Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pros and Cons

Because I don't have much time, this will be a scatter-brained, un-proofread post. :)

Something I like about Hawaii:
It is completely socially accepted to go without a bra.  Seriously, the only women I’ve seen wearing bras are tourists.  Everyone else goes au naturale or wears a bikini top underneath their dress/tank top.  It’s so freeing.  Though when I come back in January, I’m going to have to invest in some more swim suit cover-ups—the girls here live in them.  Church, shopping, around the house, wherever.  Also cute sundresses, shorts, and tank tops… I’ll be going on a shopping spree this November/December!   

Something I dislike about Hawaii:
First on the list, of course, are the Cane Spiders.  I told my friends at Bible Study last night how terrified I was of them, and they asked, “Have you been chased by one yet?  Has one jumped off the wall at you?  Have you woken up with one in your bed?”  I said no… they laughed at me and said I haven’t truly experienced Cane Spiders, then.  Blegh.  My employer (therapist?) suggested that the next time we see one in the house, we try “tap therapy.”  This consists of touching a spider lightly on its back to release fear in two phases: phase one is while the spider is still, phase two is while the spider is moving.  I don’t see myself trying that anytime soon.

The weather.  It’s perfect.  Not too hot… beautiful and sunny and warm… trade winds instead of air conditioning.

The time difference between here and home.

The lack of fat people (barring tourists.)  That sounds mean, but I have nothing against fat people—this point in my list is just to explain that everyone here takes really good care of their bodies.  Most people I’ve met are obsessed with eating organic, natural foods… hiking… kayaking… yoga… surfing… etc.  People who really tap into the beauty of Hawaii engage in lifestyles that pay high concern to physical and spiritual health. 

Being water-locked.  I try not to think about tidal waves and hurricanes and floods (water-related natural disasters terrify me), so it’s not that aspect of it that bothers me so much… it’s the fact that I can’t drive for hours and hours and hours without retracing my path.  I love road trips and exploring new cities... but there aren’t many man-made wonders to discover, here.  I wholly appreciate the natural beauty—but I also love the city.  Visiting NYC just before moving here reminded me of how much I enjoy the hustle-and-bustle of city life and the feeling of being alone in a crowd (one of my favorite feelings.)  I’ve been thinking this last week or so about moving here to Kauai—actually moving here, permanently.  Getting my own apartment, becoming more deeply involved with the church, buying a kayak or surfboard.  It would be wonderful to make a life for myself here, but it just seems much too… easy.  There really is nothing challenging about living here.  I think I need to fulfill my big-city craving before holing up on a remote island.  In any case, I’m jonesing for some serious travel… so I definitely want to hit up Europe within the next couple of years... maybe an African Safari, as well.  But for now, to fulfill my spatial needs, I’m definitely hoping for short road trip on the mainland when I come home!

Watching Lost at night.  Yeah, it’s not really something I love about Hawaii… but it’s a part of my Hawaiian experience, so I’m including in the list.  I usually manage to fit at least one episode in before bed… I just finished Season 2.  I’m completely addicted.  It’s because of my friends Jessamyn and Jeff that I’m watching the series… they gave high reviews and said that they were sad when they finished the series—it felt like they were saying goodbye to all their friends (the show’s characters.)  I laughed at them… but now, I totally understand.  There will be a big void in my fantasy world when I finish the series.  I should go slower and make it last… watch only an episode or two per week… but I just can’t help devouring them.

The cost of living.  Yeesh!

The spirituality.  Granted, most of it is steeped in new-age mindsets and practices, but it’s a welcomed break from the mid-west culture, where everyone gruffly declares to believe in God and go to church once in a while just because that’s what the “good people” do.  People here are so open-minded, and are in completely belief of an all-supreme, fearsome and loving higher power whom most call God.  They speak of the land almost as reverently as the Na’vi do in the movie Avatar (though not quite that seriously.)  It’s commonly thought that the Hawaiian mountains and oceans have a strong, healing energy similar to the vortexes in Sedona, Arizona or Roanoke (holla to my Dunesday crew!)  I’m not going to collect crystals or subscribe to astrology, but I may incorporate some of the natives’ meditative practices into my prayer habits.  They’re all missing the point of Jesus, of course, who is the crux of the Christian religion and is the only hope for deliverance from destruction and the meaninglessness of life… but really, so are a lot of the people who are trapped in the mid-west, where religion is just as taboo as one’s political beliefs.  The thing I respect about Hawaiian culture is that everyone is so open to talking about spirituality and religion—it’s as common as Ohioans talking about sports. 

Ants—they’re all over the house. I left toast crumbs on a plate in the sink for an afternoon, and that evening the entire double sink was swarming with tiny ants.  My employer had the house exterminated not too long ago, so I’m not sure how they find their way in.  Any opened food must be stored in the refrigerator.  I find myself having to go to the grocery store sometimes twice a week, just because I can’t buy too much at once.  Things like cereal and packaged crackers/chips take up a lot of room in the fridge.

The massive amounts of alone time.  My employer just returned from a 2-week trip to the mainland, so I had the mansion all to myself for that time.  (Didn’t want to mention that I was alone until after the fact.)  In another life I was a complete hermit… or maybe I will be later in this life, if I never get married.  But truthfully—I would be completely fine with that.  It seems that most writers require massive amounts of solitude.

