What is it like being a Jamaican in Hawaii?

Jamaican in Hawaii

In this episode of “Jamaicans to the World”, founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Yanicke Lim Sang. She is a Jamaican living in Hawaii.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican living in Hawaii? Hi, I am Xavier Murphy, the founder of Today in Jamaicans to the world we talk to Yanicke Lim Sang, a Jamaican who lives in Hawaii. How are you Yanicke?

Yanicke: I am fine. How are you? Thanks for having me.

Xavier: I am good. My first question; which paat a Jamaica yuh come fram? (Where in Jamaica are you from?)

Yanicke: Kingston, Stony Hill.

Xavier: Okay, and what school are you representing? You know we are about our high schools in Jamaica so which school are you representing?

Yanicke: Immaculate.

Xavier: Oh, an Immaculate girl, representing Immaculate.

Yanicke: Immaculate girl, yes.

Mountains overlooking water

Mountains overlooking water

Xavier: Tell us your story. How did you get to Hawaii?

Yanicke: It’s a long story, you know.

Xavier: It’s a long one…

Yanicke: It’s a long one, but I will shorten it.

Xavier: Alright!

Yanicke: Like late 80’s I migrated to Miami, lived in Miami for a long time and I met my husband at that time and moved to L. A and lived in L. A for a couple years then moved to San Francisco, lived in San Francisco for a couple years and he got a big job in Hawaii and now we are in Hawaii and I have been in Hawaii for eleven years.

Xavier: Wow! So tell us a little bit about Hawaii and let’s start with the people? How are the people in Hawaii? Hawaiian people? How are they?

Yanicke: They are very hospitable here in Hawaii, they are full of love, that’s their big thing. ‘Aloha’ not only means ‘hello’ like most people think but it also means a lot of love in their hearts, they are very sweet people and believe it or not Hawaiians look a lot like Chinese Jamaicans, so I fit in very easily. They are very much about environment and the land. The land is their spirits so they keep their land like pristine, you know, you will see a lot of people cleaning up the beaches, they go jump on the rocks, they don’t abuse the land in anyway.

Xavier: Okay! So I know a lot of people think that they are thinking Hawaii, they are thinking sunshine, they are thinking year around vacation type deal. But I heard a fact the other day that Hawaii gets more rain than any other place in the United States so clear up the misconception for me. Is it like the day showers kind of like when you go to Negril in Jamaica, you know you are going to get that shower in the midday and then the rest of the day is kinda like cool; what is it like?

Yanicke: That’s all false we don’t get a lot of rain.

Xavier: Okay! You don’t.

Yanicke: No! Well I mean it’s not like Jamaica or Florida where you have morning showers and then it’s clear in the afternoon. Here in Hawaii it’s really volcanic so you basically have seasons and the only time you get rain is raining season which is October to February. This year it’s going into March which is kind of bizarre but that’s the only time you really see rain. The rest of the year is sunny all the time.

Xavier: Okay, alright, I don’t know where that fact came from that I saw, you know, this is one of the biggest misconception they said. And I was like okay, I have never been…I don’t know.

Yanicke: Well, you know why they probably said that is because recently we had a lot of flooding and we are in our raining season.

Xavier: I see, I see. We talked about the people. I want to talk a little bit about the food, what is the food like there?

Yanicke: I don’t think I am the right one to be telling you about the food. Um, how can I tell you this in a nice way? Are Hawaiian people gonna see this?

Xavier: They may.

Yanicke: The food is interesting, it’s very pork based and I don’t really eat pork and they have a lot of sea food and coy and stuff but nothing like Jamaican food. They eat something called Taro which I think it’s good but most people don’t like it, which is a squash that is made into a yogurt consistency and they eat it with fish and like pickle tomato and stuff but they eat a lot of pork. That’s their main dish; is roast pork and yeah it’s nothing like Jamaican food.

Xavier: You mentioned… What was it sqa….What is the name of that thing you said you liked?

Yanicke: Oh my gosh, that’s basically like a stew pork it’s like cut up pork…No like a roast pork that they stew and it’s like shredded pork in like gravy that they put over the rice (Unclear audio 6:02-6:04)

Xavier: Would that would be the one thing and that is another question; what would it, you say if I were to travel to there, and I am a pork eater so I will eat the Trenton.

Yanicke: I know you will love it.

Xavier: As you would say in Jamaica; I will eat the Trenton.

