Ms. Deanna

My passion for dance and theatre started at the age of three. I told my mom I wanted to be like the girls on TV, which apparently was some kind of gymnastics thing at that moment on the screen. So she put me in a class, and I absolutely hated it. Then she thought, “oh maybe she meant dancing!” and thus put me in my first ever dance class. I was immediately hooked… and didn’t stop dancing until I started college.

Today is my 27th birthday. It is crazy to realize that for most of my life, I could be found at Diamond Head Theatre sitting in the green room with my stinky dance shoes, my big jug of water, hanging out with my dance friends. All of that got put on hold to pursue my academic dreams, but recently I have been thinking back to those good old days. And today, as we celebrated and danced with Ms. Deanna, everything came full circle. The same faces that I grew up knowing were sitting right back with me in the audience as we reminisced about one of the most genuinely nice people to ever grace the face of this Earth.

Ms. Deanna Luster. As stunningly beautiful as she was on the outside, she was even more beautiful on the inside. Dancing was her life and passion, fulfilling her dreams and being such a great role model to all the students she encountered. She was my dance teacher for over ten years, probably one of the longest I’ve ever had. She always understood my love for dance, and how much I hated to sing. She’d always remind us to point our toes, suck in your stomach to make your posture better, stand with confidence.

I haven’t seen Ms. Deanna in a really long time. The last time I probably saw her was the last time I was in a show at DHT. I actually haven’t even been back to see shows that much since I started college… now that I think back on it, I’m trying to decide if it was worth it to give up dance all together? Should I have stayed on, at least for 1 dance class a week? The friends I made at DHT really became family… and that was made totally clear today, as we all gathered to celebrate Ms. Deanna’s life. I recognized so many of the moms, and so many of my old friends recognized my mom before noticing me!

After I found out about Ms. Deanna’s passing, I wrote this on Facebook:
During my undergrad [in geology], I studied a lot about the luster of minerals. Every once in a while, Ms. Deanna’s smiling face would pop into my head… how fitting, that the definition of luster be: a glow of light from within; an inner beauty. Nothing could describe you better, Ms. D. Your energy, love, happiness, radiated from within you. It was deep, it was pure, and it was unshakable.
You were hard on all of your students, but we never doubted how much you loved each and every one of us. How can someone be/feel like an aunt, teacher, mentor, sister, friend, all at the same time? I’m not sure, but you sure did that for me. For a lot of us.
I will never forget the Shooting Stars days at the Hawaii Theatre, standing in the lobby waiting for that first song to start… you, making us all do those “relaxation” stances. I still find myself putting the tips of my fingers together when I’m stressed or nervous. I will always be grateful for your love and support, and will never forget how you graciously opened your closet to me when I couldn’t afford a prom dress for senior prom. And I will never forget my only Punahou Carnival experience, when we parked at your place and walked to the carnival so that we wouldn’t have to fight for parking.
Your soul touched many, and we are all so grateful to have been graced by you. I haven’t seen you in a while, but I’ve always been missing you… will miss you until I get to dance with you again. I love you. I still can’t wrap my head around this, but one day I will. RIL, Ms. D ❤

This is the dress she let me borrow for Senior Prom. I remember having the time of my life, dancing my heart out with my friends. I even got to choreograph the prom courts dance, something I wouldn’t have been able to do without the training I got from Ms. Deanna! Tonight, I got to dance to the song Happy by Pharrell Williams with my second family, in honor of Ms. Deanna. What a fitting way to celebrate her life, to have a dance party.

Now that I sit here and think about the many years I learned from Ms. Deanna, I am reminded of one of my most favorite musicals: Once on This Island. It has become very popular, thanks to the new show in NYC and amazing cast to tell the story of a little island girl who falls in love with a rich boy and ultimately sacrifices herself for him. I remember one of my favorite dances of all time was to the song “Rain”. Flash forward fifteen years, and here we are, and here I am studying the chemistry and dynamics of rain as a major component of my PhD…

I still can’t believe she’s gone. Maybe it’s because I was so far removed from that world, I didn’t even know she was sick until I heard she had passed. But she played such an instrumental role in my life growing up, always there as a friend and role model to guide me. It’s always hard to come to terms with the passing of a loved one whom you thought you had more time with, had another chance to see, had the opportunity to dance with in the future. I can’t find any pictures on Facebook… probably because I would have to dig back into the MySpace of Xanga days of social media… or even to days before digital cameras!

