What It’s Like to Live on the Big Island of Hawaii

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Every day here on the Big Island of Hawaii, we see, smell, and hear more signs that we are in a completely different place from where either of us have ever ventured. Even just the other night, the ocean sounded substantially different from previous nights (without any different weather patterns to change it), and it put us on edge. As we get more acquainted with these changes in our lives, we’ll mellow out, I’m sure! But for now, here are some of the idiosyncrasies we’ve detected so far, while volunteering in trade for free accommodation on a permaculture property in a rural area of the Big Island.

This post was originally published in 2007. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

Kelly, a self-professed expert star-gazer, is blown away by the stars here. We’ll spend long amounts of time with our necks craned towards the sky, enjoying the backdrop of space, shooting stars, planets, and the Milky Way. And of course, you can only see this many stars because…..

I mean dark. There are no cities (or even towns) close to us, and if we look north east over the ocean, the next land mass in front of us is North America. Darkness here is taken to a whole new level.
However, the moon shines incredibly brightly. In our first week here we had no moon (even on clear nights). But now we have just a sliver of a moon, and it gives off so much light it’s shocking. I guess that’s what light pollution and smog will do for dulling the moon in the city.
And when the sun sets and it gets dark, it happens very quickly. To get caught off-guard and away from home at the dusk hour can make for some tense moments!

And the sun sets……

We are approaching the shortest day of the year, so the days are of course shorter. The sun sets around 6pm currently. Shortly thereafter it is incredibly dark. The sun also rises fairly early though, around 6am, so we aren’t being short-changed too much in the sunlight department. Even during the longest days of the year though, the sun patterns aren’t much different. Sunset may be closer to 7 or 7:30pm. This is part of the reason Hawaii doesn’t need to take part in daylight savings time changes (something for our family and friends to note having changed your clocks – we are one less hour behind you)!

We are located at the most eastern tip of the most south-easterly island in Hawaii. The next land mass is thousands of miles away (being North America). Breathe deeply here: it’s the cleanest air on the planet. There are many scientists set up here who study the air because of it.

Our diets have taken on a whole new front because of all the stuff growing here! You can eat most of the leaves on the plants growing around here (it makes for some interesting salads). Guavas, passion fruits (known as liliquoy), noni, and starfruit grow wild all over the place and are pretty much considered to be weeds. Papaya, coconuts, mangoes, avocados, and even citrus are other commonly spotted delicacies. If you get hungry, all you have to do is literally walk up to a tree, pick the fruit, and eat it! Wow.

The first night we arrived, we had a rollinea. We had never heard of or seen such an odd looking fruit, but it takes kind of like pudding, and is certainly a dessert-like delicacy. However it is also so delicate, it can’t be transported for others around the world to enjoy. So it’s limited to being enjoyed in tropical locations like Hawaii. Yummy! Other interesting fruits we’ve discovered so far are jackfruit (which taste like juicy fruit gum), breadfruit (which when picked early enough and cooked resemble potatoes to the tee), and tangelos (a type of orange). We look forward to trying so many more wild and wonderful foods too. Stay tuned for a future post with pictures and descriptions of some of these new foods to us.

We have spent many a day here in our yurt, wondering what “that smell” is. A lot of the smells are musty in nature, and we are consequently overly paranoid of mould and mildew growing everywhere. Even clean clothes don’t always smell like the sort of clean we’re used to after using fabric softeners and dryer sheets and smelly detergents.
Some of the other smells that are more pleasant are those around us in nature. We’ll often catch whiffs of dense greenery, beautiful flowers, and lush gardens.

Unlike the pleasant, light, and quick sun-showers we experienced in Oahu (which admittedly just experienced flooding so they’re aren’t doing so well themselves), the showers here can be frequent, and not always so pleasant. Since we arrived we’ve had more than our fair share of downpours, and debilitating ones at that. Some of the lighter showers are lovely, but we haven’t seen much in the way of sun-showers. This is possibly because the winds aren’t nearly as strong as they were in Oahu, despite the fact that we are right on the ocean.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for future Hawaiian island observations!
Aloha for now…

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