Hey yo, your little sister will now decree
that Kalani Kalani is the place to be
It took a long strange trip to get me here
and I'm-a tell the story so lend an ear
I'm a gypsy pirate kinda ballerina
started trekking this land at age nineteen
About five months in I needed new direction
so I found a spot for some self-reflection
in the Gumboot Cafe, Robert's Creek
It was so fortuitous that I should meet
Ambassador John Paul, he knew what I needed
and his advice, I had to heed it:
"Kalani, Kalani, they're throwing down right now
ain't just a retreat, girl, it's an Ohana!
Keep ya bags packed, gonna love it, you'll see
when you get your butt down to Hawaii."
I was fancy free and so footloose
moving down south like the Canada Goossen
Washington, Oregon, Califor-nye-aye,
I was making new friends most every day.
Made Frisco baby, and lived in a van
with some musical soulmates, doing the can-can.
Hellos and goodbyes all blurring together,
Hell no, you can't reach me but I'll write you a letter
from Honolulu, mama, Waikiki
you'll find me hustlin' tourists and turning Japanese
for a bit, until I renounce all this
and take a little sojourn into consciousness
spent ten days as a nun, day and night
splayed out my hipbones and my insight
but by day ten I was screaming for more,
motored to Sundance, and I hit the floor.
Kalani Kalani! I came sight unseen,
didn't know I'd be living in luxury!
All these beautiful faces and nubile nubs
sipping OG juices in hot tubs
"Cool down mama, don't set up your tent,
we got half a room for you to circumvent.
And hey, what's that what's that ya say?
Ain't just desserts, it's dessert buffet!"
So merci beaucoup, powers that be,
nosotros tenemos suerte d'esta aqui.
Any way I say man, you oughta know
the sentiment is Aloha and Mahalo.
Kalani Honua Blog - Volunteer Life
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Hey yo, your little sister will now decree
Friday, February 26, 2010
Aquaponics is the buzzword around Kalani these days. When I moved to Kalani a year ago, I had never even heard of the word, and now, I seem to be the local expert.
It all started in Kalani’s drive to become more sustainable on this island that currently imports 90% of its consumables. Gardens to feed the guests, volunteers, and staff that number between one and two hundred at any given meal were an obvious place to put our energy. There’s only one problem … living on a part of the island that was flowing lava as recently as a hundred years ago, there is very little soil to grow in. While considering trucking in soil which hardly seemed sustainable, my boss discovered a system of farming being developed in the Virgin Islands that not only did not need soil, but produced fish to eat as well….Aquaponics.
The word AQUAPONICS is a combination of AQUACULTURE which is the raising fish, and HYDROPONICS which is the growing of plants in nutrient filled water instead of soil. Aquaponics marries these complimentary forms of food production into a stable ecosystem that solves many of the problems that occur when each is practiced independently.
When I heard Kalani was interested in exploring this new food producing technology, I knew I was the person to do it. After leaving my engineering profession 4 years ago for the simple island life, I had been missing the challenge of problem solving and experimentation that had been such a part of my every day life on the mainland. Combined with my knowledge of fish and filter design from working at an aquarium store in my youth with my more recent interest in gardening and sustainability, I began a project that has brought me more joy from creating than I ever felt in my whole engineering career.
I researched ways people were doing Aquaponics locally and on the internet, primarily influenced by Friendly Aquaponics located here on the big island. It became apparent that the size system required to supply our kitchen’s demand for 900 pounds a month of greens would be a bit risky to jump right into. We decided on something much smaller to prove the concept and started construction in November. Due to the thorough training from Friendly Aquaponics as well as the simplicity of the design, things went very smoothly and we had our first harvest in early February. There is still much experimentation and learning to be done before we stop buying greens for the kitchen, but plans for a first stage of expansion are already underway.
I’d like to acknowledge Barcus Adams, Richard Koob, Stuart Blackburn, and especially Tim Mann and Suzanne Friend at Friendly Aquaponics (www.friendlyaquaponics.com) all of whom were instrumental in this project’s success. Thank you for bringing joy and gratification back into my work life.
Note: You can read more about Jacob's aquaponics adventures at his blog: http://aquaponics.totallytuft.com
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I will call it a blur
But it has meant more than that
I've been dropping
Pieces of my past
Layer of my hands
Sometimes, my heart
Groves in the coral
Colors in the sky
Hints of pain, in every pupil
Wait for a wave
Break the surface
In every face
My shoes at the door
Among other things
Revising the plan
Using an eraser
To sharpen today's picture
Shavings of cruelty
From the page
How beautiful we are
When we're destroyed
How many hands it takes
To put one person
Monday, January 4, 2010
Four years ago I stepped onto Kalani property wide eyed and ready for a new adventure. If I had known what Kalani would become for me, what it would invite into my life, I never would have believed it. Words cannot express the depth of gratitude I have for Kalani and for each of you with whom I have had the honor to live with, love with and play with over my time here.
