Wednesday, January 26, 2011


TIDBITS FROM MOLOKAI, the Friendly Isle.

Pronunciation according to Hawaiians who grew up there:  MO LO KI—long O, long O, long I.  No accent and separation between the A and the I.  And the letter W in Hawaii is pronounced like the letter V.

Part One:
We attended one full day of Hawaiian history, my favorite part of which was this, the attributes of Polynesian people.  The five F’s.  These make sense no matter who you are or where you live.

FAITH—pule which is prayer and huikala which is forgiveness and humility.

FAMILY—kamalei—the family which is always around our shoulders protecting and supporting us.  Makua, the parent who observes, listens, and keeps the mouth shut.  Kupuna, the elders with wisdom, experience, and knowledge.  These would be the seasoned seniors and the aumakua, ancestors who can bless or curse, depending.

FOOD—for our growth and nourishment and for which we give thanks.

FUN—“Grief is all around us; humor is hard to find.” 

FEELINGS—which we acknowledge

Seems to me none of can get through life very well without those attributes.  Makes me proud to be a funny, seasoned senior.

Part Two:

How to tell directions: 

I don’t know from north, south, east, west, when traveling somewhere or giving directions.  I go by landmarks and landscape and street names and house numbers, of course.  This drives my husband crazy because he uses compass directions to navigate.  We have learned to compensate for each other when giving directions.  Now we have learned the Hawaiians navigate like I do.  (Must be my First Nation blood.)

mauka—to the mountain
makai—to the ocean

Go three blocks mauka and turn right at the green church.  When you come to the Cook Pine tree, turn makai and go to the blue house with the white van in front.  We live right across the street in the brown house with the blue plastic kids’ swimming pool on the lawn.

Hawaiians call this method “Wayfinding.”  You pay attention to your surroundings to figure out where you are.  On the ocean, traveling, they used the stars, the types of winds, the types of currents, the matter in the sea, all to tell them where they were.

I learned about wayfinding from Penny Martin who came to talk about being one of two women who sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii on The Hokule’a (Voyage of Rediscovery).  Inspired by Thor Hyerdahl in the 70’s, a Hawaiian crew sailed to Tahiti and back using a double-hulled vessel and the same methods as their early ancestors.  The crew had to learn all the old ways because they’d been lost as white man culture took over.  As she spoke, I thought how I wished I could have had such a role model when I was a young girl.  The young people she teaches now are so lucky to hear her story and know that they, too, can do whatever they dream of doing in life.

Part Three:

Luau means taro leaf and not the big feast of celebration.  The word for the celebration is Pa’ina.

Noe, our tour guide (not a comprehensive enough word for what she really is), and van drivers Squeaky and Cookie, and museum volunteers gave us a final pa’ina with authentic Hawaiian food, not the commercialized offerings of resort hotel fame.

There were two men playing guitars and singing and a woman who danced the hula for us and sang for us some chants.  When you go to visit another house or village, you stand outside the door and chant your hellos, your lineage, and you always bring a gift.  The people who lived in the mountains might bring a pig or a deer down to the people who live at the beach in exchange for some fish or sea creature.  (I know from Tony Hillerman’s novels that Navahos have the same custom.)
When she sang her family’s chants, I heard the same kind of tonal qualities I’d heard last summer during chants at the First Nation cultural center in Sitka.  Earlier we’d been told the common belief now is that Polynesian peoples visited all the continents in their travels and that the same qualities can be found thousands and thousands of miles apart.  We are all one big family, truly, and wouldn’t it be nice if we all could get along?

Noe explained that attending a pai’ina meant using manners.  Once the poi pot was uncovered, there could be no bickering, dispute, violence, or negativity.  There could be only positive actions and words, and discussion of things uplifting.  If someone broke the rule, the poi pot was covered up, and no one got to eat.  Everyone had to go home hungry. 

Wouldn’t this be a great custom for decision makers from hostile countries?  If some agreement could not be reached, the poi pot would be covered and everyone would have to go away hungry.

More thoughts and impressions to come...


Linda Ballou said...

Thank you for your informative piece. You might enjoy my story in my travel collection, Lost Angel Walkabout titled "In the Land of Mo" I also have an article on my site dedicated to Moloka'i.
My historical novel-Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawai'i is set in pre-contact Hawai' is a celebration of the people of old and thier poetic and wise culture..minus the human sacrifice part! Learn more at my site

Wanda said...

Manners would get us much further than what we do now.

Muse of South Prairie said...

Thank you, Linda Ballou, for your information.