The view from my homestay in Kaneohe, Oahu.
First, a mini movie review ...
I'VE JUST crawled out from under a crocheted cushion after 'viewing' the Wachowski Bros (Matrix) 1996 movie, 'Bound'. I don't think I'll sleep tonight, I 'll need a stun gun and a Valium to close my peepers .. which were closed for probably 60% of the movie. Extreme suspense, violence, Joe-Pesci-at-his-damndest dialog, a severed digit (or ten) thanks to a pair of garden clippers, plus a rather topical twist: a lesbian couple star as the glam Bonnie and Clyde. Topical, because I've just seen 'Brokeback Mountain', this year's darling gay western flick. 'Bound' has terrific acting and plotting, highly recommended. Warning, 'Bound' contains some serious lesbian, Vaseline-covered lens action of the kind I hadn't seen on late night TV – I suspect straight guys who drool over double date centerfolds will also eat it up.
I am now holed up in Oahu, via the Big Island, Kaui and Maui, til Feb 20, doing some serious telecommuting. I am the guest of Ralph and Bernice - Ralph is the Bike Friday Club of Hawaii leader and rabid triathlete and marathoner. I just got back from his 8am training session, for which he and many others shell out $500 or more to prepare for the Half Ironman. The Dobsons have kindly let me homestay their guest room for $300 a month, as per my Gal Across America 2006 proposal. See http://galfromdownunder.com/galacrossamerica
Continuing from where I left off:
Auto Free Ann
It's not a grim reaping job at all! Try it in your own home!
On the Big Island I stayed with 'AutoFree Ann' Kobsa, a Bike Friday owner who lives 99% self-sustainably off her land. I first introduced her here. In her self-sufficient, fossil-fuel-free world, leaf blowers and cars are taboo, toilet paper is for wimps and soap is not only color and fragrance-free, it's made by Ann from the fat of wild pigs that occasionally plunder her property. Packaged food does not cross the threshold. She cuts the grass with a scythe – surprisingly ergonomic, I tried it. She has solar panels of course. Her water catchment system is made from a sheet of metal, a discarded clothes dryer filter and washing machine bowl she found in a dumpster. She welcomes junk mail insofar as it separates yesterday's poop from today's in the composting toilet; the wafer-thin, 1-ply pages of the otherwise hard-sell CAMPMOR catalog make excellent loo paper. She's investigating installing a methane toilet, the kind that families use in India – poop and biomass make gas for cooking. She grows every exotic and desirable non-animal you can think of, including cardamom and cinnamon trees. Right now she's cultivating vanilla pods, which must be hand pollinated ,as a cash crop. See this gallery of Anne's life. I want to be like her when I grow up! Car-free Ann in her own words.
I stayed with Stacey Friedman whose standout hot shower head sticking out of a willy willy tree I will remember forever. David Hannauer is an ocarina meister, who I profiled already here, in words and pics. Rick and Iris are doing it the hard way, trying to be self-sustainable on their salty coastal acreage. He expresses alarm and guilt that he is wearing PVC boots, manufactured attire, and in fact, is breathing, thus adversely impacting the environment ... but keeps on keeping on. All these intriguing folks form the Koa'e community near Kapoho, in the Puna region of the Big Island.
See http://www.bikefriday.com/hawaii for Photo Galleries.
Stumbling upon a Tantra Puja
Loiter long enough, say 'yes' more often than 'no', and you will be amazed where you end up. At the end of the fabulously bikeable 17-mile Red Road to Kalapana (bottom end of the Big Island), where the road is suddenly swallowed by lava, I met a Taiwanese woman called Moon. She'd been studying the tantra, and invited me to a 'tantra puja' that evening. When faced with a new situation, I always ask myself: have I done this before? If no, then, can I afford it time or money wise? If yes, then I say yes. Fast forward to a cosy living room in Pahoa, an urban McAshram. The ten attendees eat a potluck meal, then the tantra begins. Picture seven 'stations', a man each each one, through which the women rotate, the 'goddesses'. “It's OK, it's perfectly safe,” chimes the cheery 36-something Dakka (tantra teacher) who bears an uncanny resemblance to Alfred de Mad Magazine. “Why, do I look terrified?” I say. “Yes, you do.” I soon get into it. One man is tardy to set up his lair for me. “Where's my throne?” I demand. I'll bet you'll be glued to this space for THAT bedtime story!
