Dear Roselle,

When you asked us: “What did you learn?” — it was your last question in a long row of question regarding our two-week trip to Hawaii. That was not just a trip but a cultural journey.

Learning about Hawaiian culture, in this case, meant learning about the biological and geographical environment in which this culture developed. Learning about the traditions and values of this culture and learning about the history and the reality of Hawaii.  The reality of Hawaii is the destruction of its environment as well as its culture. Both go hand in hand as both upheld each other in former times.

Hawaii is no paradise.  You taught us this by making us pick up rubbish at the beach instead of relaxing under a palm tree. By making us pull out weeds at historic places or pull out invasive alien plants that endanger the endemic Hawaiian flora and fauna.

You introduced us to many wonderful people who are doing this kind of work regularly to save what is in danger of getting lost.  That is the other reality of Hawaii, the other side of the coin you showed us.  It’s the effort to save the Hawaiian environment and its cultural heritage.

 In the end and in the beginning of this effort stands the struggle for sovereignty.  But learning about Hawaiian culture, also meant LEARNING ABOUT OUR OWN CULTURE.  Confronted with the difference, we were also confronted with the known.  Cultural habits were exposed and could be evaluated anew.

And of course, learning about Hawaiian culture meant learning about Hula.  Actually, your last question—“What did you learn”?-reminded me instantly of the first question you asked us after we arrived on Maui: “What is Hula?”.  These three words kept swirling through my mind throughout the whole two weeks, and every day, with each new experience, I found new answers, new questions.  “What is Hula?”—“Hula as the product and trader of Hawaiian culture”?–“What is Hawaii?”—“What is culture?”—“Hula as a dance…?”  “Dance, the mirror of life?’—“Life , a dance?”…

For me, this very first question from you is the answer to your last question.

Yours sincerely,

(Anna was a 17 year old schoolgirl from Augsburg, Germany who attended a two week seminar on Maui sponsored by KaImi Na’auo O Hawaii Nei Institute.  This composition is exactly as she wrote it.  Her command of English is excellent.  Her insight, observation and understanding the many facets of her Hawaiian journey  is commendable.  This is an old spirit in a young body.  Thank you Anna!).