Friday, March 31, 2017

Chronicles of the Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge, Chapter 4

(Continuation of the story of our family's homesteading adventure to the Big Island of Hawaii)

So there we were, myself, Mrs. Minotaur and the kids, our second vessel capsized, the maroon Saturn's starter kaput, marooning us in the Prince Kuhio shopping center. (yes, we Hawaiians are big on our royalty, thank you, Britain)

Our second car in two weeks, blown out by a decade of tradewind-tossed sea salt and sulfur dioxide, from lava-boiled seawater.  Note to all future voyagers: the Big Island kills cars and takes no prisoners.

We'd blown through over three thousand dollars now in cars, car repairs, hotel stays due to our technical homelessness, tows.  And there we were, for the second Saturday in a row, stuck in a shopping center whose doors would be closing at midnight, with no repair shops open to even tow the car to.  No spare clothes, no tent (all still at the campsite, 15 miles north-north west).  A few cans of generic-Wal Mart chili, green beans, a handful of stray Nature Valley granola bars.  Two cups-worth of potable drinking water in a gallon jug. 

No friends or family or anyone we felt we could bring the car to.   If we even attempted to stay in the car, security would come around, and then we'd have to go through the long, sordid and embarrassing process of explaining to them our current temporary house-less situation.

We had some money saved up, but at this rate, we would burn through it all and be left with nothing in short order.  We'd tried for rentals but they'd all been snatched up, or only wanted "single tenants", and the others we couldn't get to because the cars kept dying.

GR and I were on the edge of nervous breakdown.  I had to do some forced-breathing stuff to stop from hyperventilating. 

Maybe we didn't know what the hell we were doing?

Maybe everyone on Oahu was right, maybe we'd made a huge mistake?  Taken too big a risk?

Maybe this was the end?  Maybe it was time to paddle back, with our broken sail, tail between our legs, to that big soul-sucking concrete jungle?  Look in my family's eyes, stricken with shame, as they'd say, "We told you so."

"Just send out an SOS on Facebook.  Instagram.  Anywhere, anyhow.  There's got to be someone around here that can help us!" I said, having already done it once, and not wanting to overstay the welcome in the particular home-schooling group that we'd joined up with.  My stomach was literally wrenching with anxiety, bile burning the back of my throat as we tapped out on cooking our own food and just walked to the nearest fast food joint (Burger King).  A little later, the kids were throwing gravel in the Starbucks parking lot, and we had to yell at them to stop, unable to get to a park, a beach, anything.  They asked us, "When we'd have our house?  When will we have our big house?"  I think that was about the part we cried.

But within fifteen minutes of sending out the call for help on Facebook, we got one, then two, then three responses. 

"Hey!  Looks like you guys are in a bind!  We'd love to help out some fellow homeschoolers.  I'm putting the little one to sleep but let us know how long you need to stay!"

"We may have something to help you out more long term if you're having trouble with the rentals..."

GR worked it out with a super nice couple who happened to be transplants from Oahu as well.  They'd had an entire bottom floor, with kitchen, bathroom, guestroom, unused for a year or more.  They offered to pick us up. 

As if by magic, the Saturn started as the sun went down (something to do with temperature and the swelling/shrinking of copper coils.)  So we ended up driving over, and got put up for the night, with the offer of more if we needed it.  The guy was super-friendly, wearing an Ergo carrier with his 18-month old.  It was a little queen size thing in a small room, but it was the best bed I'd ever slept in. 

I'd helped out a lot of homeless kids and families in my time at the social work job, but I don't think I really had any idea about what it's really like, till then.

Another lesson: do not be afraid to reach out!  This is a hard one for introverts and lone-wolf DIY-types like myself and my wife.  Especially on a place like the Big Island, your network, your ohana, the people around you are the most important thing you've got.

So we spent the next day in Hilo at our gracious guests place as ANOTHER family offered to help out with the vehicle.  Another super nice group, the mom, dad, and a teenager came over.  Dad was a super chill hippy-dude with a black bandana, a never-ending stream of Camel cigarettes, and crazy mechanic chops.  He and his son worked on the car, basically for free, for the next day.  He hoped he could get it done in half an hour, but what might've been just the battery or alternator turned out to be the starter itself, and later there was the issue of a slow gas leak in the return line...

All in all, they worked for two days, and we stayed two nights with our guests.  The Minokids had a blast playing with the Hilo house-owners young ones- apparently they really wanted to meet more families as the homeschool group in Hilo town itself was a bit sparse.  The mom made the kids corned beef and spinach/kale on rice (never heard of it myself, might've been a Philipino thing) and the dad set up the Raspberry Pi arcade machine for them to game on.  I told the dad (who happened to have a computer programming degree like me) that if I ever hired on for Neofeud 2 or other Silver Spook Games projects, that I'd keep him on speed dial. 

That's pretty much how stuff seems to work around these parts.  They call East Hawaii "The Wild West", but really it's more like, "The Human West", in the sense that everything happens on a person-to-person and community scale.  There's no giant government or corporate entity mediating all your relationships.  There is some, mostly in the 'bigger' town, but it's limited.  People help each other out, and when they need help, they get it.  If you're a dick, then people are a dick to you.  That seems to be why a lot of folks who try to make it here end up quitting.  Cause they think they're in corporate, suburban America, where they can just lawyer up or call the cops on the neighbor's noise or dog or unpermitted structure and make people disappear.  On Oahu, you could do that.  But on the Big Island, you have to deal straight with the folks around you, for better or for worse.

So the really, really good news is, we've finally got our place, like a bonafide house with four walls, a roof, sink, hot water (paloma heater / point of use), washing machine, Time-Warner high speed internet, all that good 21st century amenity stuff.  It's crazy to think that if we hadn't sent up the smoke signals through Facebook when we had, we might've never gotten the place.  Almost like the whole nerve-wracking soul-wrenching breakdown thing was meant to be, some kind of synchronicity.  We can chalk it up to dumb luck, but around here we've got a lot of woo-woo astral plane types who are in an alternate timestream of the 60's, and they would say it was the cosmic energy of the universe righting itself.  The yin, equalizing the yang.  Tekaa, doused by Tefitti.

Spiritual psychedelics and tangential political diatribes aside, the voyage of the (now functional) Princess Ka'iulani's Revenge II continues.

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