Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Service in Hawaii

Christmas Day we went to church. Greenery and candles lined the pews and walls, along with native antherium, ti leaves and weaved palm fronds. We sat in a pew and faced the high altar, waiting for the service to begin. At 10:30, the bells in the chapel rang joyous tunes. Still facing the front, we waited for the choir to enter in front of us, but we heard another sound. A conch shell called parishioners to enter the church. A conch shell. Only in Hawaii. But wait....
during the Prayers Of The People, the priest from Tennessee, prayed for King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. And the choir sang the Queen's Prayer - in Hawaiian!

The Queen's Prayer translated to English:
Your loving mercy is as high as heaven and your truth so perfect. I live imprisoned in sorrow; you are my light; your glory, my support. Behold not with malevolence the sins of humankind, but forgive and cleanse.
And so, O Lord, protect us beneath your wings and let peace be our portion now and forever more.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Honolulu City Lights

Here are photos from Honolulu City Lights, put on by the City and County of Honolulu at Honolulu Hale. There is so much more than what I've posted here, but this gives you an idea of the color and lights that surround City Hall and adorn the interior.

The lobby was filled with rows of Christmas trees, each decorated by a different city/county department, such as Office of Emergency Services which had a "Be Prepared" tree, complete with a can of Spam hung as an ornament.

Mark, our friend "Jake", and I wandered the lobby and inhaled the smell of fresh pine trees. "It finally feels like Christmas," we remarked.

I may go back again before the season is over.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas In Hawaii

I wondered how Hawaiians would decorate for Christmas. Would Santa come in a canoe rather than down the chimney? (Yes, he does. In Waikiki, at least.)

Here are photos of Christmas decorations I've taken all around the island. Look closely, you'll see ukeleles in wreaths and Santa's workshop isn't run by elves. The Menehune help Santa with the toys on Oahu.

I was surprised to find the manger scene at the Kahala Mall.

The real Oahu decorations are at Honolulu City Lights. I haven't made it down there yet, but I will and I'll share photos when I do.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Friday and Peace On Earth

Peace on Earth, can it be
Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care
Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can

Remember those lyrics? Peace On Earth.

The Christmas carol duet performed by Andy Williams and David Bowie rang out over the airwaves as I listened to the radio in my car on Black Friday.

Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care

I wondered, who is teaching the children to care about others?
It left the teaching curriculum a long time ago in California.

Hardly anyone I know still goes to church or brings their children to church.

The state? Daycare? Babysitters?

Then I came home and turned on the TV news. Pepper spraying fellow humans to greedily take an Xbox, people trampling, grabbing, pushing and even shooting in order to get what they want.

I mused over the degradation of our society and over the loss of people giving of themselves to help others. My grandparents taught me to leave things behind so others may also have them.

I was reminded of a time in Tahoe when I went to Safeway at night right before a blizzard was due to come in. There were two bottles of windshield wiper fluid left- the kind that doesn’t freeze and is vital to driving in snow and slush. I could have used two bottles, but my grandpa’s voice came to me. “Take two and you’ve taken from someone who might desperately need that bottle. You only need one.”

I left the other bottle there for someone else. I mentioned to a friend that night there were only two bottles of fluid left and that I had left the other one there in case someone really needed it. He seemed pleasantly shocked that I had considered another person and that two bottles was more than I needed at that moment.

Thinking of others isn’t the norm anymore. I really wonder what happened to our society.

What has this world come to? How do we find our humanity again? Where are the grandparents?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let's Help the Small Business During APEC

Shoppers are staying away from Ala Moana Shopping Center. Restaurants near the APEC Conference are closing their doors for the rest of the week. Small businesses have laid off employees for 4-7 days.Shopkeepers at Ala Moana Shopping Center are telling their employees to take a break and buy a cup of coffee to support other retailers.

APEC is hurting commerce in the Honolulu area surrounding the conference locations.

So, Mark and I decided to have dinner tonight somewhere in town, near the conference, but not in the secured zone. We want to help the local businesses. Anyone have ideas of where we should eat?

Let us know if you want to join us.

Update: The Chart House restaurant in Honolulu had an "APEC Stimulus Package" last night. We ate there when we saw the special - 40% off food! When have you ever heard of 40% off a dinner? I don't think I ever have. My mahimahi fish dinner was $18. They took $36 off our final bill. That's a deal!

Monday, November 7, 2011

APEC Traffic Fears

APEC's in town. (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation)

Streets are closed for security reasons. High-level delegates from 21 countries are here. Traffic warnings are posted everywhere. Beaches are shut down. Residents of Waikiki enter their own residences only with proper I.D.

