Guest Column: Dating Tips for Dogs and Divas

by Dr. Kai  Swigart

As a shrink who doubles as a dating coach, amidst a smorgasbord of other disenfranchised diadems; a pauperized prince who has himself emerged from the shackles of scurrilous servility a salubrious singleton; I find myself resistant to the balancing yoga posed by my own advice. Although for some a belletristic blueprint, and others a boring blather; I seek to guide, to foster healing through my words. As singles interested in dating, enchanted entrepreneurs pursuing enamored elicitations; when devoid of deeply fashioned loving bonds; we are advised to share our dinners, dances, doors, and dispensations with not one, but many bright-eyed, bushy tails. In other words, until we find that special someone, with whom we wish to share it all, we are advised to place our eggs in many baskets. Now this is good advice, if down there in those cracks and crevices, if  down there deep inside our hearts, we’re not connected.

Undercurrents

sometimes, even when we’re already in a committed relationship, we may realize that we have met that special someone. If we are honest and responsible, we will acknowledge this to ourselves, and then file it away for a day that may never come. If we have ongoing contact with them, then we may redefine them as a friend, like a brother or sister; in order to love them in a way that is appropriate. This is honorable, while we, or they, are still in a relationship. But what happens if we both become available? Have we conditioned ourselves to believe that they are only friends, that he or she is like a brother or sister, and that is that? But what about those memories that keep tickling our fantasies, that are pumping up our hearts with inspiration? Should we just ignore them, pretending they’re not there, or should we pull them out and dust them off, our long, lost diamonds?

Issues

And then there were issues. What if we doubt ourselves and our worth, see ourselves as a victim because  of our poor choices and the abuse of others, or cannot trust because of things that we have gone through? Such perceptual frameworks may represent inadequacy, control, victimization, and trust issues. Those with inadequacy issues often want to be with someone they feel superior to, so they can pretend to be in love without becoming vulnerable. By engineering a “relationship” that supports their issues, they have a built-in way to gratify these issues. But do they want to strengthen their issues, or share love? Sharing real love requires vulnerability, right? They can feel superior, be a know-at-all, always try to prove themselves; and usually feel successful. But all they have succeeded at is strengthening the problem. This problem is a dark, destructive ego that will maintain the patterns of superficial, disingenuous relationships that leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled (which they can then blame on their partner). Similar patterns could occur if we had control, victimization, or trust issues. We could, and probably would choose the things that satisfied our issues. For instance, in a relationship, we might not only select a mate that we feel superior to, but also one that we could control, blame for our mistakes, make ourselves the victim of, and distrust. This would maintain our issue-based belief systems, keep us feeling self righteously superior, unfairly treated, and justified in our distrust of our companion. But these perceptions would not be based on truth. They would be based on issues. Do we want to keep feeding the problem, and continue re-creating unhealthy relationships in our lives; or do we want to accept ourselves, forgive ourselves, and learn to love ourselves so we can learn to love, respect, and trust another? I guess the main point here is that feeding issues, like ignoring the undercurrents described above, could keep us from taking that needed plunge into the arms of real love. The choice is always ours

Eminence and the Approach-Avoidance Dance

When we, or they,  are not single or available, it is sometimes easier to express our love for them. This may be because we, at these times, do not have to risk becoming vulnerable. When we are both available, and eminence tickles our fantasies and pushes our buttons, our fears kick in and choreograph the dance. We might treasure them, respect them greatly, and long for their companionship. But our fears may scream at us that we can’t trust them, that when we hold ourselves up to them we come up lacking, or that they could not really love us the way it seems. These are, of course, our own issues haunting, taunting, and flaunting their indulgence. But, despite our fears, we might hesitantly decide to take the risk. When we do, the resulting vulnerability may distress our sensibilities, prompting us  to take a step back, at least in terms of openness of expression, or frequency of contact; until we are again inspired by that sweet, abiding truth. So we may reach out, share deeply and vulnerably, and then retreat into the safety of our shell. In and out, back and forth, until, at some point, we learn to love and trust. This dance commonly occurs for people with trust, inadequacy, and victim issues; and for those who are highly sensitive or evolved. If this is happening, just keep dancing until you love and trust yourself. Even though it will seem much scarier  at first than the superficial, unfulfilling relationships we control; the ones in which we do not feel vulnerable; it will help us learn to love ourselves, and then to love another; and believe in unconditional love and trust. There may be no greater human joy than this. Just keep dancing.

