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Aloha ʻĀina: Of the Hands, the Trees, and Connecting

Aloha Aina team transporting a papaya tree

So much is about the ‘right mix’ - in food, in preparation, and inevitably too in our own programs. Getting a balance that works is as much about being able to pivot and decide on the spot as it is about organization and this is particularly true when we do project-based learning. In our recent Aloha ʻAina Camp, which spanned multiple days and nights our outdoor and food components were enhanced by the addition of our old friend, collaborator and long time ago alumni, Miku Narisawa. We were especially pleased to welcome her direct from her home in Miyagi, Japan, to present a talk on her experiences with surviving (and thriving) the horrific ‘3/11’ Tsunami.

We have been pleased to offer our Aloha Aina course for the past years, which has allowed us to hone in a little and be (as mentioned above) able to adapt our timetable and intentions to each specific group.


Reif tending to his fire

This year we focused upon fire-making from scratch, using flint and collecting kindling from our Hue Hue Ranch property. About time and process as much as it is about the actual fire, we had successive evenings where different learners both observed and then took ownership of ‘building’ and maintaining their own fires. Simple hands on experience that quickly become a coveted part of each evenings. It also became a source of communication and connecting as each evening it was the fire that would bring all



Our Value Building Workshop, which features in each and every one of our Programs, was curated slightly to emphasize not only identifying one’s own values, but crucially also, identifying others’ values and qualities. What followed was an almost unprecedented amount of time ‘building’ an organization with the participants selecting from their peers, the most competent or strong individual or group suited for a role. The entire exercise scheduled for 1.5 hours stretched over three days to take up over 3 hours total, so enjoyed and provocative was it. This exercise focused not simply on the self but rather encouraged ourselves to recognize and seek qualities in others.

Values session indoors

Of all of our workshops the Values Workshop is consistently one of the sleepers, initially puzzling many first time participants and drawing the question: “What purpose is served by this subject?”

The answer, which becomes clearer in time is that without being given the chance to identify one’s own Values, one cannot really understand owns motives, perspectives, and actual opinions. During our most recent Aloha ʻAina course, it was once again proven to be a crucial and understood part of our course. We had one learner remark, “This is more important than math…at least more important than the math I’m learning”. We are always delighted that even some of the younger participants come to understand why this concept of ‘Valuesʻ is so vital.


Will proudly showcasing his spring roll

Farm to table meals featured with the surprise hit of the week - and entirely hand made from scratch, hand rolled Spring Rolls - that were devoured, fawned over, and lovingly recalled, for the entire week. Preparation and harvesting of the meals builds towards an appreciation of the food that ends up on the plate, on the fire, and within us, and far from simply being a meal, the whole process is about respect of the soils and those that tend and nurture them


Archery with Biggie

A couple of Design-thinking workshops were thrown in as well as our supremely loved archery sessions with Uncle Biggy and family. Archery sessions that inevitably begin slowly but then easily span hours as the participants recognize that it is a process more than and immediate skill or exercise. Adaptations, corrections, and time are all woven into one another and it is always the case that by the end of our session on our upper acres, there is a great struggle to leave the bows, the targets, and the gentle breezes that nudge the flight of the arrows.


Zane picking us a green papaya for dinner

Our backbone and base of all continues to be our outdoor immersion component, whether it be a formalized element with explicit goals out of doors, or simply having courses sitting in the grass on our small Puʻu (cinder cone) within the shadows. We got stuck into a path building and clearing project which occupied a half-day (and could have easily incorporated an entire day) of identifying which plants and canopies to best ‘fold’, trim, ‘weave’, or simply bend to create a natural gateway through the forests. We then explained to one another observations from our time on the path learning exercise. Everything from mushroom identification to explaining which foliage was most challenging to clear - from which plants actually assist in bug and pest resistance to figuring out the tendencies of the winds and when they shift.

In short, Aloha Aina once again reminded us of its intrinsic value to not only the learners but to us and society as well, and for those who wish to connect informally with the earth that we all so hope thrives and prospers.


The Akahiao Team


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