Eight Degrees of Contact…

Home, neighborhood, town, county, island, state, America, World

I remember when it was popular to track you six degrees of whatever it was called. Recently I’ve been thinking of all the ways we come together though apart in this health crisis and politically charged atmosphere. My eight degrees starts with my home. It’s been terribly neglected as of late. I can’t seem to muster up the enthusiasm to even mow my grass or pull my weeds. I do love my little cottage but it’s beginning to feel like I’m living in the jungle that is closing in a little closer daily. So, I’m venturing out a bit more. I’ve discovered in my neighborhood we have had several street-side fruit and vegetable stands pop up. We also have a couple who sells homemade kettle cooked bagels, a man who sells papayas with a money slot for trusted buyers. We have a woman who sells fresh raw honey and a fisherman who sells fresh ahi. I do try and buy from as many as I can. We also have a home who has set up a roadside pantry. People can drop off goods and take an item or two as they need. It’s nothing short of a miracle how we find ways to support one another.

My towns of Kea’au, Pāhoa and Hilo are slowly opening up. Many of the stores are open for business with protocols of safety to follow, but welcoming. Every other week I dance hula on the sidewalk of Downtown Hilo to promote the opening of the stores, restaurants, gift shops. Dancing hula in the heat, wearing long dresses and a mask is an experience I’ve not had the pleasure of having before.

We should call ourselves the Hula Bandits! But, we are setting an example for the community to follow.

Our county and island has been suffering lately with an increase of COVID19 cases as residents become more complacent and start to relax the mandated masks, distancing etc. We have had 47 deaths all within just a couple of weeks. We seemed to have gone from 0 to 47 incredibly fast. Many were at care homes where we spent so much time entertaining guests in what seems like years ago instead of months. The Kona side of the island has had a recent increase at a college on that side. Unfortunately, this age group does not adhere well to rules. On October 15th our islands were opened up for the return of tourism. This gives me a feeling of both relief and dread. I loved dancing at the pier for passengers of huge ships and at the Mo’oheau Bandstand for those who venture into town. But, with an influx of outsiders, there will undoubtedly be an increase in CV cases. Some of the public schools are also slated to open soon as well. I’m willing to wait for a return to our everyday lives, but with so many businesses depending on tourism I can’t help but feel we need to at least try for some semblance of normalcy. I am back to my hula class. After 7 months of no structured classes, it’s such a blessing to be able to dance together once more. We have very strict regulations. Each enters with a temperature test and hand sanitizing, masked. We go immediately to our designated marked off six foot square. We are allowed one bag for our water and car keys which is set in the corner of the square. I feel safe and I’m more than happy to adhere to the safety instructions. My line dance class was cancelled until January, but a few of us get together at one house or another, wear our masks and distancing ourselves. It’s not quite as formal as my hula class, but so far there haven’t been any problems.

The state of Hawai’i, especially the island of O’ahu has had a 10,000 a day tourist influx. Everyone arriving is suppose to have a negative CV19 test within 72 hours and a second test locally if going to an outer island. 114 of those arrived without a test and were immediately quarantined until cleared. Why would someone arrive without the test only to be stuck in a facility for three or four days of their vacation? I don’t comprehend this. Until recently there was a mandatory 14 day quarantine for any arrivals. We had people arriving knowing of this and were remanded to their hotel or vacation rental. Many tried to skip out and were caught and sent back home. Why come? We, at the time, were essentially closed and not ready for visitors.

I feel lucky not to be living on the Mainland. Our problems are mostly local issues. We haven’t been subjected to rioting, armed militia. Our marches for Black Lives Matter, or for presidential candidates have been peaceful events. We have such a diverse population. On our islands we have Hawaiians, haole (White Americans), Black Americans, Asians, Indians, from both America and India, Polynesians, Micronesians, Samoans, Fijians, Europeans and I’m sure a ton of others. For as long as I can remember we have been a Democratic state. I have Republican friends with whom I have heated conversations on social media, but we keep our friendship free of politics when face to face. We have all learned to live together in relative harmony.

To me, our country feels so divided. We need to take time to heal. Because I have been a Democrat my entire life, though I have to admit I’ve crossed party lines occasionally, I fear our country has taken a turn for the worst. In my lifetime regardless of who is President of the United States, my own life changed little. But, this time it feels different. I worry that social programs that I depend on like Social Security will be cut, Medicare will be cut, Medicaid will be cut that many others depend on. My sons no longer want to bring children into this world so I will never have the joy of being a Grandma. I’ve seen so many good regulations cut or gutted, EPA, CDC, Osha. Policies that protected us. Climate Crisis denial while California, Colorado burn, Louisiana struggles through another hurricane while still suffering from the previous one. Drought in some areas, floods in others. We need to come together and put our country back together.

The world. We are no longer looked upon as the most respected country in the world. We are no longer welcome in many countries due to our response to the CV19 crisis. We seem to have alienated many of our allies. But, we will survive, grow again in stature and strive to assure our place in the world.

These eight degrees of contact bring us together in unexpected ways. It is our responsibility, our kuleana, to nurtured these contacts to bring about peace and pride.