Monthly Archives: October 2012

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 31:: Pau

Well, here we are.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little 31-day travelogue as much as I have.

Throughout the month, I’ve thought of so many other things about life in my Hawaii that got left out, that I wanted to show you or tell you about. Oh, well, no doubt there will be other opportunities.

Most of all I want to tell you how privileged I feel not only to call this place home, but also to be able to share it with you. Maybe if I do a little “day-in-the-life” thing — you know, give you some ideas of how to pass the time here on the island …

Start your day early; go to the east side of the island and watch the sun come up:

Look over your shoulder to see the moon setting:

Have your morning coffee overlooking the marina:

If it’s raining, maybe there’ll be a rainbow  — or two:

Go for a walk; check out the view of Molokai and Lanai behind Koko Head:

In the other direction, Diamond Head, from the back side:

Do some bird watching:

Or take a hike to a lighthouse:

Take your doggies for a swim:

Make a lei for someone special:

Go to Waikiki Beach and watch a surf contest:

Catch a few waves with some friends:

Or just hang out by the pool:

When the evening rains come, catch another rainbow — or two:

Then watch the sunset behind Diamond Head:

And the moon rise again:

Aloha! Thanks for visiting!

This is the last post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 30:: Music and Dance: Ka Himeni Ana

Most of my associations with Hawaiian music have to do with dance — hula — but I want you to know that in fact some of the most beautiful Hawaiian music is choral music: sung, but not danced to.

The Hawaiian word for song, himeni, is actually a derivative of the English word “hymn.” Most Hawaiian music today has evolved, melodically, from church music and church traditions of choral singing.

In this vein, there exists a wonderful showcase for Hawaiian choral music, which is a song contest that has been going on for close to 30 years: Ka Himeni Ana. And the Coach and I were delighted to be present at this year’s event.

My favorite group: Ala`eli. photocredit: Ka Himeni Ana

The most wonderful thing about it, in my opinion, is that the entire show is “unplugged” — indeed the whole point of it is for the musician-contestants to perform without amplification.

So what you’re watching and hearing are, according to the program, “amateur Hawaiian music groups performing in the ‘nahenahe‘ style, the distinctive Hawaiian music form that features sweet vocal harmony supported by unamplified acoustic instruments.”

(My Hawaiian dictionary defines nahenahe thus: “Soft, sweet, melodious, as music or a gentle voice; soft, as fine cloth; softly blowing, as a gentle breeze; gentle-mannered, soft-spoken, suave.”)

The program notes go on to say: “The world is now overwhelmed with far too much loud noise. We are bombarded by so many noxious sounds today that we seldom experience the joy of listening. It is not necessary to force music on others with loud speakers, for if singing has quality, people will become quiet and listen. No other sounds in the world are more beautiful than natural human voices, and excellence commands attention. Because we often forget the style of music that came before, this contest is intended to provide a balance in the music offered in our islands today.” [emphasis added]

There in the historic and exquisite setting of the Hawai`i Theatre, adorned with what seemed like a whole forest of fragrant white ginger, we became quiet and listened. It was a treat for all the senses.

Here’s the winning group from 2011:

This is the thirtieth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 29:: Beach and ocean: Paddleboard

Obviously we love our time at the beach and in the ocean for recreational reasons. And there are always going to be those who want to do such activities competitively.

A couple guys in my family fit this description. Our boy, for example, is not only an avid surfer — surfs every single day he has off from work — but also likes to compete in surf contests.

The Coach doesn’t surf in contests anymore, but he does surf for fun as often as he can. He has a regular surf date with his best friend every Sunday afternoon. A few years ago, he started to “cross train” on a paddleboard in order to stay in condition for surfing.

To clarify: I’m not talking about what people on the mainland call a “paddleboard” — the real name for which is a SUP, or stand-up paddle, board. The difference is pretty straightforward: on one you’re standing up, on the other you’re kneeling or lying down, what they call prone.

