You Can Go Home Again

My view from the sofa

I am happy these days. It’s not just a things are going well kind of happy either, but a deeply contented happiness that comes from realizing I’m living in the right place, right now.

I loved traveling and living on the road, and was happy then too. I loved not owning or wanting things other than the clothes in my suitcase, and waking up each day knowing there was going to be something new out there for Brett and I to discover and/or learn. I was crushed when it all suddenly had to come to an end.

We watch amazing sunsets right from our living room.

Contented and happy was not what I was feeling when we left Kaua’i in 2018, and neither of us was sure then whether we wanted to come back or not. When I reflect on that time though I now can see the reasons for our unhappiness. We were miserable in the place we were living. Our landlord was a jerk and getting weirder by the day; the house was nice but very difficult to maintain; and it was nearly always hot and humid inside with no breeze and nothing to look at from the windows but the house next door. Getting through the constant bumper-to-bumper traffic in the Kapaa area was miserable as well, as were the drives to and from Lihue and down to Costco. Any trip in the car involved sitting in traffic, or adding mileage and time to get around congested spots (and even the bypasses could be heavily congested at times). The humidity on the east side could be brutal at times, and for me was compounded by a lack of air circulation in the house. Finally, Brett’s and my lives back during our four years were completely constrained by YaYu’s and WenYu’s busy lives and schedules with school-related activities, sports, or work, YaYu’s in particular. There was a purpose in all that they did, we supported their efforts, and it paid off in community recognition and scholarships for both girls, but Brett and I often felt like we had no life of our own outside of wherever they needed to be or what they needed to do. It was often difficult for us to find the time to see and do the things we wanted.

These days I get to savor my morning cup of coffee along with a beautiful view and a cool breeze blowing through the living room.

It was with some trepidation that we came back to Kaua’i this past March. Our girls had told us last December that they all thought we should return, and we loved being back when we visited in January, but we still weren’t so sure it was the best place for us to settle. However, once we did decide to come back we made a second decision: no repeats of the things that had bothered us before, and to start again from scratch. That decision was the smartest thing we did, as our second time around has turned out to be a very different experience in every way, with the result that both of us feel deeply happy to be back on the island. After nearly six months here I cannot think of even one thing I don’t like about where we live (and I have tried). Our landlord is definitely not weird, and a genuinely nice guy, born and raised on the island. We love our apartment’s location out of the tourist bubbles. We love the layout of the rooms, the amount of storage we have, the massive bathroom, the big, beautiful private yard with its flowers and fruit trees. Most especially we love the steady flow of air through the rooms that keeps the apartment feeling cool and mostly humidity free. We’ve had absolutely no need of an air-conditioner here. We’re very happy with the furniture we chose and how it fits into the space. The apartment’s size is perfect for us although we easily accommodated YaYu this past summer, and we have nice neighbors. It’s a less than 10-minute drive each week to a great farmer’s market, and although Costco and Lihue are actually further away from us than they were before, the drive to those places is easier and faster these days as we don’t have to deal with Kapaa’s stop and go traffic like before. We have a great walking venue nearby and our south shore location is also an easy distance from several nice beaches. Salt Pond Beach Park is just 15 minutes away, and the base at Barking Sands with its long beautiful beach is just a 30-minute drive. We can go the other direction to the Poipu beaches and be there in under 15 minutes. Finally, and maybe best of all, Brett and I make our own schedule these days, and mostly go with what we feel like doing at the moment rather than make plans in advance. Our time is fully our own. (Note: Currently the traffic moves nicely through Kapaa because of the lack of visitors to the island. When they return, so will the traffic.)

The beach is always a happy place for me.

It seems you can go home again, maybe as long as you bring a different set of expectations along with you the second time around. I know that things can change for the worse on a dime (been there, done that) but I’m so happy we decided to give Kaua’i a second chance, and that we’re now, as Oprah says, getting to live our best lives here. The only thing that could make me any happier than I am now would be to have it easier for our children to get here or for us to get to them. Until that happens though, I am going to enjoy this happy place we’re in to the fullest.

Been There, Done That, and Ready To Do It Again

Waimea Canyon is just a short drive away these days.

What do you do when you love to travel but can’t, and live on a remote tropical island where the distance from end to end is just 54 miles? How do you arrange a staycation when hotels are closed and road trips are not an option?

