In one six hour plane trip, I’ve gone from living in a studio apartment next to a strip club in Hollywood, to living in a trailer in the middle of the jungle. Instead of crackheads and bums outside my bedroom window, there are wild pigs. Now, if I find myself playing a game of would you rather and the question “would you rather fight a homeless man who just recently smoked crack cocaine or a wild pig?” ever came up, I would know from first hand experience, that I would choose “wild pig.” In my imagination wild pigs have fangs and are the size of a pony. In reality, they are more like the size of a very hardy dog, and they eat macadamia nuts. My trailer is surrounded by macadamia nut trees and therefore, surrounded by wild pigs. Unlike the crackheads in Hollywood, wild pigs are only aggressive if they feel threatened. My roommate Alis is terrified of them, whenever she walks around at night she waves her hands in the air and claps, “It’s so they know I’m coming” she explained, “If they hear someone coming they will run away and won’t attack.” As I followed her along the dark path copying her clapping motions, I realized we looked like we were performing a dance move you typically see Britney Spears do in her music videos. I waved my arms over my head and whispered “I’m a slaaaaaaave for you.” I suddenly had a great idea. “Do you think we could domesticate the pigs?” I asked her. She looked confused, “Like make them our pets?” she asked. “Well, kind of, I’m thinking more along the lines of forming a gang.” Alis looked at me quizzically. “Like our gang of wild pigs,” I repeated, “That we would control and be the leaders of.” She laughed nervously, “Um, what?” At breakfast the next morning I asked my boss, the owner of the b&b that I am working at, about the pigs. “Oh I used to shoot them,” he told me, “You can kill and eat them.” My brow furrowed, “So I shouldn’t give them names?” I said. “Names? Like Fred or Jerry?” He shook his head, “Maybe one of these days we will eat one, they are delicious.” Now that I knew my boss enjoyed hunting these feral pigs to eat, coordinating them all into a gang that I controlled now seemed risky, but what story that ever involved gangs, love, and power ever happened without opposition? That night I waited for them to come. Come my wild ones, I am here now, your leader. I heard the rustle in the bushes and I opened my trailer door and peered into the dark, shining a flashlight around the bushes. I saw one crunching on a macadamia nut, it was huge and kind of cute. Don’t be fooled they may be cute but these aren’t farm piggies, these are wild boars, their forty-four teeth can cut through human flesh like butter. At the sight of me, it ran deeper into the plants leaving me standing there with my flashlight, “No, come back, I don’t want to eat you, I want you to know me, follow me, tell your friends about me and be my gang of wild pigs….” I heard clapping and saw Alis coming around the corner. “We should carry knives with us when we walk around in the dark,” she said. “What would we do with the knives?” I asked and then, “No, we aren’t killing the pigs!” She walked past me and into the trailer and I followed her after announcing into the dark, “I’m on your side jungle boars!” Alis thinks I’m nuts but she’s so nice that she still invited me to go camping at Kua Bay with her and her boyfriend Jeremy, who lives on the island.. Her boyfriend is tan, has long blonde hair, and is a dive instructor. When I met him he was barefoot, skateboarding along the sidewalk in town, and he began immediately introducing me to everyone we saw because he knew them all. My favorite person I met as we walked around town was Mama.
Mama is a large elderly woman who is missing a few teeth here and there and who was born and raised on the Island. When I met her she planted a kiss on my cheek, “Is nise to meet you,” she said and she sounded exactly like Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas. I had to fight the urge to take her by the hand and sit her down under a palm tree and ask her, “Mama, explain to me life,” but we had just met and I don’t want to blow it with Mama. “Mama, do you want some bananas, I picked a bunch, they are in my car,” Jeremy asked her. Mama smiled a huge gap toothed grin, like Jeremy had just told her she won the lottery, and Jeremy hopped on his skateboard, skated away and returned shortly with a bundle of wild bananas. I add the word wild to any fruit I see or pick off of a tree or bush- “wild coconuts,” “wild coffee,” “wild melons,” etc. At the b&b there are chickens that roam around and lay eggs everywhere. I found one the other day and brought it to my boss, “I found this wild egg,” I told him. Mama cradled the wild bananas in her arms and hugged all of us, “Have fun camping,” she said smiling, “Eat a coconut.” “We will eat wild coconuts!” I said, fighting back the urge to say, I would do anything you tell me to Mama.
