Kalani Honua Blog

Monday, August 20, 2007

Whittney Erskine

Whitney Erskine
My time at Kalani so far has been nothing short of magical. Initially I thought I would find the most healing and growth through yoga and pure air, but I have come to see that it is through my `Ohana that I have blossomed the most. Being here has revealed to me the art and beauty in simplicity. Simplicity brings space, space brings compassion, compassion brings love and mindfulness.

In this simple atmosphere, I can focus my attention on how I am doing things, not just what I am doing. This mindfulness has brought me to a much more meaningful and happy place in myself. Now that I have tapped into infinite love within myself, I feel that I can exercise constant change; of nature and humanity. This ebb and flow lifestyle helps eliminate judgment, fear, and stagnation in the soul. Constant change = constant growth.

I spent my first 2 months focusing on what my own intuitions were saying, trying to understand what this meant, and I internalized so much information. During the rest of my time here, I want to extend out to my community and share my love, compassion, mindfulness, gratitude and skills. Now that I am comfortably grounded here, I have a yoga class in the works, I love doing van runs, I am using my cosmetology tools, and I am making strong, honest, spiritual bonds with the people here.

I wake up everyday, and I know that I am truly blessed to be a part of Kalani. Hawaii feels like home. I want my innate lightheartedness and playfulness to comfort those around me and encourage them to enjoy themselves everyday.

Whittney Erskine, Newport, Kentucky


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beverly Mendoza

Beverly Mendoza

Saying goodbye to Rod last week, a fellow volunteer, a fellow soul mate, a fellow tribe member, was hard to say the least. We sat around a bonfire at The Point and everyone was in conversation, reminiscing already about the whirlwind that is the Kalani experience and speaking of the future which is so exciting for all of us. Terrifying, yes, and it was only so appropriate to be standing at The Point, on the edge of a cliff with the vastness of the ocean ahead of us and this fire burning in the ground.

Rod and I had a moment alone while he peed in the jungle and I stood next to him (talk about intimacy right?) If you knew Rod and were privileged enough to hear his story, then you’re a pretty lucky person. Let me just say that this man has been through it. He came to Kalani, he told me, unable to love and laugh and you wouldn’t have ever thought that upon meeting him. You see, he is laughter. It’s absolutely contagious and distinct and it ripples from the lanai to the jungle. He is love. And everyone loved him. He was the social butterfly of Kalani. His heart was stretched and opened here at Kalani, he said. And he never thought he would laugh as hard as he has here at Kalani.

That was his journey and transformation and it radiated from his ocean blue eyes, from his kisses and hugs, from his insanely wise words, from his nursing skills, from his heart.

Rod looked like he saw a ghost his last week at Kalani when he was in the process of saying goodbye. His eyes were perpetually wide open whenever I saw him. You know when a person is just really living presently? When they are absorbing the intensity of each moment? You can practically feel that earthquake in their soul radiate from their body. We always held hands when we spoke and that night at the point he placed my hand on his heart as we said our goodbyes. This man has a drumming circle inside him. One wild drumming circle. To witness a person go through this transformation and have the breakthroughs that Rod had, is so f-in precious. It is so awe-inspiring. And so I thank the Universe for his presence, for bringing him into our lives, for witnessing his light.

Q&A: Rod OlinRod Olin

What brought you here?

I had an opportunity to take a break from my life in New York. The lease on my loft was up for renewal and I was ready to change my job. My friend Jared has been teaching Yoga here for a long time and so I booked a ticket and leapt into the unknown.

What was your first impression of Kalani?

When I got out of the van it was nighttime. I walked into the office and asked them what the ambiance soundtrack was titled and it was actually the koki frogs. That’s when I knew I’ve lived in the city for way too long.

What struck me once I settled in was the friendliness and open hearts of the staff and volunteers here. It gives you a sense of feeling at home.

What book did you get turned onto here in Kalani?

Like half of my kitchen workers, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was amazing how elements of that book mirrored my journey here at Kalani.

What advice would you give first time volunteers? What do you wish you would have known?

Know that as magical and beautiful as Kalani is, it’s also the most amazing and challenging microcosm of the outside world. All of the joys and hurdles are highly amplified. With this it is a great opportunity to observe your own human nature and grow accordingly.

What’s your favorite Kalani buzz-word?

My favorite Kalani word is forgiveness. Because when you live in a community you learn that word over and over and over.

