R-E-S-P-E-C-T and community

I recently had an epiphany that seems so obvious in retrospect, I am almost embarrassed to share it. However, there may be others out there who have never looked at things from this angle before either, and I hope you appreciate what I learned.

On Friday, I went out with a group of co-workers to plant sandalwood trees with the Hawaii Reforestation Program. We were mostly adults, and a couple of kids, including the 4-6 year old daughter of one of those co-workers.Her actual (blood) Auntie was with us, and she stuck pretty close to her to begin. Once we all split up to go plant our allotment of trees, I was in a small group with this little girl, and three adult males.

Let me pause for a moment to explain something that I really appreciate about Hawaii, at least this is my understanding of it: when you are speaking to someone older than you, whether you are a child or adult, you show respect by addressing that person as “Auntie” or “Uncle”. This does not have to do with blood, rather it is respect for knowledge and age.

So, this little girl was working with us to plant trees, and after a while, she turns to me and says, “Auntie, will you help me?” I’m not around kids very often here, so it still hits my heart when one calls me Auntie. Of course I helped her, and when I urged her to walk forward to catch up with “Uncle” she knew that I meant the other two men in our group who had walked ahead. She didn’t need to know our names, but she knew our roles, and that she should listen to us.

Later, after we had all reconvened and were going to see the adult sandalwood trees, and the little girl was addressing another woman as Auntie, one of the results of this all-inclusive title occurred to me: she could say “Auntie” and mean any one of the four adult women in that group, and any one of us would have responded to her. She could say “Uncle” and the nearest adult male would have asked what she needed. This is what community does: become responsible to a child’s need, even if it is not our own, because you are “Auntie” or “Uncle”. I think this is really beautiful, and I’m so honored every time a child calls me Auntie. I’d probably be less appreciative if the 18 year old checker at KTA called me Auntie, but that’s my vanity speaking. 🙂

Planting sandalwood


Why Did You Move Here?

“Why did you move here?” is something that I am asked frequently when I share that I am a new resident to the Big Island. Whom I am speaking with usually determines my answer.

The spiritual: I have a photo of my mother on the east side of the island, 42 years ago when she was six months pregnant with me. My first visit here was in utero, so I was drawn to come back.

The practical: I was in a rut on the mainland, and was at a point in my life where a change could be (relatively) easily made. I’ve visited a lot over the last ten years, and I thought I could make a life here work.

The actual: I really like the “me” that I am here. That rut thing lead to me being closed up about new people and new experiences. When I am here, I slow down and open up to the people and world around me, and I become a better person. Don’t mistake me: I enjoyed my life on the mainland, and I miss my family and friends so much. However, I didn’t see my life changing very much, and I craved a new outlook and opportunities. The mainland was very comfortable, and I had no reason to make an effort to change. Very few people knew me in Hawai’i, and I was able to present a different part of me, the one that talks to strangers, and goes on adventures, and is forging a new path.

To get a bit New Age on you, I am able to be a better version of my self. I really like her. 🙂


Nine months in

Yesterday was my 9 month Kona-versary, and I decided to look at where I am now.

Health: my leg bones are healed, and I am working on building my strength and endurance with a personal trainer. My ankle still bothers me at times, but I can stand and walk for much longer periods than I could just two months ago. I have also started seeing someone to work on my frozen shoulder so that all of my limbs are working correctly.

Home: I signed my new lease recently, committing to another six months in my condo; I started paying rent here on July 1 of 2014, so my lease runs July-Dec and Jan-June. Despite the frequent fiddling with making things more efficient/pleasing, and adding art pieces, I feel very comfortable here. Keauhou is my new home, and I feel good in my space.

Work: I’m working! I have a part-time job doing marketing for a Dolphin swim company. That means that I go to island briefings at various hotels and tell them about the amazing snorkeling and swimming with dolphins that they can experience with my employer. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at speaking in front of groups, and it’s easy to be enthusiastic about something that I enjoy. Part of my job requires me to go out on the trips so I can accurately describe the experience to the guests. *sigh* Such a difficult life, to go snorkeling and swimming with the dolphins for work. 🙂 I’m also interviewing for other positions, and hope to have a full-time job soon.

