Living Aloha

Today was my day to go to ‘town’ – Kona – and do my chores and shopping. As it happened, I was behind a car most of the way, about 45 minutes, that had a “Live Aloha” bumper sticker, and I got to thinking about what that was supposed to mean.

It turns out that there is a formal definition, and even a website (http://www.ealoha.com/livaloha.htm)  devoted to the idea of living aloha:

  • A stands for AKAHAI, meaning kindness.
  • L stands for LOKAHI, meaning bring unity.
  • O stands for OLU`OLU, meaning politeness.
  • H stands for HA`AHA`A, meaning humbled.
  • A stands for AHONUI, meaning enduring.

ALOHA

Some of the suggested ways you can live aloha include:

Respect all elders and children.
Leave places better than you find them.
Hold the door. Hold the elevator.
Plant something.
Drive with courtesy. Never drive impaired.
Attend an event of another culture.
Return your shopping cart.
Get out and enjoy nature.
Pick up litter.
Share with your neighbors.
Create smiles.
Create a list and share it.

You don’t have to be a politician.
Or the president of a company.
Or a famous doctor,
To make everyone’s life better.
Sometimes the smallest things make
the biggest difference.

While I was going through my day, I realized that a lot of what we love about living here has to do with the ideas behind living aloha. The pace here is slower, people seem kinder and more considerate, kids are taught to respect their elders, people stop to let you make a left hand turn.

Just today, I had a young woman with a small child in the grocery store notice that I was waiting for her to finish looking at the cereals so I could reach the one I wanted and she turned to her little boy and said “Go ask the auntie which box she wants and go get it for her.” Which the little boy did – it was really sweet and she was certainly living aloha and teaching him, too.

By the way – if you are a ‘woman of a certain age’ you are an auntie – when you are older than that you become a tutu. For now, I’m still an auntie, though. I haven’t figured out when you make the transition – my mom was always a tutu, I’ve been an auntie since we moved here.  I guess I’ve got a few more years to go to achieve tutu status.  Men are mostly uncles – they have to  be really older to be a tutu – same for both sexes, means grandparent, but it is more commonly used for older women and in families for actual grandmothers and grandfathers.

Driving in, I noticed how often people slowed down to allow others to merge, or stopped to let someone turn. I’m so used to this now that when we went to the mainland (happened to be in Florida) and someone in the lane opposite me  was trying to turn left, I stopped to let them.  I thought we were going to be shot or run into, people behind me started honking,  plus the poor soul I was waiting for didn’t know what to do. Dennis started yelling at me to just go before someone attacked us out of road rage. He was right, but I was automatically trying to live aloha – unfortunately not in the right place as the drivers in Florida don’t seem to have heard about living aloha!

A lot of living aloha seems to me to have to do what what used to just be common courtesy and good manners.  Unfortunately, that, along with civility, is sadly lacking in the modern world, and it makes me sad and also makes me wish that everyone, everywhere (and especially everyone in politics and in traffic) would learn to ‘Live Aloha!’

 

 

Hawaii is just one big small town

We moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area, with lots of sports teams to root for and follow. I don’t think I ever saw anything about high school sports on local tv news coverage, and very little about college sports except during the bowl games or March Madness.  Not so in Hawaii. High school football games were (and still are) broadcast statewide and results are announced during the evening news sports coverage.  So are the University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team games (they win a lot) and the UH football games (they don’t win much at all) and the high school state-wide playoffs get as much attention and air time on the sports news as the pros do.  There are no professional teams based here, so instead sports fans, and the local news teams’ sports people, follow UH sports teams plus anyone and everyone with Hawaii ties who plays or participates in any kind of professional sport. Odd sports can get very high coverage if there are Hawaii athletes who are doing well.

