This is a long one, folks. We haven't had internet since we got here, so I've been preparing this offline along the way.
1/24/18 (19 days in)
Dreams are incredibly powerful (and at times, deceptive) tools of the human spirit. They can send a person headlong into the unknown, with a tunnel vision that can plunge one into either the best or worst points in their lives.
Some people rise, and success is found. Those are the stories we hear about, the idols we look up to, the examples held up for generations. However, more often than not, the risks that are realized eventually become too great to surmount, and the failure that follows often plagues the soul and destroys the body in the process. We don't hear about the failures; perhaps because we think they fail to inspire. Or maybe we don't want to seed our psyche with mutterings of self doubt.
The problem with dreams are that, whether or not one finds victory, the closer one comes to reaching out and touching it, the more real it becomes. Waking up can be hard. In my opinion, it's also the greatest hurdle to anyone who reaches out in pursuit of tough goals.
I don't yet know if our story is one of success or failure. For months, we've fantasized about end state of success, and done our best to anticipate the obstacles that would manifest along the way. We're three weeks into "living the dream", and so far, things have not gone well. At almost every turn- almost every single day- an immediate crisis has reared it's head, threatening to scuttle the ship before it can even set sail.
Just a few short years ago, I wouldn't mind- I'd push forward, adapting and overcoming along the way. I have a knack for living on very little, and my time in the Corps and Army galvanized my mind and soul to bear burdens I never thought I could. I trust myself to take the beating and keep moving forward.
This time, however, I have a partner and 5 month old daughter, which raises the stakes immensely; I cannot just eek by with the barest of necessities this time. This time, chasing this dream could pose a threat not just to me, but to them. Living this far out, surrounded by thick jungle, with spotty communication and municipal services, every personal failure will put them at risk. The burden feels much heavier than the years I spent gambling with my own life at War.
It seems the obstacles are far more dense as well. In the military, I had instant access to a support network and community that responded quickly and decisively when the shit hit the fan; when we hit the limits of our abilities, there was always another squad, platoon, or air support that would take on some of the burden. As a result, we always completed the mission.
Not so this time. Here's the story so far.
We arrived the night of January 5th. Luna (our daughter) endured both plane rides like a champ, issuing barely a peep the entire day. Folks commented numerous times on how well she did. There were other children about the same age along the way, and most got upset a few times. We hit the ground in Hilo at night, excited and very optimistic. Luna hit her limit during the cab ride to the room we had rented through Air BnB, but settled quickly once we arrived. The host was a very nice woman who lived there with her son and (in a smaller home on the property) mother.
The next day we headed out to see the homestead for the first time. Over the last year, the house on the property (owned by friends of ours) had been turned from an empty shell into a painted, dry-walled, refurbished (it had been neglected for about 8 years) reasonable facsimile of a home. In the few months since the driveway had been paved with red cinder, the jungle had already begun to reclaim it's former territory; our rental truck (Nissan Frontier) just barely made it through without taking on scratches from the branches reaching in.
The roads leading into the area are utterly undeveloped; getting in or out in anything but a four wheel drive truck is very risky; and with the addition of heavy rain, impossible for any car. The constant humidity also has the side effect of generating a LOT of mold. Anything left outside for more than a few days will develop fuzz. The windows, though relatively new, already had a layer of mold spotting. The uninstalled doors, which had sat for weeks, perhaps months, were utterly covered in the stuff. Anything metal had at least a tinge of rust, with the exception of the newly installed roof of corrugated metal (for water catchment).
I was under the impression that the flooring was already scheduled to be installed within the first week after we arrived. That turned out not to be the case. There's a terrible disease here, called "Island Time". So far, that seems like little more than sheer laziness and failure to manage one's time effectively. Basically, folks use it as an excuse to take things slow and milk their employers by consciously slowing down their progress. Though frustrating, I'm certain it'll make it easier for me to set myself apart professionally. Anyone mentions slowing down to me, and I'm gonna laugh in their face. I don't do slow very well, unless I'm aiming for smooth on the way to fast.
Thus, no floors. To make matters worse, the remnants of drywall dust and paint were everywhere, and needed to be eliminated before the flooring could be done. In an effort to speed things along, I volunteered to do it myself. The homeowners (and friends) accepted, and hired another (experienced) person to help me get started and teach me the basics. I spent three days sanding and prepping the floors, and going back and forth to Home Depot to figure out what type of flooring we would use.
It was about this time that Brooke and I realized that the house was completely unlivable for her and our daughter. Too much dust, no water, limited electrical capacity, and a soon-to-be unreliable truck (I'll get to that in a minute) to get in and out.
