Boddah You?

He’s Hawaiian and in his twenties and has been working hard all day squirting orange oil into the wood in our house to kill the termites.  For the last hour he’s been up on the roof.

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Now he is taking a break, munching on a juicy red fruit the size of a cherry tomato from the enormous bush beside the barbecue.


“Ono,” he says to me, smiling. His long-sleeved blue tee shirt says Akamai Pest Control.

“Yes,” I say, “ono!” I’m drinking a glass of water on the hot lanai, after sweeping termite poops into corners all day.


“Strawberry guava,” I add, thrilled that I not only know that “ono” means delicious, but also what these recently ripening lovelies are called. “I just learned their name.”


Akamai (Ah-kah-MY) means “smart” in Hawaiian. I am trying to learn some Pidgin, the language that evolved here so the immigrating Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipinos, Americans and the Hawaiians could do business.

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It’s rarely appropriate for a white person, a haole (HOW-lee), to try and speak Pidgin, but frequently helpful to understand at least a little bit of it. It’s beautiful and melodic and I’ve loved listening to the workers speak it to each other all day.

“I heard that they’re considered an invasive species,” I say.

Akamai shrugs. “Boddah you?”

I shrug back. “I don’t know,” I say. “It’s hard not to like them.” He grins and nods his approval.

These remote islands have very few native species. Everything migrated here at one time or another. Still, some species are just more invasive than others – like these strawberry guavas which threaten other plant species with shade-casting thickets and dense mats of surface feeder roots. Mongooses, mosquitoes, coqui frogs and gigantic albizia trees are all non-native invaders.

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Akamai laughs, his smile charming, and eats another of the sweet treats without a bit of guilt.

Our friend Tom says that to see the highest impact invasive species, just look in the mirror.

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Humans are the main invasive species in Hawaii by far. I’m particularly aware of this, of my whiteness and newness, and I want to join in, not invade. So I am honored that Akamai hangs out with me during his work break.

This week we’ve had lots of deliveries, and I try to be a good haole.


The catchment tank guy, a huge Hawaiian man who helped the Bearded One and His Majesty roll the 1550 gallon tank around the side of the house, wouldn’t accept a tip.

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Two guys, one white, one Hawaiian, delivered the big generator that goes with the solar system. They accepted a handful of Hershey’s kisses.

All were kind and interested in what we are doing, being off-grid. HELCO power connections can be had even here. It costs $7500 just to tie in, we tell them. By the time we put in cables and trenches and conduit and paid official electricians, we’d easily be in the $20,000’s. Plus years of the highest electricity rates in the nation. Hawaii’s average rate is around 38 cents per kilowatt hour. More than triple the national average. So it’s not surprising that there are so many people open to solar here.

We show them the system we are designing, the 9 panels on the dining room floor, the boxes with the inverter and other components, and the 4 expensive batteries.


The Bearded One built a plywood and recycled shutter box to protect them from the elements. It’s tucked neatly under the house. Now we have the final piece, the propane generator backup. All this, for about $7500.

Tom and our son hope to help install the system this week, and maybe even Akamai, since he is so good working on roofs. Presuming, that is, that the roof is dry.

Akamai looks up from under the towering strawberry guava bush as the Bearded One walks toward us from around the side of the house. “Brah,” the young man calls out as he waves to my haole husband.

The Bearded One smiles. Brother.

Later, I jokingly congratulate him on getting his first brah.

15 responses to “Boddah You?

  1. Wow – it’s a whole other world isn’t it> I’m so drawn towards a simpler life and so glad to be hearing how you are doing it………. On fb today there is talk of square melons, made that way for easier stackability apparently and costing $200 US dollars, apparently desirable for grown-ups parties as ‘conversation pieces’…….. and I feel completely discombobulated and displaced! Give me an invasive guava and solar panels any day 🙂

    • Aloha Pauline! Simpler eventually, is what I’m telling myself. 🙂 I feel positively rich tonight…all drinking water containers are full, all propane tanks are full, and we have 7+ gallons of ethanol-free gas for our little generator and thus will have fans and internet and a water for the week!! Minimal, but there’s still that “chop wood, carry water” thing about life. Good for us, eh? Hugs to you and the pup and kitty in Dunedin. xxoo

  2. Our pest control fo’ da cockaroach was whack da buggah wi’ da rubbah slippah. Da kine.

  3. Ah progress…. I love the wood, does the orange oil make it smell like your living inside one? 🙂

    • It did the first couple of days, and our son said he could smell it when he walked in a week later. I’m orange oiling the floors, too. Progress every where you look. 🙂 xxoo Aloha, Kym!