For the most part, Brett and I are quite content for now with keeping ourselves socially isolated. As an introvert, it’s a dream come true for me in many ways, but I do like to get out here to see and do things beyond shopping for groceries, visiting the farmers’ market or walking in the park. We certainly don’t feel trapped nor are we suffering from “rock fever,” but now that it’s just the two of us again we’ve been talking about things we can do to keep busy and more involved with island life, not only finding new things to do but revisiting places around us and seeing them with new eyes.

We’ve come up with an initial list of mostly nearby things we can do. Most are things we’ve done before, but all would be fun to do again (and again and again).

The Kalalau Viewpoint at the end of the road in Kokee State Park is worth all the twists in the road it takes to get there.
  • Re-visit Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park: We now live just 30 or so minutes away from the road leading up into Waimea Canyon and Kokee, and without a lot of visitors currently on the island this should be a great time to visit this natural wonder.
  • Stroll through Hanapepe Old Town: We also now live very close to one of our favorite places on the island, the small town of Hanapepe on the south side. We enjoy walking through and exploring Old Town, and want to go see what’s opened back up. I did read that the wonderful Midnight Bear bakery is open – it would be fun to stop for coffee and to share a pastry. And the Talk Story Bookstore is also a wonderful place to spend a chunk of time.
    The Talk Story bookstore in Hanapepe is a must visit.
  • Explore Waimea: We always drive right through this little town on the west side on our way to Barking Sands, or turn off and head up to Waimea Canyon, but think it would now be a good time for us to stop and walk around for a while. We’ve seen a few places from the car windows we’d like to check out, but know there’s more to discover and learn about.
  • Go on breakfast date once in a while: The Kalaheo Cafe is just a couple of miles down the road from us, and serves a really good breakfast, even if it’s only take-out. We went a couple of times when we were here before but the drive was a long one, but now we don’t have that excuse any more. And, it’s actually quicker to drive to the Tip Top Cafe from our apartment now than from where we lived before. Both the Kalaheo Cafe and Tip Top serve a more local clientele and practice social distancing.
    Salt Pond beach park
  • Visit some new beaches as well as old favorites: Once we find a beach or two we like, that’s where we tend to go. We’re just not that adventurous when it comes to beaches. While the beach at Barking Sands is our current favorite, there are others nearby that we haven’t visited, such at Salt Pond. There’s no time like the present to get to know them and see how we like them. Although it’s a long drive, this is also a good time to revisit other beaches on the Eastside, like Kealia, and ones up on the north shore as well.
  • Do some longer walks on the Eastside beach path: We really, really don’t care for the long drive up to Kapaa these days, but as Brett and I increase our walking distance, this is as good a time as any for us to go for longer distances on the beach path. It’s not flat, but it is smooth making it a great walking venue for me. And then there are those views!
    Walking the eastside beach path is always a visual delight.
  • Socially distant visit with friends: Choosing to live down on the south side of the island, we knew we wouldn’t see our friends much as they live up on the east side and up north, and for Kaua’i those are long drives away. We’re planning to go visit our friend Joy up in Princeville next week though, and want to set up a visit (and maybe a trip to the beach) with friends Alan and Cheryl. Both times will also give us a chance to stop by other island locations we enjoy on the way up or back (like the Kilauea Bakery, or Java Kai in Kapaa).

A couple of other nearby places and activities we want to revisit are the Kauai Coffee Plantation and the Koloa Rum store. We enjoy doing tastings at both places, but those opportunities are closed off for now. Koloa Rum hopes to reopen after October 1, and hopefully tastings will resume at Kauai Coffee as well, although perhaps in a more controlled manner. We’ll see. But otherwise I think we have a nice list of things to revisit and look forward to during the next few months!

A Short Hike on the Moalepe Trail

The Moalepe trailhead. The gate can be opened so vehicles can use the road if necessary..

Located in the hills to the west of Kapaa, off Olohena Road, the Moalepe Trail winds up through protected pastureland and into the forest until it connects with the Kuilau Trail. From the trailhead to the junction with the Kuilau the total distance is 2.5 miles.

Starting up the trail. Those are rocks in the dirt.
Gates along the way allow vehicles to access the pastureland.
Most of the pastureland is separated from the trail by barbed wire.

