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In my family tradition, the phrase “aloha” is not something we use freely. Aloha is not only a word, a concept, but also a way of life that encapsulates a small fragment of Hawaiian traditions and customs. The Community Building Institute is a four day program by the East-West Center to welcome and acclimate new arriving EWC participants into the EWC Ohana. The CBI institute is based around a comprehensive activity where groups of participants form a country.
The participants define the values of the country, the cultural values and protocols, the history, the epistemological viewpoints, flag, name, national anthem, etc. After these newly elected countries are formed, an international dispute between two groups are formed. The two countries undergo an intense process to resolve the disputes.
My group formed the Federation of “Aloha Aina Five”–pronounced A’A-five for short. Below is an image of our flag. Our national anthem is the sounds from the nose flute, and our national greeting is similar to a high-five. Some unique cultural facts of our country: we value family, responsibility, and love. Our national instrument is similar to the nose-flute of the peoples of Hawaii (na Kanaka Hawaii) and we value the melodic tones produced.
To the left: A’A Five Team Members (Photo Credit: Mithila Marufa; August, 2013);
To the right: A’A FIVE team flag (PC: JLI, August, 2013)
Once our group established a cultural identity of this newly found country, we were taken for a ride. As an exercise to learn about the international diplomacy process, we were given a scenario where another country and ourselves need to resolve a dispute. A’A FIVE had a dispute with our neighbors of Pangaea. The original land border between A’A FIVE and Pangaea was a river. The river meanders around a volcano, that was originally Pangaea lands. Recently, an earthquake of cataclysm portion shook the region, and the river boundary shifted, thereby placing the volcano as the territory of A’A FIVE. Since that disastrous time, our countries were able to rebuild. A’A FIVE is a much poorer country as compared to Pangaea, and A’A FIVE relies upon 95% it’s energy on imported fossil fuels. As a shift in developing and creating new renewable and sustainable alternatives, A’A FIVE was considering to build a geothermal plant on the volcano. The Pangaea people considers the volcano sacred, but the peoples of A’A FIVE do not. Here lies our dispute.
Pictured are the data advisers speaking on the behalf of the citizens of each country. They lead the talks between the two countries, and were the anchors in compiling, analyzing the thoughts of every citizen.
The goal between A’A FIVE and Pangaea was to come to agreement, even if that meant not agreeing. Pictured below is our groups signing the agreement that: A’A FIVE will not develop a geothermal plant in exchange of receiving a loan from Pangaea to develop a research center for renewable energy elsewhere in the region, and to develop a cultural survey of the lands to properly preserve the sacredness of the Volcano. The process of reaching this outcome took several days and iterations between our countries’ citizens, protocol advisers, and data advisers. Overall, I gained new insights on working with people from diverse backgrounds. This is considerably exciting activity to implement for citizens at all levels.
The highlight of my CBI experience was the the Aloha Ceremony by the “Friends of the East-West Center”. It was a formal ceremony welcoming and to officially “hanai” (adopt) the new EWC arrivals into the East-West Center Ohana (family). You can see below that all the participants wore expressive garments, jewelry, shoes, hair pieces, dances, songs, musical instruments, and other items of cultural significance that represent who they are, where they are from, and the people(s) they represent.
The format of the Aloha Ceremony presentation was beautiful display of expressing the intent of Hawaiian tradition of welcoming ohana, friends, and other peoples. The friends of EWC, EWC staff and faculty worked hard—thank you for making us feel welcomed. I never felt such warmth on the University of Hawaii campus such as the EWC—the center is certainly a puuhonua for the world.
Top right/Bottom Left: Friends of the East-West Center and donors who make this place possible!
Bottom Right: Dr. Kuhio Vogeler, the coordinator of the CBI experience.
Mahalo plenty for an awesome welcoming to the ohana!