Malama Kumu: DC

May 18, 2016

In from Ke‘ala ’18 and Cherie ‘17

Keʻala: We started off the day at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia. We left the buzzing streets of Washington DC and found ourselves on a beautiful, historic campus surrounded by lush greenery. The parlor of Hoxton House (administrative offices) is fashioned accurately after the house of George Washington's granddaughter from the early 1800s. We ate a quick lunch in the dining hall before heading up to set up our presentation. We were accompanied by the Malama Honua team from ʻIolani as well as a teacher from Farrington. Kat Fuller, a 6th-grade teacher at ʻIolani, has travelled on multiple legs of the Worldwide Voyage. She shared some of her mana‘o regarding the canoe and her mission.

The 60 students present at the session were given a basic breakdown of the whole idea of malama honua. It was interesting to see how they caught on to the message of protecting their land and home. I hope that they have been inspired to think a little more about what it means to take care of their honua.

After the group presentation, we broke into 3 separate stations. One was weaving lau hala into stars and fish. Mrs. Lian and Mrs. Bender shared with the students how lau hala was used for the sails of canoes in ancient Hawaiʻi. The second station was about celestial navigation. Ms. Fuller, who is an apprentice navigator, showed students how the Hawaiian star compass is used to guide Hōkūleʻa.

For the third station, I, along with Cherie taught the basic hula, Nani ke ao nei. This hula talks about the birds in the sky, the flowers from the earth, the fish in the sea and the trees in the mountains. It was cool to connect this back to malama honua. The dance speaks about the beauty of the earth. If we do not take care of this beauty, it will not be around in the future.

Working with students my age was really fun. The fact that I was able to share something worthwhile made me feel proud. On top of teaching the arms and feet for the hula, I also taught them the words. The whole mele is in Hawaiian. I was amazed by their willingness to learn words from a new language. I was also amazed by their ability to catch on quickly to the movements and words. The opportunity to share hula, which is something that is extremely important to me, with students all the way on the East Coast was amazing. The thought just blows my mind. The connections that were made through the voyage as well as my own experience on this trip have been incredible.

Cherie: In the evening we arrived at the Washington Canoe Club and awaited the arrival of Hōkūle'a. The sound of conch shells and the increasing rhythm of waves splashing against the floating dock signaled Hōkūle'a's entrance. We chanted the mele, A Honua, with the Kamehameha group to greet the wa'a, along with Auē Ua Hiti Ē. As the crew docked and unloaded off the canoe, another halau did a hula and soon after we all sat to listen to a few speakers.

Not one, but both senators from Hawaii were there, in addition to a senator from Rhode Island. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz spoke of the importance of malama honua. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Rhode Island senator, made a comment at the beginning that stuck with me. He mentioned Rhode Island as being the "Hawai‘i of the East." Initially it was meant in a joking manner, being that both of the senators he joined are from Hawai‘i, but after I realized that we really are all connected in one way or another.

When Nainoa Thompson spoke, it was from the heart. It wasn't a pre-written speech. He talked about the Potomac River and the great history it held for him and his family – how his father, his mother, his sister and his brother had all paddled there. It really brought to light his words that "when we sail, we don't sail alone," we go with past and future generations. We bring all those with us wherever we go.

Nainoa also mentioned climate change and how, although Hawaii wasn't the main contributor, "it will be the first to suffer." That just further emphasized to me how much we really all are connected. It was like when we first sighted the Hōkūle'a and she caused the current to pick up, creating small tides. We are all connected in little ways and need to be aware of that. Our actions have consequences and they can either be catalysts for great changes or dominos for dismay. We have the choice every day in what we choose. We can let the tide take us or be the one to create it.