On Monday we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. We hiked up approximately 1.5 miles, then turned around and hiked back down for a total of three miles. Brett and YaYu could have easily gone to the end, but I had to call it quits because my legs grew wobbly and I became quite dizzy. I still had a good time and got a good workout, but upon reflection I’ve realized that several factors were working against me to keep me from reaching the end, some of them my own fault.

YaYu walked in front most of the way, and showed us where to step to stay out of the mud.
We had a gorgeous view of Makaleha on the way up.
At around a mile and a quarter, the forest begins to appear.

Below are some of the things I figured out for the next time we hike.

  • Although the trail is not steep, it is a steady incline all the way up to the end – we gained 370 feet during our 1.5 miles. I am a quick walker, and pushed myself too quickly up the trail which in turn quickly got me tired. I need to learn to slow down when I’m climbing.
  • I did not eat anywhere near enough for lunch before we hiked, just a half of a sausage and a small papaya. I had brought along two Japanese rice crackers though, and ate those on the way down, and felt fine by the time we got back to the trailhead. That was the biggest tip off that my empty stomach was a strong reason for my lightheadedness and the weakness in my legs.
  • It was also quite hot and humid once we got to the trail. We had been expecting a nice breeze, but instead not a leaf was stirring along the way and for most of the hike the sun was beating down on us. I wore a wet tenugui (Japanese cotton hand towel) wrapped around my neck, and that helped immensely, but I still felt overheated. For any other hike in similar weather I am going to need something wet on my head as well to help keep me cool(er). I also didn’t hydrate enough on the way up, which probably also contributed to how awful I felt at the 1.5 mile point.
  • Although the trail may look smooth in the pictures, it was anything but, and we spent the entire hike, both up and down, moving from side to side to avoid rocks and branches, mud, deep ruts, and other hazards which required extra effort. The trail functions as a utility road for part of the way (tire tracks were visible), and is also used for horseback riding, and to say it is not well maintained would be an understatement. I reminded myself on the way back down that walking paths in England are, for the most part, maintained footpaths and usually much easier to walk on.
  • I had no trouble from my bursitis on the ascent, but it flared up on the way down, painful to the point I had to stop a couple of times and stretch in order to keep going. The unevenness of the trail caused the bursitis to flare up, just as it used to when I walked on cobblestones, as my hips never bother me these days on our usual daily walks which are on flat, even terrain. I’m going to have to do more frequent stretching to keep the bursitis in check as otherwise the only alternative will be cortisone shots. Interestingly, my knee did not hurt at all, but again, it was a fairly gently slope down.
Our stopping point at a mile and a half was just out of sight in this picture. Although the forest was cooling things down, I couldn’t go any further.

Although we did not make it to the top of the trail because of the issues I experienced, I was happy with our effort. I gained a lot from the experience, especially figuring out things I can do better. We still got in a three-mile hike and enjoyed some of Kauai’s beautiful countryside. Brett and I plan to try the hike again in another three weeks or so.

Back at the trailhead at the end of our hike, I was happy but still feeling a bit shaky. My shirt is drenched from the wet tenugui I wore around my neck to help me stay cool.

Douglas, We Hardly Knew ‘Ye

Douglas brushed the north side of Kaua’i on Sunday night.

If I had to choose one word to describe our experience with Hurricane Douglas it would be anticlimactic. At least that’s how it was here on the south side of Kaua’i.

And, having gone through the force of three hurricanes and typhoons, that was a good thing.

The whole experience though was very, very weird for us. Douglas came right along the north side of the islands, as predicted and on schedule, and brushed along the north shores of Oahu and Kaua’i. At times here though it was very difficult to believe that we were so close to a major storm as for most of the day all we experienced were blue skies, fluffy clouds, light breezes, and minimal humidity. We had a beautiful sunset, even though less than a hour later the eye of the hurricane was less than 65 miles away as it roared past the north shore.

The view out our front door at around 5:45 p.m. We kicked ourselves that we hadn’t gone for a walk as winds were minimal.
Hurricane sunset

We wondered all day what was happening and why we weren’t feeling the storm when it was so close, but finally discovered a live radar feed of the wind patterns and could see that the winds from Douglas had been bearing down from the north all day and splitting into two bands as they hit the top of Kaua’i and flowing down the east and west sides. The mountains in the center of the island blocked the rest of the wind and rain which left the south side of the island sitting in a wedge of calm weather.

