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Interview with Jennifer Nishioka

Nishioka, Jennifer
Hudock, Lauren
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming obstacles; Relationships with people and places; Cultural identification; Childhood adventures
Jennifer Nishioka talks about growing up as an Asian American in Charlotte, NC.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Lauren Hudock interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
LH (Lauren Hudock): OK, how long have you been living in Charlotte?
JN (Jennifer Nishioka): Ten years.
LH: OK. Are you ready to tell me a story?
JN: Yes I am.
LH: All right, go ahead.
JN: Um, my name is Jennifer Nishioka, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and I've lived in Charlotte for the past ten years but, I grew up in Cincinnati and, I come from a biracial family. My father is full-blooded Japanese and my mother is American and in Cincinnati it didn't seem like it was such a big deal until, we moved to Charlotte. And when we moved to Charlotte it was a different situation going from private schools to public schools was a lot different, because, in Charlotte everything was bussing and the integration of like races in the system of CMS school systems. I went from being in a class of two African American children to sixty percent African American children, and then I became the total minority. I was a little bit minority in Cincinnati, but when we moved to Charlotte I became the all time minority, so it was a different thing to deal with. Um, I actually ended up moving elementary schools three different times to find my place in this world, and finally after finding my third school which was more a neighborhood school, Hickory Grove Elementary School was more neighborhood than it was anything else. [Pause] And I went there and it was good. Went there for about a year and then after that began junior high and then I went to this school, Piedmont Open Middle School, which was open program international studies kind of program. So then I went from being the total minority to everybody, everybody's a little different, everybody had their own little special qualities about them but at the same token I still stuck out like a sore thumb. I wasn't the drama student and I wasn't the athlete, I was just kind of me, definitely a cheerleader and always was and Piedmont was known for their drama program and some of their sports, not much more. So, still kind of in my own little category. Known as the prep when I was in junior high and tried to find my own special place there, but, was happy to leave when it was over. But um, after leaving junior high and entering into high school, I found a different situation to where like now I'm the most popular girl because I wear the clothes and I go to the places, and I drive the car where these things didn't count when you're in junior high. And I was a lot happier when I went off to high school and all the girls and all the guys that use to make fun of me became the people that were not as popular and not as happy as I was. Although, um, high school was an interesting yet exciting part of my life, um, after leaving there and going to UNCC, I have began to branch out and find different friends and different things to do. And knowing that all my high school friends kind of stayed together and never tried anything new and never did anything new, made me that different person. Um, I ended up having a lot of fun in college and now I'm actually on a break, I've been on a break for a year and I'm trying to get it back together again working a lot, getting out of debt, but actually comfortable again to the point where if I went back to school I'd be in better shape. But, knowing that I come from this inter-racial family, um, my father, my mother, both extreme over-achievers, my father moved here from Sagamihara City, Japan when he was 19 years old. Pretty much ran away from home because he wanted to pursue a career in engineering after attending college in Japan for music and decided that he didn't want to do that anymore and his parents weren't going to agree with any other decisions that he made 'cause he was leaving out of a school. Um, when he came here, he went to South Florida University, ended up coming into an exchange program here, um, barely spoke English and had to attend his senior year of high school again. Um, worked five jobs, got through college, still in four years, was in the two years masters programming for ah, chemical engineering, but ended up getting picked up by Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio and that's how he ended up there. My mother who came from a family whose parents didn't think that women deserved education and didn't need it, needed to marry well and be mothers, and stay at home and take care of the family, uh, went behind her parents back and got a Pell Grant from the government and went to nursing school and finished in three years of a four year education. So, knowing that I'm taking a break from school right now after they were paying for my living and my expenses and my education, kind of makes them sick on their stomach because I just didn't try very hard and I was having way too much fun. [Cough] I have one older sister and she is currently graduating from Presbyterian Nursing School and getting ready to start into the masters program at, bachelors and masters program at UNC Charlotte. Ah, she is married to a ex-marine, probably getting ready to join back into the Marine Corps with the war and everything that's going on, she [Cough] kind of did the same thing my father did. When she was 18 years old, uh, she was one of those people in high school that never had to try and always succeeded and always made the straight A's and could go out and do drugs, smoke pot, drink every night of high school and going to school and didn't even try and made excellent grades and she got accepted to 18 different colleges when it came time to go off to school. She was going to go for engineering as well like my father and was all set up to go to NC State and decided that she didn't