This series of emails is from my 2003 trip to Rapa Nui.  This one lasted approximately 6 weeks.  It was really the first time I was on my own while there, so I gained a different perspective during this vacation.  Again, these emails offer some insight into the people of Rapa Nui and daily life there. 


 Table of Contents (Jan. to Mar. 2003):

1/25/03    Rapa Nui - A Journey's End 2/13/03    Te Pito O Te Henua
1/26/03    No Worries 2/20/03    The most interesting things...
1/27/03    My Arrival 3/7/03      Tahiti
2/2/03      Así Es La Vida 3/8/03      Life's Lessons
2/3/03      I danced in the Tapati!



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Date:    January 25, 2003    Rapa Nui - A Journey's End

Aloha Everyone! 

I hope all of you got everything you wished for this holiday season, and that the new year is treating you well so far.  As for me, things have been pretty good. 

But enough with the small talk...I'm sure you're all wondering what this is all about after reading the subject title of my message.  So let's get right to it.  IT'S OFFICIAL.  I am going back to Rapa Nui !  I leave in only a few short hours.  Can you believe it's been almost two years since I came back from my last adventure there?  Geez... 

Some of you on this mailing list may now be thinking, "huh?"  Of course, you wouldn't know what this is about because I only met you after I came back from my last trip. So here's a short recap - I went to Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island .  It's a tiny little island in the middle of the great Pacific Ocean and is at least 4000 miles from anything.  It's the island with all those big stone heads on it. Got it?  Ok.  Let's continue.) because I was in love.  I met this guy, I thought he was "The One" and that we would be together forever.  I was obviously wrong.  But I stayed there with him for 6 months anyway.  And while I was there, I would periodically send e-mails to all of my friends with cute little stories about the things that happened to me.  These now legendary Rapa Nui E-mails can be viewed on my newly posted website at  If you want to catch up, take some time and check them out.  (Was "legendary" too much?  Maybe it's a projection...) 

Those who knew me before my half-year break from reality all noticed that I was different when I came back.  I think the comment I heard the most was that I had "grown up."  I didn't know what that meant at the time...but now, after two years of reflection, I think I understand.  Which brings me to the title of my message today.  My "Rapa Nui Journey" had begun with my first trip there.  It was my first international excursion, and I found and learned so many new things.  What I gained gave me the desire to experience more.  There was a time in my life when I never would have dreamed of living anywhere other than Hawai‘i , yet I somehow all of a sudden felt I could live there.  So I tried it.  And on that second trip, I gained so much more than I ever knew was possible.  I'm still sorting through all of it.  So now that some time has passed and the wounds have somewhat healed, and my sight has finally cleared up enough to see things as they really are, I am ready to return to that little island in the middle of nowhere.  I am ready to take my final lesson on this cycle of life. 

That's not to say that this is my last trip there.  Certainly not.  It's just the end of this book.  Any future trips would be the beginning of another.  (*wink, wink)

Many of you lucky recipients of my original Rapa Nui e-mails have told me how much you miss my stories, and when you did I always replied "so do I”…for I truly do miss writing them.  The truth is, I have not felt like writing since I've been back in Hawai‘i .  First it was due to the pain of the situation; next it was due to the total lack of feeling anything; then it was simply a matter of not having anything interesting enough to write about.  I even tried to force myself to write at times, but nothing good ever came of it.  But now, for the first time in almost two years, I actually FEEL LIKE WRITING...and the words are flowing so smoothly that my fingers can't keep up. 

So...I can't promise that I'll be sending out any e-mails while I'm there, but there's a good chance that something will probably leak out of my brain.  This trip is a relatively short one (only 6 weeks) compared to the last, but you never know what will happen once I'm on location.  All of you are already on the mailing list, as is proven by this here letter.  A word of warning, however, to all of the new people on this list - my e-mails tend to be long...but always entertaining, so if anyone wants to be removed, let me know now.  Likewise, if you know anyone who wants to be on it, drop me a line.  (Honestly, I can't remember who all got my original e-mails!  How bad is that?...) 

So I bid you all a Happy February, because I will be spending the entirety of mine in good 'ol Rapa Nui !  See y'all in March!  Aloha! 


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Date:   Sunday, January 26, 2003     No Worries

Aloha all! 

I hope all of you are having a great day so far!  I am sitting here in beautiful Tahiti ...and yet instead of being outside doing something interesting, I'm in a dark room sitting on my butt writing e-mails...Is there something wrong with this picture? 

Actually, No. Although I've been to Tahiti a few times now, it's always been en route to Rapa Nui, and have never really had any interest in exploring the place...I guess because I'm always only here for one day.  Experience tells me that on this Sunday that I must spend here, the best thing to do is just relax.  Besides, nothing is open on Sunday in Tahiti anyway, except for the marketplace because it caters to tourists.  So I don't usually do anything interesting. 

However, all of that is going to change on this trip.  On the way back we have to spend 3 days here, and last night on the flight I made a contact that seems sure to make those 3 days enjoyable.  Many of you might know him - J B (name omitted to protect the innocent…). 

J is a very interesting guy.  He's Tahitian and therefore a French citizen, but went to high school in Hawai‘i ...or more specifically, he went to MY high school in Hawai‘i .  He's a couple of years older than me, and was always very popular (aside from the fact that he's GORGEOUS, he's also the nicest guy you'll ever meet!), so we never really met in high school.  He knew my brother, however, from football and French class, so he actually did know who I was the first time we ran into each other after high school. 

Anyway, he's moving back to Tahiti and was on the flight with us last night.  Apparently this was his last trip back from Hawai‘i .  He starts a new job here on Monday.  So he gave me his number so that we can hang out when I come back through.  I told him my sad story about how I've never really seen Tahiti , and he said that we definitely had to change that.  So now I've got something to look forward to on the return trip.  Previous to this, the return trip was always something to dread... 

Also, the woman that we're staying with - Tia Judy, as we call her (Tia means Aunt), says that on the Saturday before we leave, we're going to take the ferry over to Mo‘orea for the that will be cool.  I hear Mo‘orea is absolutely beautiful. 

