Category Archives: Aotearoa

He Ahupuaʻa Ke Mele

“Ke Ahupuaʻa” by Mele McPherson.

“Ke Ahupuaʻa” by Mele McPherson.

I was thrilled to have my paper, entitled “He Ahupuaʻa Ke Mele: The Ahupuaʻa Land Division as a Conceptual Metaphor for Hawaiian Language Composition and Vocal Performance”, published in the journal Ethnomusicology Reivew today. I started it over five and a half years ago in a single 10 hour (or so) writing binge that started at about 2 A.M. on a cold morning in Dunedin, N.Z. After many revisions and much restructuring, and trying to weave western academic theory with a Hawaiian conceptual model (the ahupua‘a) it was finally ready to see the light of day.

Mahalo palena ‘ole to everyone who contributed their mana‘o and support doing this long process, and to the editors of Ethnomusicology Review for feeling it worthy of publication..

Hawai‘i, Sweet Home



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My wife, daughter and I began our sojourn last week Saturday. From Dunedin we flew to Auckland for a connecting flight to Sydney, Australia. Our baggage was considerably overweight, and Air New Zealand happily reduced my checking account by $200 for the privilege of getting all of our things home. It was an omen of more bad things to come. We were also informed that they could not transfer our bags to Qantas for the flight to Sydney – we would have to pick up all 6 bags, haul them to the International terminal, check the bags in there, and make our way through security there. The Qantas flight was relatively uneventful, but it took nearly two hours to get through immigration and then customs at Sydney Airport. By the time this was done it was nearly 5 PM, and by that point we were very happy that we had decided to spend a few days in Sydney before flying back to Hawai‘i.

Sunday was my birthday, and we spent it at the Taronga Zoo following a pleasant ferry trip through Sydney harbor which took us between the harbor bridge and opera house (to the left). The trip certainly did wonders to reduce our stress levels. Sunday was my wife’s birthday,so we wandered back to the harbor area, and had lunch at a surprising nice sports bar on George Street, before heading back to the hotel to pick up our things and head out to the airport for a 6PM flight. It turns out our bad luck hadn’t turned, just took a few days off like we did.

When we got to Sydney airport we got in the cue at the Qantas counter. After about a half an hour we got to an agent, who told us that we were on JetStar airlines. I blinked and said “Who?” Well, it turns out that JetStar is Qantas’ budget subsidiary, and even though we booked on Qantas the flight was handled by JetStar, and we would have to go and check in at the JetStar counter. Producing my best annoyed look, the agent offered to take us to someone who could help, and we were turned over to the first available agent. We checked in quickly and thankfully were not charged for excess baggage. A hopeful sign, yet alas, not all was well.

Our flight was delayed by three and a half hours after and earlier flight’s plane experienced mechanical difficulties and was given our aircraft. We were all required to leave the gate area and go through secondary security screening a second time after spending another hour wandering the airport. Our 6PM flight actually left about 9:30PM. Dinner was produced at 11:PM, though we were asked to produce our boarding passes to prove that we had paid for meals. Since we booked on Qantas and not JetStar apparently we were entitled to a free meal. Those that booked directly on JetStar and did not pay for the meal in advance were charge $15 for one of the most dreary airline meals I’ve ever encountered. They also paid $5 for headsets.

Upon arriving in Honolulu we found we had missed our connecting flight to Hilo and were informed that every Hilo flight was booked solid. The woman running Gate 57 was a particular prudish, dismissing other passengers from our JetStar flight that “Well, you missed your flight” as if it was their fault JetStar gave away our plane to someone else. We were on standby, and after watching two filled Hilo-bound flights depart without us, my wife and daughter made the third as standbys when we were told there were two available seats. I waited at the boarding area and asked the woman if they made the flight and she said yes. What she didn’t tell me, or didn’t know for some reason, is that there were several empty seats on the plane and I could have taken one. The plane departed with them empty as I headed to another gate and waited for an available seat to materialize. Gladly it did, though I almost missed it because the prude at Gate 57 neglected to release my record so that the employees at Gate 61 could access it. They got that squared away a few seconds before the gate was ready to close and I made a mad dash for the aircraft. 45 minutes later we were reunited in Hilo and made our way back to the house. I don’t think I’ve slept as well as I did that night in years. There is nothing like your own bed to sooth frazzled nerves.

