Showing posts from April, 2008

Hawaiian Culture Camp

For ten years, George Kahumoku Jr. has been hosting a Hawaiian music camp on Maui. He invites famous slack key and ukulele players to teach a group of enamored haole mainlanders to play (and make leis and chant and sing in Hawaiian), while feeding them gussied up Hawaiian fare at the open aired Mauian hotel in Napili. For a week they get to be immersed in Aloha, Ohana, Mana, and Kaukau, playing Hawaiian music by starlight while the waves crash on the beach. It's overwhelmingly picturesque.
I got to go a while ago because of a gracious research grant. So while everyone else were cultural tourists, I felt like an observer, on a mission to parse this odd experience.

On the first day of the camp I drove up through the windy cliff-roads to George Kahumoku’s beautiful big house and great garden and taro-patch. George opened the gate and set us all to work.

He’s a big Hawaiian guy- very busy all day—and his wife is a skinny haole lady, Nancy. She was the ticking clock that kept everybody a…

Tourists at Iao Needle

Tourists are interesting to observe. A great deal of time is spent posing and negotiating pictures—I half observed one struggle—a family with several kids posed for the grandpa’s camera- the 8 year old boy’s shirt was rumpled. The grandmother said, bafflinglingly, “the orange stripe is crooked! Do you want everyone to see you like that Andrew? Do you want me to tell everyone?” So then he had his arm over his face for the rest of the poses, with mother saying his name like a sneeze over and over, grandfather growling, grandmother whining and threatening.
Poor kid, what’s the point of taking pictures? To preserve the joys of childhood?
Tourists, on the whole, seem pretty friendly. Three year old boys must throw rocks over cliffs, their mothers must scold them. They are cheerful and trusting with each other—swapping cameras, flirting with each other’s children.
They are gruff and overly buoyant with the locals—crazy young shirtless brown guys jumping off of the bridge into a rocky river 30 …


I've had several conversations lately with other malihini.
The consensus seems to be that it is hard to live in Paradise.
Is that extraordinarily odd?
We have all made painful sacrifices to move here--leaving family and friends and familiarity back on the mainland. It's expensive to ship your car and all of your stuff. It's hard to find a job that can keep up with inflated rents and $7 a gallon milk (as expensive as Manhattan on a quarter of the income!)
I know heaps of people who are desperate to move here-- who fantasize about their lives as they would be, surely, in Hawaii. The haole mainlander Hawaiian music officianados I met through slack-key camp are positively fervent about Hawaiian culture-- weeping openly about the fate of King Kalakaua and about the beauty of Aloha. People feel compelled to come here, to fulfill their dreams. People come to become cocoa farmers, to thaw out, to relax, to restart their lives.
And then they get disillusioned, and according to a Hawaii …

Just Don't Try

I was standing in line at the grocery store. The ponytailed local guy in front of me was paying for a stack of clothespins and some rope. A fat white guy followed me in line, checked out the big dark guy and his items on the counter and shouted amiably, "Hey Braddah! You Get Plenty Clothespins For Hang Choke Laundry!"
"Oh," the local guy answered, "yes. They're actually for the printing master class I'm teaching."