Here are some things I have recently learned about Hawaii (and here's a link to some stuff I learned last year): Hawaii has poi. I knew about poi, but I'd forgotten. Poi is a kind of goopy, purple-gray starchy semi-solid that people eat there for some reason. It's made out of taro. I'm trying to come up with a mainland comparison, but I can't. I don't personally love poi, but I like it more now than I used to, and I have a sense that it's the kind of food that really grows on you. Like potatoes, only actually not at all like potatoes, since everyone I know has liked potatoes since they were allowed to scoop them out of Gerber jars. But poi's got that same way of satisfying some need you didn't know you had until you started eating it. Anyway. Poi.
Also, Hawaii has something called poke, which is pronounced po-kay. Kind of like "okay", but with a "p". Poke is marinated raw fish - sort of like a Hawaiian ceviche. Only I think poke is "cooked" less than ceviche. That was my impression. If any of you are from Hawaii and can offer a better definition of these things, hit me. I was only there for two weeks and for most of that time, I was distracted by rainbows and whales and by trying to accomplish actual work while simultaneously looking for whales or exclaiming over rainbows. Hawaii produces some damn fine rainbows.
The best poke I had actually came from Costco where they had a poke "bar". My friend Sara, who used to be a Tucson archaeologist but who is now a Hawaii archaeologist, bought a container of it and we ate it with chopsticks in the car (which is easier than you might think) on the way to her house where I stayed one night and I became addicted to it. The poke, not her house. Although her house is really nice. Mango trees, other trees, lots of windows, lots of four-week-old puppies... Also, later at her house, we ate some amazing swordfish (I think it was). OMG. These people and their fish. And their macadamia nuts. OMG.
We (the project people - not me and Sara) also had a rooster. His name was Honoruru, and he woke us promptly at 5:30 am (or 4:30 am) (or 4:00 am) (or whenever) and then crowed arrogantly for bread from his favorite place under the window for several hours every morning. Honoruru is a beautiful rooster, and he's totally aware of it. He's the Fabio of roosters. Our driveway was his runway.
Oh, and spiders. We had you-would-not-believe-how-many spiders. Seriously. Daddy long-legs. Cane spiders. Asian spiny-backed spiders. Little ones. Big ones. Yellow ones. More yellow ones. Spiders in the bathroom, the bedrooms, the kitchen, the laundry room. Really, the number of spiders was kind of over the top. But to balance it out, we also had mice, rats, big ants, small ants, centipedes, millipedes, moths, mosquitoes, papayas, and people with dreadlocks. Not to mention volcanoes, black sand beaches, sea turtles, guavas, mongeese, ornamental ginger plants, geckos, and actual coconuts which people kept harvesting from the backyard and cutting open and feeding to other people. Many of these things could actually be found in the large house we shared with several University of New Mexico grad students (and various others) at any given moment.
Did I mention the whales?
My overall impression of the project is that I have a vague recollection of doing some work which involved precision GPS and traversing parcels of dry, thorny land for hours at a time. Sometimes it also involved large numbers of cows, and once it involved someone almost stepping on both a cow fetus and the associated placenta, and it almost always involved cow, you know, excrement. Also, to be fair, it always involved a view of the ocean with whales cavorting in it.
Hawaii is full of contradictions like that. For example, if it was cool and rainy where we lived at the north tip of the island, it would be sunny and hot where we worked, half an hour to the south. Also, stepping in cowpies while watching waves crash dramatically over glistening cobbles on the beach is kind of a contradictory experience in a way I can't quite communicate effectively.