31 December 2009

Blogging Sabbatical

I began blogging six years ago this month, in December 2003. Since then, I've published over 2,000 blogposts, most of them excerpts from books I was reading. But the number of posts has declined each year—from over 550 in 2004 to under 200 in 2009—as I've become involved in a greater variety of online publishing hobbies.

In the spring of 2006, I bought my first digital camera (a little point-and-shoot Olympus), took it with me on a 4-month sabbatical spell in Japan, and soon began building a portfolio of documentary—rather than artistic—photos on Flickr, some of them scans of old photos from my earlier travels. This month I got my third digital camera (a Canon Powershot) and my Flickr portfolio numbers almost 2,500 images. This year I had to replace my trusty old HP flatbed scanner, orphaned by Vista, with a new Canon that I am quite happy with. (A local middle school is now making use of my orphaned scanner and ancient workhorse of a printer—an HP 5MP Laserjet.)

Early in 2009, I discovered major photographic lacunae that I could easily fill in Wikipedia's coverage of sites on the National Register of Historic Places in Hawai‘i and began a campaign to photograph as many as I could and upload them to Wikimedia Commons, then add the images to the articles. Now I'm rather heavily involved in WikiProject Hawaii and WikiProject NRHP, both as a photographer and an writer/editor.

These online documentation projects have convinced me to put this blog on the back burner in 2010 in order to concentrate on a long-term language documentation project I need to finish: a comprehensive grammatical description of Numbami, the once almost entirely undocumented language whose speakers were my gracious hosts during fieldwork in Papua New Guinea in 1976. I have completed and published many bits and pieces about the language over the intervening years but need to put them all together and fill in many gaps. Unlike other projects described above, it's more a duty than a hobby—a daunting one, but not unpleasant to contemplate.

26 December 2009

Farmboy Seminarian on a Cattleboat to Poland, 1946

Chicken delivery truck, Poland, summer 1946While organizing a bunch of old photos during last week's visit to my 85-year-old father, I came across a small set I had never seen before of images from his oft-recounted trip delivering livestock to Poland in 1946. His voyage was aboard the S.S. Carroll Victory under the auspices of UNRRA, but he heard about the cattleboats from his Quaker contacts, who cooperated with the Church of the Brethren and Mennonites on what later evolved into Heifer International. My father was raised a Quaker, but later joined a Baptist church and spent the war years at the University of Richmond on a ministerial deferment. He graduated at the end of 1945, then enrolled in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in February 1946.

Horse stalls and hay bales on deck, Poland, summer 1946

The following is my father's account, very lightly edited by me.
At the beginning of summer vacation in 1946 I heard about the need for volunteers to care for horses being sent to Poland by United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The ships that transported the horses to Poland were called "cattleboats" but I do not remember any cattle on my boat. We did take baby chicks and horses. I had worked with mules as a boy but had little experience with horses. The chance to visit Europe and be paid for the trip rather than having to pay for it fascinated me as I really wanted to see other countries but couldn't afford to travel. So, with three other seminary students I signed up for the trip. The ships were converted Liberty ships from WWII and were manned by members of the U.S. Merchant Marine. I was accepted as a "cattleman" and left Norfolk in June of 1946 on a boat with 800 horses and 3000 baby chicks. The horses were to be used for reconstruction and the chicks for supplying eggs for food in Poland which was devastated by Germany and Russia in World War II.

I had never traveled before on the ocean and was a real landlubber. The beginning of the trip was rather mild but the stench in the lower decks from horses and their excretion made for rather poor sailing conditions for one inexperienced in sea travel. I found that the more marked movements of the ship up and down were not as bad as the swaying motion from side to side. When I felt that I was going to get sick I would lie on my back and look up through the opening in the upper decks. If I could lie still and see the sky my stomach would settle down. Contrary to the reputation horses have for "horse sense," I found them much less intelligent than mules. When a horse got sick and fell in its stall it would lie there and die. A mule would have struggled to its feet. About 30 horses died on the trip and had to be thrown overboard. For some reason which I do not remember (I probably volunteered) I was transferred to caring for baby chicks, which was more to my liking and more consistent with my experience. However, I found that chicks were even dumber than horses. They would trample each other to death as the boat rocked on the ocean, or they would drown themselves in the water troughs at the outer edges of the coops. I don't know how many chicks we lost on the trip but I believe a goodly number managed to stay alive until the arrival in Poland. I watched with interest as the Polish men tried to handle the horses as they were lowered from the ship on to Polish soil. Their "horse sense" did not include the understanding of the Polish language and the commands they were given did not communicate well to them the desires of the handlers.

