Sunday Morning ~ Kaneohe, Oahu

Sunday Morning ~ Kaneohe, Oahu

Malawa-lawa anapha milomo; citoletole cinaphetsa manja. ~ The one who tastes too much damaged his lips; the one who stole too much damaged his hands.

~Chewa proverb

April 21, 2019

Hi Everyone,

Getting a cheap flight here meant staying until Tuesday. Since I’ve got friends to stay with, this did not seem a hardship. It’s early morning and six hours earlier than the east coast so Easter is well on it’s way there. I’m missing my little grandkids. It’s been an interesting vacation with some challenges resulting from poor planning and outright stupidity on my part. 

Last Sunday after our blog writing and breakfast, George and I set out on a four hour hike from a remote spot on the coastal road on the western side of Maui (mile 15.5 to be exact; that’s what went on the police report). We found the trailhead and left the car for the four mile hike up into the mountains there: great views, perfect weather, interesting and dramatic landscape. We descended and approached the car, talking about whether we’d go to lunch or the beach, when I noticed a lot of broken glass on the ground. Glass I hadn’t noticed when we parked. Then saw, with horror, that someone had smashed the driver’s side window and taken the bag that was on the floor behind the drivers seat. My trusty LLBean bag that was packed for our day trip with my bathing suit, journal I’d been keeping for a year with all our travel stories, my watercolor paints, and stupidly my wallet. We’d been to the grocery store and I’d taken it out of my pack to buy some groceries, threw it into the bag with the food and left it there in the car. So dumb. I never do that! I always make sure I’ve got my wallet with me. I was somehow distracted I guess and didn’t think to take it out of that bag. I freaked about that. It had all my credit cards, ATM card, license, checkbook. All the stuff I should not have been carrying around. I figured this was still the United States. I didn’t need to change to a travel wallet like I usually do when traveling overseas. Dumb dumb dumb. George was clearing the glass off the driver’s seat so I could drive (the only one authorized to drive the rental) when a pickup truck with four people and four dogs pulled up and watched us clearing the glass away. They never said a word, just watched us. That was creepy. When we got in the car to leave, they drove off and George took a photo of the truck. As I was pulling out, they pulled in next to us and said, “We saw you take a photo of this truck. Delete it now.”  It had a bit of a threatening tone to the demand. I said, we thought they might have some idea who did this and could help when we made the police report. They said they had no idea, but that it happens all the time to tourists and that we should be more careful. (They had a point there) I asked where the closest police station was, they said Lahaina, so we drove back to our condo so I could cancel all my cards, then we went to the police. They were very nice but I don’t have much hope anything will get recovered. Then we headed back to the airport to get a different car. Fortunately they had a copy of my license and that along with the police report is sufficient to drive here. It seems they have experience with this. 

The car was a thief magnet. When I was reserving a car I put in for the usual compact, cheapest thing they had. But then I saw that a convertible was only slightly more expensive ($3) so thought, what the heck? We’ll be on sunny Maui, why not treat ourselves and ride around in style? Top down, sunglasses on, hair blowing in the breeze, smiles on our tanned faces as we enjoy our romantic reunion. Well, that was a total bust. Another dumb idea. George burns easily and it was too much sun. And we looked like privileged tourists who are stupid enough to leave a bag visible while hiking in a remote place. Ugh. Live and learn. We didn’t leave the car again unless it was in a crowded place.

So there was that. The people at the rental car place were very nice though.

The wedding was beautiful. Picture perfect, loving, and fun. It was a beachy crowd who’d been surfing and snorkeling and taking advantage of the surroundings. People were in good moods and enjoying themselves. After the morning-after brunch people were setting off for their individual plans. We were going camping. We love to camp and the photos of the place with tents on the beach looked perfect. I found it on booking.com so didn’t have a doubt that it was legitimate. Well, I was wrong again. No such place exists, and they’d already charged my (now defunct) credit card. We spent several hours trying to find the place and contact the property when the address seemed wrong. Finally we had to admit it was a scam after inquiring at neighboring places. They told us nothing like this exists. So it was a sheepish call to my Samoan friends asking if we could come back there for a couple of nights. Everything else was full. They were wonderful and gracious and it was fun to be with them. A minor shift in expectations was all it took to salvage what was left of the trip together. We started driving with them up to the Haleakala Crater with bikes in the back of the truck. A really cool thing to do is drive up and ride bikes down (36 miles). Tour companies charge loads of bucks to do this, but here we were with friends arranging it for us for free! Then the truck overheated and we couldn’t make it up the road to the top. We spent the next few hours getting the truck back down to their house, reorganizing and shifting plans for a hike instead of a ride and went back up in the rental car. We were starting to feel like people should avoid us as we were jinxing everything we came in touch with. Fortunately the wedding was not affected through there was a rain shower that might not have happened if we weren’t there. 