To my divine Ohana:
Thank you for being a mirror, for helping me to see myself more clearly~
Thank you for being my teachers~
Thank you for your smiles, your words, your challenges~
Thank you helping me to face my fears~
I died and was reborn a hundred times over during my time at kalani. With each cycle, I grieved and then rejoiced. I gave birth here. I gave birth to myself. And like any birth, I went through the labor pains. At times it felt so strong it brought me to my knees with such humbling surrender. And yet, like a mother holding her child, Kalani has held me in such tenderness through it all, and helped me time and time again to remember, that there is only love and fear is not real.
I live in love and carry each of you with me as I step into a new adventure. I am in love with each of you. You are all my brothers and sisters and your prescence, your divine image, has made an everlasting imprint on my heart. I'll be seeing you!!
Until then...ALL my love~ Jenn
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I’ve been here a month now. While it’s hard for me to easily define what Kalani has meant to me so far, I see my life here as a series of wonderful moments strung together.
Taken as a whole, these moments are especially important to me because they are in such contrast to my former cubicle job and city lifestyle. Things like; walking across a dewy field in the evening while the coquis chirp and the stars fill the sky, being part of the team that creates the meals that nourish this community, laughing with friends on a day off at the beach, and being so close to the awesome power of Pele.
I also love seeing people every day who care about each other, nature, the earth and themselves, and exploring movement through yoga and dance. I want to continue to be a part of the ever changing community here, knowing that its power to change me is incredible. I feel supported here and I think Kalani is an excellent place to discover my unique talents, the ones that I didn’t have the time or energy to explore in my San Francisco life. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be right now than here.
I think the biggest benefit to being here has been the warmth and friendliness of everyone I’ve met. I can sometimes be slow to get very close with people, and the welcoming aloha spirit of the Kalani Ohana has been so helpful in overcoming my initial shyness. I’m very much looking forward to continuing to build stronger and deeper connections with people here.
Monday, November 16, 2009
It is what you see when looking back that makes a place a home. I had to get away to discover that. So, it’s good I left when I did. I’m talking about October, 2008. I had been at Kalani for a year. I needed to go. I needed new adventure. I needed new sights. I needed new people. And I got all that. I traveled the world. Parts of it anyway.
Most of my travels were great. I saw the Redwood trees of California for the first time. I visited a dear friend in Oregon. I got caught up with my family in Virginia. I tutored Tibetan monks in India. Those monks, they speak English that much better now thanks to me. That’s something I’m proud of.
Then I ended up in a place where I just wasn’t thrilled to be. Turned out, this was the best part of my travels. It’s what I figured out while there that made it worth while. I took a job as an English teacher in Korea. So I went to Korea. Korea didn’t turn out to be such a good a place for me. I didn’t much care for Korea.
The thing is, at Kalani, and on The Big Island in general, the aina, the land, the Earth is treated with reverence. I love that about this place. As an empath, empathic to the planet itself, I appreciate feeling this oneness with nature. Here, we live in nature. We live with nature. We live of nature. We are nature.
I feel it when I take a deep breath, remembering that this air is the freshest on the planet. I feel it when I watch the cycles of the moon in the sky night after night, watching the stars- the shooting stars. I feel it when I meditate at the point or swim in the ocean. At night, the coqui frogs lull me to sleep, often speaking to me personally as I meditate on their voices.
We do not hide from nature here. We do not escape it. We do not alter it to suit our needs. We breathe it in and hold it. We eat our meals on the lanai- outside, breathing. We do yoga and dance within view of the ocean. When it rains, we walk in the rain. When the sun shines, we walk in the sun.
In Korea, it was different. Where was nature? I couldn’t find it. I’m sure it was around somewhere, but from where I was, I couldn’t see it. Where I was, nature- our Mother Earth, my Mother Earth, was held in bondage. Her flesh rotted over with cement and pavement, blistered with an endless sprawl of apartment buildings and retail establishments and buildings and more apartment buildings. Where was the moon? Where were the stars? When I breathed, my lungs hurt from the pollution. I got a sinus infection and needed medication. That didn’t set well with me.
It occurred to me that I was home-sick. I found myself looking back, missing what I had. Funny though, I wasn’t missing my old life- the life I lived in Virginia where I spent thirty some years growing up and existing. No, I wasn’t missing the house I used to own or the car I used to drive or the job I used to go to or even the sixty five inch television I used to watch reality shows on. That’s not what I was missing. Nope, not at all.
Know what I was missing? I was missing getting my hands dirty pulling weeds. I was missing my connection to the earth. I was missing Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon. I was missing it all. I was missing Hawaii. I was missing Kalani. So I said goodbye to Korea and went home. Now I am home. This is my home. Kalani.
