This is an excerpt from my journal entry for today. Enjoy!
I arrive at the museum a little later than expected this morning due to lost luggage arriving (necessitating a quick shower before I head off) and a stop at TheBus terminal to pick up a one month bus pass for the trip. On the ride here I see a lot more homeless people than I would have expected as we move out past the shoreline of Waikiki, glowing with the fluorescent signs of hotels and shops. I get off at my stop and it begins raining, no, pouring, within seconds. I ask a woman which way to the museum and as soon as it started, the rain stops. I head off down the street and walk up to the entrance to the museum, turning around momentarily to take in the absolutely breathtaking view of Waikiki and the mountains behind me.
When I get to the counter I request a day pass and am asked, for the second time during my trip, if I live on Oahu. Having to say no, I don’t receive the discount given to residents. I assume this is meant to encourage locals to take ownership and gain understanding of their own history and culture. The family behind me gets the discount.
I step out onto a sloping lawn, which I later learn was the scene of a very famous and bloody battle. My program informs me that the first event I will be able to attend is the garden tour outside of the Hawaiian Hall. I hesitantly approach a group sitting in chairs underneath a tree and am assured I’ve made it to the right spot.
I spend the next half hour in the company of an older woman visiting from England, a Japanese family, and the two women who work at the museum who lead us all in this stationary tour. They begin with the Kikui Tree, under which we sit. The state tree of Hawaii this tree is covered in large leaves with three distinct lines branching out on each. We are told the ancient Hawaiians believed that these leaves represented a pig god (his ears at the edges of the leaves and his snout at the tip) who is said to have created all the rivers and valleys on the island over frustration for the one he loved. The tree also bears kikui fruit. At this point I wish I had remembered paper and pen to jot down notes in my frenzy of excitement when my luggage arrived this morning. The kikui nut can be used for an incredible amount of things. The nut juice (their term not mine) can be used to create wax for candles and was used by Hawaiian fisherman to create dim lights by which to see. The nuts can also be used to create necklaces, dyes, and even food (used to flavoring or as a diuretic). We sit in black metal chairs underneath this grand tree as it starts to rain, the massive leaves protecting us from the drops.
We learn about coconuts and their many uses, and ti leaves which are used to wrap other foods. We learn about the bread nut tree and its potato-like fruit, and I make a note to check to see if it is gluten-free later. And finally, we finish with one of the guides favorite plants; the half-flower. She tells us a tale of a forbidden romance between a princess and a fisherman. When the princess’s father discovered their feelings he banished his daughter to the mountains and the fisherman to the shore. When they both passed away this small white flower grew with only half of its petals. “And when you put the two halves together,” she tells us placing to flowers side-by-side, “they become one.” The group coos and the woman smiles. I thank them for the tour and snag a quick picture before heading off for the rest of the museum.
I turn and head towards the entrance to the Hawaiian Hall and begin my slow journey around the first floor of the museum, representing the sea and the Samoan, Tahitian and many other travelers who would come to inhabit the islands of Hawaii. There are shields of warriors and statues of their many gods. One of the most striking statues is a stone formation only slightly shorter than myself, angled forward, with three spots sunken in where you would imagine a face. The placard says that a man found this statue and it asked to be moved. The museum curators had planned to find a place for it outside at some point, but it doesn’t want to move from the place I see it in today. I can almost feel the presence of something spiritual next to me…I wouldn’t want to mess with it either.
Only minutes after I’ve entered the museum I hear a school group singing. The only words I recognize are “mahalo” and I whip out my phone to record the song. I later overhear a woman telling her husband that they were singing their thanks for being at the museum today and having the chance to look around. This culture is so thankful it’s incredible.