Friday, April 18, 2014

Pidgin - Hey, It's Now Considered a Real Language in Hawaii

Many people in Hawaii think of pidgin was as a mish mash language, a broken up version of English, complete with bad grammar. It’s a language that developed during the heyday of the plantation era. People from all different countries were brought to Hawaii to work on plantations, and no one could understand each other. So over time, they cobbled together this language that borrows words from Hawaiian, English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Samoan, and the languages of the Philippines.

A Hawaiian pidgin bumper sticker. It makes sense to an English speaker, but the grammatical structure is that of pidgin.

Now, linguists are saying that pidgin is a real language and have analyzed it to find consistent rules of grammar and usage. Some linguists believe there are more than 600,000 native pidgin speakers. For some people in Hawaii, it is the first language they learn. But it is not the language of business, of education, or of higher classes.

This video "Sh*t People From Hawaii Say" may not make any sense, but you might hear people in Hawaii talk this way. 

During my childhood, pidgin was frowned upon. Teachers didn’t like pidgin in the classroom because they feared their students would never speak proper English or get real jobs. 

While I understand some pidgin, I was not allowed to speak it. You could say, pidgin was kapu (forbidden). My mother flipped out when I came home from school speaking pidgin. (In pidgin, you might say “her mass wen drop” like “her mouth (jaw) went dropped.”) So I never really learned it. I’ve always been a bit sad about that because I was a bit of an outsider growing up in Hawaii and knowing more pidgin would have made things easier. Thank Goodness for books like Pidgin to da Max which help fill in the gaps. This is a wildly popular book in Hawaii, and a must-read for anyone who lives here.

A classic book on Hawaiian pidgin (and it's pretty funny too).

Important Note: Pidgin, to me, is a language of insiders. If you do not know pidgin and try to speak pidgin with most locals, they may laugh at you or worse yet, take offense. There are classes for pidgin and it may be ok to practice with other students or with good friends, but not everyone.

Another post on pidgin: Kathy "Tita" Collins shares Hawaiian ghost stories in pidgin, These videos are easier to understand than the one above. 

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Overthrow (One of the Most Significant Events in Hawaiian History)

The word overthrow has at least two connotations in Hawaiian history. The first is the overthrow of the kapu system, but for more people the word overthrow refers to the coup d'etat of the Hawaiian kingdom. The 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was a carefully orchestrated and bloodless coup. It has some parallels to the Russian takeover of Crimea and to the colonization of Native American tribal land.

Overthrow image represented by the symbol of the king falling.
Queen Lili'uokalani wanted a new constitution. The constitution she inherited was so weak that it did not even allow Hawaiians, citizens of Hawaii, to vote. But it did allow Caucasian foreigners (haoles) to vote and hold office, even though they were not citizens!                                                                                        
Meanwhile, American businessmen and politicians were meeting to discuss the possibility of annexing Hawaii. In January 1893, things came to a head.  Rumors of the Queen’s new constitution triggered a series of events, leading to American troops in Hawaii, a new provisional government, and the overthrow of the monarchy. Eventually Hawaii would become annexed by the United States.

One of the questions of the overthrow, that I've heard asked over and over, is Why didn't the Hawaiians fight back? I'm not a historian, but one answer is that the queen was told by her trusted advisors (some of whom were not Hawaiian) that she would be able to regain her kingdom back through diplomacy and to avoid bloodshed. 

Source: Wikipedia Commons. Queen Lili'uokalani

Maybe she would have succeeded with more support. On December 20,1893, President Cleveland sent a letter to the Provisional Government of Hawaii, asking the provisional president to resign and to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom. This request was turned down. For years, the Queen continued to make diplomatic efforts to regain her kingdom.

Though the events of the overthrow happened more than a century ago, it still can be felt in modern Hawaii.  There is a sovereignty movement to restore the kingdom of Hawaii, going on for decades, just simmering under the surface. Most visitors are not aware of it, and it’s kept under wraps in most tourist areas, but it’s always present.

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Neighbor Islands (Those Other Islands of Hawaii Where People Live)

As a child growing up on the main island of Oahu, I always wondered about these mysterious Neighbor Islands. Maui, Molokai, Kauai, and the Big Island (to be confusing, this island has the same name as the state of Hawaii) were the fringes of the known world. The island of Kaho’olawe was still being bombed as a military test site. Ni’ihau was, and still is, forbidden to outsiders.  

Oahu in relation to the other islands, the Neighbor Islands. 

Who lived in these Neighbor Islands besides farmers and ranchers and plantation workers? Why did tourists go there? Didn't they used to be called the Outer Islands? When did they get the name Neighbor Islands? Was it connected with promoting tourism? 

After all, Oahu was the center of everything. It’s where Honolulu, the state capitol is located. It’s the island of Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, Diamond Head, Hawaii Five-O and Magnum PI. It’s where King Kamehameha I ruled from after uniting (or conquering) the other islands. It’s where the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy took place.  It’s where most people in Hawaii live, more than 1 million of us. Visitors to Oahu are often surprised by how built up and developed it is. The trick with Oahu is to know where to go, to find exquisite natural areas and beaches.  
As a child, the Neighbor Islands seemed so far away, even though it was only a 30 minute plane ride. When you add driving and airport time, they always seemed like they were in another state. Despite attempts at an interisland ferry throughout the years, it mostly hasn’t worked.

