I had never been to Molokai until last week. I have lived in the islands for 15 years, and I didn't know what I was missing! Every island is so very unique.
On Maui, I love the upcountry area of Kula. The elevation is such that it gets very cold up there which is kind of refreshing when you live in Hawaii! And there are some great beaches!
On Oahu, I love Haleiwa for the quaintness of the surfing town. There is a great little restaurant there that serves the freshest of local produce and fish.
On Kauai, there is so much to love! I love the Princeville area. Waking up in the morning and seeing the waterfalls streaming off the mountains. The beaches are beautiful...it is just what you envision Hawaii to be!
Lana'i has huge pine trees which remind me of Idaho. I love the gardens at Koele Lodge.
The Big Island is HOME! On the Big Island I love the Volcano area. The fern forest where we love to escape to when Kona gets to hectic.
But Molokai....ahhh...Mo lo ka i! I think it has to be the people! We had such great experiences in the short 3 days we were there. And don't get me wrong! Moloka'i is gorgeous! It has a 3 mile stretch of golden sand beach. On the other side, Halawa Valley is breathtaking! And the history of Kalaupapa is heart-wrenching. But Moloka'is real treasure are the people who live there.
The island only has about 7000 people on it. It is a very rural community, but it is the kind of community where all the locals wave each time they drive by. You know it was a tourist who just passed you if they didn't wave!
Our first stop was to check out Kalele Bookstore and Divine Expressions. Somehow, several months ago, through people who knew somebody and then somebody else, I connected as a "friend" on Facebook with Teri Waros. I read her story of how she had worked in the resort called Molokai Ranch and when that shut down, she fought to open a business. She had a strong background in the hospitality industry and had traveled the world opening up Ritz Carlton Hotels as a Catering Manager. But, the banks turned her down and she really had to struggle to open her little store. In my mind, Teri's store sounded like it was a little hub of the community where you could pop in for coffee as a friend, and not fork out $4! A place where friends came by to share good news and bad.
I had this little picture in my head of what that place would be like and was almost afraid to check it out for fear of disappointment. But when we walked through the door, it felt like home!
There was Aunty Arti with her spinning wheel. She explained to me how they grow cotton on Molokai and she was spinning some into a fine soft yarn to make baby caps out of. Sarah, you would love it!
Another lady, Aunty Snooky stopped by and right behind her someone came bursting in all excited because she had just purchased a book that Aunty's story was published in and wanted her autograph. It is a book with stories and poetry of Native Hawaiian Women. The title is "Ho'okupu an offering of Literature by Native Hawaiian Women. " Check it out! I bought a copy and had Aunty sign mine too.
Through all this, Teri realized that she thought she knew Earl. It turned out that they opened the Ritz Calton Kapalua together back in the 80's! Its official! Earl does know somebody on every island! We had fun and Teri gave us tips on the best and worst places. She was right on with all of them!
Her best tip was to set us up on a guided tour of Halawa Valley. Earl and I have been on many guided tours, but I think I can say, without exaggeration, that this tour was life changing. It is a special valley with a deep history of the Hawaiian people. A young Hawaiian man, named Kawika, met us and the 3 others who were on our tour. It began at 8:30 a.m. He didn't just take us to the waterfalls. He introduced us to his Kumu (teacher) and his Kumu's Kumu who are 49 and 50th generation Kumus. He shared his rich knowledge that he has been taught, living in the valley without electricity or many conveniences. This young man hasn't spent his life there. He has seen much of the world since his father was quite high up in a large company requiring them to live in Costa Rico and other places including the mainland. He is college educated and very humble. Kawika spoke of his ancestors and showed us where the birthing stones were located, pointed out different plants, but mainly, explained many stories of the Hawaiians. I came away feeling so much respect and so humbled.
When we returned to his home, he called his Kumu, Uncle Lawrence, out. There had been some questions asked on the tour that he didn't know the answers to with regards to the migration of the polynesians and other topics. So Uncle Lawrence sat on the steps of his humble home with his cup of coffee and us all at his feet listening to every word. He shared so much about "Aloha" ...the true meaning and how it isn't used today in a meaningful way, all too often.
It was almost 2pm when we said, "a hui hou" and made our way back out to the car. Later that evening, we popped back into Kalele Bookstore. Teri had arranged for a Talk Story with a Big Island speaker on the topic of "Aloha". We both were eager to attend. I bounced in to thank Teri for setting us up with Kawika and told her what a wonderful young man he is and she said, "well, he and Uncle Lawrence are here, over in the corner!" It was hugs and kisses all over again!
Molokai has a saying: "Don't change Moloka'i. Let Moloka'i change you!". Maybe that is what I experienced. I came away a richer human being. I was touched by Moloka'i.