Being here has made me think about American colonialism. These islands are so dramatically beautiful and rich but so much of the landscape is scarred with condos and strip malls and traffic. It depresses me.  I feel like we’ve destroyed this place. Parts are protected, thank God, but it does seem smothered by greed and a disappearing ecosystem. Getting robbed seems to have darkened my mood though part of me feels it was justified somehow. There’s a huge glaring line between the haves and have nots. I wish I had my journal back though. I’m imagining it held the best stories ever written. I wonder if anyone is reading it or if they just threw it all away and took the cash. I had about ten more pages to fill and thought I’d do that on this trip. Oh well. 

Never a cross without a resurrection. That’s what Irene, the woman I worked for in the tailor shop in Maynard used to say whenever anything bad happened. She was the most positive person I’ve ever met and one who’d suffered many crosses. As a high school student I loved this optimistic view she had. I’d used it as a mantra in life when things went wrong. It was rather zen in her Catholic way. 

Happy Easter.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning ~ Napili, Maui

Sunday Morning ~ Napili, Maui

Caona mwana tola; ukulu nkuona kako. ~ What the child has seen, pick it up. Being mature is to find your own.

~ Chewa proverb

April 14, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I left snowy Maine on a day well into spring, when the forsythia should have been on the brink of blooming. Instead, I was thankful I hadn’t had my snow tires removed. The timing fell into place for this trip: friends needed a place to stay while their house renovation finished and my cat needed to be fed. So that worked. Also, a friend from Maynard, my hometown, lost his mother and the wake was the evening before I left from Boston. It meant seeing him after thirty five years. It also meant I could see Kathy, who was flying in from Tennessee, as well as other high school friends I’ve stayed connected with, a few from the group we’ve named “Bar Harbor Girls” stemming from the annual reunions at my house. 

I collected Kathy at the airport in Boston and we headed for our hometown, stopping for lunch  at The 99, a restaurant located where the only Chinese restaurant used to be when we were kids. We used to go there with her older sister after riding around for no purpose I can recall. We’d share a Pu Pu Platter–– a variety of appetizers covered in sweet and sour sauce. Those outings seemed dangerous and exciting. I always had to sneak to go and lie about it afterward. I never brought my chopsticks home. Sometimes her sister would pay, sometimes I’d chip in from my babysitting or paper route money. If I said I had no money and couldn’t go, they paid for me. I think I owe them. Kathy and I sat in our booth being silly, our white hair disappearing in the memories. We were the two young girls sitting in the same spot over half a century ago. It’s a nice feeling to think you stayed friends forever, just like you promised each other at eleven years old. Good for us! That’s follow through. That’s commitment. 

