3

Farewell North Shore, Oahu…

Last Thursday when I placed our order for 2 cheese pizzas at the Wicked Hi pizza stand, the lady taking our order smiled at me and said “I love that your family comes here every week.” I smiled back and replied “yeah, but sadly this is our last week coming here. After 6 incredible months in Oahu we head back to the mainland end of this month”…

As I walked away a wave of emotions washed over me. This was the first time it actually hit me that our time here is almost up.

While I’m excited to be going back to our beautiful home in Marin and can’t wait to catch up with all of our friends, I know that I’m truly going to miss living on the North Shore of Oahu.

Here’s my compilation of the top 10 things I’ll miss most:

1. Perfect weather every day
Having lived in a range of climates, I can definitively say that I love warm weather the best. I know some people need to have their seasons, but for me, warm and sunny every day is perfection. And that’s what you get living in Hawaii. Now, admittedly we did have a handful of rain drenched days during the winter, but for the most part, every day here over the last 6 months has been ~27 degrees celsius (~81 Fahrenheit) and sunny. Can’t be beat!

2. Thursday evening pizza picnic at Waimea Valley Farmer’s Market
One lovely weekly ritual for the family was to visit the Waimea Valley Farmer’s Market every Thursday afternoon and having a picnic in the lush surroundings. We’d bring a bottle of red wine (thank you wine club membership at Haleiwa Bottle Shop!) and a picnic mat, and then we’d go order from the food vendors in the market. Our favorite (as you may have picked up from the intro) was Wicked Hi’s sourdough pizza’s (a must have for the kids), but Christine and I also branched out to indulge on pasta, burgers or poke salads depending on our mood.

But what I loved most about these weekly picnics wasn’t just the food, but the beautiful atmosphere. Waimea Valley is a breathtaking setting with lush greenery and giant trees. And the sight of children coming together to play tag, hide and seek or climb trees is truly special.

3. Finishing work by 3pm
I’m not going to lie but the 3 hour time difference between Hawaii and SF was tough at times, particularly with 5am board meetings. But on the flip side, it also meant that I was done with meetings most days by 2pm and could switch off not much past 3pm. It really allowed us to have two parts of our day: working and playing. It really made life feel much more balanced.

4. Finding mangoes on our morning walks
Early in our stay, Christine and I saw a sign that said: “Watch out for falling mangoes.” We looked up at this tall tree that didn’t appear to have mangoes and we asked each other “Is this a joke? Do mangoes really grow on tall trees like this? I thought they grew on bushes…”. Well, fast forward a couple of months and while on our morning walk not far from our house we stumbled upon a half eaten mango on the ground that a wild chicken was pecking at. I didn’t think much of it at first, until I noticed a second and then a third mango on the ground. I looked up, and lo and behold it turns out mangoes do in fact grow on tall trees!

Mango tree! (Look closely!)

Best thing about having mango trees near your house….. free mangoes!! (so long as you can get to them before the chickens peck at them first!).

5. Sushi in “town”
It’s funny how every place you go, there are references for various other places as “the city” or “town.” On Oahu, Honolulu is “town.” And while I’m glad we chose to live outside of “town” to get more of a low key, chilled setting while living in Hawaii, I’m also glad we had access to Honolulu given the number of amazing world class restaurants there (a major advantage of Oahu vs. other islands). But if there’s one cuisine that Honolulu really excels in, it would have to be sushi. No doubt a result of the large Japanese population and Japanese connections, there are a number of outstanding sushi restaurants and izakaya’s. Our favorites: Sushi Izakaya Gaku, Sushi ii, Izakaya Torae Torae, and @sushi. All wonderful! We also wanted to try Sushi Sho and Sushi Sasabune but couldn’t find a time. Next time!

6. Hiro Dreams of Sushi!
On the topic of AMAZING sushi, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to a wonderful sushi chef who came to our place not once, not twice, but three times (!!) during our stay, Chef Atsuhiro (“Hiro”) Kajita. We got introduced to Hiro through our very good friend Molly Goshorn when Molly, Joshua and their family came to stay with us. Turns our Molly went to high school with Hiro and he has since become a world class sushi chef living on Oahu. Molly and Josh gifted us an evening with Hiro when they stayed with us and we were hooked! Can’t recommend Hiro more highly!

7. Date night with help from Auntie Jay
Our many sushi date nights in Honolulu would not have been possible were in not for Auntie Jay. Auntie Jay is a wonderful lady and grandmother who lived in Waialua not far from our home. Once we discovered her, it became an almost weekly ritual to drop the kids off with her on a Saturday afternoon so that Christine and I could have a date night. What’s best is that the kids always looked forward to visiting Auntie Jay’s and getting to watch movies and playing with so many toys!

8. Our North Shore friends
Christine wrote a post on Ka Hana Pono, our kids’ preschool (which in itself deserves to be in my top 10 things I’ll miss), but one of the amazing side benefits of the preschool was the community of parents we got to know. It was a wonderful mixed crowd of people who’ve lived on Oahu for many years, to people staying for a few months like us. We will miss you all!