It was still a tense day. Based on our former storm experience, where we started feeling strong winds a day or two before a storm’s arrival, Sunday’s calm weather was somewhat unnerving, to say the least. Every time a gust blew through we stiffened and wondered if the storm had finally arrived. It was the same for every cloud we saw off in the distance. In hindsight we could have gone out for our regular afternoon walk, but at the time we were afraid to tempt fate. With a hurricane things can change very rapidly.

We woke up Monday to a very wet and blustery day. The rain eventually stopped, but the winds hung around all day. It’s still VERY windy today.

Douglas’s rain and wind finally arrived a little after 1:00 a.m. Monday morning. Things were quite wet and blustery when we woke up, and stayed that way for most of the morning and into the afternoon as we caught the effects of Douglas’s tail as it moved on. By the late afternoon it was clear enough that we could head to the park for our afternoon walk, although it was very windy and still is today.

Many Kaua’i residents are still around who remember the surprise arrival of Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and the massive destruction it caused all over the island. No one was taking chances with Douglas, and the island prepared for the worst once again this time. Douglas thankfully didn’t come to visit or hang around, but it was a close call.

Enough Already: A Minimalist Wardrobe

Pretty much the extent of my island wardrobe, minus t-shirts and pants.

If nothing else, traveling for the past couple of years taught me I do not need a lot of things to be happy and comfortable. That includes clothes.

Before we left, I worried that I would become bored rather quickly with the clothes I was taking along. That didn’t happen, but what I discovered instead was that some pieces I had packed didn’t work well for life on the road. They either took up too much room in my suitcase or weren’t comfortable for getting around or I just didn’t like the way they looked on me. Last summer, while we were in Portland, I redid things, adding a few new pieces and subtracting a few others. Some things went into storage, others got packed up and taken to Goodwill. I enjoyed the second wardrobe iteration much more and everything was happily worn again and again.

My cold weather items in waiting include seven tops again, three sweaters, four t-shirts, two coats, and five pairs of pants as well as three pairs of shoes, several scarves, and two pairs of winter pajamas.

All of our cold weather travel clothes are now in storage in their own closet, where we keep a shop light burning around the clock in order to keep any mildew and/or mold from growing. Tea bags are scattered throughout the closet and placed in our shoes in order to keep things smelling fresh, an trick we learned back in our navy days during our many moves. These clothing items probably won’t get used again until the spring of 2023, when we plan to return to Japan for a few weeks and know the weather will still be cold. Hopefully I will discover by then that a few things are too big to take along!

I packed less warm weather clothes than those for cold weather because we spent less time in warm weather locations, but the few pieces I do own have turned out to be more than enough for our return to island life. My wardrobe these days consists of seven tops, one lightweight sweater, two sleeveless dresses, two t-shirts, and five pairs of capris and cropped pants. Besides underwear and socks, I also have one bathing suit, a pareo, two pairs of lightweight pajamas, one pair of sandals, two pairs of flip flops (one a cheap pair to wear down to the beach), and one pair of the Sketchers walking shoes I started out with back in 2018. Other than a breezy blue linen dress I spotted in a catalog, I haven’t been even tempted to purchase anything new (and haven’t bought the dress either). I also know there are a couple more summer tops that will arrive this week in our stored items, and maybe a pair of linen pants. With the addition of those I will be more than set for the next couple of years at the least.

This linen dress has been the only new thing I’ve considered buying. It has pockets and would be perfect for Kauai’s sunny/humid weather. (Sadly, since I wrote this post the blue dress has sold out. Oh well.)

I am more than satisfied with the few things I have now as they’re lightweight, comfortable, and easy to care for. I have also honestly been surprised about my lack of interest in adding to my wardrobe. However, as life on Kaua’i has shown over and over, less here really is more, and I have enough.

Back On Kaua’i

Our view for the next two weeks.

Our last few days in Japan were a whirlwind, and it’s almost hard to remember now all that was going on because everything seemed to be happening so fast. We spent our last weekend packing, cleaning up our apartment, and then moving over to our son’s to spend our last night in Japan. We left on time on Monday and had an easy if a bit surreal trip back to Kaua’i. But, we’re here now, dancing with the jetlag, and getting ourselves settled in under very different circumstances than those when we left. if we couldn’t stay in Japan, this is where we wanted to be.

