Why do I feel like writing in the wee-hours of the night? I really should be sleeping, but any blogger/writer/artist knows: you cannot go about doing something else when a spark of curiosity or memoir or thought, runs across your brain.  Iʻm writing about this word pili.  According to Ulukau, the online Hawaiian dictionary, it means “1. nvi. To cling, stick, adhere, touch, join, adjoin, cleave to, associate with, be with, be close or adjacent; clinging, sticking; close relationship, relative; thing belonging to…”


Even if you have no background or surface knowledge of Hawaiian words, anyone can easily sit back and look into the distance, retracing any significant or minuscule memory of a person, place or thing that was once or is pili to he or she.  I visited a ranch just out of Hilo this weekend and my host is a very special friend to me, whom had earned living rights to the property over years of visiting and caring for it.  Our goal while staying there was to help in any way we could, fixing things we could fix, feeding animals we could feed, and enjoying the serenity of the landscape, pulling our minds away from school, work, and basically reality.  


During our time there, I saw my friend, pili to the work we did, pili to the things that lived there, pili to the people heʻs known there, pili to the lifestyle, and pili to the place.  His passion made me think about my own pili.  What places and things do I connect with, cherish and would give anything to see still standing when Iʻm 83, 98, years old…

I thought, and thunk.


Aunty Haliʻaʻs big yard with a coconut tree every five feet.  Uncle Royʻs trolling spots up Nāwiliwili River.  Puʻuʻualakaʻa.  Uncle Whitlowʻs rope swing.  The surf homebreak.  The cement block at Kaionaʻs.  Kakaroach bay.  That room in the Nuʻuanu house where I played space-ship with my brother, using dadʻs old computer gadgets.  Kōkeʻe with Grama Julia.  


ʻPlaceʻ plays such an essential role in our deciding who to be.  And I think that is one of the most beautiful things in this world; that people experience the essence of a particular surrounding and are able to humble themselves enough to find a deep sense of appreciation for it.  All of a sudden you realize that your environment then and there is unlike any other and needs to be kept that way.  With appreciation comes respect, then responsibility.  When someone is pili to a place, when we are pili to place, I believe weʻre the best self we can be.  At that moment in time, we are our truest forms of human and spirit.    


This guy, and this ranch, and this place we were in, you could see cords connecting all three.  And in his eyes you could see the purest love for it all, stopping at nothing short of unconditional.  It may seem unimportant, but to the person who is pili with it, it is of the utmost importance.  


We are fond of and prioritize depending on, the things and places and people we are pili to, pili with.  It is an unseen connection, a deep revelation in the person.  It gives us identity and purpose, that only God knows for certain, but we can feel in our gut.  Maybe the time has come for my generation, and all those listening, to trace back.  Go back to the places we are pili with, and make a difference because we know we can; we are pili and thatʻs all the confidence we need to take action.  Mom always said to leave a place ten times nicer than it was when you arrived.  Well, thatʻs easy,..if youʻre pili.




Writing is dangerous, and often scary, not necessarily because of the status of the person who reads it; no, most writers could care less thereof.  Itʻs not even because of the way your brain needs to stitch appropriate vocabulary together, creating something that actually makes sense; thatʻs all subjective.  However, sharing your opinion on any given matter from Same-sex Marriage to Homelessness in Hawaiʻi, is brutal.  Depending on how you read that sentence, some would think Iʻve weighed those two issues and sited them as if I were putting one on a pedestal of priority, and have a fit about it (or a problem about my addressing them as “issues”).  See what I mean? And even now, through ages and crossroads of language and expression amongst the worldsʻ most hidden to familiar civilizations, elucidation of your own gut feeling is ominous.  I donʻt believe Iʻm a writer.. maybe an artist somehow, but Iʻm not worthy of that title.  Regardless, it still feels risky to even allow this process in my head to take place, where my brain sends signals to my hands to encrypt verbatim each flash of a thought.  Iʻd imagine that oil-painters and sculptors, musicians and designers, experience a similar fear.

