Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hawaii

I've been thinking a lot about Hawaii lately. Before starting this blog and before Australia I spent 3 months working in a hostel in Kona on the Big Island; that a plane from New Orleans transported me to an entirely different world, one which I found pulled me rather harshly from my hustling NY attitude to a more relaxed and happier way of thinking. Since I never got to write about it then I thought I'd do a blog post about the detox from "normal" life.

No DSLR in Hawaii so all pictures are mine but from Instagram, couldn't get the ones taken from my phone since I went swimming in the ocean with it on me one fateful night. However there are a ton of better ones up on my instagram site feel free to take a look.

I arrived in Kailua Kona Hawaii just after sunset in September 2013 fresh from a 5 day vacation to New Orleans a city that I had for years pined to see. It was dark when I got off the plane so the sights were lost to me on arrival but on the decent had offered glimpses of an expansive dark and rocky coast looking promisingly beautiful in the dwindling light.  I impatiently waited for what seemed like an eternity to exit the plane wanting desperately to stand somewhere where I could at the very least stretch my arms without hitting someone in the face. When freedom arrived and I took full advantage speed walking as far away as possible from the airborne tube that I had spent the last 5 hours sitting in, I would have ran if it wouldn't have caused confusion; you can never be too sure these days...  The airport was small and much to my delight outdoors. I walked over to the baggage claim waited for my hefty backpack to tumble down the elevated ramp,  I breathed a heavy breath of fresh jet fuel laden air, ahhh I thought, Hawaii. I headed out to the curb backpack in tote to wait for my ride from the manager of Koa Wood Hale of whom I had only had correspondence over workaway.info and Facebook. I was a bit nervous, never had participated in any kind of work for accommodation deal and I had no idea what to expect from the hostel I would be spending the next 3 months in.

Hawaii is every bit as beautiful as movies, honeymooners and travel agencies would make you believe, it is a paradise. The Big Island at 4,028 sq miles is unbelievably diverse. Kona and Hilo on opposite sides of the Island couldn't be more different. Kona is for the most part a beach less town, not to say there isn't anywhere to swim though. Late night parties often ended at the pier where a jump into the sea is absolutely necessary, a tire at the time was provided for climbing back up, my nights very often led me there. A hotel also created a shielded artificial beach but the closest real waves can be found 4 miles down the road at Magic Sands a treacherous little spot given the alias Tragic Slams, there have been deaths from the power of those waves. Long stretches of hardened lava forms oozing patterns in the rough black rocks that stretch for miles, magnificent clear blue beaches dot the coast outside of town. Kona is a small town and a port for enormous cruise ship's little ferries to dock every few days, shops with tourist crap line the alleys and streets as well as restaurants from commercial giants like Bubba Gump, where I almost had a job, to cafes and Metal Mikes wicked pretzel stand. It is for sure a tourist town but pulls it off with a laid back small town atmosphere. Hilo is far greener and jungle like and for that beauty the price is paid with temperamental and sportaic weather, it is the wettest city in the United States. It practically will pour rain seemingly out of no where and be sunny and beautiful a few minutes later much to your soaking wet dismay.  I had first hand experiences of this every time I visited the town and once walked around in a sleeping bag to stay warm and slightly drier. You can drive around the entire Island in a day although it'd be incredibly stupid to do so, you'd miss The Big Islands incredible valleys, its active volcano, jumping off the southern most point of the USA, towns that morph from desert to savannas to jungle, uncountable number of beaches, mountains and observatories it is a place that cannot be truly appreciated in 1 week.


Its amazing to realize how tightly wound stress can make you when you come to a place like Hawaii. Anything more than a casual vacation shows you just how fucked up and tightly wound you've become. The attitude of the Island is slow and lazy nothing even work ever needs rushing. I cant remember once when running late to the hostel from the beaches getting stressed over a couple minutes past 5, maybe its because the manager was always with us but regardless back home a mere minute of two would send me into an escalating panic followed by an avalanche of apologies until I was left exhausted and praying for the end of the day. I think the best way to explain how I felt was what I wrote in my diary 1 week in to the experience.

Slow moving days island time is just a haze, hot lazy attitudes prevail and I understand why surrounded by beautiful sights and vacation attitudes its hard to begin thinking about working, harder even so to muster up the energy to find it. I'm sunburned all over, painful pride of my days spent in relaxation on beaches of crystal clear waters.

I had a bit of a conflict of the mind those first two weeks, I was loving that I was there but feeling like I somehow didn't deserve it. Strange mentalities are created when you get in the habit of not enjoying life and spending your time solely focusing on working to pay bills, any entertainment a burden to the bank. The fact that I couldn't relax unless I got an additional job to supplement my dwindling income was a worry seemingly very American, fretting the worst before it even became an issue. Detoxing from the American city state of mind was surprisingly hard for me, my mind actively fighting my new found relaxation. Americans like to be told what they deserve to feel in a sense it is earned, its a terrible condition we're taught early on; our worth is our job and how much we can make. Vacation time a measure of our success, insurance for those worthy and anything more than $10.00 an hour a godsend and seemingly impossible to find. We are a nation so mentally and financially enslaved to our work that often the company becomes our identity, generally the lower jobs of big corporations. How many times especially before Christmas especially have you heard some horrible customer shut down a cashier for some stupid inconvenience or invented problem, I was that cashier once and ill be damned if that woman saw me as anything less than a sad looking scanning machine for her overpriced shit. One of the richest countries in the world and we have people actively fight against providing service jobs with livable wages. People who work these lowly jobs are according to those with heads firmly placed up their assholes are clearly lazy with a lack of drive to succeed. These jobs as regarded as being work for high school kids who obviously don't need a lot of money to spend especially not for anything like college. Working at McDonalds may not be your idea of a career but for too many its all they got, well no actually I lied in reality they probably have another job as well. Australia has American companies paying Australian wages and all the doors are open, just saying. 

