by Corey Tanaka
Being here in Cagli, Italy, I am reminded of the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Throughout my short time in Italy I could not help but find some similarities between this beautiful, historic town and quaint Spokane.
Cagli is a small-ish mountain town in the Provinicia de Pesaro e Urbino, a Northern Province of Italy. To me, this town is the quintessential traditional Italian town. Buildings older than America still stand and give comfort to Italian families that have had their family names written in the pillars of time. Cobblestone streets feel the rumble of Fiat cars and mopeds zipping over them through the piazza, and the aroma of coffee beans is palpable in the morning time. In this sense, Spokane is nothing like Cagli, but there are some similarities.
The Spokane I have come to know has a predominantly white, American population. Likewise, the Cagli I have come to know has a predominantly Italian population of people that are born and raised Cagliese. In both areas of the world, I am a foreigner. Being of Japanese, Korean, and Native Hawaiian heritage, I stick out like lone sock among a drawer full of pairs in Spokane and Cagli.
Throughout my three years of university at Gonzaga, I have grown accustom to this feeling of being the “other,” but I forgot that I would also feel this in Cagli, Italy—however, I was not the only one feeling this. After talking with a few of my peers who are older than me and also white Americans, they told me that this was the first time that they had bene the minority. I experienced this same shock when I first came to Gonzaga University.
Being born and raised in Hawaii, I was surrounded by diversity. Hawaii is known as the melting pot of the Pacific; more colloquially known as the “mixed plate.” I was raised around Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, and other ethnicities from around the world, but never was I the minority. Now in Cagli, some of my peers were experiencing this for the first time, and it was eye opening for me to witness this. Over the years, I had gotten used to be “that Asian guy” and “that Asian guy with the hair,” but it was interesting to see this perspective. In Cagli, I have been given the nickname “samurai” by the locals, and frankly, I think it is pretty great. Although some may perceive this as a micro-aggression, I always take it with a grain of salt and never let it get me down.
The peers that came to me about this new feeling also asked for advice on dealing with this. The only bit of advice I could give them was to truly know themselves, acknowledge their difference, and be proud of who they are regardless of age, ethnicity, or background. With that little bit of knowledge or wisdom or whatever term you want to give it, I always feel like I can go into any environment and make the best of it. I hope you can too.