Sunday Morning 4/19/2020: Social Isolation

Friday’s sunset from the front door

This past Thursday was the first day since we arrived on Kaua’i that we did not have to go anywhere or do anything associated with relocation nor did we have to interact with anyone else. After all the energy and effort this move has required, it’s been nicer than we imagined to have some time to ourselves – we’ve slept in, and relaxed and read during the day (YaYu is already bored though). There are still things that need to be taken care of, but the big stuff is done and we can finally step back and just fully enjoy being home.

For a few days last week though we began to wonder if we had made a mistake renting this place as our neighbors to the front and upstairs were being very noisy. It started with heavy footsteps upstairs all day and well into the night, but on Sunday and Tuesday nights they partied until the wee hours of the morning, playing loud music, talking loudly, clumping around, and so forth. On Wednesday afternoon though Brett got a chance to talk with them and mentioned the noise. They all apologized profusely and said they would be more careful, and they have been. It turns out they all work together at the Grand Hyatt and are all currently laid off – our landlord, their employer, has provided housing for them here. One of our neighbors is the executive chef at one of the restaurants while another is the general manager for the hotel’s restaurants, and the third guy is in charge of all entertainment at the hotel! They told Brett they hoped all of us could get together one of these days and have a barbecue and get to know each other better – we’re up for that! The two guys who live in front of us also asked us to please use their new, fancy washer and dryer from now on to do our laundry until ours arrive, rather than pay to use a laundromat.

