I had an incredible day yesterday (Wednesday).
It began with a ride down a steep cliff on a mule. For a person who knows as much about horses as I do (slightly more than nothing) and loves heights as much as I do (not at all) just the ride was an adventure. Our guide, a bona fide cowboy dude who spent the whole ride swinging a machete at hanging leaves whether they were in our way or not, began by telling us that he'd ridden mules his whole life and never seen one jump off a cliff. This was more reassuring than you'd think. There are 26 switchbacks down the cliff, and I was proud that I only had to close my eyes a few times (switchback #9, you are my nemesis!). But I mostly kept my eyes open, because I liked to watch the mule in front of me and how carefully he set his feet down and to think "he does this every day." And also, even though I wasnt a fan of looking down, I could look OUT and what I saw was like a dream of tropical beauty - palm trees, pacific ocean so blue, big hills off in the distance.
There is much already written about Kalaupapa itself, so I won't repeat too much here about the background. But I will say that I felt so fortunate in our tour guide, Pat, who (although he has been coming there since 1969) was moved to real tears by parts of the story. It was as moving as a good sermon to hear a story that's obviously been told so many times it's known by heart, but is still as heart opening to the teller as the first time.
The best of the day....I started to type this, but realized there were so many "best parts" it's hard to say that for sure, but ONE of the best parts of the day was...getting to meet one of the resident patients - there are 9 left in Kaluapapa. It was my goal to meet and talk with them, but I had been warned many times that it was impossible. Awesome tour guide Pat, however, made a quick introduction and I was able to have a conversation with one man there. It was one of those conversations that you will never forget. It is illegal to take pictures of patients at Kalauapapa, so I did not ask for a photo.
Last night, a church member invited me to accompany her to a funeral (there is, she says, a "slew" of funerals this week - we are going to another one tomorrow). I felt so honored to join the community in this particularly intimate way. It was on the beach and as part of the ceremony, conch shells were blown, many-colored birds were released into the air and we ate a mountain of good food. We often call a funeral a "celebration of life" but I was impressed at how much this seemed like a true celebration.
Speaking of the church member reminds me that I need to start my preparation for church on Sunday - I am preaching at three little UCC churches here on Molokai in one day.
More to come.