When we got here in 1998, for example, sumo wrestling was on the front of the sports page and headlined the sports news because there were three outstanding sumo wrestlers – Akebono, Musashimaru, and Konishiki – who achieved the highest level in the sport. Broadcasters did their best to explain the intricacies of the sport and tracked the progress of the three local boys as they moved upwards in the rankings.  We don’t hear anything much about it now, though, since all three have since retired. But now MMA – Mixed Martial Arts – is a big deal, although to me it looks more like street fighting. B.J. Penn from Hilo has been a big name in the sport for a good while, and there are some other up and comers from the islands as well, so we hear a lot about MMA.

Of course, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, and canoe racing get a lot of coverage, but that’s to be expected as these are all sports that were more or less invented here.  Professional and amateur surf contests get extensive coverage and surf conditions are part of the nightly news weather report daily.

As far as other more mainstream sports are concerned, the lead story is usually about someone with Hawaii ties and the introductions never fail to outline how the individual is associated with Hawaii, just in case you forgot between yesterday and today. Golf’s Michele Wie is invariably announced as “Punahou graduate and Hawaii native, Michele Wie.” Baseball gives us “Maui native and St. Louis grad, Shane Victorino,” and “former Warrior, Kolten Wong” and from football we have “Hawaii native, Manti Teo” among others.  The pro sports fates of popular local players like Colt Brennan are followed avidly by the news media, even when it is pretty clear that their professional careers are pretty much washed up.  Golf tournament results are announced with scant attention to the winners if there are players with Hawaii ties who finish in the top twenty or so.

It is sort of endearing, and, for a not very avid sports fan like me (actually I’d rather watch paint dry than baseball) it does give a modicum of interest in finding out how Kolten or Shane did today.  The way sports are reported here makes it feel like it is a neighborhood kid you are hearing about and that makes me sit up and pay a little more attention than I otherwise would.  After all, if I happen to run into Shane’s or Kolten’s or B.J.’s auntie somewhere, I certainly would want to know how her boy has been doing, and it is just possible that in our small town Hawaii, I could!

 

 

 

Cruisin’ for Credits

I just got an extra $1000 in on board credit for our cruise after next! We already had $200 in OBC for buying what is called a future cruise credit while we were on board the Holland America Rotterdam earlier this year, and that is something you should ALWAYS do if you think you might like to come back to whatever cruise line you are on if they offer such a program. Most of them do have some kind of program and by putting money down – you don’t have to know what cruise you want to take – it can both reduce the amount of your required deposit when you DO decide where you want to go, and also give you some money back in the form of an ‘on board credit’ or OBC. That can be used to reduce the amount you owe at the end of your cruise for your spa or bar or on board shopping or specialty dining bills. How much you will get back depends on the category of the cabin you book and the length of the cruise.  However, the kicker is that you MUST purchase the Future Cruise Credits (FCCs) while you are on board a ship.  They aren’t available any other way.  Of course, if you don’t use them within the allotted period of time, they do refund back to your credit card.

There are a few other ways to get on board credits – many of the cruise lines give you OBCs if you own stock – if you own 100 shares of Carnival stock you get a certain amount per cabin based on the length of the cruise on any of the Carnival brands, which include Holland America, Princess, Carnival, Costa, Cunard, all the P & Os, Aida, Ibero, and Ocean Village.  Our 100 shares of Carnival stock have paid for themselves several times over by now, and give us dividends, too!  Some lines offer a token amount – $25 or $50 – to their very frequent cruisers with a (very) large number of days on board.

Affiliate credit cards can also be a source for OBC, or for other cruise related goodies like casino credits, spa credits, wine, special occasion packages, specialty dining, cruise line merchandise, or discounts or the price of the cruise or your airfare.  Most offer two points for each dollar spent on cruise fare and related charges, and redemption levels can start as low as 3,000 or so points.  A dear and clever friend of mine taught several of us a  good trick.  She  charges casino credits to her affiliate card, gets two points for each dollar spent, does the minimal amount of play required to cash in the credits, and goes home and puts the money back in the bank, paying off the credit card and reaping her rewards in ‘free’ on board credits!