I see that now. Kalani is home to me. It’s not just a place to visit. It’s not just a place to pass through. It is a place, for me, to set down roots. I realized that while being away, while looking back. Home is what you see when looking back. It’s where you want to return to when away. That’s what I have done. Returned. Here I am. My home. My headquarters. The vantage point from which I watch the universe expand its inhabitants evolve. This is where I want to be, so this is where I am. It is good.
Monday, September 28, 2009
It started just over a year ago. I took it slowly at the beginning, even withholding a little bit to be honest. I knew myself enough to know that if I decided to be in this relationship I would commit to it 100%, and I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted. But in the end I was swept away. I seem to have swallowed the red pill and there is no turning back. Sometimes, when it seems like we are not connecting I feel defeated and I start to question our relationship. For a split second I’ll actually think about breaking up with her, but then I immediately remember the many sweet, divine moments that we’ve shared and I realize that leaving isn’t the answer. I just could never do it. I won’t. She is the Ocean, and I am a surfer.
She, the Ocean, is a great teacher and demands respect. Some days she is soft and gentle, while other days she is fierce and raging…but she is always in control. If I come to Pohoiki (the local surf spot here in Puna) and get my butt kicked, I know it’s because I came full of ego, holding on to my emotions and disregarding what she has to offer. Ultimately it means I am working against her because I’m working against myself. When I can be out there and let go completely of my thoughts and concerns with the world and the role I play in it, it means I can give her my full attention. When I feel the fear wash off of me and the peace settles in I can connect with her vibe and feel her movements, listening to her guidance. In these moments, ‘being’ is effortless, and the waves appear just in front of me.
She is my guru, and in this relationship I am learning how to live my life with more joy and trust in the process. When I have visions of being a pro surfer, I start looking ahead at what I want to be instead of where I’m at. She’ll tolerate my ego driven desire for a while, but eventually she’ll give me a gentle (or rough, depending on her mood) reminder to be right here, right now. And this is a reminder for me to have patience in all aspects of my life, to accept and love myself at every moment.
I understand now that the choice to be in this relationship really never was mine to make. I love her with all of my heart, she brings me peace and I am committed to her 100%. I could never leave her, I just couldn’t do it. She is the Ocean, and I am a surfer.
Monday, March 9, 2009
A recent `Ohana night, our weekly-ish get-together, was the eagerly anticipated kava ceremony hosted by our dear Auntie Lynda and her husband Ama. Lynda is a wonderfully sweet and sexy lady who teaches us lauhala weaving (google it!) and Hawaiian culture. She's very knowledgeable and extremely passionate, and always lots of fun!
Kava, or awa, is a root that is ground up and added to water, filtered out and then shared as a beverage. Traditionally, is tastes like muddy water, especially if you drink the last sip, and ya gotta drink that last sip. It's mildly intoxicating - you get a little giggly, wobbly and a bit numb around the lips, but you stay aware and alert and pleasant. As Lynda says, "it makes the men rough and the women soft".
It was good for meetings amongst the nobles, because you could relax and negotiate without declaring war on everybody all the time.
After getting the kava ready in a large wooden bowl carved out of a single piece of wood by Ama's brother in Tahiti, the task of serving it out in coconut-shell bowls hit a snag - where to find a virgin at Kalani? Or anywhere in the surrounding district? Virgins traditionally serve out the kava, I guess as their own personal offering, whenever people clap their hands together. Later, when I was playing ukulele, I encouraged people to continue clapping for the kava - I need all the applause I can get!!
After designating "serving virgins" (who changed through the evening so that different people could recapture their innocence, and so that we didn't exhaust any individual virgin), we shared laughs and kava and songs and dances. Lynda and Ama performed some traditional dances, Wailana (who teaches us Hawaiian Studies on Monday evenings) danced some hula with Lynda and played my uke a bit, and I played for a while and taught everyone to sing haole songs like "Tiny Bubbles", "Blue Hawaii" and the famous "Hukilau song", which is related to the famous "shaka" symbol (google it!!).
The kava was great for singing. It's mild on the throat, relaxing both physically and emotionally so there was no anxiety about performing, and I think it also made it easier for everyone to relax and sing along.
Our lovely Missy got up and danced hula with Lynda to a Hawaiian song I've learned to play and sing, and even taught to our singing Charlie (see Oct 17, '08 entry). It's called "Holei" and tells about the beauty of Kalapana, the town down the road that once held the most magnificent black sand beach but is now covered in rolling waves of hardened lava. In fact, lava still actively flows to the sea in Kalapana - we can see the plume of steam rising in the distance, and sometimes it glows red with the reflection of the molten earth. Very beautiful and dramatic.
I learned the song from our hula master Kimo and received the music and words from our front desk man, Tim, who not only takes people out on excursions to see the lava but plays Hawaiian music on the ukulele almost exclusively (and quite beautifully). The song is fun and challenging, especially to keep playing it slowly enough for Missy to dance. Charlie sang with me and it felt like a very genuine Hawaiian moment, though none of us are actually Hawaiian by birth (except Kimo, but he wasn't there).
