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Leaving Hawai’i

It feels like just the other day I wrote my expectation blog post saying how I really did not know what to expect and was excited and open to everything we were doing. Well now I can say that our experience in Hawai’i definitely exceeded all the expectations that I had. It was such a unique experience and it was an experience of a lifetime. We got a firsthand look at how Western culture is affecting the natives. Going to three different islands really gave me a deeper perspective on what life on the islands is like. First we went to Honolulu which was very different from the other islands because of the amount of tourists and places catered towards the tourist population. While in Hilo and Kona I got to know and talk to more locals and natives about their life on the Big Island. This trip has had a lasting impact on me and here are some thoughts I would like to share:

When we got to hear the Osorio’s speak, Jamaica spoke of the common stereotypes that Hawai’i and Hawaiian people get put on them such as uneducated, surfers, all they have to offer are the beaches and good surfing waves. This hit me because I related to this since that’s what all my family and friends were saying when I signed up for this class. Little did they know that there is so much more meaning to life on the Hawaiian Islands and there is so much culture and a language that is trying to survive. Then when we went to University of Hawai’i- Hilo and got to do the Immersion class it really hit me what the older generation thinks of haloes. I really liked having an older guy in our class because he did not hold back any of the feelings that he felt toward the haloes/missionaries that came over and that the Hawaiians had to “mimic the monster”. Seeing this firsthand really was a great experience because so many people/docents we have met on this trip have censored the way they talk about the overthrow and other things related to missionaries and the U.S. mainland.

Lastly, I am very interested in the environment and so learning about the sustainability of Hawai’i was very important to me. Without shipments, Hawai’i would be out of food within a week. Learning about this was shocking but going to the Waipa Foundation was one of my favorite days. It was good to be able to learn about everything and then go into the fields and be able to help out and make a difference even if we were only there helping for an afternoon.

This has truly been an experience like no other and I have learned so much more than I thought I was going to. I have already started having conversations with family and friends about Hawai’i and some of them have been shocked by what I have shared because they have a picture of pure paradise painted in their heads. Now it’s time for us to share the stories and the knowledge we have learned. Thanks for an incredible experience!


Final Blog

Trying to fit all of my final thoughts into a blog post is impossible, because throughout these three weeks we have learned and experienced so much that after a day of only being back at Elon, it is still hard to explain and put together. If I had to put it into a few words as a broad statement, it would be about paradise and the simple meaning that words means to the rest o the United States. Hawai’i is a paradise, but not in the way that we have seen it from the outside for decades and will sadly continue to do. Hawai’i is a paradise because of their culture, the people, their language and the way they interact with the land that surrounds them. The land is beautiful, but what is more beautiful is the culture and identity that surrounds it.

Another final thought is about the people we have met, and their connection to their movement and to each other. After we met John and Jamaica Osorio, every single speaker and person we met, no matter which town or even Island, knew them and where excited for us to do that. This made me so excited and humbled that we got to connect these together and meet people that are so well thought about throughout the islands. This movement of Hawai’i identity is bigger than it seems. It is connecting people all over the islands and now people like us on the mainland.

Places like the Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace gave us academic background and interesting history needed to understand our experince, but meeting and speaking with people like Pua, Josh and Mikahala Roy is what hits home to really show an outsider what Hawai’i is all about. We took the history we learned and put it to present day and was easily one of the best experiences of my life


Final Reflection

Before arriving in Hawaii I honestly did not know what to expect. I was aware of the fact that it was not going to be what we see in movies where you get a lei as you come off the plane but that also led me to not have many expectations at all. However, now, after returning from the islands I have much more to reflect on than I expected I would.

When landing in Honolulu, I knew it was a tourist spot, therefore it would be a bit more populated and commercialized. I was right about this aspect of the town, however, I was able to find many local joints that exceeded my expectation; although, I concluded that, yes, the tourists spots such as Iolani Palace and Pearl Harbor were interesting, they were also relatively underwhelming. With Pearl Harbor specifically I guessed that I would take much more away from the site while in reality I was a bit frustrated in the end by the population of tourists at this site.

