About Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of http://www.briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She posts over on https://plus.google.com/103115118174711820529/posts as well.
Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at http://www.ottsworld.com.com.
Latest Posts by Sherry Ott
I press my forehead against his forehead and I feel his hands reach around and grab the sides of my arm as if to steady himself and me. We are nose to nose, I close my eyes with this stranger, and we take a deep breath at the same time; essentially sharing our intake of oxygen – of life.
This exchange of breath is referred to as honi and it’s a Polynesian greeting in where two people press their foreheads together and inhale at the same time. The greeting is considered an honor as it represents the exchange of ‘ha’–the breath of life, and spiritual power between two people.
The Significance of Ha
‘Ha’ is everywhere in Hawaii; aloHA, maHAlo, HAwaii. It is an important part of the culture, and it’s why the tradition of honi is important to carry on. I experienced the honi while hiking through Halawa Valley in Molokai. Molokai, the least known but most culturally significant Hawaiian island is dedicated to keeping the Hawaiian culture and traditions alive and it begins with a trip to HAlawa Valley (meaning sufficient breath).
The bay marks the beginning of the Halawa Valley
I think more than I should about what I will pass on from my life when I’m gone. As a single woman with no children, it’s a perplexing question for me. It’s human instinct to want to create a legacy or memory; I think we all want to pass something along. It’s one thing to want to pass on your own legacy, but what if your culture and base traditions were in jeopardy of going extinct, what would you do?
Teach Within Your Family
After a stunning drive along the Molokai East Cost we arrive in Halawa Valley – an area half a mile wide and four miles deep. This valley is graced with beautiful vistas and towering waterfalls, and is one of the island’s most historic areas.
There we met 75-year-old Anakala Pilipo (Uncle Pilip) who is the last living Hawaiian descendent to be born and raised in Halawa and still resides there. He was chosen at the age of five to be the cultural practitioner for his family. This honor meant he was given the responsibility of carrying on their traditions and cultural practices. He took his responsibility seriously as he’s devoted his life to this valley, and the Hawaiian cultural traditions.
3 generations of Hawaiian traditions . Pilipo’s grandson, Pilipo, and Greg
Greg, one of Anakala Pilipo’s six children, addresses us when we arrive and starts our journey. He is the only son currently residing in Halawa Valley and like his father; he too has been chosen to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. He has now started the process of taking over this responsibility and passing on the traditions and stories. And it didn’t stop there. Anakala Pilipo’s grandchildren were also there wearing traditional dress and partaking (and sometimes goofing off) in the talk and demonstrations. They were on school holiday and part of their ‘duty to the family’ was to be a part of these talks and experiences to carry the stories forward. It was really fascinating to see which ones seemed bored with it and which ones embraced it.
Greg began by telling us about cultural traditions like the honi, and the blowing of the Pu (conch shell) to announce your one your way and eminent arrival; an ancient sort of text message. He even explained how to properly pronounce Molokai. Anakala Pilipo proceeded to tell us about the valley, which was home to over 5,000 people, 1200 taro patches, and 24 temples. His voice started to crack in emotion as he went on to tell us about the historic tidal wave that traveled 1.7 miles into the valley and destroyed the area in 1946.
Educated with the proper background, the guests were next given traditional sarongs to wear and were invited to hike into the valley as Pilipo’s guests. Tourists and locals intermixing, old and young – this is what travel is all about. We started our procession, all carrying our ho’okupu, gifts wrapped in ti leaves, and occasionally our group would blow the pu to announce our presence. We’d all get really quiet and intently listen for the answering pu. It was sort of an ancient form of can-and-string telephone. Once we arrived at the entrance to the valley we all were greeted with the honi and were invited to pass.
The blowing of the pu announcing we are close to arriving.
