Friday, January 18, 2013

Last day in Hilo


I will probably end up starting all of my posts like this, but Wednesday was just a wonderful day!

After the workshop at the Hilo University yesterday, the entrepreneurs were charged with running an experiment in the next 24-hours to find out whether or not there is a market for their product in Hawaii and how they would need to modify or adapt in order to serve the community.

The lesson that George really wants people to get out of his classes and workshops is to begin all innovations with empathy.  If you don’t interview the people who are dealing with the problem you want to solve, you won’t actually know if you’re solving the correct problem.

Matt and I were assigned to go to the Hilo farmer’s market with the two companies that have a stove product: Prakti, with an efficient stove that has either one or two burners and used wood or charcoal and One Earth Designs with a portable solar stove meant for people who are nomadic in rural China.

The day started out with attempting to get both companies off the ship and into a taxi to get over to the downtown area where the farmer’s market is.  There were the six of us plus four other tag-alongs that wanted to come, too.  This presented a mini-van mishap where Prakti’s stoves got in one cab and the Prakti people got in another.  After many a sprint up and down the port, we got products with their people.

We arrived to the Hilo farmer’s market, and were totally blown away by the variety of products being sold.  Tons of fruit, vegetables and Thai food, clothing, soaps, trinkets, live music, juices – you name it!  It was fun to walk through and taste Hawaiian avocados, raw cocoa beans, Kona coffee and drink coconut milk straight from a coconut.

My very favorite new fruit is called a rambutan.  It’s the red, spiky fruit you see below.  You crack open the outside of it, and it opens up to what looks and feels like the inside of a grape.  It’s a very subtle sweet flavor with a tropical tinge.  So, so, so delicious.  I hope that we’ll be able to find more of them in the other Asian countries we visit.  Maybe in Vietnam?

We filmed Mouhsine and Minh of Prakti Design and Scot and Catlin of One Earth Design as they showed their two stoves to the locals.  People were excited and surprised by their technologies, and both companies learned a lot.

My favorite interaction was when a preschool class of nine children on a knotted rope came by.  Their teacher pointed out the massive solar stove and asked Catlin if she would explain it to them.  The little children gathered around as Catlin gave them a scientific explanation of how they designed it for women in rural China and why pieces we cut in certain ways and where it got hot.  The children seemed totally taken with Catlin and seemed to hang on every word until she said they could touch it.  They went crazy!  Touching every piece of the reflective plastic, leaning on the frame.  The teacher realized that it was not a good idea and suggested that they give their new teacher, Catlin, a hug and be on their way.

Nine little Hawaiian kiddos went in for a Catlin group hug, and it was the absolute cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  One little boy loved his hug so much, he wouldn’t let go until the teacher pulled him off and stuck him back on the rope.  Good times.

Matt and I finished filming and then explored the market and headed to find a place to eat lunch.  We found a little fish taco place called Lucy’s.  The food was delicious and I had a beverage called a “beautiful” which is a mixture of hibiscus tea and pineapple juice.  It was very yummy!  Instead of a little number to mark our order, they gave us a dog piƱata for our table. (What you see in the picture).

After lunch, we found the post office and sent off a few postcards, then walked back to the middle of downtown to grab a taxi.  We found a couple professors from the ship and split a taxi with them.  The taxi driver taught us the main three sounds in Arabic on the way back to the ship and described them as the sound of breathing out with lion’s breath, clearing your throat and puking.  We practiced with him and had a good laugh.

Back on the ship, we were totally exhausted after carrying our gear all over Hilo and crashed for a little bit.  Matt watched the ship pull out of Hilo and had dinner on the deck with most of the film crew as the sun started to set.

We all headed to bed early to try and catch up on rest.  We port in Honolulu tomorrow to finish fueling up and then head off to Japan.