Giving Back to the Island – Shalei Kekiwi-Eleneki

The Spirit of Aloha

The word “aloha” is the most recognized of all Hawaiian words. In its simplest use, it means “hello”, “welcome”, or “goodbye”. But the word, to many Hawaiians, can also be used to convey a much deeper and richer feeling, one that encapsulates a way of living, being, and most of all, treating others. This Spirit of Aloha inspires us to do what we do and influences every facet of every tour we offer at Polynesian Adventure Activities.

We wanted to delve further into this particular meaning of Aloha, so we asked Shalei Kekiwi-Eleneki what the Spirit of Aloha means to her, as well as some of her favorite things about Hawai’i.

Hi, Shalei! How long have you been here with us at Poly Ad?
I have been working as a Field Dispatch Agent for Poly Ad for just over a month now…

What is your favorite thing about Hawai’i?
My favorite thing about Hawai’i nei would definitely be the aloha that you see and feel no matter where you are. You can feel it in your na’au (core) as you visit different wahi (places), meet different people and learn about Hawai’is unique history. This feeling of aloha maoli (true aloha) makes me feel safe, like I am right where I belong.

Beach side sunset with canoes and palms trees from Maui - spirit of aloha blog - polynesian adventure tours & activities

What is your favorite "off the beaten path" place to enjoy?

 I think that it’s important to educate our visitors about the true “off the beaten path” locations of our islands without disturbing the actual location (in order to preserve the sacredness of these places). I would recommend reaching out to different non-profit organizations and seeing if there are any volunteer opportunities that you can kokua (help) with. It is a great way to “give back” to the island.

Yellow hibiscus near Rainbow falls

What is your favorite Hawaiian story?
I think my favorite mo’olelo (story) would have to be the story of Kihawahine, known to kama’aina (locals) as The Mo’o Lady. She is believed to be a sort of demi-god, who is part woman / part lizard. She holds a great significance for the people of Hana especially because it is said that she makes her home behind the waterfalls there. She was also believed to live in the fishpond surrounding Moku’ula/Mokuhinia, in Lahaina. There are numerous stories, spanning across multiple generations, of a beautiful woman luring men into the water at ponds and rivers, only to drown them. However, there are also stories of Kihawahine being an ‘aumakua (spirit guardian) to the royal family of Pi’ilani.

What is your favorite local food?
My favorite food is, hands down, fresh poi made by my tutu wahine (grandmother). Poi, for those who are unfamiliar with the food, is a mixture of cooked/cleaned/pounded kalo (taro) and water. It is a thick, purple/grey paste that is has been and continues to be a main staple in the Hawaiian diet. My grandparents farmed wetland kalo as their parents before them and they have passed down this tradition to my generation. Because not many people have the opportunity to eat poi made by my tutu wahine, I would recommend the next best thing – visiting Poi By The Pound restaurant in Kahului. They offer a menu with many different Hawaiian dishes, including Poi. Their poi actually comes from the same place my ‘ohana (family) kalo farm is.

Basket of organic raw taro root in hawaii - poi

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