“You’ve got to try the poi,” they told me with a laugh, as soon as they found out we were moving to Hawaii. “It’s great.” Sure, I thought. I like fish! (If you’re not familiar with poi at all, it’s definitely not fish.) As soon as our orders came through and we found out we were moving to Hawaii, my husband and I were beyond excited. Our original orders had us going to Fort Carson and I, more than he, did not want to go. I had grown up in Colorado and my husband had spent his entire life in Colorado Springs – it was time for a change.
When we started to announce our excitement over this move, we were hit by some unpleasant remarks. People who had been stationed there before began telling us that it was horrible, it was expensive, the people were mean, you developed island fever within months, there wasn’t anything to do there, and on and on. Talk about discouraging! We came to Hawaii with a plan. We weren’t going to mope in our house; we were going to get out and experience the culture, see the sights and embrace the place that would be our new home for the next three years.
As luck would have it, we were able to spend our first week on island as tourists before my husband had to work. Every day it was a new beach or new activity and we started to become familiar with this little island. Soon, Hawaiian words became familiar to us. Our patio became our lanai. Windward and Leeward took the place of East and West. The Hawaiian street and city names rolled off our tongues with a little more ease. We tried as much of the local food as possible. After attending a couple luaus (another one of those words), I craved the salty, smoky taste of kalua pork. My Hawaiian neighbor insisted I try poi, the purple, tasteless paste, nothing like fish as I imagined, and I actually liked it. We ate the poke, the lomi lomi, the macadamia nuts, and the delicious fresh pineapple, and enjoyed every bit of it. Coming to Hawaii was certainly a culture shock.
We were in America but it felt like a different country sometimes. I’ll admit that yes, sometimes I feel that island fever, but I just have to look out the window and see the beautiful palm trees against that bright blue sky, and realize that this place really isn’t too bad. We came to this island with the plan to embrace the culture and we came out better for it. I think whether we were in Hawaii, Washington, Germany or Japan, we would take the same approach to our new duty station. Why spend your entire time at a duty station miserable? Find those activities unique to your area and embrace your new culture. I promise, you won’t regret it.