Monday, October 18, 2010


This past week, I had the unique opportunity to go to the Island of Kaho'olawe, a small Island off the coast of Maui:

This tiny island has been the target of abuse for the past several centuries, beginning with European contact. Originally, it was known to Hawaiians as the sacred island as the land-form of the god Kanaloa, the god of ocean navigation. The vegetation on the island was classified as a dry forest, which thrived in the winter rainy season.

After European/American contact, this land was then used for ranching. In this process, the herd animals (cattle, goats) demolished almost all of the native species on the island. The land became desolate, and the soil was no longer held in place by vegetation. In the winter rainy months, massive erosion occurs, and thousands of pounds of soil are dumped into the ocean every year.

In the early 1900's, the US Navy then restricted Kaho'olawe for military use, and the island then acted as a place for target practice of new US weaponry. This is how Kaho'olawe became known as the "target isle." Residents of nearby Maui said they would often feel the shaking of the bombings on their neighbor island.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the bombings on Kaho'olawe. After protests from native Hawaiians, the US government turned the island back over to state control. The government put some funds into cleaning the island of ordinances, but many areas still remain uncleared. The island has been left completely demolished, with soil still pouring into the ocean every winter. The ground that is left is non-nutrient, red deadpan soil, which cannot take new life easily.

For my Hawaiian studies class, we must do one of six service learning projects in Hawai'i. A trip to Kaho'olawe to work with an island restoration group was one of these options. Despite the cost of the trip and the time commitment (4 days of missed class), I decided to go with encouragement from my parents and friends. And I am so glad I did. Even though I'm behind on my schoolwork, going to Kaho'olawe was an incredibly meaningful, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As a group of about 20 students, we worked with the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) on several projects to restore the land. I was shocked by the landscape-- it looked more like New Mexico desert than any place in Hawaii. (I also discovered the panaramic mode on my new camera...)

The people at KIRC are incredbily friendly and helpful and worked with us to help us understand the history and importance of the island. The number one concern is still runoff of soil into the ocean, and so by planting more vegetation, the ground can possibly be restored to hold water and allow for more vegetation to grow. All planting has to be done on top of the ground, however, because many areas are not cleared of ordinances underneath the ground.

While the obstacles seem countless for getting the land to be revived, there has been so much progress made already. The first day, we were taken up the island and shown the entire landscape. While it did not seem overly fertile, there was some vegetation. We were then told that 95% of that vegetation was only grown in the last 10 years. To think, then, what the land could look like in another 10 years, (or 20 or 30...) made the restoration process seem like a real, feasible goal.

Living on the island for four days was also an incredible experience. We stayed in old military barracks right on the beach. It felt so nice to be staying completely apart from civilization. For two of the three nights, I slept on the soft white-sand beach, underneath a blanket of stars. After working, I bathed in the ocean, replacing the layer of red dirt on my body with a layer of salt. It was good to feel connected to the island and without connection to the outside world.

I can understand why Kaho'olawe is such a sacred place for Hawaiians. I can only hope that restoration continues to a point where anyone can go and visit and learn about the history of this sacred place...

And now for some pictures I didn't know how to fit into the post...

On the last day, we went up to Maulaiki, which used to be a major point of navigation for Hawaiians as it is one of the highest points on the island. From here, we could see 3-4 of the other islands around us.
Me at the top:
This was quite possibly the most gorgeous sunset I had ever seen. And I watched it from my hammock:

Monday, October 11, 2010

A brief photographic tour of my weekend

It's almost 1 am, and I need to wake up at 5:30am to head to Koho'olawe for the week... But, of course, I'm too excited to sleep, so I'll unload some pictures from this weekend.

It was a fantastic weekend overall. I don't have pictures from Friday, but I went out with the Sunday Fun-day gals to the Honolulu Academy of Arts for presentations by local artists. They were to present 20 slides of their work, only having 20 seconds to present each. It was pretty interesting and beautiful stuff. Mostly, it was a lot of really incredible ceramic work.

