Monday, October 13, 2014


I'm sitting now, looking out the window of the Frankfurt airport waiting to board my flight back home. What a whirlwind it has been. Looking back on my experiences right now is getting me very emotional. Having been nonstop all my emotions are just catching up to me. 

You think three weeks can't change you much as a person. It can! In so many ways. I'm going back home with a new view on the world, a new confidence in myself and the motivation to break the pattern we have all fallen victim to. I'm ready to continue to spread a little aloha and inspire others to do the same.

 I've seen things, heard things, experienced things that many people don't have the opportunity to. It has changed me. I was able to inspire happiness in others through hula. For any hula dancer, you know that hula is powerful and can act as a vehicle to touch people in so many different ways. It can truly change the world. 

I am very fortunate and grateful to have been able to host a hula workshop at the Step in2 Salsa studio benefitting the atelier sacelean association. This organization is very near and dear to my heart having spent a lot of my time at the day centre teaching the children, taking a Roma family grocery shopping and also being able to deliver a stove to one of the families just in time for the cold weather approaching. We were able to raise 420 lei solely on the 20 lei participant fee, not including the money raised from the handmade jewelry and cards that the organizer makes regularly to help fund the program. 

Leading up to the workshop, my roommates would ask if I had a lesson plan lined up yet. I'm not used to making lesson plans... I just do whatever comes to mind on site, just like at home. I had 3 workshop times the first focussing on basics, the second on a hula kahiko and the last on a hula auana. To be honest, I was very nervous about the turn out, I wanted to be able to raise as much money as possible. But it's hard to gauge how many will be interested in a three hour hula workshop in Romania. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people that showed up, especially the amount of men(can I bring them back to California with me?)! I was thoroughly impressed by how well they all did. I taught Aia La O Pele and Spread A Little Aloha. 

Spread A Little Aloha by the Mana'o Company has become very important and symbolic to me the past few years. It has always been the Ho'ike finale song ever since I can remember, but when we took this song cross country with us for the Spread A Little Aloha Tour 2011 it became much more than just a song. It now symbolizes a mentality and way of life. We say Spread A Little Aloha all the time now! The participants in the workshop loved learning the song and, because it is Hapa Haole it was easier for them to connect with it. After the workshop I saw some of the participants posting the YouTube link to the song on Facebook and saying how much they loved it. 

I've met so many great people from all walks of life during my time in Romania, whether a Romanian salsa dancer, a day center organizer, a mother, a student or an orphan. Some accepting me into their homes and families, community and way of life. I've made true friendships that I know will last  a lifetime. When you grow and experience with people you create a unique and everlasting bond.

I have witnessed myself and my fellow volunteers grow in just this short time. A shy, compassionate girl from Norway steps out of her comfort zone everyday, even if it's just taking a new route to work in the morning. A drama graduate from Austrailia trying to find her true self and passion. A homesick German girl working at the local vet and getting dog diarrhea in her hair on the second day of work. A Danish journalism volunteer forced to hang out with all female volunteers. A 22 year old French girl that works countless hours at the orphanage, even on house cleaning days. A beautiful Danish girl that hasn't been on time for work once because she misses her bus stop. We all get along so well and plan to visit each other in out home countries soon. 

I am thankful for my family, friends, the halau and for all of you that have been supporting me on my journey. I am thankful for ke akua and His many blessings and for the chance to change the world every day. You may think you are just a small insignificant ball of energy in a big world, but you are not. You can make a difference. 

Start by spreading positivity! No subtweets, no social media blasts, no feeling sorry for yourself statuses. You need to GET UP, GET OUT, AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE. No need to go half way around the world to do it. 

You know what. Right now... Tweet, status update "SPREAD A LITTLE ALOHA" share the link to the song or just put "SPREAD A LITTLE ALOHA" out there and let's see how different your day and everyone else's will be.

No excuses, it's only a click away or a double tap on your home button to find that app. 


Today, two weeks after my arrival I found that I did not post my last entry. Crazy to look back on my words and be reminded of my journey. It's easy to get wrapped up into the routine of life once you come back down from such a high. This reminded me just how much we can all make a difference and really live with aloha. 
With Harriet from Austrailia

My project coordinator, Ali

Some of the participants from the workshop
All the volunteers
The kids at the day centre in Prejmer 

Friday, October 3, 2014

When in Romania!

