As the Kilauea volcano erupts, Puna district residents reflect on the threat to an area of affordable housing and great beauty
Imago Mana had always wanted to move to Hawaii. But it was mostly a dream for the computer technology teacher from Virginia, who put it in the back of her mind.
I always thought: I cant do that now, Hawaii is too expensive. Then, around the age of 50, she began getting debilitating migraines. She lost her job, her house, her car. She moved back in with her mother. As she was trying to figure out what to do next, a friend told her about a part of Hawaii where life was a little different, a little wilder. In the district of Puna, Mana found a raw vegan commune where she could work in exchange for living in an off-the-grid hut on 50 acres of jungle. She bought a one-way ticket and boarded a plane four days later.
The minute I got off the plane I knew I was home, Mana said.
- A lava flow on Makamae Street in Leilani Estates.
Mana, now 59, has since moved out of the commune and was among those evacuated on Thursday because of the continuing eruptions of the looming Kilauea volcano. Dramatic videos of lava slowly pouring through streets and inching over the land have attracted international attention.
Mana has lived in the Leilani Estates subdivision, which is located in Pahoa, for three years rent-free as a caretaker. Its one of the reasons she has been able to live on her $1,400-a-month disability checks. Now, shes one of many trying to replace the affordable housing she lost in Pahoa where many depend on the low cost of living. In exchange for living in the lava zone, often without infrastructure such as city water or sewer lines, she and others have been able to make a life for themselves without much money.