Today’s blog comes from Jules Sanderson who worked in Hawaii for a summer with Work America
If someone had told me a few years ago I would spend a summer living and working on a Hawaiian Island I would never have believed them. But this year that’s exactly what I did! After finding my job as a receptionist on the island of Oahu (with a lot of emails and a Skype interview) I booked my tickets to The Aloha State.
On the plane over I remember mumbling the place names to myself, trying to work out how to pronounce them and worrying I’d never get them right. Three months later they flew off my tongue like I was Kama’āina (a local)!
Work America – Memories of Hawaii
After 4 months on an island that could fit into Essex three times over, by late September I felt I was well ready for the second part of my Work America experience: travelling! I was eager for the next adventure and planned an ambitious itinerary for myself. But then came the hard part.
The sunny shores of Hawaii
Saying goodbye to Hawaii was tough. While I was starting to suffer slightly from Island Fever, I still felt like I’d created a life and a home for myself in the Aloha State and it was very strange to find myself boarding a plane and not know when or even if I would be returning. I flew into San Francisco, a city that had been on my bucket list to visit ever since I read Howl by Allen Ginsberg in GCSE English, yet as the plane dipped down onto mainland America I didn’t feel the sense of excitement I had been expecting. I checked into my hostel and hoped I would feel better in the morning.
Very weather inappropriate
The next day dawned bright, sunny and freezing! In my backpack I had two pairs of flips flops, one pair of jeans, several board shorts, some tank tops and far too many bikinis. After so long in Hawaii’s sunny climes, where 25 degrees was a ‘cool day’ and I never bothered to take a jacket because even the rain was warm, I was completely unprepared for northern California’s September cold front.
I met up with a friend who kindly loaned me some weather-appropriate attire but the surprise and shock of the temperature combined with suddenly being back in a bustling city after months of beaches, beaches and more beaches was really getting to me. I wanted so much to love San Francisco, yet my heart was still in Hawaii.
What’s wrong with me?!
Ok, it may not have been this foggy and horrid - but it sure felt that way!
I felt annoyed at myself and a bit silly, after all I had only been in Hawaii for a few months, what right did I have to think of it so fondly? But over the next few days I began to realise that is the magic of doing a programme like Work America. While I did eventually end up enjoying my time in San Francisco and I was very glad to have visited, there was no way it could mean as much to me as Hawaii did because it was never mine, I was just another tourist passing through.
What it’s all about
By participating in Work America you gain a connection with a location that is completely unique and irreplaceable. You live, work, eat and sleep that place for months at a time; you know it like a local and miss it like one too. No guidebook or ‘top ten’ list could tell me you can buy the cheapest and juiciest papayas in Chinatown or that the best time to surf was 5am as the sun was rising or that hula dancing actually has very little to do with shaking your hips. I learnt these things myself, through the time, effort and experience of living on Oahu.
I still value these insights, even two years after I returned to the UK, because they remain my personal connection to Hawaii which is something I get to keep forever. And every time I begin a story with “When I lived in Hawaii…” I smile.