How have you handled situations like these? Can you relate to the approach-avoidance dance? If so, which moves have helped you most?

Love and the Big Island- A Hui Hou….

by RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

Everything that has a beginning, has an end.

It’s a bittersweet time right now to say that my time on the Big Island has come to an end. My love and affinity for this island among all others will always be strong. But the time has come for me to move on and into a new direction.

I will be moving back to the state of my birth- New York, and back to Brooklyn where I will be hopefully working with some other forms of electronic and print media- I’ve applied and queried a number of newspapers, electronic news sites for freelance and internship opportunities in the New York City area. I will also be starting a new media venture aiming to focus on topics of interest to the Filipino-American community in the New York City area. I’ll keep Tiffany in the loop in case anyone is interested in where I will be x amount of months from now.

But before I go- I want to say a few things. My life on the Big Island was a number of things- but overall the best experience of my life. I always wanted to live on this island, and I’m glad that I had to opportunity to do so. There is no comparison of the Big Island to New York City, because apples and oranges are two totally different things. And to compare the two places- it would be cruel. They are too wonderful, too melancholy, too different.

I want to say a deep, heartfelt, joyful M A H A L O N U I L O A to the people of island. First to all the members of my in-law-turned-hanai ‘ohana. Let me say for the record, that I have dated other guys before, and none of their families treated me the way these beautiful folks have. I wasn’t the “demon” who “turned their dear (name withheld) gay” I was RJ, their latest addition to the family. Three generations of my ex-partner’s family have treated me with dignity, respect, A L O H A, and with a generous spirit that nobody can compare to. If I do meet another partner, I will be twice blessed to have a family like my ex’s.

Love And The Big Island — On Passover and Freedom…

by RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

Courtesy of Istockphoto.com

“Why is tonight different from every other night?”

This holiday, celebrates the divine intervention and emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. In fact, the entire saga is documented in the book of Exodus in the Bible.

I made the conscious decision to embrace Judaism last year, and have been increasing in my study and level of observance. I have personally found a good deal of peace and harmony from this way of living- so it’s no surprise that I was present at both Seder dinners.

Passover is actually an eight day festival, where Jews remember the plight of our ancestors and teach the history to the next generation. Read more

Love and the Big Island- Indoor Window (pseudo-poem)

by RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

There’s an indoor window looking outside slammed shut to the opinions that others provide.

There’s an indoor window that hosts beautiful sunny skies,cooling trade wins and the Mamo still flies.

There’s an indoor window that the four foot eleven and ninety pound woman wipes clean.

Clean from the ho’okahe koko shed from the times, clean from a language that wasn’t hers or mine.

There’s an indoor window that the ninety pound mother of twelve looks and motions hele mai.

And when I open the indoor window it’s slammed shut again by the ones who won’t let my try.

The ones who forgot the forced temptations on the plantations and apathetically give them more power.

The ones who forgot the forced conversions and the excursions away from the fire, and towards the cross where they now cower.

That indoor window, pressed against my face, showing me my own ha.

Slammed shut against my face this indoor window not because of my race, but because of my place, and circumstances in my case, reminding me of the ghosts that I chase.

But me? Iʻm lucky.

Because most others are still outside the house.

I get to see the indoor window.

(RJ Kaleohano Mendoza is a freelance writer and student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and not necessarily anyone’s poet.)

Love and the Big Island — Out With a Bang

by RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

Pele is spitting me out.

If you recall a little less than a year ago, I was certain that I was going to leave this island. This was the by-product attitude of a “divorce” that I experienced. Then, I met someone else and decided that it was possible for me to remain here, not only in the state of Hawaii, but on the Big Island, in general.

But unfortunately, it’s not going to end that way.

I made the no-doubt difficult decision to relocate back to New York when I came back from my holiday in New York. I will be leaving the islands at the conclusion of this Spring Semester. I will be participating in the National Student Exchange, and have was placed at my first choice- the City University of New York (CUNY)- Queens College.

This lovely island is not without it’s shortcomings (but what place isn’t?) and of certainly has too much charm and attractive qualities that would take too much time to list. But after careful consideration of the direction I wish my life to follow, going back to New York is the best option at this time.

Instead of moping and feeling irritated that I am stuck in a place that I no longer wish to reside in, I’m going out with a bang. A real bang. Which is to say, that my co-sidekick (we are each other’s sidekicks) Dee and I have been frequently indulging in academics, drinking and dancing. Sometimes, all at once.