What’s your most memorable day so far?
The day I was at Kehena Beach and conquered my fear of the waves and swam with the dolphins. I learned a really important life lesson that day using the waves as a metaphor. If you fight it and panic then you’re going to sink but if you relax into the wave and make peace with the ocean then it’s smooooooooooooooooooooooth sailing.

How have you changed, can you tell already?

Besides the obvious changes to my body because of yoga, my capacity to maintain an open heart and laugh off challenging moments has expanded beyond what I could have ever imagined. But the real barometer will be when I return to the outside world and when I can measure my responses and actions in my mainland life.

Top five things to bring with you?

  1. A copy of Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart
  2. Your favorite hoodie
  3. A pair of Tevas
  4. An ipod
  5. A good security blanket

What really inspires you about the Big Island?

The relaxed nature and smile of its inhabitants.

Where to next? Do you know yet?

Portland, Oregon for three months to work as a travel nurse. Possibly traveling to South America through the winter.

What will you miss the most about Kalani?

All the people I love. It’s going to rip my heart out to not see them everyday. Even though I know I will maintain my connections with my `ohana it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye.

You know you’re Kalani-nized when...

When you’re riding a rusted out bicycle looking like an extra from “Lost” feverishly on your way to yoga class.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kalani `Ohana

It seems like a miracle to get almost everyone in one place at one time, but here they are: the July 2007 group of Kalani volunteers and staff.

July 2007 Volunteers


Friday, July 13, 2007

Kalani `Ohana

Although Richard Koob, the Director of Kalani, has always recommended that every person find his/her inner leader, by a balance of mana'o, pu'uwai, and na'au, i.e. rational thinking, heartfelt emotions, and intestinal intuition, he was just declared "guru" by The Advocate, the award-winning national LGBT newsmagazine and world web site.

Their "cool jobs" article this month introduces Richard and 9 other "gays and lesbians working outside the paradigm."

The article:
Richard Koob
Richard Koob
Hawaiian retreat guru
Kalapana, Hawaii

Imagine if your typical workday looked like this: Practice Kundalini yoga at sunrise on the Hawaiian coast, socialize with travelers from around the globe, trek to the beach, sit in on a few staff meetings, play volleyball, and recover in the hot tub. And if it's Tuesday, teach hula.

That's the life of Richard Koob, 60, the director of Kalani Oceanside Retreat, a 120-acre getaway along one of the most unspoiled coastlines on the Big Island. Koob opened his nonprofit retreat in 1982 with his partner (Earnest Morgan, who died in 1992 of AIDS complications) as a place dedicated to nature, culture, and well-being. "It's important to enjoy life and focus on doing what we really love," says Koob.

Many of Kalani's activities, including dance and workshops such as a yoga retreat for gay men, reflect Koob's personal passions. "We've been on the vanguard of helping gay men realize how important it is to develop one's soulful and sensual side," he says.

An eclectic clientele is drawn to its rejuvenating massages, hula classes, historical sites, and breathtaking lava-walled cliffs. Accommodations range from $30 campsites to $260-a-night tree houses. Koob and Morgan always intended Kalani to attract people from a variety of backgrounds-both financial and cultural. Says Koob: "I think that appreciation of diversity comes from the gay experience."


Monday, July 2, 2007

Beverly Mendoza

Beverly Mendoza
There are certain books that get passed around here at Kalani like a hot potato. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron is one book you’ll often find someone totally immersed in on a hammock, or on the lanai, or even in the laundry room. I was reading it once by the pool when two people in passing both whipped a copy out of their bags and proclaimed, “I’m reading that too!”

We’ve even joked that the Kalani Volunteer Program should hand out a copy of Chodron’s book to first time volunteers along with their letters of acceptance. It would be a kind gesture equivalent to saying, rest child rest… without knowing the details we know what you’ve been through.

I’ve been wondering why Chodron’s book is so popular here. I’m beginning to think as I get to hear more and more of the people’s life stories here that perhaps the common denominator of our stories and fates and destinies (and we’re a mighty eclectic bunch, I have to tell you) is that sometime before we’ve committed ourselves into coming to Kalani, our lives have broken or at least come to a halt and we arrive a bit damaged. Nothing that a yoga retreat can’t patch up, we think in our moments of hope during these breaking points. And so we untangle ourselves from our worlds, we pack our bags and we get on a plane and we take this humungous leap of faith across the Pacific Ocean to the Big Island.

