A month after arriving in Hawaii, I moved out of my aunt and uncle’s house and into the apartment of an older Chinese couple whose son had gone away to college. I was renting his bedroom. It was small but comfortable, and I only had two suitcases and a piano to my name so it worked well for me, especially as it came with a bed, two desks, and my own mini fridge. It took an hour, tops, to settle in, set up my computer, line my stuffed rat collection up on the nightstand.
My landlords immediately took to me, and only hours into my arrival they were already going out of their way to make me comfortable. I’d come to their place with barely a thing, and they happily donated to my cause, lending me dishes and cutlery, pots and pans and a blanket for my bed. It took only a few days for me to dub them my “Chinese parents”. They would check up on me, not in a nosy way but in a caring one, because they knew I was young and on my own. Chinese Mom would knock on my doorframe at the end of the day to ask me how I was doing. She had a very strong accent that I couldn’t quite understand so the conversations mostly consisted of her speaking in rapid broken English while I smiled and nodded. I would usually run into Chinese Dad in the kitchen, where he would quiz me about my “American cooking”.
Other than our once daily encounters, I mostly kept to myself. When I’d lived with my family, I felt somehow obligated to spend time with them, which is alright in small amounts, but becomes overwhelming when it’s continuous; and with sharing a bedroom with Suzy, I didn’t have anywhere I could really go to be alone. My new apartment, even though it was shared, still allowed me a great deal of privacy. I mostly kept my bedroom door open to let the breeze in, but the fact that I could close and lock it, if desired, made so much of a difference. During the day I had the place to myself, and I was free to play music at loud volume, or talk to myself like a raving idiot (which is one of the things I enjoyed most about living alone).
The funny thing about having all the time in the world is that you don’t actually get much done. I had a few different projects that I started up but soon abandoned, and took to spending most of my days fooling around on the internet and catching up on Lost, which I’d never watched until I moved to Hawaii and realized how fun it is to recognize shooting locations. I did a lot of wandering as well, getting to know the neighborhood.
On one such instance I decided to visit Don Quijote, a Japanese supermarket. Staring intently at my iPhone as I tried to discern where I was on the map, I didn’t see the hole in the sidewalk until I tripped in it. I was concerned more for my iPhone than myself, and although I managed to hold the phone up as I went down, I heard my foot make a very disconcerting snapping sound.
I’ve never broken a bone before. Never even come close. So when everything went bright white and I felt like throwing up, I assumed I’d broken my foot. After a few minutes of disorientation, I managed to call my Aunt to drive me to the hospital. It was a surprisingly pleasant experience, and after a few tests they informed me that the foot was merely sprained. They wrapped me up and gave me crutches and sent me on my way. I stayed at my Aunt’s house for the weekend, camped out on the couch while everyone fussed over me, and then on Sunday she took me back home.
Living on the third floor hadn’t bothered me when I first moved in. The stairs were a lot more interesting on crutches, but I managed. My Chinese parents were home as I hobbled into my bedroom. They fussed over me just as my family had, and even lent me a brace to wear. Chinese Mom even went so far as to do my laundry for me, which is a bit more personal than I really care to be with my landlord, but I’m not ungrateful. I remained on crutches, off and on, for about a month.
At this moment, sitting here in my office, furtively writing a blog on my lunch break, I’m wishing more than anything that I had an excuse to do nothing for a month, but at the time it didn’t take long for me to be maddenly bored with sitting in my bedroom for weeks on end. Perhaps Chinese Mom noticed this, or perhaps she secretly disapproved of my loafing about, because one day she came to me with a job offer. Someone at her office was looking for a part time data entry worker, would I be interested?
That was how I learned the meaning of connections. There was no interview process. The first time I met my new boss was as I was filling out all the paperwork to be hired. Chinese Mom had told her all about how smart I was, how good I was at computers, which always struck me as sort of strange as we really hadn’t talked all that much in detail.
A month later I started working for the Hawaii State Department of Health.