43 Days of Vog and Counting

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43 Days of Vog and Counting

Aloha!

I have written about Vog before–it’s an acronym for Volcanic Organic Gas, and it’s sulfur, so it’s a poison. It is also a particulate which lodges in the lungs. This gas escapes from the volcano on the Big Island, and when our trade winds are working the way they’re supposed to, they keep that nasty stuff over on the Big Island.

Lately, though, the winds have died more often than they’ve blown (climate change?) and we have major Vog here on Maui. 43 days with nary a let-up, but who’s counting? Just because I don’t go outside except to go to the grocery store, and I live in Paradise? I have asthma, and I can’t breathe from it, but it’s more than that. Being a poisonous gas, it causes a variety of problems such as burning, itchy eyes; sore throat, concentration problems, and achiness like the flu. 

Above is a photo of the valley with Vog, and under it a  photo of the valley with no Vog. It’s difficult to photograph because, well, it’s a gas. The most telling feature of this photo is the direction the smoke is blowing from the smokestacks at the Puunene sugar mill. If the smoke were blowing to the left, the winds would be coming from the east. But they are blowing “backwards,” from the south. We call this Kona winds, and they didn’t use to be that big a deal, it blew that way for just a month or two in the wintertime. In fact, winter was known as Kona season.

However, it is no longer “winter” here, it is past Easter, and I am quite distressed. This has been going on for a few years now, ever since a new vent opened in the volcano. The shelf (rim) of the volcano has been a collapsing at the rate of the size of a Volkswagen bus per day. When the shelf hits bottom it goes “pooff” and out comes the gas. Oh, joy.

43 days of being cooped up in the house, and I live  in Paradise. But who’s counting?

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica

 

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The Patchwork of Life

Aloha!

When people start writing to ask, “Are your okay?” I know it’s time to blog again.

Interesting question… are you okay? Having lost my mother, I have to say it’s hard to realize I will never again pick up the phone and have her be on the other end. She was 77 years old. That would’ve seemed old at one time in my life, but this was a woman who still went to water aerobics three times a week, who went to lunch and the movies with friends every single Friday of her life, no matter what. In fact, three of us went to the movies the evening of my stepfather’s funeral…nothing like a good comedy to ease a transition. Mom was all about enjoying life. (Which begs the question, where are all the good comedies? But that is another post.)

I want to write about the concept of chogak po. I am reading the book “Honolulu” by author Alan Brennert. (I don’t know how this one escaped me; it was published in 2009 and was the winner of “Elle’s” Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Fiction.) It’s about a Korean woman who travels to Hawaii as a “picture bride” in 1914, but she does not find the life she has been promised, and instead must make her own way in a strange land. Chogak po is the Korean word for patchwork cloth, cobbled together from leftover scraps of material. They have an abstract beauty, but the protagonist asks her mother why she does not make more elegant creations, because she is capable. The mother replies, “When we are young we think life will be like a su po: one fabric, one weave, one grand design. But in truth, life turns out to be more like the patchwork cloth–bits and pieces, odds and ends–people, places, things we never expected, never wanted, perhaps. There is harmony in this, too, and beauty.”

I am trying to see harmony and beauty in my life, at a time when so many things I never saw coming and never wanted to deal with are expected of me. It has been four months since my mother passed away, and I am still wading through the paperwork and making daily phone calls in connection with her business affairs. Who knew?

One bright spot is my friend, Suzanne, who went through this a year before I did, and has been my mentor and guide. There was a time in my life when I was ahead of all of my friends in doing the important things such as buying a house, starting a business, etc. and they were constantly relying on me to guide them through the intricacies of those things. I used to think, “When is it my turn? When do I get someone to explain things to me?” I am just so glad that when it has come down to important decisions such as the timing on when to sell my mom’s house, I have had Suzanne to say, “Take your time…don’t let anyone push you or hurry you. As Executor, you are in control.”

Moving to Maui is much the same as that patchwork Korean cloth. Everyone thinks life here is going to be perfect (it’s Paradise, right?) and they have a grand design in mind when they come. But in truth, it turns out to be full of things no one can understand until they have fully lived here…not just part-timed it, or vacationed here. Vacationing in Maui means hanging out with other tourists and doing tourist things. Living here means reality: understanding pidgin and the local ways. Accepting that everything moves at a glacial speed.

Some things just can’t be fully understood until we’ve lived them ourselves.