Everything about this trip has been blessed.  It was meant to be.  This is the first trip that I've ever IN MY LIFE been totally prepared the point where I was even 95% packed 2 weeks before departure.  All of the concerns about my jobs and financial situation were alleviated before departure, and even my plan for the day I left Hawai‘i went smoothly.  In fact, I didn't even have a return reservation until about 4 hours before my flight, and you can't fly international without a return reservation…but I didn't worry about anything, and everything took care of itself.  I even made it to the airport on time - for the first time in my life. 

The flight was good.  I made my new Tahiti friend.  And the landing was amazing!  Our pilot had talent!  When the plane set down on the runway in Tahiti , it was so smooth that no one could even feel the slightest bump as the wheels connected with the pavement.  The only way to know that we were actually on the ground was by noticing that we weren't moving downwards anymore!  Once that realization sunk in, all the passengers applauded. 

Our stay in the Tahiti Fa‘a‘a Airport Baggage Claim was short and sweet, as was our ride to our night's lodging.  The bed I was offered there was so comfortable that I slept better than I do even in my own bed...well, at least I did until the chickens started crowing.  But who could complain? 

I spent my first day of doing absolutely nothing in a long time here in Tahiti .  We got ready for the airport early, and even got there before they opened the check in line for our flight.  We were able to get carts for our luggage, and check in went smoothly although not so quickly.  There turned out to be only 86 people on our flight, so nearly everyone got a row of their own to spread out in. 

Everything was great.  What more can I say? 

So I offer this piece of advice to all of you - whatever it is, don't worry.  Everything will work itself out if you just let go of the stress connected to it. 

Take care all!  ~Ulu

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Date:         Monday, January 27, 2003        My Arrival

Iorana korua! 

I hope all is well with all of you!  As for me, I'm sitting here happy as a clam in Rapa Nui.  We arrived this morning at about 11:15 , which is 6:15 a.m. Hawai‘i time.  We slept a little on the plane (maybe 2 hours), and have been out and about all day since we I'm sure I'll be sleeping extremely well tonight!  In any case, I'm overwhelmingly happy to be here. 

First, for all of you that were with me during the previous adventure, let me touch on the one subject I'm sure you're all wondering about - Christian.  He is a flight attendant for LanChile, and ever since I had planned this trip there was no doubt in my mind that he would be working my flight.  So it was no surprise when we first saw him in the Duty Free shop at the Tahiti Fa‘a‘a Airport.  We saw him through the glass window of the store, but his back was facing us.  I immediately became very nervous, and wanted to wait until we boarded the plane to speak to him...but Ka‘imi insisted that I should go into the store and tap him on the back.  She reasoned that it would be more of a surprise (and better for me) if go up to him first rather than him coming up to me first.  So I went into the store, and was able to walk right past him without him seeing me, but didn't get the chance to go up and tap him.  He was speaking with someone and as soon as their conversation was done he left the store.  I was somewhat relieved...although my heart was still racing. 

While he was speaking with the guy, Ka‘imi had also snuck past him into the store.  Once he left I motioned to her that he was gone, so we started walking out together, but right at the entrance we ran into another couple that we knew as they were entering the store.  The four of us ended up conversing right there...and that's when Christian came in. 

I think that when Ka‘imi and I first passed through the security screening and into the gate area, two other flight attendants saw me.  I wasn't sure, however, because it was quite a distance from the x-ray machine to where they were sitting and I couldn't even clearly recognize who they were, only that they were women.  But I did see them looking our way and speaking to each other while looking at us.  I also suspect that maybe they had seen me go into the store.  So when Christian went out, I think they told him that I was in there...which is probably why he came back in. 

He came up to me and gave me the traditional kiss on the cheek, said hi, and explained that he hadn't seen me earlier.  My mind couldn't really come up with a reasonable response to that, so I didn't really say much.  Then he said that it was a real surprise (which was the whole point...). 

I was doing my best to play it cool...and I'm sure I would have succeeded if I didn't decide at that moment to take a sip of my bottled water.  It's difficult to hold the bottle completely steady when your hands are shaking...  (But I don't think he saw that!) 

However, my mission had been accomplished.  The look on his face was worth the effort.  He really was surprised. 

We all talked a little bit more, then the couple continued into the store while Christian, Ka‘imi and I went out into the gate area to sit.  We weren't speaking for long when the couple came back out, and Ka‘imi continued to speak with Christian while I began speaking with them again.  I didn't speak much to him from then on. 

He did still take care of me, giving me extra of anything I wanted on the flight, but we didn't really speak because the last half of the flight was his turn to rest (all the flight attendants take turns sleeping because they work 12 hours straight).  As we were disembarking, he asked me where he could get in touch with me.  I told him that I didn't know where I was staying yet and that I would find out once I got outside, then explained how I ended up in that situation.  I then got into the line to get out of the plane...and that was it.  That is the entirety of our interaction with each other thus far.  That's not even the nutshell version... 

While he and Ka‘imi were speaking earlier, he asked her where we were staying.  She explained that she was staying with a friend but that she didn't know where I was staying.  He replied that if I needed a place, I could stay with his mom or his aunt.  When she repeated this conversation to me, I felt two very opposite feelings:  First, I was glad that he offered.  I would have been really offended if he didn't.  Second, I felt there was no way I was going to depend on him for anything ever again, and that I would rather pay for a hotel room than to take up an offer from him.  

What I've come to realize in these past two years since my departure from Rapa Nui is that while I was here I depended on him way too much.  I depended on him all the time...the result being that now I don't really feel like I have anything of my own here on the island.  I feel like I didn't make any true friends or do any activities of my own accord because I was always depending on him to be with me.  That's why this trip is so important to me - I'm on my own this time.  I am my own person.  I'm making Rapa Nui my place, as opposed to what it felt like before - his home that I was able to be a part of. 

This feeling became very clear to me today as I walked about town.  I remember walking all of these same streets before, but never really feeling like I belonged - as if I was there only by someone's permission.  But today, it was completely different.  I knew that I had a right to be here...and everyone else knew it too.  I have somehow found that thing that I was lacking before:  Confidence. 