Saturday, I hiked to Maunawili falls with Aubrey (from Haverford) and also two new friends from Ultimate-- Kayleigh and Lance. It was a bit of a drive out to Maunawili (thanks Lance!), and we stopped at the Pali lookout on the way to that side of the island:

There's Aubrey and Kayleigh. Here's an even better one:
Kayleigh called this the "Titanic picture."

It was a great hike to the falls, and it was nice to jump in after a jaunt through the humid jungle in the afternoon:

(I'm told I'm the blur jumping... I need to learn the settings on my new camera...).

Last night, we then all went out to a concert of a band called "Ghostland Observatory." I'd never really heard of them, but Rudy and Isaac saw them in Maine this summer and loved it. It was very fun music, but the best part about the show was that it was also a laser show!

Today was Sunday Fun-day PART 2: North Shore edition! We headed up with many stops on the way, including my second stop at the Pali lookout for the weekend. This is Micki fighting the insane wind on the lookout:

We then continued North until we got to the beaches. One of the best things about Hawai'i has been the seafood, so naturally, we stopped for lunch here:


These are more pictures from the North Shore:

Micki pointed these guys out-- they're shingle urchins!

Look! REAL SURFERS! These waves were considered puny by Hawaiian standards, but they're supposed to get much bigger in the months to come...

AND! Micki posted her photos from last week's Sunday Fun-day:
my first time seeing a sea turtle! Unfortunately, it looks like this guy is missing a chunk...

A ray! (What kind is it, Bailey?)
Unicorn fish
Kristen swimming with the fishies.
And that's me!!! Pretty cool, huh? I love this photo because it looks pretty cool even though I barley went deeper than the surface.

Well, off to bed, finally. Tomorrow through Thursday I'll be on Koho'olawe, so I'll be out of communication. Hopefully I'll have incredble stories and pictures upon my return!

Love and Aloha!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Senza Meta"

Here we go: 2 posts in two days!

Today was really incredible. Wonderfully, and coincidentally, both of my afternoon classes were canceled, and I was finished with my academic day at 12:20. So, with an entire afternoon suddenly free in one of the most beautiful places in the world, what was I to do?

I made the decision to be senza meta, or "without destination," as they say in Italian (quite possibly the ONLY phrase I remember from my year's study of the language). I walked out of my dorm, and hopped on the City A Express bus just as it arrived, and got off in the historic section of downtown Honolulu. The plan was to not have a plan, but just walk around, see things and take pictures.

... Pictures which apparently could not be taken. As soon as I hopped off the bus, I saw the funniest statue portrayal of the Liberty Bell (a little slice of home in the center of the Pacific), but my camera would not open. It refused to take pictures even though I just uploaded the latest ones this morning and changed the batteries. After consulting with Mom, I figured it was time for a new one. I would have waited, but my trip to Koho'olawe is in 5 days, and I really want to take pictures there. So, I was directed to a Long's Drug store, and purchased their cheapest digital camera for a whopping $80.

And then I was on my way. And here's the photographic evidence taken with my new piece of technology:

This is the 'Iolani palace, where the king and queen lived while Hawai'i was still a monarchy:

Here, I made friends with Bo, the head of Palace security, who saw me awkwardly taking photos. They were just closing, and he told me to come back another day when I could get a full tour. He also offered to take a picture of me:

From here, I stumbled into the Hawai'i State Art Museum, again just before closing. I had 15 minutes to look at some beautiful pieces of artwork such as these:

... The guard there was nice enough to let me stay a few extra minutes..

Next stop was the Hawai'i Supreme Court! This spot is most notable for the famous gold statue of Kamehameha I that stands outside:

From here I went to the beautiful Hawai'i State Library. My plan was to check out a good book and sit outside and read for a while before heading home. However, getting a Library card is apparently tough nuggies these days, and you need a piece of ID or Mail with a Hawai'i address on it. I didn't have those things, so I left Love in the Time of Cholera behind and sat here for some time instead:

(This is in a garden behind a church. There were services going on inside, so I tried to be as discreet as possible.)