While Honolulu was extremely commercialized, Kaui’i was much more populated by locals and this resulted in it being one of my favorite locations we had stayed in. Pu’a was able to extend much of her knowledge and culture with us and I believe that functioned to be exactly what this course was designed to do. With her we were able to talk to a local and native Hawaiian and here her story and I found this the most beneficial. The day at Waipa was also so great because we were able to do some of that work that I was assured will go back to the community and I felt that was extremely rewarding.

Hilo, like Kaui’i was much more of what I wanted out of this trip. The Immersion School was absolutely my favorite part solely based on the conversations we were able to have there. I also believe that the Hilo market was a great experience because it led us truly immerse ourselves in the culture and try new things! The volcanos, also exceeded my expectations because Noah, our guide, acted “real” with us. While he had a script he did not always necessarily follow it, and that allowed us to gain a bit more from our trip than we did in other tourist sites.

Kona was filled with unexpected surprises. I absolutely loved the boat day and the coffee tours and they surprised me with extra little tid-bits of knowledge; not necessarily knowledge about history but more about knowledge of current day. In these places I was able to talk to our captain and tour guide and here about their ideas and practices during the present day and that gave me more to think about in regards to our final paper.

Over all, while I was unsure about overall expectations for the trip, I did have expectations for each individual activity. I found that many of the more “touristy” attractions let me down while those that I didn’t expect to take much from left me with the most to think about. This trip as a whole blew me away and sparked a flame in me, encouraging me to now tell their stories!


Final thoughts

I don’t even know where to start with my final thoughts on the past three weeks. I knew the initial expectations I had would be exceeded by the experiences we had on the trip but didn’t fully understand the impact those we met would have. Getting to hear from Native Hawaiians like the Osorios and Mikahala Roy was truly amazing and inspiring – what they told us is that no matter how much Hawaiian you have in you, you are Hawaiian. The stories they told made what we had learned about the American takeover of their land far too real. Something else I realized is that Hawaiian identity is directly rooted in their land, and if that is taken away, what happens to their identity as an indigenous people? While I did love the fun things we got to do (yay boat day!) I really enjoyed the times where we were surrounded by locals like at Hilo Market and the time we spent with Pua learning about traditional Hawaiian culture. It is hard to try to summarize my thoughts from the past three weeks but I am so grateful for the opportunity and will hold these experiences close to my heart. The things we learned you just can’t get from doing the touristy things in Hawaii. As many others have said, it would be really hard to go back on vacation but I would love to have the opportunity to show my family what I learned there. The history of Hawaii needs to be told, and now since we know the story, its our job to tell it .


Final Thoughts

Final thoughts are hard to summarize in a blog post. Hopefully that will be better done in the paper. What an amazing journey. I can’t believe it’s over. It seems like I should be getting ready to meet everyone at RDU tomorrow to fly to Honolulu (I wish). Throughout the trip, the idea that was always in the back of my head was something that Jon and Jamaica both touched on: blood quantum. Many people during the rest of our trip mentioned it without using this exact terminology, including Pu’a and Kiwala’o. Despite being a mix of many other ethnicities or races, people who had Hawai’ian ancestry still identified as Hawai’ian. It doesn’t matter how much Hawai’ian you are, you’re still Hawai’ian, and that’s very different than my experience with Native American ancestry. I think Jamaica’s words on the white supremacy narrative in relation to this and in Hawai’i’s past were really powerful. She definitely inspired me to learn more about my great great grandmother and her family.

Another thing that sticks out in my mind when I reflect is Bill from the Bishop Museum. I definitely enjoyed our time there, but Bill made it that much more memorable. It was so special to be able to sit back and listen to a native person speak about his people’s history and culture, and you could tell how passionate he was about it. I planned on going to the 10 o’clock tour with the lady who greeted us at the door, and Bill paused at 9:55 offering to let us go. But I’m so glad we stayed with him because I heard that tour going on later when I was walking around and she didn’t have that same connection and pride in what was in the museum that Bill had.