A prone paddleboard looks somewhat like a surfboard, and you lie on it on your stomach and paddle with your arms like a surfboard, but the similarities kind of end there. For one thing, the board is anywhere from 9 to 15 feet long, much longer than a surfboard. Also, the bottom of the board is rounded like the hull of a canoe, rather than flat like a surfboard. This makes it more hydrodynamic, which is what you want as you’re trying to propel yourself across a stretch of water with only your, you know, arms.

Anyway, when our boy came home from the mainland after college, The Coach talked him into doing the paddleboard cross training thing, to help him improve his surfing. The next thing you know, our boy was entering races and had designs on doing the biggest paddleboard race of them all: the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard World Championships.

So that’s how, in late July, I came to be sitting — for six-plus hours — in an escort boat in the Kaiwi Channel between the islands of Molokai and Oahu, watching my husband and son paddle a board, in a relay format, for 32 miles.

It just occurred to me: this probably qualifies as an extreme sport. Because the best way I can think to describe it is … grueling. Took a year or two off my life just following along in the boat, helping them stay hydrated, and timing their 20-minute turns on the board.

It’s hard to imagine anything harder, but I guess they must have had fun.

Because our boy says he wants to do it again next year.

Which means I’ll need to decide if I want to sacrifice another year or two of my life in the escort boat.

This is the twenty-ninth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 28:: Miscellaneous: Ghost Story

In the spirit of Halloween, which is coming up in just a few days, I thought I’d relate a Hawaiian ghost story. This story comes from More Vignettes of Old Hawaii, by David Free (copyright © 1994 Crossroads Press, Inc.)

[ed. note: Kahili (kah-HEE-lee) are feathered standards used in ancient times by, and as symbols of, Hawaiian royalty. Just as the royal families of Europe display banners with coats of arms, Hawaiian nobility used kahili to show status, lineage, and family ties.]

Many old Hawaiian superstitions, myths and legends have over the years become intertwined, resulting in a hazy definition of the factual and the mythical. As a result, today we have believers and scoffers — those who choose to religiously follow the way of Hawaii’s old legends and those who are skeptical, who stand back in agnostic disbelief.

This is an account of a mysterious and inexplicable episode in Hawaii’s history when everyone became believers.

In 1928, Iolani Palace, the capitol of the territorial government, no longer served as home to royalty. The only remnant from the monarchy was the palace guard, which continued to act as the building’s protectors and caretakers. The captain of the guards was a handsome Hawaiian, Mokumaia — a handsome specimen of the old Hawaiian, more than 6 feet tall and possessing the strength of three normal men.

It was Mokumaia who, out of duty to his government, gave birth to an idea to brighten things up a bit around the territorial government building. Mokumaia commented: “Our governor all the same as alii [chiefs],” and therefore decided to make a number of kahilis to be used in the palace in the same fashion they were once used by royalty.

With full respect for the traditions of the past, Mokumaia and his staff set out to construct the kahilis. In the absence of the brilliant feathers of Hawaiian birds, long since extinct, they dyed the feathers of ducks in shades of red, yellow, and gold and fashioned two attractive kahilis. Had they stopped there, perhaps all would have been well and the ancient gods would have found no reason for offense. But the kahili makers carried on their art, committing an unforgivable desecration. Discovering some black feathers that had once been part of a kahili belonging to the last ruler of the kingdom, Queen Lili`uokalani, they made a third.

The kahilis were constructed in the basement of the bandstand on the palace grounds and, when finished, they were carried in ceremonial manner, under the careful supervision of Mokumaia, to the throne room of the palace.

Observing proper formalities of royalty, the black kahili was carried by the first guard and led the procession. Directly behind came guards bearing the two duck feather standards. All went well until the procession reached the foot of the palace steps. The black kahili mysteriously slipped from the hands of the bearer and fell to the ground. The morning paper reported the next day that “Its black feathers were ruffled in the fall.”

The following day the kahilis were presented to the governor of Hawaii in a ceremony marked by reverence for the sacred traditions of the past and were placed in what was once the throne room, but at the time was serving as chambers for the legislature.

On the night following the ceremony, the guard who had carried the black kahili was stricken with paralysis. A doctor was called, but the guard grew steadily worse. His wife, knowing of the black kahili incident, called a kahuna whose diagnosis was that her husband was being punished for an act of disrespect to the ancient gods. The kahuna intervened and the man was well in a short time.