The massive amounts of alone time.  In the last year or so, I’ve begun a quest to be more social… and living alone on an island where I barely know anyone doesn’t always make that easy.  The reason for my quest is this: by nature, I’m a complete introvert and love to be alone.  Even within my strongest relationships, I frequently desire space and emotional independence.  This is the root of one of my biggest flaws, which is that I often come across as distant or aloof.  Many of my relationships contain little emotional depth for this reason, and it’s something I’ve been compelled to work on.  So as much as I do love being alone in this beautiful mansion, it is refreshing to get out and forge connections with people—it keeps my mind alert and well-balanced. I usually have to force myself to interact with others… and when I go a few days without social interaction, I start to forget little things like how to make eye contact or small talk… so even just having my employer home to interact with makes a difference in my mental posture.

The legends.  The legend of the Night Marchers is one that even most Christians believe, here.  They are said to be ghosts that march to the beat of primitive drums; some are vengeful warriors.  So far, literally everyone I’ve talked to about them either claims to have seen them personally or know someone who has.  It’s interesting just to hear the language people use to describe them.  They don’t speak of them as mystical, ancient legends or as “possibly” existing… they speak about Night Marchers like they speak about cockroaches or spiders—something they’re fearful of and hate to encounter, but something that’s just a part of life in Hawaii that has to be dealt with.  No one I’ve met, not even Christians, question the existence of the Night Marchers or are even apologetic of how “out there” their beliefs sound.  The debates I’ve heard between natives don’t consist of whether or not they really exist, but of where they’re encountered the most often and of whether or not they have the power to actually harm you.  Even the other legends I’ve heard aren’t told to me in terms like, “It’s been said that,” or “as the story goes,” but as historical facts.            


Quick update on my life the past couple days:
I’ve pretty much been working all day every day since the beginning of the week.  The first two weeks I was here I worked like a maniac, and then while my employer was gone it was nice to have a more leisurely two weeks of working/playing when I wanted.  It’s back to working like a maniac for the next few days—but that’s ok. :)  The work I’m doing is more interesting than a lot of non-work… I plan to write a book about it in the near future.  Maybe several books.  It's that good.   

Anyway, I picked up my employer at the airport on Tuesday and took him directly to a business dinner in Kapaa, which gave me a few hours to explore the little town while he was busy.  Most of the shops closed between 6:00 and 7:00, but it was still charming to walk the touristy streets.  I’m going to have to revisit during the day sometime—there are all sorts of cute shops, boutiques, bakeries, and small art galleries.  I popped into one gallery just before they closed and had a nice chat with the owner and his wife.  They publish a quarterly magazine detailing the history of Kauai; they gave me their card and told me to call if I’m ever looking for freelance assignments.  Really, when am I not looking for freelance assignments?  Perhaps when I return in January I’ll hook up with them for some projects. 

I had dinner at the Olympic CafĂ©, which was recommended to me by the young couple I met on the plane.  To splurge, I ordered the most expensive dish on the menu: Macadamia Papaya Ono.  It was a mild white fish smothered in chopped macadamia nuts, cubed papaya, and thick, rich papaya sauce.  Side dishes: creamy garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli/carrots.  It was delicious.  The atmosphere was nice too.  The restaurant wasn’t very busy, but it’s located on the second floor of a row of shops and is all open-air.  I sat at a table over-looking the quaint street, and it was the perfect combination of ocean breeze and streetlights and wafting laughter from the other restaurant guests.  I should have been lonely, but somehow, I wasn’t. 

So that has been my life for the past few days.  Now that my employer is home, I won’t have quite as much time for adventures and blogging, but I’ll make sure to squeeze in time for both now and then. :)

Oh, and a quick thanks to my parents, who sent me a big box of Halloween candy and random other non-perishables.  We do celebrate Halloween on the island, but it’s not the same without fall leaves, cool weather, pumpkins, corn mazes, haunted houses, campfires… I’m getting nostalgic.  I’ll be looking forward to coming home for the holidays—in less than a month!  Love and miss you all. :)   

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Turtle Cave and Queen's Bath

Today was another great day of adventures. :)

Church was good—sat with a new friend, Shikinah (Ryan’s wife.)  Lunch was delicious… there aren’t always meat dishes at the church potlucks, but today there were chicken enchiladas and some sort of delicious white meat marinated in some sort of delicious brown sauce.  Sat around talking with friends while I finished lunch (pumpkin pie for dessert!), and got invited to go to Turtle Cave with all the YWAM-ers (a group of people my age who are going through a Discipleship Training School: 3 months of Bible training, 3 months of overseas mission work) and a few other people.   

I went home and changed, then met them back at the church, where we all piled into their 12-passenger van and pick-up truck.  We drove to Princeville and parked, then hiked to Turtle Cave.  Getting there was… tricky.  There’s no beach leading to the cave—only cliffs and rocks and wild crashing waves.  It took a while for us to maneuver across all the rocks because we had to be so careful and watch our footing.  One slip would have landed us in the raging, rocky ocean below.  So we scaled the cliff-side until we came to a little cove with the cave, then we climbed down the rocks and slithered into the bay—which was quite calm compared to the ocean just beyond the perimeters of the cove.  We swam the short distance of the bay and emerged in the pitch-blackness of Turtle Cave. 

