A Month on Kauai

Check out those smiles!  Blythe was born to be an island girl.

Check out those smiles!  Blythe was born to be an island girl.

Greetings from Hanalei!  We've been here exactly a month and have just under two weeks remaining.  Earlier this week, we moved from our condo in Princeville to a VRBO in Hanalei just 100 yards from our favorite beach. We were nicely settled in Princeville, but the move will enable us to spend our last days here enjoying our favorite place on the island, riding cruiser bikes instead of driving, and hopefully honing our surfing skills.  I've been thinking about how to best write these updates and I'm going to use the bullet-point list this time around.  If you have specific questions, please ask! 

  • Home - Our first home was a two-bedroom condo in Princeville, which is just east of Hanalei.  We could walk to Anini Beach, drive 8 minutes to Hanalei, and walk to the shopping center which includes a grocery story, post office, playground, and library.  We had plenty of space and this was a perfect spot that was affordable (for Kauai).  We have since moved into the heart of Hanalei, which means walking to the beach, as well as a range of restaurants and shops.  Our place here has only one bedroom, but we now have an outdoor shower (a favorite feature of mine), a grill, a deck, and any piece of baby equipment we could need, including a cruiser bike with a kid's seat.  It's awesome.
  • What do we do each day? - Each day here is different.  We just had family in town for the last week, but for the most part we go to a beach (we've been making a point to check out different beaches) and prepare to stay for a few hours.  We pack snacks and sometimes lunch, chairs, a  mat, the surfboard, and Blythe's beach bucket and tools.  Her favorite activity right now is building a "beach tub" pictured below.  She's obsessed and it provides hours of entertainment.  Rob and I take turns surfing, we walk with Blythe, swim, play in the "tub", have snacks, and just enjoy the nice weather.   Sometimes we meet other families and the kids play together.  If we aren't at the beach, we visit the playground or the library, go for a hike (we still have a few on our list to do before we leave), get lunch or dinner out somewhere, go to the farmer's market, ride bikes around town, and sometimes just hang out at home reading, coloring, and playing.  I've said it before, but the days fill up without difficulty.
Blythe enjoying one of our better beach "bath tubs".  Depending on the sand, these can be easy or difficult to dig and you have to place them just right to get some waves to fill the tub, but not too many so it doesn't wash away.  It's an art, people.

Blythe enjoying one of our better beach "bath tubs".  Depending on the sand, these can be easy or difficult to dig and you have to place them just right to get some waves to fill the tub, but not too many so it doesn't wash away.  It's an art, people.

  • Surfing - After our first surfboard broke (it buckled, which is apparently a fairly common occurrence), our kind VRBO hosts said they had a few extras and lent us one even though we weren't staying with them yet.  It was incredibly generous of them and we have loved having the board.  We are both having fun learning and while we are still just testing our skills on the small waves, we've both caught a few rides.  We hope that being so close to the beach for the next two weeks will mean lots of surfing (in fact, Rob is at the beach right now surfing while Blythe "naps").   
Rob riding a wave into shore at the end of a relaxing day in Hanalei

Rob riding a wave into shore at the end of a relaxing day in Hanalei

  • Employment (or lack thereof) - Six weeks into unemployment, it still feels a bit odd.  Our days are quite full with activities, taking care of Blythe, meal prep, and doing daily household tasks that exist regardless of whether you are home or away.  I have realized that I do want to return to working when we are home and I'm not feeling anxious about it at all, but I do find it odd that I don't have an answer to the "what do you do?" question.  Travel?  As it turns out, planning our upcoming trips takes time, as does figuring out insurance, preparing materials for our taxes, and sorting out life logistics.  I have felt separated from friends and family this past week in a way that made me feel adrift and miss home.  Part of that is settling into a routine here, but one in which we don't have local friends, part of it was the Women's March and not being able to participate, and part of it is other stuff going on in our lives.  I suppose what I'm feeling is a lack of community - I am fortunate to have an incredibly strong one at home and I miss it.
  • Blythe, Toys & the Library - It has been fascinating to see what Blythe enjoys playing with on this trip.  We have a small bag of toys we brought with us and she has hardly touched them.  In our first house, she played with BunnyBunnyBuns (her favorite stuffed animal sidekick), her Olivia doll, Charlotte the Mouse, a box (see middle picture above), our cooler bag, and the chopsticks and miso soup spoons found in a bottom kitchen drawer. We also colored with crayons and watercolors, but B was uninterested in the other toys I brought.  On most days, we are at the beach where she is digging in the sand, collecting coconuts, swimming, or playing in a beach tub (her favorite activity).  She LOVES the Princeville Public Library and we have a stack of 30 books on our coffee table (see photo below for half of the stack) that she has picked out.  Some are our favorites from home and others are new to us, but she is obsessed.  It cost $10 to join the Hawaii library system for three months and we've checked out books for Blythe and for me, as well as DVDs for me and Rob.  I'll be interested to see if we can join the library system elsewhere (like in New Zealand) because Blythe is a voracious reader and we are trying not to accumulate any more things along the way.  Lesson: kids don't need many toys and they will find random items to play with wherever you go.
We are very active patrons of the Hawaii Public Library System.  Note - they are vigilant about the condition of their books (which I appreciate) and we have paid a number of fines because someone (ahem) sometimes forgets not to rip books.  

