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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Tan Lines Fade but Memories Last Forever – Hawaii & Alaska Community Service

We spent our last few days in Maui experiencing it the ecological way. We met two cool dudes, Nature Jay and Nature Ray, who despite being very mellow individuals, were incredibly passionate about Hawaii, its natural resources and environment, and the island way of life. They shared lots of their knowledge with us about cultural customs and traditions, which allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of Hawaii and Maui in particular. Nature Ray then guided us on a hike through the beautifully lush I’AO Valley. What mind blogged us the most was the fact that no life existed here (N.B. here being the Valley and the Island of Maui as a whole), when lava created the island several thousands of years ago. Along our hike we saw lots of different vegetation including but not limited to, Hawaiian Almonds, Invasive Coffee Plants, Bananas, Guava, and Mountain Apples. Allie and Jake got right into tasting the items that Nature Ray deemed ripe and edible- they both used a rock to crack open their Hawaiian Almonds and then shook a tree to knock off some Mountain Apples. Ripened Guava lined the valley floor which made everything smell amazing! We were introduced to the Ginger Root Plant, which if squeezed in your hand, expels a natural shampoo. Several ladies including Carly R., Karly W., and Lauren, rubbed some into their hair for its moisturizing affect. The final destination of our hike was a beautiful fresh water pool where we all jumped in to cool off and put the Ginger Root Shampoo to the test. This watering hole was a fantastic sanctuary for our group to hang out and enjoy the natural environment all around us. Kennedy and Gillian got Ray to help make woven Banana Leave bracelets, while Allie and Nikki started the tribal paint trend with homemade clay. Ray then showed Allie a few traditional designs which he transferred to a few of his friends like Amanda, Vivian, Isabel, Lindsey, and Samuel. Karly K. took the time to do her own clay body paint design, while Gillian lounged on a rock and re-enacted a scene from the Little Mermaid, with the help of water splashers of course.

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After our time spent with Nature Jay and Ray, we went to the town of Lahina where we enjoyed another beautiful Maui sunset as we explored and ate our dinner. After dinner, Isabel, Amanda, Abby, and Lindsey got the side of their hair braided, while Carly R. and Kennedy got beautiful henna tattoos. The folks in the ‘Kotz’ mobile had a very exciting ride home with our friend Steve the Lizard. We noticed Steve on the side mirror as we pulled out of our parking spot and then Steve decided to stay on the windshield for a great majority of the ride, with his tail flapping in the wind. Steve appeared as if he was having fun surfing the USA on the hood of the van, but when Allie opened his window, Steve managed to jump into the van! Luckily there was a beach parking lot to pull over in to help Steve out of the ride and on his own way. Several of us haven’t laughed or screamed like that in a long time!

At night we had our final AH-Dos Beard Extravaganza competition with a game of trip trivia to see how much information about the trip TMs could recall, right down to absurd facts like ‘what was the second song on our morning playlist?’ Team Crustaches put their heads together to come out on top, which meant that they also won the entire competition and thus got to dictate how Trip Director Trevor would shave his beard for our final dinner together. They ended up choosing a Wolverine-inspired patchy shave job that had many people giving Trevor a second glance when they passed by or interacted with him.

The last day of our trip was also an eco-adventure, with a full day of snorkeling with the Pacific Whale Foundation. Captain Doug and the crew took us on a journey to two different snorkeling sites off the port of Maanaela Harbor, Manele Bay and Molokini Crater. During our cruise, the crew onboard who were also marine biologists, taught us about the co-existence of coral reef and the creatures that live peacefully among it. Did you know that Parrot Fish (also known as Rainbow Fish because of their beautiful coloring) eat algae off pieces of coral which then get digested and excreted as sand? In fact, these fish can produce up to 100lbs. of sand a year! Just remember that the next time you are rolling around on the sandy beaches of Hawaii. The information that was passed along to us awoke us to the fact that we need to protect these ecosystems in order to achieve lasting sustainability. The crystal clear waters of Molokini Crater provided perfect visibility for spotting black Trigger Fish and Cauliflower Coral. Although the waters of Manele Bay were not as clear, during our guided coral tour, we swam among a Green Sea Turtle, the second one of our trip. Since these turtles are endangered species we had a very special experience on our trip with both sightings.

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After our last dinner out at the Sugar Cane in Lahina, we came back to the hotel for some closing ceremonies. First, we created warm fuzzy notes where each person contributed a kind phrase, comment, inside joke, compliment, or positive remark, about every AH2 TM. Everyone walked away with a piece of paper filled with memories from the trip with their new friends, and is something that can be held onto and looked back at over the years. We ended the night and essentially the trip with a bonfire on the beach, complete with s’mores and the sweet melodies of Allie’s ukulele performance. No campfire is ever complete without a big sing-a-long. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to our trip.

So that’s it- as we prepare for our flight back home today we look back at all that we’ve done and accomplished in the past 28 days. We’ve made some of the best memories in our flip-flops and we never stopped exploring. We lived out of suitcases and became masters of flight. We’ve given back to our host communities and learned about various ways of life that are different from our own. We danced and sang our way from New York, to Alaska, to the DISTRICT and back. Most importantly, we’ve grown as individuals, as friends, as the AH-Dos family that we’ve become, and for that we are ever so grateful. Life is a beautiful ride and this is why we buckle up. Thanks to all of our family, friends, and followers for joining us on our adventures along the way, and a special shout out to Westcoast Connection/ 360º Student Travel for making this trip a reality.

Until we ride again,

The Westcoast Blogger

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