Once the ceremony was completed, the rest of the afternoon we hiked deep into the valley along across rivers to Mo’oula Falls. Along the way, we talked with Greg and others from his family to learn further about native and invasive species, ancient taro terraces and historical rock walls, and worship sites. The hike wasn’t difficult, but it was steamy. I was happy I had my PrAna layers to peal off! The sites were fascinating and the giant trees enthralled me; I kind of wanted to hug them! And since it’s Hawaii, of course at the end of the trail we were welcomed by the 250 foot high roaring Mo’oula Falls.
Some of us swam in the refreshing water, kids found high places to leap off of, and some just sat and took it all in. I sat and thought about legacy; I breathed and meditated on it all. Even though I had no answers for my own legacy, I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of another family’s quest to pass on their culture and legacy. After all, we all want our life – our breath – to be remembered.
Hiking over the river in the valley
Take the leap! Kids jump into the water.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Molokai Visitor Bureau, however all opinions are my own.
In late May, I went from a town filled with scooters, to a town filled with the fastest cars in the world, and finally landed in a town filled with taxi’s. It was a motion-filled, fun week traveling from Spain, to Indianapolis an d then back to New York City.
I sadly left Spain after a month of soaking up the wine, food, and gin of Catalonia, and fittingly I flew back to the US with a wicked hangover. I went to Indy to check off a bucket list item – to see the Indy 500 in person – but I quickly learned that Indianapolis is much more than fast cars! The food, art, and beautifully designed parks/trails were stunning. It has been 15 years since I lived in the midwest and clearly Midwestern towns like Indy have upped their game a LOT since I lived there! Tons of fast cars and cute drivers – below, a visual walk of the race and of cultural fines in Indianapolis.
Recently, I went back into the Rockies, the Colorado Rocky Mountains this time and was there attending an Adventure Travel Conference in Snowmass/Aspen. I used the time before and after to explore the mountains and overflowing rivers! Actually I started out the week with a scare; I had a real dose of adventure travel and got bucked off a horse. I love watching rodeos and cowboys (which they have plenty of in Colorado!) – but I don’t particularly like being the show. I was really lucky that I just had a few bruises and a bit of a shock, but all was good and I got on a different horse and kept going. And it’s not too bad to have a bunch of cowboys attentively looking after you either.
After some white water rafting, beer tasting, and hiking, I then took off to the high altitude to experience the wonderful Aspen Hut to Hut experience. Did you know that you can hike/ski from hut to hut all throughout the Colorado Rocky Mountains? It’s a well-kept system maintained by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association of shared cabins in the back country.
The perfect nature getaway. Most of the huts are rustic and unplugged, however you can do them in a bare bones manner sharing space with others, or a more luxurious manner renting out the entire hut. The awesome people from Aspen Alpine Guides took us to the huts and hosted a group of us to an ultimate glamping experience complete with Chef, yoga instructor, and masseuse. Even though it was only for two days – the unplug did me good. Everyone needs to put down the phone and laptop once in a while. Instead I concentrated on finding my inner hippie, hiking, doing photography, and soaking up the nature and sounds around me.
I’m heading up, up, up. Hiking the Hanging Lake Trail today in Colorado!
It’s called Hanging Lake and it’s nestled high up in the Colorado Rockies at 7000+ ft. To enjoy this turquoise hidden gem and it’s 3 waterfalls you have to earn it. Hiking up a rocky and sometimes steep path 1000 ft you’ll feel like taking a dip when you arrive! It was a little too chilly yesterday so I spent time taking photos instead.
The sky is on fire! Sunset from our Harry Gates Hut near Lime Park. #coloradolive w 10th Mountain Huts and @aspenalpineguides
My little ‘home’ that I’ve been hiding out in for the last two days! The Harry Gates hut is part of the @10thMtnHuts hut to hut hiking system. No connections, completely unplugged, enjoying nature w @aspenalpineguides.
Colorado cowboys and mountains – a nice site! Yeehaw!
Forget afternoon naps – how about an afternoon swing?
“Gimme a yoga pose,” I say to Amanda and she quickly complies. Nothing beats the fresh Rocky Mountain air and other people doing yoga!
It’s called Aspen Colorado for a reason. During my horseback ride yesterday we rode through aspen forests that were popping with green thanks to the areas set spring.