We’ve also gotten OBCs when something has gone wrong on the cruise – either to the whole ship, like missing a port due to engine problems, or in our specific cabin, like AC that doesn’t work or other mechanical issues, in one notable case, after the cruise. when I wrote to tell Princess that they should downgrade the category of the Lido deck cabin we had that was under the gym due to the incessant noise they gave us a very nice OBC for a future cruise.  Pretty clever really, as they converted a very unhappy customer who probably wouldn’t have sailed with them again into a return cruiser, and, as it happened, the next cruise we took was one of our all time favorites.

Today, though, it was from something else I do routinely, which is checking the cruise line’s web page for any new specials or promotions.  This is something that, if you cruise at all, you should get into the habit of doing as well.  When a new promotion crops up, it could score you some kind of benefit, like a free drink package or specialty dinner, or, in this case, a nice on board credit that we can use for drinks or specialty dinners or anything else we might want to purchase on board.  I just made a copy of the information about the promotion, forwarded it to my wonderful travel agent, Nancy Bogert  of Cruise Planners http://www.planningcruises.com/ and as quick as a return email, we had a nice new OBC for our Singapore to Singapore cruise on the Volendam.  Nancy was able to negotiate the credit from the promotion without rebooking me, but sometimes the benefits in the specials are for ‘new bookings only’ and you have to be a bit careful with those, especially if you have a particularly good cabin assignment or a great early booking price, as you could end up paying more than the promotion is worth to you or losing your great cabin.  A good travel agent will help you avoid those pitfalls, of course.

Here’s the link to the cruise in case you want to consider coming along! http://www.hollandamerica.com/find-cruise-vacation/CruiseDetails.action?webItineraryIdForAudit=OAW514&fromSearchVacation=true&destList=O&dateCode=3_2015&flexibleMonths=false&noOfFlexibleMonths=1&portCode=&shipCodeSearch=&voyageCode=V519

 

What’s that mean??

In spite of inquiries we got regularly when we had our vacation rental in Kona, Hawaii really is part of the USA, and has been for quite some time now, and yes, we speak English and take American money, and no, if you are coming over from the mainland (not the States – we’re one too!) you do not need to bring your passport.  However, like a few other places in the US, there are a few other languages spoken here and a lot of ‘loan words’ are in common usage in everyday life here in Hawaii Nei.  So, what does that mean?  Beloved Hawaii.

One of the most common words, of course, is Aloha which means, variously, hello, goodbye, and love.  Mahalo is thank you.  To which you respond Aole pilikia – no problem.  A lot of visitors leave Hawaii thinking that the word for trash is kokua, because they see on the rubbish bins “Please Kokua” – it doesn’t mean trash, it means help – as in ‘please help keep Hawaii clean and put your trash here.’ A hui hou is see you later. Ala means path, also used for street or road. Hale is house. Mauna is mountain.  Our two big mountains here are Mauna Kea – White Mountain and Mauna Loa – Long Mountain.  Place names are often combination words – Waimea is Wai – Water and Mea – Red.   Haleakala  is House of the Sun hale– house a-of or belonging to ka-the la – sun. The sea is kai and directions are given in terms of the mountains and the sea – Mauka ma-towards uka – inland or upland and Makai – towards the sea.  Kuleana is responsibility – mostly you’d hear that in a phrase like ‘not my kuleana’ when a person is reluctant to get involved in something.  Food is Kau-Kau, and a Luau is a feast.  Lava comes in two basic forms a’a which is rough and blocky and pahoe’hoe which is smooth and ropy.  A group of people with a common interest is a hui.  Big is nui and mahalo nui loa is how to say thanks a lot.

In addition to Hawaiian borrowings, we also have borrowings from Japanese – bento for a box lunch and lots of other food words like sushi, sashimi, saimen, shoyu (soy sauce) and tako (octupus).  Portugese gives us the delicious malasada which is a sort of donut without the hole – sometimes stuffed and sometimes not.  The best ones around here come from a place in Honoka’a called Tex’s Drive In, which, weirdly enough, is run by a German woman and serves hot malasadas all day, and ‘plate lunch’ – a uniquely Hawaiian meal originating in the fields of the sugar plantations where the workers from  various ethnic backgrounds got together and shared their lunches.  A plate lunch consists of a protein (could be teriyaki chicken, meatloaf, fish, pork katsu) two scoops rice and mac salad which is potato salad with macaroni.  Not exactly diet food!