So although this is my third time here, and some of you are wondering why the heck I keep coming back, just know that this trip is a completely new experience.  Everything about it from the very beginning has felt and been different.  And just the few hours that I've been here so far have been very different from any day out of those six months that I spent here.  I've spoken more Spanish today than I probably did in that entire time, and I seem to be so much better at it!  Again, that mysterious confidence seems to have taken over...  :)

During the last trip when people spoke to me in Spanish I would always get nervous and concentrate hard to try and understand.  It was very stressful...  This time I don't care!  I just listen, and if I pick up something, great.  If I don't, I just smile and nod.  If they ask me a question but I don't understand what it was, I finally tell them that I don't understand.  Most of the time they just laugh at me when that happens...but by no means does that make them stop talking to me.  If anything, they talk to me more!

All in all this first day has been very fulfilling.  I'm staying with Ramon & Josie Edmunds, and I feel as if I've struck the gold mine of good luck with this trip.  Aside from the facts that they both speak English, they both have strong connections to Hawai‘i , and that they're both such great and fun people, their house if perfect for my needs.  It is a little way out of town, but not too far to walk (although I can't walk it at night), and I'm staying in the room they use as their office, so it's got a desk, a surge protector with a 120 watt voltage converter connected to a powerstrip, and the phone line that they use to connect to the internet.  I can connect any time I want right in the comfort of my own room.  (Assuming I can get online - it's pretty difficult during the day.  The best time is early in the morning or late at night.) 

Ka‘imi, Susana (a new friend) and I took an hour to take a five-minute walk to the beach today because friends who had just heard we were in town kept stopping to welcome us.  The other people that I was hoping to surprise were surprised and happy to see me, and one of the first people I ran into was Flaco.  I did an entire e-mail about him on the last trip.  I've always liked him, and I think he was happy to see me too.  He spoke to me all in Spanish, and I think that's the first real conversation we've ever had all in Spanish and without Christian around.  He even mentioned that my Spanish was better... 

It might even be possible to still get into one of the dance groups that will perform during Tapati.  Oh, wait...I think I might be missing practice right now... 

So, everything's great!  I'm happy. 

Take care all, and I'll be talking to you all again soon! 



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Date:      Sunday, February 2, 2003    Así es la vida

Hola everyone! 

As I sit here at 5:00 a.m. after just arriving home from the disco, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to share with all of you a little bit about what life is like here in Rapa Nui .  "Así es la vida", - "This is the life."

Rapa Nui , a.k.a. Easter Island is one of those places where, at first glance, you automatically think that these people are behind the times and really need help.  However, if you were to think that, you'd be completely wrong.  Yes, there are some things that could stand a bit of improvement...but you have to remember that statement is coming from someone who has known the comforts of the big city all her life.  I mention it because you may think the same as you continue to read this letter...but hopefully you'll change your mind once I'm done. 

Rapa Nui is a place where people still say hi to you as you pass them on the street.  People are rarely ever in a rush, and your friends will almost always stop to give you a ride if you ask.  Almost nothing is too far out of the way, as it takes only about 5 minutes or so to drive to the opposite end of town.  Walking as well as horseback riding are still considered main forms of transportation, although the amount of cars on the island is growing.  It's shocking to think that they didn't have any cars here until around the late 1970's.  In fact, cars only became common around 1995, after Kevin Costner brought his film crew here to shoot the movie " Rapa Nui ."  Many of the locals made a nice income from that film. 

The sun rises between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. , so nothing really gets started here until much later than in any cosmopolitan area.  The sun doesn't set until about 9:30 p.m. during the summer (which is right now), so you can wake up at 3:00 in the afternoon and still have an entire day ahead of you.  Consequently, the night life also gets started much later.  Dinner isn't until at least 10:00 , then people usually go out to one of the local bars afterwards to wait until it's late enough to go dancing.  We were just hanging around in our rooms at about 2:00 a.m. tonight because it was still too early to go to the disco.  In fact, people were still arriving when we left the disco just before 5:00 a.m.   Outside of the disco you see a rare mix of taxis, personal vehicles, and horses.  In fact, they still have corral-like stations here for you to tie your horse to while you're inside dancing. 

No, really...I'm not joking. 

Most people here, although they look mean at first glance, are extremely nice once you start speaking with them.  I was walking down the street the other day when someone just decided to join me.  We started talking, and I ended up making a new friend.  On my first day here a truck load of people just stopped on the road to talk to me. 

Ok...I know what you're all thinking.  It's because I'm pretty...well, that might have a little bit to do with why they stopped me on the road...but really, they would take time out to speak with people of the same gender also if they were to meet them in a social setting. 

Honestly, I think a lot of people stop to talk to me because they notice my tattoos.  Everyone here thinks the band down my leg is ultra-cool. 

The people here are also very used to tourists, and are more than willing to get to know one when they see one...especially the younger tourists.  (Yes, you know what I mean!)  Most people know a little bit of English, but even if they don't they will continue to speak with you.  You can tell them that you don't understand until you're blue in the face, but that doesn't mean they're going to stop talking any time soon. 

Most people also talk over each other, meaning that you could be speaking with someone on one side of you and right in mid-sentence the person on the other side of you will start a conversation.  I sometimes wonder how in the world they ever find out anything. 

And, one of the consequences of living on a small island is that everyone always knows everyone else's business.  Who's cheating on who and with whom, who's really the father of that baby, who belongs to which family, etc.  Nothing remains a secret over here.  That's why when I decided to make this trip a surprise, I didn't tell ANYONE.  Most of the people here just can't keep a secret... 

Many of the streets are still dirt, although a few more have been paved since the last time I was here.  Most of the houses look poor, like shacks with rooms...and many of them are...but that's just the way it is, and the people that live in them don't seem to mind at all.  Carpeted floors are rare just because the ground is always dirty and so it's easier to just not have carpet.  Going to bed with dirty feet is simply a way of life. 

