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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Ann Masur

Interview with Dr. Tabitha Espina: An Island Girl on Moving to the PNW

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

Q: Hello, dear friend! Give us a few lines about who you are, what your perfect day looks like, and the major moves you've made.

A: Håfa adai! My name is Tabitha Espina, and I teach Rhetoric and Composition at Eastern Oregon University. A perfect day for me begins by waking up whenever my body tells me to. I then would spend my day having nowhere to be and no one expecting me, so that I can read, cook, and dream all day. I moved from my home of Guam to the mainland a little over four years ago, first to Pullman, Washington and now in La Grande, Oregon. Q: Is the word “home” complicated for you--what does it mean to you?

A: Home, for me, is uncomplicated. Guam is and will always be home. The ways I have come to understand Guam as home, however, are what I find complex, given my family's immigration history and how it affects conceptions of belonging. Q: What are some practical ways you keep traditions alive and help you stay connected to your roots?

A: It's probably unsurprising that I believe in the power of language for cultural preservation and discovery. I keep and share traditions by reading about them, talking about them, and writing about them. Sharing lessons and memories in community helps me stay rooted, and I am grateful when these roots expand. Q: What is an important character trait or skill for living in new place?

A: Grace--for others and especially for myself. Q: What would you say to those who feel out of place in a new area—what encouragement would you give them?

A: I've found it's possible to find community in even the most unlikely of places. Sometimes what's kept me from reaching out to others is fear, of discomfort and even rejection. Seeing a place and its people as our Father sees them, however, helps me recognize opportunities for connection. Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your doctoral studies and how it connects to the topic of making a home in the faraway?

A: My work looks at Filipinos' decolonial rhetorics in Guam politics, specifically as they relate to identity, community, and self-determination for Guam's indigenous people. What I found is that making a home is complicated. There is both joy and pain, which can bear out across generations. What I am interested in, most of all, is how we relate to others with respect and reciprocity, or inafa'maolek, in the place we all call home.

Q: As someone who grew up on Guam, which is a very transient place (particularly with military folks), what kind of advice would you give for those who desire to make authentic friendships with the local people of their new area, but know they'll only be there for a short time?

A: I think our friendship certainly attests to the value of investment. When C.S. Lewis tells us "to love is to be vulnerable," I think it's less an observation than an admonition. Love requires a commitment to the friendship, in the time we have been graciously given. Q: Any funny stories about misunderstandings or cultural faux pas you can tell us?

A: I learned just this year that it is a common practice in the Pacific Northwest to purchase whole cows from local farms and butchers, instead of purchasing beef from the grocery store. I would hear many people say that they "bought a cow" and assumed they were buying it as a pet and placing it in their backyards. When they talked about "splitting with neighbors," I assumed the cow would spend its time roaming between them. I figured everyone just wanted to be a part-time farmer or rancher.

Q: Hahaha! This is great. So, you've travelled a LOT! What is the current tally? Of the places you've visited, what is the one place you'd hop on a plane to visit today (sans Covid considerations) and why?

A: Haha! I think I'm at 34 at the moment, but the number doesn't look likely to change soon! I really enjoyed Greece. I would love to be able to see more of it and explore more of its history! Q: Do you have a favorite quote on the topic of home or the topic of living in a different culture?

A: Gloria Anzaldúa in Borderlands/La Frontera says, "I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry 'home' on my back." I think the quote speaks to the responsibility and the inevitability of home, which I find challenging and comforting.

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I’m Audrey Ann—a writer who treasures the gift of travel, and I’m a mama who endeavors to love where I live one playdate, grocery trip, and sunset at a time. An island girl with heartland roots, I currently live in the Cotswolds of the United Kingdom. 

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