This was one of my most favorite `Ohana nights. It gaves us a chance to experience something cultural together where we shared our talents and our friendship. It was wonderful to see so many members of our Kalani family, from the youngest to the oldest, from under 20 to over 70, laughing and playing and enjoying being together, and doing something that brought us all to the same level of ability - though some of us kept the kava flowing faster than others!
Thanks to Lynda and Ama for the kind hospitality and wonderful memories. I gotta get back into the weaving classes. Lynda is so much fun.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Hello beautiful people,
This is a long blog so save it for a time when you are bored at work!
5 weeks has flown by filled with wonderful experiences flying in left and right. I was thinking about how I would structure this email as I can see it being a long one, trying to highlight the finer details of this new life I am living.
My usual day here begins at about 6am with a wonderful sunrise coming through my A frame. The sky is usually a deep blue and there is always a breeze that lends its cool breathe on my body. The retreat fronts onto the ocean and I walk along the coast or through the thick forest behind. I am usually already sweaty on my return thus hit up the outdoor showers. They are covered with lush greenery and makes u feel connected to the outside. The other day an avocado fell from the tree above the shower and nearly copped me in the head. A slight O and H issue. I would then head up to the Lanai which is an open dining room. Breakfast is a healthy mix of muesli, yogurt, fruit, eggs and I try to stay away from the pancakes and bacon. So good.
Work start at 8.30, goes through till 12pm, one hour break (usually we eat and lay in the hammock) and then work till 4pm. As I work in landscaping its mostly outside weeding, moving rocks, gravel, building paths, planting, mowing and clearing the jungle. Its great physical work using all the muscles I have been given and the results are really starting to show. I feel energized being outside in the fresh air and although its tough work its rewarding. The landscaping crew are a real mix of people, different ages, nationalities, work ethics. There was one girl from French Canada who was the hardest worked I have ever met. When I get lazy I think of her and push on. The sun can be brutal out here. I got super burnt the first week but now have the ideal golden tan and don't really need sunscreen any more.
By 4.30 I am showered and take a yoga class. Each day there are about 3 yoga classes that volunteers can take. About 4 or 5 styles of yoga are taught here, each slightly different. My favourites is Yin Yoga which is more relaxed, floor based and held for longer periods of time. It really gets into the muscles. My other favourite is vinyasa which is flowing movement and feels like a work out. Even though I usually feel a bit tired after work the yoga is something to look forward to and makes me feel great. The other morning I took a yoga class at the beach and while we were practicing dolphins came into the beach. They were doing these amazing flips and we got to swim with them after practice finished. I had a huge smile on my face when we saw them. There are also lots of turtles here.
Dinner is again up the lanai and very healthy. Mostly fish, chicken, and other vegetarian/vegan food. Lots of salads and organic foods. If you want to get your health on track Kalani is the place for it. Not really much junk food here except for this awesome local ice cream.
Nights there are always activities happening like dance class, hip hop, hula, movies, games. volley ball, live music and the more spiritual stuff which I have not really got into yet. There is also the pool which is great after a hot day at work. I have also been reading a bunch and learning Spanish for my trip to South America.
A few activities here have stood out for me. There is something called the DOLPHIN DANCE which is done in a special pool heated to the human body temperature. So I did not know what the class involved. I was in the pool with about 14 women and just me. They were mostly half naked. So the teacher says the class is about movement in the water trying to relax our bodies. The first song was solo based. From then on it was all partnered. So here I am with these women, paired up, in constant contact, breasts in my face, around my hands. I was a little shy to say the least. I lasted about 45 minutes in the class before I excused myself and left. It was all a little too much for this little gay boy.
Another activity which is amazing is called the GONG SESSION. So its a meditation practice which using gongs of various types to send vibrations through the body. I did this session at 6.30 in the morning. All wrapped up in blankets, the man starts to slight hit the gongs only noticeably. Gradually the sound increasing and the vibrations really kick in. You can feel them go through your body and its really a unique experience. The gong master takes you on a journey through the use of sound.
Lots of people here have unique skills like massage, reiki, shiatsu, psychic etc so its been a real learning experience to me being more open to alternative techniques. There is a real energy that the island holds and its a special place to heal people. I have been utilizing the massage service which is only $20 for an hour. Its so nice to finish work on a Thursday and start the weekend with a massage.
So with 3 day weekends it really does not get any better. I have been on 2 road trips since I have been here. The first trip was with the owner of the retreat and his friends. I did not realize his friends meant his friend and this guys mother, sister and sisters 2 twin girls. So there was 7 of us packed tightly into his van touring the island. By the end of the trip they were like my family and I had an invitation to visit them in Baltimore. He took us to a waterfall where we were about to swim up to the crashing water.
