Tales From Quarantine in Kona-One Month In

QuarantalesFrom hawaii

I am not going to start this Quarantine in Kona series with a bunch of “Whaaa whaaa, I live in Kona and can’t go get a sunset cocktail because all the restaurants and bars are closed”. You all are experiencing that and much, much more.  I am also not going to apologize for any aspect of my still being able to enjoy everything that I moved here to experience including the blue ocean, the warm weather, the small town farmy feel, and the aloha.

One of the aspects of living in Hawaii during COVID is the ability to still get into the ocean legally. We can’t sit on the beach, all the county and state beaches have been closed for almost three weeks now and we can not gather in groups, but we CAN still exercise and swim. So, people are still surfing, swimming the Ironman course, running down Alii Drive, biking and walking their dogs.

Personally, my husband and I have been biking down Alii Drive for almost two hours on Sunday’s. We wave and shout “good morning” with a passion we have never experienced towards strangers, and the few friends we see. It’s as if we are all on the same damaged ship and have found ourselves in the life rafts,,with no paddles. But we are floating.

Before the “shut down” I was finding places to self isolate as I had picked up a cough in mid-February. I couldn’t get tested, as I never had a fever, but didn’t want to be seen in this new “world with masks” coughing in public, so I went to places that many people don’t go, like an 8 mile hike up Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a or a tricky lava rock hike to a lagoon we used to enjoy having drinks over at the Keauhou Beach Resort back in the day.

Then the beaches closed. Then the restaurants only had take out and delivery. Then the masks went on and the only time to see your friends faces was on Zoom calls. Part of my weekly joy is getting on a Zoom meeting with my friends in Kona enjoying a shared glass of wine and talking about our week, which includes our fear and our hopes. One of my friends came to the meeting last Sunday wearing her son’s Lego man costume with a plastic yellow head and yellow plastic hands while holding a big glass of red wine.

The humor and levity during these days seems extra bright and certainly needed.

In the Facebook groups I belong to people share how long the line is outside of Costco, or if there is any toilet paper to be found at any of the local grocery stores. We rally each other to support local farmers and restaurants and share virtual events local business owners are creating to survive. We all heave a collective sigh of sadness when we hear another restaurant is closing its doors because it just can’t survive with us locals trying to keep propping it up. This is the bane of a tourist town.

Us locals are not the ones going to enjoy those $10 Mai Tai’s and $14 hamburgers on Alii Drive, yet many of our friends work in the heart of Kailua Village. We are watching our friends being laid off from the resorts, retail centers, the charter boats, the activities around the island and little by little the restaurants. We are worried that some of the business owners are not going to be able to hang on through a protracted “time without tourists”.

On my 365 Things to Do in Kona page, each day someone says, “I should have been there this week, but I  had to cancel my plans. Maybe I can come in the fall or next year.” Our business owners are hoping they will find their way back, too. On the flip side, I went swimming at the pier last week and swam in the “shipping lane” that you can’t normally go into due to the dangers of getting hit by a charter boat. There was an eerie sense of quiet. No whirring of boat motors that you normally hear if you swim the “Ironman Course”. I saw sunken tractor tires and a huge ship’s anchor settled on the sea bed. We were joking that the dolphins were thinking, “Where did everyone go?” after years of increasing tourists swimming with them each morning. Maybe they are finally getting the rest everyone has been asking the DLNR to give to them.

Life is not too much different for me on a day to day basis. I have worked from home for the past 10 years and one of my local real estate clients let me go, another has me doing writing from home, but no more committee meetings and brainstorming sessions in the office in Kona. I picked up a few social media marketing management opportunities in California within the real estate field and I still am working on finishing my book from the last time I found myself alone and isolated in Kona, 2005.

And each day, at sunset, we set up our iPhone and live stream the sun sinking into the ocean from our lanai for our 365Kona fans. It has turned into a kind of podcast and people from all over the world are tuning in. We have been doing it for over a week straight and see our regulars. One fan, Brad, from Minnesota likes the banter we give him and I think enjoys the nightly attention. It’s a way to share what we love most about living here with everyone in the hopes to provide some joy each day to other people.

I ran up my road today and someone had cleaned up their front yard and hung a bright aqua swing in the banyan tree to ponder the world with the extra time on their hands. I hear of my friends saying they are creating gardens, picking up forgotten hobbies, calling old friends and learning new technology in order to connect with others.

I am looking out over the ocean right now with the sound of construction going on next door as people are still creating. The world has not stopped. It has slowed down. We watch the numbers climb, hoping for a flattening. All of us. We pick a date out in front of us and hope by then we can go back to “normal”. That date keeps getting pushed further and further out.

Here on Hawaii Island, we have less than 30 active cases and our hospitals are handling the load. For that we are blessed. A plan is being floated around to be able to use a new test for incoming tourists to make sure the virus does not come back on the island after it has burned itself out here. That will give everyone a sense of peace about visitors coming back.

We shall see what the future holds. Stay safe out there my friends.

