“So, do you live on a beach?”
“Did you and your family live in a grass shack?”
And my favorite: “Why are you here?”
These are the types of questions that I receive about 99% of the time when I tell someone that I am from Hawaii. The first two, totally irrelevant to what my life was like growing up in Hawaii. And the last one, sort of relevant because who goes form Hawaii to Oregon to Indiana? Someone who’s in love, that’s who. Ok, well so what if I moved here to be with my boyfriend. We put each other through 4 years of long distance and it was about time that we finally be together.
But I’ll save that for another blog post.
Anyway, I figured it was time to tell you all a little bit about my hometown. Mililani, Hawaii: a small, but growing and expanding suburban town in the center of the island, Oahu (Yes, that’s the “main island with Honolulu”). Mililani wasn’t even a town until the late 1960s. Fun fact: My dad and his family were one of the first families to ever live in Mililani. Before it was a town, it was pineapple fields (Ok, you can snicker and laugh at that one). Today, there are about 40,000 people residing in Mililani.
So what was it like to grow up in Hawaii? Until I moved away, I assumed that I had a similar upbringing to all of my peers on the mainland. But I was wrong, of course.
Everyone knows everyone, and then some.
First, growing up in Hawaii is where the saying “Wow, it’s such a small world,” came from – ok, I’m kidding, but it is totally relevant. Everyone knows everyone and their families in Hawaii. Try being a teenage girl sneaking around past curfew and running into your friend’s dad, and then they call your dad and then oops, busted. Yes, this happened to me.
I have tons of aunties, uncles and cousins.
In Hawaii, we refer to our friends’ parents and elders as aunty and uncle. It’s the equivalent to Mr./Mrs. and sir/ma’am on the mainland. So whenever I met one of my parent’s friends, my friends’ parents, etc., I had a new aunty or uncle. The same goes for cousins. My parents’ friends’ kids were referred to as my calabash cousins. Basically meaning that we all hung out a lot and got invited to each other’s family events.
Speaking of relations, blood doesn’t matter.
Something that I love about Hawaii. It didn’t matter if you were related by blood, we treated each other with love and respect no matter what. Speaking from experience, where my Dad isn’t actually my “biological father,” but he’s been mine since I was 5 years old, and his parents have also been my grandparents, his siblings have been my aunties and uncles, and his nieces and nephews have been my cousins.
Growing up in Hawaii, we were taught a different kind of respect. The kind where we listen to our elders and take care of them for our entire lives. Our elders don’t care if we’re 30 years old, they will never accept back talk. Also, parents don’t kick their children out as soon as they turn 18, instead they are welcome to stay as long as they’d like or need.
It doesn’t matter what race or ethnicity you are, because everyone in Hawaii seems to be a little bit of everything. Take myself for example, I am Filipino, Japanese, Okinawan, French, Italian and German. A lot my friends growing up were also Chinese, Hawaiian, Samoan, etc. There was no logic to make fun of someone or hate someone because of their race.
I mean, sure we hated on haoles but haole is an attitude, not a race. Most people think that haole refers to a person who is Caucasian and not from Hawaii, but a person with Hawaiian blood can very be haole too. I was taught that a haole is someone who disrespects the land, culture and people of Hawaii.
Before moving to the mainland, the longest I’ve been in a car was 30 minutes. Disregarding the insane traffic that Hawaii now has, while I was growing up there, I could be anywhere within 30 minutes. Heck, I could circle the island in just about 2 hours.
For most, consisted of another island, California, or Las Vegas.
Easygoing pace of life.
I never realized how easygoing people in Hawaii are until I moved away. It is really nice to come back to. People in Hawaii are less uptight and for the most part share the aloha spirit with each other. Things are also a lot more laid back – meaning that showing up to a fancy party can consist of an aloha shirt, shorts and slippers.
Ah, slippers. Not sandals, as most of you know them as. Slippers are every day footwear. Growing up I had tons of slippers and a few tennis shoes. Other than that, nada. I didn’t start wearing boots or flats until I moved to Oregon for college. This brings up another point, remove your shoes before entering someone’s house. I will probably die with this habit because even now, in my little apartment in the Midwest, I make guests remove their shoes.
Family parties and food.
Something else I’ll never get used to… Family parties in Hawaii usually start at around 5 p.m. and go until at least midnight. Sometimes they start in the middle of the day and continue on through the night. Us Hawaiians love a good time. Whether it’s hanging out at the beach or at someone’s house, it’s an all day affair. And the food, omg the food, there will always be more than enough delicious food.
I’ll definitely return someday.
When all is said and done, I’ll want to settle down in Hawaii. No matter how much the crowds of tourists and traffic will bug me, even if there will never be a Panera Bread there, I want to raise my future family in Hawaii. I want them to experience the beauty and family traditions that I got to experience. I want them to get to know my family and spend as much time with them as possible.
No where better.
I’ve visited quite a few places throughout my life, some of the most beautiful places in the world, but there really is no where better to grow up than in Hawaii. Hawaii has a different kind of beauty. The kind that makes you appreciate life with just one salty breeze under the sun, or one look at the horizon standing atop a green mountain. The possibilities are endless, and it’s the one place that I can always return to no matter what, because it’s home.