Meanwhile, Mokumaia was stricken with a mysterious illness and confined to a hospital bed for several weeks. While he was still ill, the legislature went into session. Immediately, death began to stalk the home of members of the House of Representatives and the deep apprehensions of the community began to solidify.

First, the wife of a member died, then the mother of another and the child of a third, until by the end of 33 days, six people, all close relatives of legislature members, were laid to rest. Then a member of the House broke two ribs in a fall; another was taken seriously ill. Feelings ran high and, in near panic, the members of the house demanded that the speaker order the immediate removal of the black standard, known by now as the Death Kahili as far away as Washington, one of the daily newspapers took note of the hysteria taking place in the territory.

The speaker of the House talked to Mokumaia and together they worked out a plan for the removal of the black kahili. Protesting that he meant no wrong, but with full understanding of thee implications of recent happenings, Mokumaia set about to reverse the tragic events. Together with several attendants he came to the palace in the still of the night and exactly at midnight — the only hour when the royal dead may be moved — the black kahili was carried, reverently, from the palace.

The skeptical may jeer, the practical disbelieve, but the fact remains that following the removal of the Death Kahili, the grim reaper seemed to vanish from the legislative halls.

Happy Halloween!

This is the twenty-eighth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 27:: Culture, customs and traditions: Aloha Friday

In many work places around the country, employers have adopted the idea of “Casual Friday” — one day in the week to dress more, well, casually than you do Monday through Thursday.

Did you know that this custom originated in Hawaii? Yep, right here in downtown Honolulu. It all started over 50 years ago, when Aloha Friday came into being.

After the war, around 1947, Honolulu businessmen decided to eschew coats and ties at work for the month between late October and late November, during which Aloha Week is observed. Instead, in the spirit of spreading the aloha, they wore aloha shirts — what people in other parts of the world call Hawaiian shirts.

After Aloha Week, they would go back to their traditional, mainland-style work garb, but over the next 10 to 15 years, the idea began to be floated that we should do more to celebrate and express our Hawaiian heritage, and make the whole aloha shirt-wearing deal more of a regular thing.

In 1962, state legislators adopted resolutions that would encourage the wearing of aloha shirts during the summer months, and by 1967 the state legislature and the Hawaii fashion industry had set it up so that every Friday, everyone had the green light to wear aloha attire — aloha shirts for the men, muumuus for the women — to work.

It’s come to the point where nowadays, for most working men, basically every day is Aloha Friday: a nice, crisply ironed aloha shirt, tucked into your dress pants, is pretty much the white collar working man’s uniform. (If you’re downtown and see a man in a dress shirt and tie, he’s probably a lawyer on his way to court. Or the defendant.)

Alas, women don’t take as much to muumuus as they used to, back in the day. I’m not sure why that is. For some reason their popularity among working women has fallen off dramatically; you hardly ever see ladies wearing them at work. On Friday or any other day. I used to have a closet-full of muumuus — my Friday wardrobe — but now I only have one or two, for special occasions.

The Coach, however, has lots and lots of aloha shirts:

And so do all his friends.

The guys always have something to wear on Aloha Fridays.

This is the twenty-seventh post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 26:: Critters: Monk Seal

Here in the U.S., back when you were in fourth or fifth grade, your social studies curriculum probably had you learning all about your home state.

This would include history, both natural and political, probably subjects like geography and famous people. And of course you’d need to know things like where the state capitol is, and maybe memorize a bunch of other stuff just about your state.

Like all the state symbols.

Along with a state flag and a state song, most states have a state flower, a state bird, a state tree. That’s the minimum. Lots of them have state animals and minerals. From there, states get creative and add things like a state insect (Kentucky: Viceroy Butterfly), a state reptile (California: Desert tortoise), a state nut (Oregon: hazelnut), even a state vegetable (North Carolina: sweet potato).

(You’d be amazed at how many states have milk as their state beverage.)

