Orwa​iian, what is that?

Where are you from?

The name Orwaiian was born from partial humor and partial reality. Having moved so often I have to constantly answer the inevitable question; where are you from?  It’s become an important habit of mine to answer respectfully by answering accurately. To be honest, when you’ve moved several states and experienced varying cultures where do you draw the line when establishing the “from”?

Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to answer that question if I responded with a country. “I’m from the United States.” Sure if I wanted to be sarcastic or cheeky or really turn people off, I could answer this way. I doubt anyone within their own home country would. So we tend to get a little more specific. “I grew up moving around the northwest.” Or, “…mostly the SoCal area.” Or, “Washington.” By the way, having lived in Virginia for a year, if someone from the east coast is responding like this and “Washington” isn’t followed by “State”, the odds favor they are from DC.

My current situation: I’m an Orwaiian living in the south. I promise I will explain the meaning of this strange name I call myself, but for now, hang on. The American south has a deep history of its own with well established varying cultural groups, but a very recognizable accent. As someone having absolutely no cultural roots in the south I certainly have an accent that contrasts those with a southern drawl. Full disclosure, I do live in a place of many transplants. The Charleston area is beautiful and attractive to so many that’s it’s been a heavily moved-to place within the U.S. for many years. In any social interaction the tendency to ask the common question, where are you from, is inevitable and natural here. We all want to get to know each other without being too invasive. Or at least that should be the intent. If you are looking to ask the question with the intent to judge and not get to you, well you are doing it wrong. It can be a great starting point. “Tell me about that place.” Or, “I’ve always wanted to go there.” Or, “Wow why the hell did you move here!” All very natural reactions.

So again, why?

Why Orwaiian? I was born in Hawaii raised there for 11 years. Part Hawaiian by ethnicity as well as statehood. Oregon is where I lived for most of my life, about 15 years in fact. How do I pick between two important and distinct places of where in my life? In response to someone’s “where” question I humorously said, “Orwaiian.” Naturally and appropriately. It was also around this time I decided to take the dive back into the blogging world. The name seemed to fit.

Where are the other Orwaiian’s?

I’m not the only one. In fact, I have siblings with exact or similar upbringings. Many family and friends from the islands no longer live there. I find it beyond interesting to see how their new familial roots look outside of the place they lived and possibly still love. My family has branched into a new generation and maybe a new generation of Orwaiian’s. Sure they’ve been to Hawaii, they eat the food, and they know the family and friends that still live there, but I wonder what their view on culturally important things looks like. Some of them are entirely too young to think about such things but I still wonder.

©CLKeahi | High School Graduation. A mild version of what you might get at graduation in Hawaii. Still a tradition none the less.

Well, that’s the what, why and where of Orwaiian. Partial humor partial reality. Probably more reality at this point.


The Manapua Man


You may be reading this because manapua was the thing to eat as your afternoon snack. Or because your own town came with its well-known manapua man. Or because you want to know what the hell manapua is and who is this man that dons its name. The more familiar name for those living in, at least America, is Chinese pork bun, or steamed bun. Usually, a cha siu filled steamed bun that won’t break the bank but will satisfy your afternoon cravings. It was the thing we did as kids; running out of the house chasing down the manapua man with our bits of change. Sure the ice cream man was around, but the manapua man was our island thing. It’s true. He drove a van, usually with a glass display case anchored at the sliding side door. It was filled with your more common American snacks. Skittles, M&M’s, Snickers, soda’s, chips, etc. But who would chase down a manapua man and not get manapua? Well, me. What can I say, I was a kid? My taste buds hardly existed. I was even that kid that never enjoyed POG (passion orange guava), basic blasphemy in Hawaii. A kid that’s doesn’t enjoy the taste of local food and sweet Hawaiian juice. I was that kid and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Rice Cakes