Even though dandelions are technically a weed – they sure are purdy sometimes! Views from my horseback ride in #Snowmass yesterday!
There may only be one hotel on Molokai, however that’s not how it always was. Nestled among tall palm trees and an expansive empty beach is the home of another hotel, one that has seen better days. Above, The haunting Kalaukoi Resort. No beautifully manicured lawns here.
The story of the Kaluakoi Resort is a torrid one. It was built as the Sheraton Molokai Hotel in 1975. However after about 10 years, it started to be the potato in a game of hot potato; it went through a number of owners over the coarse of the next 30 years. All never really able to complete the project and open the doors due to financial woes, water woes, and public opposition.
Some of the development is still alive today and was sold and up-kept as private villas. However, these dilapidated hotel property standing next to the beautifully manicured lawns and properties of the private villas makes the abandoned buildings seem even more eerie.
It’s been hinted that it would be re-opened a number of times through the years, but it still sits empty and deteriorating today. However for me, it’s a photographer’s dream – wandering through the old property seeing the rust, and chaos – a scene I always love to capture. You can’t get into any of the buildings (I tried halfheartedly), and there are people living right next door to them – so it’s hard to go unnoticed. But you can walk around the property and take a few pictures of the crumbling hotel buildings.
And this isn’t the only story of an abandoned property; I was told there are more Molokai hotels that met similar fates.
Home of Olympic athletes, adventure sports, a world-class community center and gym – it was clear that Canmore was a mecca for adventure and sports lovers. However there was another whole side to the town that I had yet to see, until now.
I met her for a brief moment at the ice-carving contest during Canmore’s Winter Carnival. Her creative ‘team’ was working on Easter Island Ice Sculptures. She saw me taking pictures and asked me if I wanted to try some carving myself. She had me at “Do you want to try….” . I eagerly climbed over the rope that blocked off the artist areas and she handed me one of the carving tools and gave me some instruction.
The ice was soft due to the warm day and chipped away easily. As families milled around art the festivities it was weird to be on the other side, actually part of the art as opposed to just a spectator. Pascale introduced herself and I explained that I was staying in Canmore for a month to try new winter adventures and write about them. It’s a town of athletes and artists she said to me. It was then that I realized that I had been exposed to the athletes in all of my adventure activities, but not really the artists.
Later that week I had an email from Pascale inviting me to her studio to learn more about the artistic side of Canmore and specifically her style of painting – encaustic (painting with hot wax). This is the great thing about traveling slow and staying in places longer, you are able to build local relationships and take the time to actually meet people and see where it all leads as opposed to running from sight to sight, snapping some photos, and leaving. I certainly had no idea that attending the local Winter Carnival would lead me to an artist studio, but I was excited to take this opportunity to learn more about the artist community. Canmore’s Main Street is full of galleries, the city puts on a number of free exhibitions, and they are in the process of building a new arts center that I expect to be just as impressive and used as the athletic center in Canmore – Elevation Place. Art is clearly an important part of the community.
The Tools to Creativity
Pascale working on her latest canvas
When I arrived at Pascale’s studio in her home it was the first time I was able to see her real artwork. The ice carving was simply a fun hobby; her real passion was a quirky, colorful, contemporary take on farm animals. I loved it; the abstract backgrounds with every day farm animals painted in the foreground certainly captured my imagination and made me smile. And she painted it all in a medium I knew nothing about – wax.
I walked into her studio, a bedroom with attached bathroom, completely transformed into what looked like a mad scientist’s kitchen! Her tools were all traditional kitchen objects – a griddle, muffin tins, and saucepans – all used for art instead of food. I quickly learned that painting with wax is complicated – and toxic. She turned on the ‘handmade’ venting system in the bathroom, consisting of duct tape, a fan, and cardboard, put on a mask, and then she started walking me through the process of how to actually make the hot wax ‘paint’ in muffin tins. It was a complicated process of starting with petroleum or bees wax, adding powdered pigment, heating and mixing until you got your desired color.