In a bit of a crunch in Kauai
If you decide to drop out of law at Harvard there's always a PhD in Surfing at Anahola, Kauai...
On Christmas Day I bad my Big Island friends farewell and headed to Kauai. Straight away I knew I did not belong there – I was neither rich, Hawaiian or on four fat tires. I was there to serve on the 10-day Vipassana course at the YMCA, Haena.
A story will follow on this, but in a nutshell: my 10-year old guidebook pointed me to a beach campsite at Anahola that has since become an after-dark trawling ground for theft, meth and ice transactions – on the rise due to the gap between the haves and the have too much's. I called the number of a haole friend of a friend who lived in the town to register my whereabouts, and because I felt a little nervous. She told me in no uncertain terms that I'd called the wrong number – I should be calling the police. Billy, a Hawaiian local with 10 kids, rescued me. He drove me to his cousin Herbert's place to pass the night in comparative safety. The two men jammed on their guitars and ukeleles 'til late for the first time ever in their 60+ years. See http://www.bikefriday.com/bf/gfdu-hi2005 for the clips – including a slack key guitar lesson you can learn in the comfort of your own laptop (except, as a reader on Craigslist pointed out, I neglected film the fingerpickin' right hand).
Kauai's traffic-choked two-laner follows the coast and is not great for biking, especially when the shoulder disappears. At the entrance to the Napali coast trailhead it resembled a car dealership. Herbert gave me a ride all the way to Haena in his poor, clapped out pickup, and refused my donation of gas money. His hospitality was in stark contrast to that of the American woman in Anahola. Let us meditate on that, shall we ...
Dhamma in Kauai: Vipassana Meditation
Noble silence is 10 days of no talking, reading, writing, looking at anyone, or loitering off somewhere. The most beneficial 10 days of your life The 10-day silent Vipassana Meditation course (Goenka tradition) was held at the YMCA camp in Haena, a run-down affair on a billion dollar piece of sand. The course more gruelling than biking 16,000 Feet on a Friday - and of superior value. I've'sat' it twice - at pivotal points in my life (ten years ago in Australia, then last year in Washington). On this occasion I was 'serving' as the head cook. Even if you consider yourself smug as a bug in a rug with your life, I challenge you to do this non-woo-woo, non-religious, non-cult course before your life proceeds any further. Who I am today is largely a result of being exposed to this kind of practise. You would have liked me a lot less before. The most common remark about it is “Lynette, how on earth could you not talk for 10 days?” or “I am not sure I could be silent for 10 days.“ Well, you're not quite ready to do it then. In truth, talking requires a lot of effort - it's a complex process, listening, analysing, reacting, formulating a response, issuing that response, getting uppity etc. Give yourself a break from it.
There's a course May 16 in the stunning Koke National Partk, Hawaii - http://www.hi.us.dhamma.org/
There is never a charge for a Goenka Vipassana course, nor for the excellent food or lodging. I loaned the organizer a sizeable chunk of my small savings to make sure this course gets off the ground, so strongly do I believe in its value, especially in moneyed Kauai.
You donate what you can, as the belief is that meditation should never be a business. Amen.
See http://www.dhamma.org for locations near you. I'll write more about my experience on this soon, but don't wait for it.
Kalalau (Napali Coast)
After serving on the Vipassana course, I hiked the renowned, 11-mile Kalalau trail which switches back and forth through the dramatic, fluted mountains of the Napali Coast. There were some panty-pooping moments at Mile 7, where the trail becomes a 45-degree plummeting slope of loose gravel, the rocky, crashing ocean inviting you to a premature death below. The hiking technique? BABY STEPS! I was wearing my 10-year-old Lake cleated MTB shoes, normally be a no-no, but for some reason they kept me stuck to terra not-so-firma. The trail is less than a foot wide and skiddy in many places. It takes between 7 and 9 hours for a fit person to hike it one way, but you can camp at the nice facilities at miles 2 and 6. My friend, a six-time veteran of this hike, abandoned me for personal reasons at the start of mile 7. I hiked the remaining 4 miles alone. (What, you think I'm gonna trudge 7 miles then turn back?)
I languished in my Hennessey Hammock 7 days, reading the far-fetched Da Vinci Code prequel, “Angels and Demons" from the local 'library' (a plastic container of books under a tarp), visiting the locals and cooking quinoa and dried pea soup mix on my little Trangia stove. Watch for my review of the Hennessey Hammock at http://www.bikefriday.com/bf/accessories
Which brings me to the biggest blight on this magnificent area - the scenic flight helicopters making chop suey of the peace ALL DAY LONG. They could easily pick another valley – there's a bunch of them. They could switch to balloons. The incessant juddering of enough to give any Vietnam Vet nightmares, and apparently it does. It's not so bad on the beach as the crashing waves muffle the noise, or rather, vice-versa.
