Final countdown.

When I started working on this thesis, it was a project. The thought of a yearlong project was daunting. What do I want to do for a year? What will hold my interest and continually spark creativity? I think when I first started this project, it was difficult, because I thought of it as a project. Something with a deadline and requirements rather than what I was truly interested in. Once I broke away from the formalities and thought about why everything I was researching was important to me it turned back as a reflection on myself. It was about how all these things that I was exploring were really parts of my upbringing that were and still remain, important to me. These are parts of my heritage that I am now taking with me, as I move away from home and the comfort of family. These are the things that I share with others and what make me who I am today.

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Heritage: Dinner with friends

Over winter break I went back home to Maui and it was the perfect opportunity to share my thesis with my friends.  Throughout the semester I was able to think about and have informal dinners with friends in New York, but I really wanted to have a dinner with those people who have been in my life for a long time.

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These friends in the video have been a part of my life since I was age 10.  They were the first friends I made when I moved to a middle school that was outside of my district and they have remained and became some of the best friends I have ever had.

As we all moved away for college, and now are all on different post graduate paths, we rarely have a chance to get together.  The holidays brought us all home, and my thesis brought us all together.

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The planning for this started before I got home. My friend Marisa first initiated a get together since we would be home for the holidays.  I thought, what a perfect opportunity to also experiment for my thesis. Enlisting the help of  my friend Ali to host a dinner party at her house, we made a plan to not tell anyone this was also for my project.

As part of my past, I also brought the table to dinner. I took our kitchen table from home and had another friend haul it over up to our dinner site.  This was the table we used at our home for over 30 years, so I couldn’t imagine not having this dinner on that table as well.  I extended the leaves to its largest configuration (something we rarely do at home), to accommodate the large group.

I enforced the rule of no phones at the table by having everyone put it in a box.  The uninterrupted time together was probably one of the  most enjoyable times I had with them in a long time. Although we have not seen each other in a long time, when we get together, it’s like we were never separated.

It was interesting to see different people’s reactions to having a cellphone-free dinner.  Some people were down for it, and others questioned, but everyone participated.  They were great sports and overall the dinner was fun.  I didn’t think about not having my phone with me, but rather focused on the people at the table.  Without a phone in my pocket, there was no temptation to pick it up and look at it.

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At the end of the night, everyone got their phone back after they filled out a short survey for me about their experience.  They wrote on the placemats that I placed on the table. I also gave my friends a pre-addressed and stamped envelope with a card in it.  This was for them to take with them as a reminder of our dinner, and as a favor to me.  I asked them to do this again with other friends, or maybe even one another, and write to me about their experience.  This is one way they can help me share this family dinner ritual with others.

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Left to Right: Top Row: Jennifer Matsumoto, Marisa Watanabe, Ali McKeon, Bree-Ann Tamaye, Nicole Miyahira, Erin Ichimura, Kaitlen Miyajima Bottom Row: Marni Tabata, Derek Hondo, Claire Fukuoka

Overall, I was very pleased with this intervention.  What started off as a gathering of friends who have been away for a while, turned into a memory that we will all share for a lifetime. Not just because I have all the documentation to prove it, but because the stories, moments, and conversation shared around the table will have an unforgettable memory.

Going on “Sherman’s March” with Ross McElwee

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I watched Sherman’s March. Louisa suggested it to me in class and luckily, it was available on Instant Play on Netflix. It was a 2.5hour documentary on Ross McElwee’s intention on doing a documentary on General Sherman’s destructive march through the south in the Civil War, but ended up being a personal documentary of his search for love. I think this style of documentary, where the documentor is always holding the camera, and is rarely present was intriguing. It was as if I was right there with him or as him.  What the camera saw was what he saw and it gave a good perspective to connect with the documentor. I thought that this proved effective because although this was over two hours long, I felt like I wanted to know more about his journey and continue it with him. Also, at the end, he finds love, but doesn’t reveal if it goes anywhere. A cliff hanger–and all I really want to know is if that woman ever went out on more than one date with him.

This documentary formed out of an unexpected journey by the documentor. He set out to do one thing, but found himself compelled to take on another project. He goes back and forth talking about the change in his plans. It’s very real. Seems raw and uncut. I liked it.