Then there are the pidgin words  and phrases – not advisable for non-locals to try as you sound sort of silly and could even get yourself in trouble – but good to know the meanings:  da kine-a sort of generic when you aren’t sure or don’t remember, as ‘You know, da kine part fo’ da motor.’ Slippahs are flip flops or thongs.  Cockaroach is to take or steal – sometimes you’ll hear this used on sports casts about baseball players stealing a base.  Brok’ da mouth is really good or delicious food, also dat so ono! Ono being the Hawaiian word for delicious.   All the tourist spots sell a lighthearted guide to Pidgin called Pidgin to da Max, but it really isn’t a good idea to try and use it, although it is fun to read. www.aloha-hawaii.com/culture/pidgin/

Of Mice and Mousers

We are in the middle of a plague of mice. Since we’ve been here (1998) this is the second time it has happened and it seems that periods of drought followed by heavier than normal rains, growth of weeds and grasses, equals mouse population explosions. The mice don’t behave normally, either. They are day time active, generally less timid – or even down right bold – and mostly, they are everywhere. The last time this happened, we were staff to a wonderful Abyssinian cat named Monkey. When the mouse explosion started, he was a great mouser and he was vigilant about keeping the house and surrounds mouse-free. After a while, he got tired of a mouse diet, and started leaving the less desirable mouse parts around – very yucky. Then, he got really bored with the whole process and would either bring in or play with the mice, then let them go. Even yuckier. Finally, he got so bored that a mouse could run over his foot and he wouldn’t even look up. At long last, and much DeCon later, the mouse population went back to normal and then we had our last drought – for the last several years and I sort of forgot about the Great Mouse Population Boom.

Now, after a wet winter and spring, and with continuing rains even now, everything is greening, seeding and we have the mice again, maybe even worse than before. In the fullness of time, Monkey went to his reward at age 18, and we acquired two Papillion dogs. According to the AKC and all the information about the breed, these little guys shouldn’t be good for much of anything but being lap warmers since Papillions have been bred as companion animals since the 1500s.

Rajah and Rufus
Rajah and Rufus

My two, however, have some kind of genetic throwback characteristics to whatever kind of hunting dog is in their ancestry. They think that they should be bird dogs and try to point the francolins and quail, and they are incredible mousers. Today, alone, on our afternoon walk, Rufus bagged 9 mice and Rajah got 7. They’ve gotten as many as 15 to 17 EACH in a single mile long walk – which tells you both how many mice we have and what good little hunters they are. So far, they are still interested and have not resorted to playing with or ignoring their prey, and this mouse explosion has lasted longer than the last one did. I’m just hoping that their level of interest stays high until the mouse population goes back to normal. I don’t think they’d like it if we added a rat terrier to the household and I KNOW they wouldn’t like it if we got another cat.

Planning to get off the rock

When you live in Hawaii, the first thing you have to consider is getting to somewhere that you can get to where ever it is that you want to go, from. If that sounds confusing, well, it is. For us, we have a limited range of non-stop destinations from Kona – essentially all western US locations – and no flights with the “good” kind of business/first class upgrades available. This is defined, by my significant other, as seats that make into lie flat or nearly lie flat beds. He is a very anxious flyer and since we started using our airline miles for upgrades and first experienced the ‘lie flat’ business class seats, this is all he wants to fly. That means we have to go first to Honolulu. Normal people, however, can pick San Francisco, Los Angles, San Jose, Oakland, Seattle, Phoenix, or Portland as their gateways, non-stop from Kona. We used to have more choices – Chicago, Houston, even St. Louis briefly, as well as a couple of times a week direct from Kona to Japan on JAL. Airline consolidations, 9/11, and one thing or another have elminated some, added others over the years, but the principal remains the same. Unless your final destination happens to be the western US, you are flying to get to somewhere where you can get to where you want to go. For us, though, the first stop is always going to be Honolulu, because there are NO flights from Kona with the requisite types of seats to make my anxious flyer willing to endure a trip of 20 plus hours to Europe or 11 or so to Australia or Asia.

