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January 7, 2017

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Winter Solstice Celebration at PQ!

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager

Pacific Quest hosted our annual Winter Solstice celebration for our students and employees last month! We were able to hold it on the actual date of the Solstice – marking the shortest day of the year.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Celebrates Winter Solstice

Students preparing for the Winter Solstice celebration

““Solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol meaning “sun” and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing.”

The solstice holiday focuses on the natural cycles of life, connection to the land, and the winter harvest. Program Guides led students through themed land lessons and activities in camp leading up to the meal. The students choreographed and performed a “Mele Kalikimaka” hula dance, a live performance of the Lorax, and a guided meditation walk over to the imu where the meal was prepared. They ended the activities with a gratitude circle before sitting down to eat together.

Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Celebrates Winter Solstice

Preparing the imu, traditional underground oven

Sharing food, an important part of any celebration, is particularly meaningful during the solstice, as it represents faith in the return of the sun and the harvest. We prepared pork, turkey and tofu in our imu, a traditional Hawaiian underground oven.  To make our imu, we dug a hole in the ground and placed rocks and wood inside.  Then a fire was started, creating a bed of coals and heating up the rocks.  Next, banana leaves and other plant materials were placed in the pit, which created steam. The foods to be cooked were placed inside, and more plant materials got piled on top, followed by water soaked burlap sacks. Finally, everything was covered and weighted down with rocks and dirt to prevent steam from escaping. The food steamed in the imu for hours, until it was moist and tender. In addition, we used much of our own PQ harvest (especially our kabocha squash) as part of this meal.  We enjoyed a delicious feast and it was so beautiful and inspiring to see the students and guides take time to prepare for this celebration. Throughout the day I witnessed a wonderful balance of laughter and reverence!

December 14, 2016

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Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest

By:  Janna Pate, Academic Coordinator

Makahiki is a holiday season that marks the end and new beginning of the yearly farming cycle in Hawaii. It is similar in timing and purpose to Thanksgiving, Oktoberfest, and other harvest celebrations. At Pacific Quest, we celebrate Makahiki throughout the month of November.

Our celebrations culminate in a day of cultural lessons, including storytelling, games, crafts, chants, and dancing. At the end of it all, there is a Makahiki feast that we cook in a traditional Hawaiian imu, or underground oven.

Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

Hand painted garden sign

During the days that lead up to our culminating celebration, students at Pacific Quest turn their attentions to harvesting fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the garden. Some of this bounty goes toward our meal preparations for the Pacific Quest community, and some is donated to the local farmer’s market.  During Makahiki season, Pacific Quest students make a special effort to donate to the farmer’s market in abundance. Our donations may include handmade bundles of fresh herbs, greens, or flowers; seedlings and shoots from our nursery; hand-painted gourds and garden signs; hand-picked avocados and citrus fruits from our fruiting trees; a wide-array of organic vegetables; and more.

Traditionally, once tributes like these were collected from around the island, communities gathered to celebrate Makahiki with feasts and games. Both men and women and everyone from chiefs to commoners competed. Pacific Quest students celebrate in a similar way.  Throughout the month of November, we teach our students traditional Makahiki games. In ancient Hawaii, the main purpose of these games was to train warriors. As such, Makahiki games tend to focus on building strength, stamina, and agility. We focus on building those skills with our students as well by facilitating traditional Hawaiian games like ikaika (lifting of stones), moa pahe’e (sliding of wooden darts or, at Pacific Quest, lengths of bamboo), and foot races.

In addition to physical challenges, we also teach Makahiki games that challenge the mind. For example, we teach konane, or Hawaiian checkers. Traditionally, konane is played on a board with 64 playing pieces made of black lava stone and white coral. At Pacific Quest, we use black lava stone and red cinder from the paths of our gardens.

Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

Traditional Hawaiian craft-making, Lauhala weaving

We teach traditional Hawaiian craft-making as well. One such practice is lauhala weaving, or weaving with the leaves of the hala tree. Lauhala weaving has been a part of Hawaiian culture for thousands of years. In ancient times, weavers transformed hala leaves into everything from floor mats to pillows and sails. At Pacific Quest, we teach our students how to craft lauhala bracelets and headbands using hala leaves from the trees in our camps.

We are also lucky enough to have staff who are trained in hula dancing and traditional Hawaiian chanting and who graciously bring those lessons to our students with permission and well-wishes from their own kumus, or teachers. Hula and chanting go hand-in-hand, and both were a major part of Makahiki celebrations in ancient Hawaii, especially in the creation of ceremonial spaces. We use them to create ceremonial spaces at Pacific Quest as well.

In ancient Hawaii, it was a processional ceremony that marked the beginning of the Makahiki season. The chief carried a staff topped by a small carved figure and a crossbar supporting a white sheet of kapa, or cloth, around the island in a clockwise direction. Stopping at the boundary of each ahupua’a, or land division, the chief collected gifts and offerings from a stone ahu, or altar.

Hawaiian staff members from across multiple departments at Pacific Quest came together to create a replica of the traditional staff for students in the adolescent program to observe. This replica stood in the dining area where students brought offerings of food from their camps for the community to share. Some camps made organic salads and homemade dressings while others made honey-glazed carrots, stuffing, or mashed potatoes and gravy.

