Somehow when I look at this photo, even though this is a re-creation of a bedroom, I feel a real emptiness. It is not because the room is sparsely furnished. I look at the Religious piece hanging on the wall over the bed, a connection to a past life in Korea. A woman in a strange land, and more then likely no temple to worship at. What takes it’s place? Who do you listen to when you need words of encouragement, a spiritual uplifting during a very hard and difficult time? Do they confide in their neighbors or their spouses? Do they go to their rooms and try to take solace in the environment so far removed from what they knew? Did the woman after a day in the field covered with red dirt, a back that ached with pain from not being able to stand or stretch without fear of verbal of physical abuse from the luna as he rode his horse back and forth, take comfort in her meager treasures? The “Man’ getting ten dollars worth of work out of someone who is paid pennies for his or her back breaking labor did not think of the immigrants as people but only a number.
As we moved to the end of our tour we came to the Filipino houses. One house was a dorm showing how all the single Filipinos lived. By and large they came to America in hopes of making their fortunes so that they could go back home rich men.
That bubble was burst when they arrived on the plantations, the last wave of immigrants, brought in for labor. Their long hours, treacherous work conditions and the very, very low pay made it impossible to save money. Their hopes of returning to the Philippines faded as the years wore on.
When they arrived they did not bring wives with them and in many places the ratio of Men to women was 20 to 1. Not having wives you can appreciate the following photos that show the bachelor conditions.
The above photo shows the threshold into the bachelor quarters. The small piece in the middle is removable for a purpose. When sweeping the house they could remove the piece and sweep the dirt out the door on to the grounds. Now tell me that isn’t clever?
Unfortunately not much was told to us about these rooms and we went through them so quickly that I barely got these photos.
Being that there were no women in the lives of these men fantasy must have played a large part in their world as seen by the decorations on their walls.
I am thinking that these posters that are seen here would have been very hard to come by during those days so I am not sure what they represent.
However, I do believe they may have taken photos out of the movie star magazines and posted them on their wall.
The weekend became a big event for these men as they would spend their earnings on going out and paying to dance with women. This would be the only time they would have any contact with them. If they were to meet any prospective bride it would have had to have been from the immigrant or Hawaiian population as they were forbidden to marry white women.
The Filipino men liked to play music and have parties. The lunas referred to them at times as children with their carefree ways. But I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot would they cut loose too as they saw their hopes and dreams slipping away? Would these bosses need to forget about where they are and the dim light of their future?
Today, we have many Filipinos in the government and even have had a Filipino governor. All of the immigrants from the many different countries contributed to the islands in their food, ethics and culture. They survived the trial by fire making them a very strong people and it is their generations that today make Hawaii the diverse melting pot that it is.
Late in the evening did she sit on her bed and stare at the beautiful dress that symbolized who she once was when she lived in Korea did she look at her hands and feet stained with dirt and weep at the site of her cracked nails? Did she count her blisters?
Or maybe she was one of the women who took the initiative to make or do something that could be supplied to other plantation workers.
In the above photo you can see the crocks that were used to make Kim Chee. Some type of radish or cabbage grows in the back ground. Making this particular food might have provided her with an extra income if she was able to sell it to the other immigrants not of her nationality. Maybe if there were bachelors living around her they would have bought some too.
This vegetable dish is eaten with all types of foods much like a relish or chile might be eaten. Here in Hawaii locals have adopted it as their own. They love to eat it with stew, chile beans, breakfast, lunch and what ever your taste buds will tolerate. A variety of vegetables are used some of which are radishes, bok choy, and other leafy greens. If you are daring here are some recipes you might want to try.http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~mjw/recipes/preserves/kim-chee/kim-chee-coll-2.html
Not being Korean I did not take too quickly to Kim Chee and it does leave your mouth smelling like a dragons breath. But once you’ve acquired a taste for it, it becomes part of your everyday table condiments. Set the stew and rice on the table. Hey, where’s the kim Chee?
If she was able to acquire a rice bag when buying rice the bag would have been made into curtains, shorts or shirts or made into anything that cloth could be sewn into. For awhile back in the 1960’s and 1970’s it was a fad to wear shorts made from rice bags as rice was still being sold in their cloth sacks. Now that’s a thing of the past and the bags have become collectors items. Here is a site that sells them with manufactured prints. http://www.gooenterprise.com/history.htm
Inside The Korean Kitchen
Do you cook ethnic food? Have you ever been to an area where they just don’t carry the right ingredient you need to make a favorite family dish? What did this woman do after a day in the field and coming home to cook? When the immigrants first arrived how did they cook foods from their homelands?
Shoes that would have been worn but not out to the field. Maybe the straw shoes were made in the camp to be worn around the house. I did not get information on those things.
We can read history to find out what people experienced, we can look at pictures and try to put ourselves in their place, but we will never actually know what it was like until we have walked a mile in those shoes.