With the added complication of being limited to specific aircraft configurations, I find one website absolute indispensable. It is www.routehappy.com and it is the greatest flight planning tool on the web, in my somewhat biased opinion. Why? Because you can put in the beginning and ending points of your proposed trip and it will pull up, not just all the possible flights and connections – lots of sites do that – but also the ‘happiness factors’ and these include the types of seats – recliner, angled flat, cradle sleeper, and flat bed or pod. They also tell you all about the food, and also have reviews of the airline/s and/or the route, note any long layovers and outline the entertainment options, availability of wifi on board, plugs at the seats and a host of other details.

With the help of Routehappy I can figure out who goes where I want to go which the right kinds of seat, what airline alliance I need to tap into to get that routing, and then I can start to figure out how to make it all work.

Invasive species

I was weeding in the yard today and it got me to thinking about weeds and from there to invasive species – some of which I was pulling up.  When you get right down to it, anything that is living here invaded at some time in the past, so everything, really,  is a colonizing invasive species from the so-called ‘indigenous’ happy face spiders to the more recent invaders like the coffee berry borer beetle.  In the distant past, the species that are now regarded as indigenous arrived by accident and happenstance – on the winds of far reaching storm systems, on floating debris – like is still happening now after the Japan earthquake and tsunami.  They just happened to be invaders who got here before the first people – like the 15 bird species that evolved into the more than 150 that were here to greet the first Polynesian settlers.

When the Polynesians arrived, they brought with them their ‘canoe plants’ like taro, bananas, and sweet potatoes and yams, and their deliberately introduced animals like the poi dogs and Polynesian pigs, and their accidentally introduced ones like the mice and rats, and no doubt fleas and other insects. In the process, the early settlers also brought about some of the earliest Hawaiian ‘native’ species extinctions, as well.  When the  Polynesians arrived – somewhere around 300 AD –  there were something like 150 different bird species.  Within a very brief period – a few hundred years at most – approximately half were extinct.  Scientists believe that some of the extinctions were due to predation by the humans, but most were induced by the introduction of the Polynesian rat (a stowaway on the voyaging canoes) or were victims of habitat loss from slash and burn agricultural practices.

It is a romantic fiction, much popularized in these days, that the Polynesians always lived in harmony with the land and had ecologically sound hunting, fishing and agricultural practices.  It is a myth with some truth to it, as they did, over time, learn to live more in harmony with their island homes, and did gradually develop a kapu system that protected the land and sea from over use, but it was a drawn out learning process with many casualties along the way.   Even so, the Polynesians were masters of restraint in dealing with their fragile island environment compared to those who came after them.

The deliberate introduction of so many plants and animals over the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries for economic gain, ornamental beauty, or as prey animals for various hunting sports, or simply by accident, like the Polynesian rats, have rendered the Hawaiian islands into something that the original settlers likely would not even recognize.  So many of the ‘symbols’ of Hawaii – the pineapple, the sugar cane, the orchids, the Kona coffee, and the macadamia nuts – are all invaders, as are most of the colorful landscape plantings like the plumeria, most of the hibiscus, and bouganvilleas, as well as many of the species of palm trees and most of the food crops and all the ‘cash crops’ like coffee and mac nuts.

The ubiquitous mongoose was introduced, famously, to be a predator for the cane rats (also introduced) but without the knowledge that they are diurnal predators and their intended prey is nocturnal.  The Polynesian pigs inevitably got loose as did the later introduced European hogs and crossbred to form the destructive wild pigs that play havoc with the forest floor ecological system, as well as the irrigation systems of many island condo developments and golf courses.   Mouflon sheep were released on the slopes of Mauna Kea for hunting sport.  Some idiot recently flew deer – a horrible pest on Maui – over to the Big Island and exchanged them for some of the mouflon.  Thankfully, he was caught, prosecuted and now has to contribute flight time to the rangers who are trying to erradicate the release deer.

