A Hui Ho (Until Next Time) Hawaii!
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
“Coronavirus: COVID-19…,” the news reporter announced, “...is spreading globally…”. She went on to explain how people who were traveling on airplanes and cruise ships were getting sick and how this virus appeared to impact the elderly population the worst. I immediately thought about my parents and all of the Kupuna (elders, grandparents, older people) and I became gravely concerned for their health. In Hawaii, all of our Kupuna are like an extension of our Ohana (family) and given the same respect like that of your own grandparents. In the same regard, teenagers and young adults often refer to the older adults as Aunties and Uncles. This is the way of our culture and is also the reason that so many island visitors think of this place as “home”.
Home. As I pack my bag, I reflect on these last few days of my trip and am grateful for the time spent here with my Big Island family. But before I leave, there is one more place that I absolutely need to visit!
Coconut Island. All of the memories of this place come flooding back of a summer trip that I took with my Ohana when I was younger. I remember climbing up a rock tower and jumping into the ocean, trusting the arms of my parents below. A mischievous smile appeared on my face. Fear never even crossed my mind at the time!
As we parked the car, I noticed a small bridge that connected the parking lot to Coconut Island. We crossed over this archway and could see Hilo Town and a man made breaker wall in the far distance. This wall was built after a Tsunami hit the Hilo Bay Area in 1960 which killed many people and destroyed many homes and businesses. As we drew closer to the other side, I noticed how lush and green this small islet was. And YES, it was littered with beautiful coconut trees everywhere. There were a few picnic areas and little beach coves where people ate and played in the sand and sea. The locals laid out their haliis (mat or blanket) on the grassy areas under some palm trees while many of our island visitors sat on the park benches having lunch.
As I made my way towards the infamous“tower”, I noticed some local children run right past me excitedly. They made it look easy, climbing over rock walls and navigating their way over oddly shaped stepping stones with almost no effort. I laughed as I thought to myself, how young and innocent these keikis (young children) are, far off from the world of corona viruses and infectious diseases. As my thoughts began to wander off, I was suddenly jolted back to the present when I heard screams emanating from the top of the tower. Young keiki were jumping into the ocean, creating an explosion of sea water high up into the air! They quickly climbed back onto the rocks and up to the tower to jump again and again, like a perfectly choreographed dance. It’s funny how everything seems bigger when you’re younger. This tower no longer seemed like an overbearing fortress, just a high springboard from which you could perform dives or acrobatic maneuvers.
After eating breakfast on a nearby park bench near the water, we grudgingly prepared to leave this peaceful and beautiful sanctuary. While crossing back over the bridge, my sister reminded me that we had to throw flowers into the ocean, as is our custom. Traditionally, the native Hawaiians would toss a garland lei or basket of flowers into the ocean for a loved one who has gone away (someone who has either left the islands or passed away). The saying goes that if the flowers float out to sea, then we release our loved one on his or her journey. But, if they should float back towards land, then he or she will return to you. In this case, my grandfather’s spirit floated back towards Hilo town. With that, I bid farewell and Aloha to the Big Island.
A Hui Hou Kākou (until we meet again),