Works of fiction and poetry by friends of Bamboo Ridge Press.



Published by MIKAELETAKEDA | Monday, December 12, 2011 12:47 AM

Living on Kaua`i and first learning to dance hula: 1668 words, 100 lines


      If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I would be in a little town called Hanapepe on the island of Kaua`i. I was born in California, but when I was two years old, my family moved to Hanapepe. Why such a big move? My grandma’s family is from Kaua`i, and when my great-grandpa died, we all flew from California to be at his funeral. It was my dad’s first time in Hawai`i, and he didn’t ever want to leave. That same year, we packed up our belongings and moved there. My great-grandma had a house next door to hers that she rented out, and it was perfect timing that the old renters were moving out right when we wanted to move in. It was a little plantation house, sitting right along the edge of the Hanapepe River. The house was small, but big enough to fit our little family of four. Life on Kaua`i was so simple.
      I can remember that my dad worked at a restaurant at Poipu Bay near the golf course. We ate there all the time and my dad would always bring out a bowl of chocolate ice cream for me to eat for dessert. I remember the design on the golf balls from the Poipu Bay golf course that my dad would bring home sometimes after playing a round with his coworkers. They had a red flower with white dots at the bottoms of the petals. It said “Poipu Bay” under the flower, and “Kauai” under that. When my dad would go golfing, sometimes I got to go with him. My favorite part of going with him was getting to ride in the golf cart. Sometimes I would get to sit shotgun, and other times I’d get to sit on his lap and steer the cart while he pressed the pedals. There were always chickens on the golf course, and that’s another thing that I remember well about Kaua`i, all of the chickens that seem to be everywhere on the island. Anyways, on the golf course, my dad would get me little packets of chicken feed. So while my dad would step out of the golf cart to take a swing, I would jump out and feed the chickens. I used to take big handfuls of the chicken feed and throw it as far as I could, and I liked to watch all of the chickens race towards the food to eat. Another thing that I liked about going golfing with my dad was cleaning the golf balls. There were these machines all around the golf course and you stick the golf ball inside, turn the handle a few good times, take the ball out, and it was all clean. My dad would have to hold me up to reach the handle, and I wouldn’t be able to turn it as fast as he could, but he would help me out. After a long day of golfing, my dad and I would go back to his restaurant for a nice big bowl of chocolate ice cream.
      When my family and I lived on Kaua`i, my mom didn’t have to work. My dad provided for all of us, so my mom was able to stay home with me and my little sister and take care of us. My mom liked to take walks with us. I had this really cool Radio Flyer wagon that could fit both me and my sister, and my mom would pull us around in it all over Hanapepe. My favorite place to go that my mom would take us to is Lydgate Park. It was so much fun! The park was all made from wood, and there were a whole bunch of places to climb and hide. Sometimes my mom would bring my friend with us. I can’t remember what my friend’s name was, which is sad, but I haven’t kept in touch with her since I have moved to O`ahu. One thing that I remember about her, though, is that we were at the park one day, and she was hiding underneath the slide, playing in the sand, and I was climbing up the tires, and she called for me to go by her. When I crawled underneath the slide next to her, she opened up her hands and showed me that she had caught a mouse. I don’t know how she caught it, but I freaked out and ran away from her to my mom.
      One of the things that I will always love and remember about Kaua`i is that I first started dancing hula there. My Aunty Kapu has a hula halau called Na Hula o Kaohikukapulani. I absolutely love dancing hula. It’s one of the things that I am most passionate about, and one of the things that I work the hardest at. Family and school are definitely priorities in my life, but when it comes to hobbies and other activities, hula is my number one. I spend countless hours trying to perfect my hands to do the right motions, my feet to move me to where I need to be, and my voice to produce the chants and kahea loud and strong. My hula roots are strong in Hanapepe soil. I was too young when I started dancing to remember everything now, but my parents have photo albums that help me reminisce about my first steps in hula dancing. My favorite picture is one from a Christmas performance that my halau danced at. In the picture, I’m standing with a group of other girls all about the same age as I was, and we’re in green ti leaf skirts, a red bandeau top, and Santa hats. This obviously wasn’t traditional hula performance attire, but it’s still my favorite picture. My mom told me once that she would help me memorize my chants and dances at home. I wish that I could recall the songs and dances that I learned all those years ago.
      When I was five years old, getting ready to start kindergarten, my family moved to O`ahu. There was a brand new elementary school in Ewa Beach that my parents have heard good things about, so that’s where I went to school. The original plan was that we were going to move back to Kaua`i before I started high school so that I could graduate from Waimea High School like my grandma, but things didn’t work out that way. Both of my parents got jobs here on O`ahu, and once you start working at a steady job, it’s kind of hard to quit and start over somewhere else. I wish that I could have gone to Waimea High School, but I was making so many friends over here that I didn’t want to leave them behind and be forced to make new friends. I am already a shy person to begin with, so I dreaded the thought of starting new at a new big school and trying to find new friends.
      While living on O`ahu, I found a constant, something that reminded me of Kaua`i and made me not miss that special island so much. My dad became a teacher at this charter school in Nanakuli that is strong in the Hawaiian culture. One of the teachers at that school is also a hula teacher, and so when I was eleven years old, I started to go to her classes. It was a kind of hard at first, since I couldn’t remember a lot of what I had learned when I was younger, but I caught on fast. After a few lessons, I learned that my hula teacher’s dancing roots were also from Kaua`i. That made me love hula even more. A lot of the songs that I learned at this new halau were about people from Kaua`i or different places in Kaua`i. It was almost as if I had never left. I wanted to work hard to be a really good dancer and represent the island that my family was from. I wanted to learn all about it through chanting and dancing.
      Besides life itself, hula is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me, the greatest thing that I have ever learned how to do. To me, hula is like a way of life. You learn history, you learn skills, and you learn virtues. I walk into every hula lesson ready to work, ready to learn something new. I practice hard at home to memorize chants. I replay songs over and over until I can perform the dances perfectly without any mistakes. I strive to be the best hula dancer, not only in what I show to others in song and dance, but what I get out of it for myself, to live the things that I learn. It was my goal to go back to Kaua`i one day and perform for the island all that I’d learned about it.
      One day, that dream came true. Before hula practice one day, my hula teacher announced that we would be taking a trip to Kaua`i. It wasn’t going to be a vacation type of trip; we were going to be dancing to the places we were learning about at that time. If we wanted to go on this trip, we had to work hard to learn all of the dances and all of the chants that we would be doing. We would have to learn stories about the different places that we were going to be visiting. I didn’t know how special that trip would be until I was actually there on the island. One of the places that we danced was the sacred pa where Pele first saw Lohi`au. It was unreal to be there, a feeling that I can’t describe in words. That hula trip has motivated me every day to become a better dancer. Every day I think about it and how I want to share my love for Kaua`i through dancing hula.


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