The first half of the cave was submerged in about a foot of ocean water, but there was plenty of space to move around without feeling claustrophobic.  Seeing where we were going, however, was a different matter.  All ten of us (two stayed behind on the cliff) grabbed onto each other and made our way through the cave, searching for sea turtles as our eyes adjusted to the blackness.  Finally, Sam (a German raised in India—his accent is quite interesting) spotted one and tried to show it to us, but the rest of us were blind to it.  He kept pointing and saying, “Seriously guys, it’s RIGHT in front of your eyes!”  Eventually we could make out a huge boulder, but still couldn’t see the turtle.  Sam was about to give up on us all when we finally realized that the “boulder” was actually the turtle.  This thing was massive—like the size of a yoga ball… a turtle-shaped yoga ball.  We had fun poking and prodding it (which we weren’t supposed to be doing… it’s illegal or something), then found another turtle over in the corner, which was slightly bigger than the first. 

We walked the length of the cave, which was only about 20 yards, and came out on the other side of the cove into a second bay, where we splashed around for a bit.  Then we walked back through the cave and, instead of rock-climbing back the way we’d come, swam the length of the cliff into a rocky bay that was closer to where we’d parked the car.  My arms were exhausted—but it was so invigorating, especially with the slight thrill of danger.  With no beaches, if you lose control and let the waves take you, you’ll either be swept out to sea by undercurrents or smashed against the rocks.  It really wasn’t that dangerous (chill out, mom)… I’m evidently exaggerating the roughness of the waters, because no one else was phased by thoughts of death and destruction.  Still, we wouldn’t have tried to make the swim if the waters had been much rougher than they were… and that swim doesn’t even compare to what we did next.    

Since the Turtle Cave adventure only took about an hour, we piled back in the van/pickup and made the short drive to Queen’s Bath for some cliff-jumping. :)  I’m tempted not to even try to describe how incredible this place was—neither I nor the pictures will do it justice.  But I’ll try anyway. 

Queen’s Bath also has no beaches.  Just rocks, cliffs, rocks, breaking waves, and rocks.  There were all different tiers and levels of rocky cliffs, and in the lowest sections the waves would come up over the rock edges and swirl into deep pools.  Think of the pools as giant craters filled with crystal clear water… and time after time humungous waves crash over the sides and turn the pool into a churning, frothy mess.  A churning, frothy mess of fun, that is.  This is where we did our cliff-jumping.  All of the boys (who had been there many times) immediately dove in from the highest ledge, which wasn’t really that high—about 12 feet.  Most of the girls climbed down the rocks into the pool, but a few of us took the leap off of the shorter, 6-foot ledge.  Let me tell you... it’s one thing to jump off a 6-foot high diving board into a swimming pool at the YMCA.  It’s another thing altogether to jump off a 6-foot cliff into churning ocean waters, making sure to clear the rocks below, tuck in your legs so you don’t hit bottom, and simultaneously hold up your swimsuit bottoms with one hand and hold down your swimsuit top with the other.  Whoever invented bikinis certainly didn’t have water sports in mind. 

Here's a picture of the pool into which we jumped: 

Ben had to think about the jump for a few minutes... 

He decided to go for it. :)

The jump in was glorious.  And as soon as I surfaced and swam around the pool a bit, any fear I had was gone.  Aside from the times a wave would come in over the sides, the pool was calm, clear, and completely natural.  Once we got used to the intermittent waves, we would sit on the ocean side of the pool, half in the water and half on the slimy rocks, and wait for a huge wave to slide us off the ledge, crash over our heads, and push us to the center of the pool.  It was sort of like a rugged roller-coaster ride that resulted in at least one skinned toe/elbow/knee per person—good thing there were no sharks in the pool.

I eventually did jump off the 12-foot cliff into the pool, with only a moment’s hesitation at the edge.  After we’d all had our fill of jumping, we lounged about on the top of the ocean-side ledge, in a spot where the waves weren’t coming in, and watched a group of locals performing all sorts of flips and dives off of the cliffs.  One boy (about 14 years old) forgot to tuck his legs and climbed back out of the pool with a gash on his foot that gushed bright red blood all over the rocks—we could see it from across the pool.  But it didn’t seem to bother him at all… he went right on jumping. 

As we were all sunning ourselves on the rocks, a monster wave managed to cross the ledge where we were, tossed all of us into the pool, and carried us clear to the other side.  One second we were dry on the rocks, and the next second we were coming up for air on the other side of the pool and looking at each other like, “How did we get here?”  Perhaps you had to be there, but the expressions on all of our faces were hilarious and we had a good laugh about it.  Soon after that, we left the pool and made our way back across the rocks. 

But we made one more stop before getting back to the car.  At the very beginning of the rock cliffs is a popular 25-foot jump that ends directly in the swarming ocean—no pool to protect you from the current.  When we passed this jump on the way to the pool where we spent most of our time (which they called the Kiddie Pool), the guys all contemplated making the treacherous jump, but decided that the ocean was much too rough today.  On the way back, they were feeling a bit more daring.  Here is the cliff:

Here are Travis, Josh, Raquel, and girl-whose-name-I-can't-remember (left to right) assessing the situation.  (Yes, Raquel is wearing a romper... she's the only person I've ever seen who's been able to pull it off.) 

