Learning, Exploring, and (just a little) Relaxing: First full day on Oahu

Aloha from Waikiki!

As we are making our way through day three of the trip, I’m taking a little time to recount day two.

We started with a group trip to the Bishop Museum, the Hawaiʻi State Museum of Natural and Cultural History. We were first treated to a docent tour about Hawaii’s native birds and the museum’s newest exhibit, on loan from the The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for 10 years. The ‘ahu ʻula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (feathered helmet) were a gift to Captain Cook from Chief Kalani‘ōpu‘u on Cook’s arrival to the island of Hawai’i (now commonly referred to as the “Big Island”) in 1779. The yellow feathers used to create the cloak and helmet came from the mamo bird, which became extinct in 1898.

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Students then explored the museum to find information about Native Hawaiian culture, as well as other Polynesian cultures, that affected health status, health care practices, and health communication. We met as a group to discuss our thoughts and observations before heading off to new adventures. Students also had time to see a special exhibit about sugar and candy, as well as the science museum.

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In the evening, we had a group welcome dinner at Duke’s Hula Grill on Waikiki Beach. Wonderful food, great conversations, and a spectacular view (none of which I have pictures of at the moment), but I’ll post them later–I promise!


Hawaiian words

During our second week, I started making a list of the Hawaiian words we have learned during our trip. Students have added to it (they have better memories), but it is still quite incomplete:

Aloha (hello, good-bye)

Mahalo (thank you)

Keiki (children)

Wahine (women)

Ohana (family)

Kapu (forbidden)

Hale (home)

Haole (foriegner, among other things)

Ho’oponopono (reconciliation, forgiveness)

Pono (respect, but much deeper than the English word conveys)

Sh-shi (urinate)

Lanai (porch)

Ono (good)

Huna (healing)

Kahuna (expert and then some)

Poi (taro paste)

Kumu (teacher)

Hui (pidgin; join/meet)

Hana hou (do it again, encore)

Hula (dance, of course)

Luau (feast)

Koa (pheasant)

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

We made several stops at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the first was at the active crater. Our first stop was at the new Halema’uma’u Vent. The smoke plume behind the group comes from this vent.

We also visited the Kilauea Iki Crater. This was amazing as we could see people walking the trail through the crater. They were very tiny from our vantage point.

Kilauea Iki, a collapsed crater, has a hiking trail through the middle. From the overlook, the hikers looked to be the size of ants.

The Thurston Lava Tube is named after a local haole, Lorrin Thurston (also the newspaper publisher and a leader in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy). Mr. Thurston discovered the tube in 1913, and it is over 400 years old. Lava tubes are channels created during lava flow, that then serve as conduits for additional lava.

Kristen C. and Tara C. enter the tube.

Another stop was at a deep crater, Puhimau. There was a short walk from the road to the overlook, with the trees suddenly opening to reveal the massive rock wall on the other side. It was a dramatic sight, and many gasps were heard. This crater creates an echo, and a few students tried it out.

One other stop was a lava flow field from the 1980s. It was amazing to see plants growing in the lava. We walked very carefully across the field as there were many slanted services and sharp edges.

Lehua flowers growing in the lava field.The lava field.

Akatsuka Orchid Farm

We didn’t take any pictures at the Macadamia Nut Farm so our “peeks” start with orchids.

We were greeted at the entrance to the orchid show room with a basket of individual orchids and an invitation to take as many as we wanted, attach them to a bobby pin, and wear them in our hair. Right side = available, Left side = taken (jokes were that if it was in the back you were “looking to take someone home” and if you wore flowers on both sides you were “married, but still looking.”).

Hattie R. (a little later in the day) with her purple and white mix.

Many of us took many pictures of the many kinds of orchids in the show room. I never knew that orchids came in so many shapes and sizes.

North Hawaii Community Hospital

Yesterday, we took a Roberts bus north to Waimea, climbing many hills to get there. Our first bus had trouble getting up the hills, and our driver, Jeff, didn’t think it would make it up the final, steepest one. So, we waited at a restaurant for a new vehicle (http://www.texdriveinhawaii.com/). A few students tried their famous malasadas, a Portuguese filled pastry.

Once we were back on the road, we arrived at our destination, North Hawaii Community Hospital (NCHC) quickly. We were greeted by the Holistic Care Team, met the Chief Nursing Officer, and settled in for the presentation.

NCHC was described as the one place the nurses had worked that truly lived holistic care. It is the core of their mission. Patients receive aromatherapy services, acupuncture (with an acupuncturist on sight four hours a week), reiki and other energy therapies, pet therapy, and more. The staff we talked with were enthusiastic about their work. While willing to try new therapies, they rely on evidence from research when instituting new therapies or changing current ones. The Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota is the main source for the protocols used for alternative therapies.

The head of the holistic care team explained that their goal is to restore the patient to be able to care for themselves. She used a cup and straw to explain this. When ill, we need someone to hold our cup and straw. As we recover, we become able to use the straw ourselves. When we are healed, we no longer need the straw. The holistic care team applies this analogy to spiritual needs. It is very similar to Orem’s theory that we follow in the School of Nursing.

