Have you ever tried to think of a new color? Or come up with your own new sound, or taste--something no one has ever seen or heard or tasted in all of history? I've tried before, and failed each time. I started to think that such things as new colors were fantasies, that new sounds could only be found in heaven and that new tastes were nothing more than the hazy daydreams of hungry tourists. But then I came to Hawaii.
The moment I opened the plastic lid of my poi and watched the purplish goo ooze back into its container, I knew I was in trouble. The tomatoes and raw salmon also threw me; the bright red mixture zapped my tongue with strange bursts of tangy flavor that I couldn't handle. Clear noodles reminded me of congealed chicken noodle soup. They tasted like it, too. Pork and cabbage, sticky rice, dark purple sweet potatoes, pineapple and Hawaiian bread completed the meal--most of which I couldn't finish, even for the sake of politeness. I hate to turn my nose up at anything, especially if it's at the expense of someone else's labor, but my picky taste buds took one bite of that poi and started screaming, "No! Please, no!"
Some sounds I've come to associate with home: the sound of the ocean rolling into the coast, the sounds of loud tourists shouting at each other, the ungraceful flapping and squawks of seagulls trying to steal your french fries and the creak of the tiny bamboo forest in the arboretum by my house. But they sounded crisper in the filter of the island air. It wasn't the whooshing rush of hopping-cold waves splashing into the California shore--it was the lapping bathtub water washing the coral and rocks in Waikiki. It wasn't the jubilant shrieks of kids with mouse-themed ears running around--it was the blend of voices with completely foreign accents all trying to learn how to say aloha and mahalo like they belonged on the island. The whipping of birds' wings as they dipped for crumbs on the sidewalk was a blissful reprieve from the aggressive cacophony of the birds back home. And there's no way to compare the whisper of the tiny section the arboretum cordoned off for bamboo with the mighty groaning of the tall bamboo forests growing wild in the jungle.
But the colors of the jungle really did beat them all. It was as if God invented a new shade of green for every leaf we passed. Rusty crawdads scuttled along the bottom of a mossy green creek. We clung to a dusty gray vine for dear life as we swung across the water, landing on the soft brown soil on the far side. A gentle rain bathed the tree bark a dark brown and swirled the dirt into a muddy chocolate. Amethyst blooms and orange fungi painted the green on our walk up to the crystal water of the lovely Manoa Falls.
It's slightly insulting to try to cram something as exceptionally fantastic as this paradise into a short article. I had always told myself I'd never get the chance to fly across the ocean and see it. I would have loved to hear that it's possible to eat something I couldn't have imagined, or hear a fresh sound or see a new color when I thought it couldn't be done. I might not have believed it, but hearing it would have given me hope. Now I tell you: there are impossible sensations to explore in the world, and you can find a new color somewhere out there in the jungle.