Hot wax with pigment
When she’s done with the wax painting, she pours the hot wax in muffin tins to harden and use the next time
Pascale showing me her latest work
What’s in a Name?
I noticed all of her canvases were signed by Bigoudi, not Pascale. She explained that Bigoudi is her artist name. It’s a French word that means hair curler. She chose this because the French word – le bigoudi – takes a masculine article (le) and she thought it was funny for such a feminine object to have a male article. However, ultimately she didn’t want to sign her very generational French female name, Pascale, because she didn’t want people to know she was a female artist or her age. Instead she wants people to look at the image and not have any feelings of her age, gender and just simply love the art.
Motivation and Creativity
“I was born with the need to create”, she said when I pried into where her motivation came from. “As a kid they would call me ‘the artist’ at school growing up. I’d really like to do more crazy shit, like with the backgrounds, but that has to go slower.”
“Slower?” I question.
“You have to make sure what you are doing is right and that you feel strong about it,” she replied. “If you do it too quickly and your first response from the public is ‘no’ then you stop. But the more you think about it and the more certain you are about it then your work is stronger and people believe you. Plus, you build your own confidence in your work by taking your time.”
So apparently slow is good in travel and good in art.
She had just started to play with a new idea with photo backgrounds for her animals. Juxtaposing a weird city feel to her animals – making them feel oddly out of place, but intriguing. I loved this line of her work. It was surprising finding rural animals out of place in an urban setting. True to her style she was slowly working on the new ideas letting them develop over time.
“I’m not sure how creative you are, but I have this piece started and you can then put wax on it and finish it in any way you want and then take home,” Pascale offered. Of course I would jump at this opportunity to try wax painting. I had spent the last 3 weeks being athletic playing in the mountains; it was time I got more in touch with my artistic side, which typically lies dormant.
She handed over a small square canvas with a background of a flying bird already started. My type A, logical perspective all of a sudden fogs my brain as I look at the canvas I am supposed to paint on and wonder – where in the world do I start? I place the brush full of hot wax onto the wooden canvas and immediately question what in the world I’m going to do next. I have no plan for what to do on this canvas, and that makes me self-conscience.
My Wax Art
My first few strokes are heavy as I get used to how the hot wax coats the brush. She tries to teach me how to have light and feathery strokes, but in a quick manner. Even though Pascale develops her ideas slowly, she actually has to paint quite quickly as the wax cools down and soon the consistency is wrong to paint.
She has to put the color back on the griddle to warm it up again and chooses a different color to work with. I think about how this creative process would work with writing; instead of writing a paragraph and finishing it in a timeline fashion, it would be as if you started 4 paragraphs at once in a story and had to go back and forth between them in order to finish them – a bit manic.
With Pascale’s guidance I create art. And in the process I get to learn more about the town’s art scene. I took my new purple and yellow piece back to my condo and hung it on the wall as proud as I used to be when I brought home artwork projects from school and gave them to my mom. This would be a real memory and souvenir of my slow travel time in Alberta.
You will find Bigoudi pieces at Elevation Gallery in Canmore or check out her website for other exhibitions.
The new Canmore Arts Place is still under construction, however when it’s done you’ll have more opportunities like this to be hands on in the Canmore art scene
Want to see more of the Canmore art scene, then check out the Canmore Studio and Gallery Tour
Pascales finished piece – Harlequin Green
He looked at me and asked, “What are you nervous about?”
I was shivering with water rushing around me perched at the top of the waterfall as I was staring down 80 feet to the bottom where the water spray exhibited it’s sheer power. There were so many things swirling in my head that I was nervous about I didn’t even know where to start so I answered, “I don’t know,” in a frustrated tone. The truth of it was that I really didn’t know where to start, but I certainly had a long list of things that I was nervous about.
A tidal wave of thoughts rushed through my head: Is there another way down? What happens if I tell him I can’t do this? Why am I doing this? Fuck, Fuck, Fuck! Will I remember how to grip the rope? Will my hands just stop working? Will I slip? Will I throw up with anticipation?