  4. Christine Widman

    Oohh – I forgot about “Brah” – it hit my heart. And so perfect for the Bearded One.
    I can hear all the language sounds as I read your blog.
    Here it’s melodic Spanish…spoken as much as English.
    I am realizing how I have always lived with language around me.
    My Norwegian great-grandmothers, Spanish when I was 2-4 living in San Antonia, Greek & Italian in our ethnic neighborhood in Dearborn, Michigan, then of course German for years in my life, Hawaii with Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian. I remember how thrilled I was when I could distinguish Japanese from Chinese by the sounds!
    And now here…Spanish again.
    Coming full circle.
    Everything on the planet migrates. We are always migrating. Changing the land.
    No boddah about the invasive guava. I am glad you and Akamai could share some sweet strawberry guava time on your lanai.

    • Aloha Christine! There are many languages here, but I’m not sure I can distinguish Chinese from Japanese! I hate to admit that. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard them side by side. Living in Tucson, for you Spanish is truly a equal second language in the community. I wish I spoke another language — not badly enough yet to go through the rigors of learning, tho. ! Hugs back xxoo

  5. I am with Ms Pauline on the invasive guavas. Sometimes invasions are beneficial but I guess Hawaii is just going to have to learn to live with the guavas…change is inevitable, learning and adapting to change is the key. LOVE that you guys are fitting in :). Is that Austin in the purple hippy gear in the photo of the tank arriving (SQUEE TANK! 🙂 )? If so, he has most definitely gone over to the hippy side ;). You are putting your Christi feelers out. Like one of your Southern crawdads testing the water, waving your little claws around in the breeze and learning to adapt and investigate the beauty of the language, the colour of the island and even though you might be one of the most invasive of species, Hawaii couldn’t have wished for a more lovely example in both spirit and heart 🙂

    • MaHAlo! I appreciate the cheers, Fran, and I love that you know the word “crawdad.” I grew up with crawdads and used to fish for them at the muddy bayou in Houston. Kelsey must have used that word! Usually people say crayfish. But Kelsey and I both grew up with crawdads! 🙂

      And yes, that dude in the purple is His Majesty. He has gone over. 🙂

      “Learning and adapting to change is the key” — so true. Of life. You are my good shaman, channeling my new totem animal for me (gecko) and giving me wonderful images for the week. Aloha xxoo

  6. This is a great post. You’re making great progress! I got a good laugh out of this one. We used to work with a girl from Hawaii named Jan Kamei who was Pidgin. I can’t understand a damn thing she says half the time but I love her to death! She’s very real – salt of the earth. Keith probably remembers her. It’s gorgeous there! I love your home! We have been having cool spells this summer in Texas. I had the windows and doors open last night! It’s a miracle in late July, as you know! Thanks for posting! Hugs from Texas!

    • Cool spells in Texas, eh? Things are really changing everywhere! I knew one person growing up who didn’t have air conditioning (Houston) and we all wondered how she survived. She was older. I grew up with AC. Enjoy the open windows, Susan. Aloha, Christi

  7. My Hawaiian friends in college objected to me using the term ‘haole’ to describe even myself; it made them uncomfortable, as they saw it as a racial slur (even if used only to refer to myself). Might be a point of caution, much like the one you brought up about non-Hawaiians trying to speak pidgin (which my friends agreed with, though they didn’t seem to mind me greeting them with ‘howzit.’ In any case, I’m happy for you and Keith that you are adapting so readily to your new home and its environment. By the way, there are lots of tickets available for Dawgs’ opener at UH-Manoa!

    • Mahalo, J.K. Good insight that I appreciate. I never use the word “haole” in public to refer to anyone, including myself, and as I think about it, I’ve only heard it being quoted that so-and-so said so-and-so was a f**** haole. I will be mindful of this, that it is primarily used derogatorily. You are so funny about those UW Dawgs! An A+ fan. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. xxoo

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