Next we went to a beach called WAIPIO Valley. It's the first sight I had of those amazing cliffs Hawaii is famous for. We hiked down the hill to the beach and went for a well deserved swim. The area is said to be where the first true King of Hawaii was born. There is an overnight hike that can be done to the next valley but would have been too much for the 80 year old grandma. She was such a trooper doing most things the rest of us did.
Hawaii seems to bring out the child in most people. That night we went up to the top of the volcano to see a performance by local actors. It was a really small intimate theatre which added to the emotional of the play. It was about the struggle the modern Hawaiians have to maintain their ancient culture while living in the current day. The Hawaiians are such a beautiful people blessed with amazing smiles and warm, inviting personalities. They have a real sense of community where everyone knows everyone and there is respect for elder. Kids and young adults call there elders either uncle or aunty. I caught the local bus to the city and young people get up for older people without hesitation and have conversations. The bus ride seemed to be like a local catch up session for most people. Even hitch hiking is safe here. Today I got a ride back from town in the back of a pickup.
Anyways so we stayed the night at the volcano state park managers house. The next day he took us on a hike into the crater and gave us a run down of the history. The volcano is rather baron except for some plants that have started to return. One thing to note here is the actual lack of wildlife in Hawaii. They really only have birds introduced wild pigs, chickens and cute little mongoose. There are no snakes or spiders which is heaven for me working in the jungle.
The second road trip we took leave of Kalani for the VEGAS style west side of the island. This was the first time in 5 years since my last trip to the US I drove. It took a while to get used to but now i know which way to look. We took the south road and stopped at the most southern point in the USA and jumped off this 40 foot cliff into the sparkling clear water. My friend stood there watching but I knew if I did the same I would not jump. Leaping off, i flapped my arms and plunged into the warm water. Thats the beauty about Hawaii is the warm water. None of this icy Melbourne water.
The city we were headed for is called KONA the major tourist spot on the BIG ISLAND. It was just a bunch of overpriced shops and hotels nothing really worth mentioning. I was there for scuba diving. I met the boat at the harbour at 7,30 and we were out in the water not much later. I chose the tour group because of its limit to 6 divers and more personalised attention. I had not dove in about 4 years and so i was nervous getting into the gear and then into the water. I got suited up, tanks on and then went backwards off the boat in. The breathing technique came back once I put the regulator in and headed under to see the sights of the ocean.
The first dive was to about 30 feet in depth looking at the gradual slope of the volcano into the ocean. We saw the usual colourful fish, coral, Morey eels but the special of the day was a huge manta ray. It flies so gracefully through the water. The area is famous for night dives when the manta rays come out to feed. The second diver was much better as we dove to look at these steep ocean cliff faces. Tones of ocean life live inside the wall and so we dove to about 60 feet which is the deepest I have gone. The freedom and weightlessness of scuba diving is spectacular. We spent the afternoon at a secluded little beach soaking up the sun.
The next morning my mates were hung over and because I did not go out I took the car for a cruise into the mountains. Only problem was the rental cars breaks started to smoke on the way down. I would push the brakes in and it felt like the car was not slowing down. I got it down to the bottom and the car was seriously smoking. Some bikies pulled up to the window and recommended that I use the hand break so that the breaks would not get stuck on the wheel. I made it back to the hotel, rested the car and then we managed to get it back to Kalani in one piece.
Yesterday I went on an adventure with my mate to the GREEN MOUNTAIN AND GREEN LAKE. Its a massive property owned by some guy and you need to call to be invited in. He did not pick up and so we decided to take our chances and walked around the fence through grass up to my shoulders. As neither of us had been there before we got a little lost. We took the track around the side of the mountain and decided to have a rest under these massive Monkey Pod tress. They are these huge trees with massive spans of branches and lush foliage. After lunch and a nap we went back the way we came and took another path which led us to the lake. I wish I had photos to show you all how magical it was. The lake in some sort of crater and surrounded by lush jungle. The afternoon light shone through the trees illuminating the water. I cannot get over how many wonderful natural wonders Hawaii keeps throwing at me.
Today I went with another mate into the local farmers market. Hawaii has a large Asian population and so we feasted on fresh green papaya salad, pad thai and fresh juice. I am loving the familiar Asian food as American food is just plain BAD. Fatty and tasteless. After lunch we went for a swim a beach close to town.
I feel really fortunate to have taken time of out my life and to be experiencing this opportunity to live in Hawaii. Living in this community is giving me renewed hunger for life and realization I have so much growth and learning ahead of me. The people living in this community give me courage to be vulnerable to my fears, conquer and leave them in my wake. There is so much love and support here it was really confronting initially. Back home we rarely show much emotion, lack human touch and are closed to ourselves. Here its the total opposite. People want to share to your story and have time to listen. Hearing what other people have gone through makes my life seem like a fairy tale. I have received so many hugs and smiles from strangers its just the norm here.
