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, April 1, 2012

Lava and Bombs

We moved to another hotel, close to the volcano. On our way we stopped to visit Pu’uhonua o Honaunau.

Playing a traditional game.

 It is a sacred place and a refuge one. Hawaii was colonized by the Polynesian people, and isolated here, on this volcanic island, the religion became a collection of rules, of things that you could, or could not do. Breaking the rules would upset the gods, who would punish people by sending a tsunami or an eruption. To prevent this, the chiefs would have to punish people, and sometimes this would mean death. But there was a way to escape: if one could run toward the sea and swim through treacherous waves and currents and get on this ground, it meant that the gods spared him, and so should people. 

There were temples here in which the bones of the kings were placed. These bones had mana, power, energy to protect the ones who were seeking it.  Now they are not there anymore. King Kamehameha II abolished the religion in 1819 and welcomed some months later the Christian religion. 
How do you abolish a religion? Can you control what people believe? Can you stop them from worshiping? A hundred and some years later the Hawaiians are claiming their heritage, making offerings, openly teaching their children the old ways, as they were taught in secret, dancing hula (it was forbidden for a while). It is a private matter, as the island has Portuguese, Japanese and other heritages.
Separated by a lava wall 10 feet high were the royal grounds. The king would come here by canoe and live in one of the thatched houses, had his drinking springs, his sea turtles and his fish ponds. Death would await the commoner who would cast his shadow or even look toward the royalties.

These round holes are the fishes' nests.
We had a long drive on another winding road, with a speed limit of 45 miles/h. The villa was set in an idyllic garden, with fern trees and camellias. Ileana was happy to discover that they had internet and that’s where she spent her evening.

Next day we wanted to visit the park grounds. The weather had a different idea. It rained on and off most of the time. The minute we stepped outside, it seemed that clouds were gathering around us, soaking every plastic uncovered cloth. Still we managed to visit the Jaggers Museum, named after the man who pioneered volcanology, a place where they explain about the Hawaiian volcanoes and Pele, the goddess. Sometimes she’s portrayed as a white dress maiden, or an older woman with a red dress. She takes very good care of her things and is jealous. So jealous that if you take even a hair of lava (formed by explosion of lava in water) her wrath will follow you in many forms. There is no way around it, but to return the lava with a peace offering.

Letter that accompanied a returning piece of lava.

The crater was right there, in front of us, spewing 2000 tones of sulfuric gas daily. It looked like normal clouds, changing their shape in the wind and rising. 

The lava was not visible, as it was hidden by the crater’s wall, but in the night time, an orange glow, reflected from the cloud, attracts people.

We saw the steam vents from the car, but ventured on foot for half a mile to see the sulfur ones. 

On the right side in the middle you can see an offering wrapped in a leaf.

Then it was time to go in the Chain of Craters Road, a succession of cones and different types of lava. Again my mind raced back to the Galapagos Islands. The landscape seemed the same. Yet, it was not. Here we were by ourselves, there we had a guide; here we can stop only in places where we could leave the car, there we had the freedom to walk as we pleased. There we walked on 500 years old lava, here is merely a baby of 18 and danger is hidden in its tubes, as they could collapse or explode. 

All this is new lava, but with different qualities, depending on the solidifying temperature.

At the end, the sea. It’s a cliff with a drop of 150 feet. The glassy blue waves are pounding the lava with fury, just to be transformed in foam and droplets. One by one they are taking minuscule amounts, just to churn and hurl them back. In time, the cliff erodes and then, weight unsupported, it drops in the sea, changing faces.

We’re too cold and too wet to take any other hikes so we return to the villa, where we prepare to change again our domicile.
Last day on Big Island and we take a helicopter ride to see red molten lava. We wait a little bit to see if there are conditions for a flight. We’re six for this ride. We receive a yellow pouch, the life vest, to wear all the time. We are instructed what to do, and it occurs to me that I have to pay attention to these ones, as they are different from the airplanes ones, and the aircraft is so small. 
It is time to board the helicopter. The blades are rotating 12 feet above the ground, but still, I feel like I should bend. We’re taken two by two, four in the back, two in front and the pilot on the left. We have headphones with noise canceling and microphones to talk between us and the pilot.

 We’re still on the ground, waiting for the green signal. And then... tail moves up, making us slide forward and with a little lurch, we’re airborne. The vibration shakes us in a round fashion, but it’s OK. As we fly at a 300 feet height we can see everything: houses, roads, plantations, the macadamia factory. The pilot tells us facts that wash over our ears but then we start listening as he tells of people that used to live there, of his thoughts of buying a place there, only to be covered by lava three years ago.