Oh, the Big Island! The land of the Goddess Pele! Whatever research you’ve done on this legendary woman, you ain’t seen nothing yet until you experience her magic. I see her as the supreme real estate agent. I believe Pele calls people to the Big Island to experience whatever life-altering lesson(s) she wishes to teach you. She calls the ones who belong here and she sends the ones who don’t back.

So we arrive. We’re just bug eyed, jet lagged, little balls of excited and nervous energy and we are so ready for change, we are so ready to feel and look fabulous, we are so ready to retreat and get it together.

If anything, the “red road” heading to Kalani should be a warning of what awaits you on your journey. It is the most stomach dropping, spine tingling ride I’ve ever been on with manic up and downs. It beats the notorious San Francisco hills, no doubt. They are these short, never-ending hills and no matter what speed in which your volunteer driver takes them (although fast and reckless is always a good time) you’ll feel your stomach tickle your throat a few times. As you drive you are surrounded by lava and cliffs that look like slabs of dark chocolate. The ocean is so voluptuous and she sprays the whitest mist you can ever imagine. The sound of the waves crashing takes all your anxiety away, as if absorbing all that noise in your mind. The clouds are fluffier here too, you’ll see. And the aroma of saltwater air intermixed with the scent of flowers and fruits is what heaven must smell like. And just when you think your senses cannot take on any more you notice a canopy of lush green trees as you drive through the jungle. Specs of sunlight shine through as you go deeper and deeper towards Kalani. You look around for Tarzan and Jane, for somebody’s gotta be swinging on these vines around here. Trees with lush red flowers miraculously grow from the lava rock. Nothing makes sense here! This can’t be! You are Alice in an exotic Wonderland. Where are we? You can’t help but become a child again in such wonderment. And perhaps you’ll feel the mana (the spirit and power) from the land spiral up your spine. I did the moment I stepped off the plane. It’s the awakening of your chakras, it’s the feeling of being tapped into a very energetic land.

So you are surrounded by beauty and you’ve got some serious stuff to work on within yourself and your fate is about to intertwine with the fates and destinies and lives of some very incredible people. Are you ready?

Here’s a lesson I learned in my third week here as a volunteer. To leave your expectations and agenda at the gate (which by the way is very “Jurassic Park” – you’ll see). Whatever it is that you feel like you need to work on, whatever it is that you expect to get out of Kalani --- drop it. Enter with an open heart and mind and soul. It’s as if you’re coat checking your agenda to a higher power that has plans for you that you cannot ever fathom. If I had known that earlier, the adjustment period wouldn’t have been so agonizing for me. To be as present as you can be and to truly appreciate this experience necessitates dropping your agenda and your ego. I know, I know, it’s way easier said than done. Especially for a neurotic city dweller still dealing with the shock of being unplugged from that urban fast paced socket that necessitates control for survival. Depending on where you’re coming from, there may be many layers you need to shed here. But remember that Kalani is your blank canvas though. It is very much the real world here as it is “out there” but here you can start fresh from the get go. Your slate is clean– just like that. Be mindful of the baggage you packed with you. You don’t have to keep those here. None of us know you, or expect that from you so you can easily drop it and try something new. Changing who we are is much harder amongst people we’ve known forever. It is instant freedom to be here in that respect.

A good friend here who was on her fourth month once said to me when I thought I wanted to pack up and get out, “I came here with all of these plans of what I wanted to accomplish and I did none of that, but instead I learned all of these other lessons that I could have never imagined I would learn or even needed to learn. And in hindsight they were even better lessons.”

By the way, my name is Beverly. I’m a three-month volunteer here at Kalani and I serve in the kitchen. It’s my first time at Kalani and I’ve been here for about five weeks now. I’ve been asked to blog about my experiences here to paint a picture of the volunteer experience. And I’m assuming the readers of this blog are people that may be considering coming to Kalani (at least that’s who I had in mind while writing this first entry). I will be doing some Q&As with other volunteers who have some pretty amazing stories and perspectives to share in future entries too. And my personal experiences will most likely get much more personal. I wanted this first entry though to be a reflection on what connects us all here, to show the broadest spectrum of the Kalani volunteer experience so that you may begin to imagine your experience here, if you choose to leap of your cliff to join us.

So I hope you come back again every Monday for a new post or perhaps you’re filling out the application now and we’ll be meeting soon.



Friday, June 22, 2007

Arlene Lindstedt

MoonThe beauty of Kalani stems from its tolerance and kindness towards others, diversity of thought, boldness in dedication to protecting both the environment and Hawaiian culture, its creative vision of the future, and gentleness --- wrapped with humor and an enthusiasm for life.

