We arrived before our Navy housing was ready, so my first months in Hawaii were spent off base, off Kam Highway. Everything about the house was wonderful to my four year old eyes – green grass, brilliant hibiscus, tiny lizards inside and out, and a banana tree complete with pink snails at its base. Mama-san lived across the way, Keiki and Puna across the street, and the Yokoyamas at the street’s dead end; all of them ate interesting food – candied hibiscus flowers, poi, and fish wrapped in leaves. Almost everyone had a clothesline, and I would run between the hanging clothes with the other kids who lived on the street.
I don’t remember a lot about the inside of the house – the kitchen counter where I’d make peanut butter cookies, the glass orbs and other objects hanging in a net on the wall, the fish tank with its light and cover. What stands out is how interconnected we were. Mr. Yokoyama was our local dentist, my sister went to school with the neighborhood kids, the fish in our glass tank were retired show champions that came from Cheryl’s father.
This was my first encounter with different cultures. The life patterns of each family were unique, but also a living out of religious and cultural norms quite different from my own. When everyone went home for dinner, the same food was not on everyone’s table. Even the time when dinner was served varied.
It’s a blessing that we had to live off base for a few months. My first experience of people who spoke different languages, honored God and neighbor in a different faith, and had skin of a different color than my own was a neighborly one. Is there any better way to be at home in this diverse world than to live as a neighbor with people from all over it?