You know you live in the right place when you don’t want to leave.
That’s what I told myself as I slowed my pace while walking to my boarding gate at Honolulu airport.I stopped on the walkway overlooking the courtyard below and inhaled the smell of the plumeria. I took in the colors of the trees and the sound of the wind before I shut myself into the enclosed boarding area. I didn’t want to go to California.
I was heading to a writing conference at USC, my alma mater. I was going to a place I love, doing what I love, and I didn’t want to leave the place I have come to love more – Hawaii.
Before I moved here, people told me the ‘aina (land) would either take me in or spit me out. I worried, especially after my bumpy arrival here. Hawaii isn’t like anywhere else I’d been. I needed to adjust.
So I did.
I learned to slow down, to listen to the land, the weather, the animals, the people.
I think of the mountains and how they slope into valleys and stretch out to sea. It’s like relaxing in a comfy lounge chair. I settle into the slope and breathe in the green around me, then gaze into the blue stretched out before me. Living here is soothing.
There are three places I feel connected to on this planet: one calls me back to its magic every few years; the second grips me and tells me I can’t leave because I have roots there and need to explore them: the third, O’ahu, welcomes me to the space it has made for me, and invites me to rest and take in its beauty.
Upon my return, I exited the airport and sat in traffic overlooking the industrial part of town. Even there, I felt the land welcome me home.
“You live in Hawaii? So you’re on vacation all the time. Lucky you.”
Friends assume we go to the beach all day, every day and listen to the surf while sitting under palm trees and eating pineapple and coconuts. Okay, maybe not that stereotypical, but life here is like anywhere else. We have jobs, commitments, social obligations, chores, you know, real lives, just like you.
Our past few weeks have been so busy we haven’t seen the ocean other than from our car while sitting in traffic on the H-1 freeway. We haven’t spent a day at the beach since last summer. We have a life. A good one, but it still has the same time commitments as everyone else.
Are you planning on visiting a friend who lives in a tourist destination? If so, remember that while you are on vacation, they are not. We’d love to take a day and show you the North Shore or go to the beach, but that would count against our vacation time. And while staying at our home, remember that we go to bed early because we to go to work in the morning. Or in my case, I work from home. Quiet, please.
In the evenings, we host book club at our homes. We have the boss over for dinner. We wait for the plumber who’s coming over at the end of his day as a favor to fix our water heater. We go to the grocery store. We pay our bills. We answer e-mails and phone calls, some personal or confidential. Sometimes we want to plop in front of the TV in our pajamas and relax. We do the same things you do at night at home.
And as much as we love our friends, we have a lot of them. If they all stayed at our place, we’d never have a night to ourselves. And, again, we love seeing you, but we probably have family or other friends coming to stay with us after you leave. When staying with friends, ask yourself, “What will I do while the boss is over for dinner?” or “Where will I go when my friends leave for writer’s group or another commitment?” or “How long will I have to be out of the guest room that doubles as an office?” or “How much clean-up is there after I leave and the next person comes in?”
Staying at a friend’s house isn’t the same as staying at a hotel. Plan your adventures as if we weren’t here. You’ll need a rental car if you stay with us. There is no room service or late night cocktail on the beach here. There’s no shuttle to Waikiki. You are housekeeping in a home. (And be warned, sand gets everywhere!)
Let us know ahead of time when you are vacationing on Oahu. We’ll help you find a hotel and we’ll make time to see you. You’ll have a great vacation.
Note: If you are one of our teenaged nieces, nephews or godsons, none of this pertains to you. We know how honored to be should you grace us with your teenaged presence.
Sunday and Monday we had heavy rain. The roads flooded. We were under Flash Flood Warning. Everything was wet. And I learned the real reason why everyone wears flip-flops (slippahs) here. I had thought it was because we needed shoes to wear to the beach that slipped off easily and could get wet.
On Sunday, I left a friend’s house and learned how to navigate in slippahs through flooded streets to my car. I was up to my ankles in water and sloshed through runoff filled with oil and gas slicks. Dirt, debris and a dead mouse passed by my slippah-laden feet. First thing I did when I got home was rinse off my cheap rubber flip-flops with the garden hose. Then I hopped in the shower to wash my grimy feet.