In the short time we’ve been in the apartment, Brett, YaYu, and I have each been able to carve out our own space, and we try to be respectful of each others’ schedules. All of us are enjoying the deck and being able to be outside to read and relax or work on our tans so we’re not so pasty – the chairs and umbrella were very worthwhile purchases. I’m sleeping better than I have in a long time, and YaYu says the sofa is very comfortable for sleeping too. We’ve got the kitchen figured out and even the little bar sink no longer bothers us. I’m looking forward now to getting our storage shipment over here and really settling in, although that effort is just getting started.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I had another book come off of hold from the library, so I’m now reading Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter during the day, and continuing with The Splendid and the Vile at night.
  • Listening to: It’s a pretty quiet morning all around. YaYu is still sleeping and Brett is reading so it’s quiet inside. Our upstairs neighbor just ran his vacuum cleaner but that didn’t last long thankfully. It’s pretty quiet outside as well – just a quiet breeze this morning, some birds singing, and no chickens or roosters. Considering that our current location is far more rural than where we lived before, we’re sort amazed how much quieter it is. We thought we’d be overrun by poultry here, but that isn’t the case at all. There are fewer dogs barking too.
  • Watching: YaYu and I finished up Season 13 of Top Chef – our favorite chef came in second but the chef that won deserved it. Brett and I are now watching Shetland via our BritBox subscription.
  • Cooking/baking: We are making real progress in opening up space in the refrigerator and will continue to work on using up more of the food we still have on hand this week. YaYu is making oyakodon tonight for our dinner which we’ll have with rice and cucumbers. We won’t be getting a CSA bag this week and will stop at a nearby farm stand instead and see what they have for sale – we decided we’d rather pick our own produce than have it chosen for us. Also on the menu this week will be pork and vegetable stir fry; tofu curry with steamed rice; breakfast for dinner (pancakes); and BLT sandwiches and chips. We may try and make a Thai chicken pizza as well but that will depend on whether we can find some smaller sheet pans – the standard one we bought is too big for our small apartment-size oven (and is now holding overflow items under the bathroom sink).
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: For the first time in forty years, I made rice in a saucepan. Seriously, I’ve never used anything but a rice cooker since we first went to Japan in 1980, so I count making perfect Japanese sticky rice on the stovetop (the first electric stove I’ve cooked on in nearly 30 years) a genuine accomplishment. We contacted Royal Hawaiian to get the ball rolling on getting our stuff back over here but that’s going slowly – we’re still waiting on a callback from them. Our bed frame arrived on Tuesday (two days earlier than expected) and Brett got that assembled. While it’s wonderful to be off the floor, the bed is now higher than I’m used to although I’m getting used to it. Brett has continued to break down cardboard and recycle it as packages trickle in from Amazon, and the UPS store in Lihue took all of the styrofoam we’ve accumulated as well so that isn’t building up around the apartment.
    Assembling things is one of Brett’s happy places – he’s exceptionally good at it.
    Can you see how high the bed is? The frame is 18 inches high versus the standard 14 inches.
  • Looking forward to next week: Our new washer and dryer are scheduled to be delivered and set up on Thursday – YEAH! Our landlord said we might get just a 15-minute warning that it’s coming, but we’re not going anywhere so that’s OK. Tuesday will be Brett’s 70th birthday and we’ll have a small celebration for him that evening which will include coconut cake, one of his favorites (store-bought from Pepperidge Farm though as our cake pans are still in storage). We’re hoping to get down to Poipu again for some exercise and to view the sunset at least a couple of times next week as well.
    I have needed this little shelf on my counter my whole life and didn’t know it.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The things that came in from Amazon this past week, including the bed frame, have made things a lot more comfortable around here. We now have nice, cushy cotton bathroom rugs, our bottles of cooking oils and spices are organized on the counter; and plenty of Mrs. Meyer’s liquid hand soap on hand (we’ve been unable to find liquid soap at any store on the island). It’s been fun having a package arrive almost daily.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We received full credit for the Alaska Airlines tickets we purchased back in February (they were sadly not eligible for a refund). The credit is good for any future ticket and will cover the cost of getting YaYu back to Pennsylvania in the fall, with some leftover to help with getting her back here for Christmas as well. I got an email yesterday evening from Aeromexico that our flight had been canceled and that we now had an open ticket that can be used on any Aeromexico flight in the future through March of 2021. Brett and I won’t be able to use it so I am going to call and see if I can get a refund although that wasn’t offered. We spent very little this week – I ordered some summer pajamas (all I have now are the winter-weight ones I traveled with and they are getting to be too warm) and a couple of other small things for the house (cleats for window shade cords and a tray for the refrigerator to corral the bottles of sauces and condiments). YaYu got a further refund from Bryn Mawr and put it into her savings account for next year. Our stimulus money arrived the first day it was available, and is sitting in the bank – it will go toward covering the cost of getting our shipment over here. We’re using up what we have already bought and didn’t buy any additional food this week. Sadly though we had to throw out a few things from the fridge – some produce and a package of tofu froze because there was too much stuff in there. Another non-frugal thing that happened was a trip to the laundromat down in Eleele – it cost $12.75 to do three loads of laundry so we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our own washer and dryer, and are grateful for the offer to use the neighbors’ appliances in the meantime.
  • Grateful for: As we hear more and more about possible disruptions to the food supply chain, we are grateful to be on Kaua’i. The island abounds with small farms and ranches, and with restaurants closed there is plenty of affordable produce available – farm stands are all over the place. Fresh fish is also easy to find, and because beef and other proteins (pork and lamb) are also raised on the island these are currently more available as well to the public for purchase. We continue to pick up toilet paper and other scarce items when we see them so have a good supply on hand. If things get dicey, we will be OK here for the long haul.
    A simple gyotaku print (not the one I did). Creating one of these isn’t as easy as it may look, but I had fun doing it and was happy with the result.
  • Bonus question: What are you looking forward to the most to having back out of storage? I’m especially looking forward to having our art back with us again – they are the things that will truly make this place feel like home again. We used to carry a LOT of pictures around with us during our time in the navy and in Portland, and our walls were covered with them, mostly Japanese and Chinese prints that we accumulated during our tours in Japan, but we gave away several pieces to friends and sent other pieces to auction when we left Portland in 2014 (and did rather well with that). We kept only the pieces that were deeply meaningful to us. Those include an antique hand-carved six-foot ranma (wooden transom) and an old hand-painted fabric Children’s Day banner; four prints from old Japanese books I acquired in Kyoto when I was 18; an early 19th century Japanese woodblock print by Kunisada; a woodblock print by contemporary artist Katsuyuki Nishijma of a street we walked down several times during our years in Japan; a gyotaku print I made (using a tilapia as the printing plate); the map of Tokyo’s subway and train system I carried everywhere with me from 1989 to 1992, complete with worn creases, and had framed; and a wonderful chart given to Brett by renowned information designer Eduard Tufte, of Napolean’s march to and retreat from Russia. We also kept four pictures/photos of special memories from previous travels and a woodblock print of The Princess and the Pea that hung in my mother’s home. Again, it sounds like a lot, but when spread around the apartment it will be just enough – I can already see where everything will go. I’ve missed all of it and can’t wait to see everything again.
We have barely made a dent in the KitKats. They’ve all been very good.