The environment on ship was anything but a churchly one. Of the 90 men on board very few were Christians and many if not most were misfits in society who were only on the trip for the month's food and lodging and the $150 they would be paid for working on the way over to Poland. There were no responsibilities on the return trip. The four of us from the Seminary held services on Sundays. One young man played a guitar for the hymn singing and the four of us took turns preaching. The "congregation" was certainly different from any I had ever preached to before. In fact, the whole atmosphere on board ship was so foreign to anything I had ever experienced that I felt like I was in a foreign country even before we got to Poland. The food was not too bad but it was certainly not home cooking. We slept in bunks which had been built for sailors.

The trip to the English Channel took about eight days as I remember. The White Cliffs of Dover were the first sight of land that we had seen since we left the USA, and they were welcome sights. However, they offered no relief from the sea as we did not disembark in England. We could see land and cars and buildings as we slowly made our way through the almost placid English Channel, which was in a good mood that day. We approached the Kiel Canal soon and went through what was for me a fascinating experience of navigating the Canal. We could get a very good view of the north of Germany as we slowly made our way through the canal. I was taken by the beauty of the land. We went through Schleswig-Holstein where Holstein cattle grazed in immaculate pastures divided by rows of trees. In the land of my own childhood, trees were cut down on farmland and farms were not landscaped as in North Germany. The Germany I saw was vastly different from the pictures of bombed out cities on TV.
Flea market, Poland, summer 1946
Street photographer, Poland, summer 1946
Shell of a fine building, Poland, summer 1946
Little girl, Poland, summer 1946Poland was very different from Germany. We landed in Gdansk and the devastation wrought by Germany and Russia in World War II was evident everywhere we looked. We were in port about 4 days and were allowed to go ashore. On the way across the Atlantic we had been told that cigarettes were the best currency in Poland since none were available there. On ship we had been permitted to buy two cartons apiece on about three occasions. I did not smoke and did not intend to engage in blackmarket trading so I didn't buy any. Several who asked me to buy some for them were angry when I refused. One of the Seminary students and I tried to maintain some appearance of the faith we professed while on ship and in Poland, but the two others bought cigarettes and went to Warsaw while we were in port. We had been strictly forbidden to go anywhere farther than we could return to the ship at night. The two fellow travelers were strongly reprimanded and were not given a recommendation to take another such UNRRA trip. My friend and I were highly recommended for another voyage but did not go again.

There was a redheaded boy from Franklin, Virginia, on board. I did not know him and was not drawn to get to know him. He tried to get me to go with him in Poland but his description of his planned exploits did not appeal to me. Before he left the ship he started drinking vodka and chasing it with water. Then, as he began to become inebriated, he drank water and chased it with vodka. He left the ship alone. It was not too long before some kind Polish natives brought him back to the ship dead drunk. He lay on the floor of the ship unconscious with flies attending him for most of the time we were in port. Another young man went ashore, visited a prostitute and came back and developed the "clap." He was so drunk that I persuaded him to leave his money with me before he left again. He cursed but he gave me his money. Later he thanked me, for the suffering of venereal disease was bad enough for him without losing his money too.

Brick building intact, Poland, summer 1946We found out why they drank so much beer in Poland. Water was very scarce and what there was tasted awful. We were taken on a tour of Gdansk and as far as Gdynia. There was not much to see. We did visit a few very old church buildings. They were always located on scenic spots and were beautifully constructed. When we remarked to our obviously not very religious tour guide that the cathedrals were beautiful he said, "Yes, and cold." They were indeed symbols of great architecture rather than ardent religion – as might be said of many church buildings in all lands and ages.