And again, Travis, Raquel, Ben, Josh, and Sam (left to right) trying to decide if it's safe... 

... and if they could do it without hitting the sea turtle.

Ben and Sam argued over where would be the best place to land.  

And then, one by one, they gathered their courage, waited for a wave, and leapt into the turbulent sea below.  When they submerged, they had to fight their way through sea foam and undercurrents to the edge of the rocks, wait for a wave to sweep them on top of the rocks, and find something to grab hold of to prevent them from being swept back out to sea.  I think I may be speaking with unnecessary dramaticism, because none of this seemed quite as impressive and daredevilish to them as it did to me.  But I was impressed!   




Aaaaand I’ve hit the wall with writing for tonight.  That’s all I’ve got in me.  All I want to do now is settle in for an episode or two of Lost.  (When we had finally crawled onto land after our swim out of Turtle Cave, the boys made quite the show out of weeping for our crashed plane, agonizing over how anyone would find us when we’d been flying miles off course, rejoicing over the fact that Josh just happened to be a doctor, and renaming Ben “Hurley.”)

All in all, it was another great day in paradise. :)  Love you all! 

Tonight you don't get a blog... you get a personal essay.

I’m full of rainbows and happy thoughts tonight, which is completely unlike me. 

Well.  Not completely.  I consider love to be the root of all goodness and possess an extraordinarily high level of unconditional contentment (despite my gravitation toward artistic darkness and angst… not in an emo way; in a “beauty in brokenness” way.)

So.  I’m a loving and content person.  When I say that it’s unlike me to be full of rainbows, what I mean is that sappiness and overly tender displays of emotion make me want to gag.  Blegh.  For example, I consider romantic comedies to be unpleasant… Hallmark movies, torturous.  My roommate Heidi and I often have conversations complaining about the uncomfortable nature of romantic gestures.  Receiving bouquets of flowers, being serenaded with love songs, and googly-eyed PDA make us cringe. 

But somehow, Heidi and I both get choked up at the key change of Taylor Swift’s “Love Song,” a song I thoroughly despise.  Another example of my inconsistency: although I have relatively little patience for sappy displays between humans, I have unmitigated compassion for animals.  Present me with any movie/book/story about pets and I’ll be blubbering at the five-minute mark—ten seconds if its one of those animal shelter commercials flashing clips of Trooper the Three-Legged Dog who was abandoned in a gutter and needs a family.  Tear-jerkers, those ones.

So.  I’m a loving and content person who hates sappiness, hates overly tender displays of emotion, and finds herself steeped in paradoxical mindsets.  Remember this.


There were 19 people at the church service I attended tonight, including the band, which was a husband and prego-wife duo—guitar and vocals only, old-school summer camp style.  Going into the service, I only knew three people—the preacher Ryan (the one from Bible Study—my age), a 22-ish boy named Travis, and his slightly younger sister (What is her name??  It contains a double consonant, I believe... something super girly… starts with an H?  Not Hillary… not Hannah... I’ll think of it.) They are an interesting pair, Travis and his sister.  They used to be missionaries in Kenya, and they give off the stereotypical wholesome, conservative, soft-spoken missionary children vibe.  Their personalities are thoughtful and reserved.  They speak of the Holy Spirit leading them, would never cuss or drink, and probably listen to only Christian music.  They are very… good.  And they have some ridiculous stories. 

Story #1:  Because Travis and his family weren’t native Kenyans, the locals assumed (incorrectly) that they were wealthy.  One night, Travis was alone in the kitchen when a burglar broke down the door and stood facing him, holding a gun at his side.  Travis’ first instinct was to tackle the intruder and hold him down until his father and brother could arrive to help—but something stopped him.  Seconds later, three more burglars burst through the door, dragging along Travis’ father and two brothers, holding guns to their heads.  Travis, his father, and both brothers were beaten while his mother and sister hid under the bed.  Eventually, the burglars realized that the family had nothing valuable to steal, so they raided their kitchen cupboards for food.  One burglar was so high that he tried to eat a candy bar with the wrapper still on.  The burglars left the family alive—maimed, but alive.      

Story #2:  While hiking in the woods near their home, Travis’ family became alarmed by herds of wildlife running in the opposite direction.  It wasn’t long before they could smell smoke, so they rushed back to their house, where they could see a plume of black smoke erupting from the woods where they’d been hiking.  Soon, the wildfire was raging toward their house and engulfing the neighbors’ houses in flames.  At the last second, Travis’ father was struck with the idea to pour a ring of gasoline around their house and light it on fire.  When the wildfire reached the fire ring, it obeyed the boundary and circled around the house, leaving it untouched.      

Story #3:  During a time of political upheaval, their city experienced weeks-long riots and bloody shooting sprees.  It was too dangerous for Travis’ family to leave the house even to pick up their van, which was in the body shop across the street.  The body shop was a target for attempted bombings because of the shop owner’s political leanings. At the time, the van was the only material possession of value that the family owned.  The shop owner bribed the police to protect his shop, and their van was safe. 


