A heartfelt mahalo, Kauai

Kauai. Here is my message for you — both as an island and community — as I say, “Alooooha!”

You, my friend, are an absolute gem, a true treasure. Leaving won’t be easy. In fact, it hadn’t really hit me until I sat down to pen this farewell to all of you. But one thing is for sure. I will forever consider my time here among the very best I’ve had.

To think I have been lucky enough to live in a place where I woke up every day and found myself still blown away and inspired by its unparalleled beauty; a place some people only dream of vacationing to.

Anyone who knows me has likely heard me, at one point or another, say, “What. A. Dump!” — always coated in an ridiculously thick layer of sarcasm. Truth is, I love this place.

Thursday was my last day at The Garden Island. I worked here 892 days, just shy of 30 months. In that time I was fortunate to get to know wonderful and caring island residents (far too many to name here), tell their stories and become part of a community unlike any other on Earth. I am incredibly grateful for that opportunity and for being welcomed with open arms.

For those who don’t know the face behind the bylines, here’s a quick history of how I ended up here. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Montana in 2009. After college, I worked for a year and a half as a reporter at a small weekly newspaper, the St. Maries Gazette Record, in St. Maries, Idaho. I left that job for an opportunity to teach English at a school in southern Brazil.

After returning to the United States, I began the dreaded job hunt. My first offer came from a small paper in Wyoming. I would have taken it except that at the last minute, after who knows how many follow up calls, TGI offered me the position. Maybe they decided it was the only way to stop the phone from ringing.

Since moving here, I have made the kind of friends who last a lifetime. I replaced my love of snowboarding with surfing, although it didn’t come easy for this tall, 6-foot, 4-inch figure. I conquered the magnificent Kalalau Trail, battling rain and wind, and came back feeling free. I swam alongside turtles and dolphins on the Na Pali Coast, ate strawberry guavas off the trees for breakfast, swam beneath waterfalls and slept in the sand.

Every weekend really did feel like vacation here. The Big Island, where I begin a new adventure on Sunday, has a lot to live up to.

Equally as fun as the weekend explorations were the stories. And for a little island in the middle of the Pacific, Kauai has its fair share. Coral disease. GMOs and pesticides. Illegal bed and breakfasts. Horizontal wells. Monk seals. Fatal accidents. Hawaiian Home Lands. Biomass facilities and solar energy. The list goes on, and I tried my very best to cover each story with respect and objectivity. Some may disagree, but I feel I did a good job.

Kauai and its people have taught me so much and helped me grow tremendously, both as a person and writer. It is a bittersweet feeling leaving all of you. The good news is Big Island is right around the corner — although you wouldn’t know it with what they charge in airfare for an hour-long flight.

Regardless, I plan to visit often, even if it is just for a weekend camping trip to Polihale.

To the people of this island. Thank you. To my coworkers at The Garden Island. Thank you. And to the readers out there, especially those who weren’t afraid to call me up and offer their manao, either critical or complimentary. Thank you.

A hui hou.

•••

Chris D’Angelo was the environmental reporter at The Garden Island. He will be reporting for Hawaii Tribune-Herald

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