Former Pacific Gateway Center Deputy Director Terrina Wong

In France You Do Everything That's Prohibited

Former Pacific Gateway Center Deputy Director Terrina Wong | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Photo by Joseph Esser.

Terrina Wong is the former deputy director at Pacific Gateway Center, which works to empower immigrants, refugees, human trafficking survivors, and low-income residents to achieve self-sufficiency. Previously she was an educator for over 25 years, focusing on global priorities and world cultures. Before speaking at a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Talk Story” event, titled “Does Hawai‘i Welcome Immigrants?” and held at Artistry Honolulu, she talked in the green room about dance, Robert Redford, and the questions she most often gets from immigrants and asylum seekers.

Q:

You’re a fluent French speaker, who lived and studied in France. Besides friends, what do you miss most about that country?


A:

I miss everything about France. I like the fact that there is such a fighting spirit about the French, and I hear from my French friends that in France you do everything that’s prohibited. That’s their spirit. They have a history of really being able to express themselves freely... I love the way they engage in conversation and that dinner time is really a holy time when people talk about things and about their country.


Q:

What song gets you out on the dance floor?


A:

I’m a ballet dancer, and I love any kind of classical music. But for the dance floor? I think something like “Staying Alive.”


Q:

Who was the last actor or actress who made you swoon?


A:

Probably Robert Redford or Warren Beatty.


Q:

What person, living or dead, would you most want to meet and have a drink with?


A:

I don’t drink, but I think Malcolm Gladwell. I find him so fascinating.


Q:

At which restaurant do you most often eat?


A:

Any Chinese restaurant with my family, locally often at The Pig and the Lady.


Q:

If we turned on the TV at your house now, what channel would most likely be on?


A:

It’s only on two channels—CNN and PBS.


Q:

What question do you get most from immigrants you help serve?


A:

“How long does the process take?” Which is always very difficult to answer. From asylum seekers, the question is: “Do I have enough evidence?”