A hui hou! Thanks for stopping by…If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the homepage.
Aloha, Jamaica

Hawaii Housing Ranked Most Expensive in Country

Hawaii Housing Ranked Most Expensive in Country

Aloha!

If you love to visit Hawaii and hope to buy a home/condo here in the future, better make it soon.

Coldwell Banker http://www.coldwellbanker.com/ just released a report that puts Hawaii’s housing costs the highest in the nation. An average 4 bedroom/2 bath home is more expensive than any other state, with an average listing price of $742,000.

Kailua, on Oahu where Mike grew up (in a modest 3 bed/1bath home) and where President Obama and family plan to vacation this holiday season for the fifth straight year in a row, ranked 8th out ot the top 10 most expensive places to buy a home.

We are so glad we bought our house when we did (2002), even though we tore it down and built what we now have. Because building materials have just spiraled upward also.

Analysts say they expect prices to skyrocket even further in the future. I suppose the next thing they will rank is how Hawaii housing costs compare to the entire world.

If your dream is to live in Hawaii, better buy while you can. I wish you the best of luck.

 A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

3rd Shark Attack in 3 Weeks

Third Shark Attack in Three Weeks

Aloha!
We are three for three here on Maui. Three shark attacks in three weeks. It’s beginning to feel like we’re living in a small town on the eastern seaboard and Jaws is on the loose. There was also a fourth attack off Kauai.

For the first time in 12 years, I have asked Mike to stay out of the water. Usually I’m glad to see him go surfing. It’s kind of like sending him off to church; he comes back with a big smile and attitude adjustment. But this is worrisome, we’ve never seen this kind of shark activity, and Mike, who has lived here his whole life, says he’s never heard of this many shark attacks this close together. The news reports say it may have something to do with an increase in the turtle population, the shark’s favorite food.

30-year old Marc Riglos was participating in the 2012 Maui Roi Roundup, an invasive species spearfishing tournament. He said the shark took a bite of his ankle then tugged it from side to side. “I thought I was going to die out there. (It) was crazy,” he said. With the help of his dive partner he was able to get back into shore, but they were 300 yards out and it took 25 minutes.

Riglos says he hopes that doctors can save his foot. On KHON 2 news last night, they showed him in his hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center. His right ankle is stitched the entire way around. Riglos said his foot was literally hanging by a tendon.

A marine biologist interviewed on KHON said that the best way to fight off a shark is to get your fingers into the shark’s eyesockets or gills and tug hard, and they’ll back off. Um, easier said than done while their jaws are wide open and headed straight for you. When Mike worked as a professional diver, he said that the divers would stay in a circle and if a shark approached they would take the respirators out of their mouths and scream at the shark, and that worked, too.

Seems to me you don’t need a degree from Harvard to figure out you should maybe just stay out of the water right now.

If you have ever seen the “Shermans Lagoon” comic strip, it is a microcosm of marine life and they all have human characteristics. The big, dumb shark Sherman, his wife and son, the crab and the turtle all talk and comment on what’s going on up top. They stake out Unsuspecting Vacationers floating on the surface and decide which ones will taste best for dinner. It sounds morbid, but it’s quite funny.

Given that, I began to wonder if the sharks have just been watching too much television down there… Too many paid political advertisements. They got so frustrated, they just had to take a big BITE out of someone.

At least today that will all be over! And if the shark activity calms down… Well, what can I say. I was right.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Be Safe

Be Safe

Aloha!
To all of my readers on the East Coast, I send out a heartfelt wish for your safety and a swift return to normalcy. I hope you are not without power. Be safe!

To those who have opened up a discussion about the tsunami warning in Hawaii, I offer the following thoughts. One reader, TC, happened to be on Maui during the tsunami warning and asked if the level of panic observed is normal here.

When you live on Maui for a while, the enormity of being a spec in the middle of the ocean grows. It feels a bit like being a flea on an elephant. We are the farthest from any landmass of any Archipelago. (Not just Hawaii, but Maui.) For those who have lived through dock strikes, or a hurricane, or a tsunami, it becomes readily apparent how dependent we are on the outside world for absolutely everything, from toilet paper to rice, to bottled water.

A fire alone can shut down the whole west part of the island. I’ve seen it happen. There is no getting in or out, because there is only one road in, and they now close down the northern route so it will not become clogged with people and cut off emergency vehicle access. More than once I had to get a hotel room and sleep on the west side when I couldn’t get home from work, due to a disaster.