We went from there to Maynard where the wake was being held at a funeral home just down the street from the childhood home of the bereaved. On our way through town we drove by Kathy’s old house. I’d loved going over there. I loved her parents. They were funny. Well, the whole family was funny and I marveled at this. They spent a lot of time laughing. That didn’t happen in my house. Not much was funny in my house, in fact one time when my sister and I were laughing in the kitchen we got punished for disturbing some ballgame on TV. Kathy’s family were kind to each other. They treated me like one of them.  All that came flooding back as we drove by. We went up the hill and turned right which brought us to Waltham street and the house I moved into when I was three weeks old. Kathy hadn’t known I lived there. Yup, the first house my parents rented in Maynard. I lived there until a few months before my fourth birthday. Russo’s restaurant was a few doors down and the head chef and his wife Mary lived across the street. It is a busy street (for Maynard) and I remember standing outside my house yelling, “MAAREEE!” so that Mary would come outside and tell me it was ok to cross. Then I’d go to her house where she would pay attention to me and give me treats. I have no recollection of telling my mother where I was going and don’t know if she even looked for me. I was three. The restaurant is gone now, large apartment buildings have grown in the empty spot and Kathy gasped when she saw this. We recalled that the mom we were going to pay respects to worked at that restaurant for years. I remember Christmas caroling as kids and going there to sing for the patrons. This lovely woman somehow got us all in to sit in booths together. We were served hot chocolate and sandwiches and didn’t have to pay! (I was always worried about paying.) I don’t know if a customer paid the bill, Joey’s mom did, or the restaurant just comped it, but it is a sweet childhood memory. We drove across town to my old house, passing the junior high school where Kathy and I became best friends. (When Beth, my bestie from the dawn of friendship, moved to Sudbury I was crushed and needed someone to fill the void.) We passed the spot we considered halfway where we’d meet to execute our plans. It was a sacred spot and used in any kind of emergency. If we had something important to tell, like so and so liked so and so, we’d call and say, “Meetcha halfway.” and that was it. Hang up the phone and run to the streetlight. No questions asked. 

The driveway at my old house looks so small. I thought it was huge as a kid when we had to shovel it. In reality, it’s smaller than my front walk at my current house. The street looks so small, just six houses and a dead end. A very sweet tree-lined street that looks like a park. I’ve always been sorry my mother sold that house (for nothing) but none of us wanted to live there, and it was her decision to make. Her children weren’t around to help her care for it. Now it makes sense, but it was a nice house with good bones and is probably worth a fortune now. Yes, there are a lot of unhappy memories there but there are happy ones, too, and just the familiarity of it was comforting.

 I was nervous as we approached the funeral home. “What if I don’t recognize anyone?” I asked Kathy. She said Joey was worried about the same thing with people coming through the receiving line. She said she’d have to be like the guy on VEEP, whispering into the ear of the VP names of people she’s about to greet. Then I thought, “What if no one recognizes me?” and at that very instant, the older gentleman directing us in the parking lot asked who we were. I held out my hand and said, “Linda Robinson, I used to be Linda Orsi?” I said it like a question. He instantly recognized the former name and said, “Oh yeah! Richard’s sister?” then the addendum, “Pete, too. Didn’t you have a brother Pete?” Yup, that’s me, some things never change. My existence in this town identified by my brothers or my father, a big reason I wanted to get away. We entered and recognized no one but the family, who are beautiful and gracious and what I am describing as “just the same only older”. Of course there are wrinkles and grey in the hair, but the same. Really, the smiles, the dimples, the voices, it was all like being wrapped in a warm blanket. Friends from my youth arrived and I always felt they saved me. In reality, there were many saviors along the way and at the bar later in the evening we sat around the high top identifying our personal Jesus. We talked about ways we were valued by some, traumatized by others, and how if we judged our school by today’s standard, half the teachers would be instantly fired or arrested. Yet, we all sat there, responsible and successful adults, grateful for the bond we shared and knowing it was special and unique. Many of us had to grow up too soon; there was loads of family dysfunction, which again, by today’s standards would have us in foster care, but somehow we came through it. I didn’t want to leave them. I had an early flight, needed to be up by three and still had a drive to get to Zack’s. I felt the sleepless night before a twenty four hour trip would be worth it, I was so grateful to be there. Grateful for the small town that is so much part of me. Grateful for the friends I made there and the bond we share from experiencing that existence together. 

And now I sit on this balcony facing the Pacific Ocean with George typing beside me about his own experiences. We’re on Maui for a reunion with each other and the wedding of my nephew (Rich’s son). We met up with them when we arrived and I told Rich about the comments in the parking lot. He laughed. His wife laughed. I laughed. We walked the beach together. We hiked  an old trail up one of the mountains then lunched together before George and I took off in our VW convertible for a few days alone before the wedding. Rich has done well as everyone expected, but so have I. We’ve matured and found our own.

Love to all,

Linda

Sunday Morning~ The Second Stick

Sunday Morning ~ The Second Stick

Nkhuni imodzi silipsetsa mphika ~ One stick of wood does not heat the pot.