We are very active patrons of the Hawaii Public Library System.  Note - they are vigilant about the condition of their books (which I appreciate) and we have paid a number of fines because someone (ahem) sometimes forgets not to rip books.  

  • Potty Training - We took a two-day break, read Oh, Crap!, and decided to recommit.  We took Blythe to Walmart (the only big box store on the island), she picked out a tiny pink plastic potty (we let her choose), and haven't looked back.  It hasn't been perfect, but she is generally doing well with is, loves her potty, and is quite proud of herself.  We are still using diapers for naps and nighttime and likely will for our long flights, too.  But generally, this is going well.  It's much easier to do this in Hawaii because we are often at the beach or outside and going without clothes or with relatively little on is the norm.  
  • Food - We are still visiting one or two farmer's markets a week and a round-up of my favorites is coming soon.  Most of our meals we cook at home, although we've discovered a few places with fresh poke at a reasonable price and we like to indulge in that as often as possible.  This week we made these Chickpea Taco Bowls that were so delicious and I'm working on a ginger & turmeric syrup to be mixed with club soda since both ginger and turmeric root are prevalent at the markets.  At home, we rarely have bread in the house and I can't remember the last time I made a sandwich; here, we have a sandwich at lunch almost every day, particularly because they are easy to take to the beach.  We also have had cereal and oatmeal with some regularity; again, foods we rarely eat at home.  The nice thing about eating cereal and oatmeal here is that you can top it with all sorts of delicious fruit and local honey.  
  • Technology - Both of us still have working iPhones and we have WiFi in our rental properties.  Our cell service is spotty and we often have our phone ringers turned off.  With planning travel and dealing with "life admin," we both have computer time during Blythe's "naps", plus in the evenings if we aren't reading or watching a movie.  Insurance has taken longer to sort out (health, auto, and property) than either of us expected so we've spent an inordinate amount of time working through those details.  We have been trying to use technology minimally at least where social media and unnecessary use of our phones is concerned and I we've both been pretty good about it.  I expect it will improve even more when we leave the U.S.
No makeup, thanks!  I'm still working on getting Blythe to look in the right direction for the all-important selfie.

No makeup, thanks!  I'm still working on getting Blythe to look in the right direction for the all-important selfie.

  • Random
    • Blythe is totally preoccupied by fans.  I wouldn't say scared, but obsessed.  She talks about them when we've been out and are returning home, when we are in the house and the fans are on or off, etc.  One of her favorite phrases is, "Fans keep us cool."  We have a ceiling fan at home in our room and she's never paid any attention to it.  Toddlers are a mystery.
    • I have put mascara on twice since we arrived. I don't wear much makeup to begin with, but it's just not the style here and who really wants to bother?  Everyone is so minimalist and I'm embracing it.  I also go barefoot much more often and am totally comfortable walking around in my swimsuit and cover-up (as is everyone else here, it seems).
    • We are both still adjusting to being full-time, stay at home parents.  We haven't figured out a good schedule of giving each other time off yet but it's still early in our travels.  Blythe has been on a serious nap strike for the duration of our time here, which complicates things and doesn't give us a break in the middle of the day.  I refuse to accept that she is "done" with naps, so this is a work in progress.
    • We are still figuring out our exercise regimen as well.  Our plan is to work out every other day at a minimum and sometimes this happens but not consistently.  We are working on it, starting with one of us running in the morning and one of us going at nap time versus both of us going at nap time, which wasn't really working (since B isn't napping).
    • Blythe has embarked on a serious nap strike since we arrived here.  She's exhibiting the classic signs of needing a nap and seems tired, but she rarely actually falls asleep.  I refuse to believe she is ready to give up naps entirely (perhaps the honest way of saying that is that we are not ready for her to give them up).  She is sleeping quite well at night, but she needs a rest during the day and we need a little break to get a few things done!  The nap strike has been.... trying. 
  • Observations about Kauai
    • People sell produce and goods on the side of the road or in their yard everywhere. Most of them ask you to leave cash in a box if you take something.  Two of these are pictured above (we've been by the Tiny Bakery twice and neither time has there been anything to buy - I'm so intrigued).
    • As I mentioned before, I still find people here to be friendly and helpful.  Most are happy to chat and to make recommendations and are interested about where you are visiting from, how long you are staying, etc.  When we tell people we are spending six weeks here, they mostly warn us that we will want to stay forever (a valid point).  
    • This is a small island.  The one big box store (Walmart, ugh) is in Lihue, which is a 45 minutes drive from where we are staying without traffic (and 1 hour plus at most times).  Most pharmacies are not open 24 hours a day or even into the evening. The one closest to us isn't open on the weekend.  The closest reasonable size doctor's office is 45 minutes away and attached to the island's hospital.  For the most part, this is part of the charm of Kauai - it still feels like its own place rather than an extension of the mainland.  It can be challenging, however, if you need something urgently.  Expectations must be managed.
    • The island has no two-lane highways.  The main road around the perimeter of the island that is accessible is one lane in each direction for all but a small portion, which means there is traffic, particularly in certain towns (Kapa'a, I'm talking about you).  If there is an accident, there is no navigating around it - you either sit and wait or turn around.  Yesterday I sat in 45 minutes of standstill traffic because of an accident outside of Kilauea (with absolutely no cell service).  Luckily, I had a book with me.
    • Roosters and chickens are everywhere!  I'm so used to this now that I think nothing of it, but I had book club via phone last night (which was so fun and some much-needed friend time) and at one point my friend J said, "I'm sorry, but did I just hear a rooster in the background?  What is that?"  I burst out laughing  - I was sitting on our deck and I'm so used to them that the noise just blends in.  The reality is that they have no natural predators here and there are a LOT of them.  If you are interested, you can read more here.
    • There are a surprising number of abandoned cars here.  I've read this has improved dramatically from a few years ago, but they are noticeable, although often tucked away behind large clumps of trees, at trailheads, or off on random roads.  My favorite one is in downtown Kilauea - right in a front yard is a car and there are tall grasses growing up around it as if you might just not notice it driving by (I'll post a picture the next we are there and see it).
    • People often leave their cars open and unlocked.  Window are rolled down, the back is open to accommodate a surfboard, etc.  We have a Jeep and often have the back window open for our surfboard, which means easy access to the board, plus our expensive hiking backpack and very expensive stroller.  I don't worry about it at all.  I wouldn't leave my wallet or phone sitting out in the car, but I'm quite unconcerned about the rest of it.
    • Locals will sometimes say "aloha" (hi/bye), "mahalo" (thank you), and use other Hawaiian phrases, but not always and it's unclear whether it is appreciated if you use them, too, or if it sounds silly. It's different than using a foreign language elsewhere because everyone here speaks English and most folks don't know any Hawaiian other than pleasantries.  You will see Hawaiian names on fish, fruits, and vegetables, as well as for geographic designations but really not elsewhere.
    • Roosters aside, we've seen a lot of wildlife.   Rob and I went out on a boat one day on the west side of the island and saw quite a few humpback whales, plus a ton of spinner dolphins.  We've seen turtles on multiple occasions (both from shore and while snorkeling), plus a number of monk seals resting on the beach.  We saw three wild pigs in a very touristy spot where they are obviously being fed, but otherwise haven't run into any (thankfully).  Apparently wild pigs outnumber humans in Kauai 3 to 1.  There are the usual critters as well... geckos (they eat cockroaches, so are good to have around), small crabs on the beach, various types of birds, snails (B was quite scared by this tiny snail who moves about an inch every 30 seconds), and some spiders (the spider webs you see are impressive).