Lately, we’ve been known to be spotted at Pahoa Village Cafe, and quite by accident- Karma HI (the former Water and Ice Lounge). The circumstances for us frequenting Pahoa Village Cafe on Saturday nights, are selfish. Well, at least for me, because it’s “Gay Pride Night” on Saturdays. And as for Karma HI- well, the first time we went there it was quite by accident, with tons of questionable behavior occurring on my part- which is the result of too much to drink, and a loss of inhibitions and common sense.

Out of fear of retaliation, or at the very least, embarrassing the innocent, I won’t get into too much detail about my escapades at Karma HI, or what happened last weekend- when Dee, another friend and myself found ourselves heading to the West Side of the island. It’s a complicated story, but one that will give me fond memories as long as I can remember.

Despite some of the painful memories and reminders that this island has for me, the one thing that outshines them all is the amazing people and relationships that I have cultivated (that didn’t fail.) In any case, what I am trying to say is that I am going to make the most of the time I have left on this island. I’m not leaving because it hurts too much to stay, or because I am miserable, or because I hate this place- because none of the above is true. I’m going because it is my choice, and there are options available elsewhere that are not available here.

I will be granted my degree from UH-Hilo, though… I wasn’t going to not have that. Despite what education snobs may think- it means a lot to me to complete my studies at a place where everybody apparently knows my name. (Long story, I don’t want to get into it.)

The strangest part is- while I was clumsily trying to light a cigarette the other night at Karma HI, a girl came up to me and said “HEY! Don’t you write that website column? “I Love the Big Island” or something?”

Almost famous.

(RJ Kaleohano Mendoza is a freelance writer and a student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.)

 

 

 

Love and the Big Island- Tattoos

by RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

If I said my inner monologue so that people could hear it, I would probably have at least three attempts on my life every day.

Thank goodness, I know not to speak my inner monologue.

Instead, I decided to tattoo it to my body.

Now, I am a fan of tattooing although my spiritual path actually prohibits it. I reconciled the two after a mood swing this morning. Although I had this particular design in mind for quite some time.

I was 16 (HI MOM!) when I got my first tattoo. I tattoed the hanzi (Chinese Character) for “heart” on my upper left arm. And how appropriate because I do wear my heart on my sleeve. The truth is, I was an avid fan of this particular anime and manga series, and one of the head bad guys was associated with this character.  Later that year, after I turned 17, I tattooed a Hawaiian petroglyph taken from the Internet on the corresponding side of my opposite arm. I thought it was unique to have in New York, because the style at the time was tribal designs, people’s names, and Chinese characters. I, after much complaining from my inner monologue decided I needed to something different.

For reasons unknown a few months later I walked back into the tattoo parlor and ended up with the Sanskrit lettering at the base of my neck. I was told it mean “protected”. I think it means something else. And it’s fine by me, it’s behind my eyes so I don’t have to look at it. (Remind me to keep that covered when I visit India).

Afterwards, while on my first college spring break, I was in Miami with my best friend and cousin and walked into a tattoo parlor in Miami, Florida and walked out with a gecko on my right ankle. My best friend got the same gecko in the same place on the opposite ankle.

Between 2001 and 2005 I didn’t pay anyone to express themselves creatively on my skin, at my expense. Instead, I had a series of failed attempts at piercing my nose, which probably paralleled my romantic life during that time period.

In 2005, I tattooed a kane hula dancer to my right arm, with the words “The Bo” above it. This was a sleek way to memorialize my cousin, first friend and supposed future roommate in Hawaii who passed away that year.

With all the Hawaiiana tattooed on my body, I felt very unique and special in New York. Upon moving to O’ahu felt like I was a walking advertisement for the Bishop Museum. <unenthusiastically> Chee hoo</unenthusiastically>.

Then in 2009, I allowed the creative flow of Brandon at Native Flesh Tattoos in Hilo to run free on my arm, underneath the kanji for “heart” all I asked was that he draw two identical flowers in honor of my nieces, who turned one year old just a couple of days before. ‘i’iwi birds, lauhala, two tiares, and a bunch of assorted polynesian designs now cover the majority of my upper arm. I can now be a walking canvas for the Polynesian cultural center.