9. Watching the world’s best surfers on Pipeline
I remember when I was 11 years old that I had a friend who surfed called Barney, and he told me of the hallowed beaches of Waimea Bay and Pipeline, where the world’s best surfers went to prove themselves. Incredible that almost 3 decades later I would be living on this very spot, learning from the locals about the incredible intricacies (and dangers) of surfing Pipeline and witness first hand the spectacular perfect barrels of the break. A great documentary we watched that really captures the place is Momentum Generation (and another great cheesy movie that kind of captures it too is North Shore). Christine and I had countless evenings sitting on our lanai with a glass of wine, awestruck by the surfers at Pipeline. When we arrived we found out we were neighbors with pro surfer, Jadson Andre, and it was a thrill to watch him surf. We also often saw world famous surfer and Pipeline resident Jamie O’Brien shredding it on our doorstep. And we even got a glimpse of Kelly Slater out there one day too.

On topic of celebrity sightings, Christine often bumped into Jack Johnson riding his kids to Sunset Elementary on her morning runs! How cool is that?!

10. Living by the beach
Saving the absolute best to last, I’m truly going to miss living on a beach. I grew up in Sydney and lived my entire childhood and early adulthood only a stone’s throw away from the beach, but living right on the beach just can’t be beat. From hearing the thunderous winter waves from our bed at night, to the numerous quick dips in the ocean between work meetings, to the many hours we spent mesmerized looking out at the pacific horizon, the experience living here for the past 6 months has been nothing short of magical. I very much hope to make living by a beach a bigger part of our lives in the future!

2

Ka Hana Pono: A magical school that lets kids be kids

Ka Hana Pono School, Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii

As our 6-month chapter in Hawaii is coming to an end, I keep reflecting on the special time we’ve had and how incredibly lucky we were to find Ka Hana Pono, the local preschool that our kids attended over the past half year. First, the school choice was a bit of a wildcard as there are only two full-time preschools in the area and second, that we were able to get spots for both Bastiaan and Lea. I remember when I was googling preschools in Haleiwa and stumbled onto Ka Hana Pono’s website. The photos immediately captivated me – the lush green outdoor garden and playground. Memories of my outdoor adventures as a kid in Austria came to mind. And, they taught the kids about healthy living and eating? Sold! After a brief virtual Zoom tour by Jason aka “Uncle Bison”, the owner and one of the main teachers, I was even more convinced of this choice. This looked like a fantastic place for two young children to spend 6 months. Ka Hana Pono it was.

The meaning of the name itself made me ponder life and curious about how their day-to-day would unfold: “‘Ka Hana Pono’ is a pragmatic set of tools for understanding and making the practice of Pono (= being at one with everything) a part of your daily life. These tools are consolidated into a reference work that combines both the philosophy of personal greatness, with the cognitive skills necessary for maintaining it – a practical guide for mastering the art of living in Pono.” (Source: https://huna-hana.tripod.com). Sounds like a school I could benefit from going to myself 🙂

So what did Bastiaan’s and Lea’s experience look like in practice?

  1. Connection to nature + pure play. The kids spent the majority of their time outdoors, barefoot, exploring, learning from and playing with nature. They would come home with mud on their feet, their shorts dirty to the point that even the strongest detergent would fail miserably. They had climbed, planted, harvested, swung, jumped, painted (messily), danced and sung. It made me smile to see them at pick up time – their hair dusty or sweaty, exhilarated and tired.
  2. Learning by doing. Bastiaan would have never touched bugs back in California. Now he knows that bok choy stalks regrow if you trim them and put them back in shallow water, he picks and eats berries from local bushes and names (and touches!) all sorts of bugs. The teachers read to the kids and tell them stories grounded in core values like respect and love. While the curriculum (on purpose) isn’t “academic-first” the kids learn core concepts like counting, colors and shapes while going about their gardening activities or games.
  3. Team work and collaboration – teachers as the guides. The teachers guide the kids on activities but let the kids take the lead. The kids learn how to work together, play with each other, and work through conflict. The teachers feel like the wise elder friends that aren’t too overpowering or hierarchical. They make the kids feel seen and heard – each one of them them acknowledged for who they uniquely are. Also, turns out Uncle Bison is a singer-song writer who plays in a ska band. He teaches the kids to play Ukulele and whips out his guitar to sing and dance with the kids during the day.

I must admit that I had a brief moment of hesitation early on about the mainly play-based approach. This brief doubt evaporated quickly as I saw Lea and Bastiaan develop and grow during their time here. Bastiaan in particular became more confident and outgoing. The ability to fully express himself through play and physical activity (he’s a very physical guy) helped him come out of his shell. The close and loving relationship with the teachers led to a huge jump in his social and verbal skills. And our Lea is thriving all around – our little social butterfly could let her full spirit shine and share her light with the many other wonderful children that are now her friends.

Thank you Ka Hana Pono for the special environment you create every day – for the love, dedication, creativity and freedom you provide. We feel incredibly grateful that Bastiaan and Lea could spend this chapter of their lives with you – their time at Ka Hana Pono enabled them to connect with and let their individual lights shine more brightly.