He continued, “There’s nothing to worry about, it’s just water. It’s all the same after 3 meters, it’s all easy.”
The first time I abseiled in South Africa I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The abseiling was part of a Quad bike adventure that I was interested in doing – and to me the abseiling was secondary. With very little instruction my guide basically put me in a harness and told me to walk down the wall. I looked at the rocky cliff ledge and immediately freaked out. I was weak in the knees, my world was spinning. This was my first onset of the fear of heights that would seem to grow worse and worse every year after. I somehow made it to the bottom with a lot of cursing and even a few tears, but I can’t say that it was a fun experience at all.
Ever since that South Africa experience I’ve been pretty terrified to abseil ever again. I’ve had to do it in small doses – but I never took on anything so big again – until now.
We met our guide, Tim, from Blue Mountain Adventure Company in the morning and immediately he had an air of easy going ‘you got this’ vibe. Just what you want in an abseiling instructor.
“Just lean back and fall on your ass like you’re falling into a bean bag – it’s easy.” Tim had a way of making everything sound easy – whether it was falling backwards in a canyon into a freezing cold pool of water to abseiling off a 80 foot waterfall. Easy. He made a point to tell us over and over again that the first 3 meters is the hard part of abseiling – that pretty much takes you over the ledge and onto the rock. Then the rest is easy – at least that’s what Tim said.
The first half of the morning we learned how to abseil: put on harnesses, get over the edge, control our speed, and how to know when we were supposed to take a step so that we didn’t end up upside down or doing a face plant into the rock. We got progressively harder and higher with each lesson that morning starting with a little 12 foot rock, then on to 20 feet, and on to 40 feet. This was all in order to prepare us to abseil the 80 foot waterfall in the canyon later that afternoon.
Our abseiling practice down cliffs of 20 to 40 ft.
As I prepared to go down the 3rd cliff at 40 feet I peered over the edge and felt weak in the knees. Tim looked at me and saw the concern and fear on my face and said, “Just don’t think about it.”
“I’ve been trying 45 years to not think and it doesn’t work. I can’t turn it off. I wish I could, but I can’t, “ I reply.
Suddenly Rodney, another guest on the tour, chimes in at the top of the cliff, “I don’t think at all! I never think about stuff.”
“That’s because you are a guy, “ I reply, “guys never get up in their head.”
And with that I take a big breath and lean back over the cliff preparing to go down even though I’m thinking about all the ways I could screw this up and fall to my death.
However the reality is that I’m not going to fall to my death. There are so many safety ropes and back-up plans that Tim has under control that there really is no way I can get seriously hurt. However, in the moment I never have that clarity.
After passing our beginning abseils we are ready for the real adventure after lunch, canyoning. We head to Empress Falls located in the Blue Mountain National Park. We pack up our backpacks and descend down the trail of stairs deep down into the canyon. It gets warmer and warmer as we descend and I can hear the sound of the rushing waterfall. The sound sits in the back of my brain in hibernation; I know it will awake in fear when the right time comes.
We get to the river and start the process of becoming the Stay Puff Marshmallow man putting on so much gear that I feel like I can hardly move. Wetsuit, helmet, raincoat, harness, and dry bag that doubles as a floatie. The 4 of us are all ready to take the next step – a step closer to the waterfall. Tim splashes water at us and beckons us to follow him wading into the river.
Canyoning is basically the traversing/hiking a river canyon in wetsuits; crawling, swimming, floating, and jumping our way through the various water obstacles. This was the whole reason I signed up for the tour as canyoning has been on my travel wish list for a while now.
Wading through the water to Empress Falls
As I stood at one of the water jumps in the canyon and Tim was pointing down in the distance telling me where to land he sensed my fear as I stood on the ledge thinking about where I needed to land in the narrow canyon space. He said the magic words, “Think like a guy.”
That’s all it took – I smiled and took a leap landing in the cold pool of water below.
