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  • Writer's pictureNicole Olsen

Sun Kissed Cheeks

After a few days on the island exploring nonstop with my uncle and aunt on their side of the island, we decided to go out on our own and see what was happening on the other side of Hawaii. We knew one side of the island, the side my uncle is on, is wet and the other is dry, but really I don't think we were prepared for what we saw when we reached the Kona side. Up until this point our entire Hawaiian experience had consisted of humid, wet, green jungle, with vegetation that could mow you over and heavenly mist nearly constantly raining down from the clouds. What is on the dry side could not be more opposite. Here the sky was clear, the sun bright, and the air dry. The black lava everywhere, without greenery to cover it up, was startling and fierce. Tall yellow grass and mesquite trees were all that grew here in this desert by the ocean. It looked like another planet, a place where something catastrophic happened, I guess not too long ago something did. But if you just kept traveling West to the where the land dropped off into ocean you'd find color and life again.

The reason we'd traveled to this side of the island was to check out their sandy beaches and coral reefs. We came prepared with our snorkel sets brought with us all this way from the Target in Virginia with no expertise on how to use them. Turns out you just stick the straw in your mouth and go, that easy. The kids seemed to pick it up no problem and soon enough Sebastian was back to report on all the wonderful things he had seen in the water. But as soon as I outfitted myself with a mask and snorkel I felt trapped, unable to breathe without the use of my nostrils, almost sure I'd be even more terrified about it when underwater, so I tried to back out. Sebastian with his pleading eyes desperate to share what wonders he had just seen was too much to resist, so in I went while reminding myself not to panic.

The second I lowered my head under the waves and saw the coral and brightly colored fishes swimming around me in this secret world beneath the water I was hooked. I forgot about how uncomfortable it was to breathe through my mouth through a straw sticking out above the waves, or that my goggles were tight and pulled at my hair. The second I saw what lay before me, what Sebastian was so excited to share, I was mesmerized and nothing but happiness filled my brain as I floated alongside turtles, stared face to face with the fish, and swam in the same waters as the dolphins. We loved it so much we stayed out there for hours face down, rears to the sky, and never once did I consider the sun above, in the world of the breathing that I had left behind, and that is exactly how you get a very painful sunburn on your ass cheeks.

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