The Master Storytellers of Hawaii and the South Pacific
January 13-20 on the Island of Hawai'i
In 1992 Kelly and I were planning a major Wedding Anniversary celebration. We had accumulated a generous number of frequent flier miles and asked ourselves a strange question: "Where is the most distant place can we visit with these miles?" The answer was a destination that we had never wanted to visit. "But it's all sunshine, beaches, and no culture nor history." And that is how we first visited a place incredibly rich in culture and history: Hawaii.
Since then we have visited Hawaii almost 20 times. Sometimes just to escape the dark winters of our home in Maryland, but frequently to take small groups to explore Polynesian culture and traditions. And over the past 20 years we have made many friends in Hawaii - coffee growers, hula instructors, bookshop owners, chefs, art curators, botanists, slack-key guitarists, teachers, and many others. We seriously considered retiring to our favorite place in Hawaii -- The Big Island. But when we finally made the move to become winter snowbirds -- and deal with my serious medical issues around SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder -- we moved to Florida.
But we still love Hawaii. In January we plan to do a different kind of program in Hawaii. Not the Polynesian folklore, mythology, and performing arts -- but this time a deep exploration into American and English writers who were passionate about Hawaii and the South Pacific. And best of all, they were master storytellers. There stories have entered into my storytelling repertory, and I have passionately studied their lives and their art, in relation to Hawaii and the South Pacific. And now it is time to put together a new Hawaii Storyfest.
The stories are mostly short stories, an occasional episode from a novel, travel letters, and some keen insights into Hawaiian culture (and the human condition!) through Haole eyes. Haole? That is the Hawaiian expression for Caucasians from America and Europe. And so here I am, another Haole storyteller, eager to explore the Lore and Lure of Island Paradises. The key writers will be Melville (his earlier "Typee" and "Omoo" rather than "Moby Dick), Robert Louis Stevenson and his stories from Hawaii and his final home in Samoa, Jack London who forsook the Yukon for the South Pacific and Hawaii, the English adventurer Isabella Bird, and of course a frequent visitor to Hawaii, Mark Twain. Plus a few other more modern storytellers: Nordoff and Hall's "Mutiny on the Bounty" and James Michener's epic "Hawaii."
Here are the details: Dates are from Sunday, January 13 to Sunday, January 20. We stay at what I consider to be the only authentic Hawaiian hotel on the Big Island: Manago Hotel in Captain Cook at the 1300' level (warm days and cool nights) of the historic Kona coffee belt. It has been owned and operated by a Japanese-American family since 1917. Harold, the third-generation owner, is now retired, and his son Dwight, of the fourth generation, continues the family tradition. This is where locals stay. And when someone asks you where you are staying, their faces light up when you say "Manago's" And you can always predict their response: "Have you tried their Pork Chops? The best in Hawaii." I love Manago's and the good people who work there.
We hold a morning seminar in the traditional Japanese zashiki room (Don't worry, you won't have to sit on the tatami mats. Chairs are provided for Haoles.) Then the afternoons and evenings are free to explore an incredibly diverse island -- with desert, jungle, and sub-alpine climate zones. From the front of Manago's you can take a bus to almost anywhere on the island. Or, if you rent a car -- or share a ride with other participants -- you can explore the more distant and remote parts of the island... places where the chartered tour buses don't go.
Tuition for the seminar is $975. Rooms for seven nights at Manago's are approximately $350 for a single, and $400 for two people in a double. Meals at Manago's (great seafood as well as steaks and pork chops) or nearby restaurants are very reasonable -- these are places where the locals dine, not the tourist restaurants that dot the beaches down the road in Kailua-Kona. Public buses, Hele-On, have nominal fees (hard to believe, but only a dollar): "Exact change requested - Mahalo" (which means "Thank you"). And good deals can be had if you choose to rent a car earlier rather than later. The same for plane tickets. The nearest airport is Kailua-Kona (KOA)
January is the top of the tourist season in Hawaii, and Dwight has reserved a total of 9 rooms for our small group. He will hold it as long as he can, but I promised to let the rooms go if he needs them. Which means I need to know of your tentative interest. The word is tentative. Please email me if you are considering a Hawaiian Storyfest for next winter. The new website (still under construction) is aStoryfest Journeys.
Kelly and I would enjoy being your hosts as we explore some great storytelling about Hawaii and the South Pacific.
Robert Bela Wilhelm
Storyfest Journeys since 1981