Plan Your Escape
My entire immediate life fits in this ridiculous car (I assure you, this Fiat is a rental). As small as it is, it's just about the right size for packing your life into two large suitcases. This isn't the first time I've downsized my possessions in pursuit of happiness, nor will it be the last. Whether it be in pursuit of love, education, or career, I've learned that the most important possessions I have are the ones I do not keep.
Here on the Big Island of Hawaii, everyone is so nice. I mean, anyone is nice when compared to the people in Miami, FL. I've had quite a bit of luck, too. Taking a position with the National Park Service and having the privilege of working with some really amazing and passionate scientists from the island and abroad. Hawaii is such a unique little place slung out quite far into the Pacific Ocean. In fact, I didn't realize just how far away it was until I began considering the move. From Miami, Hawaii is 4,275 miles away. From the coast of California, 2,448 miles. It's not the furthest I've lived away from home (Ohio to Japan: 6,530 miles, Japan to Costa Rica: 8,244 miles), nor is it the only island (Japan, The Bahamas), but the thought of these tiny specks of land all by their lonesome in 63.78 million cubic miles of ocean is really something to think about. Especially considering it is the 50th state of the United States.
A Little Hawaiian BackgroundAlthough I know that, way out here, I am a part of the U.S., it feels a lot like another country. It certainly doesn't feel foreign to me. Hawaii reminds me a lot of a combination of places I have lived. Besides the fact that I know native Hawaii was established by Polynesians over 1,500 years ago, I am more readily introduced to a mix of different Asian cultures and ethnic groups. For example, street names and greetings are noticeably Hawaiian ("Aloha," "Mahalo"), and near where I live in Hilo is the Wailoa River State Recreation Area with a tribute to King Kamehameha I, founder of the Kingdom of Hawaii. But across the way at Bayfront Park is the Hilo Tea House, "Shoran”--a gift from Sen Soshitsu XV, the 15th generation headmaster of the Urasenke School of Tea in Japan, situated in a beautiful roji style Japanese garden. Japanese kanji is also prominent. I was first introduced to it at the Hilo airport on arrival. And familiar foods like sweet mochi and azuki beans are found everywhere and on everything. Even on Hawaiian shaved ice, which finds its origins in Japan.
Many cultural introductions made their debut with the immigration of plantation workers in the late 1800 and early 1900s. Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, and African American laborers that were recruited to work on fruit and sugar plantations permanently changed the face of Hawaii (Source: Library of Congress). A 2010 consensus states that 38.6% of Hawaii's population is Asian, 24.7% White, 10% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, 8.9% Hispanic, 1.6% Black or African American, 0.3% is American Indian and Alaska Native, and 23.6% of all Hawaii residents are of multi-ethnic background (Source: Hawaii Travel Guide).
Nonetheless, those that are here really have pride invested in their homeland. Towns on the Big Island are very traditional. Many shops are closed on Sundays for religious practice and family time. Waste disposal and recycling are huge topics of importance, and incentive programs like their HI-5 beverage container redemption program create incentives for people to recycle. Plastic bags are also banned here, and at most stores you have to pay for paper or reusable bags if you forget to bring your own. Even Walmart follows suit. Not seeing plastic bags on the streets, or people throwing garbage out of their car window (at least, not yet) is a breath of fresh air. Natural places are effortlessly conserved, and the National Park where I work is one of the most pristine I've seen, even when it comes to their brochures and signage. On a recent hike on the Kilauea Iki Trail, I noticed no signs of abuse. I was equally impressed with the unobtrusive trail markers through the crater of Kilauea Iki that are piles of stacked lava rocks. The piles are hard to recognize at first, but as you go your eyes become keener and more fine-tuned to the designated path. I've spent a lot of my time exploring and observing many things since I first arrived a little over a week ago.
What I've Been Up To
I don't yet have any furniture, but I am happy. My space feels homey, despite what tangible material items it might lack. My house has lots of windows for a nice breeze and a flood of light. I love the people that I work with, and everyone I meet has been extremely helpful and selfless.
What I Hope to Do While In HawaiiThis is an ongoing list of things I'd like to visit while I am here.
- Halape Beach: An 8 mile hike down from the Southern end of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for overnight camping. Must obtain backcountry permit from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
- Mauna Kea: An astronomer's dream. The summit of Mauna Kea is at 4,200 meters (13,780 feet) and is home to 13 of the world's largest and most powerful telescopes. The summit beckons me, as I can see it from my house.
- Mauna Loa: The largest volcano on earth and one of five volcanoes on the Big Island. There is a cabin atop Mauna Loa. Must obtain backcountry permit from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
- Richardson's Beach: Just a bike ride away, or a short drive, I hear the surf is decent and there is a natural pool for swimming and sea turtle observing.
- Waipio Valley: A rugged hike down to an amazing beach and beautiful waterfalls. Currently this area is closed due to a dengue fever outbreak.
- Haʻikū Stairs (a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven, Haʻikū Ladder): I've read that some parts of it are closed due to safety, but whatever is open I hope to explore
Suggestions and visitors welcomed :) Mahalo xoxo