Buenas yan håfa adai! Aloha nui!
As I took my final exams, thanked teachers, and packed up my dorm room to close my first year at Kapi`olani Community College in O`ahu, Hawai`i, I felt very sentimental. I couldn’t help but reflect on the beginning of a very pivotal chapter of the rest of my life. A lot of time, learning experiences, and preparation went into moving to Hawai`i, so it wasn’t a smooth, easy jump from the nest.
My first year as an independent adult in Hawai`i was very difficult. In the first two summer months, I struggled to make connections while maintaining a strong identity in a new land. I was somewhat lonely having only a handful of friends to connect with, and little to no means of transportation to explore. I had many expectations from the anticipation of arriving that led to many disappointments. However, encouragement from loved ones, and the warm, embracing arms of family and O`ahu herself eased me into a new life. Throughout my first semester, I struggled learning to live on my own; I had to fend for myself and defend myself. It’s mapot (difficult) to be independent; working two jobs and going to school full time leaves me with little to no time to be carefree. I struggled to manage my time and attention between school, work, and homework; manage my finances to ensure that I can afford living expenses and tuition; and take care of myself. I made gof meggagai (many many many) mistakes, and stumbled a few times, got sick and injured the most in my life, met and unmet different people, but grew tougher, wiser, and more responsible. I learned so much so quickly, ultimately because I didn’t have a choice; either learn to swim or drown. Despite all the hardships and i minahålang (the feeling of missing a person/people), I was exposed to the mana (spiritual potential) of Hawai`i. I opened my eyes, my ears, and my heart to her, and she blessed me with the beauty of her spirit. As I walked through i tano/ke `āina (the land), touched i hanom fresku/ka wai (the freshwater), and swam in i tasi/ke kai (the ocean), I could feel her feeling me. I learned fundamental pillars of Hawaiian culture, history, and heritage which helped me see Hawai`i from a more insular perspective. It wasn’t hard to love her.
Things began to turn for the better as I entered my second semester and seventh month in Hawai`i. I expelled all the negative energy and vibes from my life and let only positive energy flow through me. Hawai`i has taught me that what you put in is you get out, and what you give is what you get. For example, I shared sustenance and conversations with so many people because cooking with si nanå-hu biha yan si tatå-hu meant cooking to feed families. Per karma and inafa’maolek (see Inafa’maolek in earlier posts), my mini-fridge was never empty and my stomach was always full. I learned to manage my time relatively more efficiently, when to apply myself, and when not to apply myself. With healing time and trust in Asaina/ke Akua (the Lord), I was better able to open up, bring down defensive walls I built so high, and connect with genuine, loving people. I have learned that food, good times, and memories are most enjoyable shared.
I participated in an enriching service-learning organization called Mālama I Nā Ahupua`a which means to setbe (take care of) land divisions. An ahupua`a is an ancient Hawaiian division from the tip of a mountain to the coral reefs in which mågas siha/ali`i (chiefs) would manage resources to sustain local populations and future generations. Through the program, I helped restore sacred cultural sites and perpetuate traditional Hawaiian culture, values, and beliefs. I heard the stories of i taotaomo’na/nā kūpuna (those that came before) through the voices of their descendants. Both generations welcomed me, and I felt blessed, humbled, and immensely grateful. I learned a lot about plants and the island ecosystems of Hawai`i nei, which set the course for my college path. Ecology of the Hawaiian Islands taught by my Kumu Mike Ross unearthed my love and curiosity for the environment and the inner scientist in me. Kintodu i aniten tåno yan tåsi (with the spirits of the land and sea), I decided to major in Environmental Studies along with my original goal of Pacific Island Studies. Of course, I made meggai mistakes again, but I acknowledged them, accepted them, learned from them, and moved on taking the lessons as tools in my brain or scars on my skin. I was almost sad to leave.
Being away from my home island of Guåhan and my family for a whole year made me incredibly grateful and appreciative, because again, you never truly appreciate something until it’s gone. A year away from my home in another people’s home made me appreciate what it means to have roots and history. In Guåhan, I am a native daughter of a 4,500 year-old people, society, and culture where the ancient spirits communicated with me and loved me. In this big, new island of O`ahu, I was a haole (foreigner) with no connections aside from my feet on the ground. Over time, I learned that what you do and who you associate with, whatever land you are in, are the seeds you plant. With time, love, trust, sunshine, rain, and a little dirt, your seeds will grow, root deeper and deeper into the land, and branch higher and higher above the earth, making all kinds of connections. Being away from family for so long made me love and appreciate i mangaffå-ku on a much deeper level. Although I have a few aunties and uncles in Hawai`i, I couldn’t lean on them as much as my family and I leaned on each other. Not only did I realize how much ma sumesetbe yan ma pumupulan yu (they took care of and watched over me), but how much I depended on them for love, comfort, support, and physical and spiritual nourishment. I didn’t have my parents to hug and kiss goodnight, nor my Grandma Kotla’s house where I can eat and sleep anytime, nor older cousins to keep an eye out for me in potentially dangerous situations. I was so scared at times, but with trust in God, the spirits, and my family, fear did not prevent me from life. I learned how to always have my own back because if not, no one else will.
I have been home for about four weeks now and every single day has been a blessing. Guåhan has never been so gåtbo (beautiful) and mångge (gooooood). I hinasso-ku, i tatatato-hu, yan i ante-hu (my thoughts, my body, and my soul) feel replenished, healthy, and whole again. I’m watering my roots and absorbing i fino’-ta (our language), i ginefli’en mañaina-hu (wisdom of my elders), yan guinaiyan Guåhan (the love of Guåhan) as much as I can before I have to cross the ocean again. I know that it will be 12,000 times harder to dingu ta’lo (leave again), and as much as it will puti yu’, hu tungo na siempre na fitme yu (hurt me, I know that it will make me stronger).
I’m wholeheartedly grateful and truly blessed to be home again. I wish that I can spend time with everyone I know and love, and go everywhere that I haven’t been, but time won’t allow me. Please forgive me if we didn’t have time, and remember that tatman yu mågi ta’lo (I will be back again) because this is where I belong.
Saina ma’åse pot i tinaitai-miyu.
Mahalo no ka heluhelu.
Thank you for reading.