Woke up early as I'd set the alarm for 6:30am, then went back to bed - it's a Sunday, for God's sake - I just needed to give myself a break and a chance to get some more sleep. I'd had grand plans of going kayaking at 7am to the Captain Cook monument and then snorkelling for a couple of hours before heading back to the Place of Refuge, but I just felt too tired and unmotivated. Woke up the second time at about 8am, feeling more refreshed. Sat and admired the view from the balcony and then drove back again to Honaunau to continue with the cultural festival.
Stopped at Kona Coffeehouse Cafe @ Honaunau, which is at the intersection of the highway and the drive down to the Place of Refuge. Wendy and I had popped in a few days before and had some great smoothies made with local, organic tropical fruit and I'd loved the service with a smile so I decided to get some breakfast from them. I certainly wasn't disappointed with their breakfast burrito and frappe Kona coffee! The place was full as they are famous around the island and kama'aina (residents) travel from far and wide to partake in their Sunday brunch treats!
I spent most of the morning at the Honaunau park watching and taking part in the cultural activities. It was a lovely sunny day and I got chatting to a few people as I stood in line to try some local foods. I finally got to try some "Poi", which is a Hawaiian staple food of pounded purple taro root. I made my own bracelet out of local flowers and plants - like a wreath - as well as a small hairpiece. The base consists of a wet Ti leaf with raffia wrapped tightly around each sprig (ferns, berries, flowers and leaves) added to the wreath.
The closing ceremony was a moving and emotional performance by a hula group from Pahoa. The performances were done gracefully and with great devotion and passion. At the end, the leader of the group, a beautiful and charismatic woman, explained the real meaning of "ALOHA". She said that the first "A" stands for "Akahai", which means modest. The second letter and word is "L" for "Lokahi" which means unison and harmony around the world. The middle letter "O" is for "Olu-olu" which is "pleasant" and represents pleasant thoughts, words and deeds. "H" is for "Ha'a Ha'a" which stands for "humble" and feeling secure about who you are and what you do. And then the last word in Aloha is probably the most difficult for everybody: "A" for "Ahonui" which is patience!
I bought a great book in Kanehoe at the library secondhand bookstore, called "Fierce Heart: the Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing", written by Stuart Holmes Coleman. I am not an expert in surfing, nor am I particularly interested in doing it, but I got it for a few simple reasons: I liked the book cover, surfing is a huge part of what Hawaii is known for and it also talks about Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - an amazingly talented singer and songwriter who, unfortunately also became as famous for his massive weight as for his beautiful voice.
The reason I mention this book now is because I am fascinated by Hawaiian music, culture and traditions and how these were affected by contact with settlers. Also, during my travels, I have unfortunately, heard many people complaining about the "natives", whether it was about the Aboriginals in Australia, the Maori in New Zealand or the Hawaiians in the States. But, I don't think that these people that complain have an understanding of the adversity and extreme challenges that "natives" faced when they were colonised (and almost wiped out) and continue to face through forced assimilation and integration into modern cultures based on Western norms. I admire Hawaiians because they have regained their identity and become fierce proponents and advocates of their history.
For me, the following paragraph from the book sums up my experience in Hawaii:
"When people come to Hawai'i, they hear people say, 'Aloha,' but they don't really understand the kaona, which is like the meaning." He explained that 'alo' is like the leaf of the taro plant and signifies the human face, and 'ha' is like the breath of life. "The Hawaiians used to put their heads together and exchange breaths. So 'ha' is like Chinese 'chi' or Japanese 'ki'". When greeting each other or departing, they would touch foreheads and exchange breaths. "Aloha is enveloping someone with your whole essence or aura. It's understanding the true essence of yourself and giving it to others".
I thought about this, and more, as I sat to watch my last breathtakingly, heartachingly, glowingly beautiful Hawaiian sunset from Anaeho'omalu Bay. Aloha Hawaii, until we meet again!