In the Before Time, we would have been departing Japan and on our way to Mexico today. Even after nearly a month since we left, it’s still difficult for me to look at pictures from our time in Japan. We really didn’t want to leave, and even in hindsight I sometimes wonder what might have happened if we had stayed. I know now that leaving certainly would have been far more difficult if we had delayed our departure by even a week and life there would be difficult if we had gotten caught up in the current lockdown. But, we didn’t delay, we came back to beautiful Kaua’i and now it’s time to reset our lives and get on with it. I’m thankful for all those KitKats we brought back – they make each day here a little sweeter and help bring back happy memories of our time in Japan.

Once again, I hope that you and yours are staying safe and healthy, and finding things to do and ways to stay connected with others. We are all definitely living in “interesting” times!

23 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 4/19/2020: Social Isolation

  1. Hi Laura, Please note that all tickets that were cancelled by the airlines are eligible for refund versus credit. They will not offer it but they HAVE to give it to you if requested. Just keep asking for a higher up if they don’t give you a refund. It is per the Dept of Transportation, we got full refunds on our “non-refundable” Air New Zealand flights last week, it just took some time to get through but once we did, they immediately did it once we asked. Cheers!


  2. Do you follow “The Points Guy”? He is a plethora of information for flights/travel rules/etc. I got my initial info from him and did some digging and so had the info to counteract any resistance to the refunds but I was given them right away.


  3. I like to compete with you on the monthly spending, I always lose. . We charge everything for daily living on our Mastercard. Any online purchases and prescriptions go on Mastercard as well. I keep a tally in pocket calendar and was shocked that this month our balance is $811. My “month” is from the 19th to the 19th. Mastercard gets paid in full every month. Our low spending will help recoup some of the money we spent for the Subaru. (paid in full) Still waiting for the stimulus checks. Ha! So what are your impressions of life on the south shore?


    1. I am so sorry we didn’t get a chance to sit six feet away from each other and visit before we moved. We were so busy our last two weeks getting this place ready for move in.

      So far we love it here. Princeville was beautiful, but too far away from things for us. Here we’re out in the country and yet just 15 minutes from Costco and Lihue. It’s also quieter and breezier than what we experienced in Kapaa, at least so far. We’re not too far from Poipu, and it’s lovely now without all the tourists. The apartment is perfect for us, and for the cost nicer than anything we could have found on the east side or up north. BTW, our crazy former landlord has our old place for rent again and is still asking way too much – in this market he will probably have a difficult time finding a tenant.

      We charge our Amazon purchases but pay them off each month (and pocket the rewards on the card). Food shopping has been nuts though – no sales on anything, and the prices drain our account pretty quickly. We were shocked our stimulus check arrived so fast, but Brett also had our taxes done early this year.

      Once things relax here a bit more (although the powers that be seem just keep tightening things up) we head back up for a good long visit so you and I can set the world straight!