I don’t think I’ll be making any international trips again anytime soon. Going to take a while to get over this one.

Goodbye, Dunedin

Things were quite hectic during our last week in Dunedin. We needed to vacate our flat last Monday and move into a motel for the last few days. Though the Accommodations office had tried to get us a bit more time, they needed to prep the unit for the next tenants so we packed up and moved a few blocks to the Cable Court Motel on Cumberland avenue. It was a very comfortable place with a very nice couple who managed it.

We will miss our little flat (at left; we had the left half of the house. While I’ve lived in houses with corrugated metal roofing before, I’ve never lived in one with corrugated metal siding. It could get quite cold inside; sometimes it was colder in the flat that outside. But it was clean, comfortable, conveniently located, and aside from the presence of some incredibly inconsiderate late-night party-makers in adjacent houses we were very happy with it.

The week was pretty uneventful. M?lia finished her last week of school at Logan Park High School and got to spend a few late afternoons and evenings with her friends. I had several meetings with my supervisors, who seem very pleased with my research progress. We have a pretty good schedule planned, and I should hit the ground running with my research once we get back to Hawai‘i.

We flew out of Dunedin yesterday morning to Auckland for a connecting flight to Sydney. We didn’t know until we checked in that Air New Zealand cannot (or would not) route our bags to Qantas. They also charged us $200 for excess baggage for the short flight. Unfortunately ANZ has a near monopoly out of Dunedin and we had little choice but to use them. We had to wait for our bags at the Auckland domestic terminal, catch a shuttle to the International terminal, check in again, and race through security to get to our flight. We got to the gate just as the final fifty or so passengers were boarding.

Oh, yes, apparently the Auckland airport charges a $25 per head departure fee. Luckily I saw a sign over the desk of the fellow that checked us in and asked him about it. You buy the stamps (affixed to the back of your ticket) from a Money Exchange booth. He said a lot of people make it to the gate only to find they haven’t paid the fee and have to scramble to go pay. Fortunately they are changing the system on July 1 – after we leave, of course – so that the fee is included in your ticket price.

It took us nearly two hours to get through Immigration at Sydney International airport, collect our bags, and then make it through customs and catch a shuttle to town. We arrived at our hotel in Sydney about 12 hours after leaving Dunedin yesterday morning. Today, my birthday, was our only full play day in Sydney, so we walked down the harbor (about a 10 minute walk) and took a ferry out to the Taronga Zoo. We got a lot of pictures there, but they’ll have to wait for a future post. I’

Enjoying Our Last Five Weeks…

Our family met on Friday evening to discuss our various return options, and we decided to catch a flight out of Dunedin on Saturday, June 28. We’ll spend two days in Sydney, Australia, then head back home to Hawai‘i on June 30. June 29 is my birthday and June 30 is Marie’s, so it will be a nice last present for us before we return home and deal with all of the things that we were able to put off until our return. M?lia wanted us to leave on the 27th so that she didn’t have to perform a hula for her schoolmates on International day, but I reminded her that it was not an option – it was her responsibility as a representative for her school back home and for Hawai‘i to share what she has learned.

Music Dept CrewMy supervisors in the music department had been trying to organize an outing for us on Otago Peninsula since we arrived, and it finally materialized yesterday. I’ll be eternally grateful to Dan Bendrups (far left) and Henry Johnson (second from left) for taking me under their wings this semester, and also to Shelley Brunt (far right), who I assisted in her Ethnomusicology class. The ethnomusicology program here is excellent, growing, and reflecting a wide variety of research interests throughout the Pacific. Dan and one MA student focus on Rapanui (Easter Island), Shelley with Japanese popular forms, one Ph.D. student in Papua New Guinea, an M.A. student studying Sāmoan music festivals, another the bag-piping tradition here in New Zealand, and myself doing Ph.d. research in Hawaiian music. I’m very happy to be a part of such a diverse and dynamic group, and apparently they are very happy with my progress in our short time here. We’re all confident that I will be able to hit the ground running upon our return to Hawai‘i and begin research.

