I stopped at each desk.
“Whoa!” said Roger. “Hawaii looks like a bunch of little dots floating in the ocean.”
I nodded. “I know it, Roger,” I said. “But my mother said the dots are bigger in person.”
from: Junie B. Jones first Grader at Last: Aloha Ha Ha
by Barbara Park
illustrated by Denise Brunkus
Random House Children’s Books, 2006
There’s supposed to be something poetic about April snow, but my daffodils and I are impatient for Spring. And while the temperature here in Ohio is about 20 degrees below normal, in Hilo, Hawai’i, it’s sunny and in the low to mid 80’s. Just right for the Merrie Monarch Festival.
The festival ran from April 4 through 7, 2018, in Hilo, Hawai’i. It began in 1968, but didn’t gather steam until 1972, when a committee was formed to “gather the best hula dancers from all the islands, showcase Hawaiian artistry, and create a performance to serve as a rite, a celebration, a statement about Hawai’i and its people.” http://www.merriemonarch.com/history-of-the-festival/ The result was a new appreciation for Hawaiian culture among Hawaiians themselves, and the rest of the world, too.
The festival honors King David Kalākaua, who reigned over the Hawaiian kingdom from 1874 until his death in 1891. He is best known as the “Merrie Monarch.” His name was inspired by the king’s love of music, parties, and fine food and drinks, but he is remembered most for being the king who brought pride back to the Hawaiian people. During his reign, King Kalākaua successfully restored Hawaiian cultural practices and traditions that had been suppressed for decades. Teaching Hawaiian children their native language and encouraging the continuation of cultural traditions, to me at least, sounds pretty fabulous.
As Americans, we’re pretty big on assimilation. We aren’t very good at allowing Native or Immigrant communities to hold onto their traditions and culture, whether they were here first, or if they came here looking for freedom of one kind or another, or if they were brought here by force and didn’t experience freedom until the Emancipation Proclamation. (Even now, there’s a lot of work to do about that.)
I am a third generation American. Both of my parents were born in the U. S. and all four of my grandparents were not.
When I was little, I begged my great-grandmother and my grandfather to teach me some Russian words. My grandfather came to this country when he was 17. My gram was a little older. They both told me they didn’t remember any of their language. But, they all spoke Yiddish, a combination of German, Hebrew, and English, and used that to speak of things we kids were not supposed to know about. Consequently, we all learned a little Yiddish, but Russian? Nyet.
I always suspected they knew more than they would tell me. After all, how can you forget a whole language?
According to King Kalākaua, “Hula is the language of the heart and therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.” So whether you call it vesna (Russian transliteration) or waipuna (Hawaiian), I’m ready for Spring!
--stay (warm and) curious!