It's no question that Hawaii is beautiful. For anyone visiting, the general consensus is that it's paradise. As the days pass, you can't help but take for granted the scenery that once took your breath away when you first saw it. It's not that you forget to appreciate it, but when you see something every day you start to accept it as normal.
Like most pretty things, though, there are a few catches that exist to keep it from being completely perfect. Firstly, there are cockroaches. We hadn't seen any for a long time and then all of a sudden they started showing up everywhere. When I didn't find them scurrying across the floor or flipped on their backs, there were traces of them in places that you never want them to be, like silverware drawers. I spent hours disinfecting cutlery and drawers, and when I finally built up the nerve to put the silverware back in the drawer, only hours would pass before I'd find evidence that they'd been back again. This happened multiple times. I no longer use the drawer.
I made a hurried trip to the store to buy every trap available. If I knew the creature that took care of roaches in the animal chain, I'd introduce it into our home. Roaches are just a thing in Hawaii. If you look up moving to Hawaii, they talk about cockroaches. It's comforting, I guess, to think you're not alone. It's not just us. Solidarity. On the flip, it's not just us. That means they're literally everywhere.
There are other catches to living in paradise, too. The reality of living on an island is that you have a limited supply of things and a lot of people vying for them. If you don't buy certain things when they are in stock, you will find yourself waiting until the next shipment arrives. It could be a month. That's a long time to wait for Kit Kats. The candy aisle at Target is always empty. One day it's full again, and the next time you go it's empty. This is especially true for Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I think we now have four bags of them in our pantry, because I've realised the specific ones I buy sell out as soon as they arrive. That erratic behaviour, of course, perpetuates the problem. People panic, creating a buying frenzy, and then demand exceeds supply, which, in Hawaii can't be managed quickly because boats are slower than trucks. If an item happens to be on sale, you can guarantee the shelf will be empty ... for weeks.
The cost of everything is another catch. Every time I go to Whole Foods I spend $50 on a handful of things. It will be like vegan butter, fruit and a yogurt. $50. There are so many things I no longer buy. I rarely buy strawberries anymore, which used to be a staple for us. Now, they cost $6.99 for a container of non-organic ones, half of which has gone moldy before you get it home.
Speaking of mold, we recently carved jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. G recommended putting them outside so that we didn't attract bugs although I knew that would mean they would get eaten by greedy peacocks (and subsequently have the peacocks loitering around our front door, as though having them in our back yard every day isn't enough). I put them in the dining room to take a picture and actually forgot to take them outside. A day later they were full of mold. I picked them up to put them in the bin and they had already turned to soup, collapsing in my hands.
Apparently there are all kinds of pumpkin procuring techniques that people who grew up in Halloween-celebrating nations are aware of ... like submersing them in bleach to stave off rot ... but since I grew up in Australia where Halloween was just a movie and pumpkins were only for lamb roasts and scones, I had no such experience. In Maryland I was never faced with this issue since by the time we got around to carving pumpkins it was usually late October and heat was never a factor. Bleaching the pumpkins never occurred to me. In my defense, it didn't occur to G either.
Small things aside, the biggest catch for me is, by far, the vog. The word vog is a portmanteau of volcanic smog and maybe also fog, but it refers to the air pollution that occurs as a result of an erupting volcano's emissions combined with oxygen, moisture and sunshine, all of which are abundant in Hawaii. Kīlauea, an active volcano on the island of Hawai'i (also known as the Big Island), emits irritating sulfur dioxide, which drifts over to my house in Kailua and makes me sick. It makes L sick, too. Vog is supposedly not a huge issue on Oahu, but try telling that to my lungs. According to the Hawai'i State Department of Health, people with pre-existing respiratory conditions are more likely to suffer health effects from vog, which are: headaches, breathing difficulties, increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments, watery eyes, and sore throat. Check!
It's all okay though, because they have recommendations for managing the vog. To summarise, they suggest keeping your asthma medication stocked, having emergency or "evacuation medications" available, staying indoors, closing windows tightly, avoiding physical activity "such as walking", and drinking liquids. If that sounds tricky, imagine living on the Big Island where the advice to those poor folks is to wear a mask and "consider leaving the area". Well that's all very practical. when the vog is particularly bad I'll just evacuate to the nearest place ... Oh, what's that you say? The nearest place is another island? Also affected by vog? I see. Well, I'll just be inside in a bubble, drinking water with my mask on, looking at paradise as it happens outside. Sigh. At least I'm stocked up on chocolate chips.