Camping at Kua Bay, which closes at sunset, meant that the three of us would stash our food and belongings in the the bushes before the sun set and wait for the park ranger to lock the gate and leave, closing the park for the night. While I had a backpack full of clothes, Alissa and Jeremy had snorkeling gear, knives and spears. “Hey so, guys, what are we going to do with the weapons?” I asked. “Fish!” Jermey said. Kua Bay is at the bottom of a long, windy downhill road. As we were driving down with all our stuff, Jeremy pulled the car to the side of the road, “We’ll need firewood,” he explained. He opened the trunk to his car and pulled out a machete. This kid has so many sharp things. My eyes grew big as I watched him jump into the brush and start hacking away at a bush, throwing branches to me and Alissa to collect and shove in the car. People who drove by paid no attention to the tan blonde surfer guy on the side of the road tearing everything up with a machete. Crazy Hawaiians! Once we had hidden all our gear and firewood in a bush at the bottom of the road, we drove back up and parked across the street. We climbed on top of Jermey’s car and watched the sun set, painting the sky a million different shades of colors until it became pitch black and the stars appeared. As I sat under the night sky, I started to feel an odd sensation, almost like I was about to weep. Am I…moved? To the point of tears? I asked Jeremy if living here all his life made him feel ho-hum about beautiful sunsets or the ability to see the Milky Way perfectly. “Even though I’ve seen a million beautiful sunsets and a million beautiful night skies or waves, or anything here really, it never loses it’s magic, I feel lucky everyday of my life,” he said. I looked at Alis, “Marry him,” I told her, nodding at her like that creepy aunt who is forever single and drinks all the wine at Christmas.
Once the park ranger left it was time to abandon the car on the highway and skate down the road. “I don’t think I’m coordinated enough to skateboard down this,” I told them. “No, you don’t stand, you sit on the board,” they reassured me, “It’s easy.” So there I was sitting on a skateboard at the top of a long downhill road, with a lantern in between my legs. At least I will die in Hawaii, I told myself and then just went. Cruising down a dark windy road by lantern light under the bright stars made me feel high. Is this what crack feels like? No wonder! When we got to the bottom of the road we hopped off our skateboards and walked down the trail to the bush where all our stuff was hidden. We grabbed it and made our way to the beach. The beach was empty and silent except for the sounds of the waves. After making a fire, Jeremy changed into his wetsuit and strapped a knife to his leg, he was going to go spearfishing and catch fresh fish to cook over the fire. This is where I discovered why we had so many knives, and when everything got savage. Jeremy came walking out of the ocean, spear in hand, and at the tip of the spear was a large fish. “It’s a goat fish! I tried to grab a lobster but it scurried into a hole.” “There’s lobsters in there?” I asked like I had grown up all my life believing lobsters lived in trees and I was now on a new planet. “I saw an octopus too,” he said, “You’ll see tomorrow when we go snorkeling in the morning.” He took the fish off the spear and looked at me, “Want to gut it?” he asked. Oh God no. “Yes!” I said enthusiastically. We took the fish down to a rock where Jeremy reached for his leg, taking the knife out of it’s strap. “This little guy was seizuring all over the place so I had to stab him through the head,” he told me. “Oh goodness,” was my response, like a grandmother, and not the gap toothed Mama kind of grandmother who owns a canoe.
Jeremy sliced the fish open and with his bare hands pulled out all of the guts. “Easy peasy!” I said without thinking first, confirming that I am in fact, a seventy year old woman who wears nighties and watches soap operas. “Want to cut the head off?” he asked. “May I?” I responded in Julia Child’s voice. I took the knife and began to slowly saw the head off. As blood dripped out all over the rocks, I felt another strange sensation. This must be what coming down from crack feels like, I thought, I should have been more sympathetic when I lived in Hollywood. Once the head was off the fishes body Jeremy picked it up and kissed it’s mouth, which was open. Crazy Hawaiians! I felt a strange surge of adreneline that made me both want to kiss the fish too and also projectile vomit into the beautiful Hawaiian ocean. Once Jeremy had gutted, chopped and kissed the dead goat fish, he had to cut all the scales off. “It’s like grating cheese!” he said happily as fish scales sprinkled all over the guts that lay on the rocks, like he was adding parmesan cheese to a pasta dish. We took the carcass back to the fire and began roasting it over the flames.
