You Speak Pidgin? Bettah Learn!


Our first trip into the town of Kaunakakai was like going back in time. The wooden storefronts along the single main street looked like a throwback to the 1940’s. Relaxed and charming. After a brief tour (moments really), we headed on to a local auto repair shop to check on Rik’s old Toyota Land Cruiser.

We pulled up to Oshiro’s garage, where  cars in various states of repair were strewn across pavement.

“Mr. Oshiro!” Rik called to a worker bent over a radiator. “I’d like you to meet my friends, Dewitt and Lynette.”

A diminutive Japanese man, who looked to be ninety if he was a day,  stomped up to me, a frown creasing his already furrowed brow.

“You speak pidgin?” he demanded.

“Uh, no.” I replied, nonplussed.

“Bettah learn!” he spat and stomped back to his work.

Right! Bettah learn. I was visiting a new culture and it was going to be my job to observe and learn. Mr. Oshiro was determined that I understand that from the get go.

Pidgin is a language in its own right, distinct from Hawai`ian. It developed when so many cultures mixed during the plantation days and everyone needed a common language. Hence, pidgin has English, Hawai`ian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and more combined in a sort of hybrid tongue.

These days, there are books and stories published in pidgin. There are plays written and performed in this composite language. And likely, if you spend any time in Hawai`i, you will hear it spoken informally as well.

So do I speak pidgin? Not like a native, but I try. Thanks to Mr. Oshiro, I listened and I learned.

For more about pidgin, check out Wikipedia and these books on Amazon: Pidgin To Da Max and Da Kine Dictionary.

The Evening News is Always Good on Moloka`i

Molokai Sunset © lynette sheppard

Molokai Sunset © lynette sheppard

We deplaned at the tiny Moloka`i airport, where friend Rik picked us up in an old red Toyota 4 runner. We oohed and aahed on the short drive upcountry to their home, passing through waving green pastures and stands of Cook Island Pines. We wound down a red dirt road to a rustic house, where Rik’s wife Bronwyn greeted us on the lanai

“Quick, take off your clothes.” Ooookaaaay. “The evening news is about to start.”

Hey, we were children of the 60’s and 70’s respectively and had lived many years in Northern California. So we took off our clothes, somewhat bemused by the request.

Bronwyn led us around the corner to a claw foot bathtub filled with bubbles. Two Dos Equis and a ceramic bowl of crisp tortilla chips rested on a table next to it. A panoramic western view spread out before us.

“Get in, relax and watch the news. Our news consists of the sun setting behind Diamond Head on Oahu. The evening news is always good on Moloka`i. We’ll see you in an hour.”

Our interest in this lovely island turned to enchantment over the course of that hour. And that delight has only deepened over the years.

We try to watch the sunset wherever we are on the island even now. And Bronwyn was right. The news is always good on Moloka`i.