Although last February, after a very heated argument between me and my ex-partner, I stormed down to the tattoo parlor again and walked away with a small emblem on my right wrist. The symbol for the New York Yankees. Yes, I did. I tattooed my favorite baseball team’s logo onto my wrist. Not because they were my favorite, but because of where they are from. I would have tattooed the I Love New York (where the heart replaces the word love) logo to my wrist, but I already felt weird in Hawaii with my ABC Superstore-esque ink, I didn’t want to take the risk with New York.

And now, I decided to get a new tattoo. It is the Big Island, over my heart, surrounded by the motto of my Spanish Grandfather, and inside the island is the sun and the three stars (symbolic of the Philippines). This design took a lot of meditation on my part, because I wanted to have something that reflected where I really came from, and it is not just my parents, but also my grandparents. So I had a needle put to my skin to remind myself that I am the grandson of four important people.

Why tattoo such things? Well, my reasoning is that if in the event my inner monologue gets too loud, I’ll have a visual to get me re-focused.

Next time, I’ll get into the logistics of my personal Parliament. Yes, I have a personal legislature. It’s not as political as it sounds….

 

(RJ Kaleohano Mendoza is a freelance writer and student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and has 8 tattoos.)

 

Love and the Big Island- To New Beginnings….

by RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

New beginnings. No, I am not trying to serve kool-aid from the 2002 Linda Lingle for Governor campaign.

I’m talking about the uncanny new beginnings and transitions for not only myself, but for those that I care about as well.

Tiffany Edwards-Hunt, editor and publisher of this lovely medium has, along with her husband Jeff and daughter Coco welcomed Jeffrey John “JJ” David Hunakai Hunt into the world last week, after much anticipation and excitement. My heartfelt congratulations and aloha to the Hunt ‘ohana. And my secret gloating that a form of my suggestion “Jeff Hunt Jr.” actually made  the cut in the young man’s name. Not quite, but close! =)

My buddy and confidant Dee has also reached a turning point in her life, with her decision to pursue a second term in service to the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Student Association. With her well-spoken intellect, I’m confident that she will represent the student body with great integrity and compassion.

My own sister has reached a turning point in her life, one that is new and exciting. Even made more exciting by finally switching from the dreadful (popular phone named after a fruit) to the iPhone. (I switched too, now we can facetime. Love it.)

My dear cousin who has been mother, sister and friend to me since my relocation to the Aloha state five years ago embarks on new adventures, and can be seen on the television show “Off The map“. If you saw her, you wouldn’t know that we are first cousins.

Another dear friend and confidant- Angie is at new road. It’s gonna rock, Homez.

Me? Well I’m at a new beginning too. I never thought I would get to this point, but after discussions with my academic advisor, I am a candidate for graduation in the Fall of 2011. There are a couple of more classes that are required, but it’s more apparent that I am achieving two goals: one, earning the degree. and two, earning the degree before I turn thirty. Now that this is getting settled, I have my eyes set on graduate school, and it’s almost surreal that it is becoming a reality…

And lastly, I want to congratulate a certain gentleman who finally got something that he wanted for a long time. And after all that has been said and done, I can only be happy for him. Perhaps you find the thing that you didn’t know you were looking for. =)

Keeping this relatively short and sweet, because midterm season isn’t quite pau just yet.

(RJ Kaleohano Mendoza is a freelance writer and a student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo)

Love and the Big Island- KISS to the Hunt ‘Ohana

by RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

Tiffany Edwards Hunt will be nesting and cocooning since Baby Boy Hunt is on his way. So I will KISS (keep it short and sweet) this week- not only in anticipation and celebration of new life, but also because I have some midterms to deal with.

courtesy of RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

See you folks next week!

(RJ Kaleohano Mendoza is a freelance writer and a student at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo)

Love and the Big Island — Again, It’s NOT Banana Lumpia, It’s TURON…

By RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

Begin Rant:

I am a man of the world. I have interests in the history, culture and lifestyles of different places, races, religions, and languages. I guess it has something to do with living in two very multicultural places, New York and Hawaii. But it would be poor form of me to forget my own ethnic heritage.

My mother is the daughter of  native Hawaiian (with hints of English) mother, and a full-blooded Castillian Spanish father. Family lore states that he was born in Madrid, but I have an unrequited love with Barcelona, so allow me to romanticize my roots and rewrite my grandfather’s story.

