14 Feb

Honu

While most of the country is enveloped in snow, I am here to bring a little sunshine (or make readers insanely jealous). As part of my ploy to hang out with Deborah as much as possible we met her and her crew at Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling.

We had not yet been, and this snorkeling mecca was on our must-do list. The water is pretty clear and we actually saw a wider variety of fish than we had on our Molokini snorkel day last summer.

There was interesting coral and some anenomes, and the cutest little polka dotted box fish:

And what’s this we’re pointing at?

That’s our state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa! Which sounds even funnier when screamed excitedly through a snorkel. The kids were thrilled to see and instantly recognize the fish who’s name they’ve been practicing so enthusiasticly.

My big excitement was going further out into the bay with Deborah’s husband and brother in law to see even more fish on the back side of the reef. And, like all good tourists, we were really hoping to see a turtle. And we did! After a quick sighting, it reappeared a few minutes later and we floated with it, very relaxed, for a good 20 minutes. That was cool!

That was the best Furlough Friday yet!

21 Jan

Plantation Days

I’ve posted a few times about the ancient Hawaiians and the Polynesian influence here in Hawai’i (click on the Aloha tag in the cloud over there on the right), but not really about the other main cultural influence — the days of the plantations. I’ll leave you to research on your own, but I wanted to share some photos of a historic area not too far from where I live (it wasn’t too long ago that where my house is located would have been in the middle of a cane field, with nothing but more cane as far as the eye could see). You can click on the photos to go to my Flickr set with a few more details.

Manager’s House

General Store?

Cane grabber-lifter thingy.

Ewa Community Church

Nifty part on the train that used to carry cane, but now carries people on a secnic tour (betcha didn’t know there was a train on Oahu, did you?).

More historic trains.

Rich businessman Dillingham’s private, parlor car.

28 Dec

Hi There!

Long time no talk. I’ve been busy.

We have family here and have been pretending to be tourists at a beach hotel. No internet or computer, and I have to admit I really didn’t miss it. I have been thinking a bit about what I could blog about since there has been no shortage of fodder, but I have not been motivated to actually write anything. I’m thinking about what the year ahead might bring and that will undoubtedly become a blog post. For now though, I think I’ll just share some photos of what we’ve been up to the last week or so.

We stayed at the Hale Koa in Waikiki

We walked around Waikiki and swam in the oean and in the pool.

We enjoyed some music.

We did a little hiking.

We did a little watching.

We finally made it to the sights at Pearl Harbor.

We looked for turtles.

We looked at each other.

We looked at the Pali.

We went to a Luau.

And we’re generally just enjoying ourselves (see the rainbow over Honolulu?).

See ya later.

26 Sep

Everyone Loves a Parade

alohaparade1

We’ve been missing our wacky Fasching Parades since leaving Germany. What today’s Aloha Week Festivals parade lacked in wackiness, it more than made up for in island flavor.

Kamehameha Schools Band

There were marching bands…

alohaparade3

Castle High School

…in aloha shirts,

Marines

Marines pressing hands,

alohaparade6

old cars (I love the simple decorations on this one and have made up a full story about the driver of this truck and how he fishes for octopus and hangs out with his friends speaking pidgen and eating smoked meat with poi).

Surfers

Random surfers crossing the street add the perfect island touch behind this car.

Singing Tutus

There were lots of Tutus (grandmotherly types) singing on the backs of floats,

Tutus in cars

and there were Tutus in cars. But, my favorites had to be the Princesses representing each island, decked out in symbolic lei and chanting greetings from their homes (roll your cursor over each one to find out her island).

Ni'ihau

Kauai

Oahu

Moloka'i

Lana'i

Kaho'olawe

Maui

Hawai'i

Bringing up the rear of each equestrian group were designated pooper scoopers. The lady we were sitting next to (who happened to be the principal of Sacred Heart School, and who’s school had an excellent band and float) said that she thought that the pooper brigades were judged as well as the floats, explaining why great lengths were taken to dress them well. While Ni’ihau and Lanai scored high in my book, we all agreed that a volcano poop repository was very fun.

Hawaii's Poop Brigade

For more pictures, including hula on the street and hula on the back of floats, check out my Flickr page.

20 Sep

Thunderbirds

Last night the kids went to movie night at their taekwondo studio and I had  a Saturday night to myself. I thought maybe I’d go to Waikiki and listen to music at one of the hotels, or otherwise pretend I was a tourist. My go-to parking lot was full though, and at the other end of the strip, I found coin parking, but without a clear idea of what I was going to do or where I was going to go, I didn’t think I had enough quarters. So I went home. I felt like such a wimp.

Today, Sunday, I offered that we go to Hickam Air Force Base to see the airshow, but my heart wasn’t really into hassling with parking and crowds, and besides, my son had been to the show on Friday with school and I’m not that into airplanes. So I didn’t mind when they chose instead to take up a friend’s invitation to play at his house. I said I’d pick them up at 3:00.

I came home and read some blogs, and found out that the Thunderbirds would be flying today at 3:00. Hmmm. The friend’s house is in the Airforce/Navy housing area near Hickam. Hmmm. Their house is next to a large park. I put my camera in my purse and left a little early.

The first plane zoomed by just as I was pulling up to the house. It is impossible not to be impressed by the speed of these planes, and how unimaginably close together they fly. And the noise! It was a bit of a game hearing the planes and then guessing where they’d show up. One flew so close that my camera actually tried to focus on it as it went by, but failed because of the jet’s speed.

