I must have posted twice at some point because this is our 8th day here, not our 9th.
Election day is very different here. I didn't see any evidence anywhere that today was any different except that the elementary school was closed, as is the tradition/law here.
I'm used to staying up until after 1am to see how the race is called, but it was 6:14pm when it was called tonight.
It's easy to see how Hawaiians would feel marginalized. Every election is called hours before the polls here have even closed. And by the time the local elections are called here, the east coast media has gone to sleep. We don't know yet whether Linda Lingle, the former governor, won the senate race although her opponent, Mazie Hirono, is expected to win.
The difficulty of having so many exotic (to me) fruits available is that I have no idea how to tell when they're ripe. I've opened many too early or too late.
And how best to open them is not always obvious, either.
One quality of the frequent rainbows here is that they often appear very close, as close as 1/10th of a mile or so. I've seen rainbows that were in between me and buildings two blocks away.
The sunrise begins with the peak of Mauna Kea beginning to glow and the light spreads down from there over the course of nearly 2 hours. By then everything is bathed in sunlight
The default weather here is good. Despite being the rainiest city in the U.S. it's actually not all that rainy. We've had one rainy day since we got here.
The difference is in the volume of rain when it does happen. I think the raindrops are just bigger.
A cliche is, "as bored as a weatherman in Hawaii", and with good reason. The 10-day forecast at any time of the year looks like:
The slight deviations are what weather forecasters here get excited about and usually have to do with the trade winds, and whether they are blowing the right way.
The rightway is toward us, blowing out the humidity.
Reliant on daily NOAA reports, e.g.:
MORE GENERALLY...TRADE WINDS WILL RETURN TO THE STATE FROM LATE
SUNDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY AS RIDGING REBUILDS THROUGH MOST OF THE
ATMOSPHERE. EVENTUALLY...OROGRAPHIC FORCING WILL SQUEEZE OUT A
LITTLE RAIN OVER WINDWARD SLOPES...BUT THE DRY AIR MASS PERSISTING
OVER THE STATE WILL NOT SUPPORT MUCH SHOWER DEVELOPMENT UNTIL
The ohana culture here is very different from what I'm used to. In New York, if you're not at least a little pushy, people walk all over you. Here, it's like everyone gets the family discount.
It's as though everyone is related, maybe distantly, but still family - so that when you see someone (anyone) in a store or on the street, you talk as though you're restarting a conversation you had with them a week or so ago. Even if you've never seen them before.
It's very comforting.
Bought a pair of overpriced orthopedic sandals today. It feels like an even bigger commitment than the plane tickets or signing the lease.
Already planning our anxiety when watching the election results tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the pizza: http://bigislandpizza.com/
Went to Onekahakaha beach today, it's good for keiki because the breakers keep the big waves from the shore. I could have stayed there all day, just watching the turquoise water and the waves crash against the sand.
Met a guy from New Orleans today. He compared Hilo to New Orleans in terms of its laid-back/laissez-faire style. Like most people here he was a booster for the town.
About a third of the people we've communicated with regarding the move to Hawaii have made a reference to mai tais.
Hawaii does not have a rum culture, as far as I can tell (although someone should start a pineapple brandy distillery here) and the connection to rum has to do with tourists' associations between islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific.
And bars here surely play up that angle, since drunk tourists spend mroe money, but cocktail culture and rum specifically, while definitely part of the culture of the Atlantic tropics, are not a part of the Pacific tropics.
People here drink cheap beer.
Maui brewery has a coconut porter that may just be my new favorite beer. I had been concerned that I wouldn't be able to find good dark beers here. My logic was that the warm weather would make people only want light lagers.
But I was wrong. There are very good dark, strong, flovorful beers here. Craft brewing is alive and well in Hawaii.
According to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mai_tai
It was purportedly invented at the Trader Vic's restaurant in Oakland, California in 1944. Trader Vic's rival, Don the Beachcomber, claimed to have created it in 1933 at his then-new bar named for himself (later a famous restaurant) in Hollywood. Don the Beachcomber's recipe is more complex than that of Vic's and tastes quite different.
"Maita'i" is the Tahitian word for "good"; but the drink is spelled as two words, sometimes hyphenated or capitalized.
The Trader Vic story of its invention is that the Trader (Victor J. Bergeron) created it one afternoon for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. One of those friends, Carrie Guild, tasted it and cried out: "Maita'i roa ae!" (Literally "very good!", figuratively "Out of this world! The Best!") - hence the name.
In my experience, however a mai tai can be pretty much any drink that is primarily rum and fruit juice, but it has to be tropical fruit and not just orange.
So guava and orange and light rum could be called a mai tai (and is at some bars), similarly, dark rum and lime juice and pineapple juice could (and is) called a mai tai.
In this regard, a mai tai is indistinguishable from a "hurricane" - popular in New Orleans - except traditionally a hurricane is made with passionfruit juice, giving the drink a distinctive red color.
The "official" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBA_Official_Cocktail) recipe calls for:
40ml (8 parts) white rum
20ml (4 parts) dark rum
15ml (3 parts) orange curaçao
15ml (3 parts) Orgeat syrup
10ml (2 parts) fresh lime juice
This makes for a heavier drink, not just juice and rum - more like a sweeter version of a Manhattan, in my opinion
I can't find the curaçao or orgeat anywhere around here so I may have to do the simplified version of rum and OJ
"The Tropic of Cancer, also referred to as the Northern tropic, is the circle of latitude on the Earth that marks the most northerly position at which the Sun may appear directly overhead at its zenith."
Hawaii is just south of this line and so is officially in "the tropics". It shares this geographic distinction with Cuba, Western Sahara, Oman, Bangladesh, and Taiwan, all of which are also just south of the Tropic of Cancer.
The Sun is bright here, and while not directly overhead now that it's so late in the year, it's still bright enough to make us determine plans. Overcast skies are much easier to walk around beneath.
The Costco tequila isn't so bad. It's not the smoothest añejo I've had but the bit of bite it has is comparable to a scotch. It's smooth enough to take with ice, no mixer.
Before moving here I had read many complaints about "those damn frogs". They do seem to be everywhere and they are loud and incessant.
They are native to Puerto Rico, the males have a breeding call that is similar to the bobwhite bird, and they breed all year 'round.
According to: http://hawaii.gov/hdoa/pi/pq/coqui
"In some areas, populations may exceed 10,000 frogs per acre, which consume more than 50,000 insects per night. As such, coqui may endanger native Hawaiian insect populations, including plant pollinators, and compete with Hawai'i's native birds."
So, they eat bugs, which is good, but to a degree that birds' food supply is limited.
They don't bother me though. I grew up with crickets and little frogs we called "peepers" that sounded similar. To me the sound is a sign of summer.
Today the Vog has arrived. We visited the caldera of Kilauea yesterday and saw lots of steam plumes. The volcano is essentially a cloud factory. The trade winds normally blow the clouds and humidity inland but a weather front to the north has disrupted the winds and the humidity is staying in place.
In truth, it is no worse than a typical summer day in the mid-atlantic (low 80s, overcast, humid) but we've already gotten used to the usual sunnier, drier weather here.
We finally got to the farmers' market today. It's partially a tourist trap for visitors arriving on cruise ships, but it's also a genuine market with great, cheap produce. We got avocados 3/$1 and papayas 5/$2 and the quality is very high since the fruits haven't been handled much.
Prices in general don't seem particularly high. The most common bit of advice we got was to watch out for high prices, but we haven't seen them. Gas is about $4.30/gallon. A loaf of brad is between $1 and $7 depending on what quality you want. King Arthur flour is about $1/lb.
The streetlights here are uniformly a deep yellow color, apparently from the "low pressure sodium vapor" lamps.
These lamps supposedly:
- Attract fewer insects
- Interfere less with astronomical observations
- Cost less
- Last longer
But the most noticeable aspect of the lights is that they make everything look like a black-and-white movie. The pure yellow light makes all colors appear gray. Even a cherry-red car looks completely gray in this light.