After two days I was ready to head for home. On our rather uneventful trip home we had much leisure time to think about what we had seen. There were only two incidents worthy of mention, at least the only ones that I remember, on our return trip. As we were our leaving the Kiel Canal beside another Liberty ship the captains made a bet as to who would get there first. The navigator on our ship took us a tenth of a percentage point off course and we lost. While we were changing courses near the end of the trip to get to Norfolk I was standing on the ship without a shirt on in the hot sun looking for land, and I got so sunburned that I could not bear to wear a shirt. When I arrived at my brother Bob's and Bertha's house with a month's beard and no shirt on my red back Bertha did not recognize me and only my voice persuaded her to let me in.
Street kids, Poland, summer 1946

16 December 2009

One Child's Language: Compilation

This post links to all earlier blogposts in the One Child's Language series of notes from two decades ago about our very own Far Outlier child, who's now a teacher.

At 8 months
At 10 months
At 11 months
At 13 months
At 14 months
At 15 months
At 16 months
At 18 months
At 19 months
At 20 months
At 22 months
At 24 months (and abroad)
At 27 months (and abroad)
At 30 months (and abroad)
At 32 months (and abroad)
At 36 months
At 39 months
At 40 months
At 42 months
At 47 months

14 December 2009

Bulgarian Macedo-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Terrorism

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 247-252:
Once an autonomous Bulgarian state emerged in 1878, Macedonia became a battle-ground for insurgent bands. Secret guerrilla units, supported from Sofia, were formed by intellectuals aiming to restore the greater Bulgaria of the San Stefano Treaty. Kidnapping rich foreigners now provided a way of bringing much-needed cash into revolutionary coffers while simultaneously shining the unwelcome spotlight of international attention on the deficiencies of Ottoman administration.

In 1901 the new political brigandage made international headlines in the so-called Miss Stone affair when a redoubtable American missionary was kidnapped in a narrow valley north of Salonica. Ellen Stone was, in fact, the first American victim of twentieth-century terrorism. Her kidnappers had spoken Turkish when seizing her in order to throw the weight of suspicion on the Ottoman authorities, and to encourage Western opinion to believe that the latter could no longer guarantee law and order in their European provinces. But the ring-leader was a young Bulgarian-Macedonian activist, Yane Sandanski, and his profile in no way fitted that of the typical brigand of yesteryear: literate, a socialist, and a schoolteacher, he was a leading figure in an underground political grouping called the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. Violence was no longer merely a means to a livelihood; in the hands of activists, it was becoming an instrument of nationalist politics in what the world came to know as the Macedonian Question.

IN SALONICA A SMALL NUMBER of Bulgarians broke away from the Greek community and joined the Exarchate in 1871; by 1912 they numbered about six thousand. They were stonemasons, traders, shopkeepers and teachers—practical men drawn from the Macedonian hills—with no one of any great wealth to lead them and little influence in municipal affairs. They were supported, however, by the Russian consul, and once a Bulgarian state was founded, by its representatives as well. They were greatly heartened by the remarkable outcome of the 1876 uprising against Ottoman rule, and encouraged further by the territorial provisions of the Treaty of San Stefano which would—had it been allowed to stand—have handed over most of Salonica's hinterland to Bulgaria. Schooling was one of their priorities, and in 1880 they founded a gymnasium—many of whose pupils soon found their way into the ranks of new pro-Slav political movements.

To be "Bulgarian" initially meant to support the Exarchate: it was a linguistic-religious rather than a national category. But after the creation of an autonomous Bulgarian principality in 1878, irredentist politicians in its capital, Sofia, started demanding autonomy for "the Macedonians" as well. Meanwhile, in Salonica itself, a militant new organization was incubating: in November 1893 the "Bulgarian Macedo-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Committee" was founded by a group of men reared on the ideas of Russian anarchism, and proclaimed open to any who wished to fight for liberation from the Turks and autonomy for Macedonia. Sofia-based activists regarded it with suspicion and did not trust its commitment to Bulgarian interests. Eventually the committee dropped any reference to Bulgaria from its name, and it became known simply as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) with the slogan "Macedonia for the Macedonians."

