It was really good being back in Lincoln for a few days this spring. I experienced the infamous Midwest weather, 90 degrees (32 C) on Monday and 40 degrees (4 C) on Tuesday. I cruised up and down Interstate-80 five times and actually enjoyed it for the first time ever. I took in the rolling hills under the bright blue skies. I could see the uninterrupted horizon stretching into the distance. Most folks only pass through the Great Plains not noticing its beauty. But it’s there.
I mentioned before that Lincoln has been undergoing a renaissance since my departure in the autumn of 2010. It’s continuing along very well. As an example: in one 24-hour period I ate pho, sushi, and ramen at three different restaurants. Each restaurant was dedicated to that specific dish. It wasn’t long ago that you couldn’t find these foods in Lincoln. It’s a small step forward, but a great one.
Nebraska also changed their state motto while I was back in town. No longer is it, “Nebraska, the Good Life.” Now it’s simply, “Nebraska Nice.” I like that. Because one thing I noticed while being back in town was how nice people are. I cruised through my parents’ neighborhood and people waved from their cars and front steps. Drivers courteously braked for one another and gave right aways. People held open doors. They smiled and said hello passing one another. It really felt like Smalltown, USA. And it was nice.
The reason for my trip back was sister’s graduation from university. She had worked very hard and pulled great grades. She was finishing with a degree in fisheries and wildlife. I was, and still am, darn proud of my little sister. Good job, Jessie!
All told it was great to see so many friends and family. But now it’s your turn to visit me! Come out to beautiful Hawaii and let me return the hospitality!
The Bud Light Generation
Back in early January my coworker, James, and I started “Thirsty Thursday.” Every Thursday after work we would go out for drinks and pupus (appetizers). It didn’t take long for world to get around the Capitol and it took off. On more than one occasion Representatives even came out with us.
One afternoon in April a coworker and I were chatting.
“Your generation loves to drink,” she said.
“Well, yeah. Everyone likes to drink, right?”
“No, I mean your generation, Millennials, drink a lot. Heavily and often.”
“Hmm,” I thought about it for a moment. She was a Gen Xer and definitely drank less. I myself do enjoy a good beer. I might drink often, though seldom heavily. “Can you elaborate,” I asked.
“Whenever you guys get together, you drink.”
Then it clicked. Yep, she was right. This was a truth that I have lamented many times before. Too often my peers will get together and drink. Events are usually planned around drinking. If drinking isn’t an option, many people won’t show up.
We love drinking so much that there’s even a popular song about having a hangover. What an absurd thing to glorify.
It’s like alcohol is more than a social crutch. It’s a necessity for some people.
I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s a truth for all generations, and we’re just in that time of our lives where we drink often. Maybe it’s American culture. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to multitasking that we want to do two things at once. Whatever it is, I think it’s frustrating. It feels like we’re all handicapped and we can’t truly interact with others unless we’re clutching a beer at the same time.
Here’s hoping we can pull ourselves together. Cheers
This is going to sound really dumb, but here I go: I forgot libraries existed. I spent three years in Japan and never really learned how to read the language, a regret I still harbor. As such I was forced to buy English books if I wanted to read. So I did.
After coming back to Hawaii from Lincoln I quickly got my state ID. In addition to getting great discounts for locals, see kama’aina, I also had access to the state libraries. Then I remembered: libraries!
I ran down to my local branch and picked up a few books. I tore through them and went back for more. I scanned fiction and non-fiction alike. Periodicals. Reference material. CD’s and DVD’s. Everything!
I never realized when I was younger how great of a cultural achievements libraries are. For a minimal cost to citizens we all have access to knowledge. How great! I promise I’ll never forget about libraries again.
I’ve had two friends visit me recently. Two Japanese friends! My best friend Moto came at the beginning of May. It blew my mind that we had said goodbye on the streets of Ginza just five months before. At the time I wasn’t sure I’d ever see him again. But if I was going to, then not for years. But here he was! We spent two days together catching up. It was like I had just seen him and we picked up right where we left off. Great to see you Moto. またね！
Just two months later Nozomi showed up on her honeymoon. I worked with Nozomi all of last summer. She’s such a kind and caring person, I’m very happy she found a great guy. And I’m happy they decided to vacation here! We met up for a few drinks and catching up.
Don’t forget my Aunt Vicky was out visiting in April too!
I’m so lucky to be in Hawaii. Halfway between my two homes I can host friends from both countries right in my backyard.
I recently moved in a new apartment in Makiki, a neighborhood in central Honolulu. I wanted to stay in town and avoid purchasing a car just yet. So I hit the Internet and found a great three bedroom apartment. I met the potential roommates, Rebecka and McKenna, and signed a lease. It’s a great little place. It’s conveniently located. It’s tucked away and surrounded by trees and plants. I’ll be comfortable here for the next 12 months.
That said, I’ve now lived in seven apartments in the last four years. I’ve got to settle down for a bit!
The Space Between
I finished the 2014 Legislative Session with Representative Evans on May 1st.
What an experience. I learned so much. I worked the hardest of my life. And I loved it. It clicked. I’ve found my calling.
