it’s snowing right now and i’ve decided that i never want to take snow for granted. maybe that means always living in places where snow is just a possibility rather than a sure thing. last night we were walking from a friend’s place downtown to get some dinner and snow was falling and beautifying everything it touched. and it is so beautiful to experience the squeals and the joy and the excitement it brings to a city that doesn’t really always expect it.
i deactivated my facebook account. which i didn’t think warranted a public announcement, but apparently some people think facebook is Real Life and so to ensure some that i haven’t committed suicide – i am STILL alive. And if you are wondering why i decided to leave the party, i feel like it could take an entire novel (that i’m never going to write) and really, the gist of it is that i don’t see the point anymore. maybe i’ll change my mind, that’s cool. just for right now, this works for me.
i went to New Zealand with mika for the whole month of january. it was hot. and wonderful. and all the things. here is a list of the things that made me really happy in NZ:
- my mum & dad (oma & opa to mika) and ALL the time they got to spend
- running a LOT & not needing to bundle up and then finishing each run with a jump in the ocean
- swimming in the ocean
- swimming lessons for mika (2 weeks EVERY day!)
- pub quiz with friends (this makes me really happy even though i don’t really contribute and usually end up wondering why i think i like pub quiz)
- long blacks
- teaching my first yoga class! (and loving it)
- watching jazz in a park
- watching an outdoor movie projected on a silo
- playing squash with my brother
- playing LOTS of banagrams and catan
- doing cryptic crosswords with my dad
- eating fish and chips on the beach
- going to the bay of islands for an incredible wedding
- a long road trip with my brother
- running an old favourite bush run with my brother
- being able to spend so much time with some of the people i love the most
- and mostly, the real reason the trip was even planned – to watch one of my best friends get married. and to spend so much time with both of them. and for them to spend so much time with mika (their goddaughter). here’s what you missed out on:
where am i again? another 18 hours, totally different from the last time (we both sorta just slept the whole way), and i’m back in seattle. no matter how many times i do it, plane travel still blows my mind. i can wake up in winter time in new zealand and then go to sleep in summer time in seattle. it’s crazy.
the whole trip was sorta crazy. after being sick for so much of it, we finally managed to cram a bunch of stuff into a couple days: i played squash with my brother, we picnicked with one of my best friends and her two kids, i caught up with a group of ladies and babies that i joined before mika was born (who are now ladies and toddlers with baby siblings!), i managed to have lunch and dinner and drinks with friends but still didn’t manage to see everyone.
and then maybe the best part of all – my brother and i did the drive out to the beach that we grew up near and we walked along the wild west coast of new zealand and i felt tiny and humbled and strong and free.
6 hours from Seattle to Honolulu and things were going swimmingly. We’d gotten up at 430am, rode the bus and the train to get to the airport for 645am. Mika was so easy to travel with and here we were in the outside garden at Honolulu airport and I was congratulating myself for such brilliant parenting whilst drafting a blogpost in my head along the lines of ‘how to not only survive being in transit with a 2 year old for 18 hours, but actually love it too’. Of course I should have been suspicious. As we all know by now, just as i’m convinced i’m the best parent in the world, life starts laughing at me.
Just to make it clear though, we did have a very enjoyable 6 hours on a plane and 3 hours in an airport, so a total of 9 hours in transit that were really quite wonderful. I would go into detail about the ‘airplane fun box’ i made for mika (a magidoodle, max’s mud, a woodkin’s dressup doll, tiny books, toy animals etc) but she just played with each one (to make me feel good i’m sure) then asked if i’d brought the ipad. Hmmf. But I wasn’t complaining: we managed 3 hours of quiet play, 1 hour of ipad, 2 hours of gorgeous sleep and then 3 hours of running around a garden. Which meant for me: 3 hours of watching mika play with fun new toys, 3 hours of crosswords and book, and 3 hours of stretching and chasing mika around a garden. WHAT MORE COULD I ASK FOR? 9 hours down, only 9 to go, I’M KILLING IT!
We’re the first to board the big plane in Honolulu, direct to Auckland. Mika runs ahead and finds our seat and i’m putting our bags overhead and she starts throwing up all over our seats. I swoop her up and run her to the toilet, but not before she throws up again in the isle and all down my legs. The flight attendants are on it in a flash, they divert boarding passengers to the other isle, replace our seat cushions and get to work disinfecting everything. Jesus. I clean mika up, calm her down (she’s crying and scared of all the commotion) and then change my own clothes.
