We learned about Hawaiian culture, history, and the ecosystem--and how to appreciate and protect these things, especially the oceans. We drank the freshest water on earth, trekking through a volcano that filters it through the porous rock when it falls. We practiced yoga on a deck overlooking the ocean and the sunrise. We met with marine biologists and made friends with dolphins and whales. We swam and dove with countless green sea turtles. I certified my very first open water student, under the guidance of a great course director. We had a hula lesson. We kayaked in the sea.
I met Anya, my new "sister." We squashed cockroaches the size of 747s and she hid them under coffee cups.
We came to understand the spirit of aloha, holding hands in a circle before dinner every night, appreciating the company and the food--countless blessings. We scuba dived with Peter Yarrow and his family, and they performed for a crowd at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, inviting the Ocean Matters gang on stage to sing Puff the Magic Dragon. We fed sharks. I got stung by jellyfish--twice!
We saw the sunrise every day. I practiced speaking Japanese, and it opened doors for me. I had job interviews: Jack's Diving Locker, Big Island, and Iruka. I held a seahorse.
We hiked Diamond Head and saw Pearl Harbor. I watched the ocean waves crash against the sea wall from my bed and it sang me to sleep. I took a surf lesson. I snorkeled with about 60 spinner dolphins. I met the owner of Sushi Shiono, a tour business owner, deep sea sport fisherman, and real character. He treated me to omakase and fireworks over the sea. I dove with manta rays and pelagic alien-looking creatures. I ate the freshest local food and enjoyed every molecule.
My senses and my passions were reawakened by nature: the sea, the clean air and the smell of rain, the lush plants, the song of birds, geckos, and tree frogs. By discovering a love for island music (I wonder if I will still love reggae when I'm back at home?). By eating rich, local foods prepared with love. By learning from marine biologists, researchers, geologists, conservationists, and random encounters with friendly strangers--servers, tourists, boat captains, housekeepers, surfers; you name them, I learned from them.
As always, the best experiences were unplanned--reminding me to be open to all opportunities and experiences that present themselves, and that life is full of magical possibilities which can't be anticipated until they unfold. The very best thing about the whole trip were the people I met along the way. Truly an adventure of a lifetime and a dream come true.
When Mike and Jan at the Kona Tiki Hotel heard some of my stories they said, "You are charmed!" And I do believe they're right. I'll never know how I became so blessed, but I am forever grateful.