It's funny, because at home in Hawai‘i I simply cannot go to bed with dirty feet.  Even if I'm so completely exhausted that I don't even want to take a shower (which is rare), I still have to wash off my feet.  But not here.  All the rules go out the window here.  Here I go to sleep stinky from all the cigarette smoke and dirty all over from the walking, and it doesn't bother me one bit. 

Hot water showers are also something that you won't find in every home here.  They didn't have hot water at all on the island until fairly recently (around the same time as cars), so most of the people are used to cold showers.  Once hot water became available, most families didn't rush out to get it just because they felt they didn't need it, so even though it's been available to the current generation, most of them still take cold showers.  Hot water is still not available through the plumbing.  Everyone who has hot water has a gas heater that needs to be lighted before the shower.  At times that can be very inconvenient...especially if your heater is outside. 

Whenever I come here I always make sure to stay in a place that has hot water.  I'm spoiled. 

Drinking and smoking are common activities among 99.9% of the population.  Work is only done when one needs money for something specific.  For the most part, people just enjoy themselves all the time.  Surf, fish, dive, sing, dance, play music, paint, carve, draw...they just do whatever they want.  What that has created is a small pool of extremely skilled craftsmen and artists.  It sometimes amazes me to see how incredibly talented so many of these people truly are. 

No one here is afraid to dance.  That's one thing I've never liked about Hawai‘i – so many of the men are too ashamed to really dance!  If only they knew how really sexy a man who can dance is...  Here you see boys as young as 7 years old already dancing to their native songs.  And when the men here dance, they really enjoy it!  Seeing them put everything into it inspires everyone else to want to join in! 

Most people who grow up here know how to speak Rapa Nui and Spanish.  They are spoken to in both languages consistently, and therefore can easily fall into conversation using both.  Hawai‘i can boast about our culture all we want, but the language holds the culture, and how many people in Hawai‘i actually know how to speak our own language?  All over the rest of the Pacific the people know how to speak their native tongue...all except us.  We have to go to school to learn it, and we have to choose whether or not we want to learn it.  Seeing how comfortable the rest of Polynesia is with their native languages just illustrates how really Americanized we in Hawai‘i have become. 

A majority of the men here have long hair and beards.  If you were to see someone who looked like that in America you would think he was a terrorist...but here it's common.  And many of those guys are super nice! 

A majority of the women here are beautiful.  Their native attire for cultural activities consists of a skirt that has always been worn well below the waist, just like we wear low rise jeans they have always worn belly-bearing outfits, but they were doing it here long before it became the fashion.  They are not ashamed of anything here.  And, of course, all the women can dance! 

You don't really see a whole lot of overweight people here, just because most still live a very physical lifestyle.  And there is no fast food, so whatever they do eat tends to be a little bit healthier than what we're used to.  Whatever fat they have usually comes from the excessive drinking. 

There are two new restaurant/bars here.  One is Aloha, and it's been open for over a year now.  It's incredibly is the only place that is still crowded every single night.  The second is Te Moana, which has only been open for a few weeks.  You can find at both places gourmet-like food - a blend of American type dishes with a Rapa Nui twist.  I've only had the fries at Aloha so far, but they were drenched in a sauce that made it different and better than any other fries I've had before.  We had dinner tonight at Te Moana, and the food there was incredible!  We just had to take a picture of our plates because you don't find gourmet food every day in Rapa Nui !  Well, actually, I guess now you do! 

These two restaurants have changed the night life around here in that now people have a place to go to before they go to Toroko (the disco).  You can pretty much run into everyone at either of these places.  Josie calls it "Alohando" - Aloha, and "ando" is the equivalent of "-ing" in English.  I'm sure a term for Te Moana is pending... 

I guess that's about it.  Some things maybe are not up to our standards in the big city, but here it all balances out perfectly.  This is the way of life here, and it totally works for them.  So, appreciate what you have, and try to make the best of it.  Find your own balance, because once you do, things get really fun. 

Take care all!  ~Ulu

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Date:  Monday, February 3, 2003        I danced in the Tapati!

Aloha käkou!

I think I've told you all by now that I'm dancing in the Tapati least I hope I did.  Ka‘imi and I only had 5 days to prepare for it, so the past week was pretty busy for us.  Here's the whole story. 

Tapati is the annual festival here in which young women compete to become Queen for a year.  Various competitions are held during the festival, which is 15 days long this year.  The participants compete for a certain (queen) candidate, and earn points depending on how well they do in their respective competitions.  At the end of the festival all the points are added up, and whichever candidate's team earned the most points wins the crown. 

The various competitions include dancing, canoe paddling, swimming, reed mat making, cooking, carving, singing, playing the accordion, as well as many more.  Two of the biggest competitions, however, are the Haka Pei, in which a man slides down a hill on 2 trunks of a banana tree tied together (it's very dangerous), and the Tau‘a, a marathon in which the competitors must paddle across a lake, then run around it carrying two bundles of bananas on his back, then paddle across the lake again. 

We participated in the dancing portion last night (Sunday).  The dance is judged based on the costumes, togetherness of the dancers, how much the dancers sing to the music, and how many dancers there are.  It's nothing like the Merrie Monarch, if that's what you're thinking. 

Rapa Nui dance is so much more (for lack of a better word) casual than hula.  There is a basic movement that you need to do which matches the words being sung, but everyone pretty much does it in their own way, and never bothers to really try and get it to look exactly the same as the person next to them.  The hand motions are also much simpler than those of hula, and there are far less motions than in hula.  There is no difference between ancient style (kahiko) and new style ('auana) like we have in Hawai‘i .  All dancing here is done in traditional costumes to music in the Rapa Nui language.  Whether the song is old or new makes no difference. 

We arrived here on Monday.  On Tuesday night Ka‘imi went to the dance practices for each of the respective candidates, of which there are only two this year.  According to her report, the first group was hesitant to let anyone else join because it was too close to performance time and because they already had a lot of dancers.  She didn't feel she went to the other group.  She was greeted well there and was told right away that they would welcome any new dancers. 