Most of IMRO's youthful members were not much bothered about the old disputes over dead sacred languages. What was the difference between the Greek of the liturgy and Old Church Slavonic? After all, hardly anyone understood either of them. Between these youthful secularists—whose motto was "Neither God nor Master"—and the devout supporters of the Bulgarian Exarchate a gulf emerged. Even within its own ranks, IMRO was deeply factionalized.... It might be going too far to say that IMRO was a more coherent and efficient force in the minds of its enemies than it was in reality but it certainly made little impact on the Ottoman state.

Politically IMRO was no more successful. Autonomy for Macedonia—which was the name Balkan Christians (and Europe) gave to the Ottoman vilayets of Salonica, Monastir and Uskub (Skopje)—was the goal: a "Bulgarian" governor would rule the province from Salonica, all officials would be "Bulgarian" Slavs, and Bulgarian would be an official language on an equal footing with Turkish. But faced with such a prospect, Greeks lent the support of their intelligence networks to the Ottoman authorities, and in Salonica itself Greek agents in the Hamidian police helped track IMRO sympathizers. Even more important an obstacle was the opposition of the Great Powers. Russia was now focused on central and east Asia—the conflict with Japan was only a few years away—and Britain and Austria saw the Balkans as one area where they could all work in harmony to support the status quo. They pushed—as Great Powers often will—for incremental reform rather than revolutionary change, and merely urged the Porte to take steps to improve the administration of the province.

Frustrated with the impasse which faced them, and believing that targeting the symbols of European capitalism might force the Powers to intervene, some young anarchists in Salonica took matters into their own hands, and decided to blow up the Ottoman Bank, in the European quarter. Under the influence of their beloved Russians, they called themselves the "Troublemakers," and later adopted the term "the Boatmen"—by which they identified themselves with those "who abandon the daily routine and the limits of legal order and sail towards freedom and the wild seas beyond them."...

The two surviving members of the plot, Shatev and Bogdanov, returned to Macedonia in the amnesty of 1908: Bogdanov died a few years later, but Pavel Shatev lived until 1952, becoming a lawyer in interwar Bulgaria and then minister of justice in the postwar Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

IMRO sputtered on, although the bombers had dealt a near-fatal blow to the organization in the city. The better-known Ilinden uprising which took place on St. Elias's Day a few months later was the IMRO leadership's own anxious attempt to arouse a peasant revolt against Turkish rule. But its chief consequence was that several thousand more Christian peasants were killed by Ottoman troops in reprisal. The only success IMRO could claim after this series of bloody failures was a further diplomatic intervention by the Great Powers—their last significant involvement in the tangled Macedonia question before the Balkan Wars. The Ottoman authorities were forced to swallow the appointment of European officials to supervise the policing of the province. Among the younger army officers stationed there, resentment and a sense of humiliation led to the first stirrings of conspiracy against the Porte. On the other hand, Macedonia remained part of the empire and Hilmi Pasha continued as inspector-general. The one conclusion to be drawn from the rise and fall of IMRO was that ending Ottoman power in Europe would not come that way: the use of terrorism to embroil and involve the Great Powers was futile when the Powers upheld the status quo.
There is nothing new under the sun! This will have to be the last of my many excerpts from this fascinating book. I have too much else to do over the coming weeks (and months).

12 December 2009

Salonica, 1800s: Religion vs. Nation

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 242-243:
TO THE OTTOMAN AUTHORITIES what had always mattered were religious rather than national or linguistic differences: Balkan Christians were either under the authority of the Patriarch in Constantinople or they were—more rarely—Catholic or Protestant. The Patriarchate shared the same outlook; it was indifferent to whether its flock spoke Greek, Vlach, Bulgarian or any other language or dialect. As for the illiterate Slav-speaking peasants tilling the fields, they rarely felt strongly about either Greece or Bulgaria and when asked which they were, many insisted on being known simply, as they had been for centuries, as "Christians."

