i spent the summer and early fall of 2020 back home on oahu. it happened mostly out of impulse because a couple close friends said they would.
i wrote and took photos nearly every day i was home–mostly to commemorate how life worked out this year: i was working remote from oahu during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, my friends and i had no kids or similar obligations and could play after work whenever we can, my niece is young, funny, cool, and still wants to hang out with her family, my parents are furloughed and no longer working two jobs each so i see them more often. and with tourism slowed down, we had lots of room to play and roam.
june 7, 2020
one of the highlights was sitting on the balcony and filling up a tub with water and putting our feet in it. we can’t be at the beach but sitting in the sun at home isn’t something i can do in my sf apartment that doesn’t get direct light. ariel joined us too and splashed herself with buckets of water. then we turned on the hose to just splash her altogether. we hung out, she dipped her feet in the tub with us and i asked her about boys. she said she doesn’t have any crushes right now.
it's too hot to eat too much food. the humidity really strikes toward the later afternoon. when i looked in the mirror earlier this evening, i looked like a moist brown cake, glistening and plump. we hung out with ariel again and marcus taught her how to use a toaster to make her own peanut butter sandwiches.
i thought i was going to, at some point, romanticize small details of my family's balcony space. instead i'm growing tired of it. it's messy. everything on the ground is hard (i.e. no grass). there are lots of bugs that bite. there are 2 chairs of the 8 that i am comfortable to sit in. but it's where i spend most of my time. i get to be outside while staying in place. and this is where i get to hang out with ariel to make art, play in her little tub, and to hang out with marcus. i do my homework here, lay out, read, go to work.
i can't wait to go surfing. can't wait to go hiking. but this place...i'm always trying to leave. i haven't spent enough time looking at it. not running away from it. i'm trying to be patient with the mess and all the bugs roaming around. but i think eventually one day i will romanticize it and love its flaws.
last night as i was going to sleep, i started to notice all the sounds. my neighborhood felt alive in an intimate way.
the first sound i noticed was my neighbors talking. at first, it annoyed me but then i listened closer to all the layers. my neighbors must have been two houses down. their voices were amplified under what i think is a low roof and i imagined them sitting at the side of their house on a couple chairs. there were two voices speaking in what i think was ilocano or visayan. it was definitely filipino. i could tell by the sounds of the syllables and the fast, syncopated rhythmic inflections of their voices.
it made me think of being in school and hearing a teacher use asian language sounds to contrast against and to personify romantic languages. "romantic languages sound angelic, sweet to the ears. like a romance. languages like chinese or tagalog or vietnamese sound more harsh."
being filipino, those language sounds are familiar. they're a kind of comfort food. i feel like i'm at home in an environment that is accessible and welcoming.
as much as the sounds kept me up, i liked listening and noticing, feeling at home.
the next sounds i heard were more subtle, also languages. neighbors speaking vietnamese and chinese dialects. somewhat more muted since i don't understand. also rhythmic and vibrant.
then i heard my nephews and niece laughing and speaking pidgin. another one of my comfort foods. more happy-go-lucky and something i can understand and speak. it's loose and many times humorous. it feels like common ground, a connecting point.
all of these sounds were buried under the guise of night. usual suspects like light rain, crickets, and the occasional moped with a loud, nasally muffler. many languages, many people, many stories. all this in a three-home span.
the funny thing is i never got to know my neighbors. everyone seems to mind their own business and/or quietly hates each other. for various reasons (i'm probably projecting) like noise, visible junk, and obstruction of a view.
anyway, that's the beauty i listened to last night. it's quiet tonight minus my parents rustling outside in the kitchen, marcus snoring, the gentle breeze, and some stray birds trying to go home. goodnight.
out of quarantine
happy first day out of quarantine. happy international surfing day. happy summer solstice. i'm worn down, a little sunburnt and very brown today.
we spent the whole day at the beach. after grabbing some food at fukuya, marcus and i met up with rachel and casey at kaimanas. a bunch of people showed up throughout the day – even kim and ariel came out.
it was probably stupid to meet up with everyone but it was fun to hang out, swim around, and laugh at stuff. ariel even gave me a hug tonight so i hope that's a good sign.
in the late afternoon, we surfed at canoes. sunset session. the first hour was a lot of paddling and being terrified. it's been four months since i've surfed. no tourists on shore or taking surf lessons. we're all part of this place. it felt powerful to me, kind of like a reclaiming of our spaces. or maybe i'm just excited to leave the house and am experiencing the norm for the first time. i'm not sure.
janelle is convinced that by my fourth week home, i'll want to come home. i don't doubt it.
part of me feels like we live here now, that we're not quite on vacation since we're not really in a rush to do much of anything. this place doesn't change that rapidly but it seems like a lot will after this pandemic passes.
i love this hike. kuliouou is about 6 miles roundtrip and you pass through forests via switchbacks, a breezy canopy of wispy trees (i don't know the type) and then eventually end up on the ridge that's covered in ferns, monstera, and other plants. it's an uphill climb up stairs. the whole time going up, you overlook other hawaii kai valleys, diamond head, and koko head. also parts of waimanalo.
as i get older, the more i realize how much of my family's culture and heritage can be lost on me and my generation.
in 10 minutes, i learned more about my parents' lives in the philippines than i have in the last 10 years.
my parents didn't grow up with a lot of money. both of their moms were homemakers and my grandpas both worked for the military.
my mom said she grew up "so poor". her underwear was made of old rice bags.
i never expected my dad's city upbringing had this agrarian aspect to it but that's what makati used to be like. he and his brother ogie used to wait for their pigs to give birth and their dad would sell them off for money to support the family. since my grandpa worked at the military hospital he was able to get his hands on surgery tools. my dad learned how to cut bulls' balls off and sew them back up. he said doing that sped up the bull's growth.
one time, my mom's dad's end of year check was stolen and her family couldn't celebrate christmas that year. my mom's four other siblings, whom i never met, got sick when they were really young (months old) and it was hard to afford medical attention and good food then during world war II. they died. my uncle eli, nestor, marlon, aunty fe, and her are all that's left from that lineage. i remember when aunty fe died my mom was so heartbroken. i was a kid and i remember hearing her sniffling from my room late at night. before that, i'd never seen or heard my mom cry.
mom said she realized as she got older why my grandma did what she did to raise them and that's she's appreciative of how hard she and her dad worked for the family. i see that in both of them now, especially considering they put kim and me through private school. i feel like giving them what they need so then don't have to work so hard. i want them to tell me more about their upbringing. i want to know more about who they are.