RIP, The NE Portland Where I Grew Up

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

I’ve lived in NE Portland for my entire 22 years of life. I remember when I was little, my neighborhood consisted of mostly African Americans and Latino families. The entire apartment complex that’s right next to my house mainly consisted of African Americans whom my siblings and I made friends with and invited over to our house. My entire neighborhood was filled with black-owned businesses like barber shops, bars, and little convenient shops. But as of today, all of that is gone.   

It wasn’t until recently that my siblings and I became old enough to fully grasp the concept of gentrification, especially because we watched it unfold right before our eyes. We had a conversation about how our neighborhood quietly transformed so much throughout the years but we didn’t notice it until now. The apartments next to my house are now   inhabited by mostly white people, the only black neighbors I have are the people right across from my house, who have a huge, colorful mural of Prince painted on their garage. The convenience store that was once owned by a black family has turned into a “hipster” brunch restaurant.

It’s very sad to see the community of people that I grew up with slowly disappear. I honestly don’t feel like this is my neighborhood anymore. It’s not the NE Portland that I know. On a positive note, I’ve done research and found that there has been lots of work being done to try to de-gentrify my neighborhood. But I hope the issue of gentrification in Portland gets brought up more in conversations because it’s moving our city in the wrong direction and needs to be addressed.

 

Thoughts on the bus

 By Wiwin Hartini

3:30 PM

The sunlight passes through the bus’ windows making everyone’s afternoon more cheerful after a day of work or in my case, school. Riding buses with 20 other people has become my normal routine. This is my first bus of three. 

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Coming from the fourth most populous country to the third shouldn’t be a big surprise, I thought. But it is.

When my Indonesian friends ask if I live close to Washington, D.C., because I live in Washougal, Washington, I explain that it takes about a six-hour flight to get to D.C. from where I live. It’s closer to go to Canada. 

When my American friends ask me if I’ve been to Bali, which is an exotic destination in Indonesia, I explain that Indonesia has about 16,000 islands, and I lived on one, Sumatra, my entire life. 

I spent three years living in the capital city of a province with about 2.5 million people. And yes, the U.S. seems to be more spacious when you go for a walk on a fine afternoon. But no one is outside relaxing on their front porch like my neighbors in Medan.

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“Stepping out of your comfort zone will make you grow.” Have you been told this yet? Maybe, more than once? Same here.  In reality, it’s more than a growth experience. It makes you rich as a human being.

Rich in experience because you are placed in a situation where you’re exposed to all kinds of people. “Wiwin, do all people in Indonesia wear hijabs?” 

Rich in thoughts because you learn about agreeing to disagree. “Wiwin, what do you think about Trump?” 

Rich in languages because you get to see how different nonverbal languages can be. “Wiwin! How have you been? Give me a hug.”

 

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5:30 PM

I am almost home, where I live with an American family. The sun lights up drops of rain on fallen Orange leaves—a pleasing contrast to the grey sidewalk. Welcome to the Northwest, they say, where sunny days are beautiful and green, but rainy days offer peacefulness. 

 

 

Excuses, excuses—what’s yours for not voting?

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Remember those videos where comedians like Jimmy Kimmel would walk around a college campus and ask random students questions about current politics? The point was to showcase how out of touch students are with the world outside of school. I remember watching those videos and laughing at how ignorant people were. Now, ironically, I am officially one of those ignorant college students. I never imagined myself being that person—the person who didn’t know and didn’t care. 

Yet, here I am. As soon as I started college, my focus shifted to only include school. My double major makes studying itself a part-time job on top of three other campus jobs. Over the past couple weeks I’ve seen several people on campus handing out voter registration forms. Each time, I feel guilty—because I’m not voting.

I don’t admit to this fact easily because I feel that both the media and this campus demonize people for not voting. Voting campaigns lean on turns of phrase like, “What’s your excuse?” and following it up with essentially, “there is no excuse.” There’s not much room to open up a conversation within that dialogue.

I’m not here to make excuses for why I’m not voting. Simply stated, I don’t vote because I’m uninformed and choose not to use my limited free time researching who and what is on the ballot. It’s not that I don’t want to vote; I just really value making informed decisions, and I am currently not up to speed on the happenings of the political world.

Voting is a right, but attending school is a privilege that carries a lot more weight in my life right now. For the foreseeable future of my academic career, I will continue choosing to study for a midterm worth 50% of my grade over looking up who’s running for governor.

Not Many People at Work Look Like Me

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

Over the summer, I worked at my first internship at a marketing and advertising agency. It was great. The people were nice, I learned a lot about the career that I’m trying to pursue and I gained so much experience from it. But since the first day that I stepped into the office, I couldn’t help but notice one thing: Nearly everyone there was white.

I’ve worked many jobs before. Regular minimum-wage jobs like stores at the mall, and diversity has never been an issue there. But since this is my first job in a professional environment, it really opened my eyes to the lack of diversity in the professional working world. Everyone at my internship treated me well and my race has never been a problem or affected my work, but I still couldn’t help but feel somewhat out of place. It was like a cloud of discomfort that filled the entire atmosphere for me every day at work. It feels lonely when you don’t really see reflections of yourself on a daily basis. There were only three people of color at this office: myself, and two other girls who were also Asian. I talked about this issue with one of them and they felt the same way I did.