Back to Hawaii

One night two fellow workers and I went to a small festival in a patch of grass on the cliff side, It was called Earth Dance. It was a gathering of all the dirtiest hippies on the Island doing yoga to the sunset and dancing to the Djs with names like McSwagger. We had taken some LSD shortly after arriving and danced to the music on the side of this hill overlooking the ocean into the night. Fire dancers spun batons and were very clearly amateurs, they dropped the flames often enough to keep our distance for love of having hair. We became entranced by the sight of a bald woman (not scorched by the dancers) being painted by the light of a bonfire. Later into the night we realized to our surprise we had been left by our other coworker and ride. Much to the understandable frustration of the hostel manager he came to pick us up and the ride home was for me the turning point in Hawaii, the abandoning of my caring for what I had once considered normal and the start of my traveller mentality. 

We waited by the road for the truck with two teenage girls seemingly tripping face with no transportation. Offering to drop them off would not make our manager happy but they were young and ride less on the side of a dark road. When the truck approached we all piled into the trunk and started off on the journey to find the girls house. After they had gone we tried our best not to seem overly happy since we had been probably the most annoying bunch of people to him on Earth at the moment sitting chatting away on a mysterious detour. We sat in silence from then on the road home was windy, dark and nestled on the side of a cliff. He drove quickly as we sat both immersed in our own world and the thrill of the ride. The tail lights of the car seemed to stretch back in an endless line vividly painting the road where we once had been. There were no street lights just those tail lights glowing the most intense of reds. The trees parted occasionally giving us glimpses of the landscape below, moon illuminating the water in the far distance casting a hauntingly silver glow over the horizon. The landscape was dark save a few lights painting the ground in small patches. We swerved through a tunnel shaped by the dark trees stretching above us linking branches as if hands reaching toward each other to guide us through a forest, I could have half expected a decrepit castle to be on the other side. The engine roared every shift of gears changing its tune as we rode higher into the sky. For a while all was dark except those tail lights which to me at that moment so obviously was a reminder of the past which was already set in the pavement behind me and out of reach. I don't know how long I watched those lights for but it struck me that the focus is always on what was and what could have been when really that was all in front of me. I looked up the water was hidden behind the trees and all was dark for a long few minutes before the world opened up. For the most part of the trip we had been looking backwards but as we rose over the crest of the hill, all of Kona was illuminated before us. Darkness for miles, ocean to the left trees to the right and off so far away the cluster of lights that for the past few weeks I had been happy to call home. My eyes like the landscape were opened, the worries of the past behind me where they would stay, those are what I had left to get away from. Upon arriving back to the hostel we found we had similar experiences in the truck and went off to the shops to get a couple Wailua beers and go to the beach and talk. The moon looked huge as we drank and for the first time since I arrived I didn't have a care in the world, I was in Hawaii. 4 hours after arriving home we went to our staff bunk room to sleep, I with the feeling of a world a new.


Finally no rush to eat breakfast, savour the pebbles those fruity pebbles
It certainly was a would a new. I ended up getting a job at Bubba Gump but they asked so much from the employees in a slightly absurd training schedule involving memorizing an entire menu drink ingredients included before even getting on the floor. I decided it didn't matter anymore I was in Hawaii fuck focusing on work, I was working for my accommodation already I didn't have that many worries really. I picked up a job cleaning hotel rooms around my schedule. I started playing the guitar to fill those long hours when I wasn't occupied and became a major supporter of Hawaii time.

For all its many pluses Hawaii also has its negatives. Homelessness for one is rampant of both Islands I visited. Not far from the wealth of Waiki and the glamorous hotels people sleep in parks by the dozens. On Oahu for being the more popular island I was genuinely surprised at the poverty that is in plain sight, couples holding hands walking past a man sleeping in the dirt. I was walking one night with a friend in Kona talking about how alike the south park episode of Hawaii was to the reality. People coming on vacations acting as if they own the place, not many people really bother to get to know or acknowledge the real Hawaii. Maybe we take advantage of the fact that it is now a US state and ignore that its culturally not the mainland and as such has a much different history to the rest of the USA, however we still consider it 'Merica and it has become one of the most taken advantage of treasures the country has acquired.  On our walk we talked about the blind tourism of the island and from the bushes came a strangers raspy voice in response "You may be white, but your not stupid". I looked to the right seeing the vague outlines of a few people tucked away drinking from a 24pk of beer in a set up tarp home on the side of the road. Don't remember what I said back generally my brain turns off and defaults something like a laugh or have a good night/day, thanks/sorry when I'm surprised by something. I said a default response and we walked quietly away till we were far enough away to consider the coincidence. When you think about it especially in the cold of mainland winter Hawaii is easier livings if you're homeless. I used to pick bananas at the hotel I cleaned and bring them back to the hostel, fruit is often accessible if you look hard enough and its warm all year round. You don't  necessarily need money for it to be a paradise.
Although you could be a Rob Schnider impersonator from 50 First Dates if you need some extra green

Reluctant goodbye 
Its not easy to find the real Hawaii, its out there for sure if you take a look but you need to look past the views to find the real people of the Islands. Although the natural beauty of the most of the islands is still for the most part left alone the natural theme park vibe could one day start spreading. Not all the Islands are the same, I couldn't get anywhere else but The Big Island and Oahu but Maui and Kauai are much better for avoiding that heavy tourism from what I understand. Had I had the money to visit them I surely would have gone, I will likely make a trip back for it. Hawaii was one of the most exciting  times of my life and I feel I missed out on the real experience the Islands offer, just need to make the time to appreciate it.