People are very attuned to this when authorities say a tsunami is coming. They immediately picture no electricity, no food, no ships getting in with supplies for God knows how long. The thing about a tsunami is that there is essentially no warning. An hour or two maybe, and then it’s a call to evacuate. Tsunamis travel at 500 mph plus-the same speed as a jet. There is little response time, no planning ahead.

Mike was a fireman on Oahu for 12 years and amazingly, spent less time fighting fires than he he did rescuing people from the ocean, and on occasion, from big waves washing over people’s houses. That’s just what the North Shore is like in the winter time. He says the level of panic of people fleeing during a tsunami warning also has to do with responsibility. Responsible people realize that if they don’t act, they are jeopardizing the life of someone else (such as Mike) who must then come in and rescue them.

One disconcerting fact that came out during the news reports on television for this tsunami warning: there are no buoys between Hawaii and the mainland. None. So when the earthquake struck Canada and reverberated out, they had nothing to look at to check the rising tide between us and them. So we had to prepare for the worst.

The following facts are from this good website: http://ptwc.weather.gov/faq.php#6

1. How fast do tsunamis travel?
Tsunami wave speed is controlled by water depth. Where the ocean is over 6,000 meters (3.7 miles) deep, unnoticed tsunami waves can travel at the speed of a commercial jet plane, over 800 km per hour (500 miles per hour). Tsunamis travel much slower in shallower coastal waters where their wave heights begin to increase dramatically.

2. What does a tsunami look like when it reaches the shore?
As the leading edge of a tsunami wave approaches shore, it slows dramatically due to the shallower water. However, the trailing p art of the wave can still be moving rapidly in the deeper water. This results in a “piling up” of the tsunami energy, and the tsunami wave height grows. The wave looks and acts like giant river of water on top of the ocean that floods the shore.

3. Where and how often do tsunamis usually occur?
Major tsunamis occur about once per decade. Based on historical data, about 59% of the world’s tsunamis have occurred in the Pacific Ocean, 25% in the Mediterranean Sea, 12% in the Atlantic Ocean, and 4% in the Indian Ocean.

Stay safe, and treasure each day. If you are a reader on the East Coast, please let me know you’re okay!

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Fall for Maui

Fall for Maui

Aloha!

It doesn’t seem like there would be much change in seasons in Hawaii, and it’s very subtle, but it is there. Especially in Upcountry Maui. On the mainland I always enjoyed the change of seasons… Getting out all of the fall decorations, the Halloween decorations, the Thanksgiving decorations… And the places to buy them were of course, endless.

Not so on Maui. Stores such as Walmart or Kmart only bring so much in to the island per season, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. So if you go to Ben Franklin Crafts and see something you like, you’d better buy it now. You also learn to improvise with what nature provides on Maui. In the same way that I might have gathered Fall-colored leaves in California, here I gather Fall-colored shells to make my dining room table centerpiece:

Our mango tree in the backyard also provides a clue that fall is here on Maui. If you look closely in this photo you’ll see that we have older yellow leaves dropping, healthy older dark green leaves, light green brand-new leaves coming in, and to top it all off: it’s flowering with new fruit (that’s the brown  fuzzy-stuff).

Mango Tree on Maui

What this means is there’s never a good time to prune a tree in Hawaii. Our citrus tree in the front yard does the same thing. It’s a tree that’s been grafted with tangerines, tangelos, and oranges on the same tree. The tree has become enormous because there is constantly a cycle of new leaves and new fruit. When the heck do you prune, without losing fruit?

It’s also a season of harvest here. We have more apple bananas (the very sweet ones that taste more like a pear) than we know what to do with. This morning I grilled bananas on the griddle when I made the french toast. Every morning we have smoothies with two bananas in them. We hang the bunch from a rafter in the garage to keep the rats out of them:

And why yes, that IS a surfboard hanging there in the rafters too. Thanks for asking. And that second refrigerator in the background is not a “beer frig”, because in Maui almost all dry goods have to be refrigerated or use lose them to bugs. So that frig has flour, sugar, bread crumbs, bread, cornmeal, etc. in it. If you don’t refrigerate your bread, it can mold in a day or two.

The other bounty we can barely keep up with is the lilikois (also known as passion fruit). Here is a few days’ worth that have been gathered:

It doesn’t help to call my friends and ask if they’d like some fruit, because they have the same problem. So I’ve taken to hauling fruit to Kahului when I go down the hill, and giving it away. Yesterday a doctor got eight apple bananas in a brown bag. He is a fierce Korean guy who pretty much scares me spitless. I gave him the bananas and he lit up. As he was leaving the room he said “This will be my lunch” and I teased him and said, “Hey, I know you have children!” and he just laughed, because those kids weren’t getting any of those bananas. That’s the first time I’ve heard him laugh! Food, the universal language.

