Quarantined on Kaua`i Day…?

I was going to write this as a Facebook post and share my recent pictures but decided that I had a lot of thoughts about being quarantined on Kaua`i day… ??, so I decided to write another blog post.

Like everyone who happens to be reading my silly little blog, I’ve gone through a lot of emotions since life as we knew it ceased to exist, seemingly overnight.  So many different feelings and thoughts, sometimes changing by the minute. Fear and anxiety and perseverance and boredom and whining and stress and laughter and joy and worry and anger and melancholy and sadness and happiness and gratitude…I’m sure I’m missing some.  

Yeah, I’ve felt anxious and fearful, haven’t we all? I can’t read the news for very long. I’m getting better but I have had some periods of being really scared. I’ve had a few panic attacks in my life and all I remember is the feeling of not being able to breathe. Last summer, when we were in the midst of the craziness re: uprooting our lives to move thousands of miles away, I had a few anxiety attacks and again, had to remind myself that I was ok, that I was breathing. So when I heard that a symptom of Covid 19 is breathlessness and difficulty breathing it just pushed those anxiety buttons, hard. While I’m pretty much over that at the moment, I am fearful of what this virus could do to me personally. I’m over 60 (shhh!), and while I lead a pretty healthy life and am fit for my age, I am also a former smoker with high blood pressure.

So it was from that personal fear as well as a greater fear and protectiveness for the kupuna (elders) in my senior fitness classes (that I used to teach before lock down) that my anger toward the steady stream of selfish tourists who continued to come here bubbled and boiled over, both here on my blog as well as on Facebook. In retrospect I think it helped me to process my own fear…by venting and railing online, I somehow was able to manage my own anxiety.  Although most of it was just pure anger that selfish people would travel to these islands in the midst of a pandemic, coming here, where there has been such a history of the people dying from introduced disease. I am so proud of my husband Doug, whose article on epidemics in Hawaii published by the Smithsonian magazine was shared over 11,000 times on Facebook and read by way more than that. That article makes me so sad, and so mad. Here it is in case you missed it: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/shutting-down-hawaii-historical-perspective-epidemics-islands-180974506/

Kaua`i’s mayor has taken some strong measures to ensure that visitors are obeying the mandatory quarantine, so I feel a LITTLE better now but not totally. Still, there are still some trickling in and not doing as they should. Hopefully the new order banning all vacation rentals will help, and we can just deal with the local community. But I think that all non-essential travel should cease. Kaua`i is F’ing CLOSED.

Which has me thinking a lot about what happens now. So many people here are out of work because the economy is so dependent on tourism. That makes me angry, that people here have to work 2-3 jobs just to survive, and now that the tourists are gone there is nothing, no jobs. So they have the choice of putting their ohana at risk by pushing for the tourists to come back sooner than they should, or putting food on the table. I see this as a real opportunity, which on the one hand is exciting, but on the other hand is super depressing. The exciting part would be for people to be able to start local businesses that don’t depend on tourist dollars. Why not legalize marijuana here, and let people use all of the vacant land to grow that, and to grow food. Bring back the traditional ahupua`a system of land management, which includes fishing. How exciting that would be. And foster other types of business that would allow Hawaii to export more goods than they import. I don’t know what they would be, but now would be the time to define them.

I realize that we can’t stop all tourism, that people will want to come here. But I would love to see limits and restrictions on the number of visitors. There were floods on the north shore in 2018 the roads were closed to everyone but locals for a year while they repaired roads and the residents put their lives back together. The place had been inundated with tourists prior to the floods, with thousands and thousands of people going to a tiny place at the end of the road every day. When they closed it down, the reefs came back. The earth healed. Now, there are limits on the number of people and cars allowed there per day. There is at least some attempt at balance and management. We could do that with places that are overrun with tourists here, and frankly all over the world. Look at Venice.

That’s my dream, but my fear is that greed will prevail. That the elites and the people in charge, be they politicians or corporations or the rich, will be so desperate that they will open the gates even wider, COME ON OVER WE MISSED YOU! People will have no choice but to go back to their low-paying tourist-dependent jobs. And the brief respite that the `aina, the land, is having now, will be over. That depresses me and I don’t know the answer, except to look to my Hawaiian friends in the sovereignty movement for hope. I am a proud ally, and I will do what I can to stand behind them and support them as they figure out how to take their sovereign nation back; to be independent once again.

So hmm, I’ve covered fear and anxiety and anger and depression. There’s still sadness and melancholy to go. I miss my daughter Jordan SO MUCH, I don’t know when I’ll see her again. And my mom. I had hoped to go back to Baltimore in the spring to see her, and to fly Jordan down, but now I don’t know when I’ll see them again, or any of my friends. I can’t even see my friends here, which feels even more isolating.

But then, we’re all feeling that one aren’t we? Thankfully I have Doug, who is still my number one source of joy and laughter, mainly because he goes to the farm every day so we haven’t been together 24/7 like many couples have. But that’s actually harder on me because I’m an extrovert, I get my energy from being around others, so if he were here all day I would drive him INSANE! Thank god for chatting and facetiming and the good old-fashioned phone, at least I’m staying connected with my friends and family as best we can. And to fight my boredom, Doug is teaching me Hawaiian, which I have been sharing with some groups online.

I’ve also been doing the sa ta na ma meditation, and a friend sent me a beginner Qi Gong video that I’m learning. And I’m still working on my fitness classes. Of course I’ve also binge watched Tiger King and Next in Fashion, my house is filthy and I have clocked way too many hours on the couch, lest you think me high and mighty.

Which leads me to where I want to end, gratitude. I am 100 percent grateful that I have my 2 jobs, helping Doug with fundraising for his museum, and my good old job at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. I had a pretty stressful week this past week, wading through guidance on the part of the economic stimulus package that included relief for non-profits and small businesses that don’t lay anyone off. I worked hard on the applications for both organizations, and I pray that I didn’t mess up. As I see what this crisis has done to the economy, I am even more proud of my colleagues at CEPR. This article https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/how-private-equity-firms-squeeze-hospital-patients-for-profits about my boss Eileen Appelbaum that was in the New Yorker mentions funding that we received to do the amazing work described in the article. I’m proud of the small role I play. I can only hope that they can continue to fight the power.

Finally, what I had intended to write about initially…my gratitude that I live on this beautiful jewel in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I was feeling pretty whiney and missing the beach – we can go to the beach to exercise, but since it’s a drive for me I have made the decision to leave that for the surfers and others, so I’ve committed to staying put and walking in my neighborhood for exercise. It’s a rural one lane road and therefore it’s pretty easy to social distance (how is that a verb?), so except for a few cars and trucks I don’t see anyone. And except for the occasional lawn mower and leaf blower, ugh) and the ever-present screechy roosters, really blissfully quiet. So as I walk I can hear the rushing stream, and birdsong. And feel the breeze and the warm sun.

Today I turned on a road I hadn’t walked on before. It was so lush, and green, and it looked over a valley and, in the distance, I could see the ocean. On the way back I looked at the flowers, and the blue sky, and the incredible dense jungle and all of the variety of shades of green, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I will leave you (if you’re still reading lol) with these pictures from my corner of the globe. I hope they bring you serenity and peace, and much aloha.