Right before this semester took off, I went on a 10-day hike in Kauai, Hawaii. I was stunned by how full our flight to Kauai was. I thought since the holidays were over not many people would be traveling in the middle of January from all over the world to Kauai, but I guess I was wrong. I had done a little research on the island and found out that it had a good number of similarities with Rwanda, including the climate, some of the vegetation and the culture. So when we landed, I couldn’t wait to get passed customs and go explore because this is the one place that was close to looking like home; it was in the tropics, and culturally similar too.
On our first day in Kauai, after landing we [student group of 10 and our professor] went shopping for food for camping. Then we headed to Lydgate Park Camp Ground where we camped a night before moving to Haena Beach Park Camp where we camped one night as well. During the two days before our big hike to Kalalau beach, we got to swim on the most beautiful beaches and explore a little bit Lihu’e. The farmers market was my favorite; not only did I get to taste new fruits to me, there was live Hawaiian music. If you know me well, you’ll understand how big of a deal with was, being that I live and breathe music and find so much joy and comfort in it. Even now I still find myself tuning in on Island Radio just to hear again the beautiful music of the island.
We started our 11-mile Kalalau trail hike on the third day. It was intense. Though it was untypical of me, I sprinted the first 2 miles. By the third mile I was ready to go back, but of course being the stubborn and proud kid that I am, I couldn’t dare say that in front of my peers who were in the same situation. Instead, I turned my undivided attention to the environment around me, which helped my mind stay numb to the weight on my waist and shoulders. During our hike and camping in between, we got to swim more and do day hikes in search of more cool waterfalls and scenery. While camping at Kalalau beach, we met the famous Uncle T, and he reminded me of my own “Uncle Ts” back home - the kind of men who are always watching out for the neighborhood - so humble, so kind, the “neighborhood’s father figure” kinda guy. Uncle T has been living on Kalalau beach for 17 years. Therefore, he knows the ways of survival on an almost deserted beach, 11 miles away from civilization. So we learned a few tips and tales from him about the island.
Reflecting back on this trip, I was reminded by how privileged I am. I may not be as privileged as the average student at Whitman, but I am definitely lucky to be going to a school that has such amazing classes like this tropical backpacking class. Classes like these allow students like me to experience things that I wouldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t gone to Whitman College.
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