The canyon was so stunning, that I forgot I was in water that was freezing cold. As I waded through the water surveying my surroundings I knew it was an incredibly unique perspective that only a few brave people would ever get. It left me pondering the question – am I brave? Will I be brave enough?
As we did our last water jump and slide, I found myself staring out an opening with the water rushing out – I had reached Empress Falls. I clipped into the yellow safety rope as Tim instructed and I walked over to the edge and peered over. I watched as my friend Charlie was the first to take on the absurd waterfall abseiling challenge, taking the first few steps off backward and then swinging into a cave as Tim let our a joyous whoop! The water pounded on top of her as she tried to get her footing and eventually she slowly made it down the slippery rocks of the waterfall. I stared at her until she was just a little ant so far away.
Tim turned and looked at me and saw the terror in my eyes.
“There’s nothing to worry about, it’s just water. It’s all the same after 3 meters, it’s all easy.” he said with his now familiar reassuring smile.
How to recreate this trip:
- Lodging: The Carrington Hotel Blue Mountains – established in 1883, this is one of the oldest and grandest hotels in Australia!
- Canyoning: Blue Mountain Adventure company – they have a number of adventures, but their canyoning trips (from beginner to advanced) are FABULOUS. They do run some canyons year around if they don’t include much deep water. However Canyoning season (wading in waste deep water) runs from the 1st of October to the 31st of March (with perhaps a week or two longer or shorter at the start or end depending on how hot or cold the weather has been). The advanced canyons sometimes have a slightly shorter window than this as they are often extra cold!
They say one is the loneliest number, but not when you are the only hotel on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. In fact, if I were to put my business education to work, one is a pretty great number when you are on the supply side of supply and demand equation. Hotel Molokai is truly the only hotel on the island, however they don’t abuse their ‘power position’, they embrace it by offering a great lodging experience.
Quirky is Beautiful
As soon as you pull up to Hotel Molokai you get a glimpse of its Polynesian quirkiness. What – you’re surprised to find out that the only hotel of Molokai is quirky? Just keep in mind that when you are the only one, you can get away with anything; sort of like an only child. And I personally think that being called quirky is one of the best compliments anyone can get. As we pulled into the parking lot the first thing that struck me was the font on the sign. I’m normally not a ‘font person’; but I have plenty of friends who Font Nazi’s. You know – the ones that notice every nuance of fonts and would rather sleep on hot coals rather than use sans seref. The Hotel Molokai font was funky, just as the bungalows were funky inside and out.
The hotel was made up of a number of stand-alone wooden bungalows (with 4 rooms each) in a pseudo A-frame design. The inside of each room was slightly unique – no two were the same – which in my world makes for a great experience. I stayed in one of their recently remodeled rooms right on the water with an amazing sunrise and sunset view. Most rooms have little kitchenettes, where you could cook a simple meal. And all rooms have a big lanai where you can sit outside and enjoy the view. Or if napping is more your style, test out one of the many hammocks between palm trees which are dotted among the property enticing you every time you walk by.
My updated room looking out on the bay.
Since Molokai is home to one of the longest fringe reefs in the world, there isn’t much of a beachfront at Hotel Molokai. Instead the waves crash far from shore on the reef about 50 feet away leaving a calm little bay by the hotel property (which makes for beautiful still photos). There’s also a great hotel pool to swim in if you don’t feel like playing in the shallow waters of the Pacific near the hotel.
One of my favorite pics from the trip – sunrise outside my bungalow.
Poolside Hotel Molokai
The hotel is always bubbling with activity and people, not just because it’s the only place to stay, but also because it holds one of the two liquor licenses on the island. Hotel Molokai is where locals and visitors come to mingle. And on Monday nights from 4 to 5, there’s even more reason to come have a drink – it’s Manager’s night at Hotel Molokai. Luckily I arrived on a Monday and I sat down and ordered a colorful martini to watch the sun go down near the bay. As my drink was delivered to my table, so was Michael Drew, the long-time manager of Hotel Molokai. During the Manager’s reception on Mondays he socializes around the tables meeting every guest ensuring they have a drink in hand and a smile on their face. Michael is the type of person who oozes rainbows and unicorns; he’s positive, happy, and a joy to be around. In fact, he’s clearly put his personality into the hotel. The overall feeling of being welcomed (the aloha spirit), is infused in everything that Hotel Molokai does.