The next two days were all about work.  The biggest reason why a person doesn't participate is because of how much work goes into making the costumes.  We had to make ours from scratch, and we didn't have much time to do it.  We worked for 6 hours on Wednesday and 8 hours on Thursday just to make our skirts.  They don't have the luxury of lauhala or ti leaves here, so we had to make our skirts out of banana tree trunks. 

I'll try to expalin this as best I can, but you really can't grasp it until you've seen it in person.  Ka‘imi had to do the same thing last year when she was here, and tried to explain the process to me, but I didn't get it until I had to do it myself. 

First you get an entire trunk of a banana tree.  You strip off the first few layers of the bark until you get to the cleaner, nicer layers.  Then you take one of those layers and dig out the fleshy part of the inside with a spoon.  You keep scraping all of that excess away until all that's left is the very thin outer layer of that piece.  Then you strip that lengthwise into small pieces that now resemble raffia.  You attach those onto a piece of rope and violá!  That's your skirt. 

It sounds so simple, but man is it hard work!  You have to clean about 12 of those to make your skirt...more if you're bigger.  Thank God I'm not that big!  I thought my fingers were going to fall off!  They were all swollen for about a day after...I've still got a cut on one of my fingers where the spoon was constantly rubbing against my knuckle.  

After the first day I seriously considered not dancing, just because it was such hard work.  But it was also one of those things where I had already done this much and it was so much of an accomplishment that there was no way I could stop now.  What little I had finished would be for nothing.  So I persisted!  We somehow managed to finish our skirts in just 2 days.  Everyone was really impressed with us.  Most people take at least 2 weeks to finish theirs just because you can't be doing that kind of work for that long... 

We were also very fortunate to have help with the rest of our costumes.  Someone made the bra part for us, and another person made our belts and crowns.  All that was left for us to do was make the little pom poms that decorated the belt and crown.  So we finished our entire costumes in only 3 days.  I think that might be some kind of record. 

In the beginning I was extremely worried that I wouldn't be able to learn the dance in time.  At our first practice I felt completely lost, and no one seemed to want to help us.  All they said was to just follow the person in front of me.  The director of the group, when we first approached her to ask if I could dance, said that I could but had a worried look on her face.  But as soon as she found out that I was from Hawai‘i and that I dance hula, her worried look melted away and broke into a big smile.  I took that as a reassuring sign. 

Although no one really helped us that first day, the advice they gave us turned out to be the best thing we could do.  I just followed the people around me...and I blended right in!  (It's a good thing I have a lot of experience in following...I do that a lot in my hula class at home!  oops!)  On the second day some other dancers met with us and did go over the motions with us.  We only went through it once, but just that little bit was a tremendous help!  I began to feel much more confident after that...and I started to have fun with it. 

In the end, so many people were nervous that they messed up during the performance.  Dancers that were usually pretty good in practice completely forgot what they were supposed to be doing on stage, but the best thing about Rapa Nui dance is that it is not precise, and you can't always easily tell if someone is off.  From the back of the stage where I stood, the whole thing looked off.  People were going right when they were supposed to go left; hands were down when they were supposed to be up, or even worse, they were up when they were supposed to be down; the lines were way too close together...but it was so much fun!  I was smiling the whole time because I just couldn't believe that I was here on stage dancing in the Tapati!  And from what I've heard from audience members, it looked good from the front. 

I didn't get any pictures yet of me in my costume because my camera sucks(!), but Ka‘imi took some on hers.  We're going to dance again on Friday, so hopefully I'll be able to get a picture to share with you of that one. 

I am exhausted and have spent most of the day at home today.  There is a big wedding feast that the entire island is invited to tonight, so I need to start getting ready to go out now.  The wedding is for the lead singer of Matato‘a, so there's a good chance they are going to perform.  Matato‘a, in case I haven't mentioned it before, is a local music group - and they're awesome!  Whenever they perform, the whole island comes to see it (if it's free...). 



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Date:  Thursday, February 13, 2003     Te Pito O Te Henua

Iorana korua! 

I'm sure you've all received my other letter by now about the updates I've finally managed to make to my website, but let me take this opportunity once again to apologize for not keeping up with my messages. 

Now that I've finally got a bit of time and energy, I'd like to write about one of the things that is so special about Rapa Nui .  This little island in the middle of nowhere is also called Te Pito O Te Henua, or The Navel of the Earth.  I'm not sure how that name originally became connected to this island, but I can say with some certainty that it is a name that has been passed down from before Western civilization ever reached these shores. 

It is becoming apparent to me, especially on this trip, how truly that name applies to this place.  In the short 3 weeks that I've been here I've met people from all over the world - people that I would never meet if they came as tourists to Hawai‘i.  I've made new friends from Germany, Chile, Aotearoa, Switzerland and various places in the United States like California, Colorado, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. On previous trips I've met Canadians (although we all know how my Canadian experience turned out...), Argentineans, Brazilians, and Japanese.  I'm still in awe as to how many people end up here. 

So for a small place, the people who live here are so very international.  I am still surprised that there are these new gourmet-type restaurants popping up here and there, but I guess I shouldn't be considering the wide range of tourists that travel here every year.  I overheard someone telling a friend that there are 7000 tourists here for Tapati this year.  I can't even imagine that there is room enough for 7000 people at one time, yet as we walked down the main street yesterday while participating in the Tapati parade, it was very apparent that there were a lot more people around here than I had ever noticed before. 

Yet I still can't get over the fact that, as many tourists as there are, this is still a place where your feet are always dirty just from walking on the unpaved sidewalks and only half of the hotels here offer hot water showers. 

Josie told me a while ago that there are actually more people of Rapa Nui ancestry living in various parts of the world than there are living here on the island.  That is difficult to imagine when everywhere you look around here you see someone with Rapa Nui blood.  It's not like Hawai‘i where you have to look far and wide to find a Hawaiian...they're literally all over the place here, and people of other races are still the minority.  But it is so very common for Rapa Nui people to marry a tourist and move away.  That's what happened to Josie's father...although her mother wasn't exactly a tourist.  Josie's brother, who like her is half Rapa Nui, visits often but does not live here.  He lives in California.  Ramon's (Josie's husband) family is spread out all over the place.  His younger brother is currently studying in Hawai‘i, and his sister lives in Germany with her husband, who is German but was born and raised for part of his life in Chile. 

