The Last Leg and Settling In to Limbo

Week Nineteen (9-15 June 2014)

Adding some diversity to this so far land bound trip, we took to the sky to continue chasing Apollo’s Chariot toward our final destination. Yes, westward we continued by air. But as I have mentioned before, very little in our lives now falls within the range of “normal.” True to form, we landed on the tropical island of Hawaii aboard a plane bearing the image of a grinning, seal-skin parka clad Inuit. That’s right…an Alaska Airlines flight (originating in sunny California) to get to Polynesia.

Also, we arrived on the leeward side of the island, in the coffee-famous town of Kona, which meant it was time to resume our road trip. Oh yeah. After more than 3,300 miles and several weeks traveling west in our vehicles across the mainland, and now sitting in the western most part of the western most state of the Union, it was now time to start driving back east, to the other side of the Big Island and our new hometown. What’s another 90 odd miles on the road and two-plus hours sitting behind a steering wheel? Come to think of it, residing on the windward side of this island, I suppose we can still consider ourselves as “East Coast” folk even though we are now far from the Atlantic and the “coast” is a little different than what convention would hold.

And for those who follow the stars–the celestial, not rich and bratty kind–there must be some cosmological significance to the window of our travels. Looking back, we departed Virginia the day after Mother’s Day and, now, we arrived in Hawaii the day before the state holiday of King Kamehameha Day–a journey bookended by days revering important people.

Touch Down in Kona, Onward to Puna

A late evening arrival, a tedious 17-hour trip, and the typical baggage claim and rental car pick up mechanics left us ready for little other than hot showers and sleep. Our first morning on island was well spent over a brunch of some classic local fare–Loco Moco for the kids and grilled fresh wild caught fish for the two big kids–and a drive through the more touristy and resort spotted areas of Kona and Kailua, where our youngest commented, “It smells like sun tans.”

Bananas Overhead, Lava Rock Underfoot

A quick stop at the island’s only Costco (gotta get a few Hawaiian shirts and bulk groceries) and a purchase of pickled mangos from a roadside vendor preceded our turn north and east to cut across the island on the Saddle Road, which allowed us to pass between the two famous volcanoes on the island–Muana Loa and Muana Kea. Miles and miles of volcanic rock and old lava flows, pastures, and sheep crossings. Also, the kids got to see their first mongoose as she scampered across the road just outside of town. (My camera wasn’t ready, but here is a likeness.)

A Myriad of Greetings

We moved into our temporary rental house in the Puna District by late afternoon that first day on the island. While giving the place a good cleaning and stocking up on some supplies, we began to receive greetings from the locals. First, there was this little guy, who actually lives in our living room (he is a tad shy):

Then, from out of the tropical jungle that is our yard, our arrival was heralded by this dapper fellow:

He later brought by his family for introductions:

A handsome and very well mannered stray cat that we later learned is named Tiki (and that the kids are quickly moving toward adopting) also dropped in to say hello. He seems to disappear every time I grab a camera, though.

As we drove into town for supplies, we saw our first wild baby pig, frolicking on the recently cleared roadside. Here is sort of what they look like:

Come supper, as the sun set and we dined out on our lanai on a traditional local meal of pork lau lau, poi, and fresh coconut that we harvested from the yard…

…the coqui frogs came out in full force to greet us with a serenade. (With all of the animal encounters, I guess you could say our first day was somewhat like a scene straight out of Dr. Doolittle or a Jack Hanna program.)

We fell asleep awash in a cool breeze to the sound of the waves crashing against the craggy shoreline just four long blocks from this, our temporary home.

Before moving this entry along, and while speaking of greetings, I should mention here too that, in just two days after our arrival, we read in the news that the nearby live volcano had begun “stirring.” Just saying–“Hello!”–I suppose. If such events had coincided with our arrival three centuries ago, we would be justified in concern about ending up as human sacrifices for angering Pele. Now, we just need to worry about an eruption and our newly acquired land being transformed into a lava-capped parking lot. Oh the drama!!! (Now, along with checking the weather every day, we take a quick peek at the current state of seismic activity and sulphur dioxide levels…not much different than checking the pollen count before shoving off for work in the morning in our former lives.)

Plugging In

The following days were full of what you would expect: setting up bank accounts, securing library cards, making sure we have a good internet connection, visiting phone shops to address coverage issues, continuing to tidy up the inside and yard of our temporary lodging, dropping in on the local farm and feed supply shop.

We also checked in on the progress of the clearing of our new property, of course. For what was once a solid block of trees and bamboo, it is looking pretty good:

In fact, what we saw brought a tear to the eye. You see, after carefully selecting a patch of earth based on general area soil and growing conditions, the dirt (rare on much of this island) is more widespread, deep, and black than we had anticipated. Locals also confirmed that, at an elevation of just around 1000 feet and somewhat in the rain belt, we were in an ideal zone for growing just about anything. An answered prayer, indeed.

A Useful Limbo

We find ourselves in a transitional phase, which has dragged from the recesses of my mind lessons at university on the concept of liminality. Though developed to explain a stage reached during the process of a ritual marking a person’s move from one station in life to another (a coming of age ceremony, for instance), liminality also fits our situation nicely. More specifically, in the parlance of the anthropologists, we find that we no longer hold the status of our pre-ritual preparation, nor have we yet achieved the status we shall reach once the actual rites of ceremony conclude. We are somewhere in between…a lifestyle Limbo. (Liminality was much advocated by the late Victor Turner, under whose spouse’s tutelage I sat at Mr. Jefferson’s University in my youth.) But I digress…

In addition to the routine-breaking and comfort-zone expanding aspects of a cross country road trip and living out of suitcases, finding ourselves in a rental property for two months or so is proving to be another good transition period to prepare us for our new off-grid life. For starters, the house–like many here–relies on rain catchment for its water needs, and the kids quickly adjusted to better water management practices, including the shower habit of shutting off the water while you lather up. Absent air conditioning, they started to get comfortable sleeping with windows and doors open. We had to start driving into town to pick up a cell phone signal, mail, free spring water (for drinking), and drop off trash, recyclables, and limited green waste. All laundry is line dried.

We have also begun to experiment with the limitations and quirks of solar lanterns and flashlights that we brought along as we work to keep the house electric bill down. Next step is to fire up the Kelly Kettle (featured in one of my first posts and in the banner at the bottom of this post) to get used to alternative (free) ways to quickly and efficiently heat water and do light cooking.

Not yet able to begin developing our land, but itching to get going, we started a few container plants–soursop, lychee, pineapple, and avocado–that can be transplanted to our property in the coming weeks.

We set aside a few coconuts from the yard that had begun to sprout; they will make nice additions up at our farmette, though they can take as many as seven years to bear fruit when started like this.

Noting the raging overgrowth in the backyard, and securing the landlord’s permission, we started looking into acquiring a milk-producing biological weed whacker (dairy goat).

We also soil-innoculated a mobile compost bin for our food scraps and the boy began mastering the fineries of cracking open both young and aged coconuts with a machete to get at the exquisite milk and meat.

Coming To A Close

We closed out the week with a return to the church that the bride and I had reconnoitered during our two fact-finding trips here last Fall and this past Winter. As before, the reception was most warm and the kids received hand-woven leis when introduced to the congregation. This was the kids’ first attendance and, though the church is many fold smaller than anything they have become accustomed to and of a more traditional format, they all expressed their excitement about one aspect or another of their new house of worship and the broader attending church family.

Kelly Kettle


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