Panic. Sheer Panic.

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Panic. Sheer Panic. That’s what we felt after settling in (if you can call it that) at our new home in Kapoho, Hawaii.

First, let me go back to tell you how we landed here.

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

After two nights on beautiful Waikiki beach in Honolulu, we were just getting used to the idea that Hawaii will be an awesome place to call home for at least the next six months. We started to fantasize about staying here for years (coming back to Canada every six months of course, as U.S. regulations require).

We awoke just before dawn (yes, it’s true!) on Thursday morning, and enjoyed a last walk on the beach with Starbucks in hand, watching the surfers and boogie borders catch some beautiful sets.

As an aside, the time difference has been quite constructive in assisting us to change our hours to be more workable in Hawaii. The sun typically rises around 6am and sets around 6pm. And native Hawaiians adhere to the schedule of the sun too.

Prior to leaving Canada, we would typically roll out of bed somewhere around 9am and retire for the night sometime after midnight. So since Hawaii is four to six hours behind Edmonton & Toronto times, we didn’t really have to adjust that much! We are exhausted by 8 or 9pm, and awake at 5 or 6am!

Okay, on with the story.

The short inter-island flight from Oahu to the Big Island was spectacular. We witnessed many of the topographical differences between the islands; Maui’s moon landscape, another island’s agriculture, and then the Big Island’s lush green foliage.

And I thought Oahu was green.

The amount of life upon life upon life on the Big Island was the first thing to hit us between the eyes, and we didn’t even have to leave the open-walled airport!

Iris (pronounced ee-ris) was immediately recognizable – we were told to look for the woman with a beautiful smile. We spent the afternoon touring around Hilo and the surrounding area doing some chores, and picking up some groceries and staples. Then – off to Popai! (Popai is the name of the property on which we are living. Kapoho is the nearest “town”, which often is used to identify the area. There isn’t actually anything to the town of Kapoho – it was actually obliterated by lava floes many years ago and I don’t believe it was ever rebuilt).

The nearest actual town is Pahoa, which has a flavour of its own.

Once at Popai, we met Rick and Chris (one of the other caretakers here). We were given a quick tour of the property, and shown possible accommodations. We could choose from the ferro cement Yurt (a round dwelling 20ft in diameter), or the cabin, which is bigger but less private and lacks a certain sense of romance. (It’s also harder to keep clean)!

Needless to say we chose the yurt! The only downside we have detected so far is that we can’t get internet access here, as it’s too far away from the router. So in order to keep in touch with the outside world, we’ll have to hike over to visit Chris in the Cabin (Chris in the Cabin – it has a nice ring to it!) or Rick & Iris in the main house.

We’ll see how it goes over the next little while – we may indeed end up preferring the cabin for convenience of internet connections. Currently it’s pretty important to me to have, since I’m actually building a location independent writing career utilizing the internet (not to mention the ease of speaking with everybody over Skype)!

So on to the sense of sheer panic that overcame me.

Here we were, sitting in our little yurt. It was getting dark, we had very little power, and were putting sheets on our bed (which was two twin mattresses on plywood on cinder blocks). More on each of the amenities of the structures in future posts.

Our belongings were still in bags or strewn all over the yurt, we were hungry and not knowing even how to cook dinner, and we were just taught how to pee and poop in our little buckets. (I think this last point was a real catalyst for me)!

The reality of the remoteness of Popai started to settle in, and I felt terribly removed from the world. All the creature comforts we were accustomed to were gone. Egyptian cotton sheets – a thing of the past. My RX-8 (or any wheels for that matter) – a distant memory. Heck – even a general sense of cleanliness – a different world.

There were bugs, dark corners, unknown territories, and I was terrified of the next time I’d have to go to the bathroom. The walls in this open airy remote place started to close in on me.

Thankfully, Kelly didn’t feel the same way. He lulled me out of my state of exhausted panic and promised me that he was loving it and that we had both been in stickier places. A well-deserved meal courtesy of Rick & Iris and a good night sleep was all we needed to re-evaluate our situation the in the new light of tomorrow.

And so it was left that the physical and emotional shock of this new and alien experience was not to be a sign of times to come and instead an expected part of the learning curve.

We slept well despite torrential rains and numerous leaks from our skylight (them’s the breaks of having a skylight, I’m told!), and arose at our now-typical early hour of dawn.

Despite having had to pee outside, in a bucket, in the rain – twice in the middle of the night, I was still enthusiastic about the day to come!

And as promised, in the light of the new day, I felt better. I was able to see our surroundings and the beautiful land much better, and it allowed me to gain a better sense of bearings. The ocean coast is both beautiful and formidable (no swimming here, that’s for sure!), and the contrast of the lava rocks and lush jungle is like the difference between the moon and rainforest.

One of the small details to change the scope of my day was the starfruit. Rick brought over some of the excess starfruits from the property as a morning surprise, and all I could recall was trying them recently and not liking them much. They were bitter, and devoid of much other flavour. But what a difference when it’s fresh off the tree! After cutting off the tips of each spine (which houses the bitter part), we ate them like apples. They were sweet, juicy, and tasted like a combination of apples and grapes. We also tried another tropical fruit previously unidentifiable to me (and still unpronounceable) the night prior, and we’re now excited about trying some of the new and exotic foods that are literally on our doorstep!

We met the chickens and goats – who are very endearing, and I learned and shadowed the majority of what my daily chores will look like. I’ll be in charge of feeding and milking the goats, a task that will take me only an hour or so once I get good at it. I’m not sure what else I’ll have on my task list, but I’m left with the impression that the goats are the lion’s share. Kelly will have other responsibilities that haven’t yet been defined to us.

So here I sit, at the end of our first full day at Popai, in the dark, writing by candlelight. We don’t currently have power since it was raining for most of the day and Rick is conserving what he can. It remains to be seen when the power will be reinstated……it’s all new to us!

I am no longer panicked, and I believe that after a few days and weeks here, we’ll have a much better sense of how much we’ll like it here and how long this arrangement will last. Short of any drastic unforeseen circumstances, I feel it necessary to at least stick out the six months, and who knows – we may yet fall in love with Popai and stay longer. The lava moonscape is the limit!

Stay tuned: future posts will outline the details (with pictures and video) of each of the structures, critters, and people who live here.


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