The earth, the food, and the stars
Trip Start Apr 15, 2008
10Trip End May 17, 2008
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And the effects of volcanic activity are everywhere. Expansive lava fields from previous flows...in the early 90s, the field oozed over an entire community, taking with it roads and homes....people are just beginning to rebuild on this lava land....it looks odd to see a spare home now and then on a broad field of lava....people had to get the land resurveyed to find their parcel as all evidence of their previous lives there had been eradicated by Pele.
Well I just found another good reason to love Hawaii...I'm talking on the phone with a friend who lived in Hawaii for a long time and she tells me to go down to the local KTA, the food store, and buy myself some poke, and some bread....so of course, knowing that she's going to lead me in exactly the right direction, I go immediately to the KTA and do just as she says. Now, poke is raw fish, in this case marlin, that can be spiced in a variety of ways and it's so tender that your teeth go right through it....it's cheap, it's clean, and it's beyond tasty....and so now I'm sitting outside the KTA and dining on mouth-watering poke, fresh tomatoes, sticky rice cake and even some succulent shrimp.
It's two days later and I'm craving more of that poke. So I pick up my meal at the market and head to the north shore beaches and sit and eat. And I see whales flipping around in the water...spouting, and moms and babies playing just offshore. What a treat!! And then I meet this friendly family of many that is picnicking nearby...actually so far all my interactions with Hawaiians have been very positive...people seem always ready to send a smile and an Aloha in your direction. Aloha means a lot of things...not just hello. It's a signal of welcome, of love, of openness, of breathing in life...the word aloha is used in all sorts of ways. I'm learning some other words in Hawaiian too. Like mahalo which means thanks...and keiki - children, and Kama'aina - local person (Hawaiian), and there are a few others...you pretty much pronounce every syllable you see. And I never thought it would happen but I'm hooked on this Hawaiian radio station ... they play really smooth Hawaiian music and speak with lots of Hawaiian words included in their monologues which is mostly where I'm picking up my key words. I've got to pick up a few CDs with my favorite music so I can bring the hula back to my living room...
I'm off to Hilo for the weekend, where there's so much going on during the next few days that it seems to be the only choice. I'm lucky enough to have connected with an amazing group of women who are providing me with a place to stay and an active social life. This feels more and more like a comfortable place for me to spend a long time.
Tonight I get to watch Sweet Honey in the Rock perform at the theatre of UH Hilo...followed by a birthday party of a local woman who has invited all her friends to celebrate with her...Auntie Jesse. Any woman who is an adult or older gets the name auntie whether it stands alone or with her actual name. It kind of replaces miss. Big social evening tonight. Sweet Honey is wonderful as usual...and I get introduced to a whole lot of people...I know that I'm the new face in town so everybody is curious about who I might be....which is really nice for me because I get all these people talking to me...I get to meet lots of new folks. The party is great...certainly because of the people and there's some excellent live music, but a big highlight for me is the tiramisu birthday cake. I indulge in not one but two very rich pieces...and bloat my way out of the party way too late in the night.
It's about time for me to get on out of Pahoa. I landed on the Big Island about 10 days ago and between the hot springs and the snorkeling and the beach and hanging out with people, I can't seem to extract myself to explore the larger world of the island. So I set myself up with a plan. I commit to a series of campsites around the island...I'll stay 2 or 3 nights in each and work my way all around. I really don't like to commit myself to staying in any one place but the system here requires a permit which demands thinking ahead and creating somewhat of a schedule. It's only five dollars a night to camp so even if I change my mind, I'm not losing much
A very important part of my itinerary is a visit to the Astronomy Center, Imiloa, on the University campus. I've been inundated with the spiritual angle on the formation of land and life...I'm feeling the need for a little pure science for a little grounding. UH has a well funded tech sciences division...and Imiloa is a quality place. For those of you into astronomy (talking to you CD), this is the place to visit. There are tons of hands-on exhibits that allow all of us to feel like we know something about the stars....some excellent 3D IMAX videos, and all sorts of things to play with and try to understand. And there are a number - I think 23? telescopes set up on Mauna Kea at 14000 feet elevation. I want to try to get up there to check them out...haven't figured out exactly how to do that yet.
What fascinates me in Imiloa is that even in this place of science, this astronomy center, the spirituality and the culture of the Hawaiian people are intricately woven into the fabric of explanation. I appreciate that the two easily coexist here as reasonable explanation for the formation of our universe and the advent of life in this setting. It seems that we spend a lot of time and energy debating science vs. spirituality as though the two are mutually exclusive...for example, you either believe in evolution or creationism and there is an antagonism between the science and faith based understandings...which makes it all too simple and limiting. And of course there are many scientists in this world with a strong sense of spirituality. In Hawaii, they are brought together without a whole lot of controversy. How refreshing!