The state of Hawaii, as you might imagine, has some interesting symbols. Probably the biggest attention-getter, by virtue of its name alone, is our state fish: humuhumunukunukuapua`a. Also, given that we’re surrounded by water, it’s appropriate that we have a state marine mammal: the humpback whale. (California and Alaska also have state marine mammals, and Florida — show-off — has two).

My favorite of all is our state mammal: the Hawaiian monk seal. Its Hawaiian name is `Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, “dog that runs in the rough water.” Here’s a little profile of this beautiful creature from the Hawaii Wildlife Fund:

The Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) is the only truly tropical seal in the world and it is critically endangered. There are fewer than 1100 monk seals remaining in the entire Hawaiian Archipelago.

Monk seals are mostly nocturnal feeders with a very diverse diet including eels, octopus, lobsters and fish. They come up onto land to rest, and to give birth and nurse their young. They are very sensitive to human disturbance at their haul-out sites.

Mother monk seals nurse their pups on the beach for approximately 6 weeks and must not be disturbed. Although their total numbers are decreasing every year in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, those monk seals born in the Main Hawaiian Islands are surviving better and need our continued vigilant protection.

So when a monk seal “hauls out” of the ocean — comes up on land to rest or whatever — people get very excited to actually see one up close. Which isn’t something you’re supposed to do; get too close, that is. That’s why you’ll sometimes see beaches that have little sections roped off with what looks like yellow crime scene tape. It’s to make you keep your distance from our beloved state mammal.

Here’s a couple shots of a monk seal who hauled out to rest in Waikiki not too long ago:


This is the twenty-sixth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 25:: Flowers in my yard: Lehua

yellow lehua blossoms

I am no gardener — I challenge anyone to beat me at brown thumb-ness — but I know what I like in a garden.

So when we moved into our current home a dozen or so years ago, I told The Coach that I really wanted to have native Hawaiian plants incorporated into our landscaping.

The centerpiece of which are our ohi`a lehua trees. The ohi`a tree is native to Hawaii, thriving in the upland forests on all islands. The nomenclature is a bit tricky, in that the tree is known as ohi`a, and the blossom is called lehua. Never vice versa. More on that in a little bit.

Our ohi`a lehua tree

One of our trees bears red lehua (lehua ‘ula) and the other bears yellow lehua (lehua mamo) blossoms. Trees with the red blossoms are generally more common, but for some reason our tree with yellow seems to do better.

Both the blossoms and the silvery leaf buds, know as liko, are used in lei making, particularly leis for hula. Every year at the Merrie Monarch Festival, several halau seem to choose leis of lehua –red or yellow or both — for their performances.

lei of red lehua. photo credit:

And, as is true of many elements of Hawaiian life, there are legends associated with this tree and its blossom. Here’s one, a love story (which many Hawaiian legends are):

In ancient times, there was a handsome chief named Ohi`a. He was deeply in love with a beautiful young maiden named Lehua. Ohi`a had eyes for no one else, and wooed Lehua and promised to be true to her always.

The two might have lived happily ever after, except that one day Pele, the goddess of fire, came upon Ohi`a and was absolutely smitten with him. Taking the form of a beautiful woman, Pele set out to seduce him. But Ohi`a was steadfast in his love for Lehua and refused Pele’s advances. Enraged, Pele decided that if she couldn’t have Ohi`a for herself, no one would. So she transformed him into a gnarly, twisted tree with gray leaves.

When Lehua saw what had happened to her lover, she cried out in anguish. The other gods heard her and took pity. They couldn’t undo what Pele had done, but they could turn Lehua into a bright red blossom on the tree, so that the lovers could never again be separated.

To this day, when you pluck a lehua blossom, it will rain — a sign of the tears the lovers shed at being separated from each other.

This is the twenty-fifth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 24:: Food: Malasadas

One of the great things about living here is that Hawaii’s rich history as an ethnic and racial melting pot has brought us so many wonderful and delicious kinds of foods.

One of my favorites from the Portuguese culture is malasadas.

photo credit:

Malasadas are basically doughnuts: fried balls of sweet yeast dough coated in sugar. Customarily they differ from doughnuts in that there’s no hole, which might make it more of a fritter, but whatever. They are delicious; that’s all you need to know.

