Archive for December, 2008

Last Full Day on Oahu

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 by janice

A shortish post today as we have to pack and eat before our shuttle comes at 11am.

We’ve been both lucky and unlucky with weather here in Hawaii this week. Scattered showers or cloud cover has dominated although we’ve had sufficient clear blue skies to get a good taste of the Hawaii of the post cards. But since a lot of our stuff has been outdoor activities, it’s been nice that things have been a little cooler and less oppressively humid. We were especially happy about that part in the morning when we went to hike Diamond Head.

Diamond Head (Le’ahi) is an volcano crater that is now a State Monument. For 100 years it’s been a military installation, first for the Army, which built gun emplacements on it heights, and now the National Guard, which apparently keeps disaster relief supplies there. But the fact that you have to come up a steep paved road and through a tunnel and the emerge into the crater to see military equipment led Darren to call this the military’s Secret Volcano Base. 😉

The Diamond Head trail was built so bring food, crew and equipment up to the Fire Control Station – and by that they don’t mean putting out fires, they directing artillery fire – but is now out of service and stripped. Some modification have been made to make it accessible to hikers, although the climb is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t just that it is a steep climb, it’s the tunnels hacked through the crater, the 200+ steep stairs, the spiral staircase and crossing out of the former gun turrets over wooden planks to get to the top most portion.

Once you get there the view is worth the effort. Pics when I can.

We made the climb up and back in just over 90 minutes, which is what they estimate it should take. Grabbed a cab who we were initially going to have take us downtown but since we wanted food before taking on the next item on our agenda, he recommended going to Cheeseburger in Paradise. Also a good call. Best darn cheeseburger… well, not ever but pretty close. Cheesie place to but fun and good food.

Next to Pearl Harbor, the main reason for coming to Oahu over the other islands was to see the ‘ ‘Ionani Palace. This is the only royal residence on United States soil, having been, for a brief time, the home of the King and Queen of Hawaii and capitol of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The site is sacred to Hawaiians – it had been a place where the chiefs lived and were buried for thousands of years before the palace was built there in the late 1800s. It is also a symbol of the sovereignty of the Kingdom that was stolen from them by the greed and fear of white Europeans and Americans. In short, it is a place of great power and sadness.

At the risk of sounding overly political (hah!) I think our country has a lot to answer for and we don’t seem to have learned the lesson that power and greed are NOT good reasons for going into a sovereign country and taking it over. And no, a government essentially designed and hand picked by OUR government does not make up for invading and over throwing the one that existed before (they even called it the Provisional Government for cryin’ out loud!) Pardon me for seeing the parallels between Hawaii more than 100 years ago and Iraq now. There is of course no parallel between Queen Liliokalani or her brother before her and Saddam Hussein – in fact, quite the opposite, both the King and Queen were highly educated monarchs who worked tirelessly in service to their people. (King Kalakaua BTW was elected King!) But the real reasons for the overthrow of the Queen’s government is exactly the same as the real reason for overthrowing the government of Iraq – the US wanted Hawaii’s resources and the Kingdom’s government was a barrier to that. (OK, off my soap box!)

The Palace is beautifully and lovingly restored. It is amazing to see how much of the furnishings they have managed to find and restore to the rooms and also depressing how much is yet to be found. The floors of the palace are apparently not all original but have been redone in the same manner as the original. There is little ‘Hawaiian’ about the building and furnishings. It is largely European (Victorian specifically) in style as King Kalakaua, who had the palace built, wanted to be seen as a modern monarch and Hawaii as a modern country. But in contrast, the King, his wife and his sister (later Queen) Liliokalani were very big supporters of native Hawaiian culture. They wrote Hawaiian music, support the hula, made Hawaiian the state language again.

It was a wonderful visit and afterward we crossed the street to see the statue of King Kamehameha I, who united all of the islands into the Kingdom.

Back at the hotel we decided to have another drink at Dukes and stare out at the ocean for a time. Got my girlie drink and some appetizers and relaxed for a time. I’ll let Darren tell you all about the meal we had at Alan Wong’s but let me just say, it was incredible. And the dessert was BRILLIANT! 🙂

Well, I am off to buy a few more touristy items then get lunch and pack. More when we get home.

Blessings,

Janice

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Mostly Sunny

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 by janice

The Internet connection seems to work more reliably in the mornings here so hopefully I’ll be able to get some pics up today.

