Today is my 5th day here at Hilo and also is the first day of classes. My first impression of the town of Hilo is it’s pretty small. Kind of reminds me of Tahlequah but a little bit larger or maybe even Muskogee. It is still pretty local with people and stores but is starting to grow with Walmart, Burger King, Target and so on.
The people here seem familiar yet unusual. Just at first glance, a lot of the population look to be Native American or Hispanic much like back in OK but once you hear them speak that’s when some of the familiarity deminishes. Another unusual thing is the amount of diversity and color there is, it’s seem that what we would call minorities are the majority here. A lot of Asians, Hawaiians, Phillapinos, and almost always mixed between the three. White and blacks tend to stand out more because they aren’t in the majority.
Culture wise it is a mixing pot of Hawaiian, Asian and Phillapino but Hawaiian is the stronger of the three. After meeting with my professors and talking with some students it seems everyone, no matter what background tends to embrace the Hawaiian culture and language. Sure there are some Japanese speakers and probably Phillapino but they are usually older immigrants who came here long ago. The younger native generation no matter their background embraces the Hawaiian attitude, culture and language.
I was impressed with how much and how often the faculty often converse in Hawaiian and the times they revert to English is mainly to ask me questions or to let me into the conversation. The patented “Ahola” is posted in every store I’ve seen as you enter and leave and almost all streets are Hawaiian names. You can tell this area, this city, this island is Hawaiian.
After first day of Hawaiian 101 I left excited and a bit sadden. I was excited because the idea of learning a new language and how immediately a lot of the culture and values were already be instilled into students. But also sadden because none of the Cherokee classes I’ve taken so far have yet to set up a learner so well in incorporating language, values and culture. We recited a chant which was needed to enter the classroom everyday, constantly encouraged to help one and another and constantly reminded that a language cannot exist soley inside the classroom. Some students were shy, but for the most part they were not afraid to get up and talk about themsleves. The pace at which students are expected to progress at does seem a bit overwhelming but it was let known this was a class to be taken seriously and try hard at. I enjoyed the professor in how he incorporated language just enough to not lose students(at least not me) but enough to challenge them to think what could that word be by the context.
Overall Hilo isn’t quite to what I was expecting but then again I was expected to be surprised. It is a small/local place in which there is a lot of diversity in heritage but culture is well defined and embraced. It is obvious that the Hawaiian language program here has been at it a lot longer than Cherokee has but I would be very satisfied if we could reach this point in 10 or so years. People often say Ahola as they greet and then say goodbye, thinking to myself something as easy as saying “Osiyo” and “Donadagohv’i” or even “Kohiyv” could go a long ways in promoting Cherokee language and interest.