And so, in my expressing and jumping from idea to idea, I mean no harm.  I am very much as uneducated as I am educated about countless topics.  But quite frankly, I think most of us who take the time to write in and on anything, literally anything, have intentions that lie very far from harm.  

I watched a film, not based on a true story, about a retired professional soccer player who was trying to be the best father figure he could, to his son who lived with the boyʻs mother and soon-to-be new husband.  Half the movie went by and overlooking the distracting scenes, unessential to the main storyline, I realized that he and his ex-wife controlled the entire ending of the story.  Sure, thatʻs not the case in every situation, and life can be much more complicated than Hollywood interprets it to be.  But just stop. Think. 

When you were little, playing games, running around outside, you had a small fire inside of you.  It was just a little spark at first, but as you grew older and hopefully wiser, it became a flame and with each victory and defeat it would dim and grow, dim and grow.  It empowers you, ʻtil this day, no matter how bright.  And maybe youʻre not a parent, not yet, not planning to be, havenʻt thought about it, but for those who are, thereʻs a little fire next to yours.  Those are your kids, precious children who are now thrown back to a time familiar to you: playing games, running around outside.  Theyʻre completely new beings, letting their flame burn, walking upon creation as half-you and half-the-other-half.  And they have no idea how much power they have.  Maybe you donʻt have a clue about yourʻs, either.

Itʻs difficult to write about this, and Iʻm not exactly sure why I am because Iʻm not a parent. However, I have parents.  Loving, imperfectly perfect souls that made me.  And theyʻre awesome, but I think they can lose sight of their power, in the process of tending to those little fires that keep growing, beside their own.  There was a scene in that movie, where the mom sat in the stands with her fiance and the dad, now the head coach of his boyʻs soccer team, was pacing the sideline.  All of a sudden, the boy scores a goal and wins the game for the team, and in that moment there was common, yet brilliant, camera work.  Everything slowed to nearly a stop, the grass was now greener, the smiles on everyoneʻs faces were whiter, the director cued the climatic orchestra, and it panned from the boyʻs expression, to the dadʻs, then the momʻs.  And in that moment the two parents looked at their son and then at each other.  At that point I turned the movie off because there it was: the climax.  And I love that it lasted five seconds and wasnʻt in the ending.

Iʻve seen my parents do that, without the music of course.  Iʻve seen them see me or my brother or sister and see themselves, and I somehow knew that there was difference between looking and seeing and it mustʻve been an important knot amongst the many it takes to hold a family together.  In those junctures, fires grew powerful.  Now, just a little older, I know getting an A on a midterm isnʻt as exciting for them as was me making my first three-point shot, years ago.  I know that.  But I also know that they share a connection because of the two of them, then also because of me and the journey it took to create a little spark from their fire.  And so I take responsibility for my flame, and make sure I put an effort into keeping it burning brightly and proudly, for them, to remind them of their power.  Because if anything were to happen, if they somehow lost grasp of it, I and any other child would naturally feel part to blame.  

If youʻre able, make an effort in encouraging the people who raised you, to keep on keeping on.  Remind them that they did good, they did great.  Theyʻre powerful.  And our flaws are certainly not a reflection of them.  There are three words in this English language that you could say, to say it all.  I forget them now and then, but I hope itʻs said often to the people who deserve it the most, in your life and in your language, typed, emailed, painted, sung, scribbled, or written.  Itʻs not a cultural thing, not a suggestion coming from a psychiatrist; itʻs just common sense, that sometimes goes uncommon, to help the people who helped you, to look at every relationship with a servantʻs eye.  Parents need that, and in humility and love, we should provide it. Just cuz.



Thank you for my fire. I love you two so much.


A Letter to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs

For those who are unaware, a non-profit organization called Nā Pua Noʻeau will be reduced 70% of their funding by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) if not otherwise wooed to change their minds.  As a former student and teacher helper, this is my testimony that will be sent to an OHA representative and hopefully make a difference.

