‘Ohana means (Greenheart) Family

By Luy Stromeier: Greenheart Exchange High School Participant from Germany

Hawaii is a place of fulfillment, wild dreams and adventures, an undeniable history and a culture of loving and emphatic people. Everyone knows about the lonely group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. People know about them from movies, like one of my all time favorites Moana; or maybe we heard about it from our parents and family, describing it as a paradise they’ll probably never get to experience. But we did experience it.  We experienced it to the fullest by eating the delicious foods the island had to offer, smelling the salty sea winds in a light breeze that tickled our skins, or feeling the power of the ocean under and all around us as we stood up on our surfboards for the very first time.

Visiting the place that I have dreamed about countless times and meeting the culture, which has nurtured my hunger for new so many times, up so close, was indescribable. I.. no…  we had the time of our lives, not just because of the adventure Greenheart took us on, but also because of the people they send with us, as we all grew closer and closer, day by day to a loving and caring Ohana. I’m unable to describe all the emotions and feelings that flowed through my body, like the freshwater from a new spring, reaching out for the ocean. That’s why I want to ask you to let me take you back with me to the journey of Oahu, Hawaii.

It began on a chilly Sunday morning. The sun was far from rising and not even the early birds dared to wake up just yet. But the luggage was packed and my soul was awake and ready for the next few hours of being in the sky. The flights were (as my travel buddy described it over and over again) so smooth and the thrill of arriving in Honolulu, on Oahu in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was something unreal. When we first saw the airport it was hard to believe that this was the greatest airport of Hawaii, but we were we proven wrong.  Ironically, we almost went the wrong way and got lost, but we didn’t. And as if the airport heard us saying that it’s tinier than we imagined, it provided us with a path that felt like an hour, to get to our group. Together the first half of us gathered, already getting in touch as we left the airport for what was later to become my favorite activity of the whole trip. This, my favorite activity, was the long rides from our camp on the north shore straight across the island to get to all the places. Now you think about all the exotic places we’ve seen and exciting adventures we’ve been on; but the van rides before and afterwards were always something I was especially looking forward to and where there was  everything from singing, shouting and humming, to the political talks and comparing our languages, expanding our linguistics.

That’s what got us close to each other: that’s what made us ‘Ohana.

After this first promising drive we got to the camp, and it was hard to hold back our excitement and hunger to explore. Luckily we didn’t even have to because housing was quickly figured out and soon we were all all sitting down at the beach, watching the waves crash, skipping stones and throwing our arms wide. At the rate we got to know each other we were soon absorbed in group games brought by me. When the last people finally arrived we weren’t resistant to include them and openly welcomed them to our small Greenheart Hawaii Family. This was the first half day of what would be for me the best time of my life: lovely people around me, on an island that felt like home, as I’m coming from an island myself.

To learn more about Greenheart Hawaii trips and how high school exchange students or high school aged students can participate, visit: greenhearthawaii.org.