Confession: for a few years now, I’ve been resentful of Christians.  Ironic… I am one.

Somewhere between the time I entered college and the time I received my diploma, I became intolerant of legalistic, generalized beliefs like “swearing is a sin,” “alcohol is evil,” and “Obama is the antichrist” (seriously? How did that one get off the ground?).  I got fired up just thinking about the popular “Christian” responses to social issues like homosexual marriage, abortion, and the American Dream.  I’ve come close to flipping off the protesters waving signs outside of Planned Parenthood, but settled for glaring and shaking my head.  I’ve prepared extensive, well-researched arguments for all of my seemingly unconventional (in the Christian subculture) stances.  But the last thing I want is for this blog to become a soapbox—that’s not why I created it. 

Actually, that’s only partially true.  I do want a soapbox.  But I don’t think that would be such a good idea.  I’m learning that the passion I have for my opinions is not born of a loving concern for the world and people around me, but out of bitterness.  I’m not sure what has caused me to become so defiant toward my fellow Christians, but what I do know is that my intolerance has morphed into disrespect, and I have become no better than the rest. 

So.  I’m a supposedly loving and content person who judges others for being judgmental and scornfully resents her own religion.  Do I hence resent myself? 

Yes, and scornfully.


In Hawaii, it is common to see cars abandoned on the side of the road, overgrown with bushes.  When people move to the mainland and don’t have the time to sell their car or the money to ship it by boat, they leave it behind.  Where they’re going, they can’t take it with them.

Tonight’s church service was held in a tent.  The breeze swept in through the open sides and the frogs chirped melodies in the background as Ryan gave an academic lecture on the parables in Matthew 13.  Afterward, we stood around in clusters, sipping homemade iced mochas and swapping stories as if we’d all known each other our whole lives.  As if we were all family. 

Being here is… good.  It’s mild hippie love.  It’s Christian love.    

When I first met Travis and his sister, I thought they were the poster children for everything I usually resent about Christianity (minus the “Obama is antichrist” belief.)   And then I heard their stories.  And then I got to know them.  And then I began to love them. 

We all have stories.  We all have moments of rainbows and happy thoughts.  We are all steeped in paradoxical mindsets.  We all do the best that we can, and perhaps we are all… good. Resentment is expensive, and bitterness is a heavy load to carry.  Where I want to go—where I am going—I can’t take them with me.   

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kayaking and Secret Falls

I went kayaking today, and my arms are so sore that I cringe just lifting them to type.  I realize that makes me a pansy… but it is what it is.  But, as with the hiking on Tuesday, despite all of the excruciating torture I’ve put my muscles through today… it was so worth it. 

I signed up for a kayaking waterfall tour of Wailua river that left this morning.  There were seven kayaks on my tour, and other than the tour guide (a girl about my size), I was the only single paddler.  Everyone else had signed up in groups of two, which meant they got double-seated kayaks, and double the man-power to paddle it.  But I didn’t mind being on my own, and after the first fifteen minutes of “I can’t paddle another stroke without my arms falling off,” a nice icy burn manifested itself in my torso and upper limbs, and it was a good kind of pain from there on out.  

Wailua River is beautiful.  The first two miles we kayaked were calm except for the occasional motorboat, pontoon tour, or paddleboarder.  The sun was beaming down, so the drips of water from the paddle were refreshing.  Even though I had to work hard to keep up with all the other canoes in our tour (I never fell to the back), it was relaxing to glide along the river and marvel at all of the jungle trees and bushes slinking into the water from the banks.  For the last half-mile, we turned down a narrow, winding tributary that looked like it was right out of the Amazon.  There were overgrown vines and roots on either side of the kayaks, tree limbs just above heads, and an eerie, arresting stillness to the water.  At one point we had to maneuver our kayaks through a tiny tunnel of tree branches, and when we came out on the other side there was a stony bank where we grounded our kayaks, tugged our backpacks out of our dry-bags, and set out on a mile-long hike. 

Compared to the Hanakapi’ai trail, this hike was a walk in the woods—literally.  There was still a “rainforest” feel to it, but this area of jungle was much less lush and dense than some of the other areas I’ve hiked through.  Still, there were some rather entertaining oriental women on the tour who thought it was a very intense and scary hike.  There was one woman who talked nonstop, but oddly enough she wasn’t annoying.  Her personality (and looks) were almost identical to Kelly from The Office.  Aside from one other couple who looked like they were in their twenties, I was the only person under 45 on the tour.  But it was still enjoyable to get to know everyone.  On the van ride from the tour meeting place to the river, I had a nice chat with a couple in their fifties—they were on their honeymoon.  By the time we’d paddled a mile, they had excitedly shared with everyone that the girl kayaking by herself had just moved here and was named Laura, so for the rest of the tour everyone called me by my first name and was very friendly. 

Here are some random shots of the scenery during the hike (sometime soon I’ll get some shots of the tropical jungle landscape.)  Check out the bowing trees and the roots all over the forest floor.  It’s kind of hard to tell, but the second shot in is a picture of the river on which we’d been kayaking.  The last picture is of a vine that wrapped itself around a tree branch.  During one of the tours six months ago, a guy climbed that vine (despite his guide’s requests not to), fell off onto his mother-in-law, and ran into the jungle having a panic attack likely spurred by concussion.  His mother-in-law’s leg was broken in two places, and he was found dead six days later.  The locals interpreted this as a spiritual/mystical occurrence and now no one will climb the vine.     

