My Thanksgiving in Maui began with a shopping trip that filled my host family’s truck to the very rim. There was just enough room to fit my three British friends and myself into the back to sit on top of all the food. Our host sat in the front with her mother, who drove down the highway so quickly that my hair whipped loudly around my ears and my voice would catch in my throat when I tried to speak. The air was filled with the smell of the salty ocean that ran parallel to the highway. We whizzed past countless palm trees, leaving the enormous green mountain range behind us.
The highway gradually narrowed until we found ourselves on a smaller road that passed in and out of the rainforest. We had been warned ahead of time about the winding Road to Hana and the 600 turns that would take us several hours to stomach. The road was bumpy and breathtaking and we stared down at the island in awe as the car teetered on the very edge of the road. We passed one-lane wooden and rocky bridges set over waterfalls and pools of clear-blue water. The trees around us teemed with singing birds and buzzing insects. The shades of the plants around us encompassed every color one could imagine. However, none were as fascinating as the rainbow tree, whose brown bark peeled to reveal red, blue and yellow. We didn’t make the already dangerous road any safer by jumping around the open trunk excitedly and leaning over the edge to take pictures like typical exchange students.
Our car raced the setting sun but didn’t reach our destination until the sky was black and the stars burned bright.
We got off the truck on wobbly legs and stepped into the darkness. Our Hawaiian friend warned us that we would be camping out on her family’s land, nothing fancy. As her mother turned on all the car lights to help us unpack, we saw a spacious tent near a typical Hawaiian hale – an open-walled wooden building with benches and kitchen equipment inside it. When the car engine turned off and the wind was no longer ringing in our ears, we heard the sound of waves. Excited we ran several meters past our tent to discover that our friends’ backyard was right on the ocean and we’d be spending the next three nights falling asleep to the sound of waves hitting the rocky beach.
We woke up the next day to our friend’s family members arriving in trucks full of food and setting up the steaming pots of meat, potatoes, vegetables and desserts in the kitchen of our hale. We met our friend’s mother, sister, brothers, aunts and uncles. We sat around eating and laughing, being thankful for this wonderful experience. The following day we were taken to a sunny beach and went to see a mighty waterfall. The climax of the day was going to a cliff that looked over the ocean where Hawaiians of all shapes and ages threw themselves into the air and dove into the sparkling water. I will never forget the feeling I had standing on that edge looking down several meters and letting go of all my fear to take that leap of faith.
Originally published in Youth Time Print.