I was hoping it was just a random one-time throw up thing, but this turned into the longest 9 hours of my life. Her tiny little body, lying in my lap, naked, sweating, heaving, sleeping, throwing up, and the wonderful attendants collecting our spew bags and bringing us fresh towels and blankets. The lovely doctor on board, who sat with us, eager to dispense advice, and my sudden realisation that our lack of health insurance in the states meant that i was essentially getting a $400 consultation FOR FREE and so hence making the most of it. The exhaustion i’d feel every time mika threw up, feeling the exhaustion of her tiny little body. Not being able to read or watch a movie or fall asleep because mika would throw up on herself and i wanted to catch it in time to sit her up. Counting down NINE hours and realising (painfully) that nine hours is longer than I spend with her one on one over the course of a regular day. Not being able to eat. Not being able to stretch out. Not being able to go to the toilet.
And then the feeling of relief when we landed and the lady at customs not batting an eyelid when she realised i’d only half filled out the immigration forms and when we got through the gate and saw mum and dad and vinny and brooke and they took my bags and we got home and mum bathed mika and i lay down, exhausted and relieved that i was with my parents and relieved that mika was smiling again and relieved that i was stretched out. Waking up and realising it was morning and mika wasn’t next to me or in her crib and opening the door to mum & dad’s room and seeing mika stretched out between them, on a towel with a spew bowl next to her. Seeing Red at brunch and feeling like i am home even though i know i couldn’t live here right now. Watching mika play with her grandparents and uncle and sleeping on grandpa’s lap. Putting on my running shoes and running through a city that i know so well, the air so cold and biting on my lungs compared with seattle right now, and wanting to leap and jump and punch the air for the feeling of gratefulness for space and air and life that one can only feel after sitting for so long with a sick baby on an airplane.
It’s been a trip. And i have to soak it all up because it’s all i can do to stop myself getting anxious about doing it all over again in 11 days.
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I met Noah in New York about 6 years ago. We spent three days together and then 3 years ago I spent 2 days with him in San Francisco and this weekend we spent 3 days together in Portland. So over the past 6 years we’ve spent 8 days together in 3 different cities. It’s so peculiar how I feel like I know him so well, even though I hardly know him at all. That’s a funny feeling right? It’s also crazy thinking that the first time we hung out, I was single. The second time, I was with Ivan. And now this last time, he got to meet beautiful Mika!
And we got to meet his beautiful girlfriend Frances and we slept in their beautiful home. We ate Morrocan and Thai and Mexican food. We played cribbage and lawn games and blew bubbles and drank beer and whisky. Portland does food very well, especially vegan food. We ate very early breakfasts here and here and here. I practiced yoga at this studio and this studio. We visited the rose gardens and Mika discovered at least 3 new Portland playgrounds as well as this cool kid-friendly cafe. We went crazy at Powell’s, which i never feel guilty about and now we need more bookcases.
We almost didn’t come here because we dont so much like the idea of beach resorts, leis and coconuts. But the flights were the cheapest and shortest to escape the cold and rain in Seattle so without accommodation or itinerary we found ourselves on Hawaiin Airlines, 7 hours away from Kauai.
I guess i was still expecting it to be an over-the-top tourist destination so i was happily surprised to find the open air kauai airport speckled with roosters and chickens, and as run down as any small town mexican airport i’d ever seen. The signs pointed to taxi stands and car rentals amd there was no evidence of a public transport system.
The car rental booths were all shut except for one. For $60 a day we almost secured a small pickup until asked to present a matching credit card and driver’s license. Ivan’s license had expired and i dont own a credit card and after an hour or so of phone calls and persuasion we were still carless. Carless and homeless and i’m not sure if it was the comfort of the warm air, but neither of us appeared particularly stressed about the situation. I seem to have this peculiar trust in the universe and it seems to work out for me more often than not. So far, at least.
We decided that a place to sleep was probably more important than the freedom of our own vehicle and no doubt a lot easier to secure. Accommodation on kauai is NOT cheap. The island is scattered with expensive resorts and ever-so-slightly-less-expensive condos, which makes it even more impressive that the island doesn’t feel touristy. We managed to score a last minute deal on a resort nearby so we agreed we to spend a night there and find something better as soon as possible. Resort living feels fake and impersonal. We might as well be in fiji for all i could tell. But the air was warm and the place was fancy so we got our money’s worth of friendly service, hot tubs, swimming pools, cozy white towels and buffet breakfasts.
A 10 minute taxi ride to the local town of kapaa cost us $20. We ate vegan burritos and corn chips, spent $4 on a carton of organic soy milk from the grocery store and handed over the inevitable return fare as our driver dropped us back at the resort. We knew we couldnt keep this up and so we spent the good part of a day trying to make other arrangements.