~ Chewa proverb

April 7, 2019

Hi Everyone,

When I got back from Congo, my friend Mary told me she had gotten really angry with me when she read one of my Sunday letters. It was sweet, really. She was angry with me because she was worried about my safety and I was touched. It also made me think about my writing and how I express my thought process and situation. The letter she referred to described my vacation from Congo to Malawi. I was traveling alone and had taken a bus from Lusaka, Zambia to Chapata on the Malawi border. The bus arrived six hours later than scheduled well after dark, and in a terrible part of the city. I’d thought I’d arrive in the afternoon and find a place to stay, but it was pitch dark and drunken voices were coming out of every bar within spitting distance. Bus stations are never in a quiet boring part of town. I had to find accommodation and was afraid to get off the bus. I knew I was a vulnerable target: woman traveling alone, all her possessions on her back, looking confused and lost in a rough part of town. It took less than a second to admit to myself I needed help. As we debarked, in my confused anxiety, I turned to the man who’d been sitting next to me for the past eleven hours and was honest. I said, “Excuse me, I’m scared. I need to find a place to stay and I have no idea how to find a safe ride. Can you help me?”  We had barely spoken on the bus ride. He was reading his bible and I was reading my novel. I had no idea if he was returning to family, on a business trip, or relocating. Aside from a few pleasantries on the bus, we didn’t converse at all. He could have been an ax murderer for all I knew, but I needed help, and I was lucky. Without saying a word, he walked over to a bunch of dilapidated cars sitting in what looked like a junk lot. It was a taxi stand. He spoke Chewa to one of the drivers and told me to get in. I had no idea what they’d said but I was relieved to be off the street. I didn’t hesitate, but got in the back and hoped this was all legitimate. He got in as well, apparently coming along. I realized I had little Zambian cash, not enough to pay for a taxi and a night in a guest house. I’d thought I’d arrive in time to go to a bank. So I had to ask them to stop at an ATM so I could get some cash. Another thing I knew was stupid and risky, but I had to pay them! So there I was, alone in a taxi with two strange men, getting cash. I must have been putting lots of cues together to feel like this was ok: their demeanor, the bible, and other social cues must have told me this was safe, safer, anyway, than wandering around trying to find the road out of there and walking in pitch dark toward an unknown location. They waited while I got some cash (the ATM worked, praise Jesus), got back in the car, and deposited me at a guesthouse. They didn’t wait to see if there was an available room, but I was so utterly grateful to be brought to a place that had a light on inside, that I heaped thanks upon them, paid double what he asked for a fare, and added a little more for him to drive the other guy to wherever he needed to go. Was that risky and stupid? Maybe. But at the time, it seemed like the safest option. 

I often resist asking for help. There has been this survivalist in me for as long as I can remember, that has a voice repeating, “You can do it yourself.” I rarely ask for directions, but wander around until I find what I’m looking for. There is some merit to this personality trait. I’ve learned lots of different skills, though I must admit, YouTube now takes some of the sport out of it. I’ve discovered sweet little restaurants and shops while completely lost and wandering. There are times, though, when I need another stick to make that pot boil and though it may take some periods of hunger before I’ll admit that, there’s another survivalist in there that says, “Ask.” 

I’m honored and grateful when someone asks me for help. I feel like it’s balancing out all the times I’ve desperately needed it from others. I’d like to think there is a safe harbor here for others as there was for me that night in the bus station. 

I guess I’m feeling this deeply right now. I think of how I chose what I felt was the safest option, even though it sounds insanely dangerous. I think of vulnerable populations in our country, reaching out for help in our medical system, knowing it is going to be frightening and judgemental. They know they may receive poor care at huge expense and, already beaten down, do it, because it’s the safer option. I think of what it must be like for families to walk hundreds of miles with small children and no food to a strange country, knowing they will face hostility, but know it’s the safer option. I know we can do better than this, but when I get overwhelmed at the unfairness of it all, I try to reel it in and think of that man on the bus, who didn’t hesitate when I asked for help. If we all could be the second stick of wood once in awhile…it’s the thought that keeps me from despair.

Love to all,

Linda