Hokule’a connects with the generations, ‘āina, honua

Larry L. Medina
Eddie Meza

Kaleo, a HonCC student, was out at the edge of Magic Island, at a particular spot she said her ancestors told her to stand to welcome the Hokule’a home. She was very nervous, she said, and had trouble sleeping the last few days leading up to the event. While she noted that there were much more to the injustices that the Hawaiian people had endured that nearly erased their culture from history, it was imperative to teach the keiki (children) their history, and that there was much more work to be done by people to shed light into its dark past. As if practicing what she just stated, she gave the honor of welcoming the Hokule’a to a child nearby, giving him a conch shell through which to bellow in to annouce the arrival of that humble yet great Pacific voyaging canoe. And as if to solidify her loyalty to the next generation, she took the ti leaf haku she was wearing and adorned it on the child’s head. Kaleo and others like her are what lies at the heart of the Hawaiian culture, and what will lead them into a proud future.
This past weekend, Kaleo, along with tens of thousands of local residents, tourists, and curiosity-seekers lined the shore of Waikiki and converged in and around the Ala Wai Boat Harbor, to welcome home the Hokule’a, a traditional Hawaiian wa’a (canoe) and symbol of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance, after a three-year epic worldwide tour of goodwill and sharing the aloha of the Hawaiian Islands. The Hokule’a serves as that connection which Kaleo wishes to establish with and pass on to the next generation.
Mālama Honua, the name of the three-year round-the-world voyage, reflected the purpose of Hokule’a’s mission, which was to “join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable movement.” Raising awareness of the fragility of Polynesia the islands it is comprised of, including the Hawaiian islands, the varied cultures and its limited natural resources, drove home the responsibilities of humanity to care for the Earth, or “mālama honua.”
Throughout her voyage, Hokule’a’s crew sailed over 40,000 nautical miles, using traditional, ancient Hawaiian navigational skills to dock at 150 ports around the world. Crews were rotated out at each port-of-call, resulting in 250 crew who took the Hokule’a on its journey. In keeping with voyage’s message of caring for the earth, the crew also sought to learn how other peoples and cultures were caring for the earth in their respective locales.
Being a replica of a traditional double-hull wa’a, made of modern materials, she is rated for long-distance, open-ocean travel like the wa’a of old. The Hokule’a is navigated by a crew of 12-13 using traditional Hawaiian navigation techniques, using celestial and solar observation and reckoning, observing the ocean swells, the winds, even what kind and where birds are sighted. Launched in 1975, the Hokule’a not only revitalized traditional voyaging in Hawai’i, but throughout Polynesia as well. Additionally, the Hokule’a sparked new interest in the Hawaiian culture and language. Impressively, the creation of the Hokule’a inspired other groups and island nations to build new ocean-going wa’a as well.  
When it was decided the Hokule’a would be built, in the early 1970’s, Polynesian ocean-voyaging had not occurred in 600 years. The Polynesian Voyaging Society was founded in 1973 to revive it.
On the morning of the Hokule’a homecoming, June 17th, she was preceded by seven other wa’a (including one from the Marshall Islands, and another from Tahiti). Each voyaging canoe was greeted with traditional oli (chants), pule (prayer) and lei. At around 9:45a, a surge of onlookers crammed the embankment of the Ala Wai harbor channel, straining to see the Hokule’a’s arrival.
Nainoa Thompson, master navigator of the Hokule’a and who was on the canoe as it arrived, affirmed the crowd’s aloha. “Thank you, Hawai’i. Thank you for the moment. I am very humbled to tell you right now that Hokule’a is home.”
Shyia, recently graduated from HonCC, attended the ho’olaulea on Magic Island that followed the arrival of the Hokule’a.

“I brought my clan out here to see this,” she said, gesturing to her children. “This is history, we’re witnesses.”

A Reporter’s Day Covering the Hokule’a

Chris Garcia
The Hokule’a Homecoming: it made news headlines; it brought excitement every time it was mentioned; and it gave me personal insight on Hawaiiana. Being relatively new to Hawai’i, I always wanted to find more ways of experiencing the true nature of the islands. And what I got was a journey.

Everyone in the Ka La newsroom spent over two weeks preparing for the Hokule’a’s arrival. We researched details over the docking: when was Hokule’a coming in; what dock; what time? We needed to know of any camping restrictions; designated viewing spots; possible parking lot closures. This took me all over the place, from the Marine Education Training Center on Sand Island, to the Honolulu Police Department.