Jon and Asa said that Bill told them he learned everything through oral stories and that reminded me of Mikahala reading us the oral story and saying she just carried out an ancient  tradition of her people. While she was reciting the story, the tour bus passed by quite noisily and Mikahala just paused and waited. That was a very powerful moment. Here is Mikahala carrying out ancient traditions and speaking about the culture while a tour bus interrupts her and silences her. Aligns pretty well with the Hawai’ian history.

Although the flights yesterday were long, that trip was absolutely worth it. I had such a great time and I learned so much from people who I never would have had the opportunity to meet had it not been for this trip. Thank you.


Final reflection

Final thoughts? There are a lot of them and I don’t know where to start. I remember starting the trip with very little expectations, mostly expecting those expectations to be thrown out by the time we left. If anything I dislike tourism even more now that I’ve seen what it does to a place.I had hoped that Hawai’i would be more rural, but I guess I can also say I’m not surprised at how overrun it felt by impersonal buildings and businesses. We got to know some incredible people and learn their stories- real stories. That is not something you can learn from shopping for t-shirts on the main road in Waikiki and going to a luau at your resort one evening. That’s a culture giving visitors what they want to see and experience, even if it’s not true to the roots of the culture on display. I felt like we had to wade through tourism and pull out the weeds that choke the Hawaiian nation (oh my gosh I think I just turned the lo’i patch into a metaphor). But hey, it’s people like us that care to weed the garden who will hopefully help bring the truth back.


Final Reflection

These past three weeks are hard to explain in words. I think that the experiences we had went well beyond my expectations that I wrote about in our first blog post.   I especially note that the conversations we had with all the people we met were far more inspiring, emotional, and real than I had ever imagined. While one of the biggest takeaways of this trip is how present Hawaiian identity is today whether “outsiders” acknowledge it or note, I also think that we also had the opportunity to think about our own identity.


One of the first things that shocked me was the amount of tall buildings in Oahu. Granted, we were in the city, but I think I just imagined Hawai’i being less built up and more rural. Of all the islands I expected Oahu to be the most “touristy” but even still the street with all of the shops reminded me of Fifth Avenue in New York. In Oahu, I was excited about visiting ‘Iolani Palace. I half expected to walk through the palace getting the feeling that royalty had once lived here, but mostly I just felt like we were intruding in someone’s home. It kind of felt like I was visiting a house that is for sale. Beautiful and full of history it was and I appreciated that and don’t regret going at all, but I think that was one of the most unexpected experiences. I was also surprised by the trip to Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t expecting it to be so “relaxed.” Without a doubt, the movie they showed at the beginning was emotional, but I expected the whole experience to be that way as well. Maybe people got caught up in the touristy nature of it, but it seemed like it was more about the pictures than the experience of honoring the fallen.


I think that Kauai was surprisingly my favorite island. While the resort wasn’t exactly the non-tourist vibe we were going for, the things that we did on the island were amazing. I loved Pu’a and the knowledge she bestowed on us (her kid was so adorable too!). I felt like we were really learning and living in the culture when with her. Waipa Foundation was also an unforgettable experience. I loved having dirt under my nails and mud between my toes. It was in that moment (walking through the slippery mud) that I felt the sacredness and beauty of the land the most. I can’t say that the land holds the same place in my heart and soul as it does for the Hawaiians, but in that moment I understood in a way that is hard to describe.


Hilo market was another favorite for me. I loved just walking around and taking it all in. I remember looking around and thinking: well, a lot of these people are tourists, but look at the people who are hear shopping for their weekly fruit. It was also so cool seeing one of the students from the Language Immersion School selling stuff at a stand. How cool to see her in the classroom but then out living her daily life. I also had a great experience talking to a native at the market, which gave me one of the best understandings of Hawaiian identity but also identity in general.


