Friday, February 27, 2015

The land of Kahunas and Menehunes

Life comes in chapters.  Sometimes you don't see what’s coming and something different comes along. And sometimes things just drop in your lap.

When I was a young pup - only teaching three years, - I was looking at the study opportunities posted  with the National Science Foundation  – and I thought “What the heck” – so -  I applied for an academic year study at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.  It was a small group, and much to my surprise, I was selected to be part of the program.  The grant paid all expenses including a living stipend. It  wasn't a lot but adequate. 
University of Hawaii - Manoa campus

My science wing looked like thing
 When I arrived I went to the university housing office to inquire about available accommodations – my living stipend was barely enough to live on – but that was OK.   After viewing several cramped single rooms for rent, I went out to check an old servents quarters behind a fine big house up in the Nuʻuanu highlands of Honolulu – it had a tiny kitchen, narrow bedroom, and bathroom… I loved it and immediately rented it.  

My fine little Dwelling

There were holes in the screens that let Gecko lizards in at night – but they are gentle and no problems – If I went into the kitchen at night there was a great scuttling of giant cockroaches running for cover –

Common house Geckos
The setting was magnificent – out behind the “apartment” flowed the Nuannu creek, the owner had an orchid garden adjacent to the rooms, and there was a giant Avocado tree overhead. It was tranquil.

This dog 'Moki" came with the place - each night when we went for walks - Moki came with us carrying a coconut in his mouth

My classes were high quality – My favorite was Plant Physiology with really challenging lab activities.  Summary of Plant Physiology here:
I also had a class in Invertebrate Paleontology that I loved – but the labs involved ‘field quality’ samples that we had to work give us something like real world experience.  
Invertebrate Paleontology:
I had professors from New Zealand, Hawaii, and the “Mainland US”.  Those of us in the program carried a full load of classes and with lab work it was a busy time of learning.  These were the best classes I have had in my education – probably because I came from 3 years of teaching experience.   I travelled from my home on the HRT – (Honolulu Rapid Transit) … which were decrepit old busses – definitely not very rapid.
Judy at the Iao needle

The only problem was that not long before accepting the position I had met this really interesting woman named Judy – but you know how it is – I didn't feel like I was ready to make any serious commitment at that point… so here I was in my making long “expensive” phone calls to my sweetie in California…  We decided that it would be a good thing for her to come visit over Christmas vacation – and seeing her I was sure – I flew home semester break and we were married and she flew back to start our married life in “our little grass shack” on Nuʻuanu …she didn't even mind the geckos chirping in the night or the giant cockroaches. 
One of our favorite places to snorkel - magnicent fish!

I was still full time busy – so Judy did some substitute teaching in the Honolulu schools – and with the extra money we could afford to see and explore much more of Hawaii… we had such fun in the different parts of Oahu and different regions of Honolulu… She came home each day from her teacher and taught me the latest pidgin English that she had learned that day.  
Street sign written in Pidgin English

We loved the beaches but also the trails leading deep into the mountains.  It's the only place I have hiked where I could pick guavas, papayas, and mangos along the way… 
One of our camp sites with a rented cat

Note the plastic rain jacket - just in case
I successfully completed the academic year with good grades, and then we stayed on into the summer to more seriously explore.  We bought an army surplus tent and put together basic camping gear.  Also we had had Judy’s small Renault shipped over to us – so we were set to explore.  
People think of "ocean" when they think Hawaii - but there are vast interior mountains  with marvelous sights and hiking trails

We camped in the vast system of county parks in Hawaii – the local Kanakas, the surfers, and us… We loved snorkeling in the warm gentle waters of the Pacific – I will never forget the great array of small brightly colored fish and the beautiful corals.  

One day we stumbled onto this Luau put on by a Buddhist church - those are pigs in the background - of course they invited us to join them

And when we returned to our campsite we frequently found a Hawaiian party going on next to us and it was the custom of the local people to bring up two plates filled with food and two open bottles of Primo beer… we couldn't refuse… Good people – I will never forget their kindness.  We visited Kauai, Molokai, Maui, and the ‘big Island’ of Hawaii … each one is unique and we loved the different sights, sounds, and smells of each.  
We fell in love with the ancient petrogliphs and searched high and low for them

This is me making a rubbing of a group of petrogliphs

We were still on a rock bottom budget so we ate a lot of Japanese/Hawaiian rice plates with a big scoop of white rice, Kālua pork, marinated vegetables… so “Ono” (delicious).  We ate the local sushi, the malasadas, and the fruits in the markets.

Another time we stumbled onto a 'hukilau" where a bunch of people put out a net and then pull it in together and cook the fish in a big picnic - of course we were invited and we joined in

We loved Hawaii dearly – but we have never gone back –we hear reports that it has become much more commercial … and there are so many other great places to visit… We loved the lay back easy going generous Hawaiians that we remember – so sometimes it good to close a chapter. However the chapter with Judy and me together is still filled with a lot of love, good times and good adventures together.  

Black sand beach of S. ":Big Island" - sand is made of basalt