Thursday, January 27, 2011



Part Four:

Our second day we traveled to the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center up the mountain close to Kualapuu, and were shown the 1878 R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill which has been lovingly restored from a fallen-down heap back into a showpiece.  If you’ve ever wondered exactly how sugar was made from cane in the old way, this tour would explain it all for you.  Lots of heat and manpower, mulepower and steam.

Glenn Teves, an extension agent, spoke to us about how Molokai residents are trying to live sustainably, with wind and solar power and water-saving devices. Some, such as Pilipo Solatorio, who grew up in the Halawa Valley, have researched how to grow crops in the manner of their ancestors.  More about Pilipo later.  Most of the food for the island is barged in every week, so in order to be more self-sufficient, some small farms are beginning to experiment with growing vegetables and there is now a farmers’ market once a week.  Having enough water is a key issue.

After the museum we visited Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm, where again we were reassured these nuts had never had any kind of chemical treatment whatsoever, from start to finish.  On one tree, we saw nuts in the growth chain, from blossom to fruit to fallen nut on the ground.  This farm is the only place in Hawaii where a person can be where the trees are because there are no pesticides.  Also, one is able to purchase raw nuts without processing which means without a lot of extra oil and salt.  Yum.  What amazed me most at this stop was that the owner looked like my grandmother.  They could have been brother and sister.

My favorite stop of the day was at a junior high Hawaiian Language Immersion school.  The teacher, Iolani Kuoha, like others her age, was not allowed to speak Hawaiian growing up and so had to go to school to learn her own language and the hula.  Her students speak and study in their own language now.  As we arrived, they performed the “Here we are.  May we come in?  Yes, we are these people and you are welcome” chant.  That whole process is just good manners, don’t you think?
The students did a couple of hula dances for us and explained the various instruments they used besides a ukulele.  They came to us a couple of nights later, showed us some more instruments, did another hula, and then taught us a portion of a hula dance.  Three men in our group agreed to participate as well they should, since hula was originally danced by men, not women.  However, they all donned the same skirts we women were given to wear, and my husband, at 6’4” and in a skirt, made everyone laugh, especially the boys.  The boys stayed with the men to help teach them and the girls stayed amongst the women, and we learned our hula step by step, following Iolani in front of us.

What I loved about that evening was seeing young people sharing the knowledge of their culture with us.  They were so proud of who they were and what they knew.  That was a moment of all things being the way they should be, the kind of moment you’d like to hold close to your heart and not let go.  We got big hugs from the kids as the evening ended and one seventh grade boy whispered to me as we hugged, “You was a GOOD hula dancer!”  That’s going down in my memory bank so I can pull it out at will when I need something affirmative in my life.  My only regret is not having any photos of the event.

During the week we visited Hawaiian Homestead farms to see what people are doing with their land.  At Weymouth and Jule Kamakana’s farm, we saw vegetable gardens and a demonstration on salt making.  Rudy and Mary Bongolan have a lovely flower garden full of orchids and hibiscus and palm trees.  Rudy told us that coconuts are found along the beaches because they like to grow in a combination of salt and fresh water.  He showed us a variety of products made from the various stages of a coconuts growth and showed us two tools he designed to help with the production of shredded coconut and husking coconuts.  We ate our lunches in their beachside covered patio.

Ishmael Stagner had shown us a poster of the ancient methods of farming and we saw it in action when we visited the Halawa
Valley.  “Halawa Valley is the oldest recorded habitation site on Molokai, 650 A.D.  Halawa was the home of a large agricultural community and remained well populated until 1946 when a tsunami struck.  Well-preserved house platforms and garden walls are scattered throughout the valley, as well as a great number of religious structures.  Halawa Stream, which once irrigated the farms, winds through the valley until it reaches the ocean.” (from Noe’s notes)

Pilipo Solotorio was a small child and remembers the tsunami very well.  He has returned in his retirement to farm his segment of the river by the ancient methods.  For us, he pounded poi from his taro patch, and he offered us some baked breadfruit as well.  His wife made a passion fruit sauce for dipping.  They live in a small shack, having sold their big house to their daughter.  They have no cell phone because there is no reception in the valley but he says they do have a generator and other amenities because he says he does live in the year 2011 after all.  The road out to Halawa twists and winds in a similar manner to the road to Hana on Maui.  I couldn’t help noticing, however, that road is in better repair and is better marked on the sides than many of our roads in the county where I reside.

Arleone Dibben has turned her beachside property into a wetland area for the protected Hawaiian goose, the Nene.  Our visited there coincided with the arrival of a pair of black and white Hawaiian stilts.  She is also coaxing native plants to grow on her sand dunes in order to stabilize them, and her neighbors are following suit.

Our final adventure with flowers was the creative endeavor of making our own leis.  Cookie and Squeaky, Noe’s compatriots and van drivers extraordinaire had plucked flowers for us while we visited the Nene and Noe showed us how to sew ourselves a lei. Mine was a lovely adornment at the pa’ina as was everyone else’s.

More to come…

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