However I foolishly believed after session I could quickly find a job. I forgot that I’m new in town. After a week I hadn’t gotten any offers. So I did what I do best, I got determined.
I started networking. I knew I wanted to stay in government/politics. It’s campaign season. So I went to every single function I could. I sent out my resume more than 100 times. I got busy.
I volunteered everywhere.
I was elected to vice-president of Precinct Three in District 24.
I was elected to secretary of my Neighborhood Board.
I helped found and was elected vice-chair of the Oahu Young Democrats.
Each day I didn’t get an offer was a failure. But I woke each morning ready to try again. Actually being unemployed is highly motivating. I see it as a challenge. I was sure my fortune was going to change soon.
Why I Left-
“Why did you leave Japan?”
I hear this all the time.
First, and foremost, I am a product of the United States. I am American. I studied American history and politics. I can trace back my ancestry to early seventeenth century immigration; predating the inception of the Union. I love this country and I knew from the beginning that I was not leaving forever.
The specific date of when I left, November 29th, 2013, can be explained in one word: paperwork. My original work visa was for three years. I had the option to renew my visa, but I didn’t seriously consider it. Three years was a good number.
The real lure though was opportunity. America has often been touted as the land of opportunity. Eight months back and I know it’s true. Had I stayed in Japan I would have been trapped in the English-teaching industry. My career path was very limited.
“But why did you come to Hawaii,” is always the next question.
After passing the Foreign Service Officers’ Test at the Tokyo embassy I knew I wanted to get into policy. However I didn’t know from what angle. And I didn’t want to paint myself into a corner. So I decided on a two-pronged approach based on my passions: politics and the environment. If I failed at one I could fall back on the other
I wanted to get exposure to both at once. I then built a spreadsheet tracking environmental committees in blue or purple states across the country. Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts and the holy grail being Hawaii. I emailed my resume directly to each committee chair. If I could join their staff I could learn about both at once.
Then one day my inbox chimed. It was the Terii from the office of Representative Evans, Hawaii’s chair on the Water and Land committee. They wanted me in for an interview. You know how this story ends.
Now I’m back in the States. I learned so much working with Rep Evans and the Hawaiian Legislature. My love of the environment was renewed. But rather than focusing on environmentalism I’ve decided that I want to pursue public service. With my knowledge of history, politics, language, and culture I can do that. It has been damn hard at times. But, the opportunity is present. I can achieve my potential back here in the United States of America.
One of my volunteering gigs after the legislative session was with the Democrat Party. I volunteered with the biannual state convention in May. It was a two-day, who’s who of the political scene is Hawaii. The Governor, senators, representatives, council members, candidates, donors, retirees, media; everyone was there.
I was the deputy sergeant-at-arms and helped provide security. I worked the doors and checked credentials. I helped tally votes for the election of the new party chairperson, Chair Stephanie Ohigashi. I was all over the place. It was exhilarating and further reinforced that I have found my calling.
At the end of the first day the suite parties began. The convention had taken place in the ballroom on the second floor of the Sheraton Waikiki. The candidates had rented suites in the hotel. They opened their doors to party members for pupus, drinks and a chance to meet the candidates.
I hung up my radio-headset and headed to the 15th floor with some friends. We visited Speaker’s suite. I had a beer and some wraps. I mingled, shook hands, enjoyed the view from the lanai, gave thanks and exited. My friends and I were on to the next suite.
This continued for a while. We’d enter a new room, makes the rounds, and bounce to the next one. It was fun.
Then it happened. As it often does. I got separated from my friends. I was all alone in an unfamiliar area. Some folks may take this as a cue to pack it in and head home. However I take it as a chance to make new friends.
I stood in the elevator lobby waiting for a lift. The doors opened and I saw some faces from early in the day. I hopped in and sparked up a conversation. They were going to a congressional representative’s suite. And yes, I would love to join them. We rolled into the suite. I shook the campaign manager’s hand and introduced myself.
Beer. Poke bowl.
Congressional Representative Gabbard. I introduced myself. Wished her luck in the race. Grabbed a bottle of water. Chatted with another guest. Hit the door.
Elevator going up. Next suite. Repeat.
As the evening wrapped up I found myself on the top floor, out on the lanai, looking off into the dark Pacific. I chatted with the vice president of Young Democrats caucus. I went in for a refill. Governor Abercrombie was seated nearby. I introduced myself and we chatted briefly.
I caught a glimpse of the time and realized it was time to pack it in. I said goodbye and made it back home. The convention was set to continue the next day. I had to get some rest. After all: play hard, work hard.
As it turns out, that was a great opportunity that I was presented with. I’m glad that I seized it. Because of it I was able to meet some great people. I got my name out there. I was able to volunteer more, get elected three times, and become a member of the process.
And ultimately it helped me land my next job. Details to come in the next, and final, blog!
Ho, brah, I’m in Hawaii!
I typically go about my day like I would anywhere else. But once in a while, I’ll stop and think, “Dude, you’re living in Hawaii. That’s pretty sweet.”
How fortunate am I? I’m young. I’ve got my health. I’ve got a decent set of skills to fend for myself. And somehow I landed on my feet in Hawaii. Yep. I’m a lucky dude.