Last night I listened to the rain come and go – sometimes short little showers, sometimes longer blasts of rainfall. I would lay there, half awake, and feel myself relax and think of home as the crescendo of the water on the roof gradually deepened, filling the house. What I love about Manoa Valley, where my professor’s family lives, and where I am staying these three weeks in Hawai’i, is that though there are so many neighbors and many houses close to us, at night everything is quiet. There are no city sounds of cars or people, and I fall asleep with a smile to the sound of the wind and rain and birds.
My relaxing slumber has seemingly wiped away the exhaustion that caused my eyes to redden and water last night after a delayed nine hour flight to Honolulu. I had so many piercing nerves on the journey here – mostly because the last time I rode an airplane was when I was coming home from Tokyo after experiencing the earthquake disaster, so long flights do not make me feel comfortable anymore. But it was also because I did not know what to expect, and did not trust myself to do well on this research trip.
After landing, we took a taxi through the island and Professor Sharma pointed out Waikiki, the downtown area, the Punahou School that President Obama attended, a Japanese school, and many more sights. The island is compact, but larger than I expected, and the black clouds that brewed at the mountaintops took my breath away. When we arrived at her mother’s beautiful home, I settled in and took a quick shower before heading out on my own to explore a bit before the sun set.
My body and mind not quite awake, I strolled along the road down to the local park, where I heard there was an Olympic-sized pool. On my way I passed bright purple, red, and yellow flowers and I passed by a mother-daughter pair speaking what I assumed to be Vietnamese. Later I passed by two women who were speaking Korean, and I could not wait to see how these mesh of cultures and people lived on this island. I looked up at the dark, edges orange-tinged, rapidly shifting clouds and at the little ducks in the stream close by to the park. I could not believe how similar these sights were to home. Yet it was so different, I realized, as I listened to the bird calls so eerie to me and peered up at a large coconut tree.
The street lights were turning on and the world was fading into darkness as I headed back and I soon found myself to be lost. Every house looked the same to me now, and every shrub and garbage bin looked as if I had passed them by on my way. I tried not to panic as I walked quickly up and down the long, hilly streets, but finally I took a deep breath and forced myself to think. This allowed me to realize that I had taken a right too soon, and after calling my professor to find out what number the house was, I realized I had passed by the house twice before realizing it was there all along.
When I entered the house, proud that I had ultimately found my way home (sort of) on my own, I realized that there was nothing to worry about – I was in a beautiful, very safe place with wonderful people, and I was excited to let the adventures begin.