Over the next few days I’m going to put up my diaries from my time in Hawaii working on a kava farm. It was a damn weird time as some of you know. The story is pretty incomplete in my head, however, so I’m revisiting it as I put it up for public viewing. Oh, bear in mind that I also submitted this for Winter Term credit. Enjoy Jenny! Well, and maybe Mom, too…
January 8, 2011: Day 1
I am freaking out. I’m not sure if it’s jetlag, substance excess, or shock-induced social incompetency but I was a mess out there tonight. Just couldn’t get it going with anybody.
After a lovely day to the oceanside cliffs that reside below the farm with the Oberlin crew—Melissa, Sharon, Peter, and Matt, whose names you will probably want to know—we returned at dusk to the warehouse weary and ready for dinner.
I’m not sure what I expected dinner to be like, but what was happening was definitely not it. Through today I have only met people sporadically since I spent the early portion napping off the travel. All these spotty introductions, I suppose, led me to forget how many people are living here because seeing everyone together in the warehouse at once sent my jaw to the floor. I thought there were like eight people; turns out the five of us make twenty-one! And thirteen of them have lived together for months! We were like a herd of elephants in black wool.
Our little Oberlin gang was forced outside because there simply wasn’t enough room in the warehouse by the time we got back. So we sat alone under the front awning and played some cards until, out of the blue, Jonnyy comes out and sits down at the picnic table.
Jonny’s about my height, with long, greasy blonde hair that sits like a bowl on his head, and eyes so blue that, if you look at them long enough, you can see clouds in them. To this point, I know him as the baker of the farm—not exactly the confectionary kind but, hell, you know what I mean.
He starts a conversation and immediately ends cards. (Everybody is eager to make friends.) Jonny tells us he is 29 years old, and has just returned to Pu’u’ala (our farm) after living in his parents’ Mizzoula basement for the past three months. To make matters worse, his 18-year old, former meth-addict, live-in girlfriend broke up with him because of his decision to return to the Big Island. Though the girl didn’t sound quite like my type, I felt for Jonny. He’s the nicest person on the planet—so nice that I paid him an exceedingly rare compliment. He made an effort unlike any I’ve ever experienced to befriend us outsiders. He even attracted, over time, Phil—the farm’s eldest, at 50—to our table.
Phil was very, very drunk. It took him literally two minutes to walk the eight feet from the warehouse to the picnic table. He barely beat Peter—who had gone inside for a beer after Phil initially got up—to the last seat, and was not pleased when Peter tried to snake the chair from him. Melissa moved over on the bench for Phil to ease the tension, and he took the seat with a blank nod and grin at Melissa. He sat down across from me, and quickly became the scariest dude I’d ever met.
The first time I spoke around him I noticed his eyes dart towards me and stick there, like he had forgotten how to move them. Little weird, but no big deal. But soon I noticed that every time I laughed, talked, or even breathed, really, he’d focus in on me like I was Keanu and he was a damned Machine. Each subsequent time he heard me the stare got a little longer and a little more like a glare. He got in my head so much I couldn’t follow the conversation. I was terrified of offending the farm’s longest serving member on the first night and establishing an awful precedent for the next three weeks. I sat in conspicuous, gulping silence for a few minutes, trying to avoid his gaze until dinner was ready and he staggered in to eat. I stayed behind, wondering what the fuck he had been thinking while he got his food. Then I went and got mine.
I ate fast and then skedaddled to the tent on the pretense of jetlag. It was only partly true.
I felt real weird tonight. Somebody dropped the term “transients,” using it as a pejorative. I’m no Ivy Leaguer, but using my moderate deductive powers, I think we’re transients. I’m hoping it’s just a first day in a new place thing but I guess we’ll see.
Tomorrow we’re off to the farmer’s market in Hilo, and work starts Monday.