Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Green Rocks and Beans

After a trip of 35 hours we’re on Big Island, Hawaii. Stepping back in time is possible, but you don’t get to relive the old day, you live a new one. Flying on the 20th from Christchurch to Sydney and from there to Honolulu we crossed the International Date Line and arrived on the 20th in the morning, we got a new day. A day for new decisions, different situations. But before you get too excited about possibilities, there is a price:  later, you will lose a day, you don’t get to live it to the full extent.
We rented a condominium for 4 nights and we stayed for the first two days without doing anything. 

It is comfortable to be back where you know things. I was giddy thinking of returning on American soil, you know where to find things, and what to eat, and where, and what is expected of you. And yet, Hawaii is more. 
One evening we went for a stroll and they had a canoe contest. People were waiting their turn to have the race; women had their long hair tied up in a conch or a pony tail; children were huddling in towels, watching their parents. I liked to see them there on the beach.
There are many things to do in Hawaii, but we chose to see the olivine beach. We drove in our rented car for almost two hours at a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour on winding road to get to a parking spot close to the sea. From here we had to walk for another hour. Intrepid people wait there in their 4W and offer you a bumpy ride for 20 minutes, for a $15 per person. We chose to walk, so we could take pictures. 

It was very, very windy, the spray from the waves as they were crashing in the cliff, stuck to our skin and clothes. The road was a mixture of bare rock, dusty red soil or gullies, where you could easily break your car. As I was trying to shelter my face from the wind I realized that in the spaces sheltered by grass or rocks it was a fine layer with a greenish hue. The olivine! We can consider that we saw it and turn back! But no, we plow through. We’ve met some people walking back and we were passed by some cars. Suddenly it didn’t seem such a bad idea to take a car. Fortunately one stops and take us for the next five minutes. 

When the car stops, there is a horseshoe erosion. We immediately climb down the hill, the children taking their shoes off and burrowing their feet in the green brown sand.

 The other family that was in the car is slowly making their way down,they stop and then go back. I presume someone is not comfortable with the terrain. We just arrived and I don’t want to hurry. We are grateful for the short trip, but we chose to walk back. So we take pictures, shout, laugh, feel the sand between our fingers and toes. It is much finer than the one from Galapagos. 

Olivine, or peridotite, is a semiprecious stone that forms in the lava as it cools down. It needs some special conditions, so you can’t find them everywhere where volcanoes are. There is a sign stating that is forbidden to remove sand from the beach, and I think, without this sign and the taxi drivers, they wouldn’t have much of a beach left, as this is just a small cove. Though, we did take some sand, the one that stuck to our feet as we hurried up, because they we’re waiting for us. Mahalo, thank you!

Next day we were walking and visiting the Holualoa Village, taking in the old houses that were transformed into galleries of art. Maria noticed a hairdressing saloon and entered to inquire about prices and if we could have a haircut (which, with Ileana’s exception, we all needed). We were welcomed by Dinah Kunitake and while we were waiting our turns she offered us a book to look through. It was the book that she made about her family, her twelve siblings and their families. How their grandparents moved here from Fukuoka, Japan and bought a farm. How their parents worked hard and the values they gave them. How they have all traveled in their lifetime and with one exception, they all came back to Kona. One of her brother takes care of the farm, growing coffee and food for their tables. We listen about stories from her childhood. She warns us not to take anything from the island, because they belong here, their spirit will be restless in our homes and cause havoc just to be reunited with the island. While chatting back and forth, finding out that we travel the world, she offers us a tour of her family coffee farm. It was one of the most enjoyable haircuts that we ever had.  

After we pack our bags and load the car we drive to Dinah’s hairdressing saloon. One of her brothers picks us up and drive to the farm. We go down on a steep, winding, lava-paved road, between trees and bushes. The farm is a collection of buildings and we’re welcomed by one of her sisters and two more brothers. 

The children are given baskets with a special harness, hooks made from coffee branches and are instructed to pick up the red fruits, the stragglers. 

This is not a time to have ripe beans, especially as the shrubs were almost white with flowers three weeks ago, but we could find some. We found some flowers too, white with a strong vanilla pungent smell. 

The anatomy of a fruit is this: on the outside they have a red meat, that hides two seeds, each. They are called white beans because of a parchment that envelopes the green beans. These are the ones who are going to be roasted. After being picked the fruits are then dropped through a chute, where they are shelled,

 the red meat dropping in a compost pile and the white beans flowing with water in a reservoir, where the dried, un-useful pods would float, be gathered and separated.

 From here they are going up to a shaking sieve, that made separation from water easier and also, picking up the leaves or shells. 

Then they are left to dry for 5 days on a rolling roof (if it rains, they would roll it under a shelter) and raked every day to make it an even process. 

When it is dried, they have to separate the green bean from the parchment, a white husk, and at this point they can store it or roast it.

 It has more caffeine if it is lightly roasted. After roasting comes grinding, packing and labeling. 

On this screen it is a paragraph describing the process of how coffee is transformed in something that you can recognize. In reality is a way of living, with long hours and many worries for the bore beetle that could infest the plants, tending the plants, pruning them, watering (now they have plans for an installation that would filter the chemicals out of the district water), organically enriching the soil, having enough people to pick and so forth. They have one less worry, because the energy that they have to use is solar. From three bags of cherries (the red fruit) they get one of white beans. After dehusking, is 20% less weight. Roasting the green beans takes out another 20%. If you started out with 100 lb of fruit you end up with 20 lb of roasted coffee.

While they were showing us around, we saw flocks of parrots flying around, moving from one huge mango tree to another (and they eat all the fruits), wild chickens, we ate the fruit of the eggplant tree, Hawaiian guava (round, red and sour) and macadamia nuts, that we got to shell ourselves.

 Each sibling had a role, they were all working together, and they helped us understanding the works. From where we were sitting we could see the beach and the modern buildings. At my suggestion that they could sell the land they answered that the farm belonged to their grandparents, they bought it so they, the grandchildren, will have a place to live. They were wondering about the next generation if they would come to work the farm or hold on to it.
In the end we got to taste coffee, even the children. The adults appreciated it for its taste and aroma, really good and different from others (you’ll have to imagine it or buy it from We are thankful to Dinah and her family for opening their farm to us.

Thank you, Dinah!

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