Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kauai Day 2 – Saturday

Farmers Markets

I came to Kauai with two goals in mind: to snorkel and eat a ton of fresh fruit. On Saturday I was able to put a check mark next to both. There is a farmers’ market nearly every day on Kauai, and on Saturday my research showed there were two close by on the North shore. However, ascertaining the exact times and locations of these farmers markets isn’t easy since there are only a few websites with that information, and half the time they contradict each other. So I made plans to visit both markets in one morning. My first destination was the Kilauea Quality Farmers Association market “in the field near the post office on Keneke Street,” according to the directions I found online, which was supposed to start at 9am. The other began at 10am at the Hanalei Community Center “just off the Kuhio Highway” (the main road that takes you all the way from the airport at Lihue to where the road ends at Ke’e Beach). If the directions sound vague, it’s because they are. No specific addresses are given to fields “across from the ____” – fill in the blank. Somehow, Charles managed to navigate us to “the field near the post office,” but there was no sign of a farmers’ market there or anywhere nearby. We decided to show up early at the other market in Hanalei and arrived there around 9:20am. Which was fortunate, because the market did not start at 10am like the website said; it started at 9:30am sharp.

Why is it important to arrive to the farmers’ markets on time? Because in Kauai, the produce section of the market is only open for exactly one hour and all purchases must be made within that time. The markets start mid-morning or in the afternoon because the farmers usually pick the produce the morning of the market, and the limited amounts of perfectly ripened fruits and vegetables sell out fast. Charles and I stood in the midst of around fifty people waiting for the market to begin. When the shout went out that the market had started, those in front literally ran.

It helps to know what you’re looking for because while you’re asking the vendor what the funny looking spiny fruit is, someone will be grabbing it from under your pointing finger. Fortunately, I knew exactly what I was there for: papayas, mangoes and apple-bananas. But when I saw bags of lychees and plastic sacks loosely filled with salad greens and nasturtiums, I leapt for them. I was also pleasantly surprised to find passion fruit goat cheese and home-made chocolate chip macadamia cookies from the Kauai Kunana Dairy. The rush and energy of the market, partly due to the speed at which purchases had to be made, was the first difference that struck me compared to the markets in California. Rather than being stressful, the frenzy was invigorating – but that could just be my feminine reaction to something that looks and acts like a store-closing sale. The other difference I noticed was the baskets. Many women and a few men held beautiful big baskets to carry their produce. The sight of long carrot fronds, lemongrass, green onions, and pointy-headed pineapples trailing over the sides of the hand-woven baskets was lovely. I could tell that the basket carriers were locals.

After buying what I thought would provide breakfast for the week (I underestimated), Charles and I returned to our room for a photo-shoot of the produce and breakfast. We laid out lychees, papaya and my passion-fruit goat cheese on the table outside to enjoy the view of Hanalei Bay while we ate. A few minutes later we were joined by a red-headed bird who, with great cheek, made himself at home on my plate. Too charmed to defend my papaya leftovers, I gave him full rights to the table. As long as he didn’t go near the goat cheese. That, I would have fought for. Two of our chicken neighbors looked like they might follow the little bird’s example, but having a hen land on the table would have ended badly, so I tore up papaya skins and tossed them out on the grass.

Introduction to Snorkeling

We walked to the little beach down the hill from Hanalei Bay Resort to try out our new snorkel gear. In an attempt to get away from the three other people on the beach, we wandered towards Hanalei Bay, having to stoop to avoid overhanging branches that drooped over the water's edge. This turned out to be a mistake since the reefs around us were so shallow and went so far out that there wasn't enough room in the water to bathe, much less swim. So we trekked back to where the sand went further and the water was deeper. There were so few fish that Charles’ underwater camera had to be broken in with pictures of sand and murky water. But, the water was calm enough to make a perfect training ground since this was Charles’ first time snorkeling ever.

I taught him how to swim two summers ago in a pool, and that was tough. Not because he’s a slow pupil—he caught on very quickly once he figured out that dying was unlikely. But because teaching someone how to swim, for me, is like being a native speaker trying to teach my own language. Why does this work that way? Well…because it does and always has. How can you explain something you were born able to do? How can I understand what it is to sink having never ever sunk? I know some people naturally sink in the water, and other people naturally bob to the surface, but that’s all theory. In practice, floating has always seemed to be the only option. At least the salt water helped with floatation. Charles said he finally understood what it was like to be me in the water. I tried my best to give him the basics of how to put fins on (neither one of us is too graceful on that count) and to spit in the facemask so it doesn’t fog up. This first trip out was a bigger success than I thought – Charles loved it.