I may not have enjoyed the savory-sweetness of a manapua but rice cakes were my jam! Another sweet treat that I can say was something like a tapioca-flan-cake confection. It’s still a favorite sweet treat of mine. It’s sticky rice usually cooked in coconut milk then covered in a sweet syrup. I am no epicurean but if you are looking for a recipe that, instantly made my mouth water check out The Little Epicurean’s Biko recipe. While some kids chased after ice cream trucks we waited for our after school delight with island style and understated flair. The routine was all the same – kids, parents, grandmas, older and younger siblings all gathered around to order – cash only. As kids, we stood face to face with Cornuts, Starburst and Twix bars, but we knew what was worth ordering. If rice cakes and manapua weren’t doing it for you, often the manapua man acted as the best kind of local fast food around. Plate lunches filled with noodles, rice, delicious savory sometimes sweetmeats. As he prepared your order chips hung by clips from a repurposed clothesline behind the man. Soda cans usually displayed on a shelf. My rice cake slice often spilled over the edges of the paper boat it came in. My brother usually had his manapua and Hawaiian Sun P-O-G to wash it down.

The Van

The van was basically a bodega on wheels. It was plain with nothing especially eye-catching about it, except if you caught it on its passenger side. It’s sliding door locked to an open position with a display case full of snacks. Being a child at the time that I lived on the North Shore of Oahu, I figured this was normal. I thought this is what every town in every place had. Well, not so much. I currently live in a place and time where food trucks rule. I feel I can share my story of the manapua man with people that never experienced his awesomeness. What we lack in the comforts of home we find in a communal sense of nostalgia, practicality, and pride of home when we share our stories. Have it be the local bodega or manapua man.

The Man

The man provided a “convenience” of sorts to the hard-working people in some of the lesser talked about locales. The story starts back in the plantation days of historic Hawaii. It was a way to provide for the plantation workers. Sure, today we see food trucks serving up the same thing, but the man with the manapua hardly has a catchy business name. It’s simply The manapua man. In every town, where one exists, it’s simple. Before hipsters and pop-ups and restaurateurs in food trucks. There was the manapua man. Rolling through our neighborhoods serving up Hawaiian-local style food. Remembering the regular faces of those he served. He was someone to count on when you needed a sweet-sloppy treat or pork filled steamed bun. In my case, he was the man that noticed my absence from the crowd. Absent because I was sick (nothing drastic). He filled a paper bowl with sticky rice handed it to my brother. “I hope your sister fills better,” he said. No payment needed. It’s this memory I will always have about Hawaii’s non-ice cream man. The manapua man – established in Hawaii at some point in time, in our tummies temporarily, and our memories forever.

One-way Epic Road Trip

Hitting the Road

Bags, upon bags, upon bags were packed. Plastic tubs filled and taped shut. Every inch of room in the truck was stuffed and the trailer was full. While water and caffeinated beverages filled all available cupholders, one hand was on the wheel the other was stuffing my face with all natural jerky. We headed one-way toward the east coast with plans to stop in: Burns Oregon, Las Vegas Nevada, Grand Canyon National Park, Albequercy New Mexico, and Charleston SC.

Yes, you read that correctly. We spent a night in Albequercy then hauled ass to Charleston. By hauling ass I have to say we had a top speed of 55 miles per hour. We took to switching drivers ever 2-4 hours and drove through terrifying epic downpours in Arkansas. It’s the road trip that rivals all road trips for us. I’ve tried and failed in my attempts to add up the number of miles we’ve driven over various road trips. Let’s just say it’s an ass-ton (keeping a theme going here). This one wasn’t the most scenic at times. We spent the second half of the trip on interstates. Smelling cow pies before we could even see the cows. Navigated our fair share of poorly placed construction cones, detours and one eager Texas Trooper that took a 5-minute interest in our trucks temporary tags. Why was this “the most epic”? Because it’s the mode of travel we chose to move across the United States.

©CLKeahi | Moving out of town with one last look at Mt. Hood.


