Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A little piece of paradise

I chose to deliver a resume in person on Monday to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens at Onomea Bay just north of Hilo Town. It's located along a scenic four-mile drive that takes drivers along a narrow winding road makai (toward the ocean) from the highway. The road is covered with a canopy of foliage along many stretches.

There's a short trail that leads from the cliffs above down to the shoreline of the bay. I have always wanted to take that little trek. So after dropping off my application, I did just that. It's short and not too steep with beautiful views of the crashing Pacific along the way.

Hawaii Botanical Gardens is beautiful. It's meandering trails skirt Onomea Bay. Along the way, you'll pass through the most beautiful flora and fauna found anywhere. It's separated into designated areas, like orchids and bromeliads. Before the current owners found the land, it had been used as an illegal dump. The transformation is spectacular. It's a place I think I could enjoy going to work every day. So, again, I thought I'd throw my name in the hat.
I also took the opportunity to stop for a smoothie at the smoothie place on the scenic route. I'm not really sure what the place is called. The sign just says, "Smoothies." It's a cute little hale (pronounced hollay) that serves yummy smoothies, fresh local fruit and most days, sandwiches and other light fare.

Check out this cane spider that posed for me, belly up, in the middle of a web spanning a Bird of Paradise plant. I should have stuck my thumb up so you could get an idea of his size. Or her size. Anyway, this is one big buggah. I'd say the body is about the size of a nickel with the legs taking it out to the circumference of a half dollar. The markings aren't as clear here as they could be; black, white and bright yellow. These spiders are so cool and they really are pretty much harmless, although I've heard it's no fun when one drops into your shirt uninvited as you brush by.

A hui hou! Aloha!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Adventures in Lower Puna

To get a sense of the real Puna, particularly the area near the village of Pahoa, a great place to check out is the Maku'u Farmers' Market. While tourists do happen upon it, it is truly a locals venue. There, you'll find people selling everything from professionally grown and displayed produce and plants to the junk from their houses. You can buy a tropical plant or fresh herbs. You can also get a massage, acupuncture or a tarrot reading. Food vendors schlepp crepes, loco mocos and tamales. I sampled a killer green papaya salad, with a side of bbq banana sticky rice. Yes, you can pick up a couple of tomatoes there, just like any farmers' market. But if fruits, veggies and plants aren't your bag, you can ogle a used blender, flip through dog eared paperbacks, purchase hand strung jewelry, try on a pair of draw-string pants made from hemp and a tie-dye t-shirt to match. It's a hodgepodge, for sure. And if the goods aren't interesting enough for you, the people should fill that void. There are hippies, yuppies and every form of independent, free spirit you can imagine. Today, I overheard neighbors arguing about dogs at large. Guy number one was of the philosophy that the dogs should be free to roam. Guy two was tired of being attacked or followed by dogs when he walks the neighborhood. I would definitely have to side with guy number two on that one. The Maku'u Market is now open both Saturdays and Sundays and has grown so popular that they have parking attendents guiding drivers through the maze of cars flocking to the site.
Next to the market, there is a small hale, or hut, designed as a shelter under which canoes are built. There, I saw a lone man sanding a canoe. His name is Kioni. He learned his craft as a kid and is now guiding youngsters himself, teaching them the art and skill of canoe-building. A picture book showed the entire process from start to almost finish. The canoe was carved from a single, huge log. Kioni said it would be ready for the water in about four more days. I may go back to see it, complete with outrigger, ready for the open ocean.
The main reason for my trip to Pahoa this morning was a job interview. A couple is starting a new hiking/biking guide company here on the east side of the island. They are in the process of hiring guides. So, I threw my name in the hat. I don't know if I'll be chosen from the dozens who've applied, but I enjoyed meeting them nonetheless.
It really was a beautiful morning. The sunshine didn't last all day, but it was glorious while it lasted.
Monday begins another week. A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A little rain