While we have no travels or adventures planned before leaving Dunedin, Mālia has one last trip with her Māori language class to Ngaa Manu Koorero, a Māori speech competition in Invercargill at the southern-most tip of Aotearoa this week.
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Last Week Of Instruction at Otago

My MUSI225/325 Tutorial groupOne of the more enjoyable aspects of our semester in Dunedin was the opportunity for me to act as a teaching assistant in the Department of Music. The classes here are structured a bit differently than back home. Monday is the big instructional day, and the class instructor, Shelley Brunt, would lecture on the week’s topic. On Tuesday, small groups of students would make presentations on the week’s set reading, and their fellow students assessed their work. On Wednesday, Shelley and I would split the class in half for tutorials – she would take half to a different room, and the students would (normally) lead a discussion regarding the week’s readings and topics. They would them self-assess based on their preparation and participation in the class.

Today was our last tutorial group, and as classes are now officially done, I asked them to allow me to take a picture of them. Thank you all, it was a great semester. Of course, I have five or six weeks to go before we leave, and have much more work to do on my research preparation. No rest for the weary.

Seasons Change In Dunedin

Gorgeous golden trees everywhereThis is the first real change of seasons that Marie and M?lia have ever experienced. By US mainland and even Dunedin standards it still has been relatively mild. We’ve had some nights drop below 30F, but by and large the weather has been tolerable. It seems that things will be fairly stable for the next two weeks, then a steep drop in temperature around May 25. We found out that the timing of our trip to Queenstown could not have been better – there was a considerable amount of snow there a few days after we left.

The one aspect that is particularly bothersome is the fact that when it gets cold here, the inside of the house gets colder than it is outside! The flat that we live in apparently has little insulation, the siding is made of corrugated metal, with plain plate glass windows. The infrequent rain is much colder than we experience back home; fortunately my sister June, AKA Aunty Bug, sent some great Minnesota-tested jackets and under-garments.

It was Mother’s Day today, so I took the ladies out to lunch and a movie in the Octagon. We walked back just after 4 with dusk already settling in, and it is dark by 5:30. We’re over a month from the winter solstice, so the days will get even short yet.

There are only two weeks of classes left at the University of Otago, followed by a few weeks of testing. The class I’m assisting in has no final, but there are plenty of group and individual essays to be graded, so there will plenty of work to do.

I’m making good progress on my research proposal, and have identified the theoretical constructs as well as the research methodology I will use – much to the delight of my supervisors. Sometimes progress seems slow, but when I look back on where I started just four months ago it’s hard to complain. I wish I could talk more about the research topic and methodology here, but as some potential interviewees read this blog, I don’t want to tip them off and possibly influence their responses. Sorry!

Rain, Snow and Hail In Dunedin

Hail in DunedinWe’ve experienced a preview of winter weather in Dunedin today, with some rain, snow flurries as well as hail. Temperatures have been dropping into the 20s at night and not reaching 40 during the day. The hail was about the size of buckshot and was coming down quite heavily at times. Things are supposed to warm up a bit during the week, but this is certainly a sign of things to come.

Dunedin Notes

Jimmy Mac in Queenstown?While we have been here for just under four months, my mind has already begun to think about making plans for our return to Hawai‘i in late-June or early-July. With the turmoil in the airline industry I don’t want to wait too long before making arrangements. I also need to talk to M?lia’s school here and make sure that everything is in place so that her classes will transfer properly to her school back home, though we know already some classes won’t. Time has certainly flown by here, but I still do have a lot of work to do on my Ph.d. proposal as well as my teaching duties here.

Scott’s posted a few short notes on the differences between food, drink and behavior in Cornwall. Here are a few from Dunedin, and there are some striking similarities:

  • Eggs are also brown with bright orange yolks. Haven’t seen white eggs at all.
  • I tweeted earlier that one of the things I miss here is Monterey Jack cheese – they’ve never heard of it down here. They have three prominent cheese varieties – “Tasty” (yeah, right), Cheddar, and Edam. They do have other specialty cheeses in the gourmet section but priced out of our league.
  • Chicken is more expensive than good beef or lamb.
  • Sausage is big here, too, particularly lamb sausage. M?lia tried and hated it – called it “lamb boto”.
  • Pies of all meat varieties are big, too, and M?lia hates them as well.
  • I don’t drink coffee so don’t care what it’s like down here.
  • Haven’t found any great local beers, some not bad ones and a few in the Bud and Coors lite league. NZ is well known for its wines but we’re not really wine people.
  • No Mexican restaurants in Dunedin, either. We found one in Queenstown but, dang, dinner for three was $85, including a 15% surcharge because it was a holiday (most restaurants do that here). The burrito and taco sauces that the stores sell doesn’t taste anything like the ones back home. I think M?lia’s first request when we get home will be to go to Taco Bell. I prefer Maui Taco.
  • Haven’t found any good Italian restaurants in Dunedin, but several in Queenstown. Unfortunately we went to one that didn’t know how to do an alfredo sauce! The stores don’t stock much alfredo either. Fortunately I can cook Italian.
  • There are tons of Asian and Middle Eastern food restaurants everywhere – Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Indian, Pakistani – you name it, Dunedin probably has it.
  • Spam is almost $6 a can. Damn.
  • They don’t use preservatives in breads, so you eat them in 4 days or they turn into home penicillin kits.
  • They don’t put much if any sugar in peanut butter, or anything else for that matter. You want it – add it yourself.
  • There are “creameries” on every corner and some in between. Don’t know how they survive selling ice-cream in the winter but apparently they do.
  • everything labeled “Hawaiian” has ham and pineapple in it – pizza, breads, sandwiches, pies. Glad I haven’t come across any “Hawaiian ice-cream”.