Rural southwestern Oregon is a true wild west. It can feel as if time has stood entirely still. An entire day can pass without ever encountering another soul. Harney County was the place on a map of Oregon where you were more likely to find a legend than a useful geographic fact. It’s not because Harney County isn’t special. Harney County doesn’t need a large city skyline to make it beautiful; it’s lit up by the night sky. It’s weathered and rough due to its natural geography, not its poor politics. This place wasn’t somewhere I frequented. Actually, it’s somewhere I had really never been until we planned this road trip. My husband spent most of his time in the area as a volunteer archaeologist just outside Burns. Every summer for about a week he would pack up and set out to the dig site. He purposely planned this part of the trip so he could show me where he stayed. I had a first-hand view of this place he spent one-week every year for four years.

It’s what he had always described. A high elevation plateau, sparsely vegetated, sagebrush-covered landscape. The night-life was meant for none human life. Naturally beautiful and barren. The secrets of what this place holds lie with its locals, outdoor enthusiast, and road trip junkies. Driving through, I caught quick glimpses of the dilapidated buildings dotting a harsh landscape. At it’s highest elevation just under 10,000 feet the Steens Mountains stood sharply. Jetting out of the earth they stood in the distance as a farewell reminder. Driving down Hwy 205, I watched the last bit of this landscape fade in the distance; the exit from Oregon was official.

No Stopping ’til Charleston

Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe what it feels like to sleep in Albuquerque New Mexico one night then sleep again (officially) in Charleston South Carolina. After doing the classic Route 66 and Grand Canyon stop offs we headed to Albuquerque. If we were to repeat one part of this trip it would certainly be the southwestern portion. Like another world, it was without a doubt absolutely beautiful. Probably the most beautiful part.

The trip through the dry red-rocked southwest was too fast, but we had an agenda to maintain. After spending three nights in three different states we just wanted to make it to the east coast. Our surroundings didn’t go unnoticed. Texas smelled more then we thought – at least along I-40. Oklahoma City was bigger than we imagined. Arkansas was greener and wilder then we would have ever known. If not for this road trip, despite how slow and fast in parts it may have been, I may have never seen these parts of the country. Seeing it from the point of view of a passerby or tourist is, of course, a much different perspective then settling down and getting to know a place. But for me, this opportunity to “see” other parts of this country was just that – an opportunity.

From the small towns we blinked through to the larger cities we sat in traffic with, it was an introduction to a different perspective. A precursor to living a bit different. Why epic? Because I gained (we gained) so much more. A move, a road trip, opportunities, and a different perspective. Having been on my fair share of road trips, none gave me as much insight into how to think bigger than the one that propelled me into a new place.

Finding Polynesia

“The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.” – Mark Twain, Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)

I have these vague, but very real memories dreaming of being somewhere else. I was a kid in search of adventure, discovery, new people and new things. I would look through National Geographics whenever I could and drool over the intriguing photos accompanying the articles I barely (if at all) understood. I remember sitting at my desk; it was white and had this vintage romantic look. It was shiny, but a little distressed. I would stare at these photos. I would crank my tiny radio up hoping for a favorite song so I could live in a trance beyond my desk.

There came a day for me to finally see the world, and it came a bit unexpectedly. It took a lot of self-growth, but I eventually figured out that looking back shouldn’t be about recreating the past. Looking back should be done admirably, to be proud of my where’s.

I’m reminded of how I felt when I was eleven. The new kid in school and it felt so foreign. Not only was the place different, but the school was. The weather certainly was. I had never seen so many kids that didn’t look like me. At that time I didn’t know too many other kids in my school of Hawaiian or any Polynesian ethnicity. There was one girl, but it felt like she filled that token Hawaiian slot for so many of kids. Like their dashboards already had a hula girl and I wasn’t it. I made friends anyway.

The friends I made helped me move forward. We were all awkward. We all ate rice with every meal. We took our shoes off before stepping into any house and we liked talking about where our families came from. I was fascinated with my friends’ cultures and I would share mine with them as often as I could. I still do it…here in the south. It’s important to understand each other. To accept our differences, respect and appreciate one another.

I find myself making spam musubis and enjoying them with new friends even farther away from Polynesia. What I am saying here is that Polynesia, whatever that is to you, can be where you want it to be. Maybe you aren’t physically there, but it doesn’t have to be gone. Live in it in someway despite geographic boundaries.