“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
--- Douglas Adams

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kama'aina O Long Francisco

I moved to San Francisco 20 years ago.

Twenty years ago I was almost 21 years old, super skinny with bleached blond hair, more vices than what were probably good for me, no money in my pocket and not a lot of confidence. I moved to San Francisco with my friend P, who I have been friends with since I was 8 and he was 10. We moved into a flat with his girlfriend who was also my high school bestie, and another friend of ours. Our little Bubble Family lived together in (mostly) harmony for about 5 years when we spread our wings and became grown-ups, and ventured out on our own.

Today I'm almost 41, still have no money in my pocket, have only a few vices, a lot more confidence, am no longer skinny, and the bleached blond hair? Let's just say the drapes match the carpet these days.


Hubby and I were having a conversation about the term "kama'aina."

Kama'aina literally means "child of the land." In every day practice it defines someone who lives in Hawai'i or is from Hawai'i.

Last year I learned of a new, more complex definition of kama'aina. Last year I had the privilege of attending a hula workshop with Kumu Robert Cazimero. Before he started teaching us the hula we came to learn, he talked for a moment about what it meant to be kama'aina from somewhere. I think he only touched on the subject for a moment or two, but it was enough that it gives me pause every so often and I think about it.

Kama'aina means where your roots are. The definition of kama'aina doesn't have to relate specifically to Hawai'i.  One can be just as much kama'aina Brooklyn as another is kama'aina Waienae. Kama'aina not only means where you're from, but also what about that specific location that defines you.  What element of yourself can be defined by where you're from, and vice versa.

I grew up in Long Beach, CA. I lived in the same house from when I was two months old until I moved out just a month before my 21st birthday.
As a kid, I knew Long Beach inside and out. The thing is, however, I knew Long Beach inside and out, but through they eyes (and heart and soul) as a kid, then later as a teenager. I never knew Long Beach as an adult.
I can tell you story after story about
  • How when I was 8, the neighbor boy Charlie and I made sling shots with rubber bands and broken branches, then got in trouble when we aimed them at the little girl down the street and hit her in the arm.
  • how when I was 10 I used to ride my bike around the lake at El Dorado Park,
  • how when I was 13 I used to spend all my money at the hallmark store in Los Altos shopping center on Hello Kitty (because as a kid, there were no Sanrio stores around).
  • or how when I was 15 I used to spend my weekends at my friend E's house because her mom let us do more than my mom did
  • when I was 16 how I used to hang out at Bull 'n' Bun on summer afternoons hoping some  heavy metal guy would crush on me (yes, Bobby Sims, I'm talking about you)
  • Then later when I was 18 and I would take my fake ID and go to the Reno Room or Dick and Faye's Bistro on Saturday night.
  • Or when I was 19 I met my friend Rhonda and we used to go to clubs in Hollywood and see how many free drinks we could get cute guys to buy us just because we were cute girls in short skirts. 
  • Or plenty other stories about growing up in the LBC
But then I emmigrated from Long Beach and settled myself in San Francisco.

Because of San Francisco I can tell you stories about
  • Setting up a new apartment with three of my friends
  • The first friend I made outside of my regular group of friends (love ya, Prakash!)
  • My first cat who was all my own (miss you, Jack)
  • leaving the house at 10pm on our bikes to go see a band play, getting home at 2:30am, and still being able to wake up at 7am to work a full day.
  • discovering who I was and what I was capable of as an individual
  • the places I worked
  • the adventures I had exploring San Francisco and making it my home
and most importantly
  • meeting the love of my life, marrying him and starting a family
So here is my question. Of where am I kama'aina? Is it Long Beach? Is it San Francisco? Hubby says it's San Francisco. Although I'm most assuredly more SF than LBC these days, I had to work at it. I had to learn to be San Franciscan. I never had to work at being from Long Beach. I just am/was.

I'll probably never have a clear answer. I guess I'll just sum up my unanswered question with one simple phrase:
Me ke aloha ku'u home o Long Francisco.

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