Today’s blog is from our amazing Ulu Pono Kids Director, Katie Connor. This woman has an amazing (and patient!) heart for the kids on our street – and in my opinion, one of the toughest jobs at STN! She is constantly striving to make the program the best it can be and provide the children with every opportunity possible. However, there is one thing she cannot do – stop the kids from growing up! In today’s guest blog, she explains her plans and hopes for the Ulu Pono Kids program as its members become too old to be called “kids.”
“Ulu Pono Teens” – to this day, the name of this 4 month old program cracks me up. But let me set the stage before I explain why it makes me chuckle so much. The Ulu Pono Kids Program was created four years ago when the staff at Surﬁng The Nations saw a great need to hold an after-school program for the elementary age kids in the local area. The program was an immediate hit and quickly became a home away from home for them.
However, as many of those kids are now in middle school and high school, their interests have changed and most of their younger siblings attend the program. This age gap has caused many of them to drop out as it is hard to engage a 5 year old and 13 year old in the same lesson and social setting. We came to the realization that we needed to go back to the drawing board and create a program that would give the teens a safe place to learn and hang out while appealing to their age group.
Hence, Ulu Pono Teens was created. But at ﬁrst the program was nameless. As a staff, we tried to come up with a name that might appeal to teenagers – Wahiawa Gangstas, Ohai Ballers etc… We decided that at our ﬁrst meeting we would present the names to the kids, let them make their own suggestions, and then cast a vote!
Their favorite was “Ulu Pono Teens,” a name they created and they have shamelessly owned ever since (despite the fact that many are still 11 and 12 years old!). It is a simple name, but it describes perfectly where they have come from, who they are now and even who they are becoming. Although, it still makes me laugh that they didn’t like any of the elaborate names we had created!
To be in Ulu Pono Teens you must be in sixth grade or older, but our oldest kids are only 14 at the moment. Because of their age we have been able to do things that some of the younger kids may not yet be able to do, such as snorkeling, hiking and trips to the museum. Our heart is to show these kids that there is “life” and a future for them beyond their street and neighborhood; that they have the opportunity to follow their passions if they work hard. We also teach them basic leadership principles through simple things like neighborhood clean-ups to help them understand the importance of being upright citizens and members of their community.
We are so proud of these kids and are excited to see them continue to grow and develop into young adults over the next few years. We know that these kids have the power to inﬂuence the future of this community and we are honored to be a part of the continued change happening in Wahiawa, Hawaii.
To keep up with Katie’s personal adventures as the Ulu Pono Kids Director, follow her blog at adventurewahiawa.wordpress.com!
Indonesia, more recently known for its perfect waves, has been recognized since the 1500′s for its prized export goods among traders and tourists. Although traveling to Indonesia no longer requires jumping on a Dutch merchant vessel, the unique items found there are still highly desired by those living in the Western world.
On our trip to Indo, each team member is asked to bring 2 suitcases full of donations to give out while there, and use only a carry-on for all of his or her personal items. Given this space limitation, we want to know which treasures the individuals on the trip decided to bring back to Hawaii! Below are a few of our staffs’ favorite Indonesian finds.
1. Balinese Dancer Carving. The art you can find in Indonesia is unreal! This carving is of a Balinese dancer, a traditional form of dance in Indonesia. From carvings to paintings, there is so much artistic talent in Indonesia.
2. Batik Sarong (Pareo). Another traditional Indonesian art form, is the practice of batik fabric dying. This sarong (known here in Hawaii as a “pareo”) is just one of the hundreds of variations in color and pattern you can find Indonesia.
3.Sunnies. With all of the Aussie tourists in Bali, we started to adapt to the culture and began to call sunglasses “sunnies”! You can find knock-offs on every corner for about $2 a piece.
4. Bracelets on Bracelets on Bracelets… If you go to Indo and leave without buying a bracelet (male or female) our hat is off to you! Vendors all over Indo love to make these and often recruit their adorable children to help them in the selling process – gets us every time.