From this experience, I had to ask myself: What can I do as a person of color to improve the issue of diversity in the workplace? More importantly, how can I use this struggle to work harder towards my career goals and help others who face the same problem? I’ve looked online and found that there are so many other individuals who have dealt with this issue. It’s great to know that I’m not alone. Perhaps in the future, I want to work with organizations that offer resources that help people of color, specifically students, get into the career that they are trying to pursue. I have found some great internship programs and organizations based in Portland that do just that, and I’m happy that they exist. It’s a great starting point to tackle this rarely talked about, but important, problem.

Internship Fever

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

When I started this fall term as a junior, I was bitten by the internship bug. Portland boasts so many great businesses and opportunities for internships. Luckily, PSU offers students a way to find potential employers. Handshake has hundreds of employers with job and/or internship openings. I recently found an on-campus job through Handshake and have discovered a couple of summer internships that I’ll definitely apply to. 

PSU also recently held a career and internship fair. I always found career fairs more awkward and stressful than anything. I would wander around aimlessly and always leave feeling unaccomplished. Once I found out Handshake lists all the attending employers, it changed my approach. Before any career fair, I peruse Handshake and find the employers hiring my major. From there, I narrow down which ones I really need to visit based on how their business fits my own career path. It makes the whole experience much more focused, efficient, and less stressful once I’m actually at the fair.

Even though it’s only fall term, some summer internship deadlines are fast approaching. I scroll through Handshake often to keep updated on deadlines and new opportunities as they come up. So far, I’ve been able to find internship opportunities that really align with my career focus, and I’ve never been more excited. Now, it’s all about applying and hoping for the best!

Is Crazy Bad?

IMG_0830By: Anna Sobczyk

Ableism is a term that didn’t pop until the 1980s and is a term I had never heard of until I moved to Portland. A quick Google search defines ableism as “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). I recently sat in on a presentation on ableism given by PSU’s Disability Resource Center (DRC), and learned there’s a lot to unpack on the topic. The part that struck me the most was when the DRC presenter said we should be eliminating certain words from our vocabulary. Specifically, “crazy” was bad to say. Quite honestly, I still can’t wrap my head around it.

Another part of the conversation that made me check my perceptions was the notion that our society doesn’t inherently know the history of disabled persons or mental health. Everyone I know has learned about slavery, voting rights, and the Holocaust—including the derogatory terms that arose from these time periods and events. During the DRC’s presentation, it was evident neither my peers nor myself knew anything substantial about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the general history of disabilities and mental health. Perhaps this lack of education early on is to blame for why words like crazy are normalized and why it’s so difficult to recognize their harmful impact.

Although to me, using the word crazy is equivalent to using the word stupid. Both are adjectives to describe something or someone. If I called a person stupid, that’s simply a hurtful way to use the word. Crazy can be used in the same capacity. However, just because a word has the potential to be hurtful or mean doesn’t justify eliminating it from our vocabulary. Of course, slurs do exist that are implicitly hurtful, degrading, and derogatory—but is “crazy” really one of them?

Don’t Tolerate Disrespect

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

When it comes to summer jobs, there’s nothing quite as notorious as working in customer service. Coworkers and friends complain amongst each other, and entire memes exist based around the lamentations of the job. I work harvest during the summer, and so my job is a unique form of customer service. I see the same customers (the drivers and farmers) over, and over, and over again—and I’ve been seeing these same people for five years now. Each year I inevitably have to deal with cranky farmers and drivers who are upset about waiting in lines that are completely out of my control. In the past, I tolerated inappropriate and rude behavior. I also believed I deserved it, and that I was somehow bringing it upon myself.

One particularly negative experience this year reset my thought processes. A farmer chewed me out for something I had no control over. Everyone working was following a specific system for moving trucks along, and the farmer didn’t agree with it. The system set in place was done so by someone higher up than me, and yet this farmer decided to come unhinged on me. He cussed, pointed his finger in my face, and raised his voice. This, by far, was the nastiest experience I’ve had at work. I stood my ground and explained the reasons behind the system, but only once he’d left did I realize a few things:

  1. I did not owe him any explanation. He was upset over a decision, but that did not give him the right to yell at me.
  2. In any case, I do not need to offer explanations of how I do my job in order to—first and foremost—be treated with respect.
  3. Since he was so angry, he should have taken it up with a higher ranking employee instead of berating someone who wasn’t involved in the decision making process.
  4. My instinct was to stand there and take it, because I felt like walking away was a sign of weakness. However, listening to that hot-headed tirade was a waste of my time, and I was under no obligation to stand there and take it.
  5. He will likely never apologize.

I regret my tolerance in years past and shake my head at ever believing I deserved to be treated poorly. However, I know these feelings are a reality for a lot of young, service industry workers. My only hope is that others will recognize their worth on day one of the job instead of five years down the road.