Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Culture, King Kamehameha, and the REAL Khal Drogo...

I've always approached travel with an anthropological perspective.  Of course I enjoy many of the tourist attractions.  After all, typically, they are remarkable experiences and fascinating sights that stand out about the destination.  But I also enjoy experiencing things from a local perspective.  I want to see what people eat, how they worship, how they live their everyday lives. I've never been a big fan of resorts because they are too isolating.  And I've never understood the traveler who needs to have the comfort level of  "just like home".  To my mind, traveling this way misses the point.  Travel is supposed to broaden a person, and I don't mean the waistline from eating "foreign" McDonald's meals.

Likewise, travelers who make no effort to understand or participate in local culture are irksome to me. Here in Kauai, a woman made fun of the local street names, even though there are any number of free publications scattered in news bins all over the island that contain pronunciation keys.  Another woman bitched to me about being asked to pay an admission for the Kauai museum. 

If the reluctant museum goer had paid the measly $6 entrance fee, she might have watched the video about the Hawaiian people and seen their love for their land, their generous spirit, their respect for and cooperation with nature.  She might have learned how this respect was undermined - and is undermined to this day - by an accession that was largely forced by American and European businessmen who had money and sugar on their minds, not ancient Hawaiian traditions.

The Hawaiians I met struck me as good, proud Americans.  If there is any bitterness over the overthrow of the monarchy so long ago, it isn't evident.

But they haven't forgotten their history

King Kamehameha, (b. circa 1736), united the Hawaiian islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawi'i in 1810. 

By developing alliances with the major Pacific colonial powers, he preserved Hawaiʻi's independence.  King Kamehameha Day is commemorated yearly in his honor, and I felt fortunate to be in town for this event.

The festivities - a parade, crafts, food, and entertainment -  started at nine in Lihue, about an hour's drive from the condo where I was staying.

I got up at the crack of dawn, worried about getting a parking space and a good vantage point.  I forgot about "island time".  I was sitting in the shade waiting for over an hour before the parade began.

The main focus of the event was Hawaiian royalty.  The honorary princesses of each island, preceded by a page with a banner announcing their provenance, passed on flower-bedecked horses.  The Big Island; Mau; Kaho'olawe; Lanai; Molokai; Oahu; Kauai; and Ni'ihau were all represented.  In between, various civic and community organizations passed by, in cars, jeeps, pick ups and ATVs festooned with flowers, .

The Princess of Oahu
The feel was definitely hometown; people clapped, cheered, and waved to their neighbors. No oversized balloons, and only two or three attractions that might actually be termed "floats".  Certainly not the extravaganza the Macy's parade is every year, but it was wonderful in the way it showcased Hawaiian pride. 

Without a doubt, the crowd-pleasing favorite was the appearance of "King Kamehameha" himself.   Feather torches, flowers, leaves, hula girls, a royal court - Kamehameha definitely got the royal treatment.

Plus, the guys - in their traditional Hawaiian malo (loincloths) - were hunky.

After the parade, I perused the stands to choose lunch.  Lau lau (pork cooked in taro leaves), chicken teriyaki, chicken long rice (a noodle dish), poke (a fish salad similar to ceviche), and other dishes were available.  Marlene from Da Imu Hut, a restauranteur I'd met during the week, recognized me when I decided to purchase at her booth. We had a brief discussion about her amazing berry cheese pie. I felt like a local.

And then, to top off the day, I got to take a picture with the King himself.

As you know, I've been traveling with a plastic doll with tribal tattoos modeled after a Hawaiian actor.  

This was SOOOOOO much better.

No comments: