Last Full Day

 

Wednesday, our last full day in Hawaii, was also the day the air conditioning was to be fixed.  I awoke to the smell of smoke.  It was luau day and the fan had drawn in the smoke from the imu pit.  We started the day with a swim in the pool and fruit and nuts on the lanai.  We decided to split up for a couple of hours and meet for lunch at Akiís.  I headed into town with my camera and on the hunt for a couple of gifts.  I went into many gift shops that I hadnít looked at previously and admired some really lovely handicrafts.  It was a lot of fun hunting for the perfect gift for my favorite people that would actually fit in my luggage.  John went off with his camera and found a group of people taking a hula class, a native fisherman casting his net and tourists enjoying Kailua.  

We met at Akiís and took our favorite corner table outside.  We and the other patrons enjoyed another fine meal and had ring side seats for  the exciting rescue of the beached scow.  The backhoe with the crane on it was in place across the street and the fishing boat Wild West was out in the bay with a line to the beached scow.  There was the loud sound of water being pumped out of a broken pontoon on the scow.  A welderís truck was parked there as well and he began repairing the hole as soon as the water was pumped out.  His dog stood and watched along with a gathering crowd.  It took several tries with the backhoe pulling up and the Wild West pulling out before the scow finally broke free.  A cheer went up from the crowd and the workmen as it limped away from shore.  The view at Akiís never failed to amuse just as the food never failed to be delicious.

After a leisurely walk back to our room, we drove back to Spencer Beach for another idyllic swim.  Unfortunately, the debris that had probably been the reason for Hapuna and Mauna Kea to be closed the day before now filled the lagoon.  But the park was open so we went swimming anyway.  There was hardly anyone at the beach today.  Not only was the water filled with twigs and dirt but it was a cloudy, windy day as well.  But the water was warm and it was our last day, nothing was going to deter us.  One other swimmer, a teenaged Hawaiian boy was shivering and complaining about how cold the water was which amazed me.  I guess if youíre used to that intense sun beating down on you, when itís covered by clouds youíre cold.  Through his thick Hawaiian accent we understood that he wanted to convert us to his Christian savior but we were merely interested in our last swim in the tropical Pacific for this vacation.  Johnís beard and hair were covered with dirt and I knew I was covered in it too but it didnít spoil the fun of the swim.  When John saw a fish jump out of the water not too far away from where we were swimming, I wondered what kind of fish or sea creatures might be swimming there with us.  I wondered if sharks ever came in that close to shore.  Later I read that a heiau older than Puíukuhola Heiau was built offshore in the bay dedicated to the shark god.  This heiau silted over in the 50s due to the harbor that was built in Kawaihae nearby.  In spite of this, an unusual number of black-tipped reef sharks are seen around that site.  I guess, even though the surf was calm and the water warm and inviting, it is good to be aware that the ocean is a wilderness.

By the time we showered off the debris it was nearly 4:30.  If we headed back to Kailua then, we would be stuck in the rush hour traffic jam so we decided to visit the Heiau just up the hill.  Unfortunately, they had closed at four.  John put the top down, turned on the radio to a station dedicated to Hawaiian music and drove north to Kawaihae Harbor.  We had stopped in here on the first full day we had been on the island so it seemed fitting that we would stop in on our last.

We parked at one end of the large parking lot where a  number of cars and trucks were parked and quite a few people, mostly Hawaiians, were gathered under cloudy skies and beautiful coconut palms.  We pulled in beside a small hatchback.  A young wahine sat in the driverís seat watching the water while listening to some modern Hawaiian music.  I hoped that we haoles were not intruding on their turf.  John, who was still reading Michenerís account of Hawaiian history, had been telling me about the way the Americans had manipulated and taken advantage of the Hawaiians and essentially usurped their islands.  I suppose knowing that, as well as knowing how locals often feel about tourists, made me sometimes feel wary and uncomfortable with the role of tourist.  One of the reasons that Kailua is comfortable for tourists is that nearly everyone there is a tourist or someone who earns a living by tourism.  I was fascinated by the Hawaiians, thought they were beautiful and I loved the sound of their language.  I admired their love for aina (the land) and for ohana (family).

As I got out of the car, the young wahine turned to me and gave me a smile that wiped out any doubts or feelings I had about intruding.  I saw she was younger than Iíd thought, just a  teen.  She asked me if I was from around there, which made me laugh because Iíd been worrying about sticking out like a tourist.  She lived near Hawi.  Her name was Malia and she was there at the Kawaihae Canoe Club practicing for the big state-wide outrigger races in the summer.  Her mother, who she described with a mischievous giggle as a large Hawaiian woman, was out past the breakwater with her team.  Malia had already been out with the intermediate group which did not go into open ocean waters while the beginners must stay in the harbor.  I asked if I could take her picture because she looked so lovely with the plumeria flower in her hair.  She happily gave me a big smile and a hang loose hand gesture.  Then she beamed one of her magical smiles at John.  That open and inviting smile showed me that all of my fears about how I as a tourist would be seen were baseless and only interfered with the enjoyment of being a tourist.  What a privilege it is to visit new lands and see new sights and meet new people.  I saw that only by embracing the role of tourist wholeheartedly could I greet the land and people I was visiting as openly as Malia had welcomed me with her smile.

We watched as the different teams of canoeists set off.  This was obviously a sport taken very seriously around there.  All ages, men and women were involved.  It was fun watching the teens hanging out in the parking lot laughing, dancing and playing music.  Malia was dancing with her girlfriends to some rock music but I could see by the way she moved her hips she would make a great hula dancer.  She gave us a hang loose sign as we left.

Johnís idea to wait until after rush hour proved to be spot on.  We breezed back to the hotel in record time.  The clouds hung low makau and drizzled sporadically on us.  Looking makai, we watched the muted sunset as we drove.  When we got back to our room, we tried the air conditioning.  John thought that he could feel some coolness coming from it but it didnít seem to be enough to cool the room down.  We figured weíd leave it on while we had dinner and give it a chance to work.  We drove back to the Royal Thai for our last delicious dinner and went for a last evening walk through Kailua.  Our room was a little bit cooler than the previous night but we had to sleep with the slider open.  That was good because we wanted to sleep with the full effect of the thundering surf just beneath our window.  It made for a deep and restful sleep, our last on the Big Island of Hawaii, at least for now.

 

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