I am on the top of the world. I have never felt more confident or sure about my life until this summer. I usually am so hesitant about my future and concerned that I don’t really know exactly what I want to do with my life. My experience so far interning at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary has been unbelievable, and I have never been so sure that I was meant to be here. I am learning so much, beyond just research skills and science related information. I have stepped beyond that and dove into the culture and traditional knowledge of the Hawaiian islands. I have met influential Hawaiians who hold so much passion for preserving their culture, and more than willing to teach me about what they know. For example, I have been guided by Uncle Kimokeo Kapahulehua, a highly respected Native Hawaiian practioner and leader in Maui. He has gone out of his way to make me feel like part of his ohana. When he first met me he kept on saying “welcome home” and made me feel so comforted. He took me on his Hawaiian outrigger canoe, as he chanted and shouted out instructions in Hawaiian (I just went along with it…having no clue what was going on). I helped him on a project to build a celestial navigation chart at the NOAA sanctuary to use as cultural education to the public. I learned so much from this experienced, and I felt so much passion and absolutely loved learning about it. He explained to me about how our ancestors navigated by the stars. Basically, each star has a home. There are 7 homes in each of the 4 quadrants. Think of a compass, with north, east, south, west. Now each quarter is divided into the different houses (haka, na leo, na lani, manu, noio, ‘aina, and la). Each star and constellation have a unique Hawaiian name, and each star rises from the east, and sets from the west. Furthermore, the home that the star rises in is the same home as it sets in. I will post a photo to show you what I mean:
Anyways, we went out on the outrigger canoe to surf some waves and ultimately collect some white coral rubble that would be used to create our navigational chart. Black lava rock was also collected, but those were found on river beds. Anyways, I had such an amazing experience setting up this permanent chart that would be built. Today, was finally the day to construct it. A famous navigator, Kala Baybayan, came to the sanctuary to teach about her experience navigating the famous canoe, the Hokulea, all the way from Hawaii to Tahiti. This feat was competed in 15 days, without the use of any technology. Just her knowledge of the stars, swells, and ocean. It is seriously fascinating learning about navigation and traditional knowledge. I highly recommend you check out the famous Hokulea. It is an important educational tool, reaching out to over a billion people worldwide that are following her journey.
Furthermore, NOAA scientist Ed Lyman talked to us about his career as a humpback whale entanglement responder. It is amazing to hear his stories about saving these whales are removing literal tonnes of line and rope from these huge animals. It is such an intricate process and I wish was here this winter to experience it, some day. He even assured me that I would be able to assist him with any turtle entanglement calls, how cool!!
Overall, this experienced has assured me that I am doing the right thing. I am in the right place meeting the right people. I was meant to be in Hawaii. I have a passion for the culture and the language and I yearn to learn more about it every day. The people here are so welcoming, and I was even invited to participate in a canoe regatta tomorrow. Not sure how much I really want to do that, but it is just so cool how open the community is and how eager they are to share their knowledge. I am so grateful for my internship here at NOAA. Not only will this open doors and pave way for a future in marine biology, but it has shown me how passionate I am about Hawaiian culture. It is only week 2 and I have learned more than I ever thought possible. I am truly in love with my life, and there is no better feeling than that. I am so happy to be in such an incredibly beautiful and welcoming island, and I know this is where I belong. Last night as I swam in the crystal clear ocean as the sun set beautifully in the horizon, I felt so at peace with myself. Not worried that I don’t know what I am going to do next in my life, but I felt assured that this is where I am meant to be. From all my travels and adventures, I have never felt more at home than in Hawaii. I have truly found myself, and what makes me happy.