Finally, one little non-food or drink related quirk – people say “cheers” instead of “thank you”.

Queenstown was a blast!

Cemetary?Our family spent three nights and two glorious days in Queenstown (in central Otago, Aotearoa) this weekend. The weather was spectacular – just a bit nippy in the mornings and evenings, but very comfortable all day with no rain (or snow!). We took an Intercity Bus from Dunedin to Queenstown ($19 each way when booked online), with two brief pit stops along the way. It takes just a bit over four hours each way, and the scenery varies between boring (look, more sheep!) to spectacular scenes right out of Lord Of The Rings.

I’ll do a full report later; just wanted to post links to some pics we took, and to the video of our little adrenaline junkie taking a big leap over Queenstown. Mom, you may not want to watch this – use your best judgement. Someone conveniently placed a cemetary at the base of the mountain where the bungy jumping platform is. I made sure to point that out to M?lia before we took the gondola up to the top 😉

I highly recommend Queenstown to those living in the southern hemisphere, just beware your wallet. The folks there have a Disney-like talent for separating you from your hard-earned cash – every thrill-ride has pictures and even a DVD waiting for you upon completion.

With our one fun weekend out of the way, it’s back to the grind and the last two months of our stay in Dunedin.

Writing About Writing

Royal_TypewriterI’ve always enjoyed writing, but have always been a “stream-of-consciousness” kind of writer. I’ll sit down with an open word processor document, type, and just go with the flow and see were it takes me. A quick spell-check follows and away it goes.

When I wrote my MA thesis (in Hawaiian), I sat down and wrote out each chapter in long marathon sessions. Of course there was a lot of editing, tweaking and additions along the way, but the gist of the chapters and overall structure of the final product was very much like the first drafts. My supervisors were somewhat confounded by my tactics, but happy with the results.

I learned very early that those tactics were not going to cut it at the Ph.d. level, and that I needed to be much more organized and disciplined in my writing. I was given three abstract subjects to write about by one of my supervisors, and about four weeks to crank out 5,000 word essays on each. I got nowhere the first week, only wrote about 500 words, which means I had to write close to 5,000 words per week in order to meet my deadline of this coming Tuesday. With two full days and part of another to go, I have about 1,300 words to go on my final essay.

One of tools that I found very useful was RefWorks, a bibliography management package that stores your references on the web, helps you insert them into your document, and processes your Word document with all citations in the format of your choice (the music department here mandates the Harvard style). It takes some work to get all of the citations in there, but you can import the book and journal article data straight from many library databases. It saves a lot of time and helps assure you have the right information in there. I took a quick look at my RefWorks database tonight and found I have 121 references. I only had 20 when we arrived in Dunedin in January, which means I’ve read in whole or in part just over 100 books and academic papers since we got here. Absolutely amazing.

I also joined an online group of other researchers who are in various stages of their graduate-level writing, and it’s been a big help as well. I realized how much more productive it is to write for shorter, multiple spurts every day than writing in a marathon session a few days a week, and simply reading in between writing days. I also have figured out that it is important to budget some fun time, both alone and with the family to retain my sanity. In retrospect, I used a brute-force method to get through the MA program back home, and need to learn to work smarter, not harder for the Ph.d. And I think with the right tools and attitude I’m getting there.

And having Scott here is going to keep me on my toes as far as blogging more frequently and posting more substance. It’s nice to have him around.