Staggering out of Kalalau on Day 7, I hitched to Princeville, one of the 'Californicated' parts of Kauai. It was hard to sleep for cheap or a song on this island. I had to spend the last night sleeping in someone's car – she, and another friend, were not allowed to host visitors. Kauai is a place of 'no space', unless you have equity, cash or cushy contacts. I had none of these, so it was time to go.
I could spend way too much time at the office here ... view, wireless internet .... nirvana!
I was privileged to be the guest in Haiku of Susan Boatright, Bike Friday owner and all round adventurette who is regularly mistaken for Bo Derek. I have taken on finding her a man of substance (mental rather than financial, and certainly not chemical) as a personal project. We got a fossil-fueled ride 37 miles to the top of Haleakala Volcano for the screaming descent. It took a long time to reach Casanova's in Makawao, where a bargain $3.25 killer slice of pizza awaited us. By the time we reached the bottom – balaclava'd, fleeced and legwarmered among people in shorts and singlets, my feet were still like ice.
Fellow (is that an oxymoron?) adventurous woman Susan Boatright suzboatright at hotmail dot comSusan's house consists of 3 little buildings – bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, a bit like a traditional Balinese house. You never complain you 'didn't get out today.' We cruised the touristy Kihei and fabulously wealthy Wailea area where a bedroom with a complimentry door and a window rents for $1200 a month up. We propped ourselves up at the Tommy Bahamas bar and split an appetizer with a long description. The bartender said we looked hungry and asked if we wanted bread. YES PLEASE! Shoestring (or rather, dental floss) travelers know that in fancy digs, bread is often more than merely 2 slices of wondertoast; in this case, a giant, warm, springy loaf that resembled Haleakala itself, oozing a lavaflow of cinnamon butter.
Being a bit of a wandering workaholic, the highlight was telecommiting from Susan's office at the Vipassana Metta foundation (this is a different Vipassana organization from the one I did in Kauai) for 3 half mornings – overlooking the panorama of West Maui, the islands Lanaii and Ka'aolewe. More photos coming. Now if you ARE endowed with more than a couple of brass razoos (that's Aussie for 'having equity') you should check out my literary lawyer's salubrious rental at Napili Point on this island. If I manage to do a John Grisham with my next book I'll be celebrating there, otherwise, it'll be the Hennessey Hammock and quinoa stew in the Trangia again.
Which brings me to Kaneohe in Oahu, where I am paused until February 20, writing the next Bike Friday newsletter and probably not a single apostrophe of my second book at the rate I'm going. I'm going to organize a showing of my Peru DVD movie this week at the house, and invite all biking and cerebral types to come along.
Craigslist in HI – checking out the natives
I've met so many adventurous, unpartnered older women in my travels, and particularly in Hawaii, I wondered why it was hard for them to meet anyone. Someone who likes to travel, can converse on everything and nothing, confident but not arrogant, is neither passive nor aggressive (and certainly not the combo) ya de ya. In short, someone who simply 'gets it'. All these women have one thing in common – they like to move around. Well, as my sage el jefe says, to get longevity – in anything, relationship, job, a garden, a skill - you have to do it. Dang. So where's a travelin' gal to hang her helmet? Now, you can meet someone you like, in a place you hate, or go to a place you like and then look around – the latter seems to make more sense, especially if your funds are short and you're no longer in danger of overpopulating the planet. So I posted on all the different CL social pages. I was inundated by replies from bikers, adventurers, dreamers, and 5 women of the aforementioned adventurous kind, two of which have taken me gadding about, one with their boyfriend in tow. People are clearly wanting to connect with people. One of the women, Val, is an ABC like me (American Born Chinese, I'm an Aussie Born Chinese) so we were instant cousins by association. She read my post and invited me to go dancing and crash at her folks' place. Her friends thought she was wacky, yet I would never have met her loitering in Safeway (that's because I try not to loiter in Safeway).
Conclusion: It must be the sun. You gotta live in Hawaii.
Treated to lunch at the table of fame at Buzz's in Kaneohe, on the windward side of Oahu. Now I can say I rubbed butts with the Clintons.