Volunteer: This is a lot of fun, more than I expected. I’m involved in the planning/coordinating of several fundraising events, and for a local entertainment group. I’m enjoying meeting the people involved in the charities, and promoting great causes through the fun events. I had planned to try this as a career, but I think I like it more as a volunteer because I can choose what I want to work on, and influence the shape of the events themselves, rather than following direction from someone else and taking whatever comes along. I’ll probably promote these events here as they get closer. Prepare to buy your tickets!

Social: I addressed this pretty comprehensively in my last post. Nothing against my kane (man/male) friends, but I am blessed with some incredible women in my life who support, celebrate and lift me up. They don’t replace the friends I have on the mainland, but they have made their own places in my heart and I am so grateful. The circle of friends I’ve made, both men and women, are a lot of fun and someone always has something going on. Now that I am more mobile, I am able to participate more. Last week, I was able to do a full-day adventure along the Kohala Coast: shopping at Queen’s Shops in Waikaloa, ice-cream cones and window-shopping in Hawi, absorbing the energy at the lookout above PololÅ« Valley, raiding a church thrift store in Kapa’au, floating on the waves on Hapuna Beach, and a post-sunset dinner at Bite Me. I’ve been going to barbecues, get-togethers, hanging poolside, meeting for cocktails and just sitting down to talk story. I know good people.

I hope all of these wonderful continue in the future, and I will work to make them happen. My family is coming to visit next month, I have an August event we’re planning for now, and I will be back on the mainland for an event later in the fall. In a fit of irony, I think I’m going to plan my return flight to coincide with my one year anniversary. Life, like the waves, continues to roll on.

One of my shopping prizes from Hawi, Bruddah Ed watches over my driving.
One of my shopping prizes from Hawi, Bruddah Ed watches over my driving.

Wahine forever!

From “How to Move to Kona” by Julie Ziemelis (http://www.howtomovetokona.com/), page 51:

“People come here sometimes to ‘get away from it all’ and that’s exactly what they get most days. However, spiritually, you never get away from yourself, and your problems have a way of following you here. The island has a pretty intense energy that has a way of really making you look at yourself. I’m just letting you know that coming here WILL change your life, and you get to choose how that’s going to look for you. If you don’t make an effort to get out and meet people in a variety of avenues, with an open attitude, you may be lonely.”

This quote is resonating with me tonight, after a conversation at an impromptu summer BBQ last night when a group of women (who had all moved to the island) commented on the fact that we had each managed to surround ourselves with strong, intelligent women. We were at various stages in our life: mother, wife, single, divorced, teacher, professional, and we all connected with each other and delighted in each others company. The accompanying picture to this post is of us relaxing in a tidal pool at the beach, pre-sunset.

The reason for the resonating is because one of my goals when moving here was to change my patterns, and discover who I could be when I wasn’t stuck in my habits. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mainland friends and am grateful that they have stuck with me through my move 3000 miles away. Bless Facebook for keeping us close to each other. I did have to leave them though, quite literally, and find a new tribe of women to whom I could belong. I had no idea how well I would succeed at that, because I tended to be rather reserved and an introvert. Moving to the island allowed me to take the chance of shedding that persona, and being a more open, welcoming, accepting person. As a result, I am slowly cultivating a circle of female friends who inspire me to be a better version of myself than I was previously. I aspire to have the strengths and achievements that these women have already earned and experienced; I believe that because I have their inspiration and example, I can do anything.

I’m utilizing my strengths in new ways, giving help in places I didn’t know it was needed, and being inspired to be creative in areas that were previously scary. I’m breathing the sea air, lifting my face to the sun and moon, taking more notice of my surroundings (don’t be surprised if I cause an accident on Queen Ka’ahuman because I’m staring at the sea!), and doing my very best not to say “I can’t”. Instead, I am saying “I can” or “I will”. I’m so grateful to the wahine who welcomed me to their hearts and ohana, and allowed me to make a place where I can flourish and make a contribution that benefits all. I never thought that would be important to me. Imagine my surprise at learning that I want to leave an indelible mark here!Wahine in the Water

Gecko buffet

My condo was rented to me furnished by the owners (the HOA of the complex), and that furniture is completely functional so I don’t pay too much attention to it. Well, except for when I was on a wicker couch for almost two months with a cast on my leg, then that couch was replaced.

