After safely arriving in Honolulu on Monday, we turned in our first batch of critical responses, explored the city, and prepared ourselves for an eventful week!
On Tuesday, we began the day by learning how to hula from Kumu Vicky. We learned about the importance of language in the hula as well as the importance of the hula in telling native Hawaiian stories, genealogies, and traditions. Hula is very important to the Hawaiian culture because there was no Hawaiian written language until the Americans arrived on the islands. Thus, hula was instrumental in carrying on their traditions and telling their stories. Today, it is used as a mechanism to preserve the native Hawaiian culture and language. After learning to hula, we were able to participate in a service project at a fish pond. While there we worked alongside 99 seventh grade students from Punahou, a local school. Fish ponds are a very important part of the Hawaiian past and they are quickly diminishing on the island so this service project was of great importance to the native people.
Yesterday, Wednesday, was spent hiking up to Makapu'u Point on the east side of the island. Along this hike, we were able to see several whales out in the ocean! They were so close to shore that you could hear them breathing and could hear their tails flapping against the water! Following the hike, we visited Makapu'u beach and Waimanalo beach where many of the students attempted to learn the essence of body surfing.
Today was a very eventful day for the group. We toured the Hawaii state Capitol building, where we were able to enter the House of Representative and the Senate chambers. We learned about the meaning behind the architecture of the Capital building and the ways in which the architects worked to feature the Hawaiian landscape and culture in their design while still modeling the building after the Capital in Washington D.C. We were also able to visit the Governor's office and even got to take a picture at his desk! Following this, we had the opportunity to meet with a member of the Board of Education. He gave a comprehensive history of the Hawaiian education system and explained the single school district that is present on the Hawaiian islands. This was a very intriguing conversation and highlighted but also contrasted what we have heard from native Hawaiian educators currently teaching on the islands. We then had the privilege to visit Iolani Palace, the royal residence of the monarchy of Hawaii. We learned about the overthrow of the monarchy and the influence that America had on the transition of the government from a monarchy to a federal government.
Tomorrow we will be visiting with Jon Osorio, a professor at the University of Hawaii and a native Hawaiian activist. Check back in a few days for more updates from the Islands!