Yesterday was eventful. Darren not being interested in underwater adventures, I went off on my own in the morning to the beach by the Sheraton to meet the MaiTai catamaran for their Underwater Adventure. The first part was a lot of fun. They sailed out to a place further than most of the tourists can swim where a lot of sea turtles like to congregate for snorkeling. One of the guys on the boat took so good pics of me floating about and the turtles coming to check out the boat.

About to take the plunge

It was pretty amazing. I couldn’t make it all the way to the bottom (it was 35 feet deep there) to check out the coral because my asthma decided that was a perfect time to act up. But I stayed out as long as I could and got to see lots of fish, get pretty darn close to a sea turtle (they are endangered so we don’t get too close) and generally have a nice time.

Then I got back in the boat and it all went wrong. We were still moored in order to let us eat but pretty soon the up and down and back and forth made eating a Very Bad Idea for me. Damn! The crew was very attentive, giving me water and ginger ale to hopefully settle my stomach. Once we got under way and were heading into the wind-drive waves I was fine for a while. But as soon as we would slow down to turn or get a good look at anything, my inner ear betrayed me again. Ah well, the times in between being sea sick were spectacular and I’m still glad I did it.

After dragging myself off the boat and back to the hotel, I laid down to rest for a while and Darren went off to get something to eat. I’ll let him tell the story about the bar tendered at the place he went to but I will mention that the major question every local seems to be asking every tourist is “were you here for the black out” and they all have a great “no shit, there I was” story for the night. Very funny.

Darren made it back by and by and, since I was feeling like I was really back on dry land, we walked down to the Honolulu Zoo. This is a lovely zoo not much larger than the Santa Barbara Zoo. It’s very well designed from the exhibits to the landscaping. There are hundreds of examples of native plants around the place. It feels a lot like walking through a rain forest in the Asian sections. This is one of the zoos that is breeding Sumatran tigers and they have three cubs there right now. Watched them gamboling and killing trees for a while. Went next door to where the male is house and just as Darren was taking a pic of me in front of the exhibit the food cart went by and he jumped up to start ‘stalking’ it.

They have an excellent African section as well with large exhibits for the animals and many species housed together as they might live on the Savannah.

After seeing pretty much everything there was to see and closing down the zoo, we made our way through the slight sprinking (we had the unbrella today) to Ono Hawaiian Food, since I was finally ready to eat something. Best decision all day. This place was superb – recommended by Chowhound and Anthony Bourdain. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall type place, but as is often the case, it’s has the best food. It’s a locals joint and not something you’re likely to find in the Honolulu guide books. Obviously a family run joint, to judge by the aunties in the kitchen and the young man serving the food. Well made native Hawaiian dishes. We got there just in time for Darren to have one of the last servings of the LauLau and I had the Chicken long rice plate. Well worth the 5 block hike.

Took a walk back to the hotel along the beach and then sat to watch the sunset. Darren rocks by the way: I could never take pics like this:

We went back to the room for a while. Then around nine I was feeling hungry again so we ventured over to the Hilton Prince Kuhio to have a late meal at Mac 25/7. This is a popular cafe which is famous for having pancakes large enough to feed a family of four. I kid you not. I took a pic with the cell so when I get home I’ll post that. Had to order them just to see them with my own eyes. The couple behind me did too and we were both agog when they arrived. I got the banana/walnut pancakes, which was more like desert than breakfast and I barely touched a quarter of them. They were good but mostly just friggin’ huge.

Anyway, today we are going to try to climb Diamond Head and then make our way over to the Iolani palace. Hopefully I’ll have time to post about that tomorrow morning.

Blessings,

Janice

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Pics While the Internet is Co-operating

Monday, December 29th, 2008 by janice
View from our hotel room balcony

View from our hotel room balcony

View of the USS Arizona Memorial from the boat

View of the USS Arizona Memorial from the boat

The Flag is still flown over the USS Arizona

The Flag is still flown over the USS Arizona

Rainbow sheen of the fuel still leaking from the USS Arizona

Rainbow sheen of the fuel still leaking from her tanks after 60 years

Parts of the ship are visable from the memorial

Parts of the ship are visible from the memorial

Darren in the conning tower display

Darren in the conning tower display

The USS Bowfin, credited with sinking dozens of Japanese ships, one Vichy ship (the French flag in the top left hand corner) and, apparently, one bus (not official)

The USS Bowfin, credited with sinking 43 Japanese ships, 1 Vichy ship (the French flag in the top left hand corner) and, apparently, 1 bus (not officially of course - though they do put a symbol for the bus on their unit flag. LOL!)

Pa'ahan singing while hula dancer performs

Pa'ahana with hula dancer

singer and dancing at sunset

singing and dancing at sunset

Blessings,

Janice

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Scattered Showers

Monday, December 29th, 2008 by janice

Slightly jet-lagged today – my body tried to wake up at 5, 6 and 7AM local. So I started out a little bit behind. It’s late so this may be short and the Intertubes are not co-operating so may only get a couple of pics.

We dragged ourselves out of bed way too early (for us anyway) to try to make it out to the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor and still didn’t end up getting out there until 11AM. Mostly due to the shuttle ride that wasn’t much of a bargain. Probably should have just bitten the bullet and taken a cab. *shrug* Well, live and learn. Also, since we couldn’t take any bags to the memorial site (heightened security requirements) we managed to forget things like the umbrella (it’s been raining on and off, but fortunately it’s pleasantly warm.) In addition the admission to the memorial is free and it is a very, very popular tourist spot so we knew it was going to be crowded. (Fortunately due to the rain it wasn’t too bad.) And in the end it was worth the hassles.

After we finally got to the visitor’s center (after a detour through the Honolulu airport *grrrr*) we got in line and found we could get on the 1:15pm tour to the memorial site – the National Park Service provides a boat (manned by Navy personel) out to the actual memorial built over the ship. So while we waited for our chance to go out on the boat, we explored the small but really cool museum (and were glad there weren’t MORE tourists out there), popped over to the USS Bowfin Submarine Park to check out the free exhibits there and get a bite to eat. There are some cool exhibits you can actually touch and climb on including a model conning tower of a submarine and periscopes of same.

Went back over just a little while before our scheduled tour to spend money in the gift shop (hey, the money goes to the memorial) before lining up to go into the theater  for the brief documentary on the Pearl Harbor attack, which is really good and is voiced by Abby Bar… I mean Stockard Channing. The ranger who did the intro is obviously really into his job and he blended his practiced spiel with enthusiasm so it didn’t sound either overdone or dry. After the movie, we filed out to the boat for the ride out to the memorial.

We’d been asked to remember that we were going out to what is essentially a cemetery and to please remain silent while on the memorial. Well, for the most part people did so, though once again American parents fail at the basics – parents whose kids are old enough to control themselves were not reminded to do so – you know it is bad when the 2-year-olds are less trouble than the 10-year-olds. *sigh* Also, I know it’s going to sound old-fashioned but, guys, removing your friggin’ hats! Yes, your ball cap counts. Yeesh! (I am married to a gentlemen by the way, folks. Man, I love him!)

The memorial is indescribable. The Arizona sank with full tanks and fuel is still seeping out of them after 60+ years so the area smells like a refinery (not overwhelmingly so, just noticeable.) You can see the rainbow sheen of the oil as it rises slowly to the surface. Contrary to what some reported on the trip sites I read, parts of the ship herself are visible from the memorial. The hall with the names of the crew who went down with her was… well, moving is too trite a word but it is what I have.

One doesn’t get very long on the actual memorial. It was only designed for 200 people at a time and the NPS tries to maximize the number who get a chance to visit. But the time is sufficient; anymore and it might lose some of the impact.

Back on dry land, we thanked the NPS and Navy personnel and ventured out to a few more outdoor exhibits we hadn’t gotten to see earlier due to the rain.

After catching our shuttle back to the Outrigger (no detours via the Airport this time) we decided to head over to the  Halekulani (‘house befitting heaven) for Pau Hana (literally ‘time to stop work’ aka: Happy Hour) in the House Without a Key (from the very first Charlie Chan book – the hotel is on the site of Charlie’s home in that book.) Sat out on their patia to watch the sunset and listen to an incredibly good Hawaiian group, Pa’ahana (which means ‘busy’) doing actual, you know, Hawaiian music. Absolutely wonderful. The group is three cousins, one of whom is very clearly Hawaiian and the other two more obviously of mixed European and Hawaiian heritage. Interestingly the two cousins with more European features have the very Hawaiian names and the lead singer, the very Hawaiian boy, is named Doug.