The replacement couch is a nice sofa bed, with black wood scroll-y arms/sides, and I was told when it was brought in that it had termites. Since it was free, we decided to see how long we could beat out the termites with regular treatments before replacing it. It seems that 4 months is about all I can take of the termites, and their swarming habits. They have also infested a nightstand in my bedroom, though I don’t know if that happened separately, or if they migrated from one piece of furniture to another. We’re on the lookout for another pull-out couch now.

What does this have to do with geckos? Well, I’m pretty sure my geckos are absolutely thrilled with my infestation; at least one of them. There are large beams that run along my vaulted ceiling, and another that runs across the room over the kitchen island. The kitchen light is mounted on the side of that cross beam, and I have a small capiz shell lamp hanging from the beam nearby, over the back of the couch. More frequently recently, there have been swarms of the termites dive-bombing the shell lamp when I have it turned on at night. My first experience ended in a lot of Raid being sprayed, and then having to climb up on the counter to clean off the beam and light fixture with a cleaning spray. Then I skipped the poison and went straight for the spray. Both of these worked. One night, entirely by accident, I found the natural solution. When the swarm starts, I turn off the lamp and turn on the overhead light. The termites then swarm to the overhead. One of the house geckos started showing up and gobbling down the termites unfortunate enough to get in his range, and believe me, that guy can MOVE. Now he’s Pavlov’s gecko. When the lights switch in the evening, every couple of days, he is right there, waiting for the buffet to show up. It’s a little disconcerting to clean so many translucent wings off the counter top the next morning, but I prefer it over having to get up and spray cleaning stuff overhead then climb on the counter to wipe it all up.

Isn’t nature wonderful? 🙂

Taking stock

Yesterday, Saturday April 25, 2015, was my 6-month fracture-versary. What did I do?

I spent 30 minutes on a cross-trainer and traveled 1.3 miles.

I walked 40 laps in the 2-4 foot pool (it’s not incredibly long).

I spent about half an hour sitting on the beach at White Sands.

I applied for a job.

Six months ago today, I was sitting on my couch with my left leg wrapped in a box cast and ACE wraps, hopped up on pain meds, sweating and miserable. Through the care of my medical team and physical therapists, the support of my friends and family, and my own determination, I’m now walking well-enough to fool the uninitiated and I feel like I can truly start the Hawai’i life that I had originally planned. The thing is, that life is not the same anymore. I have been changed by this experience for the better, and I more fully appreciate the blessings that I have. My ability to be independent has been reinforced, but I learned how to ask for and accept help. My friendships have been refined and honed and expanded by sharing my experiences. The things that I value are different. These elements have combined to form a more authentic fabric of my life for succeeding in Hawai’i. Being close to the people and the land are the most important aspects for life here, I feel, and all other pieces of success will flow from there. I have a new social circle, I’m volunteering for several events, tomorrow is my first “torture” session with a new trainer, and I’ll apply for my Hawai’i driver’s license once I get my social security card within the next two weeks.

In sum, I’m ready to move forward into a new life. I’ll keep you posted!

The Cockroach of Doom

I’ve lived on the Big Island for almost six months now; on Saturday night I had my worst cockroach experience to date. (If you want some more information on the common cockroach found in Hawaii, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_cockroach). I’ve become accustomed to discovering them around my home occasionally, and keep a can of Raid handy since I cannot stomach the idea of smashing them with a slipper. I may need to reconsider that stance as a result of this experience.

I was laying on my stomach on the couch, reading a book, when I heard that very distinctive “whirring” sound that indicates a cockroach flying around my space. I peered towards the area where I thought I heard it, then grabbed my glasses so I could actually see what was in front of me. Sure enough, across the room on a white picture frame was my nemesis. I very slowly eased myself up, grabbed my crutch and retrieved the can of Raid from where it currently lives on my nightstand (last used a week ago when I sprayed a roach that then flew down to my PILLOW! This was foreshadowing for my next adventure.). As I eased back into the living area, I saw it fly from the frame to approximately the area of the ceiling fan. At this point, I couldn’t do anything else, so I returned to the couch and my book.