  4. We agree with you on art. I have something from my grandmother that traveled in my suitcase every time we moved. Once it was up, my kids called the place home. We even got the Marriott to hang it for us when we lived there for nine weeks.
    My dil didn’t understand art over furniture. Their family is starting their sixth move. Their oldest (7) called for consultation on which piece she needed to bring in her suitcase.
    Welcome home Laura!


    1. We got rid of so many pieces of art before we moved over here . . . and I haven’t missed any of them. They were beautiful, and some of them were valuable, but none of them had a hold on my heart like the pieces we’ve kept.

      Not art, but our big Imari hibachi is the piece I can’t wait to see it. We bought in during our first tour to Japan, in 1981, and this next trip will mark its sixth trip across the Pacific. We hope it makes it one last time – it’s irreplaceable and the piece that makes any place “home.”


  5. Re the bed: it may take some letting used to but my nurse and OT both say it is better to feel.a little high getting into bed because then it is on the perfect knee angle getting out. I agree now but it took me awhile to get there.


    1. This was the reason we chose the higher frame, especially Brett, as it’s easier to get out of on his joints (me too). I’m still not entirely used to it, but I will. The mattress is very comfortable – I have yet to wake up with a backache like in the past.


  6. First of all, Happy Birthday to Brett! The milestones always make us take stock. Sounds like things are settling in for you, and I’m envious that he’s in shorts and bare feet. 🙂

    In the Before Time. What a great way to describe it. It’s like we’re living in a strange place, suspended in time and not sure what’s next. I keep working at gratitude for what we have and our health. From time to time, I worry about each of my kids, but they all seem to be holding up and hanging in there.

    We got our stimulus deposits the first day they were available, and I think it’s because I did our taxes early. And we have heard rumors of food shortages but haven’t personally encountered them.

    FWIW, my DD in England works in data analysis and a co-worker of hers is researching models for Covid. Where there are connected boundaries (Europe, the US states) if we don’t have cooperation in tamping this down, they are showing 2-4 more spikes before a vaccine can be developed. I’m not sure what people don’t understand about this, but anyone who knows the basics of epidemiology can figure it out. I think you are in a good place with the food sources there, etc. We live near a lot of farming and I know could buy beef, chicken, eggs, etc., nearby if I needed to. And our produce season is close to starting. 🙂


    1. LIke you, we are most grateful for our health and for what we have. We landed in a very beautiful place, and we seem to have ended up with a very nice place to live as well. But who knows what the future will bring? I am frankly terrified of the island (and state) opening itself for business and then having the virus arrive in force – it would devastate a place like Kaua’i, with its one hospital. I honestly believe it is going to spike again, and these people out demanding we “open things back up” are frankly nuts. They will be the first to complain about the lack of supplies, testing, etc. if they catch the virus too.

      I saw the phrase “The Before Time” somewhere and thought how perfectly it encapsulated what we are going through now. EVERYTHING is different, and no one knows now what will stay different, and what will or can go back to what it was before, if ever.

      I worry about the kids too, especially Meiling and her boyfriend in NY, but they only go out once a week for food. So far they are doing well. WenYu is too. YaYu is already bored here, but all I have to say about that is “deal with it, Sweetie – everyone else is.”

      I hate that Brett doesn’t look 70. He got the good genes. Me, not so much. It looks like our son may have gotten the good genes as well – time will tell.


  7. What a gorgeous sunset! I love the bed. I always read with interest your spices and food. It sounds so good! We are under a tornado watch again and my backyard looks like a lake but it is nowhere near as bad as last weekend.


    1. Heavens, you all need a break from the weather down there! I read an article this morning that the oceans are already hotten than usual, which means a higher risk of bad/strong storms this season. Great. Just what you need after all this other stuff we’re going through.

      The sunsets have been an added benefit of living in this house – we get a lovely view to the west over the fence out back, and it’s a short drive down to Poipu, known around here for great sunsets. One day we plan to drive out to the far west, to Barking Sands, and hopefully catch a good one out that way.