We hit a small streak of fortune in some of Brooke's friends on Oahu (neighboring Island). They were gracious enough to offer a place for them to stay while I un-fuck this debacle. Flights only cost about $100 between islands, so it didn't break the budget. I was glad to see them find a safe place to stay, but it's been weeks and I miss them. Little Luna must be wondering where I've gone, and we're unable to communicate that I'm still around, working to bring her to a home. She's been more clingy with Brooke lately, and I believe it's because I've fell of the face of the earth, and she's afraid Brooke will too.
And, of course, just a few days after they arrive at a "safe" location, we get the island-wide missile alert. The message went to every phone on every island, ending with "This is not a drill". Brooke called me immediately in tears. I spent years under consistent attacks and threat of attack, so I was grateful to have been a voice of calm for her in those few minutes before the word got out that there was no danger. Some dumbass employee hit the wrong button.
That simple, and that complex. I was livid. It took them a full 38 minutes to get around to informing the public that there was never any danger at all. Fucking "Island Time" bullshit.
During that same week, I also received news that the man who had promised me work for the last few months had no job to speak of. I had budgeted for this work, and it was a cornerstone of our optimism that we could make this work. He wouldn't even answer my calls or texts once we hit Hawaii, which pissed me off even more. The temporary work at $12/hr wasn't going to come close to the $20/hr steady gig we were expecting, and from that point on, the stress has continued to mount.
That same week we needed to purchase a 4WD truck and found that our $5,000 budget for a down payment/ outright purchase was far below the going rate in Hawaii. Trucks are like gold here, especially Nissans. Out of sheer desperation, we purchased a 2005 Nissan Titan for $8,000, not realizing that the terrible roads leading in and out of the property would beat the ever-loving piss out of that truck within a couple weeks; it already needs new ball joints and stabilizer links, though they were in good shape when I bought the truck.
There's also a rattling under the truck that just surfaced a couple days ago. Electrical problems have surfaced, likely due to the high water I have to cross on a regular basis. Strong, smooth engine, but everything else just doesn't seem to be able to take beating. Of course, there's also some rust developing that I need to fix before it gets serious. I estimate we'll need to dump a couple thousand into the truck, and soon.
Additionally, our main contact in the area, an exceptionally gentle and kind older man who allowed us to send our packages to his P.O. box (containing almost everything we own), had a stroke. He is currently hospitalized. He reached out to me via text message after he fell in his kitchen, and I about broke the truck in two getting to him as quickly as possible. Between myself and another friend (who he also texted), we got him to the local emergency care unit. His recovery prospects at this point are unclear, though he has no paralysis, they suspect he's incurred some brain damage, as he is in a fog of constant confusion. My thoughts are with him tonight.
Update: He's at home recovering with the help of his friend and a physical therapist, and we were able to retrieve all of our boxes. Now all we need are drawers to put them in!
The only electricity at the house is provided via an extension cord that is run from our meter at the front of the property. So far, we haven't been able to get an electrician out to finish the job; the wires have been run, the plugs and switch boxes are setup (minus the actual switches and plug faces).
The plumber, who allegedly was waiting on the flooring to be completed before he finished the job, has consistently moved his goalpost further and further back, and it doesn't look like he's coming anytime soon. I met him in an effort to speed the process (he gave me a list of parts to purchase so all he had to do was show up and get it done) and I gathered quickly that he was not a competent professional. The rumor is that he didn't finish the job months ago due to a DUI conviction. One of the pipes he had previously installed BLEW OUT OF THE WALL a few days after I arrived, leaving a mist on the newly installed flooring. I took two steps into the place and slipped on the misting, busting my ass HARD. Luckily, no permanent damage to myself or the floor.
All the while I have no job, and due to everything needed for the house, not nearly as much time as I'd like to search for one, though I have managed to land some interviews within the next week. I've plastered my resume at every place I think I could stand working at, and completed close to 20 online applications. If I can land a decent job, I can get, finally, a small foothold to build upon. If I don't have a good job in the next couple of weeks, we'll have to use our remaining funds to get back to the mainland, abandoning this dream we've clung to for the last few months.
Not to mention (though I'm mentioning it now) the thievery issue in our area. It's happened so often (according to the neighbors) that being out here unarmed is plain dumb. There's been no mention of any violence, just the random meth head looking for vacant houses to plunder. During the day, I have a pistol holstered on my waist if I'm on the property; at night a round is chambered, and it lies in the bed next to me. It would take law enforcement probably 15-20 minutes to get to us, so it's up to me to protect the life and property here. Not an unfamiliar task, mind you,but I'd be lying if I claimed I can be everywhere at once, or aware of everything happening around the property. The jungle here is incredibly thick, and I can't see more than a few feet in any given direction at night. If the electrician ever gets here, We have flood lights ready to go, and we'll spring for cameras and an alarm system as soon as we can power them.
