So last Wednesday I headed home for a little vacation back in Hawaii. It was my baby brother's first birthday, and in Hawaii, that means a BIG party, lots of friends and family, and an event that I simply could not miss. Prior to leaving, I thought a lot about School for Hawaiian Girls, and how the idea of growing up in small towns within Hawaii (particularly in Kohala) is a major aspect to this story. So when going home, I jumped at the opportunity of visiting the isolated place we have been reading about, and took the half-hour journey (along with my little cousin) to the historic Kohala town. It was a neat experience, and I was able to feel the history of this place. I could visualize the story and almost place characters at certain locations. The story came to life. I wanted to give you all a feel of this town, so let me take you along on the adventure...
The drive to Kohala from Kamuela is pleasant, with lots of trees and forest to guide the way. It was a rainy day (which was terrible), but the journey there was beautiful and full of sunshine. It's an amazing road to drive with breathtaking scenery.
On our first stop we landed at Keokea Beach Park, which is located past Hawi (Kohala) town. This now serves as more of a recreational beach-park where locals come for picnics, swimming, and diving, while tourist come for amazing pictures.
This little area of the water reminded me a lot of the descriptions that Sam offers in the story. I can picture Charlie Moku sitting here in his canoe, waiting for Lydia to arrive. On this day in particular, the winds shook the ocean to create uneasy waves. This enabled me to visualize how Sam describes the difficulty of launching a canoe out to the rough ocean.
The next important stop, which is also mentioned in the story, would be Pololu Valley. It's a long and dangerous hike down, so I decided to just stay at the lookout. It was spectacular. Out in the distance, you can make out the small island offshore and see the outlining to the valleys beyond. The next mountain over dives into Waimanu Valley, and beyond that, Waipio Valley. I believe in School for Hawaiian Girls, it is said that Charlie Moku flees to Pololu.
As we headed back to Kohala Town, I had to stop for a picture of this old plantation building. I read somewhere in town that most of these old structures were created back in the late 1800s-1900s. Though they are run-down and shabby looking, the buildings themselves have so much history behind them. Today, this place in particular serves as an art gallery.
The next stop was Kohala Middle School. I liked this location in particular because though it is a modern-day school, the structure is almost set back in time. I could picture the School for Hawaiian Girls being fairly similar (maybe a lot older and smaller). It was just really neat to see how even schools today hold the old plantation-style influence.
My little cousin and I managed to build enough courage to do further exploring. We trekked it up old dirt roads and came across this Baptist Church. I later found out (from talking to an elderly woman in the town) that this church was one of the first and most popular Christian churches to be built in Kohala. After the unfortunate earthquake that hit the Big Island a few months ago, the old structure was destroyed and the premises blocked off. I could perfectly place Sarah's father and husband standing at the alter of this church. It was a very eerie place.
Walking through the town of Kohala is nothing more than a few mere blocks (I do not joke!). You could make it from one end of the actual town to the other side in less than five minutes. That is the beauty behind this place. It's such a small, separate world that seems detached from the rest of the island, and furthermore, the world. Here, everyone knows one another and life goes by very slowly.
Many (but not all) of the buildings are stuck in the old world. Plantation buildings make up the town. Though they have been remodeled, many are now home to tourist shops, restaurants, and even an internet cafe.
One of the only three existing statues of King Kamehameha the First sits in the heart of Kohala town. It is said that the great ruler was born in this very town. The building behind of the statue now serves as a little informational center/museum. Here, I learned that there once was a School for Girls in Kohala, though the woman working did not know where it was located. Through pictures though, I saw the school that once stood in the early 1900s.
Leaving the small town, I could not miss what this place is made up of today: pastures. The land that once was filled with sugar cane fields is now the home to hundreds of grazing cattle.
And my final image depicts a mill in the middle of the sugar cane/pasture.
This place helped me visualize the sugar cane mills and factories that used to sit in the middle of the acres and acres of land. Kohala, being a place of plantation and sugar cane life, and also the place in the story of Lydia's murder.
I apologize for this lengthy blog, but hope that images of this place can help to build a more concrete visualization of Kohala. For me, visiting these places really brought School for Hawaiian Girls alive, and I wished to share this with all of you.