Sunday, June 29

the backstory

You want to hear about Hawaii, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what you want to hear about Hawaii. In fact, the only thing I can think of to talk about right now is the strength of my fingernails. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Paper and 10 being Wicked Strong, I give them a solid 10. I do. I love my fingernails. But fingernail strength ultimately has little to do with Hawaii.

So the deal is, on the first of June, I left for three weeks of work with the Monumental Architecture Field School on the Big Island in the company of one student/fellow staff member and several boxes of moody GPS units. An additional faculty person and supervisor were to meet up with us later.

Also included in the field school: two project directors, three T.A.s, four undergraduates, one graduate student, two Kiwis, and a couple wayward academic types who dropped in for various lectures and, presumably, beer.

Our mission? To equip gallant and somewhat sweaty groups of archaeology students with GPS units and antennae mounted on rangle poles decorated jauntily with ribbons of neon flagging tape and send them forth to walk woozy but relatively parallel transects across Pu'ukohola National Historic Site and take points every five meters with the ultimate goal of creating a detailed topographic map of the whole park. The poor bastards collected more than 10,000 points during the course of the project, flags waving enthusiastically, even over incredibly steep terrain strewn with loose cobbles and booby-trapped with kiawe (mesquite) branches bearing spines the size of mice. Angry mice. Which look bigger than they actually are, but will still bite right through the soles of your boots if you step on them. Wait, I'm talking about flora, not fauna. My own metaphors have gotten the better of me.

Anyway, the kiawe was brutal, and Halawa House, where everyone but the Pima folks lived, was apparently infested with rodents, so my metaphor is not entirely without integrity. But the students perservered and were rewarded with an awesome map and, more importantly, no fewer than three barbeques, one of which was held on a beach.

When not working, we went on a lot of field trips. For example, we went to Volcanoes National Park where we camped and walked through a lava tube and leapt exuberantly over active steam vents (Some of us. Not those of us writing this blog, however). We also got to several beaches and hiked up to the top of a cinder cone to look over the vast agricultural field systems that cross the landscape in the northern part of the island.

Next time, I'll tell you about the ceremonies we were invited to participate in and a little about Pu'ukohola. Meanwhile, here are some pictures .

No comments: