August 21, 2004
Lost In Translation
The above photo is of a Maori man in full ceremonial dress. They do a dance of victory and challenge known as the "Haka" when in this costume...Its quite ferocious and is meant to strike fear in the heart of the enemy warriors...I post him here in tribute to a man of similar race and origin that came into the store today... a long story and a bit strange but I think I will tell it.
As you know we here in Hilo have been the host for the Olympics of Canoe Paddling, The International Va'a(canoe paddling in Tahitian)Sprints. For eight full days teams form all over the world have been participating and during that time there was no time for anything other than the canoes. Well, some of those folks stayed for an extra week and we are seeing some of them in the shop. One of them that stopped in today was a man named Francis.
Francis is a Maori from Rarotonga
in the Cook Islands. He considers himself a Kiwi a New Zealander, to which the Cook Islands
are bound by a mutual assistance treaty. He came in with a big smile, and full of interest in our Tahitian pearls which is the prime export of his native island... I deduced from his large build (He looked like a weight lifter with huge arms) that he was a paddler, and we talked about the races and how things went for his team..."Not so good with the winning, but it is pretty amazing that we are even here so that is the best thing."
He quickly turned the conversation off himself to Hawaii and how wonderful he found the island with its great diversity ecologically and culturally. I agreed and we found ourselves talking about what we like the best and least about it all... At this point we were seated at the table we have in the store for the customers. Woody who was in the store today had gone to run his errands and pick up his check, so we were alone.
Francis got up and went to my desk and with all of the forthrightness of his people picked up the photograph frame with my pictures in it and said. "You are married, have a Mother and cats, but where are the children? How come no children? You should have a dozen!" Lest the reader be offended for me, in Polynesia this is a compliment as a large family is a norm and girls start having children early. I told him that we had not been blessed. He put the frame down and pulled out his wallet and showed me a handsome family of six teenagers...with the center figure cut out... their mother.
"Divorced." Francis said...Like Gods judgment had been pronounced. "Yes she found someone else, I think. Its been three years now." Wallet snaps shut. I told him that I had been there and that I know that it must still be hard as I could hear that it still hurt him. He agreed and we sat again.
He told me of his family brothers and sisters, a brother working in Iraq, a sister that is a midwife in Saudi..."Hate that they are there, hate the Middle East hate India. I have been there and they look down upon us. But its a job, a living, and there are few jobs on my island."
He then said that his brother had moved to Brisbane (Australia) and was working and he thought that he could get a visa and work there, he has a degree in soil engineering from the university in New Zealand. He also thought he might try to come to Hawaii as he saw how specialized agriculture is taking off and he'd have use for his trade...then there was Hilo bay, a canoe paddlers dream come true...
I had said little really up to that point, but I did say that I thought that hed be welcomed and I think more readily accepted than he was in those other places, for his people are the descendents of the Kanaka O'li, the first Hawaiians that left when the Tahitians came and the settled New Zealand and the surrounding islands. He would be seen as Kamaaina, but for that Kiwi accent... and we laughed.
Francis then said something that surprised me. He said "Your husband is stupid to leave you alone..." I looked into the face of temptation and said, "Yes, he is...too trusting in my commitment to him and to my God, too foolish to be jealous when I tell him what you have said to me..."
Francis threw his head back and laughed " You are young and he is old, you are wiser than my grandmother,(another big time compliment) and I say you should be a mother, you would be a great one. Would you like to go to dinner with me?"
I shook my head. "I am a recovering home wrecker, you have told me of your life, and you have had enough pain. I wont add to it by letting you wreck what is left of my marriage, such as it is. Now it is time for you, Francis dear, to get up, and leave my shop before I change my mind." and with that I pulled him to his feet,him,laughing all the way to the door.
I have a "asylum" door that must be unlocked on both sides, I pulled the key lanyard from around my neck, and stuffed the key in the door, turning the lock so it popped open. As I turned the knob, Francis laid his giant paw on my hand and said, "You are very beautiful, are you sure that I cannot change your mind? Im going to be in town for another few days..." I looked up into his finely chiseled features and those dark eyes that have seen 10,000 sunsets in places I have only dreamed of...and said, " No" and heaved the heavy door open. He crossed the threshold of the doorway, not letting go of my hand. I looked again into his face and he bent down and kissed me on the cheek and said "Kia Oragna, Aloha No Ka Oi" or " until we meet again.." in both languages. He let go of my hand and walked away, only to turn around quickly to look when the door locked shut behind him...I looked through the glass and followed him, as he crossed the street and joined up with his mates at the ice cream place across the street.
Woody was back in a half hour, and I did tell him about it. He chuckled and said that he was surprised that I didnt go to dinner with him considering everything that has gone on between us recently...
Too foolish to be jealous... as I lifted my hand to my face and could smell the faint whisper of lemon scented aftershave and sweat. God in Heaven above. I shared with Woody the details of what happened and he is choosing to stay home tomorrow and mow the lawn...yes it is needed, greatly needed. Our house looks like it has been abandoned... is not lived in...
Sort of like my heart. Today, I had a volunteer to mow the lawn of my heart and chase away a few of the weeds of loneliness. I chose to wait for the owner of the place to do what is needed. Hes not going to do it... I ran to our little washroom in the back of the store and scrubbed my hands and face...while in my mind I could see Francis doing the Haka in front of Woody and Woody cowering in fear. Thank you God for giving me the strength to stand up to it and stand it down...
However, the Devil may be back, I may not let him in...