Here’s a recipe for Lilikoi Martinis. My thanks to Shel and Clay Simpson for turning us on to these intoxicating gems.

Lilikoi Martini

1 ounce (a shot-glass) of lilikoi juice

1 ounce of Vanilla Vodka (I’m a wuss and use half that amount)

Fill a glass with ice. Shake the above two ingredients together, add to glass, then top it off with ice-cold water.

I get creative and substitute out recipes that involve lemon juice, such as a Lemontini or Lemon Drop. So, to the above recipe I will also add a little St. Germain (YUM) and substitute club soda or seltzer water for the plain water.

Next time you get your hands on some lilikoi juice, enjoy a martini. You can possibly find the Perfect Puree of Napa Valley lilkoi puree in your gourmet grocer’s freezer section. And if anyone has figured out a fool-proof method for pruning the ever-flowering fruit trees in Hawaii, give a shout.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Luau Feet

Luau Feet

Aloha!

Do you know what luau feet are? It’s the term used in Hawaii to describe flat feet caused from wearing rubber slippers (“rubbah slippahs” in pidgin, thongs or flip-flops on the mainland.) Mike has flat feet. Until he saw my feet with their impossibly high arch, he didn’t even know feet were supposed to have an arch. And the first time I heard someone local refer to slippahs, I was confused and thought they meant house shoes. Slippers. This gives you just a tiny peek into the confusion that reigns supreme in our household.

Right now I am in mourning. I lost one of my best rubbah slippahs. And I had only worn them twice! I had been looking for this pair for about five years. “Reef” makes a certain type of very cushioned flip-flop with a soft fabric band between the toes. They became very hard to find… and I was even more specifically looking for BROWN ones. I finally found them in a tiny shop on the North Shore of Oahu. I was as excited as if someone had given me a diamond ring. Then the proprietor told me the bad news: Reef was discontinuing these! How could this be? They’re so comfortable.

I read that podiatrists say if you’re going to wear rubber slippers, that it should be these cushioned Reefs. I could walk all day in them and my feet don’t hurt. Podiatrists are not fans of flip-flops. Besides leaving your feet vulnerable to injury from stepping on sharp objects or getting stepped on themselves, flip-flops offers little support, slip off easily while walking, and can actually affect your gait–making you vulnerable to potential heel, arch, and back pain, plus putting you at higher risk for fractures. If you’re going to wear them at all, foot doctors caution, you should not wear flip-flops for long periods of time.

Like Jimmy Buffett mourning his blown-out flip-flop in “Margaritaville”, I feel the loss of my brown Reef. The crazy thing is, I cleaned out my closet and suddenly it was gone. Just ONE of them! (Another instance of getting organized and then not being able to find anything. Does this happen to you, too?) Reefs aren’t cheap, plus now these are discontinued. I don’t know how I’m going to replace this thing.

There was a time in my life when I would’ve been coveting the latest fall shoes in October. Instead here I am, just wanting a good rubber slipper.

Some funny stories we have had with rubber slippers: I always take my shoes off in the car. One time we got to a store and when I looked on the floor, one of my slippers was missing. They’re so light, I must’ve kicked it out at the last stop. So back we drove to the Ross parking lot, circled around a couple of times, and there it was. Mike stopped, and I jumped out and retrieved my rubber slipper. This explains why you see so many orphaned rubber slippers in the road and on the sidewalks in Hawaii.

Another time Mike was surfing in Lahaina and left his slippers on the shore as he paddled out. When he came back in, his nice rubber slippers were missing and had been replaced with a pair of “Locals” a very cheap rubber slipper from Longs. To add insult to injury, the end of the slipper had been chopped off with a pair of scissors, like it had been too big for the wearer. Possibly a hand-me-down from an older brother! Mike was not a happy camper.

Then we were at a party on Oahu, and the people had a new dog. Out of the whole pile of slippahs left by the door (removed when entering the house, local-style),the dog chose to chew Mike’s rubber slipper, which happened to be new. But what can you do, besides laugh!

So, how often do you wear flip-flops? Have you had foot problems related to them? Let us know in the comments section.

A hui hou! If you’d like to have this blog delivered to your in-box, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica