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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (May 18, 2015)
OPINION / COMMUNITY
May 18, 2015
TALKING STORY IN ASIAN AMERICA
Rivers of rain,
of joy and sorrow too
et me tell you a story. It’s a story
straight out of Asian and Pacific
and African and Latino America —
a story straight as Pacific Northwest Tiger
butterflies fly. Let me tell you a River City
I am driving our lead Dodge Caravan, a
seven-passenger rig kept ship-shape by
City Fleet manager and downtown guapo
Marvin Navarro. We’re heading due north
on far east Portland’s 122nd Avenue. It’s
me and a boatload of Zomi elders.
In our wake, the Spanish-speaking son
of Royal Thai and Chinese Portlander
parents, Jono Saiget, is ferrying a crew of
activists. A little behind them, behind the
wheel of her tired old Toyota, tough and
tender community organizer Cristina
Palacios is bringing her stubbornly
ambitious Bhutanese, Guatemalan, and
Mexican Portlanders. Everyone’s eager to
participate in Portland’s nationally envied
style of local democracy.
All our families have survived our achy
little planet’s worst neighborhoods, to
settle here. All fled our world’s cruellest or
most careless leaders. And so it goes
without saying, that everyone aboard this
bus is a bit anxious about government.
Sweaty palms notwithstanding, that’s
precisely where we’re heading — this
crew’s presenting testimony to our new
hometown’s mayor and our city council.
Ayoh-ayoh. (Let’s go-go-go.)
“In 600 feet, turn left onto North Marine
Drive,” my smart-alecky iPhone says
above our crowded cabin’s din — chatter as
anxious as macaque when harimau
(leopard scent) is in the air. So left we go.
Grand River Columbia runs deep and
wide on our right. On our left, Portland’s
tidy international airport opens our
region’s robust heart and our pulsing
economy to a world of wealth, and a world
Our Caravan is suddenly silent as
prayer. Still as night. While white caps roll
by, while United jumbo jets roar west and
Northwest Dreamliners roar east — not a
sound comes from those elder aunties
seated behind Big Uncle Mung and me.
As we pass Salty’s packed upscale
restaurant, I ask Pa Mung: “Apakabar Pa?
(What’s happening Uncle?) How’re aunties
doing back there? Too hot or too cold?”
“Dunno,” he says, though both he and me
do know. Sure we do. In our very bones,
every man knows exactly what’s
happening in the back of this Dodge van;
what’s happening in the economic
backwater of our women’s eastside
apartment blocks, and back in the failed
states we fled. Men simply won’t say it.
Pa Mung turns and asks in a tone that
makes him such a respected and loved
leader: How’re you all doing, ladies? (I can
only guess, I speak no Zomi.)
A short answer follows. Sobs follow this.
Sobs landing like boulders. Some more
aunties answer. Weeping follows that,
wave after weeping wave — the way our
women sorrow, everywhere. Always. No
Every man knows very well what these
women’s bursting hearts are saying. And
every self-respecting guy’s breathing
stops. We know — sure we do — how we’ve
failed to protect our mothers, how we’ve
failed to provide for our wives and our
Silence returns to our cabin. Long-long
moments of it.
Pa Mung finally says to me: “They say,
‘this river is same as River Mekong, back
home. When we see this river, we’re so
happy. When we see this river, we’re so
sad.’” They cry for joy. They cry for
With those words hanging in the air, this
mighty man and me turn our eyes straight
ahead. We dare not say another thing. He
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 7
and me drop into our separate solitudes.
Each knows that by breathing slow we just
may steer wide of our humiliation. We
Remedy for all that sorrow
“In 300 feet, turn slight right onto
Fessenden,” says my very smart phone.
“In 600 feet, turn right on Burr. Your
destination,” she says with a trace of pride,
“is 300 feet, on your right.”
Right. We’re at George Middle School,
site of city council’s north Portland
community budget forum. Our quiet
Caravan coasts to a stop, curbside. I floor
her park break. I turn off her engine and
turn around to say, “Ayoh-ayoh nonya-
nonya manis!” Let’s go-go-go, dear ladies!
Everyone smiles, radiant as a Sulawesi
As we cross the school’s crazy parking
lot, St. Johns’ broad-shouldered Tongan
civic activists, gently led by Kolini Fusitua,
arms thicker than my waist, back-smack
Big Uncle Mung and me. As we enter,
north Portland’s beaming West Africans
join us in this already packed hallway. For
their big company, we feel better. We
women and men alike.
When mayor Hales calls city council to
order, ten of Portland’s 70 muscular ethnic
streams settle into our auditorium’s
wooden seats, all of us earnestly braiding
into our city’s splendid mainstream. All of
us so much like the blending of Rivers
Snake and Spokane, Yakima and
Umatilla, Cowlitz and White Salmon, into
our generous River Columbia.
That river of Pacific Northwest rain. Our
river of joy, our river of sorrow.
The Asian Reporter’s
Expanding American Lexicon
Al’hamdulillaah (Passar Bahasa, from
Koranic Arabic): All our gratitude to God. All is
Ampun’illaah (Passar Bahasa, from Koranic
Arabic): May God have Mercy on us.
Aunties and uncles: Respectful and
affectionate forms of address for folks a
generation older than you.