As I write, I am traveling on a bus with 18 Romanian salsa dancers headed for Berlin, Germany.  Yes, let's backtrack a little bit. 

My first week in Romania was incredible. Every morning I wake up at 7am and need to take the 8:45 bus on line 34 from Livada Postei to a grocery store close to the city line of Brasov. From the grocery store I take the civil taxi. And when I say civil taxi, I mean hitch hiking. The drivers are people from the town that are just trying to make a little bit of money. The cost is 4 lei, the same as a one way bus ticket. Quite an experience, let me tell you. It's not what I'm used to. Well I take the civil taxi to Turlengi, a village just outside of Brasov. Upon entering the village you can immediately tell that you're not in Brasov anymore, you see horse-drawn wagons traveling alongside cars, inhabitants are in more traditional attire and the houses are small and weathered. I get to the orphanage at around 9:10. One of the girl's I work with, Ana, reminds me of the movie Annie. Short reddish hair and every morning that I arrive she is mopping, or wiping the floorboards, or cleaning the doors. 12 girls and 12 boys can live at the orphanage at a time. But because the school is small, the kids go in shifts to school. Six at a time. They love red light green light and love to teach me Romanian. We practice the colors in English, Hawaiian and Romanian. Red- rosu, yellow- galben, green- verde. The kids are so smart they can speak to me in broken English, enough for me to understand. Beautiful, joyous children despite the hardships. According to Romanian law, parents can leave the kids at the orphanage and take them out whenever they see fit and can put them right back in. For a young child, it is draining and creates abandonment issues. 

At 11am I have enough time to make it back home, make a sandwich and catch the 13:46 bus to Preyjmer or Sacele to teach at a day centre. When we think of day centre we think daycare, but here, it is not. They are privately owned after school programs that are open for very very poor children and enable them to get help on their studies and keep them off the streets and headed in the right direction. The kids sometimes show up in the same outfit from the day before which I never see in San Jose. We won't even wear the same outfit twice in the same month! But these kids are ready to absorb everything you throw their way. They range from 11 to 13 and still LOVE to play red light green light. I don't think the Monday/Thursday class loves it as much as these kids do! It cracks me up! I got little chocolates for prizes and they nearly had a heart attack. They pretty much inhaled the candy. 

All of the kids I work with, whether at the orphanage or day centre love to hug me. Constantly! They lack so much compassion and nurturing that when they sense that someone cares about them it is overwhelming. 

On Wednesday I gave a presentation to an eleventh grade English class for culture and civilization on Hawaii. Now let's think about how smart these kids are, a class of 36 eleventh graders listening to a presentation by a native English speaker and comprehending every word. I don't think I could've sat through a 50 minute long speech all in Spanish, and understand it! And they take 13 subjects. Thirteen, in one school year! Amazing. 

I spoke about Captain Cook, the islands and their colors, the Pele story, the Kalākaua dynasty and about hula. They were very responsive. And being a recent graduate, I know how to keep attention, with food, of course! Everyone left with at least one candy for answering my questions correctly. They took notes on what I was saying! The names like Lonoikamakahiki and Hi'iakaikapoliopele. I attempted to play hangman but they were screaming the answer before I finished writing the lines! That was a bust! On my way back to the projects abroad office I got a friend request from one of the girls in the class I presented in. She sent me a message that can be seen below. Getting a message from someone that truly appreciates your work is so rewarding. It just takes one. I think she will come to my hula workshop next Saturday. 

Well anyways, I'm going to Berlin for a salsa festival! If you know me, you know that me in a car for 20 hours is impossible, but when in Romania! My roommates and I came up with this catch phrase and made a "yes, man" pact. Everything that we are asked to do, we must say yes. Then we say "When in Romania!" This little catch phrase has forced me to do so many things that are completely out of my comfort zone. 

Now you ask me how Romania is in simpler words. It is amazing, beautiful, I'm learning so much about the culture and about myself. I want to come back. As crazy as that sounds, I really do. I've created relationships with people I never would have if I didn't come. I do not regret one decision I've made. This is exactly where I am supposed to be right now, doing exactly this. I have never felt so fulfilled in my life. Being fulfilled is everything great in life. Better than happiness. Like LIVING ALOHA. 

