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Ha'ole of Hilo

Aloha e kakou,

For those of you who haven't been to Hawai'i a "haole" or "ha'ole" is to be "without 'ha' or the breath of life". It's a term used to define a foreigner, as they do not share that greeting that you seen in Moana where they touch foreheads and breath together, aka "aloha" to share the gift of the breath of life.

During my time at University of Hawai'i at Hilo there were many debates of what makes a ha'ole, and whether one can truly be local without any Hawaiian blood, vs one who is blatantly not Hawaiian in blood, but understands the culture well.

Here's my thoughts.

I am ok calling myself a "local" at this stage, though I never expect to be "Hawaiian". I will go to cultural events, learning as much as I can about Hawaiian culture, and use platforms like this to share what Hawai'i is really like. (It's SO much cooler and deeper than we're taught on the mainland). Some of my favorites are Merrie Monarch, UHH International Night, and any hula/lua events I get the chance to experience, though I definitely prefer the kahiko style of hula. It's got a great deal of spirit, and I can sometimes pick out the lua techniques. (Kumu Michelle Manu, a 7th degree blackbelt Lua practitioner, teaches at some of our jujitsu events.) Overall, if I go to a group and I'm not welcome, I may be a touch hurt, but I will bow out respectfully and hang out with other Hawaiians, and if they share cultural things with me I will be honored, shy, and studious. I have made mistakes, and will continue to do so, I promise it's not out of malice. I do a lot of studying and running designs by my local Hawaiians before I publish a logo or t-shirt design, as I am still learning the visual iconography of Hawai'i and the greater Polynesian culture.

One thing that has been consistently clear is that, like with many cultures, there are subsections. Designs and meanings can change from island to island, region to region, city to city and family to family. I am not perfect, nor do I even pretend to be an expert. That said, if I'm sharing a Hawaiian implement or item I promise to share all my sources so that others can verify my research, (and hopefully build on it!)

All that said, if I make a blatant error, or vastly misrepresent an aspect of either the local culture, or one from our adventures, by all means, please educate me! I'm happy to correct my mistake. In fact while I was a student at UHH I created a comic for Ke Kalahea entitled "Nah Brah" which is a humorous look at all the mistakes us foreigners make when we come to the island.

Now that we've established the present, let me briefly touch on the past. I have had many jobs over the years, from mom-n-pop Stained Glass shops, to exterior painting to Walt Disney World Resort College Program Intern. My adventures have taken me all over the US, and the international adventures have taken me to Mexico, Canada, and recently Japan. This makes for a plethora of adventures, friends, cultures, and experiences which will only grow from here.

One of the things which is obvious here in Hilo is the multicultural community known as "locals". Artistically it makes for outstanding crossovers of flavors, icons, and arts. This gives way to a rich culture which celebrates, and even pokes fun at differences and stereotypes.

All in all, I'm entitling the blog "Ha'ole of Hilo" for now because I'd rather be honest and upfront that I'm still learning. Its kind of like when I worked at Disney, we had a little tag we could stick on our name tag which said "Earning my Ears".

So, if I have your attention, let's go on this adventure together! Learning and sharing our discoveries long the way!

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