Yanicke: But you know what’s funny… one thing that was puzzling to me when I first moved here, it that there is breadfruit on every corner there is a breadfruit tree. We have breadfruits we have otaheite apple, we have soursops, sweet sops, we have guineps we have all those things here except ackee. We don’t have ackee or naseberry or anything like that but when I researched it, I am like oh, we have the same fruits and we are like on the other side of the world. And I researched it and actually Captain Cooke took a lot of fruits from the Polynesian islands and took to Jamaica.

Xavier: Hmm…hmm!

Yanicke: You know like, otaheite apple, it never rang a bell but otaheite apple is Tahiti, they come from Tahiti that’s why they are called…

Xavier: Okay, interesting facts.

Yanicke: A lot of the fruits in Jamaica comes from the Polynesians islands.

Xavier: Okay, You are saying the breadfruits, do they eat the breadfruits?

Yanicke: Oh, yes they eat nuff (a lot of) breadfruit here but they don’t eat it like us.

Xavier: How do they do it?

Yanicke: They do it many different ways, they pickle it, they will like bake it and mask it and kind of like a mash potato kind of way but they don’t fry it and roast it like we do.

Xavier: So have you fried it and roast it and give it to some of your Hawaiian friends and what do they think?

Yanicke: They love it. I cook Jamaican food for my Hawaiian friends.

Xavier: Oh so I guess everyone over there is calling you and saying listen Yanicke when you cooking Jamaican food.

Yanicke: They have been begging me to open a restaurant but I don’t have time for that.

Xavier: What island are you on?

Rushing waterfall

Rushing waterfall

Yanicke: I am on Oahu.

Xavier: Okay, okay!

Yanicke: That’s where Honolulu is.

Xavier: Okay, so I believe that’s the main island per say, right?

Yanicke: Yes, the capital.

Xavier: It’s not the biggest though?

Yanicke: No, the biggest island is the biggest island which is the nick name for it but big Island is actually called Hawaii. So this is Oahu
and big island is actually Hawaii.

Xavier: How many island have you visited?

Yanicke: I have visited Big Island, Molokai, Lanai and Maui so four.

Xavier: So which one you prefer the most?

Yanicke: I love Hawaii, Hawaii is very lush and has a lot of water falls.

Xavier: Oh, water falls, and I guess it reminds you a little bit about Jamaica…the water falls?

Yanicke: Yes, the landscape is a little different because it’s more volcanic but the shape and formation of the mountain are much different from Jamaica but there is a lot of areas that are similar.

Xavier: Nice, nice, so when people…?

Yanicke: It looks like a land of Chinese Jamaican people.

Xavier: This is going to make this question interesting because you said being that you are of Chinese Jamaican heritage you know you say people tend to say you look…you blend in but when people find out that you are Jamaican what is the typical reaction?

Yanicke: You don’t look Jamaican Si( I am like, what a Jamaican look like but yeah that’s what they all say you don’t look Jamaican.

Xavier: They don’t ask you like how come, you know like maybe…?

Yanicke: They do and like the rest of the world, a lot of people don’t know that there are Asians in Jamaica so we are kinda like unicorns to the world.

Xavier: In terms of you know music I know there is reggae there because there is… one of the popular bands was nominated I believed for Grammy. Um, Hawaiian Reggae Band of have Hawaiian members and on the website we have features I think a couple times; Hawaiian Reggae Band but is it like a popular type of music… Reggae, or is it mainly the American mainland type music that you hear?

Yanicke: Reggae is the main music of Hawaii, they are obsessed with Jamaican culture. I think the band you are talking about is J-Boog. J-Boog is like the Hawaiian Tirrus Riley but a lot of Reggae concerts come through here Chronixx has been here, Protoje, Damion Marley is here every six months So a lot of musicians comes through here. And Hawaii they more favor roots more than dancehall. They don’t really understand dancehall but they love roots and they love oldies. They have formulated their own Reggae Jawwaii which is called Jawaiian Music which is a mixture of Hawaiian and Reggae.

Xavier: What is the difference? And I know you are not a musician so you can’t get too deep in to this.

Yanicke: Oh, no I cant.

Xavier: Oh, ok good. What is the difference? Because you know reggaeton to me is Reggae, right, just with a tinge of Spanish flavor. So how would I know the difference between Jawaiian and regular reggae?