Our landlord in Japan was very understanding about the circumstances of our abrupt departure even though she would be losing a month’s rent. We met with her for the last time on Saturday morning, and paid for the four days we stayed there (she didn’t want to take it but we insisted). She assured us we were welcome back any time, and we know her apartments will always be our first choice for lodging in Tokyo as it’s in a great location at an affordable price (for Tokyo). We enjoyed this year’s apartment, with its big kitchen window and an oven.

We spent most of Saturday morning packing, and then went with the family out to nearby shop to get the grandkids their birthday presents. Both of them wanted Legos and we were happy to oblige. Afterward, we all walked over to a small restaurant and had shabu shabu, a Japanese-style hot pot, for an early anniversary dinner (the dish is named for the sound the beef makes when it’s swirled through the hot broth). The food was delicious, and we received a lovely gift from our son and daughter-in-law: a check to help cover the cost of our first-class upgrade on our flight back to the U.S.

On Sunday afternoon we moved over to our son’s for our last night in Tokyo. We had to be up early on Monday to help one last time with the grandkids and this made it easier than having to lug our heavy suitcases over on the subway. Besides, along with our big suitcases, carry-on bags, and a whole lot of KitKats, we also had all our leftover groceries and other supplies to give to them. We were frankly surprised by the amount of food we had on hand – all that peanut butter! – I think the only thing we would have needed to pick up at the store that week was a tomato and some more Yakult. We went once more to Hardy Barracks to stock up our son’s supply of American foods and then took everything over to their house. That evening we all went out for a short hanami (cherry blossom viewing) and walked the Nomikawa Nature Path, the former site of a cherry tree-lined canal that had passed through the area. About half of the canal was paved over, with sections of it named for the bridges that crossed the canal, but the old cherry trees remain. It was a lovely, warm evening, and the trees were almost in full bloom (peak bloom arrived about two days after we left). Back home, we enjoyed a sushi feast that our DIL had ordered for home delivery while we were out walking!

Monday turned out to be cold, wet, and dreary so there was no last outing in the park with K for me (especially since my coat had been packed). Brett helped C with school one last time and then at around five p.m. we said our (tearful) goodbyes, packed up the car, and headed out to Narita airport with our son (M & M did not want us riding the train). It was a surprisingly easy drive with no rush hour traffic jams, thank goodness, and we got there about two hours before our departure. Narita airport was positively deserted and felt almost like a ghost town. It seemed at times that we were the only people there outside of employees, but some shops were open and we found five more flavors of KitKats (peach, melon, red bean sandwich, plum sake, and a regional sake, so we left Japan with 31 different flavors!). We also were able to buy a bottle of hand sanitizer! It wasn’t cheap, but at least we now have some. Because we would be served dinner on the plane all we had to eat at the airport were some appetizers and a gin and tonic at Delta’s First Class lounge. We were the only people in the vast lounge, maybe for the whole evening. Actually, we were practically the only people anywhere, which made getting through security, etc. a breeze, but it was also sort of eerie and sad. We were treated like royalty though everywhere we went – the employees seemed genuinely thrilled to have something to do and someone to help.

Our flight back to Honolulu was lovely. First class was extremely comfortable (as expected), the food and service impeccable. There were only two other passengers in first (only 30 total on the whole plane), so it was like we had the place and the attendants to ourselves. We watched movies, relaxed, and got a little bit of sleep. The Honolulu airport was also practically deserted, and our flight over to Lihue had only 14 people total on the plane, including the pilots and flight attendants. We picked up our rental car in Lihue and first headed to Costco to stock up for the next two weeks as the state will be going into lockdown on Thursday. Today we picked up our old car from our friends, returned the rental car, and did one more food stop so we have everything we need when YaYu arrives on Thursday. She will be in full quarantine – no going out of the apartment – for two weeks while Brett and I will be able to go out for food, and to use the pool and take walks in the area, but not much more. I’m not sure how finding a new place to live is going to go, but there are still ads going up so we hope to find something soon and be able to move in.

Our flight over to Kaua’i was surreal, as we were used to inter-island flights packed to the max.

