Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bringing the Aloha home

I lived on the North Shore of Oahu for a month.

It was a little old house with peeling paint and musty-smelling cabinets, but it was clean and kinda charming and right on the sand. Every night, I fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean through the open windows.  Occasionally, if I got up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, I'd see it right outside the living room. Even in the dark, I could see the reflection of the waves slowly rolling over the shallow reef that sheltered the house's shore line.

The house sat on a quiet little street--Crozier Street--a one lane road with 15 mph speed limit signs and homes that ranged from 1940's shacks originally owned by the sugar mill workers to mini-mansions that had obviously been built in the last decade.  Plumeria trees were everywhere---their blossoms mostly white, but some perfect shades of  yellows, oranges, and pinks, like mini replicas of the sunsets behind the house. Every morning, right before dawn, a million birds would chirp and sing and make quite a fuss in the giant tree outside the bedroom.

I had a stand up paddle board--a big, ugly, blue one that sat in "my" backyard and weighed a ton and I took out almost every morning.  The house's name, Hale Honu, means Turtle House, and everyday dozens of sea turtles would swim along our shoreline. Sometimes the curious, less timid ones would turn towards my board, peeking their heads out for a breath, the noise reminding me of the sudden gaspy breaths my boys would make as babies when coming up for air during their dreaded swimming lessons. 

My boys...they played on the grassy lawn, on the sand: They built forts out of beach chairs, towels, clothespins and driftwood sticks. They dug deep holes in the sand "because it's just fun, Mommy." They chased crabs and green geckos and snorkeled with turtles and fish. They ran down the beach and found the sandiest shore entry and flipped over and over in neon blue and green inner tubes. I never worried about them.

When we went into town (Haleiwa), we ate surfer breakfast burritos with the locals. We spent 10 hours in a tattoo parlor with a pothead surfer with PTSD  who never failed to smile and had more character than most people we've met. 

We decided that poke is our new favorite food and who the hell would have thought that a SPAM sushi roll would be so good?!?

We never once saw local kids side by side, heads down, fiddling with their phones. Instead, they were always playing--surfing, jumping off cliffs and bridges into the ocean, using fast food trays for body surfing (yes, for real), skating, eating, laughing, shouting, "talking story." 

On the North Shore, the beautiful women are strong and athletic with messy hair and chapstick. Everyone is a bit weathered--by the sun, the salt water, the pounding waves. 

You could see it and feel it--the local Hawaiians--they are proud and possessive of their culture and their island. Their priorities are simple: ohana (family) and nature.

It is a simpler way of living. 
And we loved it.

I was shocked--and incredibly relieved--to realize about two-thirds of the way through the trip that I actually wanted to come back home.

After three previous visits to Hawaii, and dreaming about and planning this trip for almost a decade, I had been pretty sure I was going to be bitter about returning to Florida. I was sure I'd come home begrudgingly, fantasizing about when and how we'd be able to finally move to Hawaii.

But I'm not.

In fact, I feel that although I'm sure I'm not "done" with Hawaii, it is not where I want to live.
For now, anyways.

'Cause here's the thing, I think, that I have figured out:

During this trip, I realized that blaming or crediting where I live for my children's interests or our family's values is a cop out.
It falls on me.
It's up to me to bring home from this trip what I believe in.
It's up to me to raise my kids to value Ohana and Mother Nature and a slower, simpler existence. 
I already have the ocean, and the palm trees, and the flip-flop lifestyle.
I have to make the effort every day.

I can bring home what I love the most about Hawaii.

Our family...we can make our own culture (and hopefully, that poke dish, too). 

I spent a month living on the North Shore of Oahu, and I will never be the same.


Pictures can never do this beautiful place justice, but here are a few highlights of the magical month we spent in Hawaii:

"Our" little house on the beach

The view from the backyard when you looked west

My daily morning coffee....I have never been so good about getting up in the morning

The boys snorkeling in "our backyard" with the Honu

Calling this house "Turtle House" is not an exaggeration!

Poke: our new favorite food in the whole world

We were lucky enough to meet 3 Pearl Harbor survivors and one witness when we visited.

This vet showed us how he could still make his hula girl tattoo dance on his forearm.

One of my favorite hikes: 5 miles along the coast to Kaena Point.
And right along the midway point?
"Hidden Beach"...all to ourselves! Those three teeny figures? That's us!

This is a happy man right here...

Hawaiian beer...locally grown papaya and pineapple...and a fresh plumeria lei.
This is a happy girl...

The size of this waterfall could not be captured on film...totally worth the hike it took to get there!

We took a dip in many (freezing) waterfall pools...
With views and dips like this, it was easy to stay motivated on hikes...

For some reason, we ended up jumping a lot on this trip...
That's little Kai doing his cannonball in a waterfall pool along a hike on the Hana Highway.

We did the back road of the famous Hana is hard to capture the adventure in a picture.
As if we needed a sign to "caution" us to "drive slow."
Those are clouds. Along the road. The road that turns. The road that is lined with small rocks that supposedly prevent you from falling straight down the mountain. And the road...well, it's barely a road at all. It's more like dirt. With some asphalt thrown in in patches. I was sure if we didn't fall off the cliff, the rental car would fall apart from the vibrations. 
The vastness and solitude of the views were worth the white-knuckling drive.

Ziplining...the last line was over 1200 feet long and got speeds of up to 40+ mph!
(I was the only one who screamed on that one.)

More jumping: one of Hubby's notorious back flips off the famous Waimea Bay big rock...
waaaaay higher from up top then it looked from down there.

Ben's dive (that was perfect until right at the end...landed on his back, poor thing)

One of the many sunset-like plumerias that inspired my new ink.
My tattoo only took about 2 of the 10 hours spent here.
Hubby's Polynesian quarter sleeve took the other 8 (split into two different days).

SUPing by Rainbow Bridge (built in 1921) in Haleiwa

SUPing behind the house...I called it the Mommy Snorkeling Tour:
 one kid hanging on to the leash in the back while the other looked for turtles and
manta rays from the top.

We took a quick trip mid-month to Maui for a few days.
The one typical touristy thing we could not pass up: a luau.
Black Sand Beach on Maui

Sunsets in the backyard were almost always perfection.

One of my favorite things: watching the boys playing, digging,
building "forts" in the sand at sunset.

Hiking bamboo forests

Told ya...we jumped. A lot. of the historic Haleiwa bridge...
...and "the groin" in Waikiki with the local kids.

Haleakala in Maui...the highest (and ridiculously coldest) point. We watched the sunset OVER the clouds up there. Pictures can not do it justice.

My whole world...on top of the world