Price Center, UCSD. Thousands of Japanese overseas students usually undergo culture shock when they arrive in San Diego. But even more shock greets them when they return home.
  • Price Center, UCSD. Thousands of Japanese overseas students usually undergo culture shock when they arrive in San Diego. But even more shock greets them when they return home.
  • Image by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
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Prodigals

They speak better English, with better intonations and slang. They listen to American music and Japanese groups like Lunatic Lion or Ayumi Nakamura, whose album covers and song titles burst with English, who slip into English for choruses and hooks between singing Japanese verses. They know American food and liquor and how to dress in U.S. style. English is dropped with the assumption that it’s understood; after all, English is the hip thing to speak in Japan.

By J. Frederick Moore, Jan. 14, 1999 | Read full article

New Year's Eve at Shakespeare Pub & Grille. You might think I’m in Anglo heaven, sitting in the pub with a pint in my hand, but here, all my old prejudices flood back.

Limeys in a State of Grace

It’s almost impossible for an outsider to know how important language is to an Englishman. Language is the field he plays in, it’s his club tie, it’s his season ticket and his box seat, it’s his topographical map, it’s the stage, it’s his sword and shield. People from every nation have shared jokes and shared frames of reference, but the English, hounded by class and regional geography, listen to language far more carefully than most.

By Tim Brookes, April 22, 1999 | Read full article

Reza Khabazian: "Here I was in America, with freedom of speech, and I was afraid to speak out against Ayatollah Khomeini."

Through the Flames

Mention the 14th Century poet Hafez and Estakhry's delicate hands shoot into the air, "Oh, my! Hafez! Our greatest poet. Every Iranian knows his poems. They're so, so beautiful. If only you could understand them in the original! The man who cleans the streets, intellectuals, rich, poor, everyone has memorized some Hafez. In Iran it's common to keep a book of his poems by your bed. It's like a custom.”

By Abe Opincar, Aug. 26, 1999 | Read full article

Julita Lopez: "They destroyed our buildings and our cities and the culture of people like the Mixtecs and the Aztecs."

Behind the Mixtex Curtain

Most of the children in Julita López's class are Mixtec. They still want to make Columbus the hero the textbooks say he is, but López won't let them. "Christopher Columbus discovered America. He came across the Atlantic and he found us. But guess what? We weren't lost. He was. He thought he was in India. So because of this mistake he called us real Americans 'Indians.' Was it good that he came?"

By Bill Manson, Nov. 4, 1999 | Read full article

Teng Vang - "We’re in a new country now. We’re living in the Western world. There are new ways of doing things, of thinking about things."

Twelve Gates of Heaven

He wanted to make it very clear that one doesn’t choose to be a shaman; one is chosen by the spirits. Most shamans are chosen when they’re 17 or 18 years old. Although the spirits chose Thao when he was 33, they chose him in the usual way. He became very sick. He was weak. He trembled. He ran a fever. He passed in and out of consciousness. He couldn’t be cured.

By Abe Opincar, Dec. 2, 1999 | Read full article

Yu Su-Mei: "I was one of the first Chinese girls to attend the boarding school attached to the Thai royal palace, the one made famous by Anna in that horrible movie, The King and I."

Wind, Water and a Rice Field

“My parents are members of the Communist Party. I know they must have suffered during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and when they were growing up during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. There was famine after the Great Leap Forward. Everyone starved. But my parents have never talked about those things. I think that’s common of many Chinese parents, wherever they are from. Life for Chinese has always been difficult. In China. For Chinese living in Southeast Asia.”

By Abe Opincar, Feb. 3, 2000 | Read full article

James "Doc" Koo was a protégé of Kim Jong-Pil, a former head of Korean Central Intelligence and a one-time candidate for president.

Happy Endings on Convoy Street

In all the years I lived in and visited Korea, almost always staying in some relative’s household, I went to countless parties. When they were outside the household, they were held, just like this one, in big, fancy western hotels. On family holidays, like New Year’s Day, when we sat around eating food and playing cards and gambling, the parties were held in someone’s home, usually the most senior member of the extended family. People always sang.

By M.G. Stephens, Oct. 19, 2000 | Read full article

Koffi Kouakou: "I tell them, 'You know, in many ways you're better off here. Some people make it in America. Some people don't.'"

African Luck

“I was in Paris only two years, and I saw that it was impossible to get a job there. Impossible for a French person. Even more impossible for an African. And so I came to visit Los Angeles with some French friends, and we drove down to San Diego. We went to Horton Plaza. It was the most amazing thing: I met a guy there who I went to high school with in Cote d'Ivoire.”

By Abe Opincar, Nov. 9, 2000 | Read full article

Sam Alsiadey: "He saw I wasn't dead and so he comes back. He jumps off the scooter, and he comes back and he stabs me, in my back, my side."

Escape from Iraq

“It wasn't so easy to get away from Saddam Hussein. His government, you know, was very, very paranoid. They followed people everywhere. And so one day I was sitting in an outdoor café in Athens, and these two guys drive by on a scooter. I hear this popping noise. Pop! Pop! Pop! And I feel something in my back, up near my shoulder, but I don't know what it is. I guess I stood up….”

By Abe Opincar, Dec. 7, 2000 | Read full article

Ali Maher: "In Chicago there was all this cold and snow. I started asking people, 'Where is there sun?'"

Rules for Your Life

“The cultural invasion was wonderful. It started with cowboys. John Wayne. You got an idea from these movies of a certain kind of freedom, and you couldn't forget it. Then, as I got older, there was the music. Elvis Presley. I listened to Elvis Presley in Egypt, in Cairo. And that music, too — I know it sounds funny to talk about Elvis Presley this way — gave me an idea of freedom.”

By Abe Opincar, Jan. 18, 2001 | Read full article

"Unity is not the Filipino way. We speak in many voices. It is hard to get two people to agree on anything.”

Sinister Hero

Near the statue of José Rizal, a family is picnicking. Romeo Marquez mutters, “Imagine the statue of a national hero erected in front of a seafood market!” Some Filipinos see the Battle of Manila Bay as a mock battle staged by George Dewey, the American admiral. They also see the choice of the pacifist José Rizal as a national hero as sinister too. The Americans needed this pacifist leader to become the symbol.

By Michael Gregory Stephens, June 14, 2001 | Read full article

Ah Quin and his wife, Sue Leong, had 12 children and lived in a two-story house on Third Street

Ah Quin Diary

He took a job in San Francisco as a houseboy and cook for military personnel at the Presidio. Ah Quin had a tense relationship with a house manager at the Presidio. “On at least eight occasions Ah Quin sneaks into this man’s room when he isn’t there and sleeps in his bed. It seems like subversion, doesn’t it? He never writes anything really harsh about him, but then he does this and records it in his diary.”

By Jeanne Schinto, Nov. 1, 2001 | Read full article

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