When I was ready, I then made moved to go home, and was pointed to the magical Number 4 bus coming towards me and going in the direction of campus.

Overall, it was an excellent afternoon and terrific way to spend my free-time. It was fun traveling around the city, acting like a tourist with my clumsy camera, and making friends along the way. Everyone I've encountered in Hawai'i has been so friendly and excited to help. From the first guy giving me directions to the drug store for a Camera, to Bo the security guard, to the man working at the art museum allowing me to stay a few extra minutes before closing, to several old tutus (grandmothers) directing me to a good bus stop, everyone was approachable and happy to help.

I'm excited to explore and see more of the city away from the commercialized beaches and tourist hotels... But for now, I have to get back on track with my schoolwork before leaving for Koho'olawe this MONDAY!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Little Maya and the Big Ocean, Take 2

(This post is slightly delayed, and there will be INCREDIBLE pictures to come, but for now I just have to write about my weekend...)

I went snorkeling for the first time this weekend. And it was PHENOMENAL. It was truly unlike anything else I've ever done before. Sticking your face in the water and seeing everything that's swimming beneath you... well, it's pretty cool.

I went with some fellow women from the Electros (my ultimate frisbee team here) to a place called Electric Beach. I think it was a pretty prime diving spot, because the only people we saw were diving or snorkeling. Here's a picture of the women I went with:
(From left to right: Kristen, Merete and Micki. I was taking the picture, so I'm not in it, obviously, but hopefully you can picture me there with them)

Merete is from Denmark and is also here as a one-semester exchange student, Kristen is from Florida, and is a Biology grad student at UH Manoa, and Micki is from Seattle and is working for the National Marine Sanctuaries here in Honolulu. They're all such wonderful and positive women, and it was great spending the day with them. While we were snorkeling, Micki would point out the different kinds of fish and other sea life we were looking at. She was also generous enough to let me borrow her extra mask and fins so I could tag along without a trip to Wal*Mart for my own gear!

Micki also took a lot of really incredible pictures with her underwater camera that I will be sure to post as soon as she sends them. There's even one of me "diving"-- or trying to! It was definitely tricky getting used to figuring out when and how to breathe with the mask, and I tried diving a few times, but I wasn't very good. They all said it takes practice... So hopefully we'll go out again soon and I can practice some more!

After diving, we laid out on the beach until the afternoon rains started. We then got a fantastic lunch of local Hawaiian food, and went back to Micki's for the afternoon until we had Electros practice that afternoon. Overall, it was a fantastic day! Hopefully this can become a Sunday tradition for us to have adventures before afternoon practice, (hereby called "Sunday Fun-day").

I've also recently become friends with my RA, and she is a PRO at diving and all ocean-type activities. She even got Isaac to sign up for a scuba class she's helping out with. Maybe she'll take me out, too? (Bailey, I know you might be reading this, so this is really just another plea to get you to take me out!)

In general, I'm just continuing to love my life here, and it just keeps getting better. I feel like I've met a lot of really wonderful people, and I'm enjoying getting to know them more. I'm also enjoying exploring the area a little more, too. For example, right now, I'm at a coffee shop near campus drinking THIS:

Yummm... This morning, I made the decision to get OUT of my room, and go somewhere to be productive with work. So, I've been in this cafe, doing work for my research at Haverford, and blogging while my code runs, or is taking time to load. Hopefully, I can make this a semi-regular practice, as I've been incredibly productive this morning. I don't have morning class, so if I can motivate myself to do this more often, it will be better for me overall.

Thanks for reading! It's hard for me to gauge how many people ACTUALLY read this, so feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think! (As in, tell me if I'm too rambly, boring, etc.)