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Local Lifestyle: Community & Culture Beyond the Visitor Industry

The receiving of a lei, the magic sounds of slack key guitar, the taste of lomilomi salmon and poi — most of us who are not from here first experience Hawaiian culture at a hotel or resort when we come to Hawaiʻi as a visitor. I remember shortly after moving to the Big Island, I saw a post on Konawebʻs “Moving to the Big Island” forum in which a resident commented that if you say “aloha,” it means you are (a) a recent arrival or (b) work in a timeshare or for a hotel. I was puzzled by the comment, because my first friends and acquaintances on the island, all of whom were born and raised here, greeted me with the word “aloha” in person and email.

I asked. And was told that of course using the word “aloha” was as appropriate as saying “bonjour” in Paris! Just pronounce it — and other words in ʻolelo Hawaiʻi — correctly, please.

Finding Your Community in Hawaiʻi

You are reading this real estate blog because you have a part-time or full-time residence in Hawaiʻi — or dream of doing so one day. You are drawn to the culture as well as the beauty and climate, but want to be a sensitive, respectful malihini (newcomer) as you integrate into the local community.

Where to begin? I was thinking about how I spent my evenings and weekend over the past seven days illustrates the wealth of community activities that provide an entry point into cultural appreciation and building relationships.

Programs from four local cultural events

Programs from four events between September 11 and 15, 2019 illustrate a variety of cultural learning and sharing opportunities.

Learning the History & Storied Places of Hawaiʻi Through Music & Hula

While only one of the four events I attended last week was actually a concert, all of them featured Hawaiian music. You will find that high-quality free music is everywhere: at the farmers market, in the shopping mall, in the restaurant where you enjoy dinner or pau hana (happy hour). The same musicians who win Na Hoku Hanohano awards will be found performing at a resort lounge or community fundraising event or local family party on any given night.

When you hear music performed live, the musicians will often explain each song. Learning more about places, the proper pronunciation of place names, historical figures, and events through music might whet your appetite to read and learn more about the history of Hawaiʻi.

Similarly, the tradition of hula is one of telling stories visually. Again, the hula dancers you see at a hotel luau or as a soloist accompanying musicians in the hotel lounge, might be competing at prestigious competitions like Merrie Monarch (held in Hilo each year at Easter time) or Hula o Nā Keiki (a childenʻs hula competition held each fall at the Kaanapali Resort on Maui).

Na Kupuna o Kohala hula festival

The 37th Annual Kupuna Hula Festival just completed at the Sheraton Keauhou brings seniors for group and solo competition.

If you want to take a deeper dive into learning culture and history through Hawaiian music and hula, community and County-sponsored classes in ukulele or hula would welcome you as a newcomer. There is no age limit, as the 37th Annual Kupuna Hula Festival demonstrated last week!

Ranching in Hawaiʻi: Perpetuating a Tradition, Providing Locally-Sourced Food

As much as I enjoyed savoring the locally-raised meat dishes offered at the annual Taste of the Hawaiian Range the weekend before, Saturdayʻs presentation by the Paniolo Preservation Society of Old Hawaiʻi on Horseback (Nā Wahine Holo Lio) at Waikiʻi Ranch was an over the top introduction to more than a century of Hawaiian history by over 100 riders in period costume.

Old Hawaii on Horseback - King Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuʻokalani

Riders representing King David Kalakaua and his sister Queen Liliuʻokalani (whose music was featured at the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra concert I attended on Oahu the next day)

If you missed those events in Kamuela (Waimea), this coming Saturday morning you can catch the 44th Annual Paniolo Parade as part of the annual Hawaii Island Festival of Aloha. Most of the paʻu riders and their attendants come from local ranching families and proudly share their heritage with visitors and local community at parades and rodeos throughout the year. The parade is from 10-11 am; enjoy food, crafts and of course live music at the Hoʻolaulea in Waimea Park afterward.

Paʻu Rider

The women of old Hawaiʻi originally wore a wrapped paʻu (skirt) to protect their fancy clothes as they rode to parties.

Fundraisers: Meet People & Support Your Community

One of the easiest ways to start meeting people and get off on the right foot in your new community is by volunteering or attending the fundraising events that support local charities. Even in our smallest communities, it seems like there is something going on nearly every weekend.

Hawaii LIfe at HILT Malama ka Aina Kakou

Hawaii Life leadership and agents filled several tables and enthusiastically lifted their paddles for the live auction bidding at HILTʻs E Mālama ʻAina Kākou at Lanikūhonoa on Oahu last weekend.

Some of my favorites: the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust events like the one I attended on Oʻahu last weekend; the Kahilu Gold concert series I sponsor to raise money for our local theatreʻs arts education programs; and the annual Tropical Paws at the Hualalai Four Seasons raising money for the Hawaii Island Humane Society.

Let me know if you want to join me!

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