In Salonica itself, the growth of the Christian population had come from continual immigration over centuries from outlying villages, often as distant as the far side of the Pindos mountains, where many of the inhabitants spoke not Greek but Vlach (a Romance language akin to Romanian), Albanian or indeed various forms of Slavic. The city's life, schools and priests gave these villagers, or their children, a new tongue, and turned them into Greeks. In fact many famous Greek figures of the past were really Vlachs by origin, including the savant Mosiodax, the revolutionary Rhigas Velestinlis, as well as the city's first "Greek" printers, the Garbolas family, and the Manakis brothers, pioneers of Balkan cinema. "Twenty years ago there was nothing in Balkan politics so inevitable, so nearly axiomatic, as the connection of the Vlachs with the Greek cause," wrote Brailsford in 1905. "They had no national consciousness and no national ambition ... With some of them Hellenism was a passion and an enthusiasm. They believed themselves to be Greek. They baptized their children 'Themistocles' and 'Penelope.' They studied in Athens and they left their fortunes to Greek schools and Greek hospitals." So many Vlachs settled in Salonica that in 1880 a Romanian paper claimed, to the fury of the Greek community, that there were no genuine Greeks there at all. Changing—or rather, acquiring—nationality was often simply a matter of upward mobility and a French consul once notoriously boasted that with a million pounds he could make Macedonians into Frenchmen.

Money affected nationality in other ways as well. In the Ottoman system, the Orthodox Church was not merely a focus of spiritual life; it was also a gatherer of taxes. Peasants in the countryside, just like wealthy magnates in Salonica itself, chafed at the power and corruption that accompanied these privileges. But while most bishops and the higher ecclesiastical hierarchy spoke Greek—the traditional language of the church and religious learning—and looked down on the use of Slavic, most Christian peasants around Salonica spoke Bulgarian—or if not Bulgarian then a Slavic tongue close to it. This started to matter to the peasants themselves once they identified Greek with the language not merely of holy scripture but of excessive taxation and corruption. In 1860, the Bishop of Cassandra's extortions actually drove some villagers under his jurisdiction to threaten to convert to Catholicism—French priests from Salonica contacted the families concerned, promising them complete freedom of worship and a "Bishop of your own creed who will not take a single piastre from you." Other villagers from near Kilkis demanded a bishop who would provide the liturgy in Old Church Slavonic and got one after they too started to declare themselves for Rome.

Yet what these peasants were talking was about shifting their religious not their national allegiance and it took decades for the discontent of the village tax-payer to be further transformed into nationalism. Greek continued to be the language of upward mobility through the nineteenth century. As for Bulgarian self-consciousness, this was slow to develop. Sir Henry Layard visited Salonica in 1842 to enquire into the movement which was alleged to be in progress amongst the Bulgarians but he did not find very much. "The Bulgarians, being of the Greek faith" he wrote later, "were then included by the Porte in classifying the Christian subjects of the Sultan, among the Greeks. It was not until many years afterwards that the Christians to the south of the Balkans speaking the Bulgarian language, were recognized as a distinct nation. At the time of my visit to Salonica no part of its Christian population, which was considerable, was known as Bulgarian."

What led Slavic speakers to see their mother tongue in a new light was the influence of political ideologies coming from central and eastern Europe. German-inspired romantic nationalism glorified and ennobled the language of the peasantry and insisted it was as worthy of study and propagation as any other. Pan-Slavism—helped along perhaps by Russian agents—gave them pride in their unwritten family tongue and identified the enemy, for the first time, as Greek cultural arrogance. "I feel a great sorrow," wrote Kiryak/Kyriakos Durzhiovich/Darlovitsi, the printer, "that although I am a Bulgarian I do not know how to write in the Bulgarian language."

