Seeing the world now in this pandemic crisis has made me realize that people have many different reactions to an event. Because I’m stuck on Hawaii, an island archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I feel a great deal of stress from being far from home in Colorado. 

I’ve come to realize that in chaotic times I fear not having control and it stresses me out a lot. Being here on essentially a family vacation, in an island paradise feeling the tropical heat of the air sting my skin, tasting the saltiness of the ocean water, and the sweet, fragrant scent of plumeria blossoms makes me feel like I’m in a dream. 

Amidst the chaos of COVID and its effects on everyone else that I hear about, I feel that where I am in the world is near completely isolated from the fears of the pandemic. It’s as though I am hovering above reality waiting to return because I know I have to wake up from this blissful dream of island beaches and smoothies and come back to the real world that is locked down from the virus. 

People are happy here and very relaxed, and it’s terrifying to think it’s OK to be calm in this pandemic. This projection of people is unfathomable to me. 

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“Maria, ” my dad explained to me, “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if anything I’ve learned in life that it’s better to take these chances while they’re there.” 

My dad and I had this conversation about the coronavirus and how I was unsettled. In truth, I didn’t want to go to Hawaii and when the trip was sprung on me after I came home from working, I was pretty upset. This trip was spontaneously planned in one day because the plane fare was cheap and we had the means. 

However, I found my dad’s take on this pandemic pretty interesting. He turned it into something more optimistic, which you can’t find so much of these days. Most people have voiced frustrations about their situation. 

Over the passing months, I gave a lot of thought to the “opportunity” that my father described to me in that conversation. The striking statement left me in complete awe as to how this global crisis could deliver opportunity.

I found in my case it was an opportunity to live somewhere that would normally be impossible. The Hawaiian Islands are often regarded as a paradise, or at least the most tourist-attractive state within our country. 

I was able to gain the perspective of people who live there and I learned the social culture that goes deeper than what visitors experience. Time, in a sense, goes slower in the islands. People are much more laid back and the normal worries and business of societal life can hardly be found. 

Yes, people are struggling to make ends meet and the pandemic has changed people, but despite that fact everyone still lives on and makes the best of what they experience every day. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to discover subtle things that we never noticed in our normal lives. 

You can still look beyond the insanity of the situation and find that time has stopped. Such serenity helps us understand how much we have and take for granted. So I’ve given my best effort to enjoy where I am, despite any underlying concern I’ve expressed while trapped in paradise. 

The questions I ask myself are different from my family and friends: “Will I ever get to go back home?” “How long can we stay here?” “Is everyone else OK?” “What is the COVID situation there?” These questions I ask myself every day and can never really get a clear answer. Being on an isolated island is somewhat different from the lockdowns I hear of at home. 

Here we are not on lockdown, just an advisory to stay at home; a lot of people are out and about getting essentials and going to the beach. Now, being on the beach is actually illegal, unless you’re in the water, so oftentimes when policemen come around, people scatter. 

Social distancing is somewhat practiced but I learned that most of the people here and around me don’t really care about it. I’ve met a few individuals who continue having fun with their families at home and talking to random passers-by on the beach. 

To some extent, everyone is panicked and nervous about this virus and people tend to de-stress in different ways. It so happens here in Hawaii, not many cases of COVID have been found relative to other states and countries; so they aren’t taking the same depth of precautions like in Colorado. As a result, people are more calm. 

As much as I love being here in such a beautiful place, it worries me that I won’t be able to see any of my friends or family for a long time. 

I’m still stuck in a dream and I can’t wake up. 

Maria Prosperi is a high school student who lives in Littleton.