We have one more step to go – getting YaYu here on Thursday. Her flight schedule has already been changed, but Delta still assures her she will be in Lihue on Thursday evening. We have backup plans just in case things go bad, but so far so good, and she is almost ready to go. She originally had a direct flight that day from Seattle to Lihue but that has now been changed to a direct flight from Los Angeles, a good thing as Hawaiian Airlines is stopping almost all flights beginning on Thursday. Brett and I are somewhat concerned about the possibility of her facing a racist attack of some kind as they seem to be on the increase against Asians, and as a young, single woman she could be a target. It’s going to be a long, long day for all of us.  

Anyway, although things didn’t turn out the way we wanted, we’re home again on Kaua’i and we’re settling in and getting our body clocks adjusted to island time. We miss our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren terribly, but our girl will be here soon, we’ve got enough on hand to get us through the next two weeks, and all is well.

Simply Having a Wonderful Time

We arrived to some humid, wet, overcast and windy weather when we initially arrived on Kaua’i. The sun eventually appeared for a while but today we’re back to clouds and wind. Still, all is well, and we’ve have been having a simply wonderful, relaxing time on Kaua’i as well as a great time with our friends, Alan and Cheryl. Here’s a little of what we’ve been up to:

  • Eating fresh papaya for breakfast every morning. Eating lots of tropical fruit, actually. I am in heaven.
  • Having Puka dogs with coconut relish and lilikoi mustard along with a cup of their fresh-squeezed lemonade for lunch one day.
  • Enjoying Ice cream at Lappert’s in Poipu. I had Kaua’i pie (Kona coffee ice cream with coconut, macadamia nuts, and fudge) and Brett chose Mauna Kea’s Secret (vanilla ice cream with raspberries and fudge brownies).
  • Eating Lilikoi chiffon pie at Hamura’s. My goodness, that is some really, really good pie.
  • Visiting Wailua Falls and Opaekaa Falls. There’s been lots of rain recently so both falls are running strong.
  • Walking on the beach path. No matter the weather, it’s always beautiful. The surf was very strong and loud the day we were out – we loved it.
  • Going to the Kapaa farmers’ market. Our favorite farmers are still there and they remembered us!
  • Eating shave ice. Wailua Sunrise (orange and pineapple) with haupia foam for me, strawberry coconut with foam for Brett.
  • Finding geckos everywhere!
  • Enjoying the beautiful hibiscus in bloom all over the place
  • Having dinner at Street Burger in Wailua

Tonight we’re heading up to the north shore along with Cheryl and Alan to visit the Kilauea lighthouse and then meet our friend Joy for drinks and pupus (appetizers) at a place in Princeville. Tomorrow morning we’re going down to Lihue to the Tip Top Cafe for breakfast, then over to the Saturday farmers’ market at the nearby community college, and we will hopefully be able to follow that with a walk to the Pineapple Dump. Blue skies returned for a while on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday so we did get to enjoy some sunshine!

There’s a very good chance we’re going to come back to Kaua’i when we’re done traveling. Bad weather, good weather, humidity, or whatever, it’s still felt like we’re back home the whole time, and we still love it here.

Our Plans Have Changed (again)

Brett’s calligraphy: the orange characters on the left are his sensei’s example and the orange circle on his work means he got it right. Brett is left-handed, but Japanese calligraphy must be done with the right hand, so it’s very much an effort for him.

Brett and I thought we had all our future plans nailed down before we left Japan, but events have conspired to once again have us change those plans. It turns out we won’t be going to California in January after all, but back over to Japan instead, with a stop on Kaua’i along the way!

The big unknown for us now though is how long we’ll be staying in Japan this time.

This is the quality of work he hopes to eventually produce. (Photo courtesy of Wanto Shodo Kai-Easy Bay Japanese Calligraphy Association)

Brett has decided to apply for a long-term visa to continue studying calligraphy. He loves the art and the discipline and is improving with each lesson. He has been sending work from his classes here in Portland to his sensei in Japan who told him he is indeed a serious student and suggested he apply for a cultural activities visa to continue studying in Japan. So, paperwork for the visa will be submitted in early October, while we’re in England, and Brett should find out if the visa has been approved sometime in early December. The visa is good for one year but can be extended for another year or two if studies continue and he is making progress. I would travel over to Japan with Brett and enter on a tourist visa, but immediately apply for a dependent visa once we’re in-country. Approval for that typically happens within a couple of weeks. The chance to live in Japan full-time for a year or more would be a dream come true for us, something we have long wanted to do but never thought possible. Best of all, in my opinion, because of our three-month stay this past spring we have a much better sense of what a long-term stay would entail, both the positive and the negative.

