Last Saturday, we were hip deep in the loʻi mud, weeding between the rows of kalo, shaded by leaves that were quivering in a cool morning breeze. This was our first H-PEA in-person event since the conference last October: an evaluation huakaʻi at Hoʻokuaʻāina, tucked in the windward side of the Koʻolau in Kapalai.
Tom, who organized our visit, emailed three simple but powerful evaluation questions for us to consider during this huakaʻi. I've used these below to organize my thoughts about my personal experience at the huakaʻi.
What is going on?
We began by sitting in a circle in the hale and introducing ourselves and stating why were were there. We sat in a bed of highly polished black stones that was surprisingly cool and comforting. Dean spoke about the moʻolelo of the beginnings of kalo and human beings, and about fostering lōkahi in the context of caring for the kalo. We were then given instructions and encouragement on how to weed around kalo properly. The morning work began as we surrounded the patch and entered the water.
What is new?
It was all new to me, I had never worked in a loʻi, although I have read and heard others talk about it for years. I was surprised at first by how intimate it was with the earth. Being short, most of my legs were sucked deep into the mud. My first thoughts honestly- yuck! But after awhile I felt enveloped and supported by the mud. I also felt daunting-so many weeds!- but being with everyone working together also made it feel possible. Laulima. Sometimes I chatted with others, sometimes I was just lost in my thoughts. Pollywogs swam around me, frogs jumped out of the kalo. Two mallard ducks kept wandering by, curious, and there were flocks of finches. An ‘auku‘u slowly stalked in the grass nearby. The sun came out, and then went behind clouds.
What does this mean?
After we showered and changed, our group of evaluators gathered on benches to talk story about what the experience taught us terms of new ways to plan for and implement evaluations.
I think I shared the same feelings of many of the participants, that I wanted to connect in person with H-PEA friends and meet new members, get away from my computer, and connect with the ʻāina. All of this happened. I also made me consider how, and whether it is even possible, to bring to the surface in my reporting to funders those programs where lōkahi is central to their purpose. That is the question I left with. And this: Nani ke kalo. Beautiful kalo.