Monday I walked through a parking lot that turned into a river of water. I had assumed the lot was level, but the water came at me from left to right as I headed to my car. More debris, gas and oil slicks crossed over my feet as I slogged through seven inches of water, reaching my lower calf just below the hem of my capri pants.
How would it look to walk around Honolulu city streets in my San Francisco black waterproof boots with my pink and blue sleeveless dress or cotton capris? Remember, even though it was stormy it was in the high 70’s.
I’m going to buy more cheap slippahs this weekend.
I have finally returned to my blog. I’ve been writing a book and when I write, it means I don’t blog. When I blog, it means I’m not writing.
I’ll start with our journey to Punchbowl Crater for a funeral. We had wanted to attend Senator Inouye’s service, but President Obama’s appearance made that nearly impossible.
A few week’s later, we attended a service for our friend’s mother and decided to go early and pay our respects to Senator Inouye.
We drove the road up the hill and before we turned towards the crater we saw a spectacular rainbow over Nuuanu.
Approaching the entrance to Punchbowl Cemetary (officially the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific), we stopped to take another photo of a rainbow.
A soft rain started as we drove to Senator Inouye’s marker. It continued until the end of the service for our friend’s mother. The rainbow stayed until the end of the service as well. The minister presiding over the ceremony reminded us that in Hawaii a soft rain is a blessing.
Last month we were in Seattle for the USC-UW football game. I wrote about the food found in Seahawk stadium; the gluten-free stand, the coffee stands, the healthy popcorn stand.
When I attended a UH football game at Aloha Stadium a couple of weeks ago, I had a difficult time finding something to eat. I wanted something small to nibble on during the game. Popcorn sounded good. Or a pretzel. Yet, I wandered round the stadium and found “plate lunch”, which is a plate piled high with a full serving of meat, rice, and corn. (Usually it’s mac salad, but here it was corn.) My other choices included fish, which was cooked with shellfish, which I’m allergic to. Here’s a photo of a typical food stand at the stadium:
Mark had the saimin.
I ended up with an Ono Pop. It’s a Hawaiian version of a fruit bar.
The game was fun, only because we went with friends and the people around us were entertaining, but UH lost the game and there weren’t many students there.
In the parking lot after the game, we saw a rainbow over the highway next to the stadium. I was told, “There’s always a rainbow after Hawaii loses.” Maybe that’s to remind everyone that even though the team lost, we still get to live in Hawaii?
I’ve come across a few other things recently that I’ve found funny, strange or interesting.
I’ll never get used to seeing a whole fish at the grocery store.
Yes, it is cold on the mainland. Buy your scarf and hat at Whole Foods!
At the crafts fair, I found women lined up early to try on clothes from one specific Hawaiian dress designer. This wasn’t at the mall or a big box store. This was a local crafts fair held at Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.
We first noticed the crawl across the top of the TV screen- tsunami warning for all of Hawaii. A tsunami had been generated from a 7.7 earthquake off the coast of Canada. Earlier that Saturday evening we received text messages from our state Office of Emergency Services saying,”No tsunami warning for Hawaii.”
We are close to an evacuation zone, but not in one. I didn’t know what to do. Was the earlier text correct or the current TV warning? Just then, we heard the first tsunami siren go off in our neighborhood.
Mark and I both jumped up, grabbed our emergency supplies and our kits, added a few items, and drove off.
Within 15 minutes, we saw lines at the gas stations, traffic on the streets with cars driving erratically, and turnouts along the mountain roads already filling up with cars. People were moving to higher ground and staking out spots to stay until the warning was over.
It turns out the tsunami was minor. Many sirens weren’t working and a few other glitches happened, but overall, I’m taking this as a good practice run. State Civil Defense gets a chance to fix the sirens and we get a chance to refill our emergency kits. (We moved a few weeks back, and not wanting to move our extra water, we drank it up.)
The following day, we left the tsunami in Saturday and focused on Sandy, the monster storm, about to hit the East Coast.