The Sun sets around 6pm and after that the only light is the streetlamps, which gives the impression of receding in time as the evening progresses. By the time it's pitch black, the world looks like a photo from the 1940s.
We went to the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo today. It's free and just a few miles south of here. It has very few big animals but lots of tropical birds and monkeys.
It was good for the bub to run around and he's more interested in animals than he used to be.
Bought a portable wifi unit. Costs about $40/month. 6GB cap, after that they throttle the bandwidth so you can still use it, but speeds are slow.
The salesman was a friendly guy, happy to "talk story" with me. It was perhaps the most pleasant sales experience of that kind I've ever had. It was easier because we walked in ready to buy, but he didn't push at all. He ascribed the technique to experience with Hawaiians, who have no tolerance for pushiness.
So not only is the laid-back attitude encouraged here, it is in some ways enforced.
Guy on the street walking with a girl, passes me pushing a stroller, smiles and says, "Your grandson?"
I snarl back, "MY son!"
Hilo has two breweries. One of them does not come close to the quality of Kona. The other has a very good brown ale. I don't remember the names of either one.
Hilo Burger Joint wins on every level
Both U.S. senators from Hawaii have offices in our building. We're on the 5th floor and they're both on the 2nd. I don't know why since the capital is Honolulu
The populations of the largest cities in Hawaii:
1 371,657 Honolulu
2 47,698 Pearl City
3 43,263 Hilo
4 38,635 Kailua/Kona
5 38,216 Waipahu
Pearl City and Waipahu are both part of the same metropolitan area as Honolulu, on the southern side of Oahu.
The greater metro area around Honolulu is now over 1 million people.
Discounting the other cities within the greater metropolitan area of Honolulu, Hilo is the second-most populated city in Hawaii
Hilo is on the east side of the Big Island and Kona is on the west. The larger metro area for Hilo has a population of 186,738
Burlington, VT has a population of 42,417 with a metro area of 208,05, so Hilo and Burlington are very similar in population and density. The main difference is disorienting and takes some getting used to. In Burlington, the water is always to the west, so water on your left means north and water on your right means south. Hilo is the opposite, water is to the east so water on your right means north.
Still getting used to the apartment, specifically where the light switches are. When it's dark I fumble for several minutes before finding one.
In Waikiki, all the service people said Aloha and Mahalo all the time and I started doing so as well, and felt like I was on my way to being a real kama'aina (after just a week or so).
But Hilo is more about just regular living and everyone just says 'hi' and 'thanks'
Got some 'apple bananas' at the store. They're shorter and thicker than the bananas I'm familiar with, and have a vaguely tart kind of apple-y taste.
How big is the Big Island?
The question I've been asked most about our trip to the big island is, "How big is the Big Island?" I guess with a name like that, it must be pretty big, right?
The island of Hawaii is a little more than 4,000 square miles, bigger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined.
The crack in the Earth's plates that permits magma to flow through the crust is moving, but slowing down, so the islands of Hawaii are really just one volcano that moves inch by inch below the surface, forming increasingly larger islands as it goes.
The map here shows cellular coverage on the island, which is a decent indicator of population.
The state of Delaware is about 2,500 square miles, so the island is almost twice as big as that
Here are the sizes of the 6 smallest U.S. states as well as the 5 boroughs of New York City and the island of Hawaii (the big island)
468.5 sq miles New York City
1,212 sq miles Rhode Island
2,491 sq miles Delaware
4,038 sq miles Big Island of Hawaii
4,845 sq miles Connecticut
6,423 sq miles Hawaii
7,787 sq miles New Jersey
9,623 sq miles Vermont
I hadn't realized that New Jersey was so small geographically. It's culural presence is much larger than that.
These numbers are imperfect. Each site I looked at for data had different numbers. Part of the discrepancy comes from whether the measurement includes the area always covered in water (lakes and rivers) or sometimes covered in water (oceanfront).
So the big isle is almost the size of Connecticut, which doesn't help me visualize since I'm not so familiar with Connecticut. In Delaware the longest driving time between any two points is about an hour and a half on major roads, and about 2 hours if you go on rural roads, and that's mostly because of the shape of the state and the amount of traffic.
On the Big Isle, the maximum driving time between points on major roads would probably be about 3 hours (from South Point Park to Hawi), and would take about 4 hours if you took the more roundabout route. So in terms of driving, the Big Island feels about twice the size of Delaware.
Driving across New York City can take a few hours, and that's probably why New York can feel like such a big place
We have a new favorite pizza place, Big Island Pizza. When we were in Decatur our favorite place to eat was Mellow Mushroom, and B.I.P. is very similar. The crust is not thin like New York style, but is not greasy like Pizza Hut.
A question was answered for me: "What do Hawaiians call 'Hawaiian Pizza'?" Do they simply call it 'pizza', the way that Mexican food is simply called, 'food' in Mexico?
It turns out that at this place anyway, Hawaiian pizza is called Maui pizza. I don't know what they call it in Maui.
I've noticed lots of sweet onions (what I would call Vidalia onions but here are Maui onions) on everything. Onions must be cheap here.
The day is different here. Rush hour seems to start around 2pm and the city is pretty much shut down by 7 or 8.
Part of this must be from the early sunset. At the Summer Solstice, Hilo gets a bit more than 13 hours of sunlight, and in the Winter it's about 11 hours. Because it's closer to the equator, the range doesn't change much and the average time for sunset is a little after 6pm. Being close to the equator also means the sunset is very brief; instead of rising from the horizon at an angle, taking 10 or 15 minutes - the way it does in the North - the Sun here just pops down.
In my case, it makes sense to be on an early schedule in order to match up better with work on the East Coast. I'm still waking up before 4 because of the jet lag, and I probably will continue that schedule as long as I can.
The apartment we saw was nice. The outside of the building was not much to look at, but the inside has more space than other places and the location is close to ideal. It's a large building facing the water, although our unit is on the other side, which must be much cheaper. So we wouldn't be able to watch the sunrise from the apartment window, but there is a view of the sunset over the volcano, which might be even better.
It feels like we've been here about a week because of all that we've done, even though it feels like we haven't done anything yet.
Early afternoons here are busy and hot. The air temperature is never above the low 80s but the Sun here is very bright and if I'm not in the shade, I bake. I think our future will involve siesta-style afternoons. The problem with that is our early afternoons coincide with our east coast relative's evenings and we don't want to be snoozing when we should be skyping.
The town pretty much shuts down after about 6pm, and it's very dark here at night.
Had my first spam musubi since getting here. It was everything I had anticipated.
We signed the lease at the condo we saw. It doesn't have the charm and character that a little thatch bungalow would have, but it also doesn't have the rats or meth-head neighbors that bungalows here can have.
The Asian influence on food here is as strong as the European influence on food is on the east coast. Even if we're not eating the food of a particular ethnicity, we're eating more rice and vegetables than before, which will be good both for our health and our wallet.
It barely registered that today is Halloween.
The boy got his first real bath in a week. I had hoped that it would encourage any remaining blockage from his backside but no dice.
The condo has a TV, which will be weird for us. We haven't lived with a TV set in many years. Now we now where we will be on election night. My guess is that Hawaiians generally don't care about national elections since they're always decided before the polls have closed here.
The air is good for sleeping and it rained most of the night, making a soothing sound. The hotel is near the airports and the afternoon was noisy with jets overhead but they seem to not fly at night.
The bed is comfy but my sleep was interrupted by the pain my foot. If my internet research is correct, I have "turf toe" and ice and compression seem to help the most, so tying my shoe very tight seems to hel pmore than anything.
I was awake for good by 4:30am.
I overindulged on macnuts last night and had to have some extra sudoku time in the wc this morning. The trick with macadamia nuts is to buy them from the baking aisle. You get halves, not whole nuts, but they're priced for locals not tourists and 1.2 lbs is less than $1
The other trick is to not gorge yourself with them.
The morning air here is very good. The rain at night leaves everything feeling clean and the trade winds mean low humidity. The weatherman says a weather front from the Kamchatka penninsula will push the trade winds south and we will get vog (volcanic fog) all over the state by Friday.
Breakfast was toast and eggs, etc. with the addition of coconut cream as an available pancake topping next to the syrup, and pog as a beverage. Pog is Passionfruit/Orange/Guava juice and is very tasty.
Hurricane Sandy has made good timing since the pressure is off for most of my work. I was naive to think I would be able to get much done during these first few days.
My best purchase so far has been the case of Kona Brewing co. beer. Although we found Kona lacking, all the good stuff seems to come from there: beer, coffee, and chocolate - at least all the prepared good stuff. The farmer's market is tomorrow and we're eagerly looking forward to it.
As we look for apartments, we always measure how far they are from the farmers' market and the library.
The place we saw today was less than a mile from the market. It is a condo and mot much to look at from the outside but hits all of our "must-haves" and is within the price range we calculated. It's also on the 5th floo in case we need to brace for another tsunami.
Lunch today was at a chop suey place, the kind of place that is very common around here. The bub is a bit backed up and I figured that greasy noodles would do the trick.
Still working on getting a new sleep schedule, part of which is making sure the bub gets adequate naps at the right times.
He learned a new trick today: he had turned the TV on and I asked him to give me the remote. After asking about three times he walked over to the remote, picked it up, and gave it to me. After that we played fetch for a while, which he thought was hilarious although he got bored after the 5th or 6th throw. I guess he is smarter than a dog.
Mark Twain's book has been an interesting read so far. His Hawaii is very different from the one I'm in now. His was far more distant. He describes the increasing trade between San Francisco and Honolulu and how the sailing ships just cannot compete with the steamers. His steam-powered journey lasted only ten days from one port to the other, with 30 passengers and 11 gallons of whiskey. They ran out of whiskey.
He describes Hawaii almost as a potential colony and describes Montana in the same way, as though most of the 50 states are really just investments made by the previously existing states.
We left Mill Valley yesterday in order to stay at a motel nearer the airport. Driving to the airport, dropping off bags, and returning the car took about 4 hours, so I think leaving the evening before was the right idea.
Marin County was very appealing, with lots of natural beauty, an ideal climate, and great food - although I was surprised at how much I stood out by wearing jeans. The Mill Valley uniform is athletic gear, and almost everyone there seems to have signed on. The men wear the kinds of clothes you would wear for mountain biking, and the women wear yoga pants, including the women who probably shouldn't do so. Although I shouldn't make fun, I may have been the fattest man there and I'm not really all that fat.
I got impatient figuring out how to get back to the hotel from the rental car place and I checked the GPS to see how far it was. I had the GPS unit because I needed it to find the rental dropoff area, and then was just carrying it around in my hand with the cable dangling after I left the car. The device said it was 1.8 miles to the hotel and I figured I could walk it fastre than it would take to wait for the AirTrain, take the AirTrain, find the right place to wait for shuttle, wait for the shuttle, and take the shuttle.
I don't know if that's true but I walked anyway. I need to have a brisk walk every day, and I didn't mind passing over and through aiport access roads and other pedestrian-unfriendly areas.
The walk was fine but I ended up spraining the tendon that connects my big toe to the rest of my left foot. It's the same injury I had on my right foot before we had that week in Rehoboth Beach and I blame my sneakers for being about a quarter size too loose - they don't support my toes when walking briskly. It's an odd injury in that the swelling and pain don't begin until an hour or more after the injury, so I keep straining the foot long after the damage has begun.
The injury made loading and unloaing the taxi difficult, and being on a plane with a car seat and toddler and all the related gear was more chalenging as well.
The flight was OK. People seem pretty friendly and relaxed about our energetic little guy, who doesn't complain much but does get quite bored sitting in an airplane for hours at a time.
We seem to be the most bothered by his antics, especially kicking the seat in front of him, and that's probably the right way.
The airport at Kona was not warm and inviting like I had expected it to be, it was hot and desolate. If we had traveled there directly from Hurrican Sandy territory, it would have seemed wonderful, but we were there after a lovely trip to Muir Woods and the contrast was not in favor of Hawaii.