My father, on the other hand was born in Quezon City, in what is now Metro-Manila, in the Philippines. He attended a very rigorous high school before arriving in the United States at the age of nineteen. Although I never thought of my father to be one of the stereotypical asian fathers, it’s probably because he didn’t act like one. He came from the school of “being American means not passing on too much of the culture of origin.” He didn’t want my sister or I to learn Tagalog (although I managed to pick it up anyway) and spoke very little of his life in the Philippines.

The neighborhood I was raised in had a considerable amount of Filipinos living there, since apparently we build our expatriate communities around hospitals, and it was because of them- hardworking, Tagalog-speaking, TFC-watching, GMA Superstars that I learned about my cultural identity as a Filipino.

With that being said, there is no place in the state of Hawaii that serves Filipino food that will satisfy me. Nothing beats the my grandmother’s cooking, or any of the aunties in the old ‘hood. I’m sorry, I’m not being pretentious…well maybe I am, but I am also being honest.

In any case, you can imagine my “what the..?” moment when I went into a restaurant on O’ahu and asked for some dinuguan, rice, palabok 1 lumpia and 1 turon.

The lady behind the counter looked at me like I had three heads. She appeared to be Filipino. And she was, yet she was a “local” Filipino.

So my order translated to “pork blood, rice, palabok, 1 lumpia and 1 banana lumpia.”

Now, I don’t expect anyone to be fond of a stew traditionally made with pork blood and stomach, and some people aren’t too keen on the salty seafood-esque noodle dish. But to call turon “banana lumpia” is almost blasphemous to me. Read more

Love And The Big Island — Discover Puna: Pahoa

Old Pahoa Village boardwalk. Tiffany Edwards Hunt photo. All rights reserved. Use with permission only.

By RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

It’s a lowdown dirty shame that it’s taken me about four years to really discover the colorful Puna district. There is so much to offer that I didn’t even notice before, mainly because of external forces discouraging the exploration of the district. (I don’t want to get into it.)

A positive external force — my good friend Dee, invited me out to dinner at Kaleo’s in Pahoa. It was my first time there, and I was immediately smitten in lust with the setting, decor and menu. Read more

Love and the Big Island — On The Need For Hilo To Develop A College Consciousness

By RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

As mentioned many times in the tagline, I am indeed a student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. I truly have a soft spot for the University, because, um, it’s taken me quite some time to get to the point of being a college senior, and I feel that I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for UH-Hilo.

For the Fall 2010 semester, I was Executive Senator, College of Arts and Sciences for the University of Hawaii at Hilo Student Association. During that time, I spent much of my days (when not in class) at the office, fielding questions from administration, staff, students and parents about the everyday goings of UH-Hilo. One thing that stuck with me for a while was a conversation I had with a student about starting a fraternity on campus.

UH-Hilo does not have an fraternities or sororities in the Greek style, we do have honor societies with Greek names, but that is as far as it goes. The student went on to promote why fraternities are so good, because they create networking opportunities, a sense of community, a “brotherhood.” Read more

Love and the Big Island — Enter the Catchment

By RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

Before relocating to the State of Hawaii, I lived in the same house for twenty something years. Upon arriving here, I have lived in no less than 10 places — four different locations on O’ahu and six places on the Big Island.

Not kidding. I must be subconsciously compensating for the lack of moves in my childhood, teen years, and earlier (operative word: earlier) twenties…

Now, for reasons I won’t bore you with, I am finally in the district with the most pizazz, curiosity, variety, and obvious mana. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a proud Punatic!

If you didn’t catch Tiffany’s post “Only in Puna” I suggest you do, especially if you are…alive. The variety of characters, sights, sounds, smells, and styles in this district are enough to feed your memory for months.

My obsession with Puna stems from a curiousity and fascination with catchment water systems. For those who are not familiar, the Department of Water Supply does not service the entire island, and the majority of residents in the Puna district harvest rainwater through a series of pipes, gutters, and a huge tank that is not unlike an above-ground swimming pool. And it’s quite apropos, due to the penchant for rain on this side of the island. Read more

Love And The Big Island — ʻōlelo Is Aloha

By RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

Aloha pumehana kakou!

(Warm greetings to all.)

Kaleohano kou inoa.

(My name is Kaleohano.)

Mahalo.

(Thank You.)

Makemake iʻau e hele Barcelona.

(I would like to go to Barcelona.)

For those of you who relocated to the islands from elsewhere — how long did it take you to get the hang of pronouncing Hawaiian words, places, and street names correctly?