When we got to Secret Falls, everyone ate their packed lunches (mine: peanut-butter sandwich, salt and vinegar chips, starfruit) and took a dip in the swimming hole beneath the waterfall.  It’s difficult to see the waterfall in the pictures—it was a light, misty waterfall.  But it still felt powerful standing directly beneath it.  Here are some pictures.  The last one was taken by the couple I met in the van—I don’t know what setting he had the camera on, but it turned out interesting... the only indication of the water pouring down on my head are the iridescent blue splash-dots in a horizontal line at my knees.

I was planning to go to a beach cookout tonight, but in my way home from kayaking, my employer called with a list of 230498350824 things for me to do.  That’s ok… the cookout is weekly (it’s a church thing), so I’ll just make sure I get there next week. :)

I always feel so awkward ending a blog.  By the time I get done writing, I’m too tired to write an effective conclusion.  So tonight, I’ll leave you all with a picture of a sign I saw on my drive back from kayaking… it reminded me of home.  Aloha! :)  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Farmer's Market

I spent most of the day working today, but I took a short break this afternoon to run a few errands in town.  The town I live in (Kilauea) is roughly the size of Damascus, for those of you back home.  There are more stores, even a restaurant and an ice cream shoppe, but they’re all congregated in one quaint little cluster. 

On my way out, I snapped a picture of the rainclouds passing over the mountains.  It’s been muggy and threatening rain all day, but the skies haven’t yet opened up.  I’m hoping for sun tomorrow—I have a kayak waterfall tour scheduled and a bonfire in the evening.

Then I stopped at a cute little thrift shop, which consisted of rows and rows of books, a few racks of clothing, and household odds and ends.  Good thing I can’t take much home with me on the plane… the space constraint is breaking me of my literature habit.  Purchasing literature in and of itself isn’t a bad habit… but back home, I have too many books to fit in my two bookcases, and I’ve read less than half of them.  I managed to reign myself in by not even scanning the book titles, and bought only a lightweight drawstring backpack for seventy-five cents.    

Then I stopped at the Sunshine Market, which is a farmer’s market held in Kilauea on Thursdays at 4:30.  The market was packed—it was hard to find a parking spot with cars lining the streets and filling all the little gravel parking lots.  The market is held in one such parking lot, and consists of a horseshoe-shaped ring of tents and tables set up by local farmers, all selling fresh tropical fruits and a few veggies.  For ten dollars I bought three cherimoyas, a mango (I haven’t had any mangoes since moving here—I’m so excited!), and two starfruit (the last photo explains how they get their name.)  The market is a fun mix of locals and tourists… but I felt like a local because I was executing my knowledge (thanks to my Fruit Farming Friend) of how to feel all the different fruits for ripeness.  Next time I’ll get a fresh pineapple. :)

 Something completely unrelated that I've been meaning to mention: I think the toads here are all on steroids.  I've seen some that I would need two hands to pick up!  They're EVERYWHERE at night... when I come home and pull into the driveway, I usually count approximately ten just in the beam of my headlights, and I usually have to manually move a couple from the path of my car so I don't squash them.  Most people just squash them.  There are dozens of pancake toads on the driveways and roads.  But I have an affection for toads... they remind me of grade school when my cousin (shout-out to Jessamyn!) and I used to catch them, house them in my turtle-shaped sandbox, and teach them "tricks" like how to hop on a leash or crawl on our pant legs.  We took our most well-behaved toads (Nightingale was mine, Kevin was hers) to Sunday school for show-and-tell, and I still have a fully illustrated storybook I wrote logging all the names and discovery places of the toads we found.  

Anyway, I'll take a picture next time I see a particularly gigantic toad.  

Until then, aloha. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday (I'll start coming up with better titles, I swear...)

Today was a productive day of work; tonight was an enriching night of fellowship.

I’ve really been thankful for the friends I’ve made on the island.  I had planned on just sticking to myself for the first month and a half that I’m here—working, writing, engaging in self-discovery.  But the opportunity for companionship has presented itself more frequently than I expected, and for once in my life, I’m pushing against my antisocial nature and exploring this foreign land of Making Friends After College.  It's not half bad.     

Bible Study was great tonight—better than last week.  There was nothing wrong with it last week… but the discussion seemed deeper and more fruitful tonight.  And actually, I should clarify… there’s not much discussion to speak of… it’s mostly a question-answer format, and any extensive teaching is done by Ryan, the leader of the Bible Study (who is also a  young pastor on staff at North Shore, my church here.)  I really respect Ryan as a teacher… he’s completed a lot of Bible education and has a real gift for communicating truths.  He preaches at the Saturday night service, so I think I’m going to go to that this week.  We (the whole congregation) are studying Psalm 51 this week, discussing the different connotations of “sin,” “transgression,” and “iniquity.”  I studied all these subtle nuances in college, but it’s healthy to be reminded of them once in a while—and after being spoiled by such an enriching, intellectual Bible Study group back home (shout out to ya’ll!), it’s nice to be blessed with the same mental and spiritual exercise here in Hawaii.