We decided to scope out Ke’e beach at the very end of Hwy. 56. The North Shore has a bad reputation for rough conditions in the winter months, but during the summer the northern waters are calm and the southern beaches get the brunt of the surf. The beach was so crowded by late afternoon that we didn’t feel like snorkeling, but we did get to see a scrappy terrier chase a startled rooster up a tree.

Hanalei Bay and Postcards Cafe

We planned on going to Postcards Café for dinner, but since we had some time before it opened, we walked around downtown Hanalei. We bought some sweet roasted nuts at Kauai Nut Roasters (the man working the counter is very free with his local knowledge, so if you’re wondering where the fish markets are or where to find the best Mai Tai, stop here first!). And we walked through jewelry stores selling pearls and leis made up of hundreds of tiny shells that sold for $500 dollars and up. I had read about these shell leis—Certified Niihau leis are made by the 200 native Hawaiian residents of Niihau island. Tiny Kahelelani shells, or Niihau shells, are sorted for size and color and sewn together by hand, and harvesting just a cup-full can take four hours. Some leis can reach $30,000. I didn’t get one.

I treated Charles to dinner at Postcards Café. It’s not a cheap restaurant--I think our total came to around $120 for two glasses of wine, pupu platter, two entrees and a shared dessert—but since I had a long list of “cheap eats” to try during the rest of our trip, I figured we could afford a nice evening out. I had read that Postcards Café specialized in healthy seafood and vegetarian dishes using local organic produce, which is enough to win me over from the start, but the aesthetics appealed to me as much as the food. The restaurant is in an old plantation-style cottage with hardwood floors, large white shutters, and bright white walls decorated with vintage Hawaiian post cards. And the food tasted just as fresh as advertised.

The Ghost

In the middle of the night I woke myself up from a nightmare, just as the evil witches were about to catch me—hey, I’ll be the first to tell you that I have a very active imagination. During my year of unsteady employment following college I had horribly violent nightmares every night and became adept at wrenching myself out of them. Now when I have them, they don’t bother me very much at all. But as I forced my eyes to remain open long enough to clear the dream from my mind, I saw the hazy white shape of a man standing in front of the curtains of the sliding glass doors. I stared harder, becoming very alert very quickly, and saw a pattern of green palm leaves come into focus below the head. A Hawaiian shirt? I checked to see if it was a trick of the light, perhaps the way the blinking light of the air conditioner was reflecting on the curtains. Did the curtains have a pattern in them that I hadn’t noticed before? No, no, they were plain off-white. The shape I was seeing was around six feet tall, and shaped like a…a fat, old white guy tourist. The curtains definitely didn’t have that shape printed on them. He was in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. Frankly, he looked like any number of old, slightly rotund, retired men on the island. Maybe sixty-five to seventy-five years old with white hair, though the entire shape was in iridescent shades of white and gray. I couldn’t make out the facial features distinctly, but the impression left couldn’t have been clearer. I saw the ghost of a tourist. And it had been staring down at me.

I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep for the rest of our time there and kept checking to see whether the lights from the modem, the TV or the air conditioner could possibly explain the shape of a tourist in the dark. They couldn’t. But I kept reminding myself that of all the ghosts a girl could see, the specter of a fat old white guy sporting a Hawaiian shirt was not the most frightening. Kind of fitting actually. I mean, that’s exactly the kind of ghost one would expect to see at a hotel in Hawaii--if one ever expects to see a ghost.


Ashley said...

Your ghost incident reminds me of a piece that I heard lately on NPR, about hotels with ghosts as travel destinations... All seemed very credible to me.

Dogma said...

So - the question is - did you get one of those baskets? The pics of them were great.
Wonder what history could be behind the ghost. If you think about it - not a bad place for a ghost to spend the rest of forever, or maybe do they go on vacations too?! :-o

Pocketmouse said...

Man. I read this late last night and I had a tough time trying to fall asleep. Both of us have vivid imaginations!!!

Glad the ghost story is out of the way, so I won't have to brace myself before I read the next set of kauai posts!

jawlz said...

The way I remember it, *I* treated *you* to the dinner at Postcards!!

Regardless, it was delicious!!!!