To Whom it may concern,


My ʻohana emerges from the veins of the waimea, the Pipturus albidus, native to the soils in Waimea on Kauaʻi island.  We have cared for the fish from Kekaha’s pepper-black sand shores and the maile from Kokeʻe’s serene forests.  We have tended to ālialia in the maroon dirt of Hanapepe, danced hula atop boats cruising up and down the famous river, and cultivated kalo in our loʻi at Wainiha.  We have worked for both the state and federal governments, served time in the US military, and played music amongst the company of friends and family under the stars at the old house in Hāʻena.

Ten years ago, I had no clue as to who the word family actually encompassed, nor the stories of those people who lived generations ago, and thus, I had no identity.  I had no connection to the native Hawaiian blood in me as well as no understanding of what that meant and its importance along side my other ethnicities.  Nā Pua Noʻeau became a facilitator of my search for genealogical history and self, providing me with opportunities to be curious, intelligent and most importantly, me.

I have been a student of NPN for six years, and an alakaʻi, for one.  To have begun that journey by attending the one-day family activities, going through summer institutes and year long programs on and off island, and taking the kuleana to become an alakaʻi after I graduated from high school, has quite literally been a full-circle blessing.  As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the knowledge I have now, about my ʻohana, who I come from, what makes me me, is in essence all because of those programs.  And that knowledge is vital in my motivation to do my very best in everything I do.  Nā Pua Noʻeau makes it clear to us students and faculty, that the Hawaiian culture of old needs to coexist with the Western culture of today, and when we find that balance in wherever our interests lie, we will thrive as a people.  They have succeeded at this: exposing the culture and language and providing us keiki and youth with hands-on opportunities that do not force us to be immersed, but instead simply spark curiosity.  I am a direct witness and testimony of that fulfilled and continued curiosity.

Today, as a result of NPN and their strong push for higher education, I am a sophomore at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo as a Hawaiian Studies major with a particular interest in Sustainable Agriculture.  And it is no surprise that my experiences in their programs are reflected in my career goal: using my degree to create a 501c3 non-profit organization, providing cultivation and healing opportunities in all types of cultural aspects, to Hawaiʻi’s communities.

It is my understanding that now, like before, such vital funding entities to the programs and privileges provided by NPN, are under reduction.  One thing I’ve learned about Hawaiian people, and indigenous people alike, is that we make do with what we have.  But we are not lazy, and if we need something, we work hard until we get it.  Once we do acquire it, we take care of it.  We are a simple people not needing much, however, Nā Pua Noʻeau is one of those few essential things not for us, but for the next generations.

My words written here do not stand alone, but are in fact part of the resounding voice of the people who know that without NPN, we would not be who we are or where we are, today, and the generations to come are deserving of that enrichment. This leka is my work and responsibility, and I do hope, in its small maybe insignificant size, it will make a difference.  My hope, as product of this extraordinary organization, is to see NPN’s success in the lives of native Hawaiian youth continue on into the far future.  My hope is to one day be able to send my own keiki into the loving and intelligent hands of this ʻohana, that they have very much become to me.  My hope is that their needs are met in every way possible, with the only intention in mind being to educate Hawaiʻi’s children about the things they will not learn in school, but can be applied there too, which we know is very important.  My hope is that NPN can continue to empower our youth by sparking their curiosity to know more about their history and thus more about themselves.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


“If I have courage, it is because I have faith in the teachings of my ancestors.”

