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When we arrived at the secluded, run-down looking beach house, it was just about the opposite of paradise. The cracked and peeling chalk white paint, the jungle of palm trees and overgrown greenery surrounding the perimeter, and the mold that encrusted all the windows. This was to be our luxurious resort for the next two weeks in O’ahu, Hawaii. My grandparents had both grown up in Hawaii but on two different islands. Grandma was a native to Maui and grandpa was particularly native to this small countryside area of Laie, O’ahu. My grandma went straight to tidying the place, broom in hand and wipes galore, muttering small comments of distaste in the upkeep of the place. The rest of the family was in a bit of havoc as new types of bugs kept appearing around every corner, including some nasty cockroaches lurking behind the bed. My mom got the most “pleasant” surprise of finding a faded yellow stain on her pillow case.
The only person who was yet to be bothered was my grandpa. I watched as he gave the place further inspection and, with a carefree shrug, stated,
“This is country life.”
Living in this rural part of O’ahu seemed to open up my city eyes to more and more changes each day. More and more I felt certain one day I would wake up to find the silhouette of a wild gecko upon my face (just like I had found one eyeing me in the shower). Sand was blanketed in places I would never have wanted sand to be, and attire within the house was swimsuit casual. We even had a clothesline outside to dry our clothes the “old-fashioned” way. The beach was quite literally in our backyard so if time became a bit slow, well, we could just walk outside to enjoy the foamy waves or attempt to create a pit big enough for a human sand crab. We lived as locals, not exactly tourists. My grandpa, always a homebody, was most content with staying within the countryside boundaries and away from the bustling noise of Honolulu (a part of O’ahu similar to LA). And so I became accustomed to Papa Ole’s (equivalent to Hawaiian fast food), Tamura’s grocery runs, and Kahuku Farms kale smoothies and eggplant pizza.
Despite the new adjustments, I realized there were some things that could never be recreated in a city atmosphere. The unkept palm trees and shrubbery became a kingdom fit for the imaginative boys to explore and conquer. The beach became our source of exercise in the mornings, a natural treadmill that would compensate for the haupia (coconut) cakes, kalua pork, and mac salad consumed almost daily. Possibly the most memorable incident would have to be the sighting of two manta rays riding the inside of the shallow waves. The miraculous “manta ray experience” was shared between my grandpa and I, we were the first to spot them and the first to share the awe and excitement in a viewing that could have easily been missed.
Many people imagine O’ahu as a touristy paradise, an aquamarine dream complete with pristine beaches and plastic lei’s. But the O’ahu I’ll always remember will be the one with sunsets on weathered monobloc chairs, roaming wild chickens, and dirt roads astrewn with fruit strands.