Updated: Sep 23, 2020
After my first steps outside the plane, I take a deep breath. I am holding my purse in one hand, my tiny daughter’s hand in the other. A new chapter of my life begins. The air is warm and humid. A breeze flows freely inside the airport, wrapping us with a warm embrace. Its smell carries the ocean, the flowers, the fruits. “Welcome to Maui” says the sign at the top of the escalator.
As we go towards the baggage claim, I notice a lot of smiles and lightness in people’s demeanor. The spirit of aloha is contagious, even to the most tired, cranky tourist. Molly’s excitement, curiosity, and joy overtake me. I cannot wait to get to our place and wiggle my toes in the sand.
“Look, mummy, that’s my suitcase.”
I can recognize it with the big pink pom pom attached to it. I grab our luggage and go outside to find a cab. A yellow taxi sign catches my eyes, and without noticing, I am already walking towards it. The driver comes out of the car to welcome us. The tan lines around his eyes invite me to smile in return. He opens the door to me, and I don’t know if I am dreaming or not.
As we reach the main road that connects the north to the south of the island, I cannot take my eyes off the West Maui Mountains. The different shades of green mesmerize me. The sharp edges look like teeth ready to protect the land. It demands respect and I silently bow.
Our driver tells us that he is from Belgium and to my surprise, French words intertwined with Hawaiian and English languages are flooding the car. A little reminder of where I come from, the path traveled since I left France seven years ago and where I am now.
We take a right turn to leave the highway and to reach the shore. The turquoise water, the white sand, the coconut trees, it’s all like I remember it, except this time we are not visitors. I feel like my chest is expanding as my heart gets bigger. Like two little kids seeing the beach for the first time, Molly and I look at each other, giggling, big smiles on our faces and sparkles in our eyes.
The condo complex has the shape of the letter U. Cocooned in the center are a pool, a jacuzzi, and a tennis court. The one-story building blends in the landscape, surrounded by plants, trees, and flowers. The only thing that separates us from the beach is the road. I hope we will be able to smell the ocean from our studio. The taxi driver takes us to the back of the complex. I can only hear the birds accompanied by the whisper of the wind as it plays hide and seek with the trees. Haleakala, the dormant volcano, is there to watch over us.
Before leaving, the driver gives me the contact information of another French lady who lives on the island. He tells me to call her. “She will be happy to help you,” he says. The kindness in this man soothes my nerves and reminds me that we are never alone.
Like a countdown, we step on the tiles forming a path to our studio. I take a deep breath, five, nine, eight, three, the lock unlocks. I open the door. Welcome home.