Love you all, 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Buna Ziua! (Good Day!)

Flew from Paris to Frankfurt then to Bucharest, Romania. From up in the air all that could be seen was clouds, a thick heavy blanket if clouds. No land until we got to Bucharest. It was raining when we landed, poring actually which I'll say was His blessing for the start of my next adventure. Going through customs was easy, it took maybe 2 minutes tops. My bag was the seventh one to come out! It was a lucky day, indeed. I continued through the arrival hate where I met Alex, my greeter, who recognized me before I him. Took 90 minutes to drive to Brasov. Crazy drivers here, I must say. I saw over 10 road kill victims just during my drive. 

Brasov is beautiful! So many trees!!!! The city is in the center of a fortress once inhabited by the Saxons during the 13th century. It has a lot of German and Turkish influences, mostly in the architecture and cuisine. My house is located just under the Brasov sign in the mountains. The Brasov sign is just like the Hollywood sign in CA. I'm hoping to hike up there before I leave. The house is 500 years old, but in very good condition. I was greeted by my host mother, Rodica. She only speaks Romanian but I'm getting used to talking to her in sign language or using body gestures. My room is very big, fitting three beds, three shelves and a wooden table where we eat. I met one of my roommates, Christina, who's from Norway and is volunteering in one of the orphanages. She is very quiet and so sweet. She invited me to an organ concert at the Black Church that night where we'd meet our other roommate. 

The Black Church is only a 5 minute walk. It is an old gothic church that was once called saint Mary's church until a fire took much of the inside of the church. The foundation is still there as well as some of the articles inside. The concert ticket was 10 lei which amounts to about $3. My other roommate, Harriet, is from Australia and is quite eccentric. She is teaching drama at the high schools and day centers. We all hit it off instantly. 

At dinner we had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fish fingers, vegetable soup and pickled vegetables. All made from scratch by Rodica. 

My supervisor is a salsa teacher here in Romania. Her school is very prestigious and has traveled to many different countries to perform and compete. I took one of her salsa classes last night and am going to a 2 day salsa convention with her this weekend! What a surprise! I'm teaching a workshop to her students on October 11 where all the proceeds will be donated to the local orphanages. 

Started my first day teaching at the orphanage today. It houses 12 girls and 12 boys. The boys are very eager to learn and are very respectful and love to play. The girls are more reserved. It's a little hard because they speak romanian and just a little English. Not even a little, just yes and no. We did hand motions and a few basics then played futbal. I walked the boys to school, well actually they walked me, but I supervised. They're ages 8-11. Very good kids. They love to hug you and hold your hand and are always happy despite all of the tragic experiences that they've gone through. I'm very excited to be working with them every day!  

Thank you for all the support! I would really love to hear your feedback, even just a short comment! I like to see that people are reading! 
Pictured is the centre or square of Brasov and a view of my room. More to come! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The difference

It took me a while to write this entry. Everything is happening so fast and it's been hard for me to put into words my experiences. When I would finally be able to sit down and blog nothing would come out. 

Coming from Spain to Paris, France was quite a culture shock to say the least. As one of our tour guides in Barcelona said, "The Spanish has the second largest life expectancy in the world because of siestas, olive oil and good wine."  He later went on to explain how the Spanish mindset is. They let things run it's course, no deadlines do no stress. Such a beautiful concept unknown to the western world. I'll have to talk to Mr. Obama about implementing siestas in our day, but time is money as they say, and lost sleep is a shorter life! 

Paris reminds me of New York City; the constant, untamed traffic, the feeling of always being lost, the not always very welcoming locals. But nonetheless, Paris is one of a kind. It is crazy to see so much history and culture everywhere you turn, unlike home in the Silicon Valley where everything is new or being created. Amazing to think of the people that dedicated their life to the monumental works of art displayed around the city. Upon my first day in Paris, we visited the Tour Eiffel and the Louvre. The Eiffel Tower is massive! What a sight to be seen. I was able to take a selfie with Mona Lisa herself, which was smaller than I expected but more beautiful too. The sculptures were my favorite. They were so lifelike, ever dimple every crevice, the textures portrayed in solid rock, magnificent indeed. 