We went to the Costco in Kona, which felt like about the least appropriate thing to do as a first thing in Hawaii, but we wanted to stock up on essentials. I always feel embarassed carrying around a 24-pack of toilet paper. I also got a Costco brand (Kirkland) bottle of aged tequila for a good price. I was too intrigued to pass it by.
We had to get a membership and I now have another photo ID in my wallet.
We thought about a nice meal somewhere but we were all exhausted and toddlers have a way of being open with their emotions so we just drove to Hilo. It's striking how much the climate and terrain changes as you travel east from Kona. By Waimea the hills were green and lush and got more so as we headed toward the windward side.
The air was 88 in Kona, 68 in Waimea, and 78 in Hilo. The low tonight is 68. The trade winds are blowing, which makes the air pleasant.
Hilo is supposed to be the rainiest American city, with 150 inches or more of rain each year. It was sunny when we arrived and this evening's shower lasted only ten minutes or so. I don't know yet whether it will be too wet here for us. I don't miss the humidity of the Mid-Atlantic area, but I don't care for the arid climate of Kona either.
Our hotel was probably very nice in the 1980s. Hotel rooms are generally pretty toddler-proof, and we gave this one a very thorough testing.
My young son recently discovered the Moon and is fascinated by it, repeatedly talking about it and looking for it and pointing at it when he sees it. I'm envious of the wonder he must feel for the mysterious light in the night sky, although I still find it mysterious and marvelous.
When I was a boy scout we were taught how to navigate by the stars, how to find Polaris, the North Star, by imagining a line from the front of the Big Dipper.
Polaris is almost directly "above" the Earth's axis of rotation, and appears to barely move in relation to the Earth. So if you can find Polaris you have a fixed point to navigate from. Even if you don't know where your destination is in terms of cardinal directions, having a fixed point allows you to walk without going in circles.
But if the night is even a little cloudy, you probably won't be able to see Polaris and will be stuck.
Navigating by the Moon is the only practical option in this case. I don't recall ever being taught how to navigate by the Moon, but it's not very difficult.
The basic concept is that the visible part of the Moon, the light part, is facing the Sun, so by seeing how much of the Moon is illuminated and where it is in the night sky you can tell where the Sun is, which will tell you where East or West is and even roughly what time it is.
• Crescent Moon This is the easiest time to guess the time and your general direction. The thinner the crescent, the closer the Moon is to the Sun (from our perspective on Earth). So if you see a thin crescent near the horizon, you are either facing East and the Sun is about to rise or you are facing West and the Sun has just set.
Even if the crescent is not near the horizon, the light part of the Moon always points toward the Sun. The way I'll explain it to my son when he's older is to imagine that the crescent is a bow and an arrow points at the Sun.
The crescent Moon always directs you toward the recently-set or soon-to-rise Sun, which tells you where East or West is.
• Half Moon The Half Moon is always 6 hours before or after the Sun. It is at it's peak at sunset and sunrise.
• Gibbous Moon It can be harder to identify the position of the Moon as it fills out, but the idea of the Moon as a bow still holds. The difference is that a crescent Moon is very near the Sun while a gibbous Moon is more on the opposite side of the sky.
• Full Moon - The Full Moon is completely illuminated by the Sun, which means that the Earth is between the Moon and the Sun, which means that the Moon's position is around 12 hours offset from the Sun's. If you see the Full Moon on the horizon then you are either facing East and the Sun just set in the West (if the Sun hasn't set yet then you should already know where West is) or you are facing West and the Sun is about to rise in the East.
If you see the Full Moon and it's not near the horizon, you may be able to tell North and South from the pattern of craters.
The darker craters are in the northern part of the Moon's face and the lighter areas are in the south.
If you can't make out the details of the Moon's face, you should still be able to tell which half of the sky the Moon is in. Unless you're near the equator, the Moon will be in the southern half of the sky. This is especially true in Winter (the reverse being true in the Earth's southern hemisphere.)
• No/New Moon - Well, in this case you're stuck, but this is only couple days each month