10 December 2009

Secularizing Religious Education in Salonica

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 220-221:
The struggle for communal authority was fought out over many areas—care for the poor and sick, the upkeep of cemeteries, the administration of religious foundations themselves—but the key battleground was education. For religious learning alone was no longer enough. Ties with the West meant also that local merchants needed employees to be familiar with modern languages, mathematics and geography. The notable Jewish families pushed hard for the use of Italian and French books in the old Talmud Torah in the 1840s. When they got nowhere, they obtained a firman to found their own pilot school, run by a German rabbi whom the local rabbis regarded as an impious foreigner. But the real educational revolution among Salonican Jewry only came in 1873 when the same notables opened a branch of the Paris-based Alliance Israélite Universelle—the very embodiment of French Enlightenment liberalism—in the teeth of fierce opposition from the elderly chief rabbi. It was an extraordinary success: by 1912 the Alliance was responsible for educating more than four thousand pupils, over half the total number of children in Jewish schools. "I was once invited to an annual gathering of the Israelite Alliance," wrote a British journalist during the First World War. "There were many hundreds of Jews there, male and female, and a great many of them were once removed only from the street porter class. But they rattled off French as if they had been born to it." Not only were the majority of the city's Jewish children receiving an education outside the control of the religious authorities, but they were receiving it on the basis of the principles of contemporary French republicanism. Such a trend had a corrosive effect on the authority of the chief rabbi, and helped turn him slowly into more and more of a purely religious and spiritual figurehead.

Within the Greek community similar shifts were taking place. In the old days, children learned reading and writing from the occasional literate priest or from the so-called didaskaloi who gave lessons as they passed through the city. But in 1828 the junior high school was reestablished, and a girls' school was set up in 1845. The primary school population climbed from 1500 in 1874 to nearly 2000 in 1900 and 3900 by the time the Greek army arrived in 1912. An Educational Society was set up in 1872 with its own private library and a commitment to "useful knowledge," and in 1876 a teacher-training college followed. Salonica's Greek high school was recognized by the University of Athens, a development of huge significance for the rise of Greek nationalism, and the control of school standards and appointments was also handled by representatives of the Greek state. Through education in other words, the Greeks of Salonica gradually reoriented themselves towards the new national centre in Athens. The Patriarchate in Istanbul, which had once enjoyed unchallenged authority over the empire's Orthodox believers, found itself losing ground.

Within the city's Muslim community, pedagogical arguments were also raging. All Riza, a minor customs official, quarrelled with his wife Zübeyde, over how to educate their son, Mustafa. Zübeyde, a devout woman who was nicknamed the mollah, followed the older conception or education and wanted him to attend the neighbourhood Qur'anic school. His father, on the other hand, favoured the new style of schooling pioneered by a renowned local teacher, Shemsi Effendi, who ran the first private primary school in the empire. In the end, the young Mustafa started at the first and finished at the second, before moving to the military preparatory college. Helped by his education and by Salonica's new beer-gardens and nightlife, he became a pronounced secularist, thereby foreshadowing in his own upbringing the trajectory through which—by then better known to the world as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk—he would later lead post-Ottoman Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal's experiences were not unusual, for the spirit of Western education was transforming local Muslim cultures of learning. The Ma'min were setting up private schools like Shemsi's, and state officials like Mustafa Kemal's father shared their vision of a modernizing Islam. Investment in education had been a priority of the reformers in Istanbul, and m 1869 a new imperial Ordinance of General Education outlined a school system, based partly on the French lycée model that would promote knowledge of science, technology and commerce among both boys and girls. Reaction from the long-established medreses was fierce but under Sultan Abdul Hamid this was overcome, in part by emphasizing the Islamic character of the new schools. A state schooling sector emerged in Salonica and the city's first vocational college the Ecole des Arts et Métiers, trained orphans in typography, lithography, tailoring and music. Later came a teacher-training college, a junior high school, a commercial school and a preparatory school for civil servants—the Idadié—housed in an imposing neo-classical building standing just beyond the eastern walls. (Today it contains the chief administrative offices of the University of Thessaloniki.)

