Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Missing of Oahu. Or: Reflections of a New Jersey Haole, now living in Northern Virginia.

96 days ago, my family and I left our home in Ewa and moved into a hotel in Waikiki.

76 days ago, we returned to the mainland from Oahu, moving into another hotel.

64 days ago, we moved into our house in Virginia.

When I did the math for the above opening, I really did not expect it to affect me as it has. It’s barely been two and a half months since we left Hawaii, but it seems as though it was another lifetime ago. Perhaps that’s a little bit true.

While I’ve fought it thus far, the truth is, I really miss Hawaii. I know--it sounds shocking, but to be honest, I’m somewhat surprised. As wonderful as Hawaii was, it was not without reason that we pursued a return to the mainland. But now that we are here, I’m finding myself nostalgic for our old life, and for the island. The Ahi, the Musibi, our friends that are still there, the kids school, the pools, the Bishop Museum, the ocean, the weather. Ah yes, the weather. Holy guacamole, Virginia is HOT! I mean, come on--I spent almost three years living on a tropical island, and I didn’t sweat like this. I’ll admit, I forgot about the humidity, too. More than once, I lamented the lack of diversity in the weather while we lived on Oahu. Oops. My bad. It was lovely and I miss it whole-heartedly. I could go for a trade wind right about now. Actually, any kind of wind would suffice.

I imagine that a big chunk of what I’ve been feeling lately is the normal “We just uprooted our lives and are still adjusting to our new situation,” but I’d be remiss if I didn’t legitimately have a few (perhaps more than a few) moments of late where I wondered, “why did we move again?” Of course, during any move there were frustrations. Between the movers mislabeling every single box in Hawaii, to the guys on this end dumping boxes out in the middle of my son’s room and calling it, “helping you unpack,” we’ve had some hiccups along the way. Don’t get me started on the company who transported our car. I will freely admit I showed their agents and supervisors absolutely no Aloha spirit, whatsoever. But, we did finally get our car. Got new plates too. The new VA plates are full of Aloha, but I’ll admit, I got a little misty taking the Hawaii plates off the car. Not just because of the looks we got while driving on the highways, though that was fun to observe. Expressions ranged from, “Cool-I won license plate bingo!” to, “He doesn’t look Hawaiian.” But, I digress. Yes, there were difficulties with our move. In addition, living in a hotel can be irritating. That said, I’ll admit freely that there have been moments when I wonder if we made the right choice. There’s been a least one moment when I genuinely wanted to just “go home.”

So, was it a moment of weakness? When I expressed that, what was I really wanting to return to?

As I’ve discussed, it was not without reason that we looked to leave the island. Long term, the educational prospects for the kids were not as excellent as I would have liked. Also, there were occasional very strong feelings of isolation--from friends and family back home, but also, at times, from the people around us on the Island. While we had friends, many had moved away, and we’d not really been able to make new ones after the initial relationships we’d made early on. (We’re in the process now of instituting a “Arrange your own replacement policy” should any of our friends move away in the future. Take note ;) Plus, there was that land-locked feeling that would creep up from time to time. Not having the opportunity to, for example, just pick up and drive out for my niece’s birthday, or to do a long weekend in Wildwood, did wear on our own feelings and relationships. There were a lot of events and celebrations that we missed due to our incredible distance from pretty much anything. Plus, the wife’s career, which is truly the “straw that stirs the drink,” had rather peaked there, and the opportunity to become, as I like to say, “a big Washington muckity-muck” was too much to pass up, so we took a chance and scored. When we decided to leave Jersey for Hawaii in the first place, we knew that it was unlikely to be forever, so, logically speaking, there was always an expiration date on our time there. Heck, in the months before we heard if she’d been selected for the promotion, we genuinely anxious about it and were ecstatic when she got the call telling us we were headed back to the mainland.

So, why, now that we are here, do I feel as though Hawaii is but a distant memory? And why do I miss it as I do? It could be that we are still navigating our way around here and finding a place for ourselves. Or maybe it is just that I’m missing the normalcy of what our life, despite its challenges, had become on Oahu. Perhaps it’s that the pace of life here, or the humidity, or the lack of drive-thru sushi, that’s getting to me.

It might be that we’ve had a hard time making friends here thus far. I’m perhaps more of an oddity here in Northern Virginia as a stay-at-home dad (at least one that doesn’t then work a full or part-time job while ‘staying at home with the kids’) than I was in Hawaii. Several of the stay at home moms that I’ve met work a job in their off hours, or even during their time with their children. The other stay at home moms that I’ve met have tended to be very “focused” on the programs their children are doing at pretty much all hours of the day, ensuring there is no free time whatsoever. I overheard one parent recently (I say overheard, as despite efforts to engage most of the parents I’ve met recently, I’ve met with little success) who described her seven-year-olds day as: Swim lessons, playgroup, lunch, afternoon park program, soccer program, dinner, tutoring, bed. Now, if that’s what works for their family, God bless. It doesn’t work for mine. My children do activities too, and we go places, and we do things, but I learned a long while back that my kids need time to just “do whatever.” Thus far, that too has somewhat set us apart from the other families that we’ve tried to engage.