Yanicke: Jawaiian Reggaeton is live very rootsie, I mean it sounds very similar to our music, I mean it sounds like roots Reggae but the only thing with Hawaiian music which is very different. I call it Bambam Reggae. It’s not like our roots music where there is struggle and you know, the reality of the streets. Here Hawaiian music is all about being in love and… It’s like love music you know, like rockers kind of music.

Xavier: It’s almost like lovers rock to an extent?

Yanicke: Yeah, that’s all there is, there is nothing about struggling in Jawaiian Music. It’s more about being in love and the stars in the skies and the beach and yeah.

Xavier: I have to go check it out; the Jawaiian. And you are right, it was J-Boogs…

Yanicke: J-Boogs, yes my favorite, yeah, he is really good. There is J-Boogs and another girl which actually does a lot of music with Tirus Riley and her name is Anuhea and she is really good and another band called Ooklah The Mac and they are dub conscious, heavy roots.

Xavier: You look like you know them like you could actually promote some of the concerts there and so on because you know…

Yanicke: I do.

Xavier: Oh you do promote concerts?

Yanicke: I am not a promoter but I do events so I know a lot of the musicians and I put on shows here.

Xavier: Oh, that’s interesting, that’s good, that’s really good. Being that you put on events and so on that means my next question is perfect for you because I want to know if I come to Hawaii what is an experience you are going to say Xavier you must do this? It could be a place to go, it could be an event. You say mek (make) sure you come around this time of the year because there is this specific event or again it could be a location, it could be hey this concert or eating dinner here. What would that one thing you would say… and it could be your personal preference. What would you say that would be?

Yanicke: Honestly speaking I wouldn’t really tell you to come here for a musical event because I feel like you get you get the best events in Miami and Jamaica. Not that here is not great but it’s not going to be anything different for you. My recommendation would basically do something with the ocean and outdoors and I would recommend probably around Christmas time to come here to see the big wave surfers and the surf contests where the North Shores where surfers comes from all over the world and they are suffering all these different waves. That’s something to really see.

Xavier: Hmmm, so I am going to take a chance now because you have been there eleven years. You know the question I am going to ask?

Yanicke: Yeah, I know.

Xavier: I’m putting you on the surfboard.

Yanicke: I have, my sons are pretty big surfers and they are also you know… They surf every single day. I have tried surfing many times I sucked at it, I am awful but I can surf but I have to surf the really tiny waves in Waikiki and not where my kids surf because they surf the big waves. But I do prefer stand up paddling more than surfing.

Xavier: Okay, alright. I know if I come to Hawaii I would have to talk to your sons because they would be the ones to give me the lesson not you?

Yanicke: Not me, no! You don’t want me give you no lesson. Yeah, my kids are pretty good. Like my little one, my fourteen year old just got a sponsored.

Xavier: Oh, that’s awesome congrats to him, that’s nice.

Yanicke: Thank you very much.

Xavier: In terms of language, I understand there is a Hawaiian language. Have you learned any of it…You are not required to learn…I figured English, you know I figure but again you live there, you know, English is probably the dominant language however there is another language there. Are you required to learn it if you live there or is it used often, you know, tell us about the Hawaiian language?

Sunset on the beach

Sunset on the beach

Yanicke: The main language here is English. They do have a Hawaiian language that they teach in school. You are not required to learn it. More Hawaiians here are trying to learn it though and go back to their roots because when America overthrow Hawaii they made them get rid of their language so now they are trying to reconnect with their roots and learn the Hawaiian language. The local language is Pidgin. You have Hawaiian language and you have Pidgin which is like their version of Patois and it sounds just like Patios but a little different.

Xavier: Hmm! So is it based on Hawaiian…The Pidgin I am talking now; is it based on Hawaiian or it taking words from the Hawaiian language and the English Language.

Yanicke: It’s a broken English like us, they say bradda (brother). When you come here they are like wah hap’n bradda (what happened brother) so it’s very similar but it is a different ascent.

Xavier: Hmm, and your children are learning Hawaiian?

Yanicke: Oh, yeah, they take Hawaiian, they can do a little Pidgin and in school they study Mandarin.

Xavier: Oh, multiple languages there.

Yanicke: Pidgin is not considered a language though, only Hawaiian is considered a language. Pidgin is just like Patios, so it’s just broken
English. And yeah, they are studying Mandarin.

Xavier: That’s good. In terms of… I know the people who were born there but in terms of diversity and other people is there a lot of people from what you would call the mainland; US, there. You know where you are, obviously you probably won’t know everywhere else but you know, are you finding that okay a lot of people are coming and saying I am coming here to retire or I am moving here from the main land because I want this Hawaiian lifestyle.