Sunset martinis are a must!
After a fire burned down the hotel restaurants a few years ago, they have been working on rebuilding it. It’s scheduled to be opened again in the fall, and it looks as if it will be the one and only fine dining option on Molokai when it’s completed. Once again, even though the competition is low, Michael and team don’t use that as a crutch. He provided me with a preview of the type of food they will be serving and it was delicious – easily the best meal I had on all of Molokai during my stay.
Passion fruit cheesecake. An ending to a delicious meal at Hotel Molokai
And if you are hungry now, just stop by the hotel Mon-Wed-Fri to enjoy some grilled options at the bar. Actually, Friday night is quite special for the hotel, they hold Na Kupuna live performances on Fridays from 4 – 6p.m.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Visit Molokai during my time on the island, however all opinions here are my own.
Coconut water, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut vinegar – we are coo coo for coconuts. It seems like every time I come back to the US there is another coconut fad that has hit the shelves. It always makes me chuckle to myself when I see the beautifully branded coconut water products on the shelves and I think of all of the women in Vietnam, India, and Sri Lanka selling coconuts on the side of the road. The kind where someone chops it open right there in front of you and sticks a straw in it – talk about farm to table…that’s the real thing.
Coconut is not just used for food; it actually may be the most versatile item in the world. They can be used for starting fires, making ropes & baskets, furniture making, drums, brooms, toothbrush – and how can we forget the infamous coconut bra and Monty Python coconut horse trotting sound! And when I walked into the Hoolehua post office in Molokai, I found yet another use for coconuts that I never could have imagined – as a postcard.
Post-a-Nut – the Ultimate Custom Postcard
I met Gary Lam in the Hoolehua Post Office in Molokai as he was weighing a colorful coconut with a hula girl drawn on it. He told me that this was his favorite part of his job, getting the coconuts ready for mailing. He didn’t just weight them, but he put the finishing touches on them, the stamps. As I looked at the coconut stamps closely I saw stamps I had never seen before. “I save back colorful or unique stamps to use on the coconuts,” he said as he smiled “then I try to arrange different stamps on each coconut so that there is a variety.”
This is Gary’s chance to be creative in his postal job; he was quite the artist! I marveled at the stamp collage he created seeing Love stamps, butterflies, humming birds, tigers, and aloha stamps.
Here’s how it works:
• Choose a coconut from a bin on the floor. The coconut is free, but of course the cost to mail it is dependent on the weight.
• Shake the coconut to see if there is liquid inside. The ones with liquid are edible, however they are heavier and cost more money.
• Use the pile of pens on the counter to decorate your coconut however you want and write a message to the receiver. You can also take your coconut to town to Kalele bookstore and owner Terri will paint a scene on it. She can customize your postcard however you want!
• Make sure you leave room to write the mailing address and return address on the coconut!
• You’ve now got the best custom postcards ever ready to mail. Just give it to Gary…he takes care of rest!
The average cost to mail a coconut postcard in the US is $11 to $16. You can also mail to foreign countries (those are Gary’s favorite) once you fill out a customs form. While we were there Gary was getting one ready to go to Kathmandu.
Draw your own design!
Each year about 3,000 coconut custom postcards get mailed from the Hoolehua Post Office on the little island of Molokai. And can you imagine the surprise when one shows up in your mailbox or at your door? Or in the Kathmandu post office? This puts other postcards to shame. Why mail a piece of paper when you can mail a Post-a-nut?
Would you like to receive a Post-a-Nut in the mail?
Disclosure: My trip to Molokai was hosted by the Molokai Visitor Bureau, however all opinions here are my own.