The accommodations are comfortable, but rustic by common standards...Cell phone reception is almost impossible; there are no TV's in the rooms; most rooms have open-screened walls or half-walls that allow for the pristine beauty, fragrances, and birdsong to cuddle you as you drift to sleep --- or wake to another glorious day...

The food borders on exceptional --- fresh breads, fruits, vegetables, and entrees that utilize the best combination of seasonings, meats, or vegetarian ingredients...

This is not 5-star resort, where you're pampered with facades and ostentatious service. It's natural. It's people helping people. The energy is positive ---- and you can just be you...

I think many people "find" themselves at Kalani. It's a good spot for self-awareness and an opportunity for you to mentally articulate who and what you are, what's important... and recognize the inevitability of change as a dynamic, unique, and needed catalyst in our lives..........

               - Arlene Lindstedt


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lori Runkle

Lori Runkle is a writer and photographer who has chronicled her Kalani life and friends with pictures and words. Thank you Lori for being you, for being here, and for sharing so much with us!

Lori Runkle
Nice to meet you; I'm Lori Runkle.

I live in a small community in rural Iowa that could be described as conservative. I'm a liberal Buddhist vegetarian who earned her college degree in world literature. When I discovered that Kalani was a top-rated vegetarian vacation spot in the United States on the Vegetarian Vacations web site, I applied to the volunteer program immediately.

What I didn't know when I bought my airline ticket to Hilo was that Kalani would work magic on my mind, body and spirit- in addition to my tantalizing my taste buds.

As a photographer, I enjoy documenting my every day life in pictures. In these albums, community life at Kalani became my subject. Enjoy the trip through my days and nights on a piece of paradise in the Pacific.


Kalani photos I
Kalani photos II
Kalani photos III

Lori's web site: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~ljrunkle/homepage.html


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kalani `Ohana

Ehulani Stephany in JapanA few weeks ago, Ehulani Stephany, a member of our Kalani 'ohana and a hula teacher, went to Japan to teach the beautiful dance of hula. She was assisted by two former Kalani volunteers, Chie Yamazaki in Tokyo and Tomoyo Kurosawa in Iwate.

Tomoyo gathered a hundred students in Iwate, and Chie gathered 20 members of a hula halau and another twenty new students. Chie said that it wouldn't have been possible but for her Kalani experiences and connection with Kalani and said "We really appreciate Kalani and the volunteer program, and the help of the volunteer coordinators. I think this program is very wonderful."

Tomoyo's blog (in Japanese) and more pictures of Ehulani's hula adventure in Japan can be found at http://alohairo.blogzine.jp/mizusawa/.


Monday, March 5, 2007

Kalani `Ohana

Healing Lifestyles Magazine
Healing Lifestyles & Spas magazine in its March/April 2007 issue named Kalani as one of 10 Eco-Getaways leading the way to traveling "Green." They say that

...Kalani both honors and embraces the environment. Elements of the surroundings are reflected in the accommodations, which include cozy cottages and tree houses. Nearby, black and green sand beaches are the setting for water sports, and the resort offers yoga retreats to develop communion with nature. A full range of body work therapies can be enjoyed in massage rooms overlooking a peaceful pond, and a sweat lodge constructed with native lava rock is accessible for healing ceremonies.

Kalani embraces stewardship of the `āina and kai as one of its core values. Mahalo to Healing Lifestyles & Spas for its recognition!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Kalani `Ohana

Let's Go

Let's Go Publications, a well-known publisher of travel guides around the world, recently sent us the following letter:

Congratulations! I am writing from Let's Go Publications to commend your establishment for its excellent services to our readers. A leading budget guide, Let's Go values businesses that provide travelers with fun, unique cultural experiences at bargain prices. Every year, our Let's Go team scours the globe in search of unique travel destinations; our regional writer came across your establishment and was very impressed.

Since 1997, we have rewarded a small number of exceptional businesses from each of our guides that best embodies the qualities we value. As tangible recognition of your outstanding services, we are sending you a "Let's Go 2007 Recommends" window-sticker; we hope you will display it within your establishment with pride.
-Let's Go Publications

Let's Go guides are known for giving the straight scoop, so we're all pleased at Kalani to be recognized for outstanding services!

Mahalo to all our past and current staff and volunteers in our `ohana for their hard work and spirit of aloha!