We asked Rexy Josh Dorado (Brown ’14 and founder of the Kaya Collaborative) about his experiences with SLE. Here’s what he had to say:
Ainsley: How did your SLE experience impact your college experience?
Rexy: I first took SLE Tagalog in the fall of my junior year, just at the heels of my reawakening as a Filipino and a Filipino American. Our Tagalog project was one of the most vivid early experiences from that journey, cementing my reconnection to the country where I spent the first 11 years of my life. There was something so powerfully tactile about the textures of words. With every dialogue we had, with every imperfect conjugation, I felt those lost moments from my childhood being exercised, made real, in my tongue and my voice.
I also realized, at the end of it, how much I still had to relearn. SLE left me with this great mix of measured progress and immeasurable hunger for more that I find to be the best fuel for passion.
From there, members of our project formed an independent course on Filipino American culture and history: the backbone of what came to be a grand reawakening of our Filipino American cultural group on campus. And all the sparks from these cumulative experiences came to inspire the launch of my own venture, Kaya Collaborative, to engineer this reconnection to the Philippines at scale.
A: What is one moment that you experienced in an SLE classroom that has stayed with you?
R: There was something about the Halloween lesson in my Tagalog section that stuck to me. I remember our project leader, Chelsea, going through the different monsters, ghosts, and creatures in Philippine mythology: these stories that I took for granted growing up but, looking back from distance, were so abstractly yet clearly reflective of the cultural values and norms that surrounded me. And how the words and names for them rolled all of those into a few sounds: all the stories, values, imaginations, and public consciousness of a nation.
A: What is your favorite part of learning a new language?
R: When slang and idioms start to feel natural! Once you start communicating with ease at the non-literal level, then you realize how little it is about the specific sounds and how much it is about the sentiment underneath it. When I say “Beleza?” to greet someone in Brazilian Portuguese, it’s no longer about the rules in the textbook – the rules can’t fully explain that construction – it’s about evoking all the previous moments in our collective experiences that have turned that colloquialism into the everyday greeting that it is.
A: What is your favorite word that you learned with SLE?
R: The Thai phrase for “to fall in love” translates literally to “fall in the hole of love.” It’s a funny image made funnier by just how accurate it is! Falling in love – with a person, a community, a mission, an idea – is all about falling, all about the pull of gravity, all about the unsettling and clumsy uncertainty that’s present in the verb “falling”, but is turned 100 times as hilariously vivid when you turn it into “falling into a hole”.
A: How have you used what you learned with SLE in your life after college?
R: Through SLE Tagalog, I learned about my own heritage in a way that I never could have done on campus. At a broader level, I learned about what an engaged learning community could look like – and how seemingly lighter touch points like language can be leveraged so fully for deep and life-long engagement. Lastly, from the success of SLE, I learned that big hairy questions of culture and representation can be tackled in such a concrete, strategic, and people-powered way.
A: What’s your proudest achievement?
R: Through Kaya Co, I’ve been able to build a transnational community like none other before it. We’ve built a young Filipino American community that’s driven by equal parts discovery and action: each person committed to connecting genuinely to the rising tide of leadership and change-making in the Philippines, and all of us collectively determined to engage our entire diaspora in this work. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the training that I got during my time with SLE.
To learn more about Rexy and the Kaya Collaborative, check them out at kayaco.org.