I know I’ll be okay, we all will be okay, we just need some time to reflect back on what an amazing gift it was to share months, a few years, maybe even a few decades with Ms. D, and cherish those memories. I know she is dancing away in heaven, no longer in pain. But I so selfishly wish I could give her a hug one more time, tell her how much she meant to me, still means to me even if I didn’t see her much, and how I love her. I can’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than to come together with friends and family from across the country to celebrate one of the most amazing people in the entire world. I love you, Ms. Deanna.

First Day in Our Nation’s Capital

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Taylor, Brytne, and I explored D.C. a little today, ahead of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting which starts tomorrow. We checked in to the registration booth today for the conference, and got a first look at the convention center (which is MAASSIIVVEEE), and tried to get a better handle on where our hotel is in relation to the conference, etc.

We checked in and got our badges, then tried to figure out what to do for lunch. Since it was still lunch time, I suggested we try the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, since I had eaten there the last time I was in D.C. Amongst locals, like my dear friend Laura, know that the American Indian museum is the place for yummy food.


I had the mushroom stew and grits. Needless to say, this mushroom lover was in heaaaaveeeen!!!


Taylor had bison steak, grilled fennel, and mashed cauliflower. Everything was amazingly delicious! And also very new to us, as we have never tried fennel before!


Brytne got the Indian Taco. I’m not sure if these pictures have shown how big every serving was, but we all could’ve shared one of these plates and been sufficiently full. But we ate as much as we could because it was all so yummy!

After eating we walked around the museum. I saw a lot of similarities in the messages from Native Americans as I hear from Native Hawaiians.


One of the most powerful comes in this simple picture. In the caption, it says, “Religions linked to the landscape still struggle to convey their principles to non-Indians.” and that couldn’t be more true in Hawaiʻi. With the continued conversations about TMT, the basic message is that respecting indigenous cultures and sacred sites is one thing foreigners donʻt understand, and donʻt take the time to understand. Instead, they view their beliefs above those of local, indigenous cultures, and this is where we run into issue.

One of the exhibits here was interactive, literally. They had a video playing with random folks describing where theyʻve seen Native American culture or images in their life. Also, they had postcards where visitors could write down their own stories. Here are two of my favorites.


There were so many amazing interactive tables here. The one above is a touch screen table, basically you click on a square on the map and it tells you about it, gives you a 360 view of it (like Google street-view), and other interesting facts. It would be great to see stuff like this for Hawaiian ahupuaʻa and important historical sites! (Maybe it already exists and I just donʻt know about it?)

Of course we were kind of obsessed with Machu Picchu. Itʻs an engineering marvel and of course it all was because of water. Because water is everything. Duh.


And I am going to keep this short, but I canʻt leave without posting this picture. Of course there is a lot in this museum about the Trail of Tears, and the removal of Native Americans from their home lands. This is a wall with reflections for native people on the history of their people, and how it has affected and continues to affect them. It is hard to be in this museum and not be completely frustrated with, literally, everything…

Well, the sun is down. It has been down since 5P. It feels like itʻs 9P, and I donʻt know if thatʻs because we are just tired or if it is the sun, or both? Soon it will be time for dinner, and weʻll have to brave the cold again…. which we havenʻt figured out how to do, by the way. Weʻll probably get the hang of it by the day we leave…but until then, weʻll be frozen Hawaiʻi kids.
Aloha & a hui hou,



Never. Give. Up.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Today I had a great opportunity to meet students from Aotearoa and Waianae High School. Big mahalos to Dr. Kiana Frank for putting together such a cool opportunity for these kids to come together and do some mālama at Papahana Kuaola. I hope you guys had a great time and made lifelong friends – and I hope you get to visit each other one day down the road!

I felt a little weird having to talk about my journey through STEM, because I never really feel that special. Like my journey isn’t much different from other people. But then I have to stop myself and realize that maybe my journey isn’t that much different from my friends here in Hawaiʻi, but to the rest of the world it might actually be different!

