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)