Hawaiian Culture

Hawaiian Dance

Hawaiian Dance

Vancouver, Canada, September 2015

Yes, most of us have seen the Elvis movies on the Hawaiian beaches, heard the song Aloha-Oe, and seen surf videos on ESPN on the beautiful beaches of the 50th state of the US of A, but is that all that makes the culture of Hawaii? I know, you know that this is definitely not the case. As you may already know, Hawaii is full of rich history and interesting Polynesian heritage that is still fighting to survive the globalized world. While spending a bit more than two weeks cycling in the island of Oahu we discovered these cultural jewels and now we are ready to share them with you.

How the Shaka began

How the Shaka began

I will start with the Shaka. There are many theories on where and who started it, but my favorite of all of them has to do with a sugar mill accident that left Hamana Kalili with only two fingers, the thumb and pinky. So when he saluted, his hand looked as if he was making a new sign and the children started to copy that. In Honolulu, almost everyone uses it to communicate a general philosophy of the Hawaiian vibe “aloha spirit”, a sense of compassion, understanding, friendship and solidarity.

Me and Scott with the Shaka

Me and Scott with the Shaka

Even though it might be a Hawaiian cliché, people really use it, surfers and non surfers. People whom we took pictures with, most of the time, made the sign while having their picture taken with us. It made me realize that it does have to do with a sense of identity, of being Hawaiian and what it represents is so beautiful that I think everyone should use it regardless of where they are.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Another great thing that we found in Hawaii are the native words that are used in the everyday vocabulary, for example Aloha, Mahalo, Poke, ‘Ohana, ‘Ono and Luau. I am sure that there are more words but most of these words are used very commonly by locals. Aloha is used to greet, and after a friend brings you a beer you can always say Mahalo and no one will look at you weird in a Luau, which is a word that refers to a very special celebration you can eat Poke, an ‘Ono (delicious) bowl of raw ahi tuna mixed with spices with your ‘Ohana or family. For directions there are two special words people use Mauka and Makai which means towards the mountain and the second one towards the ocean, considering the island is very small and most towns are near the ocean, these two little words make a lot of sense.

The One and Only DUKE

The One and Only DUKE

Now moving to the surfing culture, it is mostly true that everyone in Hawaii surfs. In the center of it´s most popular beach, Waikiki is the sculpture of the legendary DUKE, the man responsible for exporting surf in the world and the hero who saved lives from a sinking boat by rescuing them with his surf board, a story that resonates till this date with as much power as it did back in the day. People keep the sculpture colorful and cheerful by decorating it with the Lei, the flower accessory that tourists like us like to wear. So with a surfer as a state hero it is not surprising that the beaches with the best waves are jammed packed all the time. That is why we were impressed with the surfer courtesy. Apparently there are certain protocols that surfers must follow, for example, surfers actually take turns on the waves. This system allows everyone to have an opportunity to catch the wave, but good luck if you are just starting, because many of the pro surfers will get mad if you are just wasting the opportunity to catch good waves by being sunk into the ocean with your board meters away form your feet.

Surfing the SUP

Surfing the SUP

Also, the Stand Up Paddle was sort of invented here in Hawaii as a way to solve the problem on how to film the surfers while they do their magic, and with that they created the next best thing! A paddle board that you can also use to surf! Amazing.

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Another thing we noticed was the overall Hawaiian hospitality! I mean the first two days that we were in Hawaii we had already been invited for beers, to stay with friends in their home and a farewell party of the legendary Don Child, a war veteran who did a cross country cycling trip with a group of scouts. Like him, we also had the pleasure to meet other veterans and people who were doing their service at the time, like Scott, who invited us to sail in front of Waikiki Beach, Tom and Lorin, a young couple who invited us for hot dogs on the beach, he was doing his service and she was a nurse, and finally Tom, a 40 year old war veteran who retired from the army and started taking surf seriously. We were able to have a lot of contact with people serving their country and learn from their life style which can be very hard, leaving their families for months doing their service and wives with kids counting the days to see dad again.

As we all know, Pear Harbor was the reason why the USA entered the World War II, and the country responsible for it´s invasion was Japan. Some people might think that there would still be some kind of ill-feel towards the people who invaded the island, yet today the Japanese are welcomed with open arms. They come by the thousands every year to visit the historic Pearl Harbor and because history plays in strange ways, a lot of Japanese who were captured here in Hawaii were later set free and started families here, to father a big generation of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii. A great lesson to be learned from Hawaii, how an island buried the hatchet really quick and instead of having rancor, culture flourished from the coming together of all these cultures, the Japanese, the Anglo saxons and the natives.

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Hawaiian Kid

 

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Tiki Sculptures

Which of course play a tremendous part on the cultural personality of the islands. Their dances, their traditions very rooted in the Polynesian culture include kings, queens, summer palaces, and Luau´s that included pigs roasted on a slow fire made on the ground. Yes you heard it, a summer palace! Hidden inside the jungle there are ruins of a Summer Palace built by Kamehameha III that he called Kani-a-ka-pupu or, “the singing of the land shells,”. In this place decisions concerning the distribution of land where made by the last remaining royalty of Honolulu. It is said that they were able to take of their western clothing and discuss in peace. It is true that of that ancient culture very few, but the values of family, friendship and cooperation can be seen everywhere you turn on this island.

Ted took us out to see this. Situated a very short hike from the rainforest drive, but we never saw it from our bikes

Ted took us out to see this. Situated a very short hike from the rainforest drive, but we never saw it from our bikes

I often think when will I be able to return to Hawaii, and I often tell myself, ¨soon¨.

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