We left Kohala on the 23rd, and on the drive over we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking Waipio Valley, along with clear views to Maui and Haleakala. We continued along the coast, ultimately passing through Hilo before reaching the Farm. On the 24th, both groups began their first sections of service work. Because of group size limits in the National Park, one group stayed at the farm and built a pen for sheep, helped out around the property, and then headed into town for some beach time and ice cream. The other group spent the morning removing invasive ginger plants inside the park alongside Tim, a retired Ranger and former Head of Natural Resources for the park. In the afternoon, we had a guided hike with another volunteer through Kilauea Iki, the smaller volcanic crater next to the larger Kilauea Caldera. To summarize and reflect on the day, here is a journal entry from Mason:
My group, including me (Mason), Emily, Evelyn, Mary, Jade, and Jordan, stayed at the farm on Saturday. On the farm, we gave a hand with many projects, including trench digging for plumbing, shaping garden beds, and clearing land for a sheep pen. After a gourmet lunch of pizza bagels, we packed our day packs and headed to Carl Smith beach, where we swam in slightly (ranging to severely) frigid brackish water. Once we had enough of Carl, we took a trip to the thrift. Hawaiian Goodwills, very appropriately, have an abundance of Hawaiian shirts. Now, all looking like stereotypical tourists (which we may or may not be), we made our way to an ice cream shop downtown where a few of us indulged in warm glazed doughnuts stuffed with neon blue ice cream…and by a few of us I just mean me and our 28 year-old-grown-adult leader, Jordan…. everybody else in the group made very sensible ice cream choices. (Jordan and I would like to apologize to our parents. You raised us better.) With the sugar still coursing through her veins, Jordan drove us back to the farm. Soon after arriving, I began making dinner. Because the other group had made a wrong turn and wouldn’t be arriving until later on in the evening, I did not have my partner in crime, Cal, to help me with dinner. After a lot of multitasking in the kitchen, which I learned from working for my family’s catering company, dinner (Shrimp tacos) was ready. Like every day, the day ended with a group evening circle.
Privilege comes in many forms. This was one of the main takeaways from the activity which our group participated in last week. The activity led by our leaders Jesse and Jordan involved looking at one’s privilege through many lenses, including race, ability, nationality, socio-economic background, gender, and religion. As a straight white American male from an upper-class family, my inherited privilege was poignant. Though this was not the first time I had come to face with my privilege, it was a good exercise in personal awareness and put me back into a mindset of active consideration of my privilege. On these types of programs, especially with the constant activities and social interactions, I have found that it is easy to float along without deeper consideration of the forces that put oneself in that position. With privilege on my mind, I write this reflection.
Today was not only fun and fulfilling, but it felt normal. A normal day in a time of pandemic is not normal. It is a privilege. I was lucky enough to be afforded this privilege by my late grandmother, who passed away last December. It’s ironic that one of her last gifts to me ultimately turned out to be a sense of normalcy because she was definitely not “normal.” She was an artist, an extreme creative with peculiar quirks and exceptional taste. She wore pigtails and, on occasion, glittery sliver shoes with red laces. It was her uniqueness and individualism that made her successful not only as an artist but grandmother, mother, and human. Her life was always an uphill battle as a female artist born in the ’30s, and she most definitely did not inherit the same privileges as I have. As I reflect on this day and look closer at the opportunity afforded to me, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude accompanied by a feeling of humbling responsibility. Simply acknowledging my privilege is not enough. I must fight for others who are not lucky enough to be in my position, for many COVID disrupted their “normal.” But in this country and around that world, “normal” is relative. It changes depending on your gender, race, class, nationality, ability, and religion. As a result, as a person with exceptional privilege, it is my responsibility to proactively advocate for others and strive for a world where everybody’s normal is like mine. Filled with fulfilling work, loving people, a sense of security, and warm glazed doughnuts stuffed with neon blue ice cream.
On the 25th, our groups switched and one group stayed at the farm and helped with some construction projects, weeding and planting, and removing debris from the previous owner. Meanwhile, the other group did the same hike, visited an art gallery, and continued removing ginger plants in the afternoon. The first group got Poke bowls for lunch, followed by a quick trip to Rainbow Falls, cascading 100 ft. into the river below. With some ice cream, some thrift shopping, and a stop at the beach, we headed home to meet back up with everyone else.
Today was Evelyn’s 19th Birthday!! We took the day off from morning service work, and instead had a seminar on food waste, sustainability, and rural land ownership. It was certainly interesting to hear the differences in perspectives from various parts of the country. We then had a constructive conversation about how to minimize our impact both on the program and at home. With that, we had a picnic lunch and some dedicated time to explore town, shop, and relax. As a birthday treat, we went to the Magic Pineapple Shop, which has some spectacular ice cream creations with some even more bizarre colors. After dinner, we all shared the ways in which we admire Evelyn, had (more) dessert, and sang to celebrate her.
In the morning of the 27th, we had a morning of service work as a whole group. Over the next three days, we helped with constructing the sheep pen, weeding and clearing land, building more garden beds (with lava rocks and guava branches), planting new herbs or vegetables, pruning trees, and herding sheep (an entertaining lesson to say the least). In the afternoons, we would explore the surrounding area, mixed in with SPM and Capstone time, seminars, and of course, games.
After service work on the 28th, the group spent the afternoon at Rainbow Falls and Coconut Island. The next day, we visited King’s Landing, a rainforest coastline with brackish tidepools, jungle trails, lava rocks, and impressive waves. After spending a few hours exploring and relaxing, we returned to the Magic Pineapple Shack one more time before making our way home for dinner and our last Evening Circle at the farm.
Tomorrow, we start our Student Planned Module (SPM)! These six days are entirely planned, budgeted, and led by the students. We will be spending two days near Hilo (in Honomu) before heading back to Kona for the remainder of our time on the island. We have spent many hours planning, and it’s finally here – we are excited to see how it goes!
-Mason and the magic island people