Thursday, September 29, 2016

Exile on Mainland Street

In World of Warcraft, characters have a green bar representing their health and if they can cast magical spells, a blue one representing their mana. If you consider writing to be like casting a magical spell, occasionally you’re going to need to replenish your mana. The word “mana” is Hawaiian and I’ve heard it described as being similar to prestige, or charisma, or spiritual intactness, or mental health. My mana bar is now full, and I’m waiting for the wave that takes me back to my novel, while writing weird pieces like this in between.

While in Hawai'i, I had several people ask me if I lived there, despite my San Francisco paleness. That always makes me happy, as a keiki o ka ‘aina (child of the land). Maybe it has to do with the ancient sunburn scars.  I received several good scorchings at various times throughout my childhood.

Possibly it has to do with my ability to read/pronounce Hawaiian (most of the time), although I tend to forget the okinas when I’m writing because I grew up before it was common to include them – I have some of the main ones programmed into my autocorrect. I can actually talk pidgin, with a shtrong accent, but I don’t because I think it sounds like I’m making fun of it, which I would never do. I’m in love with languages and slang and dialects, and pidgin. I can understand pidgin much of the time, and I love hearing it on the radio.

There are a lot of mainlanders who have trouble reading and pronouncing Hawaiian words, and actually there are a couple of good reasons, first being that the vowels are pronounced differently (each has an accent, no dipthongs) and second being that difficulty learning new words is actually a mild symptom in the dyslexia constellation, and it often becomes worse during middle age. I’ve seen people struggle equally with long Croatian and Ukranian and Welsh and Thai words.

What used to actually boggle me more, when I was little, was how people would travel thousands of miles just to exclaim over how fluently I pronounced the name of my own street. “These people must come from a land where they ask you silly questions all day,” I assumed. “I hope I never go there.”

I’m still there, and they ask tons of silly questions. Although I’m in San Francisco, which is considerably less weird than most of the rest of mainland, since it has similar food and diverse people and palm trees and water on three sides (too cold for swimming, full of sharks), and easily pronounced streets, like Gough.

Not quite the same, but good.

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