Sharing Mana‘o

Tuu nu yibee yunu take neeran

(One spirit, different parts)

– Okinawan proverb

According to the Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai, the proverb above is interpreted as “Ten fingers are different, but they work together as the hands to do the work.” That was the theme of the cultural display at this year’s Okinawan Festival, held last weekend at the Maui Mall. Organized by the nonprofit, the festival itself was themed “Celebrating Our Uchinanchu Spirit.” Uchinanchu is the Okinawan word for people of Okinawan descent.

My father’s parents came to Hawaii from Okinawa and my mother’s parents were from Japan, so I’m only half Uchinanchu. But I’ve always felt more drawn to the Okinawan culture, so much so that my dad used to remark that, even though it was biologically impossible, I somehow ended up with more Okinawan blood than him.

Saturday’s event was less about blood than spirit. The hundreds in attendance personified the cultural display’s theme of diversity and unity. Whether Uchinanchu by birth or at heart, they enjoyed a day of immersion in Okinawan culture and arts.

The highlight of the cultural display was featured on the front page of Saturday’s Maui News: the riveting stories of 10 women who survived World War II in Okinawa. All but one now live on Maui and are active members of the community. These are ladies I see line dancing and singing karaoke at Kaunoa Senior Center, working church bazaars and bon dances, shopping at Ah Fook’s or Pukalani Superette. I was moved to tears by their recollections of wartime horrors, both sobering and inspiring.

Equally fascinating and enlightening was the timeline of events from the 13th century Ryukyu Islands, as the country was known, to present-day Okinawa. I was struck by the similarities between Okinawan and Hawaiian political history.

In 1429, Sho Hashi formed the Ryukyu Kingdom by conquest of all three principalities of Okinawa. Nearly 400 years later, Kamehameha I united the Kingdom of Hawaii in the same way. And by the end of the 19th century, both island kingdoms had been deposed by foreign governments.

The Satsuma invasion and takeover in 1609 was the beginning of Japanese control over Okinawa, but the Ryukyu Kingdom wasn’t formally dissolved until 1879, when King Sho Tai was forced to abdicate. On March 30 of that year, thousands of Uchinanchu mournfully watched their king leave Shuri Castle for the last time. Sho Tai wrote a poem that has become a credo for the modern-day peace movement in Okinawa:

The time for wars is ending, and the time for peace is not far away. Do not despair. Life itself is a treasure.

Sixteen years later and an ocean away, Queen Lili’uokalani wrote “Ke Aloha O Ka Haku (The Queen’s Prayer)” while under house arrest at ‘Iolani Palace:

Behold not with malevolence the sins of man, but forgive and cleanse.

And so, o Lord, protect us beneath your wings, and let peace be our portion now and forevermore.

Post-annexation islanders faced similar challenges and heartaches. Japan enforced policies to eradicate the Okinawan language and dispose of Ryukyu culture, in the name of assimilation. ‘Olelo Hawai’i, the Hawaiian language, was under similar assault during the same time.

Fortunately, the Okinawans and Hawaiians also share certain traits like quiet perseverance and pride. OK, hardheadedness. We also like to party hard, with lots of singing and dancing. Willie K and I have talked about the Uchinanchu-Kanaka connection many times. His wife, Debbie, has Okinawan blood and, therefore, so do his daughters. But, like me, the younger one apparently got an extra dose of Uchinanchu high-spiritedness. That’s what her dad says, anyway, with the same look my father used to give me. Willie and I have an ongoing debate about who’s more hardheaded, Okinawans or Kanaks; we’re both too stubborn to concede.

Hawaiian pride and Uchinanchu spirit. Both are alive and thriving today, as are the cultures they represent. Who would have thought, even 50 years ago, that we would have Hawaiian immersion schools and Hogen (Okinawan dialect) classes on Maui? Or that a handful of kupuna and young Hawaiian rebels would take on the U.S. Navy and win through peaceful means? Or that a few quiet, unassuming Okinawan grandmothers would deliver such a powerful plea for peace through a simple oral history display?

I’m still feeling the impact of the ladies’ words and the Ryukyu history lessons, still celebrating the Uchinanchu spirit in me. And also feeling Hawaiian at heart.

The fingers of our Maui community are of many different colors, but they make up a winning hand, don’t you agree?

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of being among 1,000 celebrants at the Maui High School centennial luau. Exactly 100 years, to the day, after the school first opened its doors, the old H-poko campus was swarming with students past and present. (I know, some say it’s disrespectful to abbreviate Hamakuapoko that way, but most of the folks who attended that campus think of H-poko as a beloved nickname, a term of endearment.) The weather was perfect, the food divine, and Saber spirit filled the air as people reveled in memories and school pride. Only problem was . . . I’m not a Saber.

I’m a Baldwin Bear and proud of it. Grrrrr! Of course, I wasn’t growling very loudly on Saturday, surrounded as I was by a sea of royal blue and white. Then again, I’m accustomed to being a lonely Bear in Saber territory.