Living here is something I have wanted to do for 5 years but always had the voice saying that it was probably not for me. How wrong I have been. Kalani feels like home and there is a true family here. It needs to be experienced...... People said one month here you just scratch the surface and begin to open. How true they were. Even with just under 2 more months here I am already sad to be leaving.
Next week I take my holidays and have planned a solo camping trip to Kaua'i which is where films like Jurassic Park were filmed. Really amazing mountains and valleys. I am planning on doing some hikes, a kayaking adventure and probably another dive.
Aloha from Hawaii.
Love you all
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
1. What brought you to Kalani? What's your story?
What brought me to Kalani was a plan of Perfection I could never have orchestrated myself. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 15+ years I was totally immersed into my family, my high-tech job, my community and the myriad of roles and activities, which accompany those things. At the very end of a yearlong medical treatment plan (throughout which I maintained "my life,") I woke up one morning with symptoms, which landed me in the hospital.
After days of tests my doctors came to talk to me. "So what's the prognosis?" I asked. They looked at me, shrugged, and said "Hypersensitivity?" Basically the yearlong medical treatment was finally showing it's nasty colors in the form of yucky symptoms. What my doctor said next was to be quite a "turning point." "Why don't you take a medical leave? You've been through a lot and went through it with flying colors. Now you must focus on healing."
Looking back now it's quite interesting and comical as I remember exactly how my mind responded. My initial thoughts were: I'm totally fine. I don't need to take a medical leave. That means I did NOT go through the treatment with flying colors.
He told me to just think about it and I promised I would. Within days it occurred to me that a "medical leave" would be FANTASTIC! What was I thinking? With the exception of two very short/just months periods in my life I had always worked. With the exception of a month-long trip to Thailand with my family, my vacations had been short -- limited to one or two weeks at the most because I was always working.
Okay, I'll take the medical leave and travel to one of the countries still on my list: countries in South America and Southeast Asia came springing up in my mind. When I told my Doctor about my plans he gently said it would be very irresponsible and unwise to travel out of the country in case I became in need of medical attention. Shoot! My plan was quickly abolished.
Then I remembered Hawaii. I love Hawaii. I have been fortunate to vacation in Hawaii many, many times. I had been to Oahu, Maui and the Big Island many times and lived on the north shore of Kauai when my kids were young. I hadn't been back to Kauai in about five years and realized this was a great opportunity to take a longer-than-usual vacation there. My plan was to again hike the Napali Coast into Kalalau Valley to see if I could "do" it in my new, recovering physical state.
Luckily my wonderful son, Mischa was available to accompany me. He loves Kauai, too, attended Hanalei School through third grade and had been hiking into Kalalau Valley since he was five years old. Of course he's one of the main loves of my life and he's in super physical condition that made me feel confident about the somewhat rugged, backpacking trip. We spent one month on Kauai and swam, hiked, snorkeled, and visited friends until we began the trek on the Napali Coast.
This was the time of Katrina and Kauai had been receiving more rain than usual, a kind of residual hurricane. We needed to wait until the seven streams needed to cross-receded below knee-level. The day finally came and we were off. Because of the perilous conditions there were only 11 people in the Valley and we discovered each other quickly.
As we introduced ourselves, one guy said "My name is Brandon and I live and work at a place called KALANI on the Big Island." "Oh, I know Kalani," was my response. I continued, "I've vacationed there, took a workshop there, and have friends who have been there also. It's a very special place. I've always told my kids, 'If you're ever in a life transition, consider Kalani!' So if this were a short story or vignette of some kind, Brandon's response would be the CLIMAX. "Why don't YOU consider it?" he asked. "Oh! I never thought of it." I said. Brandon, by the way, is a very special man and was a Kalani-veteran. He was a super asset to Kalani's Landscaping Department and their resident hairdresser, his profession in the default-world.
Before leaving the magical experiences found in Kalalau Valley, Brandon gave me Kalani's Volunteer Manager's name and number. I told him I'd give her a call. This was late autumn of 2005 and by the Holidays I was being given "bon voyage" parties by friends/family and the Company where I worked for 14 years! The timing was immaculate. My son was living on his own, my daughter had just been accepted to college and releasing myself from all the material possessions of a home happened so smoothly and effortlessly I was assured at every step this was my new direction. Everyone was so supportive and there was a mutual belief that this "new" life was perfect for me. My Manager, a Senior V.P. called my move "the end of the Tiki Era" as we were two of the four people who began a division which grew to 100, became international, and did over $1B worth of business!
My last day of employment was February 8 and I flew to Kalani on the serendipitous day of February 14, Valentine's Day. After days I KNEW this was my "new" home-away-from-home. I committed to a longer time and began my immersion into Kalani and the Puna community within which it resides.
2. How long have you been living here? What was the transgression of your roles/jobs here at Kalani? How long are you planning on staying?
