On Jan 22nd when I first arrived here on the Big Island of Hawaii, I approached Pahoa (which is part of the Puna district of Hilo side of the Island) with foreboding. I didn’t know what to expect and I was so used to living in fear that I forgot what it was like to be fearless. That changed pretty rapidly though in a short space of time much has happened to me.
I’ve made a bunch of new friends here in Puna and have been amazed at how friendly the locals are – people here are very chatty and invite you to there homes almost instantly unless of course you are mean spirited. People here don’t judge you or eyeball you if you are not wearing shoes because most likely they’re not wearing shoes either. Most importantly though, I never go a day without one of the locals wanting to give me a hug!
There is a deeper sense of trust in this community and if you have been living in a squalid urban city it will seem awkward at first. It only takes a day or two before you develop the same level of trust with the friendly locals. I once walked passed a second hand book shop in downtown Hilo and there were some local banana’s on sale for $1.00 (yes, you can still get a bunch of banana’s for $1!) the accompanying sign read: Do not steal – God is watching. I think that pretty much says it all really…
If I could sum up all the beauty and wonder of Puna in one paragraph I would not be able to give this place justice so instead I think I’ll try to condense my experiences into two paragraphs.
So far I’ve seen glitter in the black stones of the volcanoes of Kalapana that glisten in the day – I even watched the sun set, a swollen ember that melts like a chunk of butter in a hot skillet, smaller and smaller to disappear into complete darkness.
I witnessed rough and choppy oceans, that beat there chest at me – I live! I live! I die! I die!, harvested wild medicine fruit from the Noni tree that grow abundantly like blades of grass on a golf course, foraged a coconut, had a wonderful all day road trip to Kona with 2 lovely friends that I’ve made for life.
I also ate reindeer and elk hotdog slathered with homemade pineapple, chilli and tangerine jam from the legendary hot dog man of Pahoa, bought a muumuu for only 25c from the recycling centre, received a life changing water massage at the healing hot ponds of Ahalanui where I also received a free exfoliation treatment from the tiny fish that live in the water – they like to nibble off dead skin from all the visitors, gorged on fresh green papaya salad from the Farmers market of Pahoa (please see my post titled ‘The Yummy Jungle”) and sat in silent awe of one of the most beautiful outdoor churches in Pahoa – New Hope Puna Church.
Do you know that the word “Puna” in the Tongan language actually means to “Fly?” – I must be soaring high then. (insert smiley face here 🙂
It is now Feb 4th and my birthday is coming up this saturday Feb 9th and even though it’s only been a short time I can honestly say that my heart sings in Pahoa. In fact the tourist that I once was exists no more. I have officially been crowned a “Punatic” by some of the locals. If that is my title than I shall wear it with pride – eat your heart out Sydney because I’m leaving mine here.
Punatic for life!!!