Mark and I went to dinner in Waikiki on Saturday night, figuring it would be our last chance to visit for at least a week. We were shocked to find how empty the streets, hotels and restaurants were. Even Waikiki Beach was empty. Did everyone stay away, fearing massive traffic and hassle from APEC? The opening ceremony for APEC was on Sunday, yet Saturday was empty in Waikiki.

Maybe this is how we end traffic in Honolulu after all-just create traffic fears so bad that no one wants to enter the city.

I am heeding advice to stay away. Today I am home, hunkered down in our apartment. The streets may be empty, but I wouldn't know. I'm writing. And reading other people's writing. And that's a good thing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mainland Culture Shock

I've been on the mainland for a week now. LAX was the first stop and, boy, did I have a shock. I've been living island-style and Los Angeles rudeness was appalling. I exited the plane and headed straight for the restroom, where the woman behind me was right up on my back. Personal space means nothing here. Women pushed in line, also something that never happens in Hawaii.

The hallway floor of LAX was covered in grime, gum, dust and litter. After more rushing and pushing at baggage claim, Mark and I rushed out to the shuttle to take us to our hotel. Where were the soothing tropical tones at the LAX Sheraton? Nowhere. "So, L.A." I remarked at check-in. The Sheraton is decorated in shades of gray, accented with black and bold geometric shapes. Trendy and hip, yes. Soothing and serene, no.

Our friend, picked us up and drove us to Barney's Beanery in Santa Monica to watch the USC-Cal football game. Good friends and food helped our shock, but, seriously, does everyone in Santa Monica drive a BMW?

Back to the Sheraton, where I couldn't wait for the next leg of the journey, to Georgia and the hospitable south.

Our flight to Atlanta didn't start well. Delta charged us a huge amount of money for our baggage fees. When we had boarded, Mark and I tried to tell the flight attendant how the baggage fees were over the top at Delta. She argued with us. The passenger next to us, who travels all the time, confirmed what we were saying. She argued with him. The man in the seat across the aisle also told of his baggage experience with extra fees and the flight attendant continued to argue with all of us! We all agreed, we never fly Delta unless we have no choice, and Atlanta airport is pretty much only Delta.

Atlanta airport is huge and crazy with lots of people, but it's clean and organized. People are aware of personal space and many offered to help me with my bag. Mark and I said our goodbyes for the rest of the week. I was staying in Georgia, while Mark was continuing on to another destination.

Off to the hotel for me at the Gateway Center, where I took a clean, efficient tram to my hotel directly off the airport terminal.

The following day was a drive to southern Georgia to watch my Godson play college football. I wanted to be full of rest and energy, so I went to bed at 9:30 PM Atlanta time. Uh, that made it 3:30 PM Hawaii time. I didn't fall asleep for a long while. The clock on the nightstand read 3:30 AM last I saw before I finally fell asleep.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shopping on Base

Oahu has a huge military presence. Each section of the island has some kind of military base/post/camp on it. When heading to the North Shore, we pass Schofield Barracks and Dillingham airfield. I've never been to Pearl Harbor for the tour. I need to do that soon. I have been on Hickam/Pearl Harbor and recently, the Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

A friend of mine is a Marine wife. I went with her to MCBH to help her with her baby and do some shopping at the Base Exchange. Not having much experience with the military, I noticed everything. With ID, we entered the base through the sentry gate. No one sped. No one was in a hurry, or they didn't show it at least. Single family homes on nicely paved subdivisions sat to the right of us in the car. Plenty of space on the roads for the number of cars and plenty of parking in the lot. We pulled into the lot and parked. When I got out of the car, I saw this sign... pregnant women get preferred parking! Look at the sign, it's in Marine Colors. Of course, as a Trojan, I thought of USC's Cardinal and Gold colors. I'm pretty sure there's no parking designated for pregnant women on USC's campus, though.

Inside the Base Exchange I was mesmerized by everything in one building. TV's on one side, Hallmark cards next to me, holiday decor in front of me, home items to the right and clothes for men, women and children/babies in the back. We wandered through the bath/home section. I love "one-stop" shopping and this building had it all. I could see every section from any other section. Shelves were clean and orderly. Leave it to the Marines to be organized and to make parking easier for pregnant women. Walmart on Keeaumoku Street, are you listening?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Colors of Paradise

Grey skies and rain greeted me again this morning. Lest you all think Hawaii is always green and sunny with blue skies, here's a photo looking over H-1 freeway in Honolulu.
I've included photos from last week, just to cheer me up. We had spectacular sunsets all week long. Let's hope for more gorgeous weather again soon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Follow The Tourist Bus

We visited Punchbowl National Cemetery on Sunday. You'll recognize the statue of Lady Columbia from Hawaii Five-0's opening sequence. (Both the original and the new show.) She symbolizes all the grieving mothers.