06 December 2009

Mutiny & Tragedy Aboard the Hōkūle‘a, 1976-78

From "Playing with Canoes," by Ben Finney, in Pacific Places, Pacific Histories, ed. by Brij Lal (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2004), pp. 294-296:
Hōkūle‘a was launched in 1975, and after a year of testing, training, and making modifications we sailed her to Tahiti and returned as promised. That demonstration blew a big hole in [Andrew] Sharp's claim that Polynesians could not have intentionally made long, navigated voyages. Furthermore, Hōkūle‘a emerged as a cultural icon credited with helping to spark a general cultural renaissance among the Hawaiians, as well as with stiffening the resolve of the Tahitians to secure more autonomy from the French. These triumphal aspects of the story have often been told. Less well known are the politics of the voyaging revival.

During fund-raising and construction and those first heady days when we sailed Hōkūle‘a around the Hawaiian chain, all went well except for a few mishaps and disagreements. However, by early 1976, just a few months before the voyage, serious troubles began while the canoe was being refitted. A number of Hawaiians, many of whom had not played any role in the project, began to claim Hōkūle‘a as their own and to use her locally for various purposes other than the stated mission. These ranged from the political to the personal—from invading the island of Kaho‘olawe to protest its use as a naval bombing range to cruising around the Hawaiian chain for the romantic benefit of male crewmembers. More chilling were the demands of a spiritual leader who claimed that Hōkūle‘a was ritually "dirty" and would sink with all hands unless he was paid an enormous sum of money to purify her.

All this might have been shrugged off as so much craziness but for the very real incongruity of having a haole professor run a project that had been so hyped as a Polynesian venture. That made me consider resigning as president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and handing the job over to our vice president, Herb Kane, in hopes that he might be more effective in dealing with these demands. But then Herb himself abruptly left the project, saying that he was thoroughly burned out and financially impoverished from supervising the construction of the canoe and making the first test sails around the islands. As Tommy Holmes preferred to stay in the background, that left me, the haole who wasn't even from Hawai‘i, to fend off all those who in the name of Hawaiian nationalism were attempting to take over the canoe.

Had those clamoring for control of the canoe been skilled seamen dedicated to carrying out the voyage as planned, I could have gone ahead and resigned the presidency and then concentrated on the research side of the voyage. But they were not real sailors, nor did they have any intention of conducting the experimental voyage. In fact, they had come to believe that using a canoe for research would desecrate the spiritual nature of Hōkūle‘a.

Given this situation I realized that if I did resign I would betray the hundreds of contributors and supporters, many of them Hawaiians whom I had promised to sail the canoe to Tahiti and back. Furthermore I would also have let down those expert sailors whom I had personally recruited for the voyage: Kawika Kapahulehua, the veteran catamaran sailor from the remote island of Ni‘ihau who was our captain; Mau Piailug, the master navigator from the Micronesian atoll of Satawal who would guide the canoe to Tahiti and back; and my longtime Tahitian friend Rodo Williams, a professional fisherman and copra boat skipper whose job was to pilot us safely past the atolls that lay just to the north-northeast of Tahiti.

So I stuck it out, and thanks to the help of Kawika, Mau, Rodo and several other sailors who were also determined to make the voyage a reality, plus the moral support of Edward Kealanahele and many others on shore, we finally set sail for Tahiti. After a little over a month at sea we entered Pape‘ete Harbor to be greeted by the largest crowd ever assembled on the island. Nonetheless, although the actual sailing of the canoe had proceeded as planned, leftover resentments had festered at sea among a number of crewmembers who had been caught up in the troubles back in Hawai‘i. Halfway to Tahiti they staged a confrontation to accuse the leaders of mismanagement and to demand special treatment for themselves. After that, they quit standing watch and spent the rest of the voyage eating, sleeping, and smoking pakalōlō (crazy tobacco, i.e., marijuana) that they had smuggled on board. Bizarre as that situation was, it did allow the rest of us to sail the canoe on to Tahiti in relative peace—until the night before landing, when the mutineers staged another protest that left blood on the deck. That so incensed Mau Piailug that upon landing he quit the canoe in disgust and flew back to Micronesia vowing never to sail with Hawaiians again.

