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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

One Family, One Hula… Cultural Immersion in the Garden Island – Hawaii & Alaska Community Service

Hello Parents!

Although we got a taste of the Hawaiian way of life in Oahu, our twenty minute intra-island flight to the Garden Island of Kauai allowed us to dive into even more traditional Polynesian culture. We stepped off our plane and onto the Jonny Mac, a Smith Family Grotto Boat which took us for a cruise along the Wailua River. On board, Hawaiian musicians filled the air with aloha, and hula dancers swayed in rhythm as we listened to the legends and heritage of the historic river valley and the fern grotto. If you’ve watched the Hollywood hit “Outbreak” featuring Dustin Hoffman, you would have seen the exact river we floated down, even though the movie portrays it as “Africa”. Various scenes of the movie were filmed at a thatched-roof village which lay along Wailua Rivers’ edge. In fact, Kauai is the backdrop of several popular movies including the likes of Jurassic Park, Hook, and George of the Jungle.

After our hula warm up on the Jonny Mac, we returned to hotel for our private group hula lesson with Daphne. Daphne taught us all about the ancient hula kahiko, which is deeply rooted in culture and history. Hula kahiko is accompanied by chant and traditional instruments, and is dedicated to a Hawaiian god or goddess. The guys of the group were placed at the back, standing tall and stoic, with their hands on their hips, to represent strong warriors. The ladies lined up in front row by row, delicately holding up their invisible grass skirts. The hula lessons were lots of fun and the moves were mastered by all- “she’s going to the district…the sand tickles her feet…the waves start to swell…the sun shines down on her”. Everyone’s creative chaos was turned into divine order, which Daphne was beyond delighted with. So much so for James that he was given the Hawaiian name of Kimo, which translates back to James. His hips didn’t lie and he followed the moves with great enthusiasm. Lindsey, Lauren, and Karly K. also connected with their inner hula girls as they danced with great precision.

In the fall of 1992, Hurricane Iniki struck the island of Kauai, destroying 1,500 homes and damaging more than 5,000. Soon after, the Kauai Habitat for Humanity ReStore opened up. The store aids in eliminating poverty housing and homelessness, and to make decent and affordable shelter available to those in need. ReStore sells discounted building materials, home improvement items, gently used furniture, appliances, and household goods which would have otherwise been sent to landfills. This building is a central part of the community of Hanapepe, and became a central part of our time in Kauai as we volunteered our services there for two consecutive days. Throughout our two days at ReStore we did various tasks, were efficient in getting lots done for the store, and had a blast in doing so. Jake wheeled a huge load of rocks that were to be washed and prepped for a coat of bring yellow paint. Isabel got right in with the guys to help haul the rocks. The following day she got into a playful paint fight with Carly R. as they painted the rocks. Yellow paint was everywhere but it sure added even more brightness to our day. More friendly fights ensued while a bunch of the ladies were labelling and putting stickers on various items to be sold. Kennedy, Gillian, Amanda, and Karly W. fought it out with orange labelling guns and unfortunately Karly W. lost the battle as she was plastered with price stickers at the end of our first day at ReStore. Nikki and Vivian used their green thumb gardening skills to clear weeds from the entrance gate. Their hard work created a really welcoming environment for all customers who’ll pass through the ReStore gate. Jake and Harrison showed off their handymen skills as they assembled wheelbarrows; keep these guys around if you need anything put together with a ratchet or screwdriver. A huge group was working overtime at the carwash- Abby and Lindsey put lots of elbow grease into their rags as they washed the windows, while Allie and James sprawled out on the hood of a truck using their wax-on, wax-off skills. Samuel was working the hose and was spraying down more of his friends than the vehicles being washed but everyone appreciated the refreshment after a long morning of work

Even more refreshing and relaxing was our picnic at Salt Pond Lake Park. The park sits on the southern-most shore of Kauai and gets lots of wind off the Pacific which makes for perfect beaching weather. Whenever it would get too hot, a big gust of ocean filled air would come by and cool us off. It’s surprising that the tents pegged at this park stayed fastened in their spots. Salt Pond Lake Park is also a local gathering place for wild chickens and roosters. These poultry birds roamed the park and beach like city pigeons. It was a very interesting contrast to hear the crashing waves one minute and the cock-a-doodle-doo of a rooster the next.

“I AM HURCULES!” Everyone enjoyed the comfortable reclining seats at the Coconut Plantation Cinema almost as much as The Rocks Oscar worthy performance as the beastly and bulging demi-god HERCULES! Harrison, Allie, and Carly R. did spot on impersonations of him the following night in our “Best of the Best” tournament game. We also discovered that Harrison has a great voice for television, as he demonstrated with his commercial of Seward’s Harbor Inn.

We took in a beautiful sunset at the Hanalei Bay Pier as recommended to us by Valerie from Habitat for Humanity. As the sun was setting into the Bay, we sat in a group circle to discuss our personal experiences with the community service work we did in Hawaii. It was the perfect environment to hold such a chat and lots of deep reflexing took place. The overall theme that kept coming up was that we as individuals are happy to have had the chance to touch people through our service work. By giving our time to help and get to know others we have been inspired in many ways. We are very fortunate of the lives we lead and the opportunities we have been provided with, and too realize that many people don’t get such opportunities. We left the circle and the pier feeling grateful and humble.

Hanalei Bay gave us even more enjoyment the following morning as we had a group SUP session. SUP is the acronym for stand up paddling and everyone was able to harness great balance and poise as they paddled along the river. Jake, Allie, and Gillian lead the pack and kept in pace with one of our guides who was moving quite swiftly. Amanda was always able to find her way back onto the board even after she lost her balance and went for a little dip. Samantha, Lauren, and Abby looked like goddesses of the river as they lay on their boards to catch the rays. Samuel used his strength to lead the SUP pack back to the starting point against strong headwinds. This was a great full body workout and an even better warm up for the surf lessons which we’re stoked to have in Maui!

Peace out Kauai, thanks for letting us experience all of you!

Community Service Tour

– The Westcoast Blogger