One full rotation around the sun, gives so much perspective. One year ago, we moved into a rental house that is across the street from a beautiful stretch of sand called Kailua Beach. Kailua is a fun beach surf town nestled safely on the Windward side of Oahu. Kailua is a place of natural beauty, it is surrounded by the majestic Koolau mountain range and opens into a stunning turquoise bay that sparkles and plays in the warm sunlight. Palm trees and Norfolk pines provide shade along the beach, and the sweet inviting smell of plumeria trees line the walkways, while colorful bougainvillea hug the stone walls and create colorful impressionistic palettes that it’s hard to deny Mother Nautre’s beautiful art work. The island is lush with foliage and fauna that seems untamed and a bit wild. So different from the carefully manicured landscapes we came from in the Bahamas.
Kailua is bustling with open top jeeps, barefoot surfers with sandy toes fresh from a morning session, beach bikes and wide brimmed hats, kalua pork BBQ’s wafting in the air and kids in packs with beach toys in tow ready to play in the surf and sand. It’s the land of bikinis and tanned toned bodies with sun kissed wild hair. It has a great, relaxed vibe that is easy to fall into rhythm with.
Through extensive networking I found us a lovely house to rent. I told the landlord about our displacement because of Hurricane Dorian and he knew we would be good tenants… he couldn’t believe our story and was happy to sign us on a one year lease.
We had just spent the last month in a tiny studio apartment while looking for housing, rotating turns sleeping on a sagging air mattress that wreaked havoc on all our backs. It was cramped but we liked roughing it a bit, but we were delighted to find a three bedroom house where we could spread out.
Our new “beach house” was fully furnished and equipped right down to a blender and beach chairs (essentials). Since we had only one suitcase of possessions left to our name after the hurricane, we really scored with a house so perfectly located and had everything we needed to start again without having to re-purchase a full house full of stuff. We have learned the hard way that attachment to things bring heartache and also weighs you down. We feel fortunate to have found a home that meets our needs perfectly.
So with our new home established, a place to welcome us with warm aloha and a sense of belonging is finally found, we knew we had a great new start to seek out the adventures of island life. Jimbo secured a job working for a developer that converts office spaces to residential housing. The company has an environmental/conservation approach, since there is only so much land on an island chain deep in the Pacific Ocean. He would have to commute to “town” aka Honolulu, with an amazingly beautiful commute through the mountains to reach the south west shore.
Wolfgang was promptly accepted to the “Unicorn School” of Le Jardin and was ready to enter mid year to the fifth grade. I was hired to teach kindergarteners and first grade in an after school program at Le Jardin and we all hit the ground running. Wolfgang was even welcomed with a double rainbow the day he began at Le Jardin. Surely, it was a sign of promise after a storm.
All three of us ready to start a new, with hope in our hearts and a strong reminder that life is oh so short. We knew with a little grit and a lot of heart we can forge a life on this new island. Kailua offers more of a heartbeat and accoutrements that we lived without on Great Guana Cay.
A sprawling Whole Foods and sweet breakfast cafes and used bookstores told us we can find more than what we need in Kailua. We sat outdoors at el fresca restaurants and enjoyed live music played by a guitarist who knew how to make the air fill with a sweet Hawaiian vibe. We sipped our tropical drinks (virgin pina colada for Wolfi) and conspired how to learn to surf and debated which beach bikes we should buy because it is the preferred mode of transport in Kailua. Jimbo bought me a super fun Volkswagen beetle convertible to scoot around town and Wolfi bought a used surfboard. We knew we landed in a place that can remind us of the beauty of the Bahamas but shows us the intrigue of a new culture to learn.
But within a few short weeks we were blind sighted, No sooner had we all started to get our footing, the pandemic took hold of the nation. A new reality of lockdowns, and viral contagions, and uncertainty took hold and we were now in a collective chaos with everyone just as we finally got a foothold on our lives. We definitely felt the anguish of isolation, brand new to the town and not even a chance to build community or find friends. This struck our family hard as we love sharing time with friends and love being social. It was our favorite part of Great Guana Cay and Diamond Lake before that. But it didn’t matter where you are in the world in the year 2020, isolation was a real thing the whole world now had to navigate.
As American’s our first instinct is to move our attention away and distract ourselves. We have billion-dollar industries based on entertainment and consumption keeping us distracted from this core truth of life. American’s love to keep so busy that we numb ourselves out to life and presence. We shuttle around, work insane hours, pack our schedules so full that we never have time to breathe. But are we more content? Conversely, we can become addicted to pain, finding ourselves repeatedly gravitating toward worry, old wounds, and resentments. We can even wallow in suffering, our own and others’. Some people become sufferers, great martyrs thinking “no one suffers as much as me—let me just tell you about it,” which begins a cycle of filling the void with more things. The pandemic seemed to pull back the curtain on how our hyper-overdrive lives when stripped down, reveal things we didn’t know existed. Now we live in a world of social distancing, home schooling, zoom meetings and connection through screens. We were among the many families sent adrift in what is dubbed “a new normal”.
With all the complaints of “what now” our family had such a tragically strange year before, we were somewhat better equipped to pivot and adapt to the current situation. We took full advantage of being able to be outside, to explore our new surroundings, to nestle ourselves into our family cocoon until it is safe again to emerge. This was a good time to re-coup, lick our deep wounds of loss, and to build a stronger family unit. We had a great advantage to be anonymous in a new community and to slow lay down roots of home and ground ourselves in these new surroundings. We spent hours riding in the surf, going on grounding nature hikes, playing heated chess games, listening to music on the lanai and taking shaded naps swinging in the hammocks slung between two palm trees.
Jimbo and I were considered essential workers so we were able to continue with our jobs and Wolfi adapted to distance learning for a few weeks, until the school devised a safe protocol to return to the campus with face to face instruction. We were diligent in practicing social distancing and masks became a new accessory to our scarce wardrobe.
Spring turned to Summer with hardly any transition its Endless Summer in Hawaii, you know. We were doing our best to build back our lives and find joy but soon our world would be rocked again…
“I also believe that it may happen that one succeeds and one mustn’t begin by despairing; even if one loses here and there, and even if one sometimes feels a sort of decline, the point is nevertheless to revive and have courage, even though things don’t turn out as one first thought.” – Vincent Van Gough