Brian's Ramblings

My thoughts in text, photo, and video form

Monday, June 15, 2015

Aloha is...

"Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen & to know the unknowable."  -Queen Lili‘uokalani

Growing up and living in Hawaii for all of my life has provided me a better understanding and vision of what "aloha" means.  To many, "aloha" may seem like a word that only Hawaiians use or it may conjure images of palm trees and grass shacks.

Hawaii is a place of many, many cultures.  From native Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, to Caucasians, and more - all of these ethic groups make up something that we love to refer to as the "melting pot.  Seeing many cultures blend and mix together as one.

Within this melting pot comes traditions that are unique to Hawaii.  And, yes, some may coin this as being "aloha."  So, what are these unique traditions and why should they matter?  I'll try share my own perspective in this entry.

When my grandparents would visit our house on Oahu, flying in from the Big Island (Hawaii), they  ALWAYS brought "omiyage," or small gifts for us,  or our family.  In particular, if they were going to spend a night or longer at our house, they would bring snacks like mochi, candy, fresh produce from their backyard, amongst other things.

No one told my grandparents to bring anything, though they were more than happy to have requests made.  One of my favorites were stone cookies, which could only be found at a small shop on the Big Island.

Omiyage served as their way of thanking us for having them stay at our house.  Would we have allowed them to stay if they didn't bring anything?  Of course we would!!!  Another function of omiyage was that it provided a focal point to have conversation.  We might eat candies from the Big Island Candies shop and that might lead into conversation about the weather or how our grandpa's garden was flourishing under the care of our grandparents.

This characteristic stuck with us, as children and into adulthood.  When traveling to any destination, we would be sure to bring back trinkets or goodies that were from wherever we visited.  It could be simple items like magnets,  key chains, or snacks that were unique to our destination.  An example might be Spurs gear from San Antonio, Texas or chips from Maui.  Again, these gifts served as artifacts that generated conversation with friends or family.

Likewise, when traveling from Hawaii to destinations, especially on the continental United States or worldwide, it isn't unusual to see kama'aina (local residents of Hawaii) shopping for macadamia nuts or candy to share with people we are visiting.

I recall visiting Congressman Niel Abercrombie in approximately 1998 or 1999; we got a tour of his office in Washington, DC and he had a cabinet just full and stacked with macadamia nut candy boxes.  Visitors brought the boxes for him, which he gave to guests to his office who weren't from Hawaii.

Sharing what you can and expressing gratitude for having someone take time out of their day to visit with you at their residence, gratitude for shelter, and gratitude for hospitality - these are components that, I feel, make up the wonderful concept of aloha.

For those who move away from Hawaii to pursue education, new careers, or to start a family - it's hard to lose the concept of "aloha," as it is so engrained into our beings.  It's difficult for those who aren't from Hawaii to truly grasp what "aloha" means.

People who are not kama'aina only know what they grew up with.  Some might not have experienced the bringing of gifts when visiting someone, nor have some experienced receiving gifts from visitors.  To say such people lack "aloha" wouldn't be a fair statement.

However, when you visit Hawaii more than once, it's fairly easy to pick up on the idea of not coming empty handed, or leaving empty handed.

Sure, you can move to the most beautiful locales around the world, experiencing great sights, sounds, food, and people.  But, I'm almost certain that you'll never find another place, other than Hawaii, that demonstrates and lives "aloha" each and everyday.

I'm grateful to live in Hawaii and can't see calling any other place in the world "home," as I love this place, too much!  And the expression of "aloha" can't be found anywhere else.  Yes, there are very nice and hospitable people around the country and world - New Orleans comes to mind.   But, for everyday life, Hawaii is the greatest place in the world.

Aloha also means goodbye or until we meet again, so on that note try to spread "aloha" wherever life may take you.  You'll feel a special feeling that can't be replicated.  When we spread aloha, we are better able to receive aloha.


Until next time...

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