Anyway, Bible Study was good… and we all sat around for a while eating pumpkin pie (provided by Ryan’s wife) and drinking hot, spiced apple cider (provided by Sage, who opens her home to us every week for Bible Study.)  Afterward, I stopped at the Princeville Foodland (close to Sage’s house) for a few groceries and ran into my friend Melia who had also just left Bible Study.  We shopped together and I gave her a ride home so she didn’t have to hitchhike.  Melia’s best friend Cassie (whom I’m also friends with) just left yesterday for a 6-week trip to the mainland, which is rather dramatic for Melia considering that her and Cassie spend every waking moment together.  So it was nice timing that Melia and I ran into each other… we talked for a while and made plans to go to the beach sometime soon. 

And that was my day. :)

Oh, and a side note… I really miss my cat today.  She’s made cameos in my dreams the last few nights (side note during the side note… I’ve been having CRAZY dreams while I’ve been living here… I’m known for having crazy, epic, blockbuster dreams anyway, but I seem to remember them more frequently now that I wake up with the sun and don’t have an alarm clock interrupting my REM cycles…), and then this morning, I pulled out a freshly-laundered tank top, and low and behold, there was a long, orange cat hair stuck to the hem.  Huh.  No clue how that got there, but it made me miss Peaches!  So until I get to go home and cuddle with her (if she’s in the mood), here are some pictures of her that I’ll share.  Aloha! :)  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hanakapi'ai Hike

I won’t be able to move tomorrow.  I can barely move now, and it’s only a few hours since my 8 mile, all-day hike.  To be honest, if I had known in advance how strenuous and difficult the Hanakapi’ai Hike was going to be, I might not have tried it.  So I’m glad I didn’t know. 

Early this morning, my friend Dylan (the one who works on a fruit farm) and I made the 40-minute drive up Highway 56 (a 2-lane road that they call it a highway…) to the Hanakapi'ai trailhead.  Highway 56 ends at Ke’e Beach, and the last mile or so of road is lined with parking lots both for hikers and beach-goers.  The lots were packed by the time we got there, but we found a spot about half a mile down the road from the beach.  On the half-mile hike to the trailhead, we came across a cave surrounded by a mystical pool of water.  My camera lens wasn’t wide enough to capture it, but this cave and pool were in the very back corner of a larger cave that was carved out of the side of the mountain we were walking along.

We came to the trailhead and began our adventure. :)  The trail started out rocky—not with big boulders, but with smaller rocks about the size of a coconut.  It was difficult to get your footing and stay balanced in spots, but eventually we made it up the slope and came to an easier trail of dirt and strewn with tree roots.  (Remember the intricate webs of tree roots in the pictures I posted?  We had to climb over a lot of those.)  The first two miles of the trail stayed on the outer edge of the mountain and provided beautiful views of the Na Pali Coast. 

At one clearing there was a group of people gathered, all watching a spectacular acrobatics show from a school of dolphins in the bay below.  They were so far below us that it was hard to make out specifics, but what we could see was that every few seconds, a dolphin would flip completely out of the water and land with a large splash.  I got a couple shots of the splashes... and one photograph that might be of a dolphin’s head—if you use your imagination. 

As we got closer to the beach, we saw signs warning hikers and swimmers of frequent high waves and strong currents… but by that point, after hiking through terrain that was fraught with rocks, roots, and hills, we were ready to take a dip no matter what the conditions!  But luckily, after carefully crossing the river (which had quite a flow) boulder-by-boulder, we made it to the beach to find the water calm and filled with swimmers.

We took off our shoes, ran across the hot sand (the soles of my feet literally felt like they were boiling), put our stuff in a pile under the shade of a tall crevice in the mountain, and dove into the crystal-clear ocean.  “Refreshing” isn’t a strong enough word to describe the feeling of floating over the swells and diving into the occasional wave.  We basked in the water for a while, then headed to shore to eat our lunch.  I had brought peanut-butter sandwiches, and he had brought fresh avocados.  Dylan insisted that peanut-butter/avocado sandwiches are a delicacy, so we ripped the avocados open with our bare hands and squeezed the fruit onto our sandwiches.  I don’t know that I would label it a delicacy, but it was definitely delicious and filling.  We laid on the beach for a few more minutes, then decided that we better finish the hike to the waterfall (two miles further inland) if we wanted to get back to the car by dusk.  On the way back to the trail we passed this pool of water left from when the tide comes in.  It's hard to tell, but those black blobs that look like seaweed are actually hundreds of tadpoles!  


And so began the treacherous journey to the falls.  Unlike the first two miles of the trail, the second two miles cut directly inland, through the jungle.  This second trail made the first seem laughable.  At times we had to pull ourselves up the inclines by tree roots and branches.  The trail crossed back and forth over the river three or four times, and each crossing the current grew stronger and the boulders further apart and more slippery.  There were parts of the trail covered in mud and slippery rocks, and we had to stay close to the side and hang on to tree trunks for balance.  We scaled 80 degree inclines of solid rock, tripped down dusty declines, and ate lots of wild guava.  Except for the few times the trail followed the riverbank, the jungle surrounded us on all sides—lush foliage, mammoth Chinese Banyan trees, and thick vines.  I wish I’d had time for photography, but we were too concerned with getting the falls in time to enjoy it and make the 4-mile return trip all before it began to get dark.  Just picture any scene from Lost or Jurassic Park and you’ll feel like you were there with me.      