We also have a Plan B because approval of the cultural activities visa is not a given. If Brett’s application is rejected we will instead do another three-month stay like we did earlier this year, from mid-January through mid-April. Japan has changed its rules for the tourist visa and visitors can now stay 180 days total (maximum 90 days at a time) during a 365-day period versus just 90 days as it was before. This means we can potentially do long stays in Japan twice a year. We have some pretty firm ideas for what we’ll do after that which include a stay in Massachusetts at the end of May for WenYu’s graduation from Wellesley.

We have negotiated housing with the same landlord we used earlier this year. Even though the monthly cost of renting from her again would be higher than renting our own apartment for a year, by doing so we would not have to deal with setting up and paying utilities, buying furniture or household goods, nor incurring the very high upfront rental fees that are required in Japan (anywhere from three to five months rent, some of it non-refundable). All of those, if averaged out, would increase the monthly cost of living there to the same if not more than the cost of renting a furnished place with the utilities and Internet provided. We loved the location where we stayed before as well as its proximity to our son’s home. O-san said she would love to have us back again, and for now we know we have a place if we go for just three months, but she has asked us to inform her the minute we know whether Brett’s visa has been approved or not and she will extend the rental for us. We asked for a different apartment this time rather than the one we had before as we could not imagine staying in that one for a year – it was just too big and uncomfortable.

A few weeks ago I looked to see what it might cost us to go to Japan in January and was surprised by how low the fares were. Brett and I had also been talking about wanting to visit Kaua’i again to see friends and prices for flights from Portland to Honolulu in January also turned out to be very low. So, after some discussion with Brett and with our friends, and deciding on dates that worked for everyone, we went ahead and purchased tickets to both Japan and Hawai’i. We’ll be staying at our friends’ home in Kapaa for nine days (and they have a car for us to use so no rental car!!), and then we’ll be flying on to Tokyo from Kaua’i. We are greatly looking forward to being on the island once again and seeing what’s changed in the time we’ve been gone as well as catching up with friends there. I’ve already got my fingers crossed for good weather (January can be iffy), but even if it rains every day we know we’ll still have a good time and enjoy every moment.

By purchasing our tickets early we were able to afford to fly first class to Honolulu and economy plus for the long flight to Tokyo all while still staying well below our budget! I had enough Hawaiian miles to cover the flight for both of us over to Lihue from Honolulu, and the fare from Kaua’i to Tokyo included the trip back over to Honolulu from Lihue, which saved an additional $40 over what we would have had to pay if we booked those flights separately on Hawaiian. The total price per person for the both long flights was less than a typical one-way first class fare from Portland to Honolulu, and less than we used to pay for roundtrip fares in economy for the girls to come home to Kaua’i at Christmas. Plus, the two long flights also include two free checked bags for each of us, a nice option especially if we end up going to Japan for a year’s stay (however, we unfortunately will have to pay to get our bags from Honolulu to Lihue on the Hawaiian flight). The upgraded seats are worth every penny to us because after our very uncomfortable 11-hour flight from Tokyo to Portland in economy where we couldn’t cross our legs, let alone move, we vowed that if all possible we would do no more long-distance flights unless we could afford to purchase more comfortable seating.

来年日本に帰国します Rainen nihon ni kikoku shimasu – we are returning to Japan next year! We are so excited – not only will we get to be in Japan, and see our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids again, but we get to return to beautiful Kaua’i as well!

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

I need to vent a little.

As many of you might remember, last summer when we moved out of our house on Kaua’i, our landlord stood us up for the move-out inspection. And, although he had 14 days from the day we turned over the keys (July 29) to return our security deposit, either by mail or in person, along with written evidence if necessary for why he was keeping some or all of it, we have never received anything from him.

Up until a few days ago we hadn’t communicated with our former landlord since August, when he claimed he had mailed a check to us, but refused to say how much or if there was other paperwork. We had given him our mailing address (Brett’s sister) but whatever he sent turned out to be addressed to a completely different city in Texas. When we informed him and again gave him the correct address, the landlord claimed he would have the mis-addressed mail forwarded to the correct address but of course nothing ever showed up. That was the last we heard from him before heading to Buenos Aires.

