Jodie Chiemi Ching
I’m back, temporarily. I am just here to fill in as interim editor so that the Herald’s current editor, Kristen Nemoto Jay, her husband, Iwi, and big seestah, 2-year-old Winter can spend time with their newborn princess. Autumn Jay was born just hours before I sat down to write my commentary for this issue on Aug. 25. I wonder if the Jays plan to have two more keiki to complete the” Seasonal Sibling Set.”
So I want to start by saying a big “Omedetou gozaimasu!” to the Jay Ohana and “Welcome Baby Autumn!” We look forward to many joyful stories from your mommy.
Back to my reunion with all of you. It’s nostalgic reconnecting with the writers, starting with this issue that focuses on food security and how the community is turning their kokua and aloha toward those affected by the Maui wildfires. And acquainting myself with new writers whose contributions have been helping the Herald to evolve into a more inclusive and supportive newspaper to our community. Kristen’s been working hard to broaden the Herald’s reach as it continues to be a challenge for ethnic newspapers to survive. Thank you, Kristen, Summer, Grant (Sensei), Asami, Izumi and the rest of Team HH for carrying this paper forward and for working hard to assign all the stories, making my job a lot easier.
I also want to share with all of you where I have been for the last year, which has been an amazing whirlwind of working at the Hawai‘i State Capitol – first as a protocol and community relations specialist for Governor David Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige. The Herald taught me a lot about the local Japanese community and its history; then, at the governor’s office, I was able to broaden my lens to see how that is just one piece of Hawai‘i’s unique and diverse multi-ethnic community. Honto ni, lucky we live Hawai‘i! I was able to experience this at the highest level of government in our state. Before this, I always felt a little judged for having a path that seemed kind of kapakahi – as if I was living with no direction. But I certainly do not regret a path that took me through tourism, retail, education, accounting, journalism, literature, poetry, music and other activities I dabbled in. Because of this crazy nonsensical life journey, I was game for the many different tasks of working in protocol. It was probably the most varied and most interesting job I ever had, and I loved it because it felt like I had a kapakahi toolbox full of experiences and I used them all. I can now use these tools as a marketing manager at Island Vee Dub in Kaimukï where my husband, Alex, has been selling vintage Volkswagen parts for over 20 years. It’s a side hustle (soon to be full-time) to his City and County Park and Recreation job, which he will retire from this December (according to his countdown app that’s in 4 months, 2 days, 15 hours, 25 minutes and 8 seconds as I write this).
Back to the Hawai‘i State Capitol – after the Iges left the Office of the Governor, I landed in House Rep. Linda Ichiyama’s office as a legislative aide, another unforgettable experience. There I saw a friendly face from the governor’s office. Marge was a part-time receptionist for Gov. Ige’s office so we were able to reminisce about our time on the capitol’s “executive floor.”
Our State of Hawai‘i Legislative session in 2023 ran from Jan. 18 thru May 5. I thought tax season at my dad’s CPA firm was hectic. My job of tracking bills, assisting with hearings, reviewing documents and filing, filing, and more filing went at an erratic pace and required a lot of running up and down stairs. Well, I asked for variety and I got it! We would hurry up and wait, and just when I thought I mastered one phase of the process, it was time to learn something new.
Rep. Ichiyama is currently the chairperson of the House of Representatives’ Water and Land committee. I am not sure, but I feel like we had the most bills to handle because everything literally touches water and land. Well, the Finance committee probably had more than WAL because maybe more than everything touches water and land, everything needs money. But I digress. I think you get the picture.
What stands out the most – above the hectic and imperfect democratic system I was fortunate enough to witness – was how Rep. Ichiyama and many others working in our state capitol really do listen and work for local people so that we can say, Lucky we live Hawai‘i. But we need reminders about the how and why of lawmaking. Once, I heard Rep. Ichiyama addressing her peers about a conversation she had with her young daughter about her job – lawmaking. Her daughter said she had a good idea for a law: “Be kind and be safe.”
“Be kind and be safe” is not just a good reminder for elected officials, but for everyone; and these days, especially for the media. While watching recent news, I have been ruminating about how the media has changed, how complicated it’s become to seek the truth and the importance of being responsible when it comes to sourcing news. Social media is a double-edged sword. Anyone can post anything, but in the case of the Maui wildfires, I was told that TikTok was how people could know what was happening in real time and how dangerous it was well before any agency warned them. I am also hearing about people being unhappy about some of the “finger-pointing” going on. I think we have to be careful here too. Media plays an important role in keeping our government, agency, business and community leaders accountable, which may not always seem kind, but helps to keep us safe.
Just like my son who is home from attending college in Irvine, California, I am here briefly feeling a sense of “Tadaima” but with a little more wisdom, new experiences and appreciation for Herald readers.
To our Maui friends, many of you from Lāhainā may not feel you have a physical home to say “Tadaima – I’m home.” What I have learned is that we have roots in places we call home and connections with one another give us a soft place to fall. Just like the wildfires could not get to the roots of the 150-year-old banyan tree that stands burned and battered, yet tall, your roots are still there where no fire can ever reach. Whether or not you have a physical home, you can say “Tadaima” in the arms of friends, family and the many people showing their aloha.
Thank you for allowing me to be here with you.