Everyone who lives here has international connections, yet when you're here the place seems so small and remote.  I guess that's one of the things that makes Rapa Nui so unique - that with all the international influences that could be affecting this place, it still remains the same.

There is something very special about it.  Josie also told me that one scholar had actually coined a phrase (which she can't remember) that described what he believed to be a condition that Rapa Nui people who move away suffer from.  It's like a severe homesickness, but once you move away it can never be cured.  Even if you move back home, things will never be the same.  A Rapa Nui person who has moved away will be changed forever, and will never feel the same way about life here as they did before they left.  Some decide to come back anyway, and do make very comfortable lives for themselves, while others cannot bear the heartache that coming back would cause, so instead they live the rest of their lives away from the one place they truly love. 

It's difficult to understand this concept unless you've actually felt it.  For some people, like me, Rapa Nui is a place that gets under your skin, and when you leave it you feel as if your heart is breaking.  You must come back again and again and again just because you don't feel complete when you're away from it.  Getting on that plane at the end of your stay is one of the hardest things to do, but you do it because you know that one day soon you will be back, and you will be home again. 

There is an archaeological site here where there is a very round rock with 4 smaller rocks surrounding it that you can sit on.  The large rock in the middle is called Te Pito Kura, and it is said to be the center of the earth.  If you sit on one of the surrounding rocks and put your hands on this stone, you can feel the energy surging through it.  It is always warm, no matter how cold the outside temperature might be.  Perhaps this truly is the center of the earth, and it has chosen these few people to always come back to it when they can.  I am now one of those people.  I must come back again.  I've got that homesickness. 

Christian, my new German friend, says that he still keeps in contact with all the people he's ever met since his first trip here 5 years ago.  Many of them have become good friends, and I'm sure that the same will happen for me.  I've made some quality friends so far on this trip, so I'd have to say that my mission has been accomplished.  That was one of the things I wanted to achieve this time around.  Christian may even come to visit Ka‘imi and I in Hawai‘i in July.  I am thrilled to have met Ale, Ramon's sister, and her husband Andreas as they are such good, fun people to know.  Ronald, who is still very young, seems to have blossomed in the last couple of weeks here, and I hope to keep in touch with him just to see where he goes from here.  I've exchanged e-mail addresses with a couple of people from the Aotearoa group, so we'll see where that goes.  One of them, although we hung out together a lot, was pretty much always drunk, so I don't know if he'll ever e-mail all the people that he said he would.  Meriama, a very nice Maori woman that we met on the first night, has gotten everyone's e-mail addresses as well, and even got our mailing addresses to send us copies of a Maori CD that they played a lot while they were here.  (She tripped out when she found out my age, since she's only 23 but already has 2 children...)  I've just recently met a Chilean man who has been living here for about 6 months and now intends to stay here for 10 years.  His name is Omar, or Coco as the kids around here call him.  He's a very interesting and nice guy, and we've become fast friends. 

I'm so very glad I came here again, and I know that whatever sacrifices I had to make to get here were totally worth it.  I've gone through up’s and down’s since I've been here, but it's all in the interest of growth, and I've somehow managed to come through it all.  There's still some loose ends to tie up, and who knows what else will happen in my 3 remaining weeks, but I feel certain that my heart will be whole, although sad, when I leave. 

That's it for me now.  I've partied too much and now need some serious sleep.  Being alive in the navel of the earth can really take a lot out of you! 

Take care all!  ~Ulu

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Date:      Thursday, February 20, 2003     The most interesting things…

Aloha käkou! 

It's me again...finally writing to all of you after what seems to me like ages.  I've been away from my computer and from e-mail for a while now, simply because I've been enjoying myself too much!  And what have I been up to that's been so much fun, you ask?  Well...

It never ceases to amaze me how the most interesting things can happen in the smallest of places.  I've lived all my life in Hawai‘i but the best things have always happened to me when I was here, in Rapa Nui .  I met Christian here...granted, things didn't turn out so well, but I definitely learned a lot from the experience.  It was because of him that I decided to live somewhere other than Hawai‘i for the first time in my life, and as a result I gained a confidence that I never knew I had before, and I would have to say that I've matured as a result of that adventure.  And this writing thing seems to have blossomed out of it also...a gift of that trip that I cherish the most.    

But what else could possibly happen to me now? 

Have I stalled enough yet? 

Alright then.  Here it is:  I met somebody. 

Ok...for those of you who know me well - DON'T FREAK OUT.  I'm much smarter now than I was the last time I made that statement.  I'm still definitely returning to Hawai‘i as planned.  I'm definitely NOT making any "life altering plans" (as one kind friend put it), and I'm definitely not head over heels, swept off my feet or anything of that sort.  This is not a dime store romance novel.  This is real life. 

He is not a Rapa Nui man.  And for those of you who know what Rapa Nui men are like, you will know that that statement makes all the difference in the world!  He's Chilean but has been living here for about 7 months now.  There's a lot that I could tell you about him, but let me just state the most important fact - He's a very good man.  He's not a boy in a grown-up body like so many of the young men are today - he's an actual mature male person.  We spend most of our time simply talking, and part of that time is spent conversing about the deepest of subjects...the kinds of things that most men even when they're 55 are afraid to talk about.  He's incredibly caring and loving and all the children around here adore him because he's so good with them.  He takes care of them and they always want to be around him.  As a result, some of them have started calling me "Tia" now (meaning Aunt), because I'm always with him, so all the kids know that if he values me, then I must be a good person too. 

Ok...I know what some of you are thinking - NO, he's not gay.  Shame on you.  And he's not a dirty old man either.  Nasty minds! 

