Visit enhances appreciation of Hawaii
I RECENTLY received a notice from Australian Customs. Since I didn't contact them before I left in October, my sailing permit would expire the end of this month. I could renew it, they said, but only in person.
So once again I'm sitting in the nav station of my sailboat Honu, this time in the Mackay Marina, just inside the Great Barrier Reef.
I'm alone this time but I'm not lonely. The people here are so friendly and generous (use my car, really, here are the keys), I could never feel lonesome here. Also, I'm busy. Besides working on the boat, the wildlife in the area is among the best in the world (I have my own heron), and the nearby beach is a treasure trove of cuttlebones, shells and useful (for art) junk.
But as much as I love being in Australia again, there's still one place I love more, and that, of course, is Hawaii.
Like most longtime Hawaii residents, I get tired of people gushing about our climate. But if I ever again feel that our Kona weather is unbearably hot and sticky, I'll remember this midsummer month in the Southern Hemisphere. We Hawaii folks don't know heat.
"If I keep going this way, will I get to the grocery store?" I asked a woman passing me on the sidewalk.
"Yes, dear, but you'll get a heatstroke if you walk there on this street. Go one block over. The overhangs there give some shade."
Besides a white-hot sun, the temperature and humidity are both in the 90s. A few days ago, I noticed the digital thermometer inside the boat said 37 degrees. That number seemed familiar, and then I remembered. That's our body temperature -- 98.6 -- in centigrade.
Now I'm the one gushing to people about Hawaii's pleasant weather.
"Which boat is yours?" a boy of about 13 asked me the other day as we walked down the pier. He and his family, he told me, live on a powerboat in the marina.
"It's a green-and-white sailboat called Honu," I said.
"The one from Honolulu?"
"Yes, that one."
"Did you buy it here?" he asked, a hint of mischief in his voice.
"No, I sailed it here. Why?"
"My dad saw you working on the boat, and he bet you bought it here. But I bet him you sailed it." He smiled broadly. "I win."
Oh, how I loved this kid. "Why did you think that?" I said.
He shrugged. "Dunno." He paused. "Where is Honolulu?"
Well, I love him still.
The boy and his family are originally from England, as is the electrician helping me fix the boat. His pleasant wife (and business manager) hails from Scotland. My main boat helper is from New Zealand. Like most people I've met here, they're all haole folk, meaning white.
Where is everyone? I thought as I walked down Mackay's quaint streets. Then I realized how lucky I am to live in a place where diversity of race and mingling of cultures is so normal that without those things, something seems wrong.
"Welcome, Susan," said the customs officer at the marina. He retrieved my file and we talked. "We probably could have worked this out by mail and telephone," he said as I signed his forms, "but I'm glad you came back to Australia. You must like us a lot."
I do. And while I'm enjoying it myself here, I'm appreciating Hawaii more than ever.