longhand short stories tucked within my binder in return. 

We saw each other in home economics, which almost always offered us free time. So each day became a matter of me explaining some of the intricacies behind the English alphabet system, and its grammatical structure, as an extra help to her schoolwork concerns. Meanwhile, Amy taught me about Chinese language (or Mandarin) in the most basic, simplified way that she could for my thick skull to register. She opened me up to researching the four pitch tones associated with her language as part of our dialect exchanges.

Our friendship continued to grow through the exchanging of language. She would hastily “read” my Japanese-language books (as well as my English-written short stories) that I received from the public library, and I would borrow her manhua and Chinese-language novels. We became good friends, her sharing doughnut with red bean paste snacks while I shared with her my less than exotic Doritos. When our classes changed the following year we met at the school library to continue our friendship, but we slowly lost touch as our high school years progressed.  Then at some point, she graduated before my class.  Her memories and little lessons still stay inside of me. I mean, this was the girl who introduced me to the manhua version of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon.

There were many factors that played into my friendship with Amy, the foreigner student. Despite our cultural and ethnic differences, one of those factors was a conscious decision to explore our differences through our common interests. We removed any set of bias thoughts to do so, aware that there is something to be learned from both ends.  Call me exhausted or jaded with my present environment, but nothing would give me more pleasure than to experience something as special as that again.  Which is reason number 107 as to why I wanted to start a blog.  Much love, people.

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