A short time later, I heard the whirring again, and a “clink” as the bug encountered the small hanging capiz shell lamp that hangs over the shelf of the breakfast bar. By the way, this was just to the side above my head. I bolted up in time to see it work its way down the hanging electrical cord and reach the cross-bar shelf, and move out of my line of sight. Okay, I’m going to kill this thing now because they just creep me out. I think it’s mostly the antennae, which seem to double the whole length of the body.

After moving into the galley kitchen, I used my crutch to ease aside my iPod stereo on the kitchen counter to see if the buggah was hiding there. Nope. Searched around the cross-bar and didn’t see it. I have a model Miata MX-5 with the top down sitting on that cross-bar, and I had a momentary flash of a scene from the end of “Team America” when the cockroach scuttles into a small spaceship and escapes that way. I was prepared to giggle hysterically if I located the roach inside the cockpit of the car. Eventually, I moved to the right side of the car, which was shadowed and could vaguely make out the shape of the cockroach skulking next to the driver door like a car thief. With Raid in my left hand and a crutch under my right arm, I aimed the can and sprayed it, and then tracked the frantic insect’s flight path with the Raid.

Except it veered towards me. And it got under my long wrap. I spun in circles, trying to make sure it had not landed on me, frantically stripping off my wrap and dropping my crutch. Then I felt it: it got under the drape of my top and in my arching and flailing about, it slid down past the waist of my yoga pants and was in my pants. OMG! I yanked my pants and underwear down right there in front of the screen door, damn near shrieking the whole time. It fell onto the floor on its back and lay there twitching. I quickly pulled my pants back up, swept the buggah into a covered dustpan, and retreated to a chair across the room to recover, shaking and sweating. I can occasionally hear it flutter now and I am staying far from it. I need to shower. Aloha Hawaii! Ugh.

Photo credit: “American-cockroach” by Gary Alpert – http://www.uos.harvard.edu/ehs/pes_american_cockroach.shtml. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American-cockroach.jpg#/media/File:American-cockroach.jpg

My nemesis
My nemesis

Illustrating my new life

When I visited in mid-August 2014, the plan was to start setting up my new life and see what I would need to bring/buy in October. One of my specific goals was to buy a piece of art that would anchor me to the island. I discovered the shop “Second Hand” up in Kealakekua, and found a painting off the three “Hawaiian Graces” (Pele and two of her sisters) hidden on a far wall in the back room. It immediately spoke to me and drew me in. It set the tone for what will eventually become my art wall, and I’ve been looking for images related to it since then. The theme I’m trying to establish is centered around Pele and her influence.

To that end, tomorrow I will pick up an image a girlfriend painted for me that I had framed. It is a faceless Pele rising from a volcano, and will hang mauka (upslope) on the wall, so it closer to the center of the island. The Graces will be in the center. Another picture was already here, and I’m moving it from my bedroom to the art wall; it is a small, dark-haired girl crouched among tidal pools, and it will hang makai (downslope) on the ocean side of the wall. Scattered around and among these pictures will be: a lava landscape aluminum print by local artist Tom Kualii, another aluminum print of my Tutu and me poolside circa 1976-ish at her home in Kailua on O’ahu, a print of “Tiki vs Godzilla” by local artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker (from the cover of the book “Atomic Dreams at the Red Tiki Lounge”, which features Pele as a main character), a giclee print from local artist Jodi Fuchs of color blocks with images of enlightenment and spiritual connection, and a print that I am “fostering” from local artist Wayne Levin, of a woman on a surfboard under the waves (the crashing waves overhead look like clouds in the sky). I imagine I’ll add to these, such as the Steve Hanks poster of the back of a young woman standing amidst the rocks at the edge of the shore. All of these images have something about them that suggest Pele and/or Hawaii. There will be differently sized pictures, in assorted frames and mediums, that I hope to use to tell a story and express my affinity for Pele and this island, her home.

Pele and her sisters
Pele and her sisters

Small town life

Living in the Kona area is definitely living in a small town. For one thing, the square formed by Henry, Ali’i Drive, Makala and Quen Kaahumanu Hwy is commonly referred to as “town” or “downtown”. It’s not a very big square, either. On Ali’i, you essentially enter town once you get to the Royal Kona Resort, and you leave once you get to the King Kamehameha Hotel (aka Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel). There’s a bit that jogs out from there along Kuakini Highway, down to Old A’s Rec Area at Makala. Among the people I’ve spoken with, the area outside of this is not considered in “town”, although Kailua Kona itself stretches up and down the coast and inland.

