Maui says, “ALOHA.” Using the same letters in a different order, Spain says, “HOLA.”
Why not say both?
The Hawaiian word “aloha” does not only mean “hello,” but also “good bye” and “I love you.” As further explored by King (2003), its more complex meaning can be uncovered by further breaking the word down: “The joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo).” [Side note: “ha” is also described as “breath,” which is very much the energy of life.]
Having grown up in Maui, Hawaii, I am quite familiar with aloha and the warmth and affection that it carries along with it. I know that many would argue that the “aloha spirit” is the key aspect that renders Maui such a welcoming and enlightening place, as there exists an incomprehensible amount of love concentrated in one small island.
And now, after a summer of exploring the practices of mindfulness and Qigong, the art of impromptu conversations with fellow island-dwellers (at places ranging from the beach with a sea turtle sleeping on the shore to the dried fruit section at the local grocery store), and nature’s greatest gifts of sunset-lit skies that turn to meteor shower-filled black canvases, crystal clear waves that wash up onto silky-smooth sand, and muddy hikes with full-island bird’s eye views, some leading to powerful waterfalls that gracefully cascade down to ponds surrounded by emerald green ferns and ripened sweet fruit waiting to be handpicked from the tree, I am now leaving this special island to embark upon another journey of a lifetime: a fall semester of studying abroad in Toledo, Spain (I’ll try to keep the sentences shorter in the future).
I know that the upcoming months will not only increase my proficiency as a Spanish-speaker, but also reveal to me the way of life in a city halfway across the world from this island that rests in the Pacific Ocean more than 2,000 miles away from any landmass. Although I am excited to contrast the cultural norms and scenic vistas of the two places, I am also intrigued to find similarities between Maui, an island of 144,444 residents, and Toledo, a city of 83,334, often referred to as a the religious capital of Spain, rich with a history of intersecting Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions.
I am ready to learn, eager to explore, and excited to grow.
Peace, Love, & Happiness (Paz, Amor, & Felicidad),