It was a pretty uneventful day. I was hell-bent on releasing endorphins so as to squelch the depression I'm feeling over my new hair color. To quote another person prone to big-time blunders, "Mission accomplished!" I cruised four miles in 46:27 on the treadmill today. That's a steady trudge for me. All in all, including the two miles logged with the dogs this morning, I propelled myself 6.8 miles today, all on foot. Not bad for a peri-menopausal chick. No sore knees. No swollen ankles. Only a battered toe. It's the same toe that I injured more than two years ago and which, because it is sensitive, just keeps getting re-smooshed. If Doc accidentally steps on me, it's always on that toe. If I drop a can out of the pantry, it lands on that toe. Poor toe.
It rained a little today. OK, that's not entirely accurate. It rained a lot today. There was a little sunshine too. That combination made for a lovely rainbow just before dusk.
Lucy spent most of the day curled up on the bed or hanging out on the lanai, watching the downpour. She's a little sweet and a little bossy. We love her.
That's it. With any luck, tomorrow will be a little more exciting.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

Or, as they say, 'When in Rome...' Wait. Make that, 'When in Hawaii, do as the locals do....'
So, I've gone brunette. Not by choice, mind you. It's just that it's tough finding a hair stylist around here who's familiar with haoli hair. The haircut I got today was great. But the color? Not so good. Here's how it all began.
My last haircut and highlight in Gunnison was done by the amazing and talented Kimmi Peacock. Kimmi does great work. In a small town like Gunnison, I had to make my appointments over a month in advance. That girl was in demand for good reason. She had a knack for not only cutting, but for blending multi-tonal highlights with lowlights to camouflage, but not completely cover the little bits of grey. It looked good, yet natural. By April, my Kimmi hairdo was all but gone and in need of an update. I got a decent trim from a local woman. But the color was not great, so I opted to do it myself. Big mistake. It looked brassy and bleached, despite my choice of a subdued color of blonde. Yuck! I lived with it for awhile, then went to a gal in the mall at a reputable salon. She recolored it.... the same color! The brassiness was gone, but the color was still too much. It was too bright! Too loud! Again, I lived with it awhile, planning to grow out the roots long enough so a new stylist could see my natural color, match it and take me back where I belong.
Colorwise, that is. Then I'd let it grow and go, grey and all. I knew it was time for a change when, upon arriving at my book club meeting a week or so ago, the hostess said she recognized me coming up the walk. "I remembered your hair!" She said. 'Yes,' I thought, 'too bright.' So into the salon I went. The stylist was really very good. She tried. Really she did. We bonded for over three hours. But when the goo was rinsed out and the blow drying complete, I could see my new color made me the same as everyone else in the salon. Trouble was, everyone else there was Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, Asian or combinations thereof. Argh! There was not a Norwegian-German-Irish-Scottish-whatevah in the room. So, I talked her into some highlights, to lighten it up a little. It's still too dark, but the highlights help. Anyway, like I said, the cut is pretty good, so I guess I'll again live with it and see how it looks after a little sun exposure and a few more cuts. Now I know what minority women are talking about on the mainland when they say they struggle to find a stylist who has experience with their hair. Ron was very comforting. "It looks fine," he said. "It's cute. It's a little dark. It doesn't even look like you. But who cares? It's only hair." Well, I care. But I do have a few hats I can wear, so what the heck. I've been shades of blonde my whole life. It will be interesting to see if people react to me differently as a brunette. If all else fails, I can save my pennies and fly back to Gunnison to visit Kimmi.
Also, as you can see from the photo, I could use some sleep. I saw the results of a medical study on the news today concluding that people who suffer from allergies have more trouble getting enough sleep than those who don't. Well duh! If you can't breath or your sinuses are clogged or you're coughing and hacking, you're not sleeping, are you? I'll bet someone got paid a bundle to learn what many of us wheezers and sneezers already knew. Actually, I've been sleeping much better with all the new allergy medications. But I've got a bit of catching up to do.
Last week, we went to the Hawaii County fair. It was painfully crowded. But we did happen upon a booth providing information about catchment water systems. That's what we have. We learned of all the nasty contaminants that can get into a tank like ours. A little chlorine will kill the viruses and bacteria, like e-coli and leptospirosis. Filters remove many of the larger particulates, but not protozoa like Guardia. We were also warned against consuming the water, even to brush our teeth. We've been brushing our teeth with it for months. Now we don't. We haven't been drinking it, however. Many people do. But the roof from which the water is collected is not the cleanest place. When you consider that birds poop on the house and rats occasionally scurry across and the cats like to jump up there, it kinda makes you go, 'hmmmmm.' And then there's the possibility that the metal composition of the roof might add too many minerals of the wrong kind and in the wrong quantities to the water. The pets don't drink it either. Instead, we fill five gallon jugs with reverse osmosis - filtered county water. One day, we hope to get a reverse osmosis attachment for our home system. Meanwhile, we picked up a test kit to be sure our tank water is as safe as it should be even for our restricted use of it. One thing's for sure. We have plenty. It's raining like crazy. Hoppsy is bored silly. Ah, but isn't she just the cutest brunette with highlights you've ever seen?
I'm looking forward to the premiers of Boston Legal and Grey's Anatomy this week. Yes, I've got a life. Really.... Seriously......
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dirt. It's what's for dinner.