-Papa Mau


Amber M. Au

Story Time with Aunty Wai

short, informal stories for those who like to read


Parking passes are worth more than one’s life savings, in college terms, and I figure that’s why most people don’t get them and instead park on the paved shoulder of ANY street parallel or perpendicular to the campus. And this is what I love about UH Hilo.. 
A lady walks to her car, that is literally parked in the bushes where she’s moving branches to get to the drivers side, next to other cars that are all parked on the paved shoulder behind the sign that says in red “NO PARKING ON PAVED SHOULDER”, puts the key in the door, turns left right and left again, hits the handle with her knee, and again with her free elbow, swings the door open, throws her purse onto the passenger side, her books on the hood, takes out a scrunchy and very speedily whips her hair into a tidah bun, cracks her knuckles, and begins to use the window knob with the intent of rolling it down. As you may have guessed, the crank doesn’t work. so she cranks, pushes the glass down, cranks, pushes, cranks, pushes, until its all the way down. Then she places her books carefully in the back seat, falls into her chair, slams the door, -oops, neva work, one more time-, starts the car and reverses out of her bush, making a completely illegal “Z” turn, trying to catch the light across the double solid line, doesn’t quite make it, and thus sits with her car diagonally stopped between lanes and a quarter way into the intersection.

nobody makes a big deal about her awful and somewhat inconvenient position on the road, because this is college. we’re a people who dedicate so much time, money and energy to this thing called education that we believe, so fervently, will be thee best decision we’ll ever make in terms of our futures. we drive, walk, bike, use whatever we can (whether it works good or not), and seemingly park wherever we can, just to make it on time to sit in a room and listen to someone share what they know. we eat everything, anything, especially if it’s free. we think about all the fun stuff we could do, realize it’d cost more than $5, then lay back down in bed or settle for the gym. college is not like high school where some kids are wealthier than others, some are smarter than others, some have more hope than others. we’re all, in a sense, poor. we’re all, in a sense, not as smart as we think. and still through our circumstances, we all have some kind of hope in ourselves and in our teachers to somehow one day, be anything we want. 
it’s beautiful


Certain people walk into our lives on accident and end up revealing small parts of our own master plans that we would not have seen without their presence.  And though we have no control over who comes and goes, we would hope and pray that they stay long enough to embrace the fact that God had brought us to them and them to us, on purpose.  He is the reason for every season, every unique soul, life holds.  

When my summer began, I did not want to stay home for work.  Given the opportunity, and requesting so before hand, I would have wanted to go to Hilo and from there go to school.  I never had an urge to leave home and be independent, but I always had a goal to excel elsewhere, be it academically or any other aspect.  Thus, staying home sucked…in the beginning. 

At the time, I was living with my aunty because she lived closer to my job site and as the days went by I realized that each week, the only thing I would look forward to was going home.  Seeing my dogs.  Cracking jokes with mom.  Doing yard work with dad.  Cutting my brotherʻs hair.  Running to my grandparentʻs house.  And eating momʻs amazing vegetarian cooking.  

In the back of my mind, work and getting ready to move, had consumed every parking stall. It was stressful to say the least.  And on top of that, I was spending a lot of time with friends and family who wanted to make my final days home, memorable.  Long story short, and I apologize this might not be much of a testimony, I realized my void as well as my solutions.  I had a void that I think most girls have, and that is to be loved; to be loved, not just by friends but by a significant other, and to have that love last forever.  Well, Iʻm beginning to think that might not be possible, and thatʻs a good thing.  Because the only love that is forever, eternal, worthwhile, unconditional, is that of my Lord Jesus Christ.  And if true love were achievable on this earth, we would not want nor need Him.  Maybe then, if I were to find someone who believed in that same God-filled love, maybe…things would work out.

As for the solutions to my void, I took everyday at work, everyday at home, everyday with friends, family, cousins, as a little blessing.  When I saw my cousins smile, I got warm inside my gut.  When I saw my grandparents make trouble to each other, I was filled with love in my heart.  When I spent time and had meaningful conversations with friends, I felt butterflies in my toes.  And thatʻs what romantic love is, right? Warmness in your gut, love in your heart, and butterflies in your toes?

God has blessed me with things that I had hoped for and some things that I had never asked for.  If I could put those things and my gratefulness into words, they would not be blessings.  And as this last day at home brings the sun from the horizon, over my head and back down, I am thankful in a thousand ways for those certain people who had certain reasons, accidental or intentional, for walking into my life in Godʻs certain timing.  Thank you, thank you, thank you x100000000.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

-Matthew 19:26


Slipper Tan

Unfortunately, and fortunately, I am not putting a picture of my slipper tan on this blog.  Iʻll save your eyes their death.  However, work has been very much under variable weather conditions, one of them being this hot summer weather…hence the tan lines.  And I wonʻt mention the other bodily locations..

