Dec 032012
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Throughout life we all are taught lessons in many shapes and forms.  It could be through stories, experiences, teachers, and family.  I would like to share with you a story which was taught to me as a child and only now am I realizing the lesson my grandfather was trying to instill on me:

‘Kahi’ the Bowl

I was 6 years old when I first came across mixing poi. It was for a family luau at my house along with my mom’s Ho’ike, Hula recital.  I took a seat next to Papa Tom, my dad’s father, and a large box filled with enough poi bags to feed around 300 people.

He sat on a short stool with a large wooden bowl in front of him.  “I’m going to show you how to mix poi, Sparky,” he said (Yes, my nickname as a kid was Sparky).  He grabbed the first bag and took off the red twist tie.

“Most important thing you must know is this bugga is expensive. Gotta make sure you squeeze every bit out of this bag.  No waste, ya.”

He opened up the bag over the bowl, placing one hand under the bottom of the bag and the other held it open close to the bowl.  Then he pushed the bottom hand up and turned the bag inside out in a smooth motion while flipping the bag over.

“See, boy, no hold the bag high and turn ‘em inside out or else you make a mess.  But, main thing, look at the bag now.  Still get plenty poi.  Some people just throw the bag out already. Lose money that kine.”

With the bag fully inside out, he held the top of the bag tightly while he grasped the bag between his pointer finger and thumb.

“Now you squeeze em tight between these two fingers and run your hand down. Make sure no make one mess, keep the bag close to the bowl.”

I watched him squeeze down the bag three times while wetting his hands between each pass.  The bag looked like nothing was ever inside it.  He really did get bit out.

He continued through bag after bag. Telling me the same thing over and over.  I sat there listening and watching him go through the motions. Finally all the bags were done.

“We not finish yet, now we gotta mix em.”

I was ready to eat it already, but there was more work to do.  He started to incorporate water a little at a time as he mixed it with one hand.  Add more water.  Turn the bowl.  Mix some more.  It was more of a kneading motion, and he seemed very calm.

“Not ready yet. See how the water and poi are still separated? Gotta keep mixing the bugga until it looks all smooth.”

He continued in silence.  There was slight grin on his face while he focused on the poi.  He looked at peace. Pono.

“Think it’s pau.”

He cleaned off his hand until there was no poi left.  Then with two fingers he scooped into the bowl.

“See how the poi falls off the finger nice and slow? If the poi get stuck to your finger, then you keep adding water and get back to work.  If the poi just falls off your fingers and looks like runny hanabata (mucus) – then you better hope you get money to go store and buy more poi.”

He laughed as he cleaned the poi off his hand again.

“Boy, the most important thing when you mix poi - is to make sure you kahi the bowl.  See all the poi stuck on the side of the bowl from the mixing.  You gotta kahi the bowl to make sure the sides are spotless and all the poi is where it should be.”

Life Lesson

Even today, my dad still tells me even when there is no poi to mix, “Kahi the bowl.”  My dad would tell me this after we cleaned yard, cooked, washed dishes, painted, or just had a simple conversation.

Today, I’ve learned that to kahi the bowl isn’t just about how to clean bowl after mixing poi.

It’s about life and what we do with it.  It’s about making sure whatever it is we do, we do it with Aloha and pride.

The lesson Papa Tom gave me on how to mix poi when I was 6 years old, was a lesson about how you go through life.

We all need to learn ahonui (patience), and how to be nalu.  While striving towards achieving greatness, success, or goals we can sometimes skip a step thinking it’s not of any importance.

While Papa Tom went through each bag – he didn’t rush, he saw how each step was important for the next.  He understood the outcome was going to be purposeful and meaningful.  In his case, it was feeding his ‘ohana and presenting it in a way he would be proud of.

But like he said the most important thing you need to remember is to ‘kahi’ the bowl.  Which to me, means to bring everything back together as one, make sure everything is pono, and to be sure the outcome is for the benefit of others.

Mahalo. Aloha. A hui hou.