As a docent and a lover of museums I am always impressed by visitors who come from abroad. Last week a fellow docent and I had the chance to talk to a visitor from Poland. He was inquiring as to where he might be able to find a nice copy of the Kiʻi Ku.
There are many cheap imitations of Ku to be had in drugstores or the market place in Waikiki that are made into plastic charms to be worn around the neck. But that was not what he wanted. He wanted a nicely carved image that would be a pleasant reminder of his visit.
We told him that maybe he could find one in the museum gift shop or he could contact the carver who did exhibits at the museum. That was when he told us about his budget.
He was a teacher in Poland and said he was paid the equivalent of $500.00 a month. The surprising factor in this conversation was that he paid as much for his commodities at home as we did here in Hawaii!
How could he afford a vacation such as this one he was on now? Well it seems that many of our foreign visitors don’t look at a trip to Hawaii as a time to lay out on the beach and party hardy at night. They seem to genuinely be interested in the culture and while they are saving every little penny for this trip they are studying and researching.
They arrive with a purpose. They’ve read and now want to see everything they can about the islands. The trip to the museum is the grand climax to all that they have waited to see.
The Ku would mean a lot to him and we understood that he did not want some cheap token but something that he could proudly show his friends. I am sure they would also learn of Ku through this memento of his trip.
Knowing that he had such a restricted amount to spend we told him that just maybe he would find something at the swap meet and explained how he could get there. As he thanked us and went off to take in more exhibits my friend and I both agreed on a few things about this visitor.
We were indeed very fortunate that we lived where we lived, and that we were able to meet such people who valued not just the Hawaiian culture but all cultures. This really put vacations into perspective.
A few of the exhibits in the main hall of Bishop Museum
At Bishop Museum we meet them all. There is the loud woman who screams across the vast hall so that she can get her little daughter to pose just right even though this woman is disrupting a tour. She then is out of their in a blaze to go and scream somewhere else I suppose.
Then there are the many visitors who rush in an hour before their scheduled to fly back home. As they enter the main hall with three floors of artifacts not to mention two other exhibit halls just within the main building they are stunned. This is an actual museum with hours of exhibits.They are always disappointed that they did not allow more time to visit the museum.
Last, but to be sure not least, there are the people who like the Polish visitor who has planned and scheduled and is their from opening to closing.
Me, I love them all. I can’t wait for my Fridays to come. Meeting the people and never knowing what is going to happen makes being a docent a very special undertaking for me.
I hope that our visitor was able to find his “Ku.” I am sure it will sit in a place of honor as his visit was an honor for us.