The Neighbor Islands aren't secondary islands, but almost everything comes through Oahu. When I mail a letter to another town on Maui, it goes first to Honolulu on Oahu, then back to Maui. When we buy things at a store, they are often shipped from Oahu, which is where many distribution centers are. 

Now that I’ve lived on two Neighbor Islands, I can say plenty of people live outside of Oahu, and yes, there is a lot less nightlife here! There are real jobs, cars, hotels, houses, and problems. Some issues seem to affect the Neighbor Islands more than Oahu. These issues include the Superferry controversy, Jimmy Pflueger’s destruction of a coral reef and a dam on Kauai, and a hot issue now: GMOs (genetically modified organisms) because of the extensive GMO crop testing done here. 

Oahu residents sometimes seem so insulated to me, going from Longs (a drugstore), Foodland (a locally owned supermarket chain), Costco and Zippy’s (a local restaurant chain) while struggling with ongoing traffic problems.  Neighbor Islanders sometimes look at horror at Oahu’s development, asking “Could that happen to us?” The answer is yes, if we don’t learn from Oahu.

If this topic interests you, here’s another post about the differences between Maui and Oahu.

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mongoose - One of Hawaii's Big Failures

This animal often creates a lot of confusion for visitors to Hawaii. What is it? Is it a weasel, a ferret, a weird looking squirrel? It’s a mongoose, like the famous mongoose Rikki Tikki Tavi that Rudyard Kipling wrote about in India. The mongoose is one of those introduced species that someone thought would be a good way to control the rat population. Maybe the rats were getting into the sugar cane mill and eating everything.

The mongoose can often be spotted outside beach trash cans around sunset.
Two words: Epic Fail.  Since rats are nocturnal and mongooses are diurnal, the two animals never met.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lava and the Dangers of Lava Watching

Many people come to Hawaii hoping to see a lava explosion or lava flowing out of the volcano. The only island in Hawaii to see any kind of lava activity is the Big Island. But going to watch a lava flow is not as easy as it looks. It’s not predictable how much seismic activity there will be.  The lava also changes its direction, and where it flows out of and flows to. It’s kind of like predicting the weather.

This is the kind of lava one dreams of seeing close up.
Photo credit: Bill Shupp on Flickr, creative commons

Three main ways to see lava flowing:
Pay for a helicopter to fly you over the volcano or over the lava flow. Depending on how active the lava is flowing in that period, it might be wonderful, or not very exciting at all. Usually, tour companies will try to only book when the lava is actively flowing. It used to be $300 per person (for a volcano air tour from Maui to the Big Island), but I’m sure it’s more now. If you're on the Big Island, I'm sure it should be less. This is relatively safe, as long as the helicopter does not crash.

Second way, find where the lava is flowing and hike over miles of lava rocks to see it close up. Yes, I said miles. How many miles? Could be 2 miles today but oh, maybe 4 miles tomorrow. Maybe it’s 5 miles. Remember the lava flows and can change direction daily.

This is a collage from Flickr photos: clockwise from upper left: lava flow from a distance by Dennis Frank, lava flow across the road by Graeme Churchard, lava shelf (a cliff of new land) by G. Churchard, distant lava flow at night by D. Frank, lava fumes warning sign by D. Frank. Creative commons license for G. Churchard and D. Frank.
This is the do-it-yourself approach. In the Pahoa area, south of Hilo, sometimes there are cars parked by the side of the road near the closest access point to active lava. People will hike out to where they THINK the lava is flowing or near where it WAS flowing yesterday or where other people SAID it was flowing earlier, to see it for themselves. I’ve also heard of lava tour guides by the side of the road who will guide you to where the lava is flowing.

How close can you get to the lava flow? I don’t know since I haven’t actually done it. Last time I was on the Big Island, there was not enough time to get there and back in one day. The other danger is getting too close, even if you’re several hundred feet away. Where you are standing could be still be unstable and fall into the ocean. This is not good for your health.

The dangers of lava watching. You could fall in and die. Photo by Graeme Churchard on Flickr. Creative Commons license.
Another problem is that after finding and watching the lava flow, it is very hard to go back in the same direction to where your car is parked. Even the most farsighted person will not be able to see his car miles away. Some people have solved this problem by putting up something high like a pole with a bright flag on top of their truck so that they can see it in the distance. I have also heard stories of people wandering around for days looking for their vehicle.

The third way is to find out from the National Park Service where the lava is flowing into the ocean from a SAFE distance. This is something I have done. It’s still very cool to watch but it’s far away.  But it's safe and you won't die from the lava.

There are two main kinds of lava: a’a – a sharp jagged lava and pahoe’hoe a smooth undulating lava. Why is it called a’a lava? My husband claims because it’s so pokey, you cry out “ah ah” in pain.

