Volunteering, Learning & Exploring...

One of my most favorite quotes is, "Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer." We like to apply this saying even when we are on vacation. During my trip research I found Ho'oulu 'Āina, a welcoming place of refuge where people of all cultures sustain and propagate the connections between the health of the land and the health of the people.

Through four interwoven program areas, the community comes together to create a 100 acre upland resource of forest, food, knowledge, spirituality, and health activity. As we restore this land to health and productivity, we learn that healing is reciprocal. To accomplish this admirable goal, thousands of committed volunteers help through organic reforestation practices, pā pōhaku builds, garden beds and many other mālama 'āina (land) endeavors. Once laden with conflict and hurt, volunteers help to heal this ‘āina and together we breath life back into our ahupua'a (narrow wedge-shaped land sections that ran from the mountains to the sea).
We began the day in a circle sharing three names: ours; where we came from; and someone we would like to honor by having them there with us. The third name was an emotional one for both Steve and me.
The morning was mostly rainy, so we huddled under a tent together to clean pili grass. We were guided by Uncle Scotty who also spent the morning sharing history lessons with us. Wow!
Early Hawaiians developed several uses for pili grass, which was once plentiful on all of the Hawaiian Islands. It was the primary grass used to thatch roofs for its brown color, neat appearance and pleasant odor. The thatching was replaced every four or five years. Bunches were harvested and trimmed then tied close together with ukiuki grass in rows with stems up starting at the bottom of the frame and working upwards. The grass also lent itself to use for flooring, in mattresses and other padding. The English name “grass shack” probably referred to the grass-covered structures that colonists found here.
Our very relaxing, peaceful job was to prep the pili grass to become replacements for the roof of the hale. Oh the stories Scotty could tell. We sat at the right spots.

Every Wednesday morning, the people of Ho'oulu 'Āina in Pasifika, where we learn from and with one another about Pacific Island traditions in agroforestry. Working together in the forest, we grow food and medicine in the traditions of our ancestors from Hawai'i to Chuuk, Japan to Ilocos Norte. We both agreed we would return again, to this magical place, next time we are on O'ahu. To grow the land. To grow because of the land.

Lunch was at The Shrimp Shack in Hauula. Yum!

We then paused briefly at a Macadamia Nut Farm. It is Hawaii's very special treat.

Our final history lesson was found at He'eia Fishpond.
Hawaiian fishponds are unique and advanced forms of aquaculture found nowhere else in the world.  The techniques of herding or trapping adult fish with rocks in shallow tidal areas is found elsewhere but the six styles of Hawaiian fishponds, especially large walled ponds, were technologically advanced and efficient as their purpose was to cultivate pua, baby fish, to maturity.  Their invention was a result of the Hawaiians deep understanding of the environmental processes specific to our islands as well as their connection and observation of the food resources on the `āina and in the kai.
He’eia Fishpond is a walled (kuapā) style fishpond enclosing 88 acres of brackish water. Built approximately 600-800 years ago, it is possibly the longest in the island chain measuring about 1.3 miles long and took hundreds, if not thousands, of committed residents to pass and stack rocks and coral for approximately 2-3 years to complete the massive wall. Interesting, right? We are loving the uniqueness we have found on this, our third trip to O'ahu. Day #9 was pretty dang fine!

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Cyndy Brown said...

You two get the award for volunteers of the century while invocation! What a wonderful way to meet the real locals and also learn about the area. Kudos to you!

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