Yesterday my Facebook feed had stunning photos of fall colors from my friends around the country. Beautiful reds, oranges and yellows lined my computer screen, until I came to my friends from Lake Tahoe. The colors abruptly stopped and I faced whites and browns. Snow. Inches of snow already piled up on decks and chairs and tree limbs in Tahoe.
I had so missed the season changes a few weeks ago. I craved a big city where I could walk down a street with coffee in hand, browse through bookstores, and maybe throw a scarf around my neck to keep warm.
Hello, Seattle. We took a journey to the Emerald City two weeks ago. After arriving at our hotel at 11:00PM the first night, we slept until 8:30 our time. Which meant we wandered into Pike’s Place Market and asked for breakfast at noon Seattle time.
After breakfast, we walked the market and found a bookstore, an independent bookstore, whose owner said, “As long as there are books, I will be here.” I purchased a few books I had wanted, but couldn’t find on O’ahu.
We then found small cafes and coffee shops scattered around the neighborhood. In one, Mark said, “ If it rains tomorrow, we can stay in here, read books and drink coffee all day. “ My idea of a perfect day.
It didn’t rain and since we didn’t have a car, we took public transportation (which is very good) to the Space Needle. We ate at the revolving Sky City restaurant. My favorite part was when I saw a note and a pen sitting in the windowsill that remains fixed, while the tables revolved. A kid had written:
My name is Alex.
I wrote, “Cynthia. Nice to meet you.” I placed the note back in the window frame and watched it circle away from us. Soon, another note appeared. This one asked where we came from. People from Texas, Oklahoma, California and Utah signed the note.
As a former teacher, I love this kind of interaction with kids.
Saturday, we went to the USC-UW football game. We caught the USC marching band as they entered the stadium. The “V” sign was everywhere for a minute or two, then they disappeared into a tunnel to their seats. During the game, we wondered if Pete Carroll was sitting in the stadium somewhere, watching his former assistant coach on the field.
Did I mention I try to be gluten-free? Inside CenturyLink stadium there’s a gluten free food stand. I doubt I’ll ever see one at Aloha stadium.
Our last day in Seattle, a friend picked us up and drove us far into the state. Through the eastside neighborhoods, we drove until we reached the country. We stopped at Snoqualmie Falls, where we admired the view through a veil of steady rain.
We drove and drove through trees and grasses of beautiful fall colors. I was getting my fill of autumn. We drove all the way to Alaska. Okay, not really, we drove to Roslyn, which was the setting for the TV show, Northern Exposure.
After dinner at a seafood restaurant along the Seattle waterfront, we returned to our hotel where I reflected on the sights I had so missed.
Coats and scarves
Clouds and fog
Farmland with streams and rivers
Coffee shops and bookstores in every neighborhood.
The USC football team, band and fans.
Yes, I had yearned for the mainland sights, but when we sat in our seats on our flight to Honolulu, I couldn’t wait to get home. Home to warm weather, friendly people, a slower pace, the beach, and THE COFFEE. I had spent five days in the coffee capital of the U. S. and I missed Hawaiian coffee.
I wanted to go home and wondered why I had been so anxious to leave it. Was I one of those people who always looked forward to the next thing and missed what was in front of them? In this case, I think I was. My friends had taught me the importance of being present and somehow I had forgotten to appreciate the moments. Seattle was fun to visit. I took in as much of the experience as I could, but I vowed not to miss the everyday of my life.
I don’t want to leave here anytime soon. Nothing on the mainland beats a Hawaiian morning on the beach wearing shorts and a t-shirt and drinking local coffee.
A couple of weekends ago, we drove to I’olani Palace for their annual Mai Poina walking tour. Actors dressed in period costumes tell of events that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. In simple language and with passion in their voices, each actor told of what was happening in the legislature, with the military, on the palace grounds, and with the common man, during the days of the late 1800’s overthrow of the Queen.
While walking on the grass area in front of the palace, we wondered about a gated area. As we edged closer, we saw the “Kapu” sign. Yes, royalty is buried on palace grounds. Out of respect, we quietly walked away.
Check out the link to Hawai’i Pono’i’s website. (Same as above.) Even though we knew some of the history, we learned more. I wished I had my former 8th grade U.S. History students with me. Of course, they are all grown and in their 30’s now, but I still think of them as my students.