Recently, I experienced two upsides to living a small-town life here. I drove down to Captain Cook to pick up a silent auction item that I won from SKEA a couple of weeks ago, and pulled in at the Spirit gas station to get gas and meet the woman who would give me the item. To my surprise, an employee was there at the pumps providing the gas. When I commented on the full-service provided, he said it’s a requirement in two states, but they like to provide the extra service to their customers. Pretty great that I didn’t have to get out and maneuver around with the crutch!

The other experience was when my mailman, George, came up to my lanai and told me that I had put insufficient postage on an envelope I dropped at the mailbox up at the shopping center. I happened to have my wallet with stamps in it on me, and he told me how many additional stamps I needed and said he would take care of it getting mailed since the existing stamps were already cancelled. That’s personal service that is very appreciated, and something I’d never experience in my condo complex in the Bay.

I also see this small-town experience in how people will refer you to their friends and family. For example, the office manager at my PT office is married to a mechanic at a local shop that has experience in Toyotas, so she suggested I go there with my RAV4. I have a relationship with her, so I trust that he will take care of me.

Personal service like this is something that I look forward to getting used to!

Getting in the water

I’ve lived here 4.5 months now, and I finally got into the ocean, AirCast and all. This is actually the first time I’ve been in the ocean since I was here in late August and it was well worth the wait.

I went out with my friend Julie on a trip with Dolphin Essence and Captain John on Thursday morning. His boat is a Zodiac, so it is limited to no more than 6 passengers. There were four of us on my journey, and such a small group really makes a difference. I’m still on the crutches, though I’m mostly using a single recently, but I used both since I knew it would be wet and graded at the harbor. Thankfully, I was able to get into the boat fairly easily, and settled into the only actual “seat”. We started the journey by pausing in the harbor to view a large honu, and appreciate the spinner dolphins. There were over 100 dolphins there, but we couldn’t get in the water because it wasn’t safe so close to where all the boats came in and out. They were beautiful to just watch. John performed a Hawaiian chant that really set the tone for the rest of the morning, encouraging us to open our hearts and respect nature. On our way north, we got in the water several times to swim with manta rays and bottlenose dolphins. With such a small group and boat, we were able to get moving quickly and get much closer than I expected. I decided not to use flippers, as I wasn’t sure if I could use them properly on my left foot. I did surprisingly well in the water, keeping the AirCast on, and kicking normally. It was a bit tough to get back into the boat, since I had to climb a PVC ladder, but since the Zodiac was so close to the water, I didn’t need to get very high, and was able to clamber over the side with minimal trouble I did manage to leave skin and blood in the ocean, along with my hair (as usual), so I considered it an offering for a great experience. Being in the water, with all my weight supported, felt amazing because I was able to be so mobile. I’ve forgotten how that feels.

Once we made it north, we spotted whales and spent quite a while following a small pod. We thought we were only following one that we’d seen breach in the distance, but they kept piling on and eventually we located 5 distinct whales. John said the first couple were adolescents, and they seemed to be having a grand old time speeding ahead and coming to the surface to get flip their tails. The cap to our trip was when a whale surfaced VERY close to our boat and startled/delighted all of us. Julie was standing on the side of the boat, and started shrieking when the whale suddenly surfaced close enough for her to touch, then skimmed along the side before diving down under the boat to move forward and join his buddies. We were all completely stunned and couldn’t believe it had happened. The rest of the trip back was much less eventful and we all were subdued, savoring the experience.

My legs were somewhat sore that night, and I took it easy on Friday since I’d been so active the day before. I had some painful twinges this morning, but I think I’m recovering pretty well since I was never in much pain (or any pain, during the trip). This is a really good sign to me, as today is my 16-week “fracture-versary”. Per the doctor, it takes 16 weeks for bone to heal when broken, so theoretically, my leg bones should be completely healed by now. Let’s just hope that I can build up my muscles a little quicker, and get my ankle more mobile so I can get to walking with no assistance soon!