The beauty of the Hawaiian language is that it is a language of simplicity and complexity at the same time. I have yet to formally take lessons, and I definitely look forward to doing so… but think of the variety of meanings that can come from one word. Or think of the variety of words for one meaning. Read more

Love And The Big Island — (Belated) Happy New Year!

RJ Mendoza will be posting his own Love And The Big Island columns on the blog, and I’ll leave it up to him when and what he would like to contribute. But maybe down the road his role as contributing writer will expand beyond his own Love And The Big Island columns. For now, it will save me a considerable amount of time and energy for Mendoza to post his own columns and accompanying art. (Tiffany Edwards Hunt with Mendoza)

By RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

For some reason, I had this amazing, hope and passion inspiring column to share with everyone, but when I checked the drafts folder… was empty. No big whoop, though.

Aloha and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou Kakou! In case anyone was wondering, I was in New York City for the holidays, and had a famous vacation. It was a great… to see my parents, grandparents, sister, and nieces, and the friends that I left in the city almost five years ago.

This trip was not necessarily fueled by the popular song “I’ll be Home For Christmas” as much as it was a retreat for introspection, and reconnection. As you may recall, I had quite a theatrical 2010, with the ending of a long term relationship, the discovering of a ill-timed love, a brutal Fall 2010 semester that ended up turning out better, a few trips to the emergency room, several changes of residences (btw, I’m a PUNATIC now.). So all in all, I needed a break from the island, the state, and this side of the planet.

If you can take the boy out of the city, but not the city out of the boy, then I guess after about 4 years on this island, and five years in the state of Hawaii, the same applies. Read more

Love and the Big Island- A Toast to 2010

RJ Kaleohano Mendoza

A Toast to 2010.

A toast to the year when I found the courage to walk away, only to realize that I still wanted to stay.

A toast to the year when I saw myself for who I really was.

A toast to the year when I felt dark and alone, and everything I worked for to make a life for myself here in Hawaii was worth nothing.

A toast to the year when I found myself constantly adjusting to a new way of living, and it was not as easy as it sounds.

A toast to the kind woman and her husband, for their words of wisdom and encouraging me in my learning of faith.

A toast to FaceBook, where I had several nervous breakdowns broadcasted to my friends.

A toast to the year when people fought me to get me to see otherwise.

A toast to the year when I discovered life, and the possibility of life after the death of a relationship.

A toast to the next man that managed to break my heart, ninety days after repairing it.

A toast to the people of the west side summer, beautiful women with great essence.

A toast to the woman who listened with empathy, sympathy and concern.

A toast to the technology that made it possible for me to see the cast of characters from a different script, but never forgotten.

A toast to those characters that make distance and time between sights and hugs a non-issue.

A toast to the married couple who may have left the island, but never my heart, and kept me grounded.

A toast to the woman who got married, an honest and long-lost friend in unlikely circumstances.

A toast to the Mother and Father, Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents and Cousins that did not “break up” with me.

A toast to the woman who will never realize the great wake up call she gave by an invitation for an essay.

A toast to the newcomer, quirky professor that is kind, exceptionally intelligent and loveable.

A toast to the “Grandma” and “big sister” who watches and guides from a distance.

A toast to cute guy that helped me find my groove. Heh heh.

A toast to the first person in 11 years that knew what it was like to get literally sucked into a book.

A toast to “tea time”.

A toast to the familiar faces that teach that life goes on, and it is okay.

A toast to the other cute guy that also helped me find my groove. Heh heh heh.

A toast to the students who choose to lead and better the college community.

A toast to the comrades and friends I found over burgers and beer.

A toast to the very bright, yet somewhat rigorous professor.

A toast to the aloha and passion filled, brilliant director, whose love for Hilo and the Big Island is a welcomed infection.

A toast to the students from Kau, for laughs, jam seshs, and familiar friendly faces.

A toast to the characters, that brought the celebrated drugstore to the stage, bringing light and laughter to the locals.

A toast to the “Aunty” students, who let me rest my head on their shoulders during midterms and finals.

A toast to the students from Samoa, because they got it like that.

A toast to the third cute guy that also helped me find my groove. Que bueno.

A toast to old endings, new beginnings, and everything in between.

A toast to 2010.

Aloha pumehana this holiday season to you and yours. Catch me in 2011.

(RJ Kaleohano Mendoza is a freelance writer and student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo)