Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor by helicopter:

[Ford Island is mislabeled.]

When I told Lani and Lono that I wasn't allowed to speak Hawaiian at home they were clearly saddened by it, but they told me I needed to do what my Father said. At the time I was only speaking an occasional word of English when Lono "practiced" English with me. He asked if I was speaking more at home, and I had to tell him (in Hawaiian) I was speaking less there. They asked why and I wanted to say it was ugly, but didn't know the word, so I called it 'ino, which is more extreme (it means more like foul and evil) but definitely gets the point across. They laughed, and told me that Hawaiians call Western languages, especially English, namu'ana, which means "chewing", because English speakers sound like they're chewing as they talk.

They also talked about how English speakers speak from their noses, while Hawaiians speak from their lungs. Then they told me of a Hawaiian word game that involved seeing who could speak the longest clause unbroken by a breath stop. That was followed by another game of reciting longer and longer sentences entirely lacking in consonants. Since they both knew all the sentences the other was reciting it wasn't really a competition, it was more oral entertainment, like sharing in the singing of verses of a song everyone knows.

At home there was no such thing. Speech wasn't for play and entertainment, it was for domination, for asserting power, winning arguments, and put downs, or it was for submission, saying pleases and thank yous. I wasn't speaking more than a few words of English, and already my Father was make noise to the effect that I should be calling him Sir, rather than Daddy. What would the other officers think of his command authority if they heard his own son calling him Daddy rather than Sir? Horrors.

My Mother pointed out that it was silly to expect me to accord military honors to my Father when I didn't know what he did at work. Maybe I needed to see him at work giving out orders to Lieutenants and Sergeants.

I'd actually seen him ordering native civilian workers around, using a lot of Pidgin, saying silly things he was taught would work well such as, "wiki, wiki, chop, chop" for "get it done fast" and "pau?" for "finished?" But that was just out in the front when some workers were making a delivery. Going to where my Father worked would be an adventure.

As soon as we were in the car heading toward Pearl Harbor I started commenting on what we doing in Hawaiian. It's one of the few times I remember any of the actual Hawaiian words I used. Holo'ana (driving), ka'a (car), and hana (work), we're definitely in the mix. At hearing "ka'a" my Father corrected me, telling me to say "car" instead. I acted as if they were exactly the same thing, and deliberately kept saying ka'a over and over. I just didn't want to say car. For one thing, I didn't do "r's" very well. In his frustration he extended the rule against speaking in the house to the car, commencing immediately.

When I say my Father worked at Pearl Harbor I mean he was assigned to one of the many military reservations ringing the harbor. Probably he was at Fort Shafter, which is a mile or so from the harbor at the western edge of Honolulu and close to Tripler Medical Center.

The day I spent with my Father at his office was mostly a bust. He was called away to some business while I was there, and I was left in the care of some guy he called his secretary. When he came back the secretary was given my Father's camera to take this picture of my father. My Dad also took pictures of stuff on the desk, including a close-up of the "see no evil - speak no evil - hear no evil" monkeys. It didn't occur to him to have a picture taken of him with me, or for that matter, any pictures of me that day. I only just now noticed, 54 years later.

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