Hello Friends and Family,

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MKK — I Have Arrived

As many of you know, I have just embarked upon another visit to my favorite islands in all the world — Hawai`i for any of you who are not really paying attention. It is often worthwhile to learn a little bit about the place you are about to visit — however, in my case, I have visited the islands so many times (at least two dozen) and have read so many books, journals, newspapers, etc. — that there is little new for me to absorb. Or so I thought. Earlier this year when I was down in Florida, my dad and I were browsing at Borders when I saw two novels by the same author with a Hawai`ian theme.

The first book is Moloka`i by Alan Brennert. It is the story of a young Hawai`ian girl during the last days of the Hawai`ian monarchy in the late 1800s. However, it is her personal story that is front and center — and it is a tragic story in that she develops a rose-colored mark on her skin which is diagnosed as leprosy. In those days, medical science did not know how to treat the disease successfully so sufferers were forced into exile at Kalaupapa, a peninsula on the island of Moloka`i surrounded by the ocean on three sides with high cliffs blocking any escape on the land side.

She, like others diagnosed with leprosy, is forced to live at Kalaupapa. The situation was made more traumatic for this seven-year-old because, although her uncle was already living there, she is forced to live in a home for girls run by Catholic nuns, rather than with her uncle. The story follows her life as external and internal events transpire to give her great joy as well as great sadness.

I loved the book and highly recommend it. It has also re-ignited my interest in Kalaupapa. Patients with Hansen's Disease are no longer quarantined — however, some patients are still living there because it is really the only home they have ever known. Kalaupapa is now a National Park and the current residents may live out their lives there although no new residents are permitted to move there. Visitors may ride a mule, hike or fly to Kalaupapa — but may only stay briefly. I am thinking of visiting during this stay on Moloka`i.

Brennert's second Hawai`ian-themed novel is Honolulu. This story also features a female main character — she is Korean and is trapped in a extremely male-dominated Korean society in the early 1900s. She wishes to go to school and become educated — but her father refuses. Secretly, she learns to read only to have her father punish her severely when he learns of her literacy. As a result, she decides to become a mail-order bride — leaving Korea for Hawai`i, specifically Honolulu, to start a new life.

Unfortunately, life in Hawai`i is not all she hoped it would be — her new husband is still seeped in the ways of old Korea and is extremely cruel to her — and cannot provide sufficient income for the family. The book follows her as she deals with this terrible situation — hoping to build a decent life in this new and strange land.

This book touched me personally because I could see elements of Kona's life that mirrored that of Jin — not identical, of course, but close enough. I also loved this book and endorse it whole-heartedly.

After reading it, I found that the author has a website (who doesn't these days) and I found a link to sign up for his mailing list for future releases. So I did and it turns out that signing up actually sends him email — and he responds personally. We ended up having a nice email chat about our mutual love of Hawai`i and the personal chords that he struck in me via his novels.

The above was the prelude — now to the body of this week's Life After HP. Moloka`i only has about 8,000 residents and not very many tourists. Thus the airport (MKK) is correspondingly small as are the aircraft serving the island.

I flew in on a Island Air Dash 8, that holds 37 or so passengers. The aircraft pictured here is even smaller — it only has one fan, I mean prop. But this is how one gets to Moloka`i. If propeller aircraft make you nervous, stick with O`ahu, Maui, Kaua`i or the Big Island.

This is the new terminal which is much bigger than the old terminal. From this angle is might be difficult to judge its size, but the length is about 150 feet I would guess.

One interesting aspect of such a small airport is that the "gate" is really a gate. Yes, you go through a gate in the fence to your aircraft.

The planes do not hang around for long — it does not take much time to unload a handful of passengers and their luggage then take on the new ones.

I quickly obtained my luggage and rental car and headed out of the airport to be met with this sign. Always something brewing on Moloka`i. Last year it was plans to sell luxury homesites at La`au — which the local population vigorously opposed. That resulted in the closing of the Moloka`i Ranch and the resort that it managed.

This year it is the possibility of building windmills on Hawai`ian Homestead land. The people of Hawai`ian descent are opposed to spoiling their land with windmills. The website listed on the sign provides the rational arguments against the windmills — but I suspect it is more a visceral reaction. Part of the reason I say that is because the electricity generated will go to O`ahu, home of the state government which has ignored Moloka`i for so long.

The proprietor of the B&B where I am staying says that what will probably happen is that some of the privately owned Moloka`i Ranch land will be used instead. Stay tuned.


After checking in to the B&B and changing into shorts, I drove up to Kualapu`u, home of the world-famous Cookhouse. Seriously, it is probably the best restaurant on Moloka`i — and even on an absolute scale, it's pretty good. Thursday night (my arrival day) happened to also be Prime Rib night. I arrived early because I had been told Prime Rib night is quite popular with the locals.

The dinner was quite good. I also enjoyed a nice conversation with the folks at the next table — who are part-time residents — snowbirds, just like we have in Arizona. The prime rib was huge, some 14 ounces — so I ate about half and took the other half home to enjoy on Friday night. They also have great pies but I was too full to enjoy a slice on this time. However, I'll be on Moloka`i for a whole week so there is plenty of opportunity for another visit to Kualapu`u.

On Friday, I decided to visit downtown. There is only one real urban center on Moloka`i — technically it is called Kaunakakai but everyone here just calls it "town" or "downtown". The town resembles an old Western town as you can see from this photo. There are no chain stores or restaurants here — with the single exception of Subway (in a new building over by the highway, not in this older section of town).

That right — no Macy's, no Safeway, no Walgreens. All the stores are locally owned and have not changed much over the years. My first visit to Moloka`i was about 25 years ago and it looks very much the same to me. I really should pull out my old slides and compare. Misaki's (pictured here) is really an old fashioned general store where you can find groceries and clothing and toys and hardware. Think of a Walmart Supercenter shrunk down to the size of a mainland drugstore. Now you got it.

This shop is a furniture store. It is not very big so I assume they can also order items for you from catalogs. Or you can go to O`ahu or Maui and shop in a larger store there and ship your items back to Moloka`i.

I do recall this Japanese bakery in Kaunakakai. They have some really good treats. On Saturday, I was able to sample some raisin-nut bread from this store and it was quite tasty.

Exploring, I noted a street sign for "Hotel Lane". I turned down what looked more like an alley, only to find these buildings. I am skeptical that they are hotels — but they sure have a lot of character for a photographer to enjoy.

Imamura's is your Moloka`i version of Macy's. You can find clothing and accessories here. Needless to say, variety is limited.

Enough shopping — let's look for beautiful flowers. Plumeria will do nicely.

Or bougainvillea. Note the multiple colors all on one bush.

Last but not least, I feel it is my duty to remind you that Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Shoot early, I mean shop early to get the best selection.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com