It was so amazing to see those friendships being built, and the sharing of language and cultures. I got chicken skin at the end when I watched all of you doing the closing protocols. You’re all so deeply rooted in your own cultures, and carry it wherever you go, and it’s a part of everything you do every day. It’s so amazingly beautiful and refreshing to see.

I really enjoyed meeting and talking with every single one of the students. They are all trying to figure out what it is they’re passionate about – and I remember going through that. It can be suuuper frustrating trying to figure it out, especially when there is always an adult asking you what you plan on majoring in and all kinds of crazy questions about your future you just haven’t figured out yet. But even though it can be super frightening, it can also be super fun. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll feel insecure, but everything happens for a reason, right?

I hope that after today, every single one of you feel like you are capable of going to college. You. Can. Do. It. I can’t stress it enough: if Dr. Kiana, Dr. Wela and I did it, so can you. You have so many people who care about you and want you to succeed, and with that support I KNOW that you guys can do it. We’ll be there to give you that push of motivation when you’re feeling down, we’ll be there with a helping hand to pick you up. It’s ok if you don’t want to go to college. But don’t decide you aren’t going because you don’t think you can do it…because I promise you, you can. And I hope that you’ll at least give it a try before deciding you don’t want to do it. What’s that saying? “Give it the good old college try“? It’s really not as bad as you think it is. The foods good. Classes start later. You can work and make money and finally have money!!

And for reals, let me know if you need help writing applications to college, finding scholarships, finding a mentor in a field you’re interested in, or just wanna talk more about what school is like. If you don’t wanna talk to me, that’s cool too, I can find another grad student who would be just as willing to sit down and help you with whatever you need. We need kids like you to fill the shoes that are being emptied by a generation of folks who are entirely different from us. It’s time to fill those shoes with people like you who are so deeply rooted in our culture, and who will have the knowledge to make important financial, geological, medical kinds of decisions that shape our ʻĀina and the lāhui.

I’m rooting for you. We’re all rooting for you.



Rome: Day 3!!!

September 11, 2018

Yesterday was a jam-packed Roman day. We started early in the morning with some cappuccinos near the Colosseum because, hello, that’s what the Romans did. Then we had to meet up with our tour group to begin! We signed up for a tour of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.

The Colosseum is huuuuge. It was built in 8 years (whaaat?!) and could fit 70,000 people. I can’t believe how quickly they can build an amazing place like this back in the first century, and yet it’s gonna take about 20 years to build the Rail with all the technology we have! It was also a really hot day, the bottom is of a quick selfie I sneakily took, already getting sunburnt at 10AM!

Lots of history here with gladiators battling other gladiators and sometimes animals! The Colosseum is so intricately built, with passageways and tunnels that lead to different holding areas or outside the walls. Apparently there are 80 entrances (basically those archways you see on the outer walls) and as many staircases to allow for the 70,000 people to enter the arena. Incredible!

The first picture is of the Roman Forum taken at the Colosseum. This was the next stop on our adventure. The other picture is of an archway that Constantine made/ordered to be built, I think? I’m not quite sure, I can’t remember because I was too busy with this:

I guess it would’ve been easier to walk on a few centuries ago, but now it’s impossible to walk here without falling! And these Europeans walk fast!

These columns were buried for a really long time, I think our guide said until the early 1900s? They were buried by the sediment brought in when the Tiber River would overflow its banks. Then in the early 1900s they were excavated and now we can learn about them! The building in the back is the old Senate building, where the senators would have their meetings.

The above picture is a shrine or temple built for Julius Caesar by his nephew Augustus. The bottom picture is the area where Julius Caesar was cremated after he was murdered 😳.

This is a really old church. I don’t remember anything about it, but it’s really nice!!

I know we were in a place with so much rich history, but I was so excited to see grapes growing!! I don’t think I have ever seen a grape vine in real life before, so this was a great experience! 😂

More original streets that are difficult to walk on!

These olive trees were cool too! They were lining the walkway as we went up the Palatine Hill.

And on Palatine Hill, a bunch of rich dudes lived here and built huge mansions. There are 7 hills in Rome, and Palatine Hill is the one in the middle, so it was definitely prime real estate! These houses had a bunch of rooms for friends and family, of course, but also had huge meeting rooms for official business type stuff? And all the flooring was marble.

