Thursday, February 9, 2017

In Hawaii: E Komo Mai ~ All Are Welcome

E Komo Mai (eh koh-moh my-ee) – Hawaiian for ‘welcome’ or ‘come in’.

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A KoOlina Tradition
The small gathering – an ever-changing mix of visitors and locals, representing a variety of races and religions --  has become a part of Sunday morning traditions at KoOlina on O’ahu’s west coast.  The group gathers on a grassy area between two lagoons; a peaceful area overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. This weekly worship service has been held for years in this location.

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Hawaiian greeting
A small yard sign near the public pathway reads, “E Komo Mai, All Welcome”. Even those of us who are simply passing by pause to listen to a bit of the sermon or one of the hymns being sung. In keeping with this island's Aloha Spirit and E Komo Mai attitude, there’s no pressure to stay or leave; all are made to feel welcome.

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E Komo Mai - welcome
Those messages of aloha and welcome were being expressed just down the road some 20 miles away on this same Sunday morning two weekends ago but in a much different setting. Another group made up of various races and religions had gathered at the Honolulu International Airport. The signs they waved were of welcome to this tropical paradise – where close to one-fifth of the state's residents are foreign-born. Theirs was a protest of the then-hours-old Executive Order barring entry to the United States for travelers from seven countries.

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KoOlina - O'ahu
Now this post isn’t going to rehash that Executive Order but that juxtapositioning of welcomes did get me thinking about how often we take visas and entry into foriegn countries for granted. This post is about E Komo Mai, as the Hawaiians say, being made to feel welcome.


Welcome – (as a verb) – greet someone arriving in a glad, polite or friendly way.
                                                -- Dictionary Definition


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Wadi Rum - Jordan
As a travelers  who’ve  been to any number of countries that require tourist visas we have a healthy respect for the variety of requirements each country has for entry into it, if even for a short visit. Some require nothing more than paying a fee upon arrival, a computer scan of your passport followed by a stamp in it. Some require that you fill out an application on-line, pay for it, and print out a copy for the authorities upon arrival. Others, like India, have a such a complex application process, high fee ($400 per person) and relinquishing our passports to their US representatives for a week or more,  that had our cruise a year ago not required us to have had the visa to board the ship, we’d have simply never gotten off the ship in India.

A smile is the universal welcome.
Max Eastman

However, once we had the visa, we have never been made to feel unwelcome in any country we’ve visited.
 
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Our guide in Petra and The Scout
Like most who travel, we find that the every-day people we've encountered are simply normal people living in a different culture and religion than we know. Sometimes we don’t fully understand it, but that is why we’ve gone there in the first place – we want to learn more about them. And in the course of our travels, we’ve given those everyday folks a chance to meet everyday Americans as well. More than once we’ve been told we don’t ‘act like Americans’ – at least how they have believed or thought Americans would act.

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A new friend, a business traveler we met in Cairo, Egypt
One reader of a post I wrote about our time in Cairo told us to be careful because ‘they don’t like Americans there'. Well, I suppose that if I were to survey everyone of the more than 20 million people in the city, I’d find some that didn’t like Americans for whatever reason. But I can assure you those that we have met not only welcomed us but thanked us for visiting their country. (When’s the last time you thanked a foreign visitor for coming to your country?)

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Greek olive grove
We’ve actually had people ask us “How do you find the Greeks?” when they learn we have a home there. “Find them?” we respond.  “You know. . . do they like Americans?”  Now I have to admit we find those questions absolutely absurd based on our experiences.  We have been made to feel more than welcome from the locals we have met in our villages.

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Our village children lead a parade through Kardamyli
We are feeling so welcome, that  as we’ve said in earlier posts, we are seeking resident visas which would allow us more time in that country. I can assure you, this visa process makes those tourist visa applications look like a piece of cake. It is neither easy nor inexpensive but it is definitely humbling.
And probably not unlike what the United States requires of those wanting similar status here.

