That summer changed my life…literally. Living with this family gave me the opportunity to learn the REAL Hawaii. I learned to sing Hawaiian songs, learned to surf in the waves across the street. I learned to play the ukulele. Because horses were part of the family, I was able to accompany the eldest son on his tour guide treks to Waimea Falls. I attended rodeos, gained an appreciation for pidgin language, kiho’alu guitar and hula. When I think back to 50 years ago I realize how blessed I was. If I had been 18 and stayed in a hotel for a week or two in Waikiki, I would’ve loved the adventure, but I would have seen Hawai’i through the eyes of a tourist instead of a family member. I might have gone back home and never given Hawai’i another thought other than seeing the photo memories of a fun vacation. But, instead, I went back home and announced that I was leaving for Hawai’i as soon as I turned 18.
As providence would have it, pieces fell together to enable me to do just that. After a near death illness, my father retired and after hearing me talk about the islands for several months decided to sell our home, buy a sailboat and sail to Hawai’i. And, that in itself is another story.