 Along the way, I got to really understand why the Hokule’a’s homecoming was a historic event. At the Marine Education Training Center (METC), Seeing other boats docked, with frames and parts in the mechanic bay, I felt humbled to just be there, standing where the Hokule’a had, was, and would being cared for.

I spoke with Jason Patterson, a crew member of the Hokule’a. He told me about the intricacies of sailing, and recounted the feeling of host-countries passing them knowledge. Hokule’a wasn’t sent just to rekindle the ways of Hawaiian sea-faring. She was sent to build bridges! She one of Hawai’i’s state treasure, being shared throughout Polynesia and beyond as a cultural ambassador.

Back in the newsroom, We were all diligent in planning our coverage, doing everything from researching how and where the Hokule’a and its entourage would dock, to scoping out Magic Island for the best photo-op spots. A historic event was soon to unfurl, and there had to be no room for error. At 1:30 on the morning of the June 17th, I got picked up along with the rest of the news crew. We parked at Kewalo Basin and did an equipment check.

I could see early arrivals entering Magic Island and trying to secure a spot, but got booted out by the cops (the state would not allow anyone before 4am). I saw a car getting towed. Ouch.

We had coverage from three different angles – from the rocky end of the park past the lagoon, outrigger canoe launching area of the Hawaii Yacht Club. I took my post at four in the morning, half-asleep and half-awake. But that passed as soon as people started to drift in. It started off small, some passersby pulling their sleeping keiki on wagons, others bringing coolers to the mooring site. Even though security said not to, people set up canopies right next to me.

A woman sitting behind me recounted her feelings of Hokule’a over the years, back from 1976 to present day. She wiped the tears off her cheeks – hau ‘oli was overwhelming her.  But the biggest takeaway is passing the torch, from the kahiko a’e to the keiki. She wants all this culture, the experiences, this feeling, to keep going for generations to come.

Another man, Curtis, was 12 years old when he saw the first Hokule’a come in. Now, he was at this homecoming 38 years later, with his sons, 14 and 23. Curtis said, “we’re waiting for them to come back, to celebrate this occasion with them…I think this would be a good thing for the kids, an awesome thing…”

The crowd increased, with a steady flow of people coming onto Magic Island. Both tourists and locals were pushing up against me. I bumped someone every time I turned – so dense was the crowd – but I was lucky to have secured a place up on the embankment looking right at the receiving dock. My ears heard screams of welcome from so many ohana gathered that morning. Despite the throng, no one was shy to let strangers sit next to them. I was offered drinks and breakfast by some, and felt like crying.

Everyone ecstatically gasped when the Hikimoe was spotted. A lady to my right pulled out binoculars, and someone on my left snapped pictures with her tablet.  Some of the crowd shifted to let the keiki sit on the wall. And when the Hikimoe started to pull in closer to me, the other wa’a followed suit in timely fashion, like clockwork. Visitors echoed the oli proudly, the aloha of it spreading across Magic Island, as the various sea-farers and crews from the voyaging canoes, from Moloka’i to Aotearoa, set foot on O’ahu soil.  

When the Hikianalia was sighted, there was a thunderous release of cheers as the flotilla of escorts drifted closer to shore. By the time the Hokule’a passed Marker 7, tourists behind me were “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing,” but the ko ‘one’i po’e drowned them out with cries of happiness. When the Hokule’a finally docked, all the pop-up canopies dropped as fast as the wind blew. The rush to see it and crew was on.

As fast as I could, I scurried to the mooring site, dodging onlookers left and right. Keiki were on trees, holding their phones to shoot video and pictures of the crew. The floating docks were blocked with people, with dozens bowing their heads during the oli.

Crew members smiled in their malo. Crowds cheered musicians and bands playing on-stage. Tourists scurried around, checking out every booth, and getting a solid taste of native, real Polynesia.

For me, the most heart-hitting thing was witnessing Hawaiiana spreading from the Hokule’a and Hikianalia, and returning Samoan, Maori, Tahitian, and other Polynesian cultures back with them. In my eyes this was true aloha, not something anyone can get from a postcard or a weekend getaway. This is the culture, the real deal of Hawai’i and Polynesia.

