Hawaii had been the furthest thing from my mind and Maui even further. For years my friends and family members boasted of their Hawaiian vacations and the beauty of the islands. I could care less. “Give me Paris or Rome,” I scoffed, “You keep Hawaii.”
In July of 2012, my job posted a need for workers in Maui. There was no real incentive offered nor could one make money on this assignment. It is a well-known fact that it’s expensive to live on the islands. What of the people there I wondered? Would they snub an African-American female that dared to venture their land?
Time for answers
I decided it was time to put the questions to rest and find the answers for myself. I agreed to take the position and pack my meager belongings to travel west and towards the islands. This trip is not for the faint hearted, Kansas to Los Angeles, then Honolulu and finally Maui. It took two months for my body to adjust to the five-hour time difference but my heart quickly fell in love with the west Maui Mountains.
Living in the Maalaea area opened the door to new discoveries. Early morning walks and later, runs on the beach not only exercised my body but my mind to a new lifestyle. Occasionally nature would give a gift from the ocean when a beautiful shell was left at the water’s edge for me to discover. Over the course of eight months things I never imagined doing came naturally. Several hikes provided insight to various sections of the island. The drive to Hana displayed a jungle like beauty and a course rugged terrain, both beautiful in different ways.
The water that surrounds the island calms and teaches me not to fear it. The Kehei Canoe Club opened its hand in welcome and taught me to paddle an outrigger canoe. Turtles and Spotted Eagle Rays in the wild bring out that childlike sense of discovery. Kimokeo Kapahulehua is a teacher and a keeper of the Hawaiian tradition. The fish pond that he tends is a living history that will live on and on.
I’ve acquired not only a love of the land but a better understanding of the different cultures that live in Maui. My co-workers, some from the Philippines, have embraced and taught me many things. Even the patients, many of them with Hawaiian backgrounds, were slow to accept me in the beginning, are now my friends and teachers that I care for deeply. Because of all these people, I have sampled different food, fruits and learned the importance of family and traditions.
Stories to Understanding
To complete my learning experience, an invitation to attend the production, Ulalena provided new insight. From the moment you hear the Kumulipo or Hawaiian creation chant, you travel through history with the use of mythology and storytelling from the people of the land. You will emerge refreshed and with a greater appreciation of the Hawaiian culture. It is truly a moving, spiritual journey to be enjoyed by all.
As I physically and mentally prepare for the return to the mainland, my heart is heavy. From the dirt that covered the soles of my boots during my hikes, to the sound of the ocean that lulled me to sleep at night, Maui will stay in my heart and every cell of my being. These gifts I take with me; love from the many rainbows I’ve seen, light from the sun that greeted me with a new day and life from its varied people.