It's been an OK weekend. Saturday, I wandered around the Hilo Farmers' Market, which I must say was hoppin.' There was one stall with a small display case filled with yummy looking individual pizzas. They also had a sample plate of bread squares, which the proprietor proudly exclaimed as the base for the pizza crust. She insisted I try. I did. "All organic, whole grains, healthy and delicious too," she exclaimed. I took a small bite. It tasted not unlike a combination of dirt and shredded cardboard, but without the flavor. "Hmmmmm..." I said, as politely as I could. I walked away, then tossed the remaining portion to the birds. The pizzas actually looked good. I'm sure they might have actually sold a few if they'd nixed the samples. I did buy two humungous slices of homemade carrot cake for $1.50 each. We ate them for dessert last night. Ono!
After the market, I made my way to Safeway, where I encountered an older Hawaiian man, a kupuna if you will, sitting on a bench just outside Safeway, talking story with whomever would stop to chat. He wore a t-shirt with a picture of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, arms around each others' shoulders, wearing t-shirts themselves that said, "I'm with stupid." Pretty damn funny. The man proudly opened his vest and puffed out his chest when I stopped to get a better look, smiling a toothy (and somewhat toothless) grin and flashing me a shaka.
Election campaigns are heating up here in Hawaii, as the primary is just around the corner, September 23. The paper's full of mug shots and Q&A spreads providing voters with glimpses of where the candidates stand on various issues. The highway is filled with banners emblazoned with the names of those running, the candidates flanked by gangs of supporters all waving at motorists.
Ron has been busily moving dirt from the big pile - he calls it the mountain - to parts of the property that have dips and holes. It's about all we can do right now. The grass and ground are really too wet to mow.
That's all for now. I'm off to watch the men's final of the US Open. While I should cheer for the American, Andy Roddick, I'm really a fan of Roger Federer. He hits the ball so freakin' hard, yet can still throw in a drop shot, an off pace slice or junk ball at will. Touch and power. You just don't see that much these days. Guess that's why he's number one.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Speedy Gonzales

Today, I ran my first three miles on the treadmill in 33 minutes, 42 seconds. Now, I know you hard core runners out there are probably saying to yourself, "Sheesh. My great grandmother can move faster than that with her walker around the halls of the old folks home." Maybe so. But I am not genetically predisposed to speed. So running a mile in just a hair over 11 minutes is lightning fast for me. Doing three of them is a miracle.
The only trouble I have running at Spencer's gym is the heat and humidity. The air conditioning is weak there, especially near the cardio area where it really should be blasting. The temperature feels like about 80 degrees, with about 80 percent humidity. That means plenty of sweat. By the time I've finished my jog, I'm soaked. Now, I don't really care if my shirt is drenched, but the crotch area of my shorts can be a bit embarrassing. As the locals might say here, "look like I make one shi-shi!" So, I go over to the giant fan they keep at the back of the gym, stand with my feet shoulder width apart and try, in vein, to evaporate. It really is a good thing I don't know too many people here.
I've entered a tennis tournament at the end of this month and my goal is to be in good enough shape so as not to collapse on the court before completing the first set.
We went to town to watch the game tonight. Actually, we went this afternoon to watch it in real time rather than waiting for the delayed broadcast. Amazingly, only two bars in Hilo have the real time satellite sports package. The biggest "sports bar" downtown, Cronies, does not. So we went to a little dive called Bamboo Garden. The beer is cheap, the screens are big and the pupus are generous and free. Not exactly gourmet, but you get what you pay for. Shoots. You can't really beat it. It's a little small and cramped, but OK for the price. We like Cronies, but they're closed on Sundays. What kind of a sports bar is closed on Sundays? They did prepare a respectable corned beef and cabbage dinner for St. Patrick's day last March, so I'll give 'em credit for that.
Ron's baking bread, so I gotta go help him decide whether it's done or not. We always think it's ready, then slice in and find dough. Aloha!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hapa rocks!