want to go anymore. And when she decided she didn't want to go anymore she kind of just didn't even tell my parents. Called me one day when I was leaving school, in high school 'cause she's 13 months older than I am, and asked if I would come be a witness at her wedding. Eighteen, ran off, get married, well got married her senior summer and ran off to live in Camp Lejeune. She was there for four years while he was in the Marine Corps and, uh, they were, he was transferred everywhere, from here to there. He went to Norway and Japan and, Greece, a couple of different marine bases internationally. He has a specialty in motor transportation and works with Humvees and everything like that. Um, he decided that after five years actually in the Marine Corps that it just wasn't his deal anymore, decided not to re-enlist, 'cause he was actually overseas when his enlistment ran up so he ended up staying in Australia for an extra seven months to finish it out, decided he needed to come back home and start his own career. Um, he's currently working for Carolina Sunroofs and uh, he's getting ready to start his own business doing mobile installation of car stereos and televisions, leather interior, sunroofs. Kind of living out what he's good at, did it all his life so, that seemed like it was the next step for it. And then there's me, the dreaded Hooter girl um, I'm just waiting tables right now. I've been waiting tables at Hooters for the past two years and I'm making a really decent living. Like, my parents are having a hard time saying that they don't approve of it or they don't like it because at the age that I am at the age of 22, I don't think many people make the money that I do. It's not something that I want to do for the rest of my life, though I'm actually getting ready to start massage therapy school in the fall. Knowing that I don't ever want to work a full time job or work for somebody else or work for anything other than cash. After waiting tables for two, actually more than two years, I waited tables since I was eighteen so that would put me in almost five-year bracket now, uh, it's hard to go back to working for that hourly wage, so I'm looking for something that I work for myself and the hours that I want to work. Um, a nine to five job just doesn't sound like it something that's going to work out for me. My parents are kind of looking at this as a cop-out, knowing the total success that they've had in their life. My father graduated first in his class and can't hardly speak the language and my mother running away and going to school and finishing early kind of leaves me all high and dry. But, I'm getting ready to start in the fall, I'll be going to the Blue Mountain Massage Therapy Center in Concord, North Carolina and it's a one year program and it's full time. It's only two days a week, but you go for eight to ten hours a day and then after you're done with it you're actually certified in other things, other than just massage therapy. I'm going to be taking some yoga classes and, uh, some Pilates classes as well. So I'll be certified in pretty much all New Age Health. So I'm really excited about that. Um, with race week coming up and working at Hooters Concord down the street, um, can't wait for all the race fans to come in again, never really was a race fan, but actually started to date somebody that works in racing and began to appreciate it and watch it a lot. My favorite racecar driver is Tony Steward who actually took the championship 2002 and so I don't want to be one of those people that jumps on the band wagon, he was the one that I began with.
LH: So coming from a biracial family, do you speak any other language besides English?
JN: When I was growing up in Cincinnati I actually went to a school, we actually have these in Charlotte as well. They're in Spanish and French. I went to a school in Cincinnati where they taught me everything from math to reading to everything and, uh, and Japanese. So to the age of, well, when we moved here when I was in the third grade I actually spoke Japanese better than I spoke English, 'cause I used it all the time for eight hours a day, five days a week. But then when we moved here, I actually didn't use it and lost it, tried to take some classes, but the only thing that offered it at that point was UNCC and college courses were a little too complex for me. And my freshman year, my second semester freshman year, I took Japanese 1 and my second, my first semester sophomore year I took Japanese 2 and it almost made me want to slit my wrists because it's a ridiculous class, four hour credit and B's in both of them and it worked me to death. Totally exhausted me and I was doing an internship actually one of those semesters too, along with other subjects that I can't believe I worked them all together at the same time. I'm just totally 'exhausterrated' by Japanese 1 and 2 but still can't hardly speak it although I still do have family, I have a grandmother and grandfather, aunt and uncle and two cousins that still live in Japan. Um, I can understand but speaking back is a lot harder. Um, so coming from that kind of background and not being able to appreciate my culture and everything the same way that I should I spent two summers in Japan and, um, been there to visit. We went every year for quite a while until my sister and I got into junior high and then it was just too difficult to take the time off, a 14 hour flight there and back you know you got to stay more than two weeks. It's just, you have to go and it's a life that, uh, being part of sports and, um, school just becomes way too much. But, in a nutshell that's me and destined for great things, trying to figure out life as it comes to me, learning from a lot of new experiences and learning from pretty much the school of life. Now that I'm on my own and paying my own bills and driving my own car and, you know just anything that I want just comes from Jenny's pocket now, becomes a new situation altogether. But thank y'all much for listening to my stories. Hope I didn't ramble on too much, kind of turned into a bunch of different ones.