Naʻauao…Insights from a Trip to Dubai


Leina‘ala Ahu Isa, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

Presented with an opportunity to visit Dubai, I was apprehensive at first given all the turmoil in the Middle East but am glad I went as I received an education that one could only experience by visiting there and speaking with the people. I also wanted to meet my son’s Kamehameha Schools classmate, Julianne Kailihiwa, who owns Sumo Sushi and Bento in Dubai! Yes, there are Hawaiians living there.

Have you ever wanted to see the world’s richest country? Luxurious cars everywhere you look, and exotic, artificially created beaches. Dubai is the home to Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), the Palm Jumeirah (the world’s largest man-made island), the biggest mall in the world, and some of the world’s wealthiest people. Young people come from all over the world to experience a culture like nothing else, and to gain naʻauao (insights) which they might incorporate into their own lives. Young people love this city so much that they will move from another country to live and work there. Naʻauao filled my mind as I journeyed from place to place.

Sure, Dubai is a beautiful country that will surely entertain you, but the Burj Khalifa can also signify how large the gap is between the rich and the poor. But why? After speaking with many of them (some were my HPU students that I met at Expo2020), I found that they asked themselves these questions as young people: weren’t they going to pursue a job in a charitable or social field? Didn’t they really want a job they could fully devote themselves to, ideally, for the sake of altruism alone?

Photo: Kaʻahumanu sister Aulani Ahmad
Kaʻahumanu sister Aulani Ahmad in the sand dunes of Abu Dhabi. – Photo: Courtesy

Whatever their hopes and wishes were, these young people seem to be striving for perfection. But the sense of insecurity has led them to question whether they are serving the “right” gods and being guided by an outlook on life that really resonates with them. Or are they secretly dreaming of uncovering answers to the big philosophical questions of existence, and thereby becoming “good” persons?

Appearances can be deceiving – a realization that has them feeling disappointed at times, but they also said that even if the “enlightenment” they secretly longed for never quite happens, the feeling that they are doing something good for their families back home brought them great happiness. Lessons learned: by foregoing some of the comforts they had been accustomed to and setting new goals for themselves, they could awaken slumbering talents that brought them fulfilling moments and growing successes.

Again, it’s up to the individual (your talents, your manaʻo) that will be valuable resources in helping you discover new horizons and perspectives. The world is yours! Holomua!

A hui hou until we meet again, as this is my last column till after the elections, Trustee Leinaʻala

P.S. Mahalo to Guy Koanui for his letter of appreciation of our Ka Wai Ola.