If you ever thought about going to Iosepa for Memorial Day weekend, I would recommend it. To be completely honest, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did. My expectations were that the event would be too long, maybe fake, and that people would be closed off. However, I was proved wrong by the kindness of other people, and by the successful production of the whole thing. People came from all over. I met folks from Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, and even some who flew up from Laie, Hawaii. I was pleasantly surprised by the show of people, and making new friends was not unfamiliar to me. I would sit next to a complete stranger and we’d have a conversation for a good 15-30 minutes. People greeted each other with hugs kisses on their cheeks, and I kept hearing the familiar questions, “Where are you from?” “What’s your last name?” and “Do you know [insert name here]?”
My cool Hawaiian friend, Lashaun, and I got there around 11:30am and people were doing all kinds of crafts, from haku-making to kapa patterns, and engraved wooden paddles with the words “Iosepa.” I jumped right in and made my own haku, except if you’re interested in doing crafts you probably want to show up a little earlier because almost all of the flowers were gone (hence I had a fern haku haha).
When lunch rolled around, they announced they were selling poke bowls for $10. Lashaun grabbed a plate and we shared. I’m not a fan of limu (in the video I’m not sure if you can see but I tried to rub the limu off as much as I could–you can have my limu any day ;)), but it was pretty good! And they had poi! Another tip I would have if you go is to take cash cause they have food and other fun things here and there like art, crafts, and shirts.
There was always something to do, which is what really surprised me. If you didn’t want to do crafts or talk stories, you could watch the entertainment. There was always someone on the stage either singing, dancing, or teaching different dances to other people (such as hula, Tahitian, etc). Different groups visited, such as a culture group from UVU, and families and individuals had prepared hula dances to perform.
If you didn’t want to do that, you could volunteer to prep making food or go on a hike to see the pond over the mountain (apparently there were petroglyphs over the hill somewhere). So Lashaun and I went on a hike and the view was awesome. You could see all of the land where the Hawaiians used to live, but my favorite part was seeing the lake. I love that they had a large body of water (you can read my previous article about that here). I was a little nervous about there being snakes, but there were tons of people hiking and I figured we were all going to be ok. Also, I would recommend taking a sweater because it was dang cold. The sun was out, but the wind was biting. Lashaun said it was good that the wind was blowing because it kept the gnats away (now that would be biting).
I would also recommend you wear good tennis shoes cause the ground is super dusty and there are a lot of thorns. Lashaun was smart and wore her cowgirl boots and jeans while I was a silly little thing wearing shorts and tennis shoes. 😛 When we finished hiking, we got back in time to watch the guys uncover the imu (yup, they had a real imu going!). Then the luau began and the food was delicious. Of course we brought food because if you show up without food that would’ve been shame. And everyone else brought food so there was lots and lots of it. It was the first time in a long time that I felt a slice of home while being out here in Utah.
And that’s probably the biggest takeaway for me. I guess for a long time I’ve felt really displaced. I can’t stay back home in the islands, but I don’t like it here in Utah. Meeting other people who were away from the islands yet really enjoying themselves reminded me that it’s not bad. There are worse places I could be, and there are a lot of things about Utah that I like and enjoy (also, I should enjoy whatever place I’m at–read this article). When we stood at the top of the hill overlooking the valley, the seagulls hovering over the campsite and pavilion, I thought about what my ancestors must have thought when they arrived. They sacrificed so much and came to this literal desert so that they could have a better future, not just for this life but for the next as well.
That helped me. I’m not perfect at finding my sense of place in this world (I mean, who is?) but I am perfect at trying, and knowing that my ancestors tried helps me to remember that I can keep trying. And if they could find joy in the desert, a polar opposite from the lush islands, then I can do the same. Iosepa isn’t a life changing experience, but the memories, the feelings, and the history was inspiring and a good reminder to me of the sacrifices of my ancestors. They left a good mark for me, and I’ll leave a good mark for my future generations too. I think that’s what it’s all about.
Don’t forget to watch my adventures here! And please like, share, and comment. 🙂
Happy Memorial day folks! Is there a place near and dear to your heart because of your ancestors?