Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hilo Farmers Market

"Did you make these muumuus yourself?" I asked the 80-ish Hawaiian lady tending her booth at the Hilo Farmers Market.

"I made the ones on this side" she replied, "but these others were made by my partner, who is 90 years old!"

"When my partner was fifteen years old" she continued "she loved to hula dance near the dock where the cruise ships arrived. She was such a good hula dancer that the tourists gave her money. But she didn't want money...she wanted lipstick, so she could attract some boyfriends! Her mother did not approve of her buying lipstick, so she just asked all the lady tourists if they'd give her their used lipstick tubes instead of money."

"She got a BIG collection of lipstick," the muumuu maker said as she opened her arms wide to show just how huge the collection was, and then her eyes widened with excitement as she continued "and used all that lipstick to attract not just one, but TWO boyfriends!"

I wish I had a photo of this adorable lady selling muumuus, but she thought that she was too old and not pretty enough to be in a photo, so she just had me take a photo of some of her muumuus.

She was definitely a talker. When she pointed out a muumuu that had to be ironed, she told us about the customers from Korea who came in once. The woman LOVED this muumuu, but when she heard she'd have to iron it, she said "I don't want to do that!" and her husband said "well, I'm not buying it for you anyway, because you are so LAZY!" and a big fight broke out.

When we mentioned we were hoping to see the opening portion of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, she animatedly talked of how they wait all year with anticipation for the festival. Her eyes glowed as she described the beautiful festival parade that passes by the farmers market each year, with a beautiful princess from each of the islands waving as they ride by on gorgeous floats. "A princess from each Island?" I asked. "No. Not a real princess" she felt the need to clarify. "Just a princess for the festival".

Talking with this fun lady was just one of the many joys of visiting the Hilo Farmers Market, which is held each Wednesday and Saturday. Even though it was raining (Hilo gets nearly 130 inches of it each year), it was a joy to move among the tarp-covered booths to discover the treasures available there.

One of the items was actually in a treasure chest, with a couple dressed like pirates watching over it. They were selling Kava, a drink made from the root of the Kava plant, which is widely enjoyed by Pacific Islanders. I picked up one of their free sample cups and took a swig. When they saw my grimmace at the bitter taste, they explained that Kava is valued not for its taste, but for the relaxing effect it has. Soon I noticed my mouth tingling and becoming numb, so I figured one swig was enough for me.

This toothless man told me about all the brightly colored pickled mangos he was selling:

And I enjoyed seeing the variety of colors and flavors of tropical jellies available there.

I hoped to find a short strand of pearls there, but as I looked for them, I found that most of them were slightly too long. That wasn't a problem, though, for this lady. "If you wait 10 minutes," she told me, "I'll shorten them for you". She put the strand of pearls on me and determined that she needed to remove 8 pearls in order to achieve the most attractive length, which she assured me was to have the pearls just hit your collarbone.

As I waited for the pearl lady to adjust my new strand of pearls, I heard someone call my name. I turned to see Jason Harris-Boundy, his wife Leisel, and their two children. Jason and I sat together on the flight to Hawaii, and had a fabulous time chatting (when he was supposed to be reviewing a presentation he was to give at a conference the following day).

After the conference, Jason was planning to vacation with his family for a week, and so during the flight, I shared the travel material I had gathered with him. I was delighted to see that they were able to make it to the Hilo Farmers Market. I had seen them earlier in the week at the Twilight at Kalahuipua'a program, but only from a distance and so didn't have a chance to say hello.

One of the things I enjoyed visiting with Jason about was he and Leisel's experiences in the peace corps in Armenia. He teaches entrepreneurship in the college of business at San Francisco State University and occasionally also teaches at the American University in Armenia; we enjoyed visiting about microcredit, which is another of my interests. I was happy to see him again and to compare notes about how our vacations had gone.

After bidding Jason and his family goodbye and picking up my pearls, I moved on until I came to Lilian Storino's booth, where she sat making Chinese paintings. One of the rooms in my house is decorated with Chinese art, and this one matched perfectly, so I purchased it from her.

I loved seeing all the flowers for sale there, including these anthiriums:

and these orchids.

Speaking of orchids, Tracy and I arrived at an amazing orchid garden about 5 minutes before closing time, so we didn't get to explore its beauties, but we did see two very interesting things: 1. an orchid that smells like chocolate, and 2. an orchid that's worth $20,000. (Yup. The Akatsuka Orchid Garden definitely goes on the list of places to visit when I get back here again).

But I digress. Back to the Hilo Farmers Market.
I was interested to see these feather leis for sale. They were very expensive, because it takes A LOT of feathers to create a single hat band. In the past, only royalty were allowed to wear feather leis:

I enjoyed seeing the other crafts and interesting items available there:

I also loved seeing the colorful and unique food for sale:

I believe this is called a lau lau, which is meat (or rice) steamed in ti leaves.

Visiting the Hilo Farmers Market was truly a delight.

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