The problem with a neighboring active volcano is that it erupts, but the lava doesn’t flow as you want it. Sometimes it comes toward you, with a speed of 30 to 60 miles an hour. You have little time to evacuate. There is no insurance for this kind of things... The land is still there, even if it is covered with black lava. The authorities can’t stop people from going back to rebuild their houses.

We look through the windows to see a street partially obstructed, a clump of green trees on a small hill surrounded by silvery lava. This one is still hot, still moving under a thin crust. 

You can still see the streets.

We turn round and round to find that red eye of running lava. It is exciting and sobering in the same time: we’re witnessing the birth of new land that layers over human dreams. I side with the Native Americans: we can use the land, but we can’t own it.

Tour done, we exchange opinions: it was interesting, but we won’t repeat it.
Good bye, Big Island! Hello Oahu!
Our apartment is close to the famous Waikiki Beach.

 We ride the bus 19 for almost an hour and after settling down, we leave the children in front of the TV, as we make our way to buy food. We’re armed with two backpacks to fill with staples. Food is not important for any of us. As long as it fills us and it has a good taste it doesn’t matter if it is from the store or restaurant. And being back on American soil gave us the opportunity to indulge in some favorites and missed foods (bologna). Being an island, everything is expensive, as it has to be transported by plane or boat. For example a gallon of milk is $7 in the same chain store that on mainland charges just $2.89. Now apply to all things.
We have little that we want to visit here so we spend the days inside. The children are taking their annual tests. We take a walk to the beach, and Apple store for updates, through the streets flooded with Japanese people. We visit the aquarium where we learn about corals,

 the intelligence of the octopus 

and other sea living creatures.

And we go to Pearl Harbor. There is plenty of information out there about it. What happened there? People died. The Japanese surprise attackers died. The American soldiers who were not in a war yet, died. The civilians who worked on the base or helped in the rescue died. What you can see is a visitor center with a map of the world in 1941, painted on the sidewalk, different exhibits about each step of the attack, a theater were you can watch a movie, a rotunda honoring the names of those who lost their lives, and then a ferryboat takes you to the monument. 

It is constructed over the ship Arizona, that lies where she was sunk. Oil still seeps out of it and in several places you can see her rusted hulk. Written in black on white marble are the names of the people who died within. On a separate plaque there are the names of the survivors who joined along the years their shipmates. Every year on December 7 people come to honor their names. There are other names to be honored in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where nuclear bombs were dropped over unsuspecting civilians. And in Auschwitz, and Dachau where people were killed because they were labeled as Jews or Gipsy, and all over Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the rest of the world with its waters, caught in the fight for their countries and the pacts that tied it on one side or another of the second World War. 

We have no power over the past. 
We have no power over other people, in what they believe, think or eat, how they dress or behave. 
There is no person better than another one. 
If we want to survive, we need ALL of us and the land to live on it.
On the Waikiki Beach there is a statue of the Duke Kahanamoku, the man that brought surfing to the world’s attention. On it’s base is his message of aloha, that means affection, peace, compassion and mercy.

The first step is difficult...



  1. Remember Pearl Harbor! Seriously! It is an important part in our heritage. As soon as we forget the past, we will probably do the same sort of thing in the same sort of way. The moment we forget the past, we forget who we are.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately the only lesson from Pearl Harbor is that America has to strike first, and it did on almost any chance it had in the last fifty years. Tens of thousands of people killed later, all over the world - I hope that we would forget that lesson. The memorial does a good job of clarifying the international context of the air strike, the expectation of imminent war with Japan and the incompetence of the American army before the attack, including an unnamed officer who dismissed the approaching warplanes on the radar screen as "ours." It praises with good reason the genius of the Japanese mastermind and the gutsiness and courage of the Japanese pilots. It could have been worse, if it wasn't for some luck. I had an uneasy feeling when they decried the lost lives as they didn't have a chance to die in the war. It is also a memorial to the determination and the strength of the American people to recover from the strike in the minutes, hours, days and years that followed. Yes, nobody should forget that.

  2. Yes Omega, but not only Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima too! And look not only at the outcome, of bombs over innocent people, but search for the reasons that led to that outcome. If we share the good fortune that we have, if we help each other, if we are considerate of other people customs and feelings, if we understand them and their way of being, and work to live together, then there is no need for having an economical and political influence in a different country, that will be the downfall of a third one, because 61 years later we are all linked, it doesn't matter if we live in USA, Japan or Romania. This is the first step that I am talking about .


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