The swerving traffic and the bright lights of New York City can sometimes be suffocating for a small island girl like myself. Moving from the island of Maui to the island of Manhattan for a college education, I had such a difficult time finding spaces where I can unwind and breathe. The numerous people and whizzing traffic can be overwhelming for a person that grew up with no public transportation and zero skyscrapers. In my homeland, the crashing waves and the smell of a light salty breeze in the air immediately calms me.
As I write this, the sun has just finished its magnificent descent into the Pacific Ocean—bright tangerines slipping into dusky mauves and now, finally, an inky blue, with the last spot of the bright blue of day quickly tumbling into the ocean below. I’m on an evening flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, making my way to Apia, Samoa, for our workshop, Hurricane and Homes—the companion and counterpoint to the first workshop we held in New York last month which Jenny wrote about in her last blog post.
When I began my four-month study abroad program in the South Pacific island of Samoa, I had my first tangible experiences with climate change and what it can do to a place. We visited many of the villages that were hit hardest by the 2009 tsunami, I experienced my first ever earthquake, and the dry season led to rationed water. It was this last experience that made climate change a reality for me, for the first time something as ordinary yet precious as water wasn’t available to me at a moments notice.
The New York group that forms one half of the "Rethinking Home" partnership has now taken shape. We met at the American Museum of Natural History, 5th floor, overlooking 77th Street, coffee & cake, and 18 people keen to get talking. It was the first workshop of this year-long project, one of the ten awarded by the “Museums Connect” program this year, funded by the American Alliance of Museums, within the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Museums Connect program is designed to bring foster cross-cultural learning between communities in the US and overseas. Our project brings together coastal communities in New York and in Samoa.