Our former landlord is incapable of opening his mouth without lying. And once he starts he can’t stop, and the stories get bigger and better each time he tells them. Over the nearly three years we rented from him, for example, Brett listened to numerous tales of the landlord’s two years of military service. Brett still doesn’t know whether he served in the marines or the navy because his story changed every single time about what branch of the service he was in and what he did. And, his experiences in the military grew every time as well to the point where he apparently did every job short of commanding an aircraft carrier, and he was promoted at least four times over a period of six months because of his amazing skills and leadership ability (the last time was to the highest enlisted rank, E-9, at age 19)! We were always a bit weirded out that he would tell Brett these whoppers because the landlord knew Brett was a career sailor and had been in the service at the same time and knew a few things. Brett tried to call him on his tall tales a few times, but that never slowed him down.

Our landlord lied and exaggerated about everything. Constantly. We knew when we moved in that along with maintaining a good relationship with him we were going to have to keep track of him and keep records to protect ourselves. We stayed friendly, paid our rent on time every month, took good care of the house, and worried when he was diagnosed with cancer. In return he treated us fairly for the most part. But, the lies, crazy stories, excuses, etc. never stopped or let up, so Brett saved every message from him, a good thing because it turns out the man incriminated himself almost every time he wrote something to Brett concerning the house.

When we messaged him the morning of the inspection to ask if and when he intended to come, his first reply was he had forgotten. From there we started getting excuse after excuse after excuse for why he failed to show up until it finally got to the point it was our fault he didn’t come. This was in spite of him telling us at the same time we were his best tenants ever and he had planned to give us back our entire deposit (without ever making any arrangements to do so). Of course, in the next couple of days we were informed that following HIS solo inspection we had actually trashed his property and it was going to cost him a small fortune to fix everything we had damaged. He also made several flat-out crazy claims with no relation to reality. For example, at one point he wanted to know if we had we forgotten about our arrangement to swap our house in Texas with his on Kaua’i – ????? It was exhausting dealing with all the lies and stories over and over.

Last week Brett accidentally dialed the landlord’s number. Much to our surprise, the landlord actually messaged Brett back to say the check he sent last August had been returned to him in October (but of course he never contacted us about it). He asked for our mailing address for the third time and said he was going to resend the check and would send Brett the tracking number. That was a week ago and as expected we’ve heard nothing further from him. We still believe he has no intention whatsoever of giving us any of our deposit, and it would be the shock of a lifetime for us at this point if he follows through on his latest claim. We’re sure he’s convinced himself that we’re never coming back to Kaua’i so who’s going to care if he doesn’t return our deposit? What are we going to do about it?

Well, for one, we care. And, there is plenty we can do. We are fine with one of us (me) going back to Kaua’i to collect our deposit through small claims – it’s a considerable amount and worth making the trip. And, we know our former landlord does not want to appear in court – we saw last summer that the mere mention of a court appearance completely unnerved him, especially since there’s a very good chance he’s a tax cheat. Hawai’i places very strict limits on how long and for what reasons a landlord can retain some or all of a security deposit. They are required to provide loads of documentation to back up any claims they make for keeping any part of the deposit, and can be required to pay as much as three times the original deposit to their former renter if they fail to do so or make false claims.

The next time our landlord hears from us it will be with a summons. We have a full calendar year from our move-out date to file in small claims, and we plan to do so as soon as we return to Portland next May. We are going to sue for a full return of our security deposit along with the cost of my travel to Kaua’i. I will be bringing along the many photos we took of the very clean house, all the receipts and incriminating messaging from him. We also have witnesses ready to show that the house was well-cared for and left in spotless and move-in-ready condition, and that the landlord has never made any genuine effort to return the deposit or any part of it at all.

Tick tock, Mr. Landlord.

Aloha ‘Oe

Thank you Kaua’i for four amazing years!

Mahalo nui loa for sharing your aloha with us every day, in ways big and small, as well as the breathtaking beauty of your aina and the strength and love of ohana. We’re all leaving a big piece of our hearts here.

Aloha ‘oe – until we meet againSo very lucky we lived Kaua’i!