By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
It's talk story night at the Molokai Ranch camp, and leading are
Georgina Kamakanaokalani Naeole, left and Louella Opuulani Albino.
Below, two hikers make their way along the Great Molokai Ranch Trail.

Molokai trail talk

‘We have time to listen,
time to be heard’

By Tim Ryan

Hano Naehu cups his hand over his heart as he explains his love for Molokai, its people and the life it provides him.

"The people here are very special," the Molokai Ranch employee says with a passion that seems too intense for someone just 20 years old. "We believe in each other, we believe in the goodness of people. We trust, brah, we trust.

"We love our home. It cares for us, provides for us. Look at this beauty, brah. We're part of it; we're alive with it. It protects us; we protect it.

Friendliness on Molokai is as common as the island's red dirt and the hand-waving exchanged with all passing drivers. It's a place where talking story with friends and strangers is not only expected but relished. On Molokai, Naehu says with fire in his dark eyes, "people listen to one another."

Naehu, Louella Opuulani Albino, Georgina Kamakanaokalani Naeole and Vanda Wahinekuipualeilehuapuakea are leading a talk-story program this cool spring night as part of Molokai Ranch's new "Great Molokai Ranch Trail" destination adventure.

Visitors to the ranch are mostly isolated from the community. So the employees — more than 90 percent of whom were born and raised on Molokai — and the talk-story volunteers put visitors in touch with the people.

And because more than half of Molokai's 7,000 residents are Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian, they broaden a visitor's exposure to the island culture.

The after-dinner program takes place in the large, open-air pavilion at Paniolo Camp near Maunaloa town.

"This oli komo," says Wahinekuipualeilehuapuakea, "was written especially for Molokai. We never have an oli (chant) like this ... one that is spoken as you approach a friend's home."

The oli, she explains, is an announcement of sorts that lets the resident know a visitor is approaching and you are asking permission to enter.

"It is etiquette, protocol," says Wahinekuipualeilehuapuakea.

When she reads the first line of the chant — "Mohala ka pua na'u o Mahana e wili ana i lei mo ha'a" — the na'u blossom of Mahana will be woven for a lei for ha'a blooms — the words flow melodically.

Wahinekuipualeilehuapuakea is patient when the visitor fumbles on a few words. After some more instruction, the visitor relaxes and the words also glide for him. Wahinekuipualeilehuapuakea gently pats the visitor's wrist in congratulation.

Albino — pronounced al-be-no — teaches Hawaiian language to elementary schoolchildren on Molokai. Her son, Gordon, is a guide and ranger for the Molokai Ranch adventure.

Speaking Hawaiian since childhood has given her a sense of security.

"We lived the Hawaiian culture," Albino says. "I didn't just watch it; it's in me."

As a child she watched her father use traditional Hawaiian medicines like the popola hiwa berry to cure colds and coughs. She watched him pray, plant by the moon, perform special rituals when it was time to harvest.

"We lived the culture without being loud about it," Albino said.

On another "talk story" night, Aunty Penny Martin, the first woman to sail on the Hokule'a, and a set of twin sisters show visitors how to make a ti-leaf lei. One of the women uses her foot as a third hand to hold several ti leaves together.

"Sometimes it is easier to talk story when the hands are occupied," she says. "On Molokai we have time for these things. We have time to listen, time to be heard."

The twins, 23, recently returned from a visit with relatives on Oahu which they said always presents a clash of cultures.

"The other kids say they feel sorry for us because we live here because there's nothing to do on Molokai," one girl says. "We have so much here. Look at the ocean, the sky, the stars, the moon. Listen to the wind. I'm never bored."

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Guide Gordon Albino explains that these stones, in an area along the
Great Molokai Ranch Trail where there are no other stones in sight,
were probably brought there by ancient Hawaiians..

Moke Kim, coordinator of Molokai Ranch's cultural program, is talking on a recent evening. His eyes are wide and bright, intense and piercing but friendly too. His hands move frequently through the air as he explains how Hawaiians use all their senses to experience life and communicate.

"When I tell you we love the aina as a living, breathing thing because it provides for us, do you pili with me, do you relate to what I am saying?

"Tell me how you pili with me," Kim says to one man.

The man replies, "On Molokai I have been able to listen to nature, to feel the richness of the wind on my skin, to smell the fragrance of even weeds, and seen so much life in the sea in the rocks and the coral and the flowing water."

Kim smiles.

Throughout the story sessions, questions about controversies between Molokai Ranch and some community members are met with honesty.

"There has been distrust and misinformation on both sides," one man says. "There is still some distrust."

A woman says the new visitor attraction at Molokai Ranch "seems like a good thing."

"It is low-impact on our land and will provide jobs for our people."

(According to Maui officials, about 14.8 percent of Molokai's 6,700 residents were unemployed last year, compared to 6.8 percent for all of Maui County. About 29.5 percent of Molokai households received food stamps last year.)

When Kim sees a visitor wearing a ti-leaf wrist lei made during a talk-story session, he tells the man it is a memento he'll never forget.

"Every time you look at it, you'll remember that night with Aunty Penny, the talk-story, how you felt. You had pili with her. You had pili with Molokai."

More Molokai in today's
Features section online

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