On our third day, my family went home. It was really hard for me. This is the first time I've ever been away from my family for this long, let alone over 6,000 miles away. Granny called me at the hotel because she thought she had free long distance, but she doesn't, so she'll be expecting a pretty high phone bill for the month. She and my aunt were also able to send me and iTunes gift card to purchase movies on my phone because Netflix doesn't work in Europe. Probably one of the worst things to find out when you're a teenager alone in another country. Just as a warning, most restaurants not in touristy areas are closed on Sundays. So I took a 45 min metro making 3 Line changes and over 25 stops to a Chinese take out place. I was too tired to make the trip back so I took a taxi that costed me 20€ which amounts to about $30. Fun. Another warning for you all. The maid service in hotels don't knock! I was in the middle of changing my clothes when the maid barged in with her garbage bags in hand. I definitely screamed and she quickly found her way out. And I thought knocking was universal! 

Anyways, off to Romania I go! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A common language

This entry is dedicated to my hula 'ohana back home.  I miss and love you all.  'Eo Nā Wai Ola, Kū! 

Today was incredible to say the least. 
You don't know what it is like to be a hula po'e (hula person) and not dance for 2 weeks. It feels like a part of you is missing, like someone ripped out your heart.  Hearing the ipu and feeling the mana flowing through you is truly an indescribable feeling. I feel whole again. 

Today we taught a great group of haumana (students) in Barcelona. Some spoke a little English, but some none at all, our common language was hula.  Let me tell you, once you get the mana flowing through you, there are no barriers.
 It was so refreshing being able to share with people that love dancing, the culture and the mana (energy, spirit) of hula. Our hosts, Keanu and Tiare, were very welcoming and grateful.  I am looking forward to our lunch on Tuesday. E Hawai'i 'Akea was the kahiko chosen to teach as Mark has been trying to premiere the movie, The Haumana, in Barcelona for some time.  The 'auana taught was Hawaiian Rhumba which was choreographed just before leaving home for the combined group competing in November. 

I am grateful to have represented Hālau Nā Wai Ola as our lineage is shared and spread across the world.  

Me ke aloha,


Visited the beautiful Andalusian palace of Alhambra (the red palace)  in Andalucía, Spain that housed sultans and religious figures alike. The flawless architecture has Muslim, Catholic and Jewish influences complete with intrequetely molded plaster adorning the walls and perfectly symmetrical hand carved wooden doors and ceilings. Gardens are elegantly placed and flaunt the cultures early technological enginuity with fountains connecting to the fresh water aqueducts, thus, all fountains on the grounds are drinkable.  It was easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. I want to live in this palace even now in the 21st century. After a day in Málaga my journey continued to Barcelona, where I am now.  Yesterday was spent exploring Old Town Barcelona where the Roman Gothic Cathedral pictured below was a highlight and the alleyways once walked by religious figures and ancient Roman columns still reside.  More to come. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

American soil

In just a few hours I'll be on a ship for Spain. These are my last hours on American soil. 

All yesterday I was thinking really hard about what these weeks mean to me. What I'm trying to find. What my motive is, I guess. And after conversations with my mom she was able to put my thoughts into words. I want to discover what makes people do things... How they seem to thrive in all corners of the world... How they bring meaning into their lives... If and how they are really happy and fulfilled. 

On American soil we can be whoever we want and live the American Dream... Well, maybe if you have a 4.0 gpa become a CEO and never see your family or you can go another route and become a famous actor that parties every night or a super model with self image issues and a deadly disorder.  I want to prove that there are other ways to make it in this world and truly be happy and to do this we have to take a risk. 

In no way do I want to create controversy, but maybe just an interesting conversation at the dinner table tonight. 

Here's a challenge for you all today.
Do something that makes you truly happy whether it be sitting outside reading a book or going on a hike or even taking a nap. 

I want to see you being happy! Take a picture of you in your happy place, tag me and hashtag #18andabout on Instagram or Twitter. Or send me a comment telling me what you're doing. 

We need to indulge in our little pleasures every so often. 

Hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend.