This morning, while walking to my work (which is completely across campus) I stopped by one of the news stands to check out the other papers it had besides the Daily Bruin. One that caught my eye was the Pacific Ties magazine, which is a student run magazine for Asian Pacific Islanders (API). One of the pages had bios of some Asian Pacific Islander students at UCLA, and there two Tongan students who talked about how they wanted to spread awareness about the colonization of Tonga. Seeing their blurbs reminded me of how little I actually know about my Tongan heritage, and it makes me really sad. Though I am only a portion Tongan, I definitely feel that it is a portion that is important to my identity, and I really want to learn more about it. My grandma was born in Tonga, but her family was relocated to New Zealand during WWII, so unfortunately she no longer speaks the language and has since stopped practicing many of their cultural customs. Growing up, my family was always really involved in the Pacific Islander community, so I am used to coming into contact with people from all sorts of cultures and learning about their customs. For example, my family is really involved with a Polynesian cultural club that performs the dances of many of the Polynesian islands and competes in outrigger canoe racing (a Polynesian tradition). However, most of the culture we learned about was Hawaiian and Tahitian (I am a sliver Tahitian as well). While I love learning about the Hawaiian and Tahitian cultures, I never really got much of a chance to learn much about my Tongan roots specifically.
Even when I joined UCLA, I was still interested in staying active in the Pacific Islander community, and planned on joining PISA (Pacific Islander Student Association), but after hearing that they were mainly concerned with tutoring students in the LA county, I never got around to joining because I was looking for more of a cultural experience. Looking back, I probably should have just checked it out and at least met people in the group who could have pointed me in the right direction. Oh well, I can make more of effort from here on out. Unfortunately, learning more about Tongan culture is not as easy as it would be if it was a more prevalent ethnicity. For instance, there are no classes at UCLA about Tongans or the Tongan language. So, I will have to put in a lot more effort individually to find out more. I am really interested in volunteering at the API clinic once I go to UC Davis. Maybe then I can meet people who can expose me to what I've been missing and immerse myself into my long lost culture!