Tuesday, July 1

you want long and informative?

My prodigal half-cup measure has returned after having been left inside a mostly empty container of Quaker Instant Oats since at least March!

Also, I promised to tell you about the park we worked at in Hawai'i. So I will set aside my long-lost half-cup measure and do just that.

The park is called Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and contains, among other features, an ocean, and also at least three heiaus, or temples: Pu'ukohola, Mailekini, and Hale o Kapuni, which has been completely submerged right offshore since it was last seen in the 1950s and is dedicated to the shark gods.

Pu'ukohola Heiau was built by Kamehameha I himself in 1790-91. Kamehameha eventually conquered all of Hawai'i, thus uniting the islands under one rule. Kamehameha believed that by uniting the islands under one monarchy, the constant fighting among chiefs throughout the islands would be brought to a halt.

This is all starting to sound pretty historically detailed and, since we here at Something Made don't have that firm of a grasp of most major historical events, here is the short version: Kamehameha, who had already conquered the islands of Maui, Lana'i, and Moloka'i, was told by a prophet that he would be able to conquer all the remaining islands if he built a heiau dedicated to his family war god whose full name is wholly unpronounceable and starts with a 'K'. Okay, fine. It's Kuka'ilimoku. With lots of accent marks.

So he did.

And Pu'ukohola Heiau is the impressive result. Completely dry-laid stone, the heiau has an awesome view over the water and overlooks a second, older heiau called Mailekini and also Hale o Kapuni - or it would if anyone but sharks could see it.

Both Pu'ukohola and Mailekini were damaged in an earthquake in October of 2006 and currently the NPS service has a reconstruction crew working on Pu'ukohola. Supposedly, the workers who built the temple in the 1700s formed a twenty-mile human chain from the Pololu Valley on the northeast coast of the island and passed lava rocks hand-by-hand to the top of the hill on which Pu'ukohola stands, although with only about five full-time crew members and Adam, the sole park archaeologist, they aren't doing that today.

But they are rebuilding the temple with respect for native Hawaiian traditions and the groups who are proponents of a refocus on those traditions today. In the mornings, the crew gathered down by the ocean for a kind of cleansing ceremony in the flat, pearly water. They also lined up under the trees to perform their own personal dance/martial arts-type exercise called a haka during which they mimicked the motions they would use during the day, such as lifting large stones, and proclaimed their strength as stonemasons. A haka is sort of an affirmation of who you are as a group and what you intend to accomplish. Or at least, that was my take on it.

In the afternoons, the crew had an awa ceremony. You may have learned about kava if you took anthropology classes in college - a plant commonly used among western Pacific cultures that produces a calming effect and a numbing of the mouth. It's the same thing. Awa is pronounced like kava without the 'k'.

During the day, we could could hear Walter, the crew chief, chanting on top of the walls as they worked. Just in case he said. There's a special cleansing before you go into the heiau and after you come out. It involves Walter flicking water from what appeared to be a gourd bowl at you with leaves and making another chant. To get rid of anything bad in there that might have attached itself to you, he says. Walter's still learning all this stuff. Walter has been known to get a little enthusiastic with the water-flicking.

We were invited to participate in the daily morning and awa ceremonies, so we arrived to work at six every morning and stood facing west towards the quiet water. Eventually, all of us learned at least some of the chant. Such a soothing way to start the workday, hearing this chant lifted out over the sea.

One morning, we arrived to find two kapuna - practitioners of traditional Hawaiian culture or something like priests/priestesses, I think, but I'm fairly iffy on this - in the parking lot. "Ideally, we should take our clothes completely off," said the female kapuna. "But...since we are in a park, bathing suits are acceptable." They took us down to the beach for a full-fledged ceremony. Not the abbreviated version Walter usually led us in. The men stood down by the water with the male kapuna; the women stood with the female who led us into cool, slowly undulating patterns of ocean up to our necks. All I could see was flat ocean out to the pale horizon. It was silent except for the movement of the water and the low chanting of the kapuna. It was incredible.

During the awa ceremonies at the end of the day, Walter and the guys always laid out several large mats in the grass under the trees outside the park headquarters. They brought out two wooden bowls covered with a cloth. One bowl contained water; one bowl contained awa. We sat in an informal circle. The first and last awa scooped into the coconut shell was reserved for the kapuna - the most senior or respected person at the ceremony. When you are ready to take a cup of awa, you pa'i, or clap once. This signals to the person bringing the awa around the circle who to offer it to. Holding the awa indicated that it was your turn to speak, and anyone talking would quiet down to hear you. After taking the awa, someone would call what sounded to me like pa'i kai lima (but could have been something very different) - clap your hands - and everyone clapped three times. Then the coconut shell was tossed back to the server and returned to the person scooping out the awa who rinsed it in the water and then scooped out another drink.

I'm sure I don't understand a lot of what happened or the words that were spoken, but I know that we were given a great honor by being included in these ceremonies.

Perhaps the greatest honor paid to us was by Uncle Francis. While we were there, Uncle Francis, Master Stonemason from Maui, arrived with his small two-man crew to teach the reconstruction crew traditional methods of laying the stone. Part of what he was teaching them was how to listen to the stones so that they could be placed where they - the stones - wanted to be placed. These structures are amazing and the integrity of their walls undeniable. Maybe there's something to be said for listening more closely to the pieces of world that surround us.

Uncle Francis was funny, articulate, intelligent, and, I think, wise. About our neon-flag decorated range poles, he said during one awa ceremony: "I don't know what you guys are doing out there, but whatever you're doing, it looks Hawaiian." And before he left the Big Island, he wrote us our very own haka. A Haka Akeolokia. Artchaeologists' Haka. He left us with strict instructions to practice diligently during our remaining week because we would be performing it for the reconstruction crew as part of a farewell ceremony. It involved not only some moderately complicated moves, but also words. In Hawaiian. Hawaiian words that we were to memorize.

So we practiced for a week. Sleepily repeated our words in the Suburban on the way to work at 5:15 in the morning. Lined up in the grass outside of Halawa House to practice our moves. And performed it at 3:00 on our last afternoon for Adam, Walter, and the crew who watched intently and silently and then performed theirs back.

They were considerably more intense than we were. Downright scary as they stared us down. This was kind of a ritual battle between the archaeologists - the interlopers - and the reconstruction crew, who owned the place. When they had completed their stonemasons' haka, they came forward and embraced us all. We all aloha'ed each other by pressing forehead to forehead and staring into one another's eyes in a disconcerting (particularly if you are from Ohio) yet strangely satisfying way while breathing each other's breath.

At the final awa ceremony that followed, Walter took his coconut shell and said to us: "You did a great job with your haka. You have some work to do, but we are all very impressed. However, you did not seem scary at all. You seemed...pleasant."

Well, we may have missed the scary boat during the haka, but on this field project, we nailed the archaeology. Because we are kick-ass archaeologists, or, as we say during our haka: Ea Ma Kou na Haumana Mai Akeolokia.

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