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Welcome Mat at The Stone House on the Hill
If we are not granted a resident visa we will continue going to our Greek life and staying for as long as our tourist visa allows.  However,  I won’t take either the tourist or resident visa for granted anymore.  I’ve seen how quickly, with a single signature, a government can impact the lives of travelers who believe they hold valid visas.

So aloha from Hawaii where our timeshare life is drawing to a close for another year.  Again, the 'e koma mai' spirit makes it difficult to leave but new travel adventures await.  May your travels be safe and may you always find a welcome mat waiting for you.

Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration .

29 comments:

  1. I love your attitude. That is why you are always made to feel welcome.

    When we lived in Jamaica, we would frequently see tourists (in the shops, restaurants, open market ...) who were so rude and pushy. We cringed and hoped that we weren't lumped into that stereotype of "ugly tourists".

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    1. We too have had that experience and always try to melt into the backdrop of the place, hoping no one ever associates us with them in any way!

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  2. This is my favorite line from this post: "More than once we’ve been told we don’t ‘act like Americans’ – at least how they have believed or thought Americans would act."

    People have certain preconceptions about people in the United States are but then their minds are blown way (in a positive way, I hope) when they start interacting with people from the states. I know a lot of people from abroad who are surprised at how many people smile, hold doors, offer help, etc. in the States.

    We need to keep being good ambassadors of our countries (of origin and residence). #TPThursday

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    1. And we need to hope that countries will continue to welcome us as ambassadors and not decide perhaps that we should no longer be welcome to their country.

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  3. A very interesting and thought stimulating post. Good luck on your resident visa for Greece. I love the church service being held outdoors - an excellent venue if you ask me, and so inviting.

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    1. Jan, it is a most amazing church service that is held here and I know if I were to be living here, this might be the service that would get me to be a regular parishioner. Thanks for your good thoughts on the visa, it is not the easiest route we've traveled. . .

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  4. Wow Jackie - what a nicely written commentary! A refreshing mental journey from the West Side O'ahu Church gathering to the demonstration at the airport (which I can sense the high emotion given how Hawaiian's feel about being welcoming) to the general experience of visas as a gateway to experiencing different cultures. Susan and I have had exceptional experiences with people in Tonga, Samoa, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Grenada, Montserrat, Antigua, Trinidad, Greece, Italy, Russia, England and Spain. I believe it was due to being open, curious and vulnerable.

    I remember waking up in Tonga on our first big trip. We thought about being 5,000 miles from anyone who knew us. Then a voice inside me said relax and trust the people here. We had such great experiences and were only disturbed by packs of tourists who brought this bubble from their home country that they refused to leave.

    Happy travels to you - it's one way that we spread understanding and peace in a world that has too much fear and hate.

    Peter

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    1. Oh Peter, I can't tell you how much your comment meant. I know that you and my 'other Peter' so understand Hawaii in a much deeper sense than I, but it has been so enriching to be here during these few weeks when the world seems to have been turned upside down by a single person and his power. I am glad you share our experiences on visas and vulnerability. It is unnerving and it is exhilarating at the same time. Fingers crossed that we can continue to be 'ambassadors' for all that is good in America. xxxxx Jackie

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  5. I appreciate your post, Jackie. I thought the days were gone when people were judged by their race, colour, sex, or religion. but recent political happenings have indeed changed all that. there have been people with Canadian passports that were refused entry into the US because their origin was from one of the countries named on Trump's list. How unfortunate that kind of judgemental action can be. Hopefully, the accuser will get his just rewards.

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    1. And I appreciate your most thoughtful comment, Doreen. You've said it wonderfully well. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Love the opening and photos at the beginning of your post. Looked like heaven in Hawaii. I was surprised at the cost of one of the India visa ($400?!!?) That would certainly turn off a lot of travellers. Traveling brings people together and I have found similar situations where locals would ask how I have found THEIR country and people.