This lava, especially the lower left corner is smoother, it's pahoehoe.
Photo by Graeme Churchard on FlickrCreative Commons license.
A'a lava. Pokey, loose, rough, jagged stuff. This is from a lava flow on Maui, at the Ahihi Kinau Natural Preserve (aka La Perouse).
There are also different kinds of things you can find in the lava like Pele’s hair, long strand-like formations of glass; Pele’s tears, tear shaped pieces of lava; and also little pieces of peridot or olivine. The peridot on the Big Island is not really gem stone quality.  It is considered bad luck to remove any lava rocks or other things found in the lava from the islands. You can read more about this in V for Volcano, last year’s post.

Pele's tears, which are tear shaped. The one on the right is typical of Pele's tears I have found. Photo by Graeme Churchard on FlickrCreative Commons license.

Pele's hair, golden strands of glass. Photo by DW Peterson for USGS. Public domain. 

Olivine or peridot in lava rock. Small bits of loose peridot can sometimes be found along the side of roads on the Big Island.
Photo by Anne Peterson on Flickr. Creative commons license.
Can you really get close to lava? Can lava kill people?

1.    You can move faster than lava. Lava is pretty slow moving here. This is not the kind of volcano that destroyed Pompeii.

2.    There is plenty of advance notice when lava is threatening to flow into your neighborhood. Some people do live in areas with active lava flows. Those houses are often less expensive. Gee, I wonder why. Most people do evacuate, but inevitably one or two people will stay behind, insisting that the lava will flow around them or that if not, then it was their time anyhow.

3.     It is very hard to get close to lava unless you are a geologist. Usually the access is blocked. They don’t want tourist casualties. But I have one friend who used to live on the Big Island. She belonged to an artist group that was allowed to get really close to the lava flow so they could dip into the hot lava to make art. I don’t think the state allows this anymore – too dangerous and there are too many lawyers these days. 

There is so much more I'd like to say about lava. But I have to stop writing!

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kapu - Be Careful What You Do!

Kapu means taboo, forbidden, prohibited, banned. It also means a rule or law. And it also means sacred. It’s pronounced kind of like “kah-pooh” with emphasis on both syllables.

The ancient Hawaiians had many rules or kapu.

A kapu sign, a link to Hawaii's past.

Some kapu were for religious reasons. They kept certain temples, items and people sacred and untainted. Another meaning of the word kapu is sacred or holy. This is why a commoner could not stand near a chief nor touch his shadow or personal items. The chief was holy and sacred. One could get killed.

Certain days of the month were kapu days when commoners had to stay inside their houses all day. Even the animals had to be kept quiet, like chickens. Imagine trying to keep a chicken quiet all day! The Hawaiians figured it out:  they put their chickens in covered wooden bowls.

Do you think you could keep these chickens quiet to observe the kapu?

Some kapu protected and managed natural resources. Fishing kapu ensured there were always enough fish to catch, so there were rules around not catching baby fish or fish during spawning season.  There were many kapu around water, like not bathing in certain places. This kept the water safe for drinking.

Other kapu are much harder to relate to: it was kapu for men and women to eat together. Even their food could not be cooked in the same underground oven.  Some foods women were not allowed to eat include pork, coconuts, certain fish, and bananas because they were considered sacred. Maybe these kapu were also a way to manage the food supply.

These ancient kapu helped to structure life and make things predictable, but they were also very hard to follow.  Kapu were not to be taken lightly. Breaking a kapu, even accidentally, could be punishable by death. There were no trials. One could not plead extenuating circumstances. 

Then in 1819, after Hawaii had many years of contact with foreigners, King Kamehameha II (Liholiho) broke the kapu by eating with women. This action brought an end to the kapu system, and to the structure of society. 

In modern days, kapu is sometimes used as a “no trespassing” sign. A kapu sign means don’t come here, stay out. Luckily, modern kapu signs are not punishable by death. Otherwise, with all their trespassing, there would be no teenagers in Hawaii! I've been collecting kapu signs because I'm fascinated to see how rare they are becoming. Kapu can also mean "reserved" or belonging to someone. 

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

5 Reasons To Go To The Haiku Flower Festival (Haiku Hoolaulea)

5 Reasons to go to the Haiku Flower Festival aka the Haiku Ho'olaulea
Yes, it's today!
(If you're looking for the A to Z Challenge, my K post is here.)

  1. To look for hippies. Haiku has them in quantity. You can never see too many hippies, and the Flower Festival is a great excuse to look for them.

    Hippies! The Flower Children of Haiku.

  2. To learn to make a haku lei. The Native Hawaiian Plant Society has a great booth with native plants materials and they will teach you to make a haku lei.
    Haku lei in progress.

  3. To see a school garden. You may have been curious to see what a school garden in Hawaii looks like and what kinds of things they grow. Here’s your chance to see one.

  4. You’re interested in local history. Usually there are exhibits on the history of Haiku, old photographs, and displays of plantation life.
    1. Schedule from a previous year.
  5. To see the cool art the students are making. (It is cool, but I can't find any pictures! : )
Also, there are some great booths, ones that you may not see at a bigger festival which has more expensive booth fees.  There are also food booths and live entertainment. Proceeds from the festival go to support programs at Haiku Elementary School. The festival is free, but if you want to park nearby, it’s $3.