Even after Captain Kawika Kapahulehua and some fine young crewmembers who had not been directly involved in the troubles sailed Hōkūle‘a swiftly back to Hawai‘i, the travail was not over. I had made so many enemies by my efforts to keep the voyage on track that I became the scapegoat blamed for causing all the troubles. Enough was enough, and I resigned and started work on a scientific report about the voyage and a book—Hōkūle‘a, the Way to Tahiti—that I owed a New York publisher whose sizable contribution had enabled us to start building the canoe.

After taking stock of the situation the new leaders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society resolved to remove the stain left from the troubles by repeating the voyage to Tahiti with a specially selected crew. Unfortunately, in their zeal to distance themselves from those who had led the 1976 voyage they totally ignored Captain Kapahulehua, the man who had just taken Hōkūle‘a so surely and safely to Tahiti and back and could have showed them how to do it again.

Overconfidence, a casual attitude toward safety, and basic errors in seamanship doomed this second attempt to reach Tahiti. Just before midnight, after less than six hours at sea, the canoe capsized while being foolishly driven hard under full sail in gale-force winds and immense seas. Not until dusk of the following day was the overturned canoe spotted by a passing aircraft just as she was drifting south of the interisland sea and air lanes. All crewmembers but one were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, and the following day Hōkūle‘a was towed in, severely damaged, though the hulls were still structurally sound. Missing was Eddie Aikau, a world-champion surfer who some hours before the canoe had been spotted had valiantly tried to paddle his surfboard through the breaking seas to the nearest island to get help. He was never seen again.
The waves are getting huge on O‘ahu's North Shore and The Eddie is expected to begin any day now.

02 December 2009

One Child's Language: at 47 months

Social notes: Her two favorite teachers (and actually best friends) at school are leaving for more gainful employment this month. She'll miss them, but she is much more willing now to get to know new people. She is still very teacher-oriented, playing the role of teacher at home: directing games and circle time, asking for volunteers so she can do eeny-meeny-miny-moe (often fudging the last bit) to choose one of us.

Physical development: Fine motor skills have also improved. She can spend an hour at a time coloring within the lines, cutting paper with scissors, and writing smaller and neater uppercase and lowercase letters. She may have just finished a physical growth spurt and begun a mental one.

Intellectual notes: One day in the supermarket, Rachel pretended to read a story from the list she was holding. It was about a little boy who went for a walk, crossed the street by himself, got hit by a car, and died, leaving his parents all alone. They propagandize her well at school—she instinctively grabs a hand before crossing a street. But she also spends intervals trying to figure out the meaning of death. Time is another mystery. She knows the days of the week, some months of the year, and a bit about how years are numbered. But she often thinks that her afternoon nap starts a new day, that supper is breakfast and vice versa.

Size and measurements are still vague. We just came back from a weekend trip to the Big Island. She asked whether it was as big as the Soviet Union, asked several times how long a mile is, wanted to plot our course on the map, and monitored our elevation. Numbers are getting easier: she can read up to 99 (often mixing pairs like 25 and 52) and had little trouble singing from 21 bottles of beer on the wall down to zero.

Language notes: One evening as we sat down to dinner, Rachel clasped her hands and recited a complete table grace in Hawaiian. Another evening, she decided she wanted to study sign language and spent about half an hour practicing a few words with Daddy. She is a real language-learner right now. It's a shame she doesn't have another language to work on along with English.

She is rapidly expanding her vocabulary, stopping to ask us the meaning of any word she doesn't know yet. She is on the lookout for familiar words everywhere and asks us to read and explain any public sign that contains a word or two she can recognize or sound out. At school, she has just been introduced to "mystery words" that can't be sounded out. We encourage her to sound out regular words. She was able to read a note from Mama that said Can I get a hug from you? and she has come up with her own spellings, like jrink water and clowde, wnde, rane, sune day. (WordPerfect's spellchecker offers the correct choice for some.) She copies whole sentences with all the devotion of a medieval monk reproducing a holy manuscript.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston Public Schools.