5. Shells. One of the only souvenirs in Indo you won’t have to bargain for.
6. Bali Girls’ Shorts. Attention women: These funky shorts are the most comfortable and useful pair of shorts you will ever own. You can wear them to shop/ surf / sleep /travel – almost anything! One size fits all and you can bargain them down to 30.000 rupiah ($3!)
7. Seaweed Flavored Lay’s Potato Chips! I know many of you may read this and think, “yuck!” However, if you love sushi (as most Hawaiians do!), you would love these! If you go to Indo, this is a must try!
8. Batik Backpack. Just another amazing item you can get made out of batik fabric.. Perfect for day trips in Indo.
9. Bow and Arrow. Katniss would be in heaven if she saw all the beautifully carved bows you can find in Indo. We can’t guarantee their straightness or proper weighting, but they are pretty cool to hang on your wall!
10. Bali Mens’ Shorts. Men, this one is for you! They may run a little short, but almost every male on our trip came home with a pair – and then some! We recommend them for swimming / surfing, but we’ve definitely caught a few wearing them around our office at STN!
11. Rupiah. Have you ever wanted to be a millionaire? Well, if you have more than $100 to your name you already are in Indonesia! The current rate is 10.000 to 1! Careful though – you’ll spend it faster than you would think!
12. Trucker Hats. Last, but not least, trucker hats! We decided we couldn’t leave Indo without a little something to shamelessly represent it once we got back to Hawaii.
*Not featured: Beng-Bengs!! If you’ve been to Indo, your mouth should be watering right now just at the thought of them! For those who haven’t, this is Indonesia’s version of a Kit-Kat bar .. None made it back because we ate them all!
On My Bookmarks Bar:
Charis Bauer Ifland, Business Director
This week, we are sharing Charis Ifland’s favorite bookmarked websites. As a wife, business director and world traveler, this girl knows which websites are the best for helping her keep the many moving parts of her life in order! Take note, the next few websites you may want to remember!
1. Mint.com is a great tool to organize and manage your finances! It brings your financial information to one place, you can create a budget, and set goals to plan for the future. It helps save and enjoy the important things in life!
Surfing The Nations bids farewell to its long-term staff member, Chris Rehrer. After eight years, three cities and over 15 countries with STN, he has left his mark on the character of this organization and impacted many lives around the world. Read to end to see where he’s off to next (ok, it’s Australia!) and all the fun bits in between to get the insider’s look at what it means to be a long-term staffer with STN. -GP
GP: What was your very first full day at STN like?
CR: I arrived on June 15, 2005 at Honolulu airport. I borrowed a cell phone to call the office (I’m old enough to not have owned a cell phone by the age of 21!). I was told to look for two girls driving a white van: Kristin Flynn – who would later be my co-worker for years – was one of the girls to pick me up. She put an orchid lei around my neck and threw me in the car, telling me how much I was going to love Surfing The Nations. We got on the highway to go to Kalihi valley, where STN was then located, when our car sputtered and ran out of gas. We sat in the middle of the intersection, so my first official STN duty was to push a 15-passenger van out of the middle of the road with the other girl in the car, my new little Brazilian friend Sophia. About 25 minutes later, the oldest man in the world to me at that time, Bobby Baggett (who is still with STN!), came down with a gas can to help us out. This was the start of my amazing adventure with STN.
Once we arrived at the property, I was greeted by a team packing for their trip to Indonesia. I met Hanna who was from Switzerland, David (Davo) Strigl who was from Florida, Sam Culver, Shane and Brad from Florida and some others. As I was unpacking, I got this crazy feeling. “What the heck am I doing?” I thought. “I just moved on a one-way ticket to an island in the middle of the ocean!” I soon realized that this was going to either be a terrible decision or a great one but I needed to simply embrace it for what it was and fight the urge to immediately buy a ticket back home.
In the afternoon my friend Petey Helenius, who had convinced me to go to Surfing The Nations with him, arrived and we talked about the adventure ahead. Pretty soon someone invited us to go to the beach to surf. We headed out to Kewalos and had a blast! I remember being surprised by the power of the waves even on the South Shore compared to what I had been used to in California. Later that night, we arrived back at STN where we were having an orientation for the Indonesia trip. I met some people who became my first local friends in Hawaii. They took us around over the next couple of days and taught us about what it was to be a Haole and if someone calls me a kook it’s probably not a good thing. I learned what a moke and titta were as well as how not to speak pidgin!