After playing phone tag with a lady named Crystal and forking outrageous wireless internet fees to keep in touch with a lady named Ellie, our potentially dismal holiday took a beautiful turn for the best. We checked out of the resort and handed over $140 cash to Crystal in a super-market parking lot who handed us the keys to a white 4wd grand cherokee. So now I was in the driver’s seat, windows down (broken a.c), check engine light on (‘just ignore that’), old school hip hop on the stereo (what else?), Ivan sitting next to me and the whole of kauai to explore at our leisure. Nice work, Universe.
People on kauai are pleasant. Ivan had read something about them being rude and irritated, so maybe our low expectations gave them an advantage, but we had no bad experiences to speak of. A taxi driver boasted of the sense of community on the island: neighbours helping neighbours, local kids calling him ‘uncle’, low crime rates, regular church goers etc. But with a population of less than 100,000 and apparently around 30,000 visitors on the island at any given time (don’t quote me on that), it is easy to see how it feels more like a holiday beach town with seasonal communities than a solid year-round community. That’s just the vibe we got from being visitors for a week.
The first thing that we had to come to terms with was the weather. Warm, yes, but also windy, rainy, sunny, cloudy and kind of chilly. Huh? Yeah. So it’s a micro-climate which apparently means that when its pouring with rain you mustnt worry! In 5 minutes the sun will be out again. And if it feels particularly wet today, drive 20 minutes south and you will escape the rain for the day. I figured i needed to experience it to believe it, but even though ive experienced it i still dont really believe it. It’s weird, but it works. The weather really didnt bother us at all.
Based on this weather theory that the south is sunnier, the internet told us to stay in the south. So after many emails with Ellie, we finally confirmed our 3 night vacation rental in Poipu. It was a gorgeous little garden suite that suited us perfectly, but you know that when your host tells you that the best place for your morning coffee is the starbucks down the road, you’re in the wrong place.
The beach was nice but predictable, the climate was definitely drier, we saw less locals and it felt like a beach town designed for wealthy old people.
In the north we drank coffee at local roasteries and ate hippie but not overly outrageously priced organic food. People ate meals on the grass around the shops and kids ran around everywhere. The rain kinda sucked but it made everything feel more lush and the sun just that much more exciting. We surfed up north in Hanalei with a barely 20 year old guy who had grown up on the island and claimed to be a personal chef slash surfing instructor who wanted 5 kids one day.
I have funny feelings about being a tourist. When i visited new york for the first time i was by myself and had 3 days. I made friends with a couple of young guys and we spent our time walking the streets of manhatten and brooklyn trying not to ‘keep looking up’. If i can buy the postcard i generally dont have a desire to see it, give or take a few instances. Rocking up in a car or a bus to take pictures alongside hundreds of other people snapping the same thing seems immensly underwhelming in most cases. You can’t buy a postcard of the local culture or the smells or the tastes of a city. And while your snapping the same images you can buy on a postcard you’re typically missing most of the most interesting differences and new experiences.
So we began each day with no agenda except to see where the day would take us and it worked out every time. We ran barefoot through muddy trails to not-so-secret waterfalls. We jumped in canoes unguided down a river. We became regulars at our favourite taco place. We did early morning yoga with locals. We were strongly advised not to start on the canyon trail after 10am, (it was 1pm) but after my own assessment of the situation (the meanness of the woman advising us, our fitness levels, our desire for something a little bit more adventurous), we decided to go for it. This resulted in a very satisfying adreneline pumping death-defying 10 mile hike with the best views possible of the NaPali coast without a helicopter or kayak. Definitely worth it.
We raced sunset across clifftops and ran early morning along beach fronts. We shopped at KMart and used our discount card at the local grocer. We ate vegan except for the fresh ahi and a couple eggs and just once (after the canyon) we tried the must-have shave ice over mac-icecream. I’m heavier than i was at the start of the trip, but it was totally worth it.
We drank at a local bar and listened to local live music. We sat in local cafes for hours, people watching, reading and sketching tattoo ideas on napkins.
This morning we woke up at 8 to watch the football. (I dont even know myself anymore.) We had spent our last night in a resort near the airport and at breakfast we were sitting next a man named matt and his baby daughter who were from Seattle also.
At the beginning of our holiday i wondered if one week would be enough. At breakfast i felt my tummy bursting and craving a home-cooked meal. I felt the salt and humidity in my hair. I felt the slight sting of sun on my legs against the chair. I felt the anonymity and ambiguity of the resort. I made funny faces at Matt’s little baby sitting next to us and my heart leaped at the thought of seeing Mika again. One week was definitely enough. One week was perfect.
(Then we landed in Seattle airport in our flip-flops and shorts at 11pm and I quickly changed my mind. It’s too cold. We should have made arrangements for mum to send Mika to us in Hawaii).