Finally, Kona…the perfect mix between the accessibility of Oahu and the natural beauty of Kauai. Still very touristy, it was remarkably less so than Oahu. And how can Kona not be up there in the favorites with the boat tour being on the itinerary there!


As my final thoughts, something that I didn’t think about as much before the trip is the presence of Japanese and Chinese. Honestly, it was a lot harder to tell who was Hawaiian than I expected—perhaps because of how much of a minority natives are in their own home. This trip was so much more than I expected and changed my entire perspective. I really don’t know if I can go back with my family but at the same time I want to show them all that I have learned. Hawai’i is a beautiful kingdom and more people need to know about it.


Final Reflections

Over the course of the last three weeks, every thought I have ever had about Hawaii has be completely shattered. I never expected there to be so much hidden history and culture that no one talks about in classes or sees on a normal vacation to Hawai’i. I am so grateful for this experience to be able to see the real side of Hawai’i that I feel very few outsiders get to experience. I know that we only scratched the surface of the many problems that exist, but I already have a much deeper appreciation for the struggle of this entire culture over the past 200 years. Native Hawaiians have struggled since the arrival of the missionaries to maintain their identity.

Over this course, we have seen both sides of the story. I found it very interesting the way that certain institutions, such as ‘Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum were able to essentially change the narrative of what has happened over the course of history based on how they word it. I found ‘Iolani Palace particularly frustrating because the woman who gave our tour seemed to sugar coat things to try to reduce the effect that Americans have had on the native Hawaiians. Based on what we have heard from many other presenters, including students at the language immersion school at University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Mikahala Roy, and the Osorios, the Americans were anything but respectful to the culture. I find it so aggravating that there can be such a major discrepancy between the two sides of the story and there is no middle ground or grey area. However, I am so thankful to have been able to hear from native Hawaiians and educators the true story.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to explore everything from the touristy destinations, like the city portion of Waikiki, to the unique opportunities like the Waipa foundation and the Hilo market, to the meaningful conversations with people like the Osorios, Pu’a, Kiwala’o, and Mikahala Roy. It gave me the opportunity to compare and contrast the kinds of experiences we had in each place, and the stories people had to tell. The places we visited in Waikiki tended to be geared toward tourists, so it felt like we were more likely to get the american version of the story, while the other areas we got more of the cultural history and real life stories from natives. The order in which we hit the islands and where we stayed to seemed to move from more resort-like and touristy to a more centralized and cultural atmosphere. I think starting in Waikiki and moving from there was a nice transition from our expectations of Hawaii to what we were there to learn about. However, that is not to say that Waikiki was not culturally significant, as there were many places there and nearby that were very important to the narrative we created. I just think that it was the place where we saw the highest concentration of tourists in such a small area, and it was clearly more commercialized than the other cities we visited.

I would not trade anything for this experience and I believe it is something that I will remember forever. I also believe that what I have learned over this course will probably carry over into other places that I may travel to in the future. I will never be able to look at the tourism industry and the impact that it has on the local populations and native cultures. I don’t think I could pick a favorite part of this trip because everything we did was a new experience for me that I don’t think I would be able to have anywhere else. I will forever be grateful for this experience, the other students, and the many people that we met along the way.


Mikahala Roy

After listening to Mikahala speak to us this morning, the importance of land and language for Hawaiian identity is extremely clear. Her emotion and passion for her culture was so raw it was hard to not tear up along with her as she talked about her ancestors and the issues she has with the hotel on the heiau land and the telescope on Mauna Kea.