That was my first full day. The adventure started out amazing and has continued to be an incredible journey. I wouldn’t trade the past eight years of my life with Surfing The Nations, for anything. They are the best years of my life hands down! I will be forever changed from that first day.
GP: What’s the most exciting country you’ve been to with STN?
CR: It would probably be Iran. As soon as Tom and Kristin Flynn and I decided that we were going, people decided to tell us why it was impossible. We were told that we couldn’t get visas as Americans. We were told that if we did get in, we would be harassed by customs officials and put in prison. We were told that it was foolish and that we should look for a better time when it was safer to enter the country. After all of these warnings, we decided to go for it anyway. It was an amazing journey. We had no problems. Kristin and Nikki Beck went one way around the world from the US and Tom and I went through the Middle East. We stopped in Bahrain and Quatar and arrived in Tehran where our official guides met us. We drove through the night and woke up the next morning to fresh snow on the mountains. Throughout the next nine days we made amazing relationships with our guides, their wives, their families and friends. We were welcomed back and we met some of the friendliest people in the world. Everyone was blessed and curious as to why Americans would be coming to Iran when Iran and the USA were obviously so at odds politically.
I think that the risk we took to go there during a time when people said it was stupid, showed the Iranian people that we were just people too, that we didn’t hate Iran, that we loved people. We wanted to be genuine and kind and share life with people all around the world, no matter their religion, ethnic background or nationality. It was one of the greatest trips of my life. The cool thing about going where people aren’t willing to go is that they want to hear about what happened when you went. Tom and Kristin and I had so many opportunities to come and share what our experience was with people when we came back. People always want to be on the cutting edge of things but often times lack the ability to push themselves over. We had pushed the envelope and returned unscathed and now have the stories to tell personally. We lived the adventure on that trip and that’s why I love STN because it’s all about living the life that others want to live but often need an example to follow.
GP: At Surfing The Nations, you get to meet a lot of people and live with a lot of people. Over the past eight years, who has been your best and/or worst and/or weirdest roommate?
CR: My best roommate was Andrew Carrier. He and I spent a couple of years together after my friend Peter Helenius left STN. I liked that we could both be either clean or dirty, which meant that often our room would look super clean and we would both be stoked and often it would look trashed and we would both be stoked!
I think the weirdest roommate I had was Niklas Eriksson because he had a whole closet full of strange moisturizers and lotions. I always told him he should open up a salon or something. He might be the prettiest man I’ve ever met. If I ever have skincare questions there’s no way I’m going to the doctor, I’m just calling up Nik!
GP: What are the things you’ll miss most about STN?
CR: I’m going to miss the friendships and the culture of people who want to live radically. People here are striving to do really great things for the world. I know that this is not unique to STN, but I’ve found it in this family that I have been a part of for eight years. STN is a family; it’s not just a job, so, in a sense, I’m leaving my family and going into the unknown. I will miss traveling the world and meeting 150 new roommates every year. I’ll miss the late night conversations and early morning surf sessions. I’ll miss the adventurous personalities who come through. I’ll miss Swedes arguing about whether spanking is right or wrong, why it’s illegal to fish with live worms. I’ll miss the melting pot of nations who come through Hawaii and STN. I’ll miss the weather! I grew up at STN. I became the person who I am today because of the trials and the joys that happen in that place. I’m 100% positive I would not be the man that I am today with out the experiences of traveling the world with Tom Bauer and having him show me the kind of life that I want to lead. If we’re really all going to just die and take nothing with us when we’re gone then we might as well spend all of our time giving to others while we are here. That is what I’m going to miss about STN but hopefully I’ll take it with me wherever I go and instead of a subtraction it will become a multiplication of what Tom and Cindy Bauer started 16 years ago.
GP: What’s next for you?!
CR: I am going to work with an organization called XXX Church. My first assignment with them is in Australia, so I’m headed there June 1st to start the next adventure!
To keep up with Chris Rehrer, check out his website www.chrisrehrer.com