The Beat

The Beat

Martina Santos 26 (left) hosts Nieves Gomez as an exchange student from Madrid.
Meet Nieves Gomez
May 27, 2024

4,844 miles from home


I’m from South Florida. And some may think that Hawaii and Florida are similar. They both have beaches, the ocean and yearlong heat, however, after spending time in Hawaii you realize that there are more differences than similarities. 

After months of quarantining, my family and I felt it was time to get back to something we have always loved – travel. In December of 2020 we visited my father’s college roommate and lifelong friend in Oahu. At that time, the opportunity to travel gave me hope that we were closer to the end of the pandemic. After 13 long hours of traveling we were greeted by the iconic rainbow over the mountains of Honolulu. The winding roads of the Pali (Hawaii Route 61), the views of mountains everywhere, tourists at the Pali lookout and going barefoot in the supermarket were all so unfamiliar to me and unlike Miami in almost every way.

Not only was the trip refreshing but I made a great new friend. For an entire week, Raegan shared the sights, sounds and customs of her native land helping me to experience life as a true Hawaiian. I learned some local slang words like “cherreh” for good, “mops” for good food, and “rajah” for I got it. Being a country music fan, I never thought that my new favorite song would be, “He’e Roa.” 

I went hiking up Maunawili trail… barefoot, I scaled down rocks to the Makapu’u tide pools, went hiking up Kuli’ou’ou ridge, jumped off the rock in Waimea, and sat at the diamond head lookout. While the majority of the population is native Hawaiian, there are also many white and Japanese people living on Oahu. I met people from all kinds of different backgrounds. One day on the way to the beach we stopped at a Mexican food truck where, for the first time I was able to speak Spanish since I arrived on the island. I introduced Raegan and her parents to Jarritos which they had never tried before, and later they introduced me to Hawaii’s famous malasadas.

I loved it so much that the following July, I went back again but this time, by myself.  At first, my mom was concerned because Hawaii is so far away but my father had confidence in me, so they let me go. I’ve always been very independent, and this trip really tested my independence. After getting stuck on the tarmac for two hours in Miami and landing in LA five minutes before my connecting flight, I remained calm, ran to my next gate and made it. For the first time in my life I knew that I could depend on myself and I’m thankful for how my parents raised me. 

In discovering these two seemingly similar places that are actually very different, I lived through a life changing milestone. I learned how to use my independence as a catalyst for personal growth.

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About the Contributor
Viola Lake
Viola Lake, Editor in Chief
Viola Lake is a senior at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart. This will be her fourth year on The Beat news staff. She is the creator of the podcast "Viola's Voice," co-creator of the "Carrollton Cast" and the president of the News for the Heart Journalism Club.