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Christmas At Volcano
by Serge Kahili King

In December 2006 five of Aloha International's senior staff (and I do mean senior!) decided to forego the socially acceptable slide into gentle retirement and embark instead on an unexpected and uncertain adventure. And so, Susan Pa'iniu Floyd, Lois and Earl Stokes, my wife Gloria, and I moved from the North Shore of beautiful Kauai to Volcano Village on the differently beautiful slopes of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island.

In the case of Gloria and I, there were lots and lots of new challenges and things to discover about our new home. One of the biggest challenges was moving two containers of furniture and personal effects from a large two-story home into a small one-story place. For those who are not familiar with life in the Hawaiian islands, the only way to move household goods from one island to another is by container ship. A container is a steel box - ours were 8 feet wide by 10 feet high and 20 feet long - that are jam-packed with stuff, then carried by truck to the port, loaded onto a ship by crane, moved across the ocean to another port, brought to the new house by truck, and unloaded by as many people as you can get hold of into as many rooms as you have available. We were living along pathways between boxes for a week, and there are still lots of piles to go through. Unpacking and organizing is taking weeks, and at the same time we are remodeling a carport into a meeting room.

Much of the work of Aloha International is dependent on the internet, and another challenge was access, because we found we had all moved to an infrastructure frontier. Earl and I, for instance, have to drive to the parking lot of the Lava Rock Cafe where we connect to their wireless network with our laptops (a mile for me and three miles for Earl). At least I have wrangled DSL for my home in January, after having been told three times that I couldn't have it, but Earl discovered that his home doesn't even have a telephone line connected to it yet.

It's a different way of living in a lot of ways. There is no public trash pick up where we are (3000 to 3700 ft - say 1000 meters - up the mountain), so we all have to take our own trash to the dump. There is no public water supply, so we have our own private water system which consists of a "catchment" tank (like a large concrete cistern in our back yard that holds up to 10,000 gallons or about 38,000 liters) and channels on our roof that catch rainwater and direct it to the cistern. Then a pump brings it into the house as needed. There are not enough personal Post Office boxes, so our mail comes "General Delivery," which means we have to go to our small post office and ask the postal clerk to pull our mail out of alphabetical boxes. Sometimes we have to put up with "vog" (fog mixed with volcanic gases) from the ongoing eruption when the wind blows our way. When we arrive home at night and we turn off the car lights it is BLACK out, so finding the front door is an adventure in itself. Wild pigs have a habit of tearing up the edges of our property in their search for juicy roots. We have to change clothes several times a day, depending on the weather and if we are going down to Hilo (we are wearing more sweaters and long pants than we have in many, many years). The beaches are twenty or more miles away. And the nearest COSTCO is almost a hundred miles from us.

On the other hand, we are surrounded by the most gorgeous tree ferns and ohi'a trees; we can sit in our living room and watch the apapane birds play in the forest and listen to their songs all day long; from our bed at night we can see an incredibly star-rich sky; the top of Mauna Kea with its observatories is visible from our street; we have a vast and fascinating National Park as a next door neighbor; we have a weekly market right in our little town of Volcano with terrific food and produce; and, luckiest of all, the people are exceedingly friendly and helpful. In many ways it's like living in an idealized small American town in the 1950s.

On Christmas Day the five of us celebrated the beginning of our new life with a sumptuous dinner at the Volcano House in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The lodge was decorated with lots of Christmas finery, including a beautifully-decorated Christmas tree with a toy train running around its base standing next to a roaring fire in a stone fireplace. For dinner we had unlimited ham and prime rib and apple pie, a good red wine, and a lovely view of sunset over Kileauea Crater.

There are many more challenges, discoveries, and friendships ahead. I want to thank all of you who have supported us in this new stage of our personal growth, and we know that great good things will come of it for everyone.

(Note: If you'd like to know more about our neighborhood, visit the Volcano Village website.)

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