Lei, lady, lei

I’m an expert when it comes to customs. Not. I always think I should be a good, honest girl and tell the truth. What did I intend to do in Hawaii? Travel… and volunteer. The scary, grumpy American man did not like the v word. He paused, his eyebrow raised and his eyes squinting at me. I rambled on at him trying to explain, making things even more confusing. I’m from Scotland, but I’ve been studying in Canada, and I’m going to volunteer on top of a mountain… he let me by eventually.

The humidity hit as soon as I left the plane, it’s just like Israel I thought. I was on the verge of staying in a hostel for my one night in Honolulu, but someone responded to my emergency couch request and came to my rescue. This was the most generous couchsurfer I have ever met. He hosts at least one person a night, collects them all from the airport when he can and buys everyone a lei. You know the flower necklaces that one associates with Hawaii? They’re called leis and to my surprise, they are not necessarily fake, and when they’re not fake they smell absolutely delicious. It made the fact that I was in Hawaii even more surreal than it already was. Honolulu is rather spectacular, with a completely different view in every direction. Mountains, beaches, ocean, skyrises, parks and plenty of trees.

I am indebted to the couchsurfing community for this past month. Pretty much everyone has collected me from buses, trains, planes and taken me to them upon departure, no matter what hour of day. They’ve fed me and refused contributions towards petrol. This always astounds me, and always will, and I got really angry when I heard that there are couchsurfers who are abusing this. My most generous Honolulu host has had guests who have hardly spoken to him, left his place in an utter mess, and some have even stolen from him. I am in awe of his spirit, he continues to host and do everything he can to help others, and he never even leaves bad references. In my opinion, these people need a slap in the face.

When I travel, I usually don’t know anything about the place that I’m going to, nor do I have any plans of what I want to do there. This results in pretty much having an amazing experience 100% of the time. I always enjoy discovering the place for as it truly is, and having my vague ideas and stereotypes completely shattered. I was not expecting so many high rises or infrastructure for example. A few times I have really embarrassed myself, for instance, I know of Pearl Harbour and I know of Hawaii, but for some reason I had never put the two together, so when I saw Pearl Harbour written on a sign I was surprised, although it now is entirely obvious. The most embarrassing was when I suddenly thought, what’s the capital of Canada? This was about two months ago, I had always presumed it was Toronto, only to discover that it is actually Ottawa. Oh my.

My flight to Hilo, on the Big Island, was delayed by 3 hours. My window was stuck together with duct tape and there was a large hole by my feet because I could feel and see freezing cold air gushing in. I’m looking forward to flying with them again.

I’m glad I’m in Hilo and not Honolulu; Hilo is the third largest city in Hawaii but has no skyrises, and a fantastic farmer’s market. I was in a stupid mood on my first day here, it wouldn’t stop raining and nobody was responding to any of my requests to hang out and make friends. So I thought sod it and went venturing out alone. I went to the Kava Bar, met a couple of hippies who play in a few bands, and tried kava. Kava is made from a root and it’s really weird. It’s non-alcholic, numbs your mouth and basically just makes you really chill. I was also given a concentrated tincture version, which is even more numbing. I then tried a cacao bean, which had been stored with chilis, didn’t really like it that much. I left to go and explore, but I didn’t even make it to the end of the block when I was accused of smiling in a no smiling zone. There were a couple of dudes hanging out on the steps and I decided to join them. One of them was pretty old, it was great just listening to him tell stories about his crazy life. He ended up asking for my hand in marriage, and that if I smiled that meant yes, so I’m now married to a homeless man. He apologised to my parents for not asking permission first, but then he took that back, because he doesn’t need permission from anybody. He gave me a teddy bear, which is our child. I named him Fred Astaire. I then tried some tumeric, which you just leave in your mouth and chew occasionally and it leaves your tongue bright orange. Tastes a bit like ginger.

The next morning I got up early to try some free yoga. When I was little I remember doing it and hating it because it was so boring; I never wanted to do it again. Because of this I’ve always wanted to give it another shot and prove my younger self wrong. It was pretty nice actually, not too slow, and it was great being in the park, during a dog show with the airplanes landing overhead. It then poured down with rain, making the experience even better.
One of the girls was driving with a friend to the other side of the island, to Spencer Beach, afterwards and invited me and another to join. (There are no sandy beaches in Hilo.) On the way we drove through rainforest, which turned to woods, which turned to rolling hills. Hawaii has everything, especially the Big Island. I got to try snorkelling for my first time and out of the blue a massive sea turtle appeared beneath me, it was phenomenal. This happened thrice.

On Sunday I went to a free sailing introduction course which was fantastic! My partner and I couldn’t believe that they were just going to let the two of us, who had never sailed before, loose in a Sunfish. Off we went, and surprisingly we got the hang of it pretty quickly. It was lovely being out on the water, at first we had quite a bit of wind and often went rushing by, and then the wind died down and it was much more challenging. I got quite a nice sunburn too, despite it being cloudy the entire day.

I went along to a lei making workshop yesterday and made a couple of leis, the ususal yellow one which hangs around the neck, as well as a smaller one which is more colourful with more greenery which was tied to my hair. There was an earthquake! 5.3 on the Richter scale, I’ve never experienced one before; I thought it awesome.
I also tried paddling. It’s kind of like canoeing, 6 of us in a long thin boat, all paddling in a rhythm like rowing. It’s super intense, using mostly the thighs, back and abdomen and mine are all aching terribly, especially after two days of paddling. The coach told me that I’m very strong, which surprised me because I don’t exercise…

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