I was born into a Maui High family. Both my parents and all of my aunts and uncles attended, and I was expected to do so as well. But when my mother’s workplace moved from Haliimaile to Kahului, I transferred from Makawao School to Lihikai as a 7th-grader. I was dismayed when I realized that my childhood friends would soon be high school rivals. Mind you, this was back in the day when MIL football involved only four schools: Maui High, Baldwin, Lahainaluna, and St. Anthony. The rivalry between the Sabers and the Bears was intense and became even more so when Maui High moved to its present campus in Kahului.

From the age of 3 or 4, I’d been to all of Maui High’s football games with my family. My mom and aunt taught me the Maui High alma mater before I entered kindergarten, and I knew all of the old fight songs and cheers as well. My blood ran blue and white, or so I thought.

But after a year and a half as a townie and acquiring a new circle of friends, I was happy to enter Baldwin High. I was especially thrilled to join the Pep Band as a freshman, under the direction of Mr. Lance Jo, who had taught my 5th-grade band class at Makawao School. For four years, I attended every football game in my maroon and blue uniform, first as a clarinetist, then a drummer.

In my junior year, Mr. Jo revived the tradition of staging precision drills by the marching band during the homecoming game halftime show. Back then, it was also traditional for Baldwin to face Maui High for our homecoming game, just like the County Fair game was always played between Maui High and Lahainaluna. I remember being frustrated to tears when my mom teased me, “I’ll cheer for the band at halftime, but I hope Maui High wins the game.”

“Mom! It’s our homecoming! We HAVE to win! And you have to cheer for Baldwin!”

“Sorry, dear. Once a Saber, always a Saber.”

I can only imagine how hard it must have been for my Auntie Alice, whose four sons were Baldwin football and baseball standouts. They were considerably older than I, so I wasn’t around for the conflicting loyalties that must have arisen when the Endo boys became Bears.

Baldwin won that homecoming game, by the way. And I did not gloat at home. Not much, anyway. Besides, Mom was bursting with pride and praise over our halftime presentation; the game itself was secondary.

Last Saturday’s festivities included an old-fashioned pep rally led by alumni cheerleaders and songleaders. I felt like an intruder in the midst of all that Saber spirit. I could not bring myself to cheer along with my mom and aunt as they gaily shouted the Saber Yell and sang “Hi Sabers” to the tune of that old song “Hi, Neighbor.” I could actually feel a physical tug inside me, and the words just wouldn’t pass my tongue.

But when we all rose to sing the alma mater, I found my voice. I couldn’t help but sing along with Mom and the crowd of Saber alumni, including the 100-year-old Howard M. Oshiro (Class of 1931), who was born a month before the school first opened.

Maui High, we all do praise thee

For thy wise and kindly rule;

‘Tis with loving hearts we greet thee,

Maui High, our island school.

I didn’t even have to look at the program for the words.

The centennial celebration continues next month with the MHS Gala of the Century on Oct. 13 at the “new” campus.

Also in October, Baldwin High will commemorate its 75th anniversary. I’m looking forward to the festivities, especially our homecoming game on Oct. 25. We play the Lunas this time, so I think it’ll be safe to take Mom along.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Friggatriskaidekaphobia. No, that’s not a typo; there really is such a word. I just learned it and I really like it, because it’s as much fun to look at as it is to say. It’s a term for the fear of Friday the 13th, Frigga being the Norse goddess for whom the day is named, and triskaidekaphobia being the fear of the number 13. Another term for the dread of the notorious date is paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskevi (Friday) and dekatria (thirteen). But I prefer friggatriskaidekaphobia.

According to Wikipedia, which is where I found my new favorite word, the North Carolina Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute estimates that 17 million to 21 million Americans are affected by friggatriskaidekaphobia. Some are so fearful, they avoid even their normal routines when the infamous day rolls around, which it does at least once every calendar year. There are people who won’t hop on a plane, go to work, eat in a restaurant, or even get out of bed. Others go about the day with a mild sense of dread hanging over them. No wonder bad things happen on Friday the 13th; all that negativity is bound to manifest into mishaps.

While experts generally agree that Friday the 13th is a 20th century superstition, no one really knows how it began. The most widely accepted theory is that, human nature being what it is, someone combined two long-held superstitions to come up with a super superstition. In many European cultures and for many centuries, Friday has been considered an unlucky day, described in The Canterbury Tales as a day of misfortune and bad luck. Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday, the Great Flood began on a Friday and, some say, it was on a Friday that Eve tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden. As for the number 13, it’s easy to see how it became vilified, coming after 12, the number of completeness. Twelve months in a year, 12 hours on a clock, 12 signs of the Zodiac (both the Chinese and the astrological). Twelve even has its own word – a dozen. Thirteen is a Johnny-come-lately.

The earliest known English reference to Friday the 13th is in the 1869 biography “The Life of Rossini” by Henry Sutherland Edwards: ” . . . if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that one Friday the 13th of November he died.”

