Saturday, December 10, 2011

Moving to the Big Island of Hawai'i


At first our friends could not absorb the words when I told them we were moving to Hawai'i. That was in 2004. In reality, I had been asking my husband if we could move here since the first time he brought me to these islands in 1993. As soon as we stepped off the plane on our first trip, saw the windowless openings in the airport, the birds flying in and out of the lobbies and halls, all the people of different nationalities but looking much like I did, I knew - I was finally 'home.'

The decision was made one icy morning during the winter of 2003. I was working the night shift as a nurse in a rural hospital and as many times before, was driving the two lane highway over an hour home. So many times I had passed cars that had run off the roads, rolled over in the ditches, even crashed into one another or a tree, and often stopped to help or drive the shaken or injured back to the hospital. This morning was not like those times.

As I drove slowly along, the black ice beneath the car, I saw a large semi truck driving towards me. The back end of his trailer swung out in front of me and at that moment, my eyes locked onto the truck driver's eyes, and I thought it was my turn to die. At the last second, he managed to turn his steering wheel, and the trailer swung back to his side of the highway. I found myself pulled over onto the shoulder, shaking and crying, as I saw his truck move farther away in the rear view mirror. This was my last winter on the mainland. I picked up the cell phone and called my husband. I don't know what exactly I said, but it was something like "I love, you, but I am moving to Hawai'i, and I'm taking the dog. I really hope you come with us."

We flew to Hawai'i that spring and I went to a job interview at the hospital. We looked at houses and made offers. At that time, houses were selling in hours, not days or months. We bought a rambler style home in Kailua Kona town at the highest price imaginable, and now well, won't discuss the current value. We flew home to Oregon.

Still, my husband just could not accept how serious I was about moving to Hawai'i until I started packing boxes up, having yard sales, and taking the pets to the veterinarian for the long process of clearing them for the trip. He actually had occasions when he became upset over this. I didn't budge. I love the man, but I was moving...and taking the dog, our daughter, and the cats.

One day we were at a restaurant with many of our friends at a long table. I was sitting at one end with all the ladies, and my husband was sitting at the other with the guys. One of the women casually asked, 'So, Rosy, what's this I hear about you moving to Hawai'i?' Then in unison and in silence, all heads turned towards my husband - just like people watching a tennis ball in a tennis match go from one side of the court to the other side. It was comical. He sat quietly, and I looked at him, then he stuttered, 'I-I-I guess so,' and the heads turned back towards me. The question and answer discussions began. For the most part, not one of them truly believed we were going. But that was okay. After all, my own husband could not believe we were moving. Most people just vacation in Hawai'i and none of us knew anyone who actually moved or lived there.

The worst part of moving to Hawai'i was not saying goodbye to all of our friends, although it was tough to leave them as well as the log home we designed and built with our own hands. The absolutely worst part of the move was researching, learning, and going through the entire process of clearing our four pets (three cats and a bichon frise dog) through the Dept. of Agriculture. If we (I) didn't get every single step correct, our pet(s) could be incarcerated - held in a tiny igloo in the hot sun, on a chain, for 6 months. Hawai'i is serious about this. I also could not fathom putting them into the plane's cargo hold in a crate. None of them had ever been in a crate. After all, we lived in the country, and I mean country. We had about 4 families living within a square mile of us, and we had ten acres for our pets to roam around on. I went into a real fear, nightmares and worry about doing this to our pets.

But after meticulously dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't,' making sure every blood test and inoculation had been administered to all four pets, the final de-flea-ing process done (even though we didn't have a flea problem where we lived and Hawai'i is filled with them and other critters). Months before I had  booked three adult seats (we took along our young adult daughter), and four pets onto a large commercial jet. The airline made special arrangements to take all four pets - they usually accept only three on a flight. I had prepared luxury crates, complete with little relieving areas, battery operated fans for comfort, blankies, toys, food and water dishes, even one piece of my clothes in each crate so they might be comforted, and humorous signs printed on all sides of the crates which caused bursts of laughter from people throughout the check in and flight arrival areas. The circus had begun.

I had worried myself physically sick over our pets. I never want to go through that again. There aren't enough tranquilizers for me to do that to pets another time. Nowadays, I believe you can go straight to the Big Island, Hilo airport for flights from the mainland with pets. In 2004, all pets had to go through Honolulu, they got no bathroom break, had to be re-planed and flown to Kona. While they survived just fine, I nearly had a break down. I heard too many stories, pro and con, about pets in cargo areas of planes.

In Kona: It is dark, warm, and the circus arrives. People laughed as they saw our poor faces, hanging down from the entire day of flying, transferring, and worrying over our animals. The pet crates took up so much room at the little airport, we couldn't help but be a spectacle. Our daughter plugged into her MP3 player and acted like she didn't know us. I laid on the grass almost in tears. My husband went to rent a mini van and we went to the hotel. :( no pets. I felt so guilty about what I had put them through, that I & our daughter slept in the van to comfort and care for the pets. My husband showed up. He didn't have the heart to abandon the family at this dire time.

The next day we went to pick up the keys to our new home. No. The Sellers for whatever reason would not give them up. Our escrow had closed and our  realtor could not get a reason for any delay in transferring the house keys. We waited hour by hour in the van. Days and nights went by. Living in a mini van in the hot Kona weather was no fun, especially with a young adult female daughter stuck with pets crawling around her. We were homeless for three days and two nights. By day three I told my husband to break into 'our' house. I was sick and went directly to the bathroom. No toilet paper. No tissue. No paper towels. The Sellers took nearly everything, even the nailed up sun shades on the lanai. However, they managed to leave a lot of loose rice on the kitchen shelves - enough to make me think that maggots had infested the house. I screamed (after a shower from using the bathroom and not having toilet paper) then realized it was scattered rice, then had to clean the entire kitchen. But nothing was moving us from 'our house.' Not even a SWAT team.

I hope this provides some idea of what it was like for us to move to Hawai'i with pets. As for us, we are still in love, happily married (our daughter fell in love and got married here, too), and our pets are alive and well. We even got more cats when two died from old age. No, I'm not moving back to the mainland. At least...was that an earthquake and the smell of lava?