I didn’t expect my gender to be as big an issue here as it was in Hawaii. It is, of course, but I didn’t expect it, which has made things more awkward for me at family events we‘ve attended. The glares I’ve been getting would give any Oahu “stink-eye” a run for their therapist’s couch. I even got a “oh great, what is ‘he’ doing here?” at a recent library function. Now, if this were someone who knew me, I think it’s safe to say that’s a reasonable question. That said, I’d never met any of these women before, so unless she was talking about my son, I thought the conclusion was clear. Perhaps I’m over thinking it, but I have been through this before. I didn’t like it then either, but I’m doing my best to embrace my inner Aloha and radiate positive goodness. Didn’t really work in 2007 either, but it’s still worth a try. In the end, at least as far as people’s reactions to me went, the only thing that ended up making a difference for be back on Oahu was time, which is why I pulled out my calendars and took a look at how long we’ve been here. Not long at all. So, I’ll have to give it time.

The weather here, the normal “just moved” menagerie of adjustments everyone experiences, and the “sort-of isolation” we are feeling as newcomers/outsiders here in Virginia may in fact have a something to do with the way that I’ve been missing our life in Hawaii. That said, I don’t think it is really the whole story.

I think that Hawaii is really an amazing place. Its beauty is legendary. It’s overwhelming in fact, so much so that, after a while, you get used to it to some extent. The rainbows are always lovely, and the ocean is always beautiful, and the mountains are always breathtaking, and the temperature is always warm, and winds are always cool, and when it rains, it rarely lasts too long. The crystal blue water of Kailua is different some the more pedestrian family beaches of Ewa, which are far more “local” than the lagoons at Ko Olina, which has yet to get a wave that would be called a wave up on Waimea Bay. Diamondhead seems like it’s always there--just about the only place you would miss it’s gentle arch is if you were standing atop it, gazing out at the Waikiki shoreline and miles and miles of Pacific Ocean. The plumeria flowers simply fall of the trees like rain, free for anyone to pick up and give to a pretty girl. My lime tree never did give me a lime, but it tried, and it smelled good, as did the pineapples we planted in the yard. You could just cut the top off of one from the store, and toss it in the ground. The mountains and cliffs near Pali Lookout are lush and green in parts, and the trail is dark and spooky. Pu U’alakea is breathtaking. The mountains on the Leeward side, while not as lush were a fine companion as you drove to the North Shore, until the stopped, and your car seems to be driving directly into both heaven and the ocean until the road drops down toward the Earth. Don’t get me started on the Big Island. I could go on, but the point is, somehow, someway, one gets used to this incredible visual and sensory paradise. It becomes normal. It becomes everyday life. While I know that I appreciated it then, I feel it now as a loss in its absence. It’s as though you’ve been in the Technicolor land of Oz for almost three years, and then return to the black and white of Kansas.

It’s as though the world is just different now. It is of course, as we’ve again moved halfway across the world, but I think that the island gets under your skin, and perhaps that’s as much to blame for my nostalgia and mood as anything else. You experience life in Hawaii, perhaps in a way that is different than any life I’ve experienced life before. It was all, the good and the bad, displayed in living Technicolor, and I miss the way that I felt in that life. Feels like without all that “Hawaii-ness” that there’s a small hole unfilled within. I wonder if that will change.

But, it’ll take time and effort to make a life here, just like it did there. And, time, because of the move, we have now, all of us, and that is a good thing.

But, I miss Hawaii. Way, way more than I thought I would.


Charles said...

To answer your question (I wonder if it will change?), at least in my opinion, no...I left Hawaii in 2006 and I have the same feelings. I want to go back!

momto5minnies said...

Hawaii sounds just breathtaking.

We've uprooted our family ... MO, CA, NJ, and now AR. It isn't easy and as our children have gotten older, it takes longer to adjust to new surroundings. I've been in AR for almost 5 years and it took nearly 3-4 years before I decided that it felt like "home".

I hope you can find VA a place that is welcoming. You are still a newbie ... give it time.

Kate said...

Rob I really enjoyed reading your blog
Hawaii is a hard place not to miss
Besides the beautiful sceanary there is something amazing about
the people there and what the true meaning of aloha spirit really means. The nice thing is that we were able to experience the beautiful Hawaii and we will always have that. Aloha love Kate