She mentioned that you should protect what you love. This is the driving force behind the individuals who are protesting on top of Mauna Kea. She also spoke passionately about her own distaste for the TMT telescope on top of Mauna Kea as well as the hotel we were at who said that land was theirs. This made me think of the reading – it mentioned that the places, the land, are critical in maintaining Hawaiian identity and Hawaiian cultural survival and it was clear to me hat Mikahala feels like her culture and identity as a Hawaiian are being threatened. She posed the question of “would you do this to Stonehenge or to the Vatican?” And I asked myself why is the land here of less value than that land? The land here is absolutely fundamental to their identity.

What we have learned about the Hawaiian culture now makes me wonder about other cultures. The reading stated that this relationship between place and identity may extend to other cultures who have an endangered language and whose culture is more widely known in its commercial tourist rather than its authentic form. This is also a theme of what Mikahala talked to us about – it is now our responsibility, our kuliana, to uphold the traditions of the Hawaiian people in the past, the present day, and going forward into the future. We can here for a reason and now that we know the story, it is our job to continue to tell it, just like what the Osorios told us.

Mikahala as well as others have continually told us that Hawaiians are an oral people. We as informed people have the responsibility to tell their stories and traditions so that they don’t become a lost culture, so that don’t lose their language. We must think about what it would feel like to us to lose our language.

We came here for a reason, as Mikahala said. It’s our job to remember what we have learned in the fall class and the past three weeks going forward to protect Hawaiian identity and the land. We can also be practitioners for the Hawaiian culture – we have something to communicate now. Land and place is crucial identity here and it is our job now to make sure that the Hawaiian people don’t lost that.


January 18th

In the article, A Making of Cook’s Death, Howe suggests that, “there is no final judgement for history”. This implies that there are multiple truths in every story, as each person interprets a situation differently. In class today we discussed the importance of biases in the telling and retelling of the Hawai’ian story. This discussion gave me perspective on my own bias as I reflect on my knowledge of Hawai’i. While our class is among a small percentage of people who know the Hawai’ian story, our bias is shaped by the articles we have read and the stories that have been chosen for us to hear. Our understanding is based upon our own interpretation. While we know a lot, there are many pieces of the narrative that have surely been left out. Therefore, we must recognize that our understanding is not the same as everyone else’s, thus our judgement of this story may not be “right one”.

The beauty and allure of these islands have compelled many different types of people to move here, bringing with them their own unique perspective. Each person or group of people has valued this land for something different. While many of the natives felt connected to the land, Americans and other Western settlers viewed the islands as money and opportunity. Christian missionaries were drawn to the land by God’s will, believing it was their duty to educate and civilize the native “savages”. The expression of these narratives and many more still shape the islands today. We have seen them through activists like the Osorios who fight for sovereignty, the students at the language school who find sovereignty in their own way by taking back their language and regaining a piece of their culture, and even through tour guides and museums we have seen who repress their anger with Americans and only share small pieces of the story. The Hawai’ian narrative is complex and with each day and experience I am uncovering a bit more. The more I learn the stronger “kuleana”, I feel to tell the story.

While I am not Hawai’ian, I feel a strong connection to the culture and a yearning to know more. I feel guilty for what Americas have done, and for my own hand in the erosion of Hawai’ian culture by never learning the story until now. I am ashamed of my assumption that the Hawai’ians wanted to be a part of our nation. My lack of knowledge helped to perpetuate the mistreatment of Hawai’ian culture. I now feel that it is my duty to share what I know of the Hawai’ian story and educate others.

Class today brought me back to one of our very first experiences here, speaking with the Osorios. Jamaica said that we do not have to be Hawai’ian to share the story. When I first started taking this course, it felt wrong to share this story, but as I learn more I have become more inclined to teach. While I may not be proud of it, what happened on these islands is a part of my own history as an American too. Although it is negative, simply pretending it never happened perpetuates the destruction of Hawai’ian culture. I feel a responsibility to ask the tough questions and to critically analyze everything I am told about the history. Similar to the many Japanese who visit Pearl Harbor, the Hawai’ian story is American history too, and therefore it is our duty to try and educate ourselves on the past and try and grasp an understanding, in order to move toward a better future.