When thinking back to life at home, there are distinct things that I can remember about Hawaii. The smell of foods walking past the Korean restaurants in town, the shaved ice on hot summer days, the way the ocean looks when there is not a breeze sweeping the skies, or bumper stickers. Yes, bumper stickers. I remember seeing cars and trucks (in fact, I still see them driving around today) with simple stickers on the back tail that read “Live Aloha.” I didn’t understand the saying so much while growing up (maybe because “living aloha” comes naturally there), but am able to completely understand it now. The “Aloha Spirit” or “Living Aloha” is like an unspoken law that locals have become accustom to abiding. I actually found a very interesting website that gives great definition to this term:
In short, living aloha “serves as a reminder of the thread of life that binds all of us and also connects us with the past generations and future generations. It reminds us to consider the other person and try to put ourselves in their place and understand from their perspective.” I could not have said it any better. When reading the School for Hawaiian Girls, I came across many instances in which “living aloha” were tested.
Now, before examining passages which will exude this idea of the “aloha spirit,” I first wanted to further explain my fascination with this philosophy, and bridge its connection to the novel. A major theme that arises within School for Hawaiian Girls is the idea of family and home. In Hawaii, family is defined much differently. Everyone is family. In many cases, people are not even blood related, yet refer to one another as “cousin,” or “aunty” or “uncle.” It is out of respect, hospitality, and aloha. The idea of the extended family comes into play, though many locals do not see it as an “extension” to the family. It is the regular family. An example of this can be seen on page 77, when Moani is attending her class reunion on “family day” at the beach:
Then Charlotte said, “I guess we can open the picnic to a few more guests.”
Uncle and Dixie were about to grab paper plates but stopped.
“This’s family day,” I said.
“It’s meant for regular families,” Charlotte said.
“This is my regular family.” (77)
Moani clearly states that her regular family is this extension. Later in the passage, tension arises between Moani and Charlotte, mainly because this is a great insult. Family is important and to make others feel “unwelcome” (as Moani states), it is almost like a direct blow. To understand the “aloha spirit” is to understand being hospitable. It is custom in Hawaii to be welcoming, and many families are willingly open their doors to share as little or as much as they can offer. This is why family parties and luaus are so popular on the islands. Everyone is “related” and everyone is welcomed. With this, I believe home and ohana is such a major foundation to many Hawaii locals.
Another example I found within the text is the incident with the Spook family and the Kayak group on the island of Moloka’i. In this passage (on page 174-175), we see that the Spook family has come to dock in the same area as Moani and the guests. Although the kayak group landed there first, it is without question that Moani advises everyone to make room for the Spook family. She does not even think twice in deciding to share their “home” or camp with these guests. Moani also does not hesitate to share the meal she has prepared with the Spook children. This is an example of “living aloha.” Although it is not required, she gives what they have to provide for the others. In a way, they become family. Rick, the honeymooner has a big problem with this, and disagrees with sharing their supplies. He goes against this spirit, and eventually, we see what happens with the consequences of being selfish, greedy, and disrespectful. Things do not go as they should (understandable if you read the website definition).
Overall, I don’t want to give the impression that you must give everything you have to one another in order to “live aloha.” Rather, it is in the simple understanding and a reminder that one must live with humility and appreciation for those they encounter. Especially in Hawaii, respect and respect for home and family is essential to keeping order in the way life flows. As demonstrated in the book, family should not be just those who you are directly related to. Rather, one should embrace and keep the friendly and welcoming spirit alive.