A Student Leader Development Weekend at Camp Erdman

Chris Garcia
One of my lovely summer weekends was spent over at the YMCA’s Camp Erdman.  I was invited to be part of the Student Leader Development Retreat, hosted by HonCC’s Student Life (SL).

As someone who never went to the YMCA as a kid, I felt cheated out of my childhood; I had an entire beach to build three-foot sandcastles in; the counselors loved making friendly jokes at everything; and chickens (dinner) were running around the main building like it was their pen. Eight-year-old-me would have wanted to spend an entire summer vacation at Erdman.

City lights wash out the dim light of stars. But out at northern O’ahu, there’s practically no lights, save the moon, and although it was out, the sky was dark enough to see them shimmer.

This was a place to kick back and relax, so we all scattered about to enjoy the freedom. Emily, Director of SL, went the whole nine yards, bringing campfire favorites, from weenies to Nutter-Butters and marshmallows. Edlynne and Angelina, two SL staff, scoured the shore for seashells. Bryce and Gerimi, two other SL staff, beat their hands on the table through rounds of Pyramid, a card game similar to Slap-Jack. From the campfire, chunks of ash would blow out of the fire-pit from time to time, making me smell like charcoal. Angelina sat in a certain spot to cook her food. Bryce, Rica, Edlynne and Jonnalyn stood a few feet from the fire to warm up.

We hiked the trail to Ka’ena Point. I had been on this trail before with a mountain bike, which took all of 30 minutes to get to the end of trail. Wheezing, it took us three hours by foot. We walked along the trail closest to the crashing, rhythmic ocean, crossing gaps and loose rocks. As I followed my colleagues, keeping to the distanced hills at times, they looked like ants, miniscule to the world around them.

About an hour and a half into the walk we stopped at a sandy cove. There was another group who set up camp there, with sizzling grill and shady canopyl. A man and a boy with fishing rods scurried from place-to-place to catch their meal.

We got to see a monk seal, plopped right in front of us. He looked ready for the vultures with how dead asleep he was. Edlynne named him Spaghetti. Angelina kept telling me to keep a certain distance away from Spaghetti when taking pictures. I decided to take a dip in the water, walking near the unresponsive seal.

The retreat was built around team-building activities, challenging the body and the mind. All of us had to get over to a platform, using planks and without jumping or touching the ground.

Another exercise was to cross a trail of stumps, with someone always on a stump and participants holding another’s shoulder. The counselors jazzed things up by making every other person close their eyes. I wasn’t one of the blindfolded, but it was rough trying to feel around for a stump that seemed like ten-feet away.

There was this incredibly high tower that everyone was tasked to climb. The biggest barrier to getting to the top, though, was the mind. Although we were safe, looking down while at 30-feet in the air is terrifying. Jonnalyn, one of the SL staff, was like a spider monkey as she scaled up to the top. Edlynne, another SL staffer, was mortified at first, crying out as she crawled up a log. George, the SL webmaster, rappelled down from the top and helped her get to the first platform. With body dangling in mid-air, he instructed Edlynne where to step. She made it, ecstatically crying in a 180-degree mood flip.

The biggest challenge of the camp to me would be the High Ropes Course. Basically, it was the giant tower with tight-rope walking. And we did it in the dark. The flash from someone’s camera distracted those who were on the tightrope, and Bryce exclaimed, “WHO’S TAKING PICTURES!” It was Emily, trying to get shots of us tightrope-walking in pure darkness. Ironically, the darker it got, the easier it became. Like an ostrich hiding from danger with its head in the sand – if it don’t see it, the danger’s not there.

We finished the trip with a commemorative poster. Everyone cut out a decorated tracing of their hand and pasted it to a large paper. We painted all sort of things on it, from the lazy Monk Seal to a scale drawing of the High Ropes Course. It was a collage of all the participants’ personalities with a dorkish charm. I was glad to have spent the weekend with them.

Kamehameha Day Parade 2017 (set #2)

Larry L. Medina out on assignment photographing pa’u riders, ali’i, royal escorts and kupuna at the annual Kamehameha Day Parade, 10 June 2017. Nikon D200, 28-80mm G Nikkor lens.

Kamehameha Day Parade 2017 (set #1)

Eddie Meza braves the wet drizzly morning to shoot the 101st Kamehameha Day Parade off Ala Moana Blvd., June 10, 2017. Canon T2i, Tamron 28-200 lens.