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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Hawai'i Homegrown Report
Midwest culture shock for duo

By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer

What happens when two girls from Hawai'i go to Kansas City, Mo., for college?

If they are Noe Perreira of Kalaheo, Kaua'i, and Char Wong of Pearl City, they change it into a little slice of Hawai'i in the Midwest.

Perreira, an all-state volleyball player for Waimea High in 1998, and Wong, a starter on Kamehameha's state championship team in '98, accepted volleyball scholarships to NCAA Division I University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1999. But they were not prepared for the environment.

"People on the streets are not friendly, they don't say please or thank you," Perreira said. "Very few wave or let you cross the street in a crosswalk or let you into the (driving) lane."

You were not on Kaua'i any more, Noe.

"There is no way we would have made it without each other," Wong said. "I think I might have gone home the first day."

Volleyball was different, too. "Teams at home play like every point is game point," Perreira said. "A lot of players (on the Mainland) don't know how to play with their heart. ... And the motivation is totally opposite — negative reinforcement instead of positive."

Perreira and Wong couldn't change Kansas City, but their impact on their teammates in three years has been profound.

"Our team would not be the same without them," said Katie Keating, a junior from Orange County, Calif. "They are so friendly and so loving and so caring ... They share their culture and it's part of our team now."

The Missouri-Kansas City volleyball players not only warm up to a tape of Hawaiian music now, they say "puka" for hole in the block, "pau" and "aloha ball."

Off the court, a lot of them are wearing slippers — which they remove before entering Perreira's and Wong's apartment — eating Spam musubi, rice, and the lomi salmon, lau lau and kalua pig that Perreira's and Wong's parents send them from Hawai'i. They even suck on li hing mui.

"They adapted to us," Wong said.

"The only Hawaiian thing I don't like is poi," Keating said. "It's awful."

The Hawai'i-style volleyball Perreira and Wong brought to Kansas City has "rubbed off" on their teammates, too, Keating said. "At practice, sometimes you don't want to be there, but Char (a co-captain) is yelling at everybody, she pumps us up.

"Their concept is team. You can tell their love and passion for volleyball and never giving up," Keating said. "I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world."

Perreira, a 6-footer, shared time at middle hitter this season after two years as a reserve. Perreira led the team in blocks per game with 1.02 and was third in kills with 2.14. She received the Kangaroos' Volleyball Spirit Award.

Wong, the shortest player on the team at 5-1, subbed for Perreira and Sarah Foster in the back row, playing in 103 of 106 games and averaging 1.52 digs for the 8-20 Kangaroos.

"We grew up a lot here," Perreira said. "When you're away from your comfort zone, you learn to fend for yourself. I became more outspoken; if I have something to say now, I say it. If somebody is rude or cuts in front of me in line, I can say something back."

The best part of the whole experience, Perreira said, is "the friendships that we built. The girls on the team are awesome, incredible.

"I wouldn't change it for the world."