Captain Vancouver introduced cattle and goats to the islands – ostensibly as a gift to King Kamehameha, but more in hopes of creating a source of resupply of meat for His Majesty’s Navy and the British merchant fleet.  The cattle in turn brought in their wake various food crops, and a wide range of new cultural practices introduced with the imported vaqueros who came to teach the Hawaiians how to be cowboys.  That cross-cultural exchange gave us the Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy), the ukelele, and the Islands’ distinctive slack key guitar music and falsetto singing style.

Most of the bird life we see today in Hawaii is introduced, from the little yellow finches and red cardinals (brought over because red and yellow feathers were highly prized by the native peoples and formed a kind of currency in the early days after European contact and which was immediately and permanently devalued by the introduction of said birds, as well as by the introduction of cloth) to the quail, pheasants, francolins and turkeys that were all introduced as game birds.  Almost all of the remaining 50 or so species that survived the early years of Polynesian settlement are now firmly on the endangered list, and sliding towards extinction, some thanks to competiton from the new comers, some from loss of habitat and some from introduced diseases and pests.  Island populations have notoriously low resistance to diseases.

So, what, if any, lessons are in this?  Mostly, I suppose, it is that you shouldn’t bring new plants and animals into closed eco-systems without some thought about the impact.  But, too, that life as we know it here in the islands would not be what it is without some invasive species, which, of course, includes us humans as well.

 

 

Lucky you Live Hawaii

There are two maxims that cover a good bit of life in Hawaii. The first is “lucky you live Hawaii” and this comment covers pretty much anything good from gorgeous trade wind weather days like we had today to rainbows, sunsets, shave ice, and saimin. If you are having a good day or encounter something that is uniquely Hawaii, you can say or think – ‘lucky you live Hawaii!”

However, there’s another equal and opposite maxim “The Price of Paradise” – usually said phliosophically or wryly about some of the not so good things about living in the middle of the ocean – like the highest prices on gasoline in the nation, the impossibility of obtaining certain goods without paying extortinate shipping rates and the ubiquitous “offer not available in Alaska or Hawaii.”

Coast View from Kohala Mountain Road
Coast View from Kohala Mountain Road

Today, I’ve had a little of both. After about a week of really dull, humid, off and on rainy and warm weather, Nature’s airconditioning is back on, the skies are blue, the air is clear and it is just a beautiful ‘lucky you live Hawaii’ kind of day.

On the ‘price of Paradise’ side of the ledger, we have been fiddling around with Lowe’s for nearly a year now trying to get blinds and valances put in. The first order went in in November of 2013. We are now on the third – and not final!! – attempt to get it right. They did the measuring so it has been on them from the start, and to be fair, they’ve been keeping at it – but we’ve had three different sets of valances made and there’s still one room where they don’t fit right. And each iteration goes to the factory for fabrication, then to the warehouse to await shipping, then to the container, then to the port, then to the container ship, then to Honolulu, then to the barge that comes to the outer islands, (and, incidentally, gets offloaded about 3 or 4 miles from our house, but then has to go about 40 miles to Kona, then back again) and, at long last, when the one installer has time, gets brought here, put in and still doesn’t fit. On the mainland, probable turn around would be a couple of weeks between each not fitting valance, here we’re lucky if it is a couple of months.

On balance, there are more ‘lucky you live Hawaii’ moments than ‘price of Paradise’ ones, but when you encounter one of the latter, it is frustrating and can make you think a little longingly of life back ‘in the world!’

What this is going to be about

We live on the Big Island of Hawaii – the one with the active volcano. Hawaii is the most remote inhabited archipelego in the world – about 2000 miles to any continental land mass. This blog will be about living here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and about our (my husband Dennis and my) travels from here to the rest of the world.

I’ll be adding pictures both from here at home, and from where ever else we happen to be going, talking about travel and travel planning, and answering questions if there are any, about both home and our travels.

hawaiian islands color map