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 Aloha Spirit

Exploring Intercultural Communication in Hawaii - Part 3

Caroline with Dayna Meyer
Caroline D. Kennedy (left) with fellow classmate and recent UMD graduate, Dayna Meyer, on the Na Pali coast
Sunnafrank class
The 26 students of Professor Michael J. Sunnafrank's Intercultural Communication Practicum class on Kauai (Kennedy is second from the right, in the second row)

Aloha Minnesota! I am now on the island of Kauai. When people say that Kauai is the prettiest island, they aren’t lying. The scenery here is so lush and green. The water is crystal clear and about ten shades of blue. I’m nearing the end of my trip, and I don’t think it is going to be a happy return. The other students I am with have become much more than friends, and everyone we have met thus far will always be ohana (family).

The group spent the entire day, sunrise to sunset, at an old fishing village on the Na Pali Coast. The coast is very restricted for visitors, and yet we were allowed to stay all day. Before we even arrived, it already felt like an honor to be there.

The Na Pali Coast is on the northwest part of the island and is only accessible by hiking, helicopter, or boat with the boat option only available during certain times of year. Luckily, we were able to take a zodiac, or inflatable boat to the coast.

I had to be up and ready to go by 4:30 am. We drove to a marina and were soon on the zodiacs. The ride there took about an hour but the time spent on it was amazing. Hawaiian Spinner dolphins made an appearance and swam with the boats. One even jumped out of the water to show off its acrobatics. The sunrise looked like one off of a postcard, and the water was so clear you could see turtles swimming 30 feet below us.

The purpose of our visiting this coast was an important one. The main goal for many of the friends we've met here is to restore the Hawaiian Islands to their original state. On Kauai, the struggle for Hawaiian’s to preserve their land is even more evident. Many private land owners and organizations work very hard to keep hotel development away. Not only are there issues with buildings taking over the resourceful land, but also non-native plants taking over the original landscape. The best way to describe their fight is to say that they are trying to keep Hawaii authentic, rather than a tropical version of western society.

Today we were focusing on the Na Pali coast. At Na Pali, we knocked down dead and non-native trees, hacked down and then uprooted weeds and cleared out an area so that newly planted native plants could soon take over. It was lots of work, lots of sweat, and lots of dirt. Not to mention the geckos, cockroaches, and other bugs that were everywhere. Never in my dreams did I think I would be somewhere with cockroaches running over my feet. But where else can you get an experience like that?

This has been more than an experience for me. I can truly say the people, the land, the history, and the culture have changed me. I learned to try new things, such as eating raw goat or dried octopus, and to do so without hesitation. I have realized my ability to embrace being in the present—to seize once in a lifetime opportunities—and participate in everything, such as jumping off a 30-foot cliff. Lastly, I was able to recognize my ability to meet people, for even a short time, and let them continue to have an impact on me once I return home.

Unfortunately, that’s all for me here in Hawaii. I get to come home and although the lake will be beautiful, it is going to be hard to beat the ocean. If you get a chance to visit to Hawaii, do so without any hesitation. Take the extra step to read about their history and maybe even another to learn about their current struggles and to help. I promise it will be worth your time. To all my Hawaiian ohana, I love you.


Written by Caroline D. Kennedy

Edited by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann,

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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