With hundreds of thousands of people out of work and millions more living in fear of sickness, possibly death, it seems selfish to talk about missing the freedom to come and go at will.

But I can’t help it. Staring at the four walls of my home office squeezed into our kitchen pantry has me yearning not only for big travel adventures — like the time my friends and I walked across Scotland — but also the small daily acts of venturing out the front door into the unknown; everyday forays to experience something new, even as infinitesimal as exploring the menu of a just-opened restaurant or walking through a new exhibition in an art museum. 

I began self- isolating early on, 36 days ago, out of concern for my husband’s underlying health issues.

denby fawcett
Staring at your own walls makes you appreciate the wonders of going out the door. Denby Fawcett

At first, it seemed weirdly intriguing to be joined with everyone in the entire world under the same threat of deadly infection from a global pandemic.

I couldn’t stop turning to my computer to look at the latest news, opinion columns, livestreaming news conferences, with the news seeming to change from hour to hour as it became evident that COVID-19 was a disease like nothing experienced in our lifetimes.

There was a perverse fascination watching Donald Trump reassure everyone that the coronavirus that he badmouthed as “Chinese” was nothing to worry about while his own epidemiologists were routinely contradicting him.

At the beginning of March, the early days before the plague seemed real, I privately scoffed at my kumu hula, Cathy Ostrem, as she zoomed off in her SUV to stock up on Vienna sausages, other non-perishable foods, bottled water and cleaning supplies.

But when it was evident that even the remote Hawaiian islands would be hit with the coronavirus, I was the one left without antiseptic wipes, bottles of hand sanitizer or an ample supply of toilet paper.

News of increasing infection and death became nervous-making. I started stuffing myself with English muffins and handfuls of granola.

Now the word Zoom has a different meaning as our social lives, business meetings, exercise sessions and even hula lessons come into our homes via the videoconferencing app I had not even heard of until a month ago. 

At first, Zoom was exciting. The kick-off session for our halau on Zoom began with a frenzied scramble of hula dancers chatting back and forth in cyberspace as each one tentatively felt her way through the prompts to join in.  

There were 21 students in that first class, some like me in slouchy home wear, dancing on their decks or in bedrooms and kitchens. 

One student, making a pounding noise, said she was chopping French bread, another was sipping white wine from a glass she thought we couldn’t see, and a former hula sister, a Native Hawaiian now living in Delaware, couldn’t stop crying, saying she was so glad to see us even though our voices were distorted and the lighting was bad.

The class was at twilight. For me on my deck, with the sun going down over Diamond Head, it was calming and beautiful.

Sessions that have followed are welcome as we learn new movements to the late Kui Lee’s mournful composition “I’ll Remember You.”

Denby Fawcett coronavirus zoom
Hula classes over the computer may be calming, but the initial excitement of using Zoom has worn off. Bob Jones

We have become experienced Zoomers, wearing our proper halau clothes, quietly coming to the virtual class without a fuss.

Same with the Zoom version of the weight-training class we used to attend three times a week at sunrise at Magic Island.

When the virus became serious, our coach, John Sarich, had to go home to Canada, where he routinely spends his summers, before the country’s borders closed.

Now he coaches us at 7 a.m. from his condo in London, Ontario, making us work harder than we would on our own with hand weights and kettlebells. 

Sarich says in three weeks he’s seen his Zoom classes expand to students in Florida, British Columbia, and Australia. He used to teach just us locals at Magic Island.

After COVID restrictions are relaxed, Zoom and other videoconferencing apps are certain to remain a part of our lives.

Leeward Community College computer skills instructor Dottie Sunio, who works out with us on Zoom, says, “This will be huge. We had already started to scratch the surface before the virus. Those teachers and professors who don’t know or don’t want to learn how to deliver distance education will retire.

“We will have a better-educated population for sure. Tuition and educational expenses will decrease dramatically.”

So even Zoomland, which earlier this month was an exciting revelation, now has become part of our daily routines.

And that circles back to my main point. This tumultuous, upside-down, jittery time of infection is beginning to settle into normalcy.

Yet what is still abnormal is that we remain shut in, day after day, staring at the walls of our rooms. Human beings were made to get out and explore.

I suppose I always knew it but now I truly understand the importance of new experiences and heading out into the unknown to my own sense of being alive.

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