Views from the balcony! This green area used to be a stadium where they would have race horses, I think. And far off in the distance is another hill where rich people currently live!

After this experience, we went to a place called the Jewish Ghetto. It is no where near a Ghetto, in fact it’s really nice! But a lot of people and websites said we should have at least one meal there, so we had to try! We went to a place called Nonna Betta, where Anthony Bourdain went once. And it was amazing! A popular dish from the Jewish Ghetto is fried artichoke, and it didn’t disappoint! I don’t have any pictures from our meal, but if you want to know more about it you can find pictures on Google!

We also went searching for a gelato place in the Jewish Ghetto. We found one nearby and the gelato was to diiieeeee for. Taylor had fig and coconut, and I had strawberry and lemon! Yum! 🤤

Ok and to cross off this item from Taylors bucket list: there is a cat sanctuary at the site where Julius Caesar was killed! This is Largo di Torre Argentina, and if you look it up, this is the site where he was (probably) murdered, but now it’s overrun by cats! And there is a group here that takes care of them, neuters them, etc. They said they currently have 144 cats on site that they take care of. Also, Taylor is a cat whisperer.

For dinner we went to a place near our hotel called Archimede 80. It came highly recommended by our new Australian friends, so we knew we had to try it out. The waiter, Max, was super nice and helpful. The entire menu was in Italian, so he told us that he would be our English translation for the evening. Instead of picking our own dishes, he said he could bring out 3 popular Italian dishes for us to try in smaller portions so that we could try all of them! And it didn’t disappoint! Again, I don’t have pictures because I wanted to enjoy our late-evening, romantic dinner date, but OH MY GOD I’ve never had Italian food like that IN MY LIFE. We were giggling, it was so good! We might even try to go back again today.

So today is our last day in Rome. I’m completely exhausted and ready to come home. We might try to make one last push to see some other stuff, but it’s supposed to get up to 90 degrees here (which means it’ll feel hotter in the sun), so we might just try to have an easy day again. Our flight is early tomorrow so we can’t be too exhausted when we come back, we still have to finish packing!

A hui hou! Ciao!



Sunday’s in Rome

September 10, 2018

Sunday’s in Rome are very quiet. At least, in this neighborhood we are staying in, it’s very quiet. They take their Sunday’s very seriously here! So in similar fashion, we decided to have an easy day as well. We took a stroll around the area, lounged in the room, watched movies, and just spent a day of vacation relaxing. Sometimes vacations can be more stressful than every day life, because you have to see as many things as you can and make the most of your time. But for me, when I go on vacation, I’d like to relax and not have to worry about being somewhere at a certain time.

These are the only two pictures I have from yesterday! The first one is of this AMAAZZZIINNNG restaurant we found near our hotel. I felt so bad…I think we walked in at a time when they were closing between lunch and dinner, but they were so kind and seated us anyways! They also had a limited menu since we showed up at such a weird time, but oh my gosh it was so incredible. We hope that between now and when we leave, we can go back there for normal-menu, normal-dining hour to try more of their foods!

I don’t know what these flowers are, but there was a bunch of pots at a little flower shop we walked past on our way to eat, so I took a (blurry) picture of it!

In the evening we just stayed in our room and watched movies. But of course we had to watch movies relevant to where we are! So we watched the Angels and Demons movie, as well as the Da Vinci Code movie. The Angels and Demons one includes the same main character as Da Vinci Code, but it’s based in Rome (Da Vinci Code is in France). It was cool to see all of the famous buildings we have been seeing played out as main scenes in the movie, and to hear them talk about the history of each. Of course, it also included some Illuminati stuff and random moments where Tom Hanks’ character notices how “this arrow points to that angel who’s pointing down this alley, so we must go that way” but it was still cool.

We also got hotel room service (super fancy, I know). But we were so caught up in watching those movies, and weren’t really prepared to go out to get something to eat, so we ordered in! It was Taylor’s first time getting room service, too! (Welcome to the club, Taylor!)

That’s all for now. We just did a whole bunch of stuff today, so stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!

A hui hou! Ciao!