(PS: One thing that I have seen more of lately is the mean spirited behavior on Facebook and the daily social shaming of everyone. I get it, we all need to stay home and shelter in place and be cognizant of our actions affecting each other. We are in one huge bubble right now and each of us has been tasked with the duty of protecting people five times down the line from ourselves in order to stop the COVID-19 virus from its endless march across the US and in the islands. BUT, that does not give people free reign to harass and attack in a social platform. There, I am done. I had to delete a post I put up on my 365 Things to do in Kona page last week after I mentioned I had gone swimming at the pier. Be kind. Mahalo)



Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • J. Berg says:

    Aloha Julie,
    First I just wanted to say that those Negative Nellies need to mind their own business! I’m sure they are far from perfect. When you talk about swimming at the pier, it just makes me happy for you! I can’t wait till I can swim anywhere. I miss my gym’s indoor pool!
    I too live in a relatively small town in Humboldt, and many businesses have had to shut down, possibly never to return, and it is very sad.
    I look forward to your nightly sunsets!
    J. Berg

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Thanks for joining in the nightly sunset lifestreams and MAHALO NUI for your kind words. Praying for us all to get through this thing and come out the back end with a bit more appreciation for the things we have taken for granted. Aloha!

  • Sherice Soper says:

    The very first time my husband and I dragged our little 3-yr-old daughter to the Big Island was over 33 years ago. We have come back so many times that I truly cannot remember; only by remembering where we stayed, “Tommy’s place across from Disappearing Sands!” Twice at the Kona Bali Kai! Kanaloa! But my greatest and fondest memory was deplaning, actually walking down the stairway, the first time in ’87, was the scent of the flowers, the immediate feeling of Ohana (did not know what that meant at the time, but was soon to find out). Our youngest daughter is now 30 years old, and a Doctor of Psychology, gifted us a treat beginning on March 16th, and was sadly cut short 4 days later in the rush to get back to Las Vegas. Of course I have been following all of the news in our dear home away from home, and discovered 365 Kona the day you showed a desolated beach and stated that your son had been kicked out of Disappearing Sands Beach. I chuckled because my daughter and husband had decided to brave the brisk ocean waves the very morning we left, as well as leaving piles of sand on the floor of the lanai as we scrambled to get ready to leave for the airport. I am thankful for you, and the evening sunsets, to keep us poor persons on the 9th island informed and welcomed back to the Big Island! Mahalo and aloha! Keep up the good works!

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Thank you!! This just oozes all kinds of good Aloha and Juju! So glad you found my page and can benefit the energy we stream out to keep folks like you connected to the spirit of this island. Mahalo!

  • Denise Schroeder says:

    As usual, informative and entertaining. It’s great the way everyone is pulling together while being apart. You guys sharing the Aloha keep me sane, especially since winter has decided to come back here in Wisconsin. It was snowing sideways today. Mahalo for all you do to share. I appreciate it. See you for sunset!

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Thank you Denise! You give me that boost of energy to just keep filming the sunset to spread that Aloha out to the cold places and to the hearts that need to see that golden light each day. Glad to be able to do it each day!!

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Aloha Denise!! Thanks for showing up each night on the screen of the sunset! Will give you a shout out tonight if you are there!

  • Marietta D. says:

    Just wanted to say thank you to you and Eric for all you have been doing! I visited the Big Island for the first time on my honeymoon in 2017, again in 2019, and “fingers crossed” 2021. From there it has grown into now owning a piece of paradise and eventually retiring there (5 years and counting). I know what people talk about the aloha spirit and you guys CERTAINLY have it with all your posts, videos, and books (I don’t know how you keep up with everything). I love the sunset live streams and look forward to the days my husband and I can watch them in person again. I bought your book about moving to Kona months ago and read it in a day. It was very informative and well written. Keep up the good work you are doing and know that you’re making differences in peoples’ lives. Mahalo! 🙂

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Mahalo Marietta!! That made my day!! Glad you are on your way here, and those years will fly by, as you know! So, glad you read and enjoyed my book! Hope you will read my memoir about our first year here! Keep in touch and perhaps we can share a beach bbq with the other Kona Newbies! Aloha!

  • Mike Ridgeway says:

    Still hoping my wife and I can celebrate our 40 year wedding anniversary there this summer. The updates are great and mahalo for the amazing sunsets.

  • Colleen says:

    Enjoyed your blog and hubby’s video flying around the Big Island. Anyone who is able to ‘get outdoors’ a bit is blessed. Pray for all those who are quarantined alone or in a small apartment with kids. As my sister always says “this, too, shall pass” – how it will play out is still a mystery. Pros and Cons any way you look at it. We still have our plans to return in early 2021. Sure hope Covid 19 doesn’t wreak havoc on our plans next year. Hello to Caylin – she took our50th Ann. photos a couple years ago. Such a sweetheart. Hang in there and soak up the sunshine. Spring has finally Sprung here in the Midwest. Not Kona weather by any means – but sure beats winter.

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Aloha Colleen! Thanks for hiring Caylin to take your photos! And yes, anything beats the winter! Hoping that all will be better in early 2021..we can certainly pray that we skip a second wave. And yes, I know each day, that I am blessed to be here, in this house, with teens, instead of the one bed/one bath condo I was in for six years with small kids..I would have lost my sanity most likely if this had happened then! The things you don’t even know to be grateful for.
      Thanks for reaching out!