It was a glorious weekend. We had sunshine every day. In fact, we hadn't had a drop of rain for four days and were just marveling at that today. This afternoon, however, the skies opened up and are now dumping what may very well be the entire contents of the Pacific Ocean. Guess we're back to normal.
I drug Ron to see a show this weekend. Hapa, my favorite musicians from Hawaii, played in Hilo Saturday night. Hapa, which means "half" in Hawaiian, is Nathan Aweau and Barry Flanagan; a Hawaiian guy and a haoli guy. They were joined by Charles Ka'upu. Charles is their chanter and the guy who talks story in between songs. He steals the show at times, chatting up the audience with great humor. What a character. Nathan has one of the most beautiful voices I I've ever heard and is a master of Hawaiian falsetto. He also plays a killer, seven string bass. Barry doesn't sing solo on many tracks, but he has a very nice voice in his own right and blends beautifully with Nathan. Barry plays guitar like no one I've ever seen or heard. It's slack key on steroids and caffeine. He even holds the instrument differently than anyone else; upright, on his knee, like you might address a very small cello. His fingers fly at both ends of the guitar, which he wiggle fore and aft to create cool wah wah sounds. He stuffs picks into the strings and strums it in a way to make it sound like a steel drum. They really are awesome and they almost never play the Big Island, let alone Hilo. You'd have better luck catching their act on the mainland. I know Hapa will draw the entire Hawaii contingent of Sin City when they play Las Vegas in a couple of weeks.
While Hapa was the star of the show, the warm up acts were not too shabby either. There were some lovely hula performances by a local halau (hula school) and a group called the Brown Trio from Hilo. They are a locally renowned musical family, made famous by their father, Bunny Brown, (of Bunny Brown and the Hilo Hawaiians) who sings in a rich deep voice evoking an earlier, simpler time. His sons are continuing the family tradition. Each plays well and has a beautiful voice. They were great, playing both classic Hawaiian standards and some 50s doo wop just for a little variety. In fact, the Browns brought their famous, 87 year old father out on stage for a few songs. He received a standing ovation. We plan to catch the Brown family again soon at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel where they play on Saturday nights.
Ron had been ambivalent about the show before we went; even a little reluctant to go. Afterward, he couldn't say enough about the performers, using words like "great" and "amazing" and even "unbelievable." It should make it easier to drag him to future performances.
We planted a couple more coffee trees over the weekend and learned that changing the oil and cleaning filters on a tractor is not as easy as it looks in the manual. In fact, the manual sucks.
Tonight, we tried a new Thai restaurant in town. It's called The New Chang Mai. Excellent!
Back to the subject of rain. North Glenwood, the area where we have settled, is the second rainiest place in all Hawaii and the rainiest on this island. Only Mt. Waialeale on Kauai is wetter. Waialeale is one of the wettest places on earth, averaging some 460 inches per year. We average a mere smidgen of that amount but still get well over 200 inches a year. That's plenty. Yes, it's wet. But when the sun shines, there's no place better. When the sun shines, East Hawaii Island no ka oi!
That's all I have for now. Sorry it's been so long since my last post. I'll try to be more frequent in the future and will definitely get to work on another podcast this week, even with my spotty sound electronics.
A hui hou! Aloha!