I have been living here for two years but I left once for five months and a second time for six weeks. The first time I left I had an opportunity to do some traveling with my newly found freedom. My son and I went to Europe and toured five countries and several Greek Islands. We were especially impressed with the most successful, alternative community worldwide, located about an hour north of Turin, Italy called DAMANHUR. Upon returning, my daughter had one full month off between college semesters and we went to Panama, the only Central American country I had not visited. We loved it and especially enjoyed staying with the Kuna Yala Indians living on islands off Panama's north shore in the Caribbean. They are the last self-governing natives and continue to maintain their authentic, village lifestyle.
When I first arrived at Kalani I worked in the Kitchen Department. I loved working in the Kitchen. It was an opportunity to be in the experience of service and to meet and get to know many other volunteers, staff, and the on-going stream of vacationers and workshop attendees. I was in the Kitchen about nine months and played a variety of roles from scrubbing pots and pans to food prep to FOH/front of house to helping the chefs prepare an entrée, side dish, salad or dessert.
After the Kitchen I was asked if I would like to be the Cafe Manager. The Cafe is a wonderful place open daily for hanging out, events, and wireless connection. At night it is open to serve teas, snacks and the famous Hilo homemade ice cream. I loved being Cafe Manager. I was taking care of a special space appreciated by all.
Currently I am in training at Kalani's front/reception desk. I am so happy to learn all the details of the workings of this Retreat as nearly all "go through" the Office. In addition to my main jobs/roles I have really enjoyed performing other tasks. Shola is our resident tropical flower arranger and I'm her back-up/substitute. Every week Kalani buys a gorgeous assortment of tropical flowers and I've learned to create 30+ arrangements collecting greenery from our totally reachable jungle to accent the flowers to be distributed around common areas of the property. In addition, I am on the facilitators' team for our weekly Sunday, Ecstatic Dance. For six months I have been organizing weekly "`Ohana Nights" where a different activity is offered to the Kalani staff and volunteers.
My answer to the question "How long do I plan on being at Kalani?" is "Indefinitely." Having lived such a structured life, it feels so freeing and positive to even say that. Kalani offers a community/support system to enable anyone to continue on his or her path. I'd like to take advantage of its resources and pristine beauty while giving back with my involvement and dedication.
3. I love your name. What's the story behind your name?
My Father nicknamed me "Tiki" within minutes after I was born. It actually means small/tiny/petite/little in his native Italian dialect. My parents had only one child, my sister who was born 19 years and 10 months before me. Yes, you heard correctly -- almost 20 years before me and that's another story. Anyways, my parents did not know my sex but if I was a girl they planned on naming me Marilou Marie Elizabeth, a very Catholic name also honoring my Mom and my aunt, her only sister. At birth my sister weighed over 10 pounds and had coal-black hair and dark skin and of course my Dad was subconsciously expecting the same. When they handed me to him he asked for a pillow as he was a big guy and thought I looked smallish and different at seven pounds with light and hair and blue eyes. He began calling me little "Tiki" and the name stuck. To this day I warn new parents about the dangers of nicknames. I have a nephew who was called "Baby Tony" until he was nearly 30!
So I've been called "Tiki" all my life with the exception of one nun who did NOT believe in nicknames. Yes, I'm a product of 12 years of Catholic school. She actually called me "Elizabeth" as she believed everyone's name should be the name of a canonized saint. I was secretly happy to discover St. Elizabeth, the Queen of Hungary during the Middle Ages was the first "Robinhood." She collected money from the wealthiest and re-distributed it among the common people. Plus she was a real Queen! How cool is that?! I always believed saints were poor, tortured martyrs!
So many people re-name themselves and I'm often asked if I gave myself this name because I love Hawaii and live in Hawaii now. Actually, Hawaiians do not name their children "Tiki" as it's a god-name and would be considered irreverent. Kiki is common, however. I have met five other Tikis in my life. Three in Florida, all girls and two in California, one guy who lives in Santa Barbara and another in Venice Beach.
4. What was your life like on the mainland?
My life on the Mainland was full and wonderful. My children are my joy, work was satisfying and often too time-consuming, and my extended family/friends was impressive. It was a constant challenge to juggle all my responsibilities. Working out and having a social life had to be put on the calendar so it had a chance of happening.
Northern California is another seemingly endless playground so when you have free time so much is readily available. There's the dynamic city of San Francisco full of diversity and culture. To the south is "Silicon Valley," home of the first and largest high-tech companies. To the north is wine country and to the west are forests and the coast. To the east lies the Sierras, home of the second largest lake in the world which sits at almost 7,000 feet above sea level and hosts gorgeous pine forests, literally hundreds of smaller lakes, and hiking and skiing galore. These were our destination places when we found the time to take advantage of them.
5. How has living on the Big Island changed your perspective? How has living in our community changed you? What inspires you here?