After all the gutting, chopping and grating, the fish had somehow transformed and disfigured and now looked like the carcass of a tiny mongoose. As we roast it, I noticed Jeremy’s finger was bleeding, profusely. “Your finger,” I said, pointing, unable to form full sentences after all the bloodshed I had seen in the past thirty minutes. “Awww,” Jeremy went to his backpack and pulled out a sock, licked the blood off his finger and then wrapped it up using the sock as a bandage. “Ready to eat?” he asked. Freshly gutted fish tastes like freshly gutted fish. I ate all of it, but with each bite I saw visions of guts and gills, all going down my esophagus and into my stomach. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about the wild pigs, and what their guts must look like when my boss kills them. Does he pull them out with his hands too? I wondered. No, no, no, no. It was then, on a dark secluded beach under the night sky, that I made the silent vow- with God as my witness, no pig will lose it’s guts while I’m around. When it was time to sleep, we all just lay down in the sand and slept. Tents? Coolers? Sleeping bags? Wool Socks? That’s too much. When you’re on a beach in Hawaii and the air is still warm, and you’re sleeping on sand that is so soft it’s basically like sleeping on a TempurPedic mattress, all you need to do is lie down and close your eyes.
When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was a blue green ocean. Jeremy and Alis were eating avocados and wearing snorkel masks, “Ready to snorkel?” I had no idea what time it was but it had to have been early because the beach opened at nine am and no one was on it but us. I walked into the warm ocean and looked down, tiny silver fish swimming around my feet. “I’m not even underwater yet! Guys! What?!” Just like looking up at the night sky, looking down under the water, everything was crystal clear. Colorful fish swam around the reef and I felt like a mermaid. I swam around naming all the fish I could see. When I came up I told Jeremy and Alis I had named all the fish. “You knew all their species? That’s rad!” Jeremy said. “No I meant like naming, like, this skinny silver fish with the bulging eyes looks like Lindsay Lohan so she will be named Lindsay, and this tiny yellow one is named Jack.” Painted across Jeremy’s face was crazy howlie!
After snorkeling, we sat around on the beach and people began to show up. An older woman wearing a flower bikini and visor screamed at an older hairy man who was making his way to the ocean, “Ralph, what are you gonna do out there?” she yelled. Ralph turned around and hollered back grumpily, “I’m just dicking around!” and then turned his back on her and dove into the ocean where you couldn’t really dive because it hadn’t gotten very deep yet. “Tourists do the stupidest things,” Jeremy said. “One time on a dive, we had this woman who came on the boat with two jars. Finally we asked her, what’s up with the jars? She told us that when she was flying over here she noticed that the ocean was all different shades of blue. So she wanted to take jars out on the boat to fill with the different colored water.” I looked at Ralph getting beaten up by waves and his wife video taping the whole thing. Crazy Howlies! “How do you know someone is local and not a tourist?” I asked. “You can always tell a tourist. They take pictures of everything and look baffled all the time,” I thought of myself in everyday life no matter where I am, and had the uncomfortable realization that I’m always a tourist. “A lot of tourists use the word flip flops, or sandels, or thongs, which is really weird. We call them slippers. Or in pidgin, slippas,” Jeremy told me. “Slippas,” I repeated.
Pidgin is a simplified way of speaking that was used between English speaking residents and non-English speaking immigrants in Hawaii, but people on the island still use it today. “That’s right,” in Pidgin is “Ass right.” Instead of “to” use “fo.” For example, “I’m trying to think,” is simplified to “I try fo think.” Instead of saying, “What are you looking at? Am I bothering you?” using Pidgin you would say, “What? Boddha you? Want beef?” “The book is on the table” would be “Da book be on da table top.” If I ever find myself with some time, I may translate William Shakespeare’s plays into Pidgin. Twelfth Night would become “Twelf Nite o’ WATEVA!” Or maybe The Bible, which would be “Da Jesus Book.” So far my immersion into living on an island has been “best time of life.”