Sunday, February 26, 2012
I was greeted with a variety of expressions when I visited Kaua'i. Besides the famous Aloha, which claims many layers of meaning, from hello to love, I learned that Hawaiians pour a lot of thought into saying hello. It's all about the Aloha spirit, which literally translates to sharing breath and being present in the essence of life. From younger Hawaiians, I heard, Pehea 'oe? which means how are you or what's up? I was also honored with a traditional greeting of gently pressing foreheads together, which threw me off guard initially. Now I understand that according to traditional Hawaiian beliefs, words and bones contain mana or energy and spiritual power. The frontal bone of the forehead represents the true self and pressing your forehead against some else's opens the true self to each other. Most memorably, I was instructed in the Hawaiian "Shaka" greeting by the imitable Dickie Chang, above. Dickie is a popular TV show host and a member of the Kaua'i County Council. He's also an expert on all things Hawaiian , which includes the "Shaka". I vaguely recognized it as a surfer "Hang Ten" symbol but Dickie explained that the pinkie and thumb salute is the original Hawaiian signal for hanging loose and everything being alright. Shaking your pinkie and thumb and adding the phrase, "Shaka, brah!" means you are a totally cool Hawaiian, as President Obama demonstrates, below. Have you picked up any unusual greeting during your travels?