This year, we cooked kalua turkey and pork in the imu at Pacific Quest. For vegetarians, we also prepared a dish called tofu laulau, or tofu wrapped in taro leaf. And of course, there were also desserts: sweet potato haupia pie and kulolo, a sweet taro dish.

Here is a recipe that our logistics team uses for kulolo:

Kulolo (PQ Style)

Ingredients:
4 cups taro
12 oz honey
1 cup coco milk
8 pc ti leaf

Directions:
Grate taro until you have 4 cups.
Put taro in a ziploc bag. Mix in honey and coconut milk.
Line pan with ti leaf, leaving half of the leaf sticking out from the pan.
Add mixture to the pan on top of the ti leaf and flatten out.
Wrap the remainder of the leaf over the flattened kulolo mixture.
Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 1.5 hours.
Remove foil from tray and cook for another 30 minutes.

Yield 1 half pan

Makahiki Celebrations at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy

Poi pounding

In addition to this taro-based dessert dish, students in the adolescent program had the opportunity to experience poi, a taro paste that was the main staple of the ancient Hawaiian diet. The Hawaiian cultural liaison at Pacific Quest provided the community with traditional stone poi pounders, and students learned to pound the pa’i ‘ai, or freshly cooked taro, with short, quick strokes and little dabs of water to keep the poi paste moist. This can be a bit of a sticky process, but also a satisfying one, even for students who remain a bit skeptical about the flavor of poi. It’s hard not to enjoy this type of “work.”

Once all of the cultural activities conclude and the food is prepared, therapists at Pacific Quest set the tone for the culminating feast by holding a therapeutic group in each camp on gratitude. Gratitude is culturally significant to the Makahiki season, and, as our therapists teach, it is of great personal significance as well. Gratitude has been shown to improve physical and psychological health, promote healthy relationships, enhance empathy, reduce aggression, promote better sleep, improve self-esteem, and increase mental strength. Whatever our struggles in life, a daily dose of gratitude is surely a part of the cure.

And so, after students bring forward their food offerings and chant the Oli Mahalo, a Hawaiian gratitude chant, the feast at Pacific Quest begins, carrying our Makahiki celebrations to a joyful close. Traditionally, Makahiki begins and ends with the timing of the Makali’i, or Pleiades, in the night sky. At Pacific Quest, students can observe the Makali’i during their nightly meditations, though perhaps it is during the afternoon Makahiki feast when they have the brightest constellation of stars in their eyes.

July 2, 2015

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The Positive Impact of Family Dinners on Teens

School, work, after-school activities—the demands of modern-day life can easily decrease the time we spend together as a family. But sharing a meal with the entire family each evening is great for the mind, body and soul. Some busy parents may consider sitting down as a family for dinner a luxury but, many professionals consider family dinners the most natural form of family counseling. Touching base with your children nightly has been proven to have both a positive psychological and physical impact, and as a result should be made a true priority.

When asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents, dinner was the top answer among American teenagers. This time for open communication, paired with fresh and healthy foods, creates a winning recipe all parents should consider as food for thought.

Psychological Impact

Studies continue to prove—time and time again—that sitting down regularly for a family meal has immediate and long-lasting effects on youth as they navigate through the rocky waters of adolescence. Here are some quick facts:

  • Multiple studies connect regular family dinners with lowering multiple high-risk teen behaviors such as: binge drinking, smoking, drug use, problems at school, violence, eating disorders and sexual activity.
  • Regular family dinners have been associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in teens.
  • Victims of cyberbullying have been shown to recover more quickly if they participated in regular family dinners.
  • Adolescents who eat dinner with their parents often experience less stress and have better familial relationships.

Physical Benefits

In the fight against obesity, family dinners play a major role. Consider gauging your teen’s interest in growing and preparing healthy foods alongside you, and try to incorporate key nutritional education. Increasing participation in all aspects of family dinners will only serve to amplify these physical benefits listed below:

  • Children who regularly eat family dinners consume more fresh and healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, as well as micronutrients and key vitamins.
  • Teens who eat regular family meals grow into young adults who are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.
  • Adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are more likely to be in a normal weight range, have healthier dietary and eating patterns, and are also less likely to engage in disordered eating.

Making the Most of Family Meal Time

When considering implementing more family dinners, it is important to approach the situation from a positive place. There will always be excuses as to why you can’t make it happen. “There’s just not enough time in my day to cook a wholesome meal,” or “My family’s schedule is just too overwhelming” are valid sentiments, but they can be overcome and you can make dinner a household staple. The Family Dinner Project provides a free guide that includes simple healthy recipes, dinner activities and conversation starters to help you enjoy more quality time with your teen. They also host helpful parent groups where members can share their challenges and successes in a supportive environment.

At Pacific Quest, we know the importance of fresh and healthy foods, as well as a healthy familial unit. Our Wilderness Therapy program incorporates wellness plans unique to each and every student that outline specific components for overall health and wellness. All students go through the process of learning the basics of nutrition, and they even cook and prepare all of their own food from natural, organic ingredients. Meals at PQ provide a special time to converse and connect, while nourishing a healthy body. It is our belief that for adolescents and young adults to feel energized for optimal engagement in family counseling and other aspects of the therapeutic process, they must eat nutritious food. If you have questions about our approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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