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Making lei with the Hui Hana Lei ladies

Ohia Lehua blossoms and foliage for making lei.

Two weeks ago, I left Hawaii to return to Berlin. But before I left, I made some time to volunteer with the Hui Hana Lei of Lyon Arboretum. The “lei ladies,” a dedicated group of retirees and younger volunteers (so far, all female) meet every Thursday to turn ferns and flowers from the arboretum and their own gardens into intricate haku lei. These head and wrist lei are made to order for weddings, graduations, and other special events, with all proceeds benefiting the arboretum.

People from Hawaii often have some experience making lei, whether at school or with relatives. I, however, was a total novice, having only sewn or twisted a few very simple lei before. My contributions to the hui hana consisted mostly of helping prep flowers and foliage, while enjoying making practice lei and soaking up the atmosphere of fresh plant smells and talk-story sounds. If you’re interested in learning haku lei-making in a more focused way, the Hui Hana is offering a lei-making class this Thursday, July 7 (more info below). As for me, it was learning by doing…

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A collector of East German local color: Martin Maleschka

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The local color of East Germany is built into the very bricks and breeze blocks, the tiles and mosaics, of East German buildings. On Flickr, I was amazed to find a beautifully detailed collection of images of this Kunst am Bau (art in architecture) documented by photographer Martin Maleschka.

I asked Martin if I could share a few images from his album Struktursteine. It documents one of my favorite features of GDR architecture: specially shaped bricks and breeze blocks that form a pattern when mortared together in a wall. Here are some favorites:

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‘Chinatown Pretty’ celebrates senior street fashion

Buck Chew wears a butterfly-covered tie in Chinatown, San Francisco. Photo by Andria Lo, Chinatown Pretty.

Happy Chinese New Year! To celebrate, I’m highlighting a lovely project from San Francisco, Chinatown Pretty, currently on exhibit at 41 Ross. Inspired by the creative and classy outfits of senior citizens in Chinatown, photographer Andria Lo and writer Valerie Luu started sharing their stories and outfits online.

The photo-stories are beautiful slices of local color and portraits of local people. The two collaborators go above and beyond the usual fashion-blog snapshot. They talk story with the people they meet, bringing a Cantonese-English interpreter to assist.

For example, if you read the story of Buck Chew, the gentleman above, you’ll learn that he brought his fine clothes to the US from Hong Kong and from Macau, where he was once an abacus master.

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Ono, you know…

Small hand-lettered sign in store reading "Ono! Oh Yes! Tasty popular snacks at your fingertips. Grab 'em."

Enthusiastic hand-lettered pun seen at the Honolulu outpost of Marukai Market, a Japanese-American grocery chain. For those who don’t know Hawaii, ono is among the most commonly used Hawaiian words in Hawaii English. It means “delicious.” So go already, grab ’em!

Coolest book on local color, ever

Colorful book titled "Manabeshima Island Japan" and a large hand-drawn map from the book.

Crazy Frenchman Florent Chavouet picked one of Japan’s thousands of islands off a map, and set out to spend two months there, sight unseen. He deliberately picked one with few tourists and tourist attractions, just a small population of everyday people, fishing and doing other everyday things. Out of this two month stay, he created an amazingly colorful, close-up look at the people, places, cats, crabs, man-hole covers, noodles and plants of Manabeshima Island Japan, the title of his new book.

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Visualize whirled peas

Porch full of sandals with no parking symbol and the words "Visualize Yourself Being Towed."

Ah, Honolulu: where the peaceful, slipper-wearing culture of Hawaii meets those big city, competitive instincts bred by too many cars in too little space. While the hippies in Puna are still visualizing world peace, here in Kapahulu, we’re asked to visualize ourselves being towed. All is fair in love and parking wars?

Ways of Looking? — Exhibition at UH Manoa


Come look, and look again, at an exhibition on looking at the Commons Gallery at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Art Department.

I am one of the people from the community, from diverse fields of work, who contributed an object to make you take a second look. My husband has also contributed, representing the university’s Chemistry Department. Details at

Reception with the contributors today, Thursday, September 3, 4-5pm. See you there!