I think I’m OK again with taking advantage of all there is to see and do here.

08 Feb

Ka Iwi Coast

This is the Blowhole viewed from above — a tourist attraction southwest of Honolulu. It’s actually more dramatic from Sandy Beach down below, but we were at the top parking lot, meeting our Hawai’i Nature Center group for a coastal walk. We saw whales spouting and rounding off the coast as we waited for people to assemble.

The official purpose of the walk was to learn about native Hawaiian coastal plants — this being the best place on the island (if not the state) to see such a variety. We were there as an excuse to get outside and see more of Oahu. The kids learned the difference between indigenous, endemic and introduced plants.

We saw plants like the ‘Ilima which is Oahu’s flower (the hibiscus is the state flower, but each island has it’s own flower or plant too). It takes hundreds of these little flowers to make a lei. We also saw Hawaiian Nama which is endemic to the islands and becoming quite rare.

We took a meandering route to Pele’s Chair for lunch. Legend says this is one of the places from which the fire/volcano goddess Pele left Oahu and went to work on the other islands. Our guide has some other juicy tidbits, but as I was with the kids, I was out of earshot. I think it had to do with Pele’s older sister chasing her from island to island flooding her fires in retribution after Pele had seduced her boyfriend.

Another legend is attached to this plant, the Beach Naupaka. The princess Naupaka fell in love with the commoner Kaui. Since custom forbade them to be together, she tore the flower in her hair apart and gave half to him. She stayed in the mountains where the Naupaka Kuahiwi (Mountain Naupaka) now grow sympathetically in an upward facing fan and he was banished to the coastal areas where the Naupaka Kahakai have since grown in a downward facing fan. It’s also a hardy shrub that is essential to maintaining the coastal ecosystem.

The other hikers in our group were wonderful and friendly. One volunteer is a preschool teacher and she took to my kids. At Pele’s Chair, she found a rounded rock and explained to my son how the Hawaiians used to play a game trying to roll it on the edge between two sticks. We didn’t have straight sticks, but did try to throw the stone so it would roll on it’s side. There was some success.

All in all a great day; good weather, good people, good sights (even a big green turtle (Hono) in one of the inlets), and just enough of a walk to wear the kids out, but not enough to elicit too many complaints.

03 Feb

Awesome Field Trip

On Monday, I joined my son’s fourth grade class field trip to Pu’u Ualaka’a park near the top of Mount Tantalus in the Honolulu Watershed (the necessity for, and protection of, being a major point made throughout the day). Tantalus is a rather ominous name, but Pu’u Ualaka’a apparently means Hill of the Rolling Sweet Potatoes since the early Hawaiians grew them here and rolled the harvest downhill rather than carry it.

The program was put on by Hawai’i Nature Center and instructors Jaime and Randy did an awesome job. Randy showed the kids how water does and doesn’t get into underground aquifers and had them check biodiversity in the forest downhill from the photo. Everyone became forest rangers on a short hike designed to highlight some of the local plants and issues.

Jaime gave the best geology demonstration I’ve ever seen. We sat around a big map of the world with the Hawaiian islands conveniently placed in the center (wow do we look isolated out there in the middle of the Atlantic Pacific). She asked the kids how a boiled egg was like the earth and they knew that the yolk represented the core, the white the mantle, and the shell the crust — which brought us to tectonic plates. The kids had been studying all this in class, so they knew that earthquakes and volcanic activity happen at the edges of plates where they rub together. She had them place little flames on the map where most activity is and they recognized it as the Ring of Fire. But we’re in the middle of the plate. In the photo above, she’s showing us the theory of the hot spot in the center.

Here’s an island forming in the center of the hot spot (we’ll call it Ni’ihau)…

But tectonic plates move, so the little island on the plate gets pushed away from the hot spot and another one forms (Kaua’i) and then another (Oahu is moving slowly off the hot spot in the photo above). Lana’i, Molokai’i, Kahol’olawe and Maui bubbled up pretty close together, then comes the Big Island, Hawai’i — which is still sitting mostly on the hot spot and therefore active. What’s next? The kids proudly named Lo’ihi, a growing island still submerged.

Then it was time to replace the hot spot with a bit of ocean and build our island, Oahu. Here, two kids are using crushed lava rock to build the two shield volcanos that formed the island, Wai’anea and Ko’olau.

Then comes erosion from wind, waves and rain (the three girls above). At some point, rocks were added to represent the three smaller, but more explosive volcanos that formed Punchbowl, Diamond Head and Koko Head. Global warming brought a higher water level (kids poured in water from iceberg shaped containers) and coral formed around the island. The ice age lowered water levels again (sucked back up by turkey basters and returned to the icebergs) and soon we had a bowl of mud that resembled Oahu enough for the kids to recognize the Oahu Plain (where school is).

Jaime added some birds and plants grown from the seed they, or the wind and waves brought. Then came the Polynesians in that little stick canoe in the back, bringing pigs, chickens and more plants. Then came more people in modern times and built a different kind of house, added cars, and removed some trees and introduced some others. It was simple, but the kids were rapt with attention and really “got” the whole presentation.

Between creating an island, doing scientific experiments, and our ranger hike, and probably all that fresh air, the kids slept on the bus ride back to school! They all said it was a great field trip though. And I’ve signed up myself and my kids to participate this weekend in a Hawai’i Nature Center coastal walk where hopefully we’ll see many of the native plants my son has been learning about in school.