We went to the Punana Leo Preschool fundraiser today-- I had seen the signs for it flapping around town. They are handpainted in bright primary colors, on squares of white fabric, inviting one and all for a full day of music and talk story. I've been thinking that the Hawaiian immersion preschool would be a good choice for my kid next year, and so I wanted to come and get a feel for the school community.
We got there and realized we drove the wrong vehicle. The parking lot of the war memorial hall was full of trucks-- and foolish us, we came in our dusty little sedan. But no matter. In we go, retrieve our kalua pig and cabbage bowls, and peer around at the crowd. It made me nostalgic for our life on the Big Island-- big uncles and grandpas cuddling sleeping babies and swatting at hyper toddlers, skinny portuguese grandmas with gold necklaces and their sensuous micronesian granddaughters in bright haltertops.
The lights flicked on and off and we moved into a beautiful theater. The little preschool kids were lead out and positioned on bleachers. They were all in matching aloha print dresses and shirts, with black kukui nut leis, and their hair all neatly braided or slicked back. Their teachers came out with a huge upright bass and two ukuleles, and the kids started in on their performance.
The uncle leading the songs called out, "Mākaukau?" The tiny kids held very still and anwered, "Ae!" They belted those songs out! They knew all of the Hawaiian words, and some of the songs had actions, and they knew all of those too. It was fun for us to try and follow along with our limited Hawaiian-- catching the numbers and some animals and pointing out the mimed actions to Rosie-- like the Popoki's ears (meow!). As the program went on, they started fidgeting. Kukui leis slithered off of necks and onto the ground, fancy dress collars were chewed on, and some girls on the back row began jostling and pushing at each other.
So cute. I would love to have Rosie go to school there, even if all of the reclaimist talk of "carrying on the traditions of our ancestors" doesn't apply. We live in Hawaii, it was its own country, and has its own language. Why not allow ourselves to become familiar with that language and culture, and participate in a positive way with its continuation?