Other persons of note who passed away on a Friday the 13th include Hubert Humphrey, Benny Goodman, Julia Child and Tupac Shakur. Of course, I’m sure that just as many people have died on, say, Tuesday the 7th or Sunday the 16th, as on Friday the 13th. It’s just that no one keeps lists of those.

Over the past century, folks have come up with all sorts of notions: If a funeral procession passes you on Friday the 13th, you will be the next to die. If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die. If you see a black cat on Friday the 13th, you will be plagued by misfortune. A child born on Friday the 13th will be unlucky for life.

I’ve spent my life working to disprove that last one, for I was born on a Friday the 13th. So were Alfred Hitchcock, Margaret Thatcher, Fidel Castro and at least a dozen celebrities, including actor Steve Buscemi and Monkee Peter Tork. I’d be willing to bet that they, like me, consider Friday the 13th to be a lucky day. I used to tell my husband that it was HIS lucky day, to which he would always, sweetly, agree.

So I am an anti-friggatriskaidekaphobic. I love Fridays and 13 is my favorite number. Last year was an exceptionally good one; there were three Friday the 13ths, and they each fell exactly 13 weeks apart.

When my birthday happens to fall on a Friday, as it will two days from now, I get really excited. And in this year of 2013, I look forward to a super lucky day. From tonight through next Monday, I have plans to spend time with family and a few special friends. On Friday, I’ll pamper myself with a manicure and pedicure, maybe a massage. I won’t cut my hair, though. No sense in pushing my luck.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Perhaps because another birthday is looming, or maybe because I’m still a bit melancholy over saying goodbye to my son after his recent visit home, lately I find myself sighing a lot. Sighing and sifting through drawers.

Most people have a “junk drawer,” a catchall for household odds and ends like AA batteries, flashlight bulbs, or the spare screws that come with those “some assembly required” furniture kits (What do you mean, you’re not supposed to have any screws left over?). Often, the junk drawer holds memories too: souvenir keychains, birthday cards, a chipped ceramic paperweight made in elementary school art class.

I don’t have a junk drawer. I have a whole room. Two, actually, if you count my bedroom. OK, three, with my late husband’s workroom.

In my defense, and before you report me to that Hoarders TV show, my “junk room” is the spare bedroom that houses my dance costumes and comedy props. Through 15 years of tap and jazz dancing with Judy’s Gang and a lifetime of playacting, I’ve acquired several closets’ worth of sequins and Spandex, fake furs and feathers. I have wigs and wings, boas and beads, a rubber chicken and a 7-foot Grim Reaper scythe (which, I’m proud to say, I crafted myself). It’s all stage stuff, nothing really valuable. But I can’t bring myself to throw any of it out. After all, I may someday have need of a spring-loaded top hat or three dozen cummerbunds with matching bow ties.

Along with old costumes and props, this room holds several boxes of not-so-gently-used clothing, discarded toys, various craft supplies and obsolete items like fountain pens and wind-up clocks. All potential stage gear or masquerade party attire. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. In truth, I have an irrational attachment to sentimental objects, tangible remnants of the past. They don’t even have to be from my past; I’ve become the willing keeper of other people’s memorabilia. I love old knick-knacks and vintage clothing, which is why I’m trying to avoid garage sales. My junk room runneth over.

Of course, I don’t see any of the stuff in my junk room as junk. As George Carlin said, sort of, other people’s stuff is junk, and your junk is stuff. So I guess it’s really a stuff room. Stuffed to the corners. In fact, my stuff has begun to spill over to the next room, Barry’s study/studio.

I had fully intended to box up and haul away his extensive collection of books and magazines and the dozens of unfinished electronic projects and repair jobs. Six years after his death, I’ve barely made a dent in the bulging shelves and cluttered counters. I feel terribly guilty every time I try to discard something of his; these things meant so much to him. So now the room is full of my stuff and his junk.

The stuff in my bedroom is confined to a couple of drawers, but it’s important stuff. Fortune cookie inserts that appealed to me (“Good news is on the way”), black-and-white snapshots of my parents in their youth, a little heart-shaped box that holds the first tuft of hair cut from my son’s infant head and a couple of his baby teeth, along with a note he once wrote for the Tooth Fairy, explaining that he’d misplaced the tooth he had intended to leave for her. If I remember correctly, she left him a dollar anyway.

I don’t have any of my own baby teeth, but I did keep a wedge-shaped wood chip that Dr. Haling extracted from my left butt cheek after I tried to use the wooden seesaw at school as a sliding board. The giant splinter rests on a gauze pad inside a small plastic case and still has a little bit of yellow paint on one side. The scar, on the other hand, has finally faded.

Other treasures in the bedside nightstand include handwritten Mother’s Day cards from Jimmy and an unfinished collection of state quarters. And a love note in Barry’s bold scrawl. It’s not poetic or especially romantic, but it’s the only one he ever wrote to me, long before we were married. I remember he was embarrassed to discover that I’d kept that scrap of paper he’d tucked under my windshield wiper so many years ago.


Rereading the succinct note, I realize what I need to do. I need to clean out that room, get rid of all that junk, finally. To make room for more stuff.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is