He's also a lot of fun, and in many ways he's the kind of man I've always wanted to be with.  He's intuitive, courageous, smart and funny.  He's an excellent chef, so I eat well every evening, and believe it or not he loves Karaoke as much as I do.  I spend a lot of time laughing with him simply because, for a Chilean, he sure does know a lot about American movies and music!  He doesn't drink (score!), he's may just be a little bit smarter than I am (which is saying a lot!), and the best thing about him is that I can truly trust him.  I always feel happy and at peace when I'm with him. 

So that's why I haven't written lately.  I've been spending all of my time with him.  I'm trying so hard not to pass my entire vacation with him, because my biggest mistake last time was that I spent so much time with Christian that I never really made any friends of my own.  But somehow I seem to end up at his place at some point every day...oh well.  Cest la vie! 

Don't worry.  We're not making any kinds of plans together or anything like that.  We are simply enjoying whatever time we have together, and once I leave we'll still be very good friends.  Whatever may happen in the future will happen, but neither of us will worry about it or try in any way to manipulate it based on whatever kind of feelings we may have from one moment to the next.  Does that make sense? 

Gosh, I sound like a grown-up.  When did that happen? 

Anyway, that's what's going on.  I'm happy.  There are times when I have to step back and look at the situation and wonder how in the world I got here, but then I step back in and just enjoy it for what it is.  Everyone deserves some peace, and this is my turn. 

So take care everyone and enjoy your life, because when you do, good things always come your way. 

Aloha pumehana,


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Date:      Friday, March 7, 2003     Tahiti

Ia Orana from Tahiti! 

Here I am again back in Tahiti, en route back to Hawai‘i.  I just realized how funny it must seem that I didn't have time to write from Rapa Nui but that I have so much available time to write while I'm here in Tahiti.  This is supposed to be paradise!  But instead it's just a way-stop for me...and an unwanted stop at that. 

I've never like having to stay in Tahiti.  It's hot and expensive and there's nothing to do if you don't have some means of transportation.  But maybe I'm being a bit I've decided to describe the place from my point of view.  You all can form your own opinions. 

Tahiti is the kind of place where you never need a sweater, no matter what time of the night it might be.  It was hot when we arrived at 1 a.m. , and it was hot when we woke up at 7 a.m.   If you can pass the entire day in the water, then you've got it made.  But if you can't make it to the ocean, then you've got to be a lot more creative! 

We went marathon shopping yesterday.  We caught Le Truck (like the bus) at around 8:30 in the morning and started our Papeete shopping spree at about 10:30.  We arrived in Papeete before 9:00, but had to exchange money and eat breakfast first.  Tahitian time is apparently the same as Hawaiian time, except that government offices also subscribe to the lateness factor.  The exchange office was supposed to open at 8:45 but the person working there didn't arrive until 9:30 . 

I spent the equivalent of $12 for a croissant, a glass of orange juice and a very small club sandwich for breakfast.  I spent another $12 for lunch - a cheeseburger, fries and a small coke.  The remainder was spent on souvenirs and gifts.  In the end I arrived back home with only $30 left out of the $100 that I had exchanged.  I hope that will be enough for food for the rest of my stay!  I guess taking the ferry to Mo‘orea is out (another $18 to $22).  We're also supposed to go dancing tonight, and the cover charge is $10. 

If you're coming from Hawai‘i then the money exchange isn't very difficult to understand.  $1 US is equal to 100 French Francs.  Just remove our decimal point...very easy.  But, if you're coming from Rapa Nui things can get very confusing.  For example, 1000 Chilean Pesos equals about $1.37 US, so after spending 6 weeks there we've got it in our heads that the number '1000' is very cheap...but here in Tahiti 1000 Francs equals $10 US.  Big difference. 

It costs only 2000 pesos to get into the disco in Rapa Nui - about $2.70 US.  It's going to cost us $10 to get into the club here in Tahiti .  If you go to the swap meet in Hawai‘i you can get at least 3 puka shell necklaces for about $5.  Here in Tahiti you can buy one for $10.  It truly is staggering when you think about it.  I simply cannot conceive how the people can live here if they have to pay so much for everything! 

We spent about 6 hours at the beach today.  The day was beautiful and just as hot as ever, but for some reason being hot at the beach is a lot better than being hot in the house.  When I had had enough sun I just parked myself in the shade and continued with my book.  There was enough of a breeze today to make that a great way to pass the time.  The ocean is warm was so easy to get into the water!  But once you're in the water you wish that it was just a tad bit cooler.  And I'll have to admit that this is probably the only place I've ever been where taking a cold shower actually feels good.  (I'm allergic to cold!) 

The funniest thing is that we ran into Sam Choy at the hotel where we went to the beach.  He was sitting at the pool when we arrived, but we just walked right past him since we don't know him personally.  As we were leaving at the end of the day Ka‘imi decided to introduce herself, so we talked with him for a few minutes and even got a picture.  Apparently he had been staying there for a month already but he and his family were leaving on a cruise tomorrow.  It truly is a small world... 

McDonald's french fries taste the same here as they do in Hawai‘i , but I didn't get to see or taste the sandwich so I can't vouch for any similarities there.  They've changed the names of some of the sandwiches too, to make them more location appropriate.  It's also a bit more expensive here - the regular sized meals costs over $6 while the super sized meal costs over $7. 

We had Taro ice cream today.  It was really good.  Someone should try to make that in Hawai‘i . 

The best thing about both Rapa Nui and Tahiti , however, is that there is no tax.  The price you see is the price you pay.  It makes things very simple, but very confusing for people when they visit us in Hawai‘i .  Some of them just can't grasp the concept. 

I have personally come to the conclusion that there are only a few choice items that it is better to buy in Tahiti , and anything else should be purchased elsewhere.  These are:  Black Pearls (of course...); Pareaus (they have some really nice ones here!); Monoi (an essential for all Polynesians); Hinano merchandise (always cool); Tickets to Rapa Nui on LanChile Airlines (it's so much better to buy them here for a number of reasons!); and Marlboro Cigarettes (although I'd never buy them, but apparently they're cheaper here than almost any other place in the world.  I forget why...). 

