The Gardens at 'Īao Valley

One thing that I'm coming to understand about myself is that I LOVE taking pictures. I love the challenge of seeing something interesting and trying to capture it with a camera. Sometimes I'm successful, and sometimes...not so much, but I love experimenting with different angles and lighting. I recognized this the other day, when we went to ʻĪao Valley and I went just a little crazy with the camera. It is SO GORGEOUS there and I just had to take pictures of everything.

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Truth be told, we didnʻt actually go all the way in to the valley. We stayed in the park area where there are lots of pavilions. Itʻs a popular spot for locals to have parties. Thereʻs nothing special about the pavilions, but the surrounding gardens are amazing. The grounds are divided into different sections and each section represents a different country from which immigrants came to Hawaii. Japan, China, the Philippines and Portugal are the most prominent. Stepping into each area is like stepping into a new world. Thereʻs a traditional house with a surrounding garden in each area. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to exclude the parking lot and cars and other background objects that donʻt belong, so it feels like you're completely immersed in that cultural world.

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I'm sad I didn't get more pictures of the Japanese house. I just love the minimalist design aesthetic. So calming. Doesn't it feel like The Last Samurai?

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The Chinese house was much more ornate but I just loved the lines in the architecture and the bold color choices. Keola took that pano and I love it. It's so striking. I don't think I'll decorate like this any time soon, but there's a lot to draw on from a graphics standpoint.

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I fell completely in love with the Portuguese garden. I guess I'm kind of a sucker for European design. I loved all the white walls with the brown accents, the columns perfectly framing the statue of Mary in the garden.  The tile surrounding the door is amazing and the garden...so full of life and color, offsetting the white statue. I stayed and photographed this area for a while. I couldn't get enough, but everyone else sure did. Leo was getting antsy and she was in the carrier, which made it REALLY hard to get decent photos. Photography 101: Don't carry a baby while you're trying to take pictures.

Keola told me that even though he spent his childhood playing in these gardens, he never understood what they represented. I couldn't help feeling a little sad as I walked through them, thinking about all the people who left their homes and families to try to make a life in a completely foreign place. Today the internet makes moving relatively easy. There's so much we can learn about a place before going there, but these people stepped into complete darkness with no clue what their lives would look like when they arrived, and not knowing if they would ever return to their homeland. Many did not, and that makes my heart ache a little. It also made me grateful. Being Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese and German, I wouldn't be here if my ancestors didn't take that leap of faith. But they did, and they made Hawai'i their home, and pieced together new families, a new language and a new culture.

Someday Iʻd like to go back to my other homelands - homelands I know almost nothing about, partly to learn more deeply about where I came from, but after this day, I feel the need to do it to (in a way) bring my ancestors home.