Ethnic streams: River City is a mélange of
about 70 ethno-cultural streams, according to
public school data on student’s home languages.
Caravan (from Persian, Karvan): Merchants
plus their pack animals. Also a Chrysler Motors
Civic activists: 1,000 Thank Yous for this
story to Ivonne Rivero, to Kolini Fusitua, to
Jerome Adibonou, to Cristina Palacios, and to
Andrea Marquez for organizing then presenting
their respective communities at the city council
We’re at George Middle
School, site of city
council’s north Portland
community budget forum.
Ten vigorous Portland
ethnic streams settle into
the auditorium’s wooden
seats, all of us earnestly
braiding into our city’s
budget forum described above. Participating in
the life of Portland can cure broken hearts.
Boeing’s newest generation of high-tech,
Failed states: For all of human history,
communities have migrated away from failed
states and toward energetic economies, national
borderlines notwithstanding. We migrate like
whale and caribou families do. We always have.
Guapo (Tagalog noun): Good looking guy.
(Spanish adjective): Handsome.
Karen Portlanders: New Americans from
the Karen (or Kayin) state of southeast Myanmar
(or Burma). Karen are not Burmese, not Korean,
nor Karenni (another Portland community).
Karen are a distinct cultural community with an
enduring language and a proud history.
Myanmar’s military government and Karen have
warred for 66 years.
PDX: Many credit Oregon governor Victor
Atiyeh (son of Syrian immigrants) and Portland
activist Sho Dozono (immigrant from Japan)
with connecting PDX to Japan, Mexico, and
Western Europe — our only direct international
neighborhoods participating in city governance
set national high-water standards during the
1970s and ’80s. Please see: “The Dynamics of
Creating Strong Democracy in Portland, Oregon
— 1974 to 2013,” Paul R. Leistner (Ph.D. Thesis,
2013). This year, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy
School of Government honored Portland for
even better community-building through our
Office of Neighborhood Involvement’s
Diversity and Civic Leadership Program.
Sulawesi: Island at eastern end of Indonesia’s
3,000-mile archipelago. Our family’s homeland.
Zomi: In this context, New Americans from
the Chin state of northwestern Myanmar
(Burma), from southeast Bangladesh, and
several northeastern states of India. Zomi are
from Burma, they are not Burmese. Zomi are a
distinct cultural community with an enduring
language, and a proud history.
Third season for Portland Thorns, NWSL off and running
SUMMER OF SOCCER. The third season of pro soccer with the
Portland Thorns and the National Women’s Soccer League is off and
running. The league kicked off in mid-April and the nine squads have
played at least five matches of each club’s 20-game schedule. Pictured
is Meleana Shim of the Portland Thorns dribbling the ball in front of
13,148 fans at Providence Park during the team’s April 18 match
against the Western New York Flash. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)
By Jody Lim
The Asian Reporter
he third season of pro soccer with the Portland
Thorns and the National Women’s Soccer League
(NWSL) is off and running. The league kicked off
in mid-April and the nine squads have played at least five
matches of each club’s 20-game schedule. Thorns FC are
within reach — just three points — of the current
first-place team, the Chicago Red Stars, which has three
wins and two draws (11 points).
The Portland squad — which has two wins, one loss, and
two ties (8 points) — features Hawai’i native Meleana
“Mana” Shim, who has been a key contributor. The 5’4”
midfielder, who is now in her third NWSL season, has
started all five matches, scored three goals, and given
Portland kicked off the season at home this year, the
first time since the club’s inception into the NWSL in
2013. In the opening match, held April 11 against the
Boston Breakers, Shim scored the team’s second goal in
the 38th minute on an assist from defender Kendall
Johnson. Midway through the second half, in the span of
one minute, 14 seconds, Shim also assisted midfielder
Allie Long twice, moving the score to 4-1.
After the match, Portland coach Paul Riley commented
on Shim and Long’s play, saying they had “great
The Thorns met Boston again this past weekend at
Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium in Massachusetts. Boston
found the net in the final moments of second-half stoppage
time to give the Thorns their first loss of 2015. The teams
meet again August 5 in Portland.
In the second home match of the season, a physical 1-0
win over the Western New York Flash on April 18, the
Thorns scored the go-ahead goal when midfielder Sinead
Farrelly hit a cross that was flicked into the goal by Long.
Portland meets the Flash two more time this year: July 29
and September 4, both at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester,
Thorns FC hit the road April 25 to take on the Chicago
Red Stars, where the two teams battled to a 2-2 draw.
After digging a 0-2 deficit, Portland goals from forward
Christine Sinclair and Shim levelled the score at two
Chicago’s roster includes defender Rachel Quon, who
has Chinese ancestry, and defender Abby Erceg, the
captain of the New Zealand national team, who is of Maori
heritage. Quon, a graduate of Stanford University, is now
in her third year playing for the Red Stars, having logged
more than 3,200 minutes during the 2013 and 2014
seasons. After signing with the team in May of last year,
Erceg started 11 matches and logged 990 minutes. The
25-year-old from Whangarei, New Zealand has played in
the German Bundesliga and is the most capped player in
New Zealand national team history.
Chicago and Portland meet one more time during the
regular season, on August 9 at Providence Park.
After a bye week in early May, the Thorns returned to
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