Hawaii 2011

Oahu to Kauai - North Shore









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One day we drove across the island, through the Ko’olau Range, through the rain showers and the fog, to the windward coast of Hawaii. At first, it’s just a big extended suburb (which could almost be Southern California), but as you travel northwest along the shore, the civilization thins out, and things become more scenic, more interesting. We stopped at He’eia State Park, which the Lonely Planet Guide describes as “looking abandoned.” I think the truth is that it rains so much there, everything is green, including some of the buildings. There were chickens wandering around, and below the banquet building (it advertises being a venue for weddings), we found a garden devoted to traditional Polynesian farming plants and techniques. Daniel, a friendly guy our age, apparently pure Hawaiian, was tending the garden. (Actually he was sitting on the steps “talking story” with a couple of other folks). Craig approached them (he is so much better at that than I), and asked about the garden. Daniel started telling us about the taro, including side trips to Hawaiian origin stories, explanations of language, and stories about his grandfather. We spent a couple of hours with him, learning many interesting things. “Aloha” means “breath of life given from above” (“ha” = breath of life; “alo” means God-given). Daniel said that ciguatera (a poison sometimes found in reef fish) is undoubtedly caused by mustard gas dumped in a Hawaii harbor. It affects the entire tropical world, he said. We are quietly skeptical.

Daniel became vehement when talking about were the actions of the US military in commandeering sacred land from the Hawaiians. He’eia State Park is an area that was formerly used for preparing a body after death. The body was then loaded onto a canoe. At dusk, the canoe was paddled across Kane’ohe Bay to Mokapu Penninsula, giving the mourners the illusion that the body was being transported to the great beyond. (Daniel pointed out that “kapu” – or in English, taboo – means that the land is sacred to Hawaiians.) But now the Marine Corps has the entire peninsula as its Hawaii base, including an airfield and a golf course. Daniel said that periodically, bones work their way up through the grass in the golf course, and the officials just shove them back in. Daniel has participated in talks with various government officials, who uniformly say they feel bad about the Hawaiian’s loss of access to their sacred ground and burial place. But the military is mighty and unwilling to give up its strategically located land, no matter how bad individual officers may feel about the whole thing.