      We like Asian food, but would probably be cooking less of it if not for YaYu – she loves it and it’s guaranteed to not contain lactose. Those red pepper flakes on the lower shelf are hers – she puts them on practically EVERYTHING!


  8. Hi, my mother fell Wednesday and busted her head and nose. Instead of calling 911 my father called me and I took her to the emergency room. They would not allow me into the hospital. I had to wait in my car outside until they called me to take her home. I now understand how everyone feels not able to visit their loved ones and this was a relatively short 2 hour time span. I really worry they are going to open everything too soon. They just opened Jacksonville beach and it was swamped with people, no social distancing at all.

    Your apartment is starting to look like a home and I love the sunset. I hope you will be able to get your shipment soon. Are you allowed outside for walks? Here everyone can walk and bicycles are considered an essential business so the stores are all open.

    Take care and Happy Birthday to Brett


    1. I hope your mom is feeling better now, Vivian. How sad though that you could not be with her, but unfortunately that is our new reality, and probably will be for a long while.

      I am flabbergasted that all these places are being reopened (and that so many crowded onto the beach). I wish people realized that they are only extending things by not being patient. I honestly think though most small businesses realize that most people will still stay away, and that it’s still not cost effective for them to open their businesses.

      I have to call Royal Hawaiian again today and see if I can get them moving on the shipment. I’m not sure where everything will go, but we’ll figure it out. The sunsets have been another hidden benefit of renting this place – we had no idea!

      You and your parents stay safe and healthy too!


  9. Would you mind adding the links to the things you bought on Amazon? Especially the counter holder and the bath mats. They seem to be the only company able to fulfill and deliver orders now in a timely manner. Thanks!


  10. L&B-
    Update from Japan. We got here in Kyoto about the time you left, March 16th. We decided not to evacuate when the airlines shutdown around April 3rd. We decided that we would extend our trip til the end of May. Our Airbnb gave us a great rate for the additional 6 weeks and our travel insurance was extended until September 30th. So we’re good. I just rebooked our fights today and the earliest we can book it was for June 1 and I’m not confident that will stand.

    So far no food shortages and life for us is pretty normal for our visit here. The son and DIL are still working out of the house and the granddaughter is going to school (grade K2 in an International school). Kyoto is not as locked down as Tokyo… yet. I figure what happened there was everybody got complacent and then went out and partied when the cherry blossoms hit.

    We figured we were better off here where we can help out vs sitting at home doing nothing. Irony is that there are about the same number of cases in Indiana as the are here (11,000) but with 20x the people here. The counties around Indianapolis have been hit hard as well. The death rate in Hamilton county is >5% (35 out of 600 cases) so we feel better being here. We were able to get prescriptions refilled at Costco using Japanese prescriptions so that got covered.

    You probably made the right choice in your situation to leave although they did extend all to visitors visas to for an additional 90 days. At least your daughter has a place to stay which must make you feel good. Enjoy and stay healthy and sane.



    1. Bob – glad to hear things are going well for you in Japan. We of course wish we had gotten to stay longer, but know now we left Tokyo at the right time (our son and DIL have backed this up). We probably would have been fine there, gotten an extension, etc. but our youngest would have had no place to go if we had not come back. We’re still settling in here, but glad to be back in Hawaii.

      We hope to go back in a couple of years – just hope flights are not unaffordable by then!! Hope the airlines are buying like mad now when fuel is cheap!

      Fingers crossed you’re able to return on time!


  11. Love your little spice rack for the counter. I use the lower shelf of a small upper cabinet to put all those kinds of things that I use often – oils, cooking spray, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, salt, etc. And I have space in a top drawer near the stove for my most-used spices. It’s so nice having things handy.


    1. I have always had a cabinet where I could store oils and spices, but have limited space in our new apartment kitchen so the little shelf is perfect, plus I’ve discovered I like having them organized and easily available without having to go into a cabinet! I used to have a cabinet filled with spices as well, but am going to be more judicious this time and only keep out the ones I use the most.


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