Category Archives: Life in My Hawai`i

October 2012

Random thoughts for Friday

1. Tonight The Coach and I are going out for dinner at a nice restaurant for Valentine’s Day. Yeah, we know it was yesterday; the flowers have already begun to wilt and the chocolates melt. But you know what? This way works for us. For one thing, yesterday was a school night. Kind of hard for teachers to go out for Date Night when they know they’ll be waking up, as usual, the next morning at 5:00. Plus, when you’ve been married 27 years, you have quite a few Valentine’s Days under your belt and so it’s okay to let them go by with just a card and a kiss on the actual day. Also, unless you started planning shortly after New Year’s, do you know how hard it is to get a reservation anywhere on February 14th? At our age and stage, let the kids have ’em; we’ll just settle for the next day, after the crowds subside.

2. But I’m going to ask our waiter how many proposals happened last night. Assuming young men are still into that sort of thing. I really have no idea, but from what I hear, it seems like men of what used to be known as marriageable age are either putting off the whole proposal/getting married thing or just forgoing it altogether. Which you can understand, given that they have, at that age, bigger fish to fry. Like getting a good job — or any job. In order to pay off their mountains of student loan debt. Then, when they’ve got all that more or less under control, you think they’re going to want to take it on all over again, with a big Say Yes to the Dress-type wedding? Not hardly.

3. Our boy falls into that “marriageable age” category, and is actually seeing someone who could potentially be a spouse, so I suppose I have a close-range view of that whole phenomenon. At 25, he’s in no hurry whatsoever to take that step; doesn’t feel ready for it all, and says so. By comparison, his grandfather, at age 25, had already been married for two years and had a baby. So there you go. Times change.

4. And anyway, I’m not ready to be a grandmother — although I could handle mother-in-law, I suppose — so this works out fine for all parties. Although it’s Kupuna [Grandparents] Day today for the kindergartners at The Coach’s school, and he’s having to fill in for a couple of the little ones’ absent grandparents. So I guess he’s getting some practice at it.

5. Speaking of our boy, it’s a good thing he does have a job with benefits, because he’s about to go in for minor surgery on his foot, next Tuesday. He seems pretty relaxed about the whole thing, which is quite a relief because his tendency is to be somewhat, shall we say, dramatic about anything involving needles in his personal space. I went with him the other day for his pre-op medical clearance appointment, and when the nurse suggested he get a flu shot as long as he was there, you’d have thought she’d just asked him to donate a kidney. Wimp.

6. One of my New Year’s Resolutions has to do with a better — maybe the word is regular — job with my housekeeping chores. It would be great, I thought, to hire someone to come every other week or so. But that’s not exactly in the budget, so then I had the brilliant idea of “hiring” myself to do it. I mark on my calendar the days the “cleaning lady” is supposed to be here, then I set aside those days to do all the things a real cleaning lady would do. If I had one, that is. So far this has worked exactly … once. I totally skipped it this week, but in my defense (I can’t believe I’m “defending” myself over this. So lame.), what with all the construction going on, what would be the point?

7. I’ve had it in mind to post more regularly about life in my Hawaii, as I did last October. Little ideas for topics pop into my head from time to time, but as you can see, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. (Is it just me or does this whole post seem like it has way too many run-on sentences with commas sprayed everywhere like so much, um, fertilizer? If so, sorry.) Anyway, one of my ideas came from a sort of field trip The Coach and I took to a farm last weekend. I took a bunch of pictures to show what a Hawaiian farm looks like, and how it differs from farms elsewhere. So in lieu — or in advance — of a whole post, here’s a couple shots of the crop, taro (kalo, in Hawaiian):

Taro is grown in muddy-water rice paddy type plots known as lo`i. The one on the left has been recently planted; the one on the right is more mature but not yet ready to harvest. And yes, it’s raining.

Here’s what a taro plant looks like up close. In the Hawaiian diet, the whole plant is used, from the root, which is where poi comes from, to the leaves.

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.