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    1. Yes, those visa costs can take your breath away. India was $400 a person as was Viet Nam the last time we checked. We'd considered a cruise that stopped in both countries and decided that was a bit too much for a day or two in each place. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. A beautiful and important post, Jackie, on the meaning behind the word 'welcome'. How precious it is be greeted by this word when one is travelling outside their own country, and how devastating it must be to be turned away, in contrast, not hearing it, at all.

    I sincerely hope that you are granted your Greek resident visa very soon, for it only makes sense that you should be able to live in your Greek home whenever you wish, especially since you and the Scout have adopted so many of the wonderful traditions and adapted to others that needed some getting used to, of our unique and magical Greece!

    Wishing you a safe trip home,
    Poppy

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    1. Thanks much Poppy for the wishes for safe travel. We had such a trip and are now wrapped in the warmth of our Pacific Northwest home and working diligently to gather all the documents we need for our meeting with your Greek consulate in two weeks!

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  8. Aloha Jackie! There are many lessons we could learn from the Hawaiians, I think. I appreciate your thoughts and perspectives of "E Komo Mai" you've experienced in your travels (I have felt very welcomed, too) and contrasting with the executive order.

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    1. Yes, there is much we could learn from the Hawaiians and others that we encounter when we travel. We are so grateful to have been as warmly welcomed as we have been. Thanks for stopping by~

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  9. Such a timely post, Jackie and you had me thinking about my first visit to the Statue of Liberty several years ago and how incredibly moved I was to see this iconic symbol of welcome. We too have never been made to feel unwelcome in any country we have visited and are so sad to see this generosity withheld from people who desperately need a refuge or wish to simply visit the US. We've never taken for granted our privilege to travel but your post brings home the fact that we've taken for granted the privilege of being welcome ... Beautifully written!

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    1. Thanks for such a lovely comment Anita. All of these events have caused us to pause and look at our life and travels with gratefulness. . .and to be thankful for the warm welcome we've had from others. Thanks for stopping by. . .

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  10. wonderful images. I never had been in Hawai. It must be a wonderful island. So beautiful pictures. I will follow
    best regrds
    susa from Germany

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    1. Susa, thanks for joining the followers. I've done the same for your blog. So nice to 'meet you' in this blogosphere world! Glad you enjoyed the photos!

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  11. When we travel, people can never seem to pinpoint where my multiracial family is from, so it seems like we are never pressured to represent America. I really enjoyed your post. When my parents immigrated to the USA from the Philippines, they entered through Hawaii. My mom remembers feeling so fantastic to have finally reached America. The first thing they did was go to Woolworth's for sandwiches.

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    1. You know I've read you blog for a long time and among my favorite posts was the one you wrote about your parents and I almost remember you writing about Woolworth's for sandwiches. Thanks for reminding me of that lovely story - you should repost that one again for new readers.

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  12. Hawaii is always so welcoming. I'm way overdue for a visit. And those Greek sheep look like they might be fun to say howdy to as well.

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    1. Carol, it may be 'one of the states' but I tell you there is a warmth of welcome in Hawaii that makes you feel like you've entered another world. (And you'd love the Greek sheep!).

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  13. Travelling makes you realise there is no such thing as a "typical American" or a "typical Greek". Just people, good and bad (but mostly good).

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    1. So very, very true Karen. Luckily we've met far more good than bad in our travels.

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  14. Thanks for sharing the service in Hawaii and your thoughts on this interesting topic. I have a similar philosophy when traveling. I wish more people would have more open minds and be willing to learn and discover more from people in different lands and different cultures. It makes us all better people and I think it makes the world a better more peaceful place.

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    1. Yes, I am amazed at those who don't travel yet who've formed such cast-in-concrete negative opinions of other races and cultures. . .I've often said everyone should be required to live six-months in a place of their choosing in a part of the world that is not their own. I suspect opinions would change. Thanks for commenting.

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