Yanicke: The diversity goes… I personally don’t find it as diverse as Miami. A lot of people here thinks it is extremely diverse but it’s only diverse really with mainlanders and a lot of different Asian countries. You don’t really see a lot of black people here. If you do most of them will be coming through the military.

Xavier: Okay, I see.

Yanicke: And it’s extremely expensive, it is one of the most expensive places in the world to live apart from Australia. The mainlanders that do come here are probably the more to (20:40-20:41) mainlanders, mostly from California, a lot of people from California live here.

Xavier: Okay, I figured its close enough and so yeah, so listen, Yanicke, I really appreciate you spending some time with us and telling us your story there. I am winding down, you know, you probably looking at me like man, I hope him don’t have (I hope he does have) like twenty add more questions coming at me here.

Yanicke: This was nerve wracking but yes, thanks for having me.

Xavier: And I know, I know. But you had told me that you plan events and you do weddings there and so on so you have probably seen quite a lot of the island and learn quite a few of the custom there. Is there any customs that you find like this is a little different? And again I am not saying it’s unusual I am just saying it’s a custom that they may do there. Maybe it is a custom that you may see in Hawaiian weddings. Maybe it is a custom that you see with something else. Can you share any of those with us?

Yanicke: I will give you two, the custom that I actually love here that I wish Jamaican people would adapt or have the same kind of custom is their connection to their land. Their connection to their land and ocean is so admirable. They basically are so connected that if the land is interfered with or if land dies in any way that the people would die. All beaches are public; you can’t own a beach here unlike Jamaica. You can’t charge to go on beaches or anything like that so I love those customs. The custom that I find very strange. It’s a Polynesian… It’s a very old custom. The Polynesian when they greet each other… The young Polynesians don’t do this probably the older ones from old traditions but they will put their heads together and they will blow in each other‘s face. Like they go, haaa! And yeah, that’s a little bizarre for me. That’s a very old tribal tradition for them. And they have a nick name for mainlanders and mostly Caucasians which they call them Haoles and what Haole means is the man with no breath. And that’s because they use to great each other like that and mainland never like doing that so they call them people without soul, people without breath.

Xavier: So do you do that custom?

Yanicke: No! Not at all.

Xavier: Has anyone attempt to do that with you?

Yanicke: Yes, an older auntie, you know what I mean and that’s another thing here you know like all your elders even if you don’t know them and they are strangers everybody…Similar to Jamaica but even strangers teachers, everybody is auntie and uncle.

Xavier: Oh, I see, yes, that is one of the tradition I grew up with and trying to get out of it because I have folks that tell me ok, I am not your real uncle or your auntie, just call me by my name and I am like I can’t, I grew up knowing you as uncle this or uncle that.

Yanicke: Here it is even different, here they will call auntie and uncle to a complete stranger so if you are standing up at the store a little boy will come up to you and say uncle can I get in front of you or something like… Even your teachers, yours principals, everybody is auntie and uncle.

Xavier: Nice, nice, I tend to like the tradition, I like that one.

Yanicke: I do too.

Beach stretching along the coast

Beach stretching along the coast

Xavier: It is respect. So what do you love, what do you absolutely love about Hawaii?

Yanicke: I think the culture of the people, Polynesians people have a lot of hearts, they definitely have a lot of heart, they are very united, they uplift each other, they support each other and like I said previously their love for the land and their culture is very rich.

Xavier: Good, good. Here is how I typically end and I am going to be putting you on the spot because unlike some of the other folks you have never any of these videos before so you are definitely going on the spot for this one. I typically end with you teaching me how to say good bye in the most informal way in the language. So how would you say goodbye in Hawaiian or kinda like see you later or little more or whatever and maybe you don’t know but I am figuring eleven years there you must have picked up on something they said.

Yanicke: No, I do but it is very genetic, so basically just like how they say ‘aloha’ for hello they also say ‘aloha’ for goodbye.

Xavier: That’s so easy!

Yanicke: That is what I was saying it was very generic. They will do the ‘Shaka’ and then say ‘aloha.

Xavier: Okay, I like that, which fingers now?

Yanicke: Your thumb and your pinky and you shake it, so you say ‘aloha’.

Xavier: Okay, so Yanicke, thanks gain and aloha!

Yanicke: Ahola!

Photos  – Deposit Photos

About the author

Xavier Murphy