Hawaiian Summer Camp

Compost Burritos and Other Stories I Tell About Hawai’i

Hana Farms, Maui, March 2013
Compost Burritos, Maui, March 2013

A friend and I were talking last night about feeling settled in Boston. We appreciate the lives and communities we’ve built here but we still feel the pull of distant places. “I didn’t mean to get so comfortable here,” I lamented. We laughed at ourselves for wanting more when we’ve had so much already — she’s lived abroad in Mexico and Mozambique, and I spent more than three months backpacking Europe before moving to Hawai’i to work on a farm.

It’s always amusing to tell stories about living on Maui to friends I’ve met since the experience. People are surprised when I tell them I lived in Hawai’i for a couple months. They imagine beaches and fruity drinks and hula dancers and then I regale them with tales of venomous centipedes, palm-sized spiders, and that time the farm manager chopped down a tree and it almost fell on me. When you ask my friend, RJ, about their experience studying anthropology in Hawai’i, they’ll reply, “let me tell you about colonialism.” We’re both really fun to have at parties.

Don’t get me wrong, Maui is a stunning place and I feel lucky to have visited. It’s just my stories are about working at a bizarre hippie farm/banana bread stand. I can tell you about how pineapples can take up to two years to mature and we had a single one ripen while I was there and ohmygod was it good — things you grow or harvest yourself always are, right? I ate asparagus right out of the ground once, I’m pretty sure there’s a photo on facebook of my lips nearly kissing the dirt to do it. I can tell you about chopping down a banana tree with a machete or the satisfying afternoon I spent carrying rocks uphill.

Sometimes I tell people about compost burritos (pictured above) and they look horrified for a moment until I explain how wrapping compost tightly in a tarp helps it to break down faster. We would roll the burritos over periodically, a multi-person job which required closed-toed shoes due to the aforementioned venomous centipedes.

My life in Hawai’i was an experience. My life in Boston with a full-time job, healthcare, 401k (actually it’s a 403B, but you get the idea) is also an experience. I’m thankful for both and I want both. I want everything, all the time. Maybe I should have titled this post, “I’m greedy.”

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.

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