That's about all I can say about it.  It's not so bad, but I'm definitely looking forward to going home.  I'm sure I'd feel much differently about Tahiti if I were specifically here for my vacation...who knows? 

I'm signing off now so I can get ready for our big night out on the town.  I hope this goes well also!  Take care all! 



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Date:      Saturday, March 8, 2003           Life’s Lessons

Ia Orana once again from Tahiti ! 

My trip has come and gone so quickly as I find myself writing to all of you once again from Tahiti .  It's been nearly 2 months since the last time I was here, yet it seems like it was only yesterday. 

I remember being here for just one day on our way to Rapa Nui, and that one day seemed like torture!  We stayed in the house all day...and I can't remember the last time I was so completely bored and uncomfortable.  The heat was unbearable, and TV in French is not nearly as entertaining as TV in English is.  I remember the day dragging by as my mind focused only on one thing - getting to Rapa Nui.  Ka‘imi and I even arrived at the airport much too early to check in simply because we were both so excited to get there. 

Leaving Rapa Nui was not nearly as exciting as leaving Tahiti was.  For those of us who have breathed the place in, leaving Rapa Nui is always the hardest thing in the world to do.  Your heart goes numb as you force your legs to take each step closer and closer to the plane...moving farther and farther away from the people and the place that you love. The first couple of times that you have to leave, you can't help but to cry, but after having to do it so many times, you get to the point where you can't cry anymore, and only focus on the next time you'll be back. 

I spent that entire flight watching movies, trying my best to avoid thinking about the fact that I was leaving.  I tried to avoid thinking about how everything seemed to have ended so abruptly - how one minute I was having a great time talking with people that I care about, and how the next minute I was sitting all alone on a plane going somewhere that I really didn't want to go to, certain that I wouldn't be seeing all of these people again for a very long time.  I tried to avoid thinking about how much I was going to miss everyone and everything about Rapa Nui.  I tried to avoid thinking about how much I really didn't want to leave. 

It's a 5 hour flight, and 2 movies only takes up about 4 hours, so I spent the last hour talking story with Christian, since he was working that night.  We hadn't really hung out at all during my entire trip, and we especially hadn't talked since I found my new boyfriend, so it was nice to be able to just hang with him for a while.  Of course, he completely avoided asking me anything about my boyfriend, and instead we made small talk for over an hour, but still, it was nice to be able to just sit and chat with him as friends.  We've shared too much together to be only acquaintances, so we feel comfortable talking to each other about deeper subjects, and that makes a good foundation for an actual friendship.  I think our friendship will continue in the future, and I feel good knowing that. 

As for my boyfriend (since I'm sure you're all a bit curious)...I still call him my boyfriend even though technically that's not what he is.  We are both free to see whomever we choose...but I think the key factor here is that neither of us really wants to see anyone else.  I already miss him immensely, and I want nothing more than to go straight back there to be with him, but there are things that I need to do in my life first, like getting a life.  Then I can go back on my own terms.  Once that part of my life is in order, then we can work out the rest. 

And, you truly never know what life is going to send your way.  Two weeks from now we could both meet other people who are more perfect for us than I am for him or he is for me.  It's entirely possible that he and I were together only for a little while just so that we could experience what that kind of relationship was like.  It's entirely possible that when we finally see each other again there will be no attraction what-so-ever.  No one knows what the future holds, and anything is possible.  So we are both going to go ahead with our lives and see what progresses.  That's all anyone can do, right? 

I had learned so much after my last trip that it took me nearly 2 years to sort it all out and truly realize the value of it all.  I know that I've gained so much more as a result of this trip as well.  There are a lot of lessons that I'm already aware of, and I'm sure there are a few more that I'll discover in time.  But the one thing that I never expected to find, and am still amazed that I did, is Peace.  I not only felt moments of Peace, I felt days and weeks of Peace.  I felt for the first time what it was like to be truly happy - to not have anything to complain, worry or be sad about; to not have any insecurity what-so-ever.  I felt what it was like to care about someone 150% and to know in every fiber of your being that they care about you just as much.  It's an amazing feeling to experience, and the best part about it is that it never leaves you.  This feeling will stay with me forever.  This is something that most people never get in their entire lives...and I was lucky enough to find it now. 

So even though I really don't want to be here in Tahiti, I have to admit that this stay has turned out to be better than I expected...and it might just be the best stay I've ever had here.  No matter how much I miss Rapa Nui and a certain person there, I still have that peace inside of me, and it allows me to still feel good wherever I am. 

But I'm still looking forward to being back in Hawai‘i .  I haven't had a proper hot water shower in nearly 2 months, and therefore haven't really felt clean in all that time.  I'm also looking forward to knowing what time it is...neither Ka‘imi nor I brought a watch on this trip, so we've been lost for almost the entire time.  You never realize how much you depend on knowing the time until you don't have the means to do it.  I haven't been away long enough on this trip to miss all the good food in Hawai‘i , but that doesn't mean that I'm not looking forward to a few really good meals!  (hint, hint...I'm free for my first week back in case anyone would like to take me out to lunch...hint, hint...) 

However, returning to Hawai‘i also means it's time to get down to business.  I need to get that life that I haven't seemed to have acquired yet.  For those of you who don't really know what I mean by that, here it is:  I'm not meant to spend my life as a Secretary and a Macy's Sales Associate.  That's not who I am.  I'm meant to do a lot more in this life, and the only reason I haven't done it by now is because I've been scared.  I'm still scared, but I need to do it anyway.  I'd be cheating myself if I continued to just "get by" knowing that I'm capable of so much more.  And once I've reached that potential, I can choose where to go from there.  That's what I'm meant for in this life.  That is who I am. 

None of you will be receiving this message until Sunday at the earliest, because I have no way of connecting to the internet here in Tahiti by the time you read this I'll already be back home.  During the following week I'll make sure to update the website a bit also with a few pictures and stuff.  Be sure to check back later in the week. 

Thanks again to all of you for sharing this journey with me.  Take care all, and I'll see you again soon! 



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