The work has also been quite laborious, and I feel the toll on my body when I fall on my bed at the end of the day.  Yes, tis a falling action.  But I guess the sweat will always be better than pushing papers in an AC cubical.  Praise God 🙂

Today, and every Wednesday for the rest of the summer, we had Kamehameha Schools Hoʻolauna kids come and tour the pond as well as help us with some service learning projects.  Iʻve been in charge of the jellyfish station, because Aunty says my experiment with them should make me an expert.  This is how the day went:

We were ahead of the game.  Clock in: 6:55am.  Kidʻs ETA: 0900am.  Caught crab, jellyfish, and limu specimens by 7:30am.  We were on it!  And the bus came rolling in.  Our plan was to have them go through the specimen rotations, go across to “Secret Island” to pick dead coral (to fill in the pond wall) and weed out mangrove and pickle weed (two invasives), then be back to the pavillon by noon for ʻāina ʻauinalā (lunch).  However, our reserved boat broke down and a bunch of things didnʻt go as planned, which was okay because as aunty kept cheering with the kids, “WE ARE ADAAAPTABLE!” while trying to smile.  

Iʻm not one to get stressed out and panic or get crazy, and so I tried to keep my cool when I was pulling pickle weed and cut my finger on a broken Budlight bottle.  I also tried to take it like a tomboy as I watched the blood ooze from my knuckle (yes, one of those cuts right on a bend 😦 ), but man did it hurt!  So nothing at all went as planned today.  But the kids were great, and the people always are.  And I went fishing with uncle Ikaika one of my mentors, for the last hour of work, and ended up short of our quota to sell to Fresh Catch, so I could take a couple fish home for my family.  I have no complaints about that.  

Yeah, I know. Too much talking.  Hereʻs my great grama and I; sheʻs my inspiration.  She also helped clean and cook everything.  Best tasting fish I ever had! 


Every Girl Needs a Dingy

dingy is a term used for a small boat or vessel, and heck yes I believe every girl needs one.   Her name is Manuahi, my supervisorʻs little boat; Iʻm so blessed to be using her for my research this summer.  Sheʻs light enough to pull on deck, has a small electric motor, and needs nothing more for a girl like me who only dreamt of driving around my own boat:)

ImageThere she is on the right, what a little beauty!

Today was day two at my internship and every morning thus far, when I walk out on the dock and observe the weather, I have to take a step back… When I was seven years old, I remember fishing with my dad off a point at Awāwāmalu, facing the rising sun and feeling the windward sea breeze kiss the peach fuzz on my face, as I closed my eyes and told myself that whatever “growing up” meant, this will always be the best feeling in the whole-wide-world.  I thank God everyday that Iʻm still able to feel that, especially now, at work.


This is “home” for the next two and a half months, and not too shabby of a view either! Yesterday consisted of secondary-growth removal on Crassostrea virginica, to prepare for depuration.  In English, that means we cleaned oysters.  All day.  It was stink, tiring and stink, but I learned a lot about the bacteria that eats the animal and the invasive creatures that not only dwell in the pond but also create larger ecosystem problems.

An average day at work consists of hopping on the boat to check the three mākāhā (gates) and looking for evidence of poachers, observing and recording rainfall, wind and tide data, and jumping into any projects (which will soon be my research experiments) that Aunty Kui, my supervisor, needs done.

My experiments during my stay are still in the air as far as details go, however they will be along these three lines: current analysis, depth mapping, and invasive jellyfish.  Iʻm stoked! Though not an average girlʻs ideal job, I love every second of it.  Oh, and did I mention my commute to and from work is traffic-free and gorgeous? Yeah, thatʻs worth smiling about. 🙂Image