For Cultural Intelligence,
family practice and storytelling is our natural way. Poi is as important to me as the air I breathe. For my family poi is a way of sharing cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence is passed down through storytelling. And storytelling is a family practice. From my ancestors to my elders, they and their wisdom are truths in the lives I live. Who knew it would be a powerful way to experience knowledge, gain wisdom, and share with the next generation?
My first Dance with Poi
was at the age of six. Why six? Good question, only my Dad knows. By this time, poi and I were thick as thieves My Dad and I took our spot at the kitchen counter. Me on a stool. Each of us with our bowl and bag of poi.
I remember his melodic voice, "Lomi, lomi, rub." Glancing, I looked to see if I was doing what he was. Why wasn’t he looking at me? Puzzled, I rushed through each instruction.
By the time I reached the step to squeeze the poi into the bowl. Panic filled my bones. I ate enough poi in my short life to know what it should look, smell and feel like. Embarrassed by the runny and lumpy plop, I froze. Never looking over my shoulder and in between singing, my dad says, “Babe it’s time to pa’i.”
Pa’i is difficult for an adult, let alone a six year old who is standing on a stool peering into her bowl. However, It's absolutely necessary to remove the lumps and liquid. In my world Poi should never be runny. And NEVER EVER be lumpy.
Lomi, pound and slap
as I listened to my dad’s soothing voice. Pa’i is a motion of three movements:
- First Lomi. Grab a portion in your hand, massaging it so the water is absorbed into the poi.
- Then pounding it and,
- Finally slapping it against the side of the bowl to remove the lumps.
To my surprise, I got the hang of it. Without realizing it, my insecurities disappeared and I began to pa’i to the rhythm of my Dad’s voice. With each pound and slap, the poi absorbed the water and the lumps disappeared. Hitting the next slap, the poi released a delicious aroma. The next pound and slap, the poi took on life.
The movement, the weight, it’s essence came alive. Much like a swimmer or paddler who slices through the water with the perfect synchronous stroke. The way I feel when I’m wearing the most amazing white Tuxedo shirt. Or the wine that said, “Ke Kai, there is more than beer.” Or my Dad’s never been matched pulehued (grilled) medium-rare 2” steak. When I was done, I kahi’d or cleaned my bowl. Like a winner with a prize, I slurped my fingers. And standing by my side, my Dad whispers, “Too good.”
when I mentioned Poi should not be runny or lumpy? Well, in our family It is a sign of laziness and ignorance. Two things we are not. To this day, I never rush any step of mixing poi. I always end with a pa’i and my Dad always knows when I make poi.
Sharing cultural intelligence
is a basic cornerstone of sharing Aloha. My entire life is an example of absorbing cultural intelligence, however, it was only when I engaged it, did I finally start to grow. In practicing the body of work, I evolved. And in internalizing the essence of the intelligence, I naturally became observant, aware, caring and a living breathing member of the Kealoha Ohana. In Hawaiian we call this process AO.
When we are completely intune and aware, this is when we are a true shepherd of the person we're with. The place we are in and the gift we are blessed to share.
It may seem unlikely to think of poi as something other purple goo. For this Hawaiian, Poi leads the way to be aware, conscientious and present. As a staple for our family, it was an intentional practice. And with practice, we couldn't help but learn the nuances of the poi and the teacher. What became clear many years later was the practice of poi, taught me as much as it taught my Dad about my sister, my brother and me. Poi in all of its infinite wisdom was a major catalyst in bonding our family and in bonding, we shared the gift of time this day and every day.
Wishing you and your family the gift of time. Mele Kalikimaka and Hau'oli Makahiki Hou. Next month, sharing cultural intelligence is truly a gift from the heart.