Paul H, I’ll send you the email I got so you can ask him about the family. (BTW: get your butt to Hawaii! ASAP! And that mother of yours too. You must, must see the Aunties. It is imperative.)

A couple hours and several drinks later, we decided to go find dinner. Wandered through the major shopping areas around our hotel and got lost looking for my first choice of dinner. Ended up back here to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was worthwhile.

Tomorrow I am going out for a snorkel trip on the Maitai catamaran. And then either the zoo or hiking Diamond Head. I’ll see if I can add a couple of pics then I’m for bed. Edit: Sorry, no pics tonight. So-called high-speed not being very wiki. 😉

Blessings,

Janice

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Aloha

Sunday, December 28th, 2008 by janice

Here in Oahu a lot later that we had hoped. We thought that by flying West to someplace warm we could avoid delays. No such luck. Three hour delay due to, of all things, power outage in Honolulu. Who would’a thought?
(Apparently the outage led to our President-Elect, who is vacationing here on Oahu, being swept off to the nearby air base until the Secret Service could clear someplace for them to stay. Poor family.)
Flight was Ok though as we had exit row seats. Got in, took the not-so-wiki wiki-wiki to get our luggage and took a shuttle to our hotel, the Outrigger on the Beach. Apparently power outage also screwed up their computers so trying to find the room we had requested was an… interesting process.
So we retired to Duke’s while they tried to sort it out. Listened to Hawaiians sing not-so-Hawaiian music (and Pidgin-Blues, I kid you not.)
In the room now and going to get some sleep.
More tomorrow.
Blessings,
Janice

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Earthrise

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 by janice

Earthrise

This photo, taken by Apollo 8 astronaut, William A. Anders, on December 24, 1968, gives me the chills. Reminds me of what we can accomplish as well as how small we really are.

Many bright blessings to all in the joyous winter season. Happy Chanukah, Blessed Solstice, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Blessings,

Janice

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Happy Anniversary, Love!

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by janice

Once upon a time I was actually a pretty good writer and could turn a well-crafted phrase to express my emotions. I don’t know when it happened that I stopped being able to express myself with relative ease. It’s harder these days is all I know.

So, I love you, my dearest friend. Through all the twists and turns of our lives, I am so happy and lucky to have you at my side.

Bright blessings to all,

Janice

PS: belated anniversary wishes to Kim and Fred and Kelvin and Debbie. And birthday wishes to my Aunt Sally.

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Christmas Comes Early (Snark)

Thursday, December 18th, 2008 by janice

Well, once again I have to try to suck it up and count my blessings. I have a wonderful husband, a lovely house, family, both blood and chosen, whom I love and who support me, fuzzy couch-warmers, my new lease-horse Jo-jo, a lot of good friends.

But pretty soon I cannot count “gainful employment” as one of those.

I’m being laid off as of the end of January. Unsurprisingly (everyone knew it was going to happen just not to whom) my company has once again been forced to reduce head count and this time I didn’t dodge the bullet. I’ll try not to bad mouth my company too much here. The people I work with are fabulous and I feel so bad for our HR department – they’ve had to do this too much of late. We are in the auto industry and that whole sector has been taking a beating – but it’s not just the tough economic times that have brought what was once a really good company to the point it is at now. I will leave it at that. Pretty soon, none of it is my problem anymore and there is something just a bit liberating about that.

It’s not a fatal blow economically. I’m getting a pretty generous severance package, my health benefits are all with Darren’s company. I can do some contracting if I don’t find a permanent job right away and in truth we can get by without the second income if it comes to that. But it’s a big blow to my ego – I’ve been there 9 years, lived through the highs and lows and invested a lot of emotional energy. Although it has been some time since I was truly happy there, it’s familiar and comfortable and as I have said many time, I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I’ve met there that I wouldn’t be able to work with again. (Read that again, it really is a compliment. 😉 )

Also, the last thing I want to be doing right now is looking for a new job in this market.

So right now I’m just trying to be OK with it and not panic. As I told Darren last night, I’m getting better – it took me nearly all day to think “well, we can move to x and start over.” That’s a record for me.

Anyway, we are going to Hawaii over the holiday break (damn! I’m going to miss having a week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day!) and have some fun so that’s something to look forward to.

Hope you all out there are doing ok. Hang in there. It’s going to be bumpy for a while yet.

Blessings,

Janice

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