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April 10, 2012

The Places You'll Go, The People You'll Meet

This is for all the people who look at people who travel alone, forlornly, and utter heartfelt words of pity such as, "You're so courageous. I could never do that."  Four words back at you. It's Hawaii, not Haiti.

Of course the best thing about travelling alone is the people you meet, that you inevitably would not meet if you were travelling with a friend or a partner because being alone, depending on who you are, seems to equal more approachable. Those of  us on the fringes, the Raggedy Ann dolls, we're just ripe for all sorts of interpersonal communiques. Especially in America. Because, no matter what you think of Americans, there's no denying that they are a friendly bunch.

Let's start at the end
I arrived in Honolulu at 7:45 pm to catch a connecting flight back to Vancouver on the way home. But, I had three hours to kill. And, I was hungry. Didn't want a Starbucks scone. Hold the pizza. There's the Kona Brewing Company. Sat down at the bar. By this time it was about 9 pm. My flight was leaving at 10:30. Only one other guy was seated at the bar. He was looking at something very academic. "I bet your a professor," I said. He smiled back at me. "Nope. but, you're close. This did come from a professor." Okay. he was busy and he wasn't going to prove very interesting. Next.

Surfing vicariously with Alvin and Mike 
I ordered a beer. For some reason there was no prices next to them. I'm in America, beer is cheap. How much could it be? I took a sip and the next time the waitress passed, given that I only had $22 left, I said, How much is this beer anyway?  $10.75 she said matter of factly. I didn't say a thing. I thought maybe I'd misheard. A few minutes passed and I asked Alvin, the friendly Hawaiian bartender,  "Is this beer really $10.75? Yup, he said. They just released it a few days ago, he said, as if it were a new gold coin. Well, okay,  cheers, here's to a liquid dinner of Koko Brown. Then, a young guy sat down next to me. Long hair. Pleasant face. Dressed in brown surfing shorts and a T-shirt. Happy, happy energy.

I can't even recall what started us off. I think he may have asked me where I was going. "Back to rainy Vancouver," I said. He was a teacher. Honolulu. Loved his job.  Headed to Boston to visit his family. We talked about what he liked about teaching. The kids of course, he said. I like fourteen year olds. "You look 18," I said.  I asked him if he surfed. Seemed like a natural question given how he was dressed and then, I reached into the back of my mind to figure out what I could possibly dredge up that would fuel a conversation about surfing and I got it.

I recalled the article that Brian, my mentor in the Writer's Studio had written about surfing in a little town in Ireland. I proceeded to share this information and we were off. Next thing you know, Alvin, Hawaiian bartender operating at warp speed, gets in on the conversation. "I started surfing again," he said. "I took it back up in 2009." And that was that. They were talking about surfing etiquette on the North Shore. How the regulars treat those tourists who think they'll just get in their way. Sometimes comes to fistfights. It could mean their life, said Mike, young happy teacher guy. If you get in their way, you could kill them or vice versa. "I just hang out and wait," he said.  "I watch. I respect them and pretty soon, if I do that long enough, they say, Hey, you why don't you give it a shot. And, that's how it works for me." It was a tiny slice of life that had I been at home, on the Skytrain, I never would have heard about. He was cool. We had fun. I didn't want to leave. Should have taken his picture. For you. Blog readers.

Pack up and Move to Hawaii
In Kona the first night. Walking out of ABC store (just love that they sell beer in a corner store) and this guy looks at me. I smile back at him. This rarely happens at home. Me smiling at random guys and them talking to me. It's Vancouver. He says something. I don't know what. I say something back. We chat a bit.Asks me for a drink. I decline but say, "I'm headed to Volcano and Hilo. Give me your phone number and I'll call you when I come back." So I did, and meeting Bill made the trip a lot better because one of the things that does suck about travelling alone is the evening.  We went out, we ate, we went to the beach, we explored. He'd just moved there a few days earlier from New York State.

Rabbit in the Moon Dance Group
In search of the Wood Valley Buddhist Retreat Centre above the town of Pahala. Up a road that climbs past beautiful grassland with grazing cattle and horses and at the very end, a left onto a narrow dirt road that climbs a bit higher and soon the orange, blue, yellow of the temple and  prayer flags.A bunch of people in purple T-shirts are laughing and talking.
I made my way into the temple but there really wasn't all that much to see so I turn around to leave and a man shouts out to me, "Hey, we're just about to have lunch, why don't you join us?" I smile. "Thank you. That's okay. I have some salad in the car." "Really," he says. "Don't be shy. We've got enough to feed an army." Well, with that, it's clear that it would be incredibly rude to decline. I join the queue on a home-made Japanese feast and I hear about the ritual of Bon Dance.  They are the Rabbit in the Moon Dance Club from Hilo. I meet Gail, a ranger who works at Hawaii Volcanoes National park and lives in Volcano, just down from the Volcano Winery where I'd done a taste testing earlier in the day. Leonard, the friendly guy who invited me, leads the group, sings and works for the Department of Labour. It was the highlight of my day.

Sisters on the Fairwinds II
And sisters Su and Chris from Denver and Chicago. We had a fun time on the Fairwinds II snorkeling, sharing the beautiful day and a lot of laughs as well.

The Friendly Kona Seaside
Then there was the front desk staff at the Kona Seaside where I stayed. In particular, one young woman whose beautiful name I wrote on a piece of paper and have now lost but I think was Ku'ulei. She was so friendly to me because to access free wireless you have to sit in the lobby and sitting in a hotel lobby in Hawaii watching everything is actually pretty entertaining.

Ukeleles and Dovetails
And high above Kona in a old Hawaiian village called Holualoa, I walked into the shop of Sam Rosen, ukulele maker and master. He pointed me in the direction of Renee Fukumoto and her beautiful shop called Dovetail where her partner Ben made wooden furniture. I was able to alert her to some high end wood artists in Canada such as Brent Comber and Peter Pierobon whose work she immediately fell in love with and was eager to share with Ben.

Lovely to meet every one of you. Mahalo~


Pauline said...

Sounds wonderful and restful. Post some pictures of beaches, and what else did you eat that was different other than beer?

Gayle Mavor said...

Beaches? MMM? If you want stunningly long white sandy beaches, I expect you'll have to visit Maui, Pauline, not the big island. It has way more volcanic rock than long white beaches. As for food. Nothing that you can't get in Vancouver. Except Kona Brewed beer! ha.