But I really wasn’t sure we were going to make it to the falls.  My legs were shaking from muscle exertion, and after spending an hour in the sun on the hot beach, I was drained.  Dylan was feeling the same exhaustion, but we pushed through without stopping to rest… and what a reward we got.  When we got to the clearing, climbed across a field of boulders, and finally set our packs down to take our first real look at the waterfall, I thought, “It’s so skinny!”  Compared to the impressive width of the Kilauea River Falls that I hiked to last Thursday, this waterfall seemed so narrow.  But what it lacked in width, it made up for in height.  The Hanakapi’ai waterfall cascades down an impressive 400-foot cliff and empties into a circular, ice-cold swimming hole.  I couldn’t capture the entire falls in one photograph, but here are some shots of the waterfall and pool. 

Almost immediately, we put our stuff in a pile and climbed into the pool, which like the pool on Thursday, was surrounded with slimy rocks on the edges.  But once we were in a few feet deep, the pool deepened and we could swim freely without touching.  The water was freezing.  But once we were in, it only took a minute to get used to the temperature, and we swam the length of the pool and through the rushing falls (which looked SO much bigger and wider from directly below!).  Behind the waterfall there were slimy rocks just deep enough for us to sit comfortably on and still be in the water.  A group of people followed us and swam through the falls one by one, cheering each other on, and joined us on the rocks.  We had a nice chat with a few of them.  They were all tourists except for one native girl (who had brought all her friends to the falls)… she told us that she was born and raised on Kauai (looked to be about my age), but that this was the first time she’d successfully completed the Kanakapi’ai Hike.  She’d tried before and failed, but this time she’s brought her friends from the mainland with her and was determined not to give up.  Good for her. :)

We swam back to shore and ate our last remaining guacamole.  Then we climbed the last hundred feet of the trail up a cliff to a little cove in the side of the mountain, and got a couple shots of the waterfall/swimming hole from there.  In a couple of them you can see how tiny the people look next to the falls.  Even though it was a thin waterfall, it was still majestic and impressive!  It does get wider in the winter, when there’s a lot more rainfall. 

Completely rejuvenated by our swim and short rest, we hiked the next 4 miles back, only stopping twice for less that two minutes each time.  We were relieved to find that we had misestimated our pace and would have plenty of time to return before sundown.  We stopped for a few pictures of a bamboo thicket.  The thicket was just like those from Lost, where the characters find refuge from the monster when it chases them.  I climbed inside—you can’t tell, but in the last picture I shimmied up the bamboo and was a few feet off the ground.  Right after the picture I put my hand in a spider web and let go without thinking… I made it back to the ground pretty quickly. ;)

During one of our 2-minute breaks on the last leg of the hike, a man and his wife caught up with us, the man nearly crawling from exhaustion.  Almost begging, he asked if we had any water to spare, said that they “grossly underestimated” the hike.  We’d had plenty to drink throughout the day and were only a mile away from our car, where we had more… so we gave them the rest of the water we were carrying.  They were so grateful—but how could we have said no?!  The man looked like he was going to either pass out or have a heart attack.  I cannot possibly imagine completing that hike if I weren’t young and spry.  Still, we saw several people in their sixties, and even one man who was carrying his baby in a pack strapped to his back.  I can’t imagine trying to cross the river with something as fragile as an infant on my torso!  I don’t know how he did it. 

We stopped at the clearing where we’d seen the dolphins earlier and snapped another shot of the Na Pali Coast…

… and hiked the mile back to Ke’e Beach, where we once again cooled off, got refreshed, and admired the rainforest mountains that were now behind us.  

On the walk back to the car, we passed a young couple decked out in proper hiking attire: boots, shorts, hats, backpacks, metal walking sticks.  (Dylan was wearing just his swim trunks and a tiny backpack; I was wearing my swimsuit and a cover-up, carrying only my camera case and a towel.)  We all recognized each other—they had been not far behind us during most of the hike.  They told us that they were avid hikers, but that after today’s journey, they’d need an entire day’s rest to recover.  I’m not an avid hiker.  Right now I feel like I could need a week. 

The only other thing worth noting is that we picked up a hitchhiker on the way home (they’re everywhere here)—a teenager girl who wasn’t very chatty, but was pleasant enough.  As soon as I got home, I took a shower and just laid on my bed for a good half hour.  I wanted to get some work done tonight, but there won’t be any time once I’m done posting this entry.  I suppose I’ll have to work long hours tomorrow and Thursday to make up for my adventures (Friday I’m going on a waterfall kayak tour)… but it’s beyond worth it.  :) 

To end with, I’ll just make it clear for all of you who are wondering (I’m sure there’s more than a few of you)… Dylan is a great guy, but just a friend, and that’s the way it will remain. ;)  It’s just nice—for both him and me—to have someone else on the island who’s in a similar situation (moved here recently for a job, staying a couple months, gets mildly homesick off-and-on, wants to explore the island with a companion). 

And on that note… goodnight everyone. :)