Update: In the past two months I've been here, I've not seen any sketchy folks wandering around the area, and the neighbors I've met seem like very pleasant, well-meaning folks. It seems to me that my neighbor's house was robbed once (a few years ago), and is still angry about it (not that I'd blame him for it). Though I still keep the pistol accessible, it only comes out if a flood light is tripped late at night. So far, the only culprit scoping us out is a local cat who I've taken to calling "Ghost".
So, it's been three weeks, and this is where we are, teetering on the edge of failure. Dreams are made or broken at points such as these, and I'm not usually one to break. I typically do the breaking. So, we'll see who blinks first.
I am not above confessing when I'm bested, but it hasn't happened yet. If it's always darkest before the dawn, then it's about time to wake up.
The (few) bright spots:
I've dropped at least 2 waist sizes, I can't wear anything without a belt. With little access to fast food and lots of manual labor, I feel healthier than I have in a while, though an old back injury is rearing it's ugly head in the process.
I'm learning new things every single day, often at breakneck speed with little guidance. Frustrating, but the feeling of accomplishment is ever-present and encouraging.
I'm certain I'm doing some sort of mental/emotional work, I've had some unnerving dreams, which usually means a deeper (conscious) understanding of myself is at hand.
With little to do after sundown (which comes at 6:30pm), I've been able to spend some quiet, honest time in my own head without distraction.
2/24/18 (50 days in)
It's been a month since my last update, and I'm pleased to say that though the sun is rarely shining these days (it's been raining for about 10 days straight), things are beginning to look a bit brighter for us.
We were finally able to get the plumber and electrician out to finish their work. We now have lights, plugs, ceiling fans, flood lights, and running (hot) water! We've run into a possible issue with the water pump, which the plumber is coming out soon to check on, but otherwise, everything seems to be in good working order.
Brooke and Luna returned from Oahu to a mostly working home. I was glad they were able to stay in a comfortable place through the worst of it. They even got some scenic beach time in. They returned refreshed and excited to see all the progress. I think Luna was a little confused about me for a few hours, but warmed pretty quickly. She's so damn cute.
Our friends (and landlords) arrived last week, and are staying with us along with their 1 year-old twin girls. We're packed in like sardines, but comfortable. I'm pleased that Brooke has some company other than myself, as I'm not a terribly social creature, and I stay pretty busy.
We are about to start clearing more land around the house. It's an expensive process, but it's necessary. It will help with mosquitoes and humidity, and I'm excited to see some space created so I can get working on what I came to do- aquaponics and landscaping.
We finally got internet just a few days ago, so I can once again post blogs, consult with the all-knowing YouTube, and connect with friends, family, and framily. I stay pretty busy, so I'm having some trouble carving out time to do it, but I expect that to subside over the next few weeks. One thing I realized quickly is how much anxiety Facebook inspires. Not only is the political stuff complete BS (not actual politics, but FB politics- which is usually not accurate and inflammatory), but it was immediately obvious how much vanity is ingrained in the posts I read and post myself. I never saw it until I stepped away, but it's blatantly obvious now. I'll share my blog posts and stay connected to folks through it, but I'm done trying to put myself and my opinion on that soapbox anymore. It's not helpful, and inspires more anger and angst than anything else- and I have a lot to do here.
I've been offered a small steady gig at the nearby national park! It's only weekends and holidays, but it's an easy job working at a General Store on the local military MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) camp. It's the largest MWR campus I've ever seen. The wages put us right at what we need to get by and pay down the small debt we've incurred during the move. Via a buddy's recommendation, I've applied for Vocational Rehabilitation through the VA. I already qualify, and it will pay for vocational training (I'm going for solar panel installation certification) as well as a stipend for rent. Once that gets going, we will be in excellent shape for the next few months, and I'll come out with a valuable skill for this area. It's a HUGE weight off my shoulders, and I'm grateful to have the foothold I've been needing to make this work!
Luna is saying ma-ma and da-da on a regular basis, and seems to be branching into two-tone noises!! She's close to crawling, but for now seems content rocking and rolling her way to whatever she wants. Everyone (except me) went to the beach today, and the pics were really cute. I chose to stay behind and recon my route to the new job and tend to some things around the house. It's tough for me to stop and smell the roses when the garden is in need of attention. I'll start taking the occasional whiff once things get steadier.
The truck is holding steady for now, much to my surprise. I replaced the rear brake pads a few days ago, and then a caliper went out, which I had to take to a garage to get fixed. Though the brakes are working great, one of the sensors went out, and now the 4 wheel drive won't engage. luckily, I've gotten pretty good at getting in and out of the area, and I don't need it like I used to. The next step is to replace the sensors, hubs, and ball joints with heavier-duty components.
Still far from perfect, but we're managing to avoid failure. I'll post updates more regularly now, likely once every couple/ three weeks. Stay tuned- It'll be exciting- like either watching a train wreck, or an astronaut touch down on the moon.