Living on the Big Island has already given me more than I could have ever thought possible. I'm in love with natural beauty and this Island has it all. It is a precious reminder to wake up each day with the jungle surrounding you and the vast Pacific within view. Being here reminds you both of your insignificance and the immeasurable Perfection that gives you your life, breath-to-breath and heartbeat-to-heartbeat which lives within you.
The Kalani community is made up of so many different kinds of people; people of different ages, educations, abilities, backgrounds, etc but all learning and appreciating all that Kalani and this Island have to offer. I'm inspired by the stellar dedication and joy of the core staff as well as the love, which everyone who comes to visit -- and most return at some time -- has of this unique retreat in the jungle.
6. So you just recently took a trip to the mainland, where did you go?
Basically my return to the Mainland involved spending time with my family, especially my now very grown-up children/young adults, friends, and some doctors.
I attended some very special events including fundraisers for Democratic hopefuls including Dennis Kucinich. It was incredibly inspiring to meet Dennis Kucinich, an extremely bright, polished politician who uses words like consciousness and mindfulness. He has offered two, impressive plans to the Senate, one on America, strength through peace and a workable revamping of our healthcare system. What a fantasy to envision a person like him as President!
Also, I attended Burning Man, an annual art and community fest in northern Nevada. At the last Kalani staff meeting before I left, I found myself saying that if it wasn't for seeing my kids and continuing my annual trek to Burning Man for the past 10+ years I'd prefer to just stay at Kalani!
7. So Burning Man! From what I've heard already, we can spend a whole month talking about Burning Man. So let's narrow it down: What do you love most about Burning Man (why do you keep returning)? Top three moments, inspirations and/or epiphanies at Burning Man?
Burning Man is an epic, awesome, event showcasing the themes of art, community and responsibility. With some infrastructure in place, people come together and create a City. The City is a place to explore the artist within you. You can originate or participate in any art project, large or small. No money is exchanged/nothing bought and sold while there so sharing/gifting is part of the theme. At the end, the City is "taken down" leaving no trace of the nearly 50,000 attendees and literally hundreds of art installations and a wide-variety of living, class/workshop, art and party spaces, as well as a Community Center/Center Camp and buildings which every City needs including a police station/the Black Rock City Rangers, a Medial Center, an alternative Medical Center, a Post Office, a Bicycle Repair Shop, a radio station, a newspaper office which produces a daily newspaper, etc.
This year the theme was GREEN. Burning Man provided the venue to experiment, share, and learn about the changes we can make to be kinder to and further sustain our planet.
To witness what human beings can accomplish when given the freedom and space is mind-blowing! This year there were almost 200 major art installations.
I love everything about Burning Man: the art, witnessing it and participating in it, the extreme spontaneity of living there; a 24/7 fantasy adult playground, and the experience of no money, no driving, and living with the bare essentials while communing with the unpredictable weather of the high-desert. This year my daughter was able to go to Burning Man for the first time. At 21, she's always been in school and Burning Man begins when most schools' classes begin in late August. It was icing-on-the-cake to host her "virgin" year. I showed her that Burning Man is a live, community experiment on many levels. It's not just staying up all night partying which one can do anywhere. It offers a plethora of experiences all of which star YOU.
One piece of art, which was especially moving, was named ""Crude Awakening." I couldn't get enough of this mega-art installation. It took minutes to just bicycle around it. Weeks later I am still processing its poignant significance. Here's the exact description from the artists:
"Nine figurative steel sculptures, weighing 7 tons each and standing 30' tall, embody the faithful. In their various poses of worship from around the world, they bow down and reach forth to the Revered Oil Derrick, that icon of the religion which now stands above all others. The Derrick is a 90' tall wooden tower with stairs all the way to the sky. At any time, 200 people can amass on its upper platform while below, the nine faithful belch their fiery prayers from within and around their bodies. Each figure is bound by a participant-activated fire effect, created by Pyrokinetics. On Friday night at 10 pm, as the air raid siren wails and the battleship smoke generator pours forth its malevolent cloud, the Revered Oil Derrick will light up with a fire display like none before or ever after. A flame gusher will then explode from the center of the tower, creating 2.4 gigawatts of raw power in only one minute. You will bear witness to the largest flame cannon in history and the tower will fall."
8. What are you really into these days? What stimulates you? What's taking your attention?
These days I am focusing on my physical health and my spiritual growth. It is a never-ending process learning how to improve your health and deepen your soul's experience. I'm experimenting with various alternative healing modalities and implementing a daily meditation practice. I'm currently reading books by Eckhart Tolle/Power of Now, etc. and Dr. David Hawkins, the study of kinesiology. The extraordinary beauty of Kalani and this Island has inspired me to continue to learn about the art and skill of photography and to transfer that medium into creative writing pieces. My intention is to continue practicing being attentive to the perfection of my center as well as the perfection of my surroundings.