One caveat, though: malasadas are best enjoyed fresh, hot out of the fryer; they generally don’t keep well. So don’t wait too long between the time of purchase and consumption — you’ll be missing out on the optimal malasada eating experience.

Way back when, members of the Portuguese community in Hawaii introduced the tradition of eating these sweet treats on Shrove Tuesday. Before long, Leonard’s Bakery, the family business behind this idea, knew it had a hit on its hands and were cranking out thousands of malasadas a day.

Leonard’s is probably at the top of the list of bakeries contending for title of yummiest malasada, but there are others, such as Champion and Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop. And malasadas are one of the most — perhaps the most — popular food booths at the annual Punahou School Carnival. No one leaves the Carnival without eating a malasada!

This is the twenty-fourth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 23:: Music and Dance: Wedding hula

In our Western culture, most people dance at their weddings.

You know, the bride dances with her dad, and there’s the traditional “first dance,” where the bride dances with the groom.

Here in Hawaii, the bride dances for her groom. In previous posts when I’ve talked about the various contexts of hula, I haven’t yet mentioned this one: hula as a gift to someone. In this case, as the bride’s gift to her husband.

I’m not sure how or when this tradition got started, but it’s more or less expected at the majority of Hawaiian wedding receptions that the bride will dance a hula. Even if she was never much of a serious dancer — but absolutely a must if she ever was — a bride will select a love song and learn a dance just for the occasion.

Not only did I dance for The Coach at our wedding (twice, actually, because we had a second reception in California for our mainland friends and family), but I’ve also had the honor of choreographing and teaching a wedding hula to other brides.

You might think that it puts a certain stress on the poor bride, who has enough on her plate as it is, what with all the wedding planning stuff weighing her down, to have to be learning and practicing a whole hula in the weeks before the big event.

That’s true, but I can tell you as a bride, there’s no greater privilege on your wedding day than to dance for your husband. And as a guest, to watch love on display in a wedding hula is one of the most touching and lovely ways you will ever see hula performed.

Here’s an assignment for you: Go to YouTube and search on “wedding hula,” then watch two or three of the more than 2,000 videos that people have posted of brides dancing a special hula for their grooms.

Then try not to be moved to tears by this unique communication of love. I dare you.

Dancing at my wedding

This is the twenty-third post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 22:: Beach and ocean: Canoe surfing

I have a friend, a lifeguard for the City and County of Honolulu, who tells me that something like 95 percent of visitors to Hawaii come here with the intention of participating in some sort of beach- or ocean-related activity.

Now, obviously not everyone is going to have the skills and/or confidence to do something like scuba diving or parasailing or even learning how to surf. But what many visitors — particularly those to the world’s most famous beach, Waikiki — can do, with the help of an authentic, experienced Waikiki beach boy, is canoe surfing.

Doesn’t this look like fun?
photo credit:

Here’s how one of the top beach concessions describes this thrilling activity:

The outrigger canoe ride of today was derived from the original sport that was beloved by the elite of old Hawaii – outrigger canoe surfing. Outrigger canoe surfing is a sport that is unique to Hawaii, and, more specifically, to Waikiki. In old Hawaii, Waikiki was the playground of the elite, and outrigger canoe surfing was a privilege reserved solely for the aliʻi, or Hawaiian royalty. To this day, Waikiki Beach is still the only place in the world where you can experience the thrill of racing down a wave on an outrigger canoe.

The outrigger canoe is one of the safest ocean vessels today. It is the only vessel that does not require life jackets by the US Coast Guard, making it the perfect activity for the whole family. Anyone can participate in this “royal” activity and experience the thrill of surfing from the safety of our outrigger canoe.

I happen to have a particular fondness for this sport, because it is what The Coach and I did on our first date.

Having paddled outrigger canoes since he was a kid, he is a skilled steersman who is a master of catching and riding Waikiki’s waves. So that first time we went out together in a canoe and did a little surfing, I had a blast. Nearly 30 years later, it’s still one of the things we love to do together.

The Coach taking some young ladies out for their first canoe ride

This is the twenty-second post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.