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Peace and war

When it comes to actor Kevins, Kevin Bacon, Kevin McKidd (remember him from Trainspotting?) , and even Kevin Spacey rate higher than Kevin Costner. He’s never really done it for me (whatever that ‘it’ is).  It was little wonder then that I wasn’t all that excited about treading the same ground as he did back in 1995. He was in Hawaii back in 1995 for the filming of the post-apocalyptic movie Waterworld. It was at Waipi’o Valley on the big island of Hawaii that they finally found land. In Hawaiian, Waipi’o means ‘curved water’.

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For many years, the valley was home to Hawaiian kings and their ancient grass palaces. There’s a road that leads down into the valley, open to 4WD vehicles only and from here you can access the black-sand beach. When there is rain, there are waterfalls.  No water, no falls. So I missed out. Still, though, travelling on roads that could hardly be called roads, was like going back in time. And the views were spectacular.IMG_1732 (800x598)

The valley, apparently, is also home to someViet Nam veterans who have chosen to ignore a world that doesn’t understand and can’t relate to what they’ve been through. Living rough, they hunt and fish and live off the land, hitching a ride to town occasionally for staples they can’t do without. There is no such thing as a fair war, a just war. No side is ever without fault. But it breaks my heart to think that society can be so cruel to those who have fought in its name. Perhaps I’m naive in thinking that the vast majority of soldiers enlist for a greater good, to do their part to serve and protect. I remember being horrified at the welcome the Gulf War veterans received while amputees from the Viet Nam war begged for a living on the streets of LA and suffered people spitting in their faces. To think that as a society we are all too eager to ignore the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder saddens me.

IMG_1754 (600x800)Yes I know that atrocities are committed in the name of war. I know that heinous acts are often read as routine. I know that there are those who are guilty of abusing their uniform and rank. I know all that. And yes, I would prefer a world that wasn’t at war. [Apparently there are ten wars currently going on in the world.] But to ignore those who have fought and served in good faith; to cast them aside and through our lack of understanding and support, force them into the wilderness… that I don’t understand.

The Vietnam Veteran’s Association has among its goals to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans. I wish them well.

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Down in Waipi’o valley, you’d never know that the remnants of wasted lives are be found in the trees that line the mountain sides. As kids play in the river, the image is one of peace and serenity – and yet, in the background, there are broken men whose lives are far from tranquil.  As Aristotle said: we make war so that we can live in peace.

Wild horses and taro

IMG_1782 (580x800)The old expression ‘wild horses wouldn’t drag me there’ came to mind today as we drove down into Waipi’o Valley. Downhill traffic had to give way to those making their way up what was at times a 17 degree incline. Hair-raising. Actually, were this classified as a road, it would be  it would be the steepest road of its length in the United States  and possibly the world.We had hopes of seeing the famous wild horses and magically, they obliged. 2013 is starting off well.  The valley is the last of the big island’s undeveloped valleys, a place where thirty or so families farm taro, speak Hawaiian and live the old life. To venture in is to venture back in time. Some fitter, braver souls walked down (and back up again) n but the silver lining in the series of back injuries in our jeep meant we drove.

IMG_1768 (800x600)Just how many horses there are in the 3000-acre valley is anyone’s guess. Some say there might be 40, others put the numbers in the hundreds. They were first introduced to the area back in the 1800s but when trucks and tractors made their appearance at the end of the Second World War, the horses were let loose. Descended from the Mexican cow horse and Arabian horses gifted to the king, they come in shades of brown, black, pinto, and silver and have curiously flat foreheads.   Back in 2006, one taro farmer decided he’d had enough of their pilfering ways and shot dead six of them. In the ensuing outrage, suggestions of a sanctuary for the horses, seen as part of Hawaiian heritage, were tabled. Six years later, the horses still run free.

IMG_1781 (800x592)Waipi’o taro is reputedly the best on the island. Taro (colocascia esculenta) is a Samoan word; in Hawaiian it’s kalo. It was introduced to the islands by the Polynesians about 450 AD and is a staple part of the diet. Babies move from breast milk to poi, a purple paste that brings luck when eaten on New Year’s Day. In ancient Hawaii, the cultivation of taro was associated with the god Kane, procreator and life giver, provider of water and sun. Only men could plant, harvest and pound taro. When the poi was on the table, people were not to argue or speak in anger.

It’s a root vegetable somewhat similar in appearance to a turnip. Traditional preparation has you remove the skin and then pound the white flesh on a board with a a rock (pohaku ku’I).  Add water, pound, add water, pound until you have a paste which is then dried, diluted with water, kneaded, and aged. Depending on its thickness, it’s said to be one-finger, two-finger, three-finger….For those not weaned on it, it’s said to taste of Elmer’s glue. Having not tasted either, I can’t comment. Interestingly, taro – sometimes called the potato of the humid tropics – is said to be similar to the Irish potato. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of potato flour being used in baby milk, though. Still, poi has now officially made it onto my list of foods to eat before I die and wild horses have taken on a whole new meaning.