Our tour highlighted that all the rooms have an exterior view of gardens and/or the nearby mountain peaks. The halls were decorated with local art (and a few Disney drawings & cels).

After the tour, we learned more about aromatherapy and the students sampled several essential oils. We had a quick lunch from the hospital cafeteria and the students picked a scent to add to a hot towel for oshibori. The hospital uses these hot scented towels to calm patients or to revive tired nurses before they drive home.

Jillian C. & Stephanie M. smelling a combination oil of rose, lavender, and blue lotus.

Hattie R., Meghan H., and Kristen C. pick out scents for oshibori.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Waipi’o Valley to view what has been called the most beautiful spot on the island. It did not disappoint. We learned it was the spot where the end of Waterworld was filmed, but students I asked had not seen this movie. I felt old.

Looking into the lush valley area.

Coastline at Waipi'o Valley

We continued our journey back to the hotel without incident, and the students had the rest of the day to themselves.

Farewell Maui, Hello Hilo!

Sunrise in Lahaina, Wednesday

Yesterday we left Lahaina early, traveling by bus to the airport. We arrived in Hilo without incident, and reached our hotel quickly. We could not settle in, however, as we were too early to check in. So, we all went to lunch at different places & worked there or back at the hotel until class at 1. The final two student groups presented on the Chinese and Filipino cultures. It was a different set up than we were used to, with chairs and tables rather than a circle on grass or sand. Students still had great discussion sessions during each presentation.

After class we checked into our rooms and had dinner on our own. Today we start at 9:30 with the first presentation on what two students experienced with alternative health treatments in Honolulu.

Sunrise, Hilo, Thursday

Tuesday: Molokini & Turtle Town

On Tuesday, we had a “fun day” of snorkeling at Molokini Crater and an area called Turtle Town. However, we did observe the culture of tourists!

Equipment check… In the photo below, Meghan B., Jillian C., Allison H., Sarah W. & Jill O. are trying out their snorkels before the boat reaches Molokini…

Kumu Noel & the class in the water.

Molokini is a collapsed volcano that is now a nature reserve: http://molokinicrater.com/molokini-history.php.


The water was so clear at both locations. Most of us saw sea turtles at the second stop, and a group of students saw an octopus.

Fish as seen from the boat.

Iao Valley, Heritage Gardens, & more!

We started our day by getting on another Roberts’ bus. Our driver, Tim, has lived most of his life here. His father was a physician on the plantations and his mother was a nurse. What a fitting driver for our group!

As we drove toward the Iao Valley State Park (pronounced like “meow” without the “m”), Tim told us many stories about the island. We stopped when we saw a monk seal (so called because they are solitary animals). There are about 100 of these seals in this area of the islands, with another 1000 in a protected marine area (according to Tim, I have not researched this). Because they are a protected species, we needed to stay at least 100 feet from the seal, and to keep our voices down as the reason the seal was on the beach was to sleep.

We reached Iao Valley after driving by gorgeous views of the oceans, mountains, and vegetation. We saw wild growing coffee! There were many beautiful things to see at the park, but the main photo opportunity was The Needle, elevation 2250 feet.

After this, we drove to the Heritage Gardens, Kapewai Park. Students had time to explore the grounds, wade in the stream,and write in their journals. Kumu Noel and I set up the lunch, then the students dug in.

After lunch it was time for class. We were interrupted from time to time by feral cats. There are colonies of feral cats in the area, thought to be numbered in the thousands. They were disturbing because they were cute and because the birds were quite loud when one appeared.

Following lunch, Tim took us on a scenic drive, pointing out a Frank Lloyd Wright house, Willie Nelson’s house, and a place where Woody Harrelson has a store. Having grown up in the town, Tim was able share his perspective about the changes in Hawaii, including the hospitals, sugar production, and tourism. We also saw kite surfers and wind surfers enjoying the rougher waves on the western side of the island.

Students are spending the afternoon and evening preparing for tomorrow’s class, enjoying the beach, and wandering through the town. This is still a tourist area, but has a much slower pace than Waikiki. I, at least, am glad for that. Maui seems much more my speed.

Good-bye Honolulu!

We have had a wonderful week here, and are excited to continue our adventures on Maui this evening. The Island of Oahu is beautiful, and we have experienced much aloha. I have enjoyed watching the students learn & grow in this short time. Kumu Noël is doing a fabulous job keeping us all on track. She’s now waiting on me to board the bus to the airport…

Public Health in Hawaii

Some of the readings the students used to prepare describd health in populations of people, so it seemed appropriate to highlight some public health issues in Hawaii. One way that Hawaii is different from the continental US is fluoridation. Between 8 and 10% of people in the state have access to fluoridated water. This has been widely documented to influence dental health.

Another concern is asscess to fresh foods. Hawaii grows food, but much of it is shipped to other areas of the country. Those with limited income can have difficulty finding affordable fresh foods. This is a contributor to the high rates of obesity in the Native Hawaiian population, as well as the obestiy rate for the state as a whole.

Students will be taking pictures using the “This is Public Health” campaign logo. The pictures will be geo-tagged by students or myself, and we will upload them to the “This is Public Health” website: http://www.thisispublichealth.org/.

Their goal is two pictures per island, without all of them being hand sanitizer 🙂