Punchbowl is located in a dormant volcano crater. It's green and peaceful, even with the tourist bus driving around. The casualties from the attack on Pearl Harbor were the first people to be buried there, at least in modern times. I've been told it was a sacred place for Hawaiians in the past. I'm guessing they used it as a burial ground also. If anyone knows the story, please let me know.

It looks as if they are refurbishing/landscaping there. Wait a few weeks, then visit.

Tantalus Drive is at the entrance to Punchbowl, so we took it to where it joins up with Round Top Road. Our goal was to reach the lookout point in the park. I felt a little woozy driving up in altitude along the curvy lane. The lookout point is spectacular and worth the drive. Here are photos which show Diamond Head, University of Hawaii Manoa, Magic Island at Ala Moana and downtown office buildings.

The North Shore was our next stop, where we again saw a tourist bus. We visited our Honu (Sea Turtle) friends and learned they eat the seaweed found on this particular North Shore beach. After the Honu eat, they rest upon the sand and let the sun and water restore them.

Of course, we had to eat at some point as well. Off to Kua Aina Sandwich Shop in Haleiwa for dinner. Yum! Go there. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Found on the Beach

Look who we found on the beach. Isn't he gorgeous? We sat and watched him for at least a half an hour. Hawaiian Sea Turtles are endangered, so we kept our distance. He opened and closed his eyes a few times, just to see if we were still there.

A few days later, while at another beach, we saw the branch sticking out of the sand. Someone had lost his key and the person who found it in the sand took the time to find a branch and hang the key from it. Fast forward a few days later and the key and branch were still there.

Honest and courteous people on Oahu. If you lost your car key in the sand, it may still be there.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Musical Surprises

Mark had to work today, so I took the car and ran errands all over the island. First stop was Blaisdell Center where I thought I'd buy concert tickets to Earth, Wind and Fire. Turns out the concert is already almost sold out; only a few tickets left and in not so good seats. We decided to put the money into an island hopping trip.

On my way back to the parking lot, I spotted Elvis. Yes, Elvis lives on the Blaisdell Center grounds. I stood in front of his flower-bedecked statue and remembered watching Elvis' Hawaii concert on TV when I was a kid. I was sitting on the floor of our family room in the Bay Area, with the boxy Zenith TV set upon the carpet. Elvis was sparkly and sweaty. I remember my father yelling to my mom who was washing dishes in the kitchen, "Come look how fat Elvis is." With dishtowel in hand, Mom entered the family room. "Must be drugs," was her answer. She shook her head and went back to the dishes.

I left the Elvis statue and continued on to other errands. Office Depot was very uneventful. The bank, however, is a story for another time.

Later that afternoon, while sitting in the car, I listened to KKOL 107.9, which plays mostly rock hits from the 60's,70's and 80's. I was on a two lane road, during a bright gorgeous Hawaii afternoon, the kind where the sky is really blue, the green trees and plants and hills are almost emerald in color and the flowers that grow on the tips of trees pop with orange, yellow and red. The DJ announced he was playing a set of songs from the only musical family to have a grandfather, son and grandson as superstars.

Surprisingly, the next minute I was singing out loud to Hank Williams Jr.'s, "Family Tradition." Country music guided me all through high school and college, especially Hank Williams Jr. I could feel better instantly singing one of his songs while driving to the then unspoiled ranch lands in Orange County. There was also a night in college spent at my sorority sister's cattle ranch, listening and dancing to country music under the oak trees and stars. Although it seemed weird to drive through a tropical landscape and hear a song from days I spent in California grasslands with farms and ranches nearby, I felt happy belting out the lyrics today. Thanks KKOL.

Music of all kinds can be found here. Earth, Wind and Fire, Elvis and Hank Jr. all in one day. Nice.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where's Minnie Mouse in a Grass Skirt?

I love Disneyland, but the thought of Disney opening a resort in Hawaii left me cringing. I thought it would be cheesy and a tacky rendition of the Tiki Room. (Yes, the Tiki Room is tacky, but it's make-believe and I thoroughly enjoy it.)

Disney Aulani Resort's Grand Opening is this week. We didn't know that as we drove up to their entrance in Ko'Olina. Apparently, media is already on site and the hotel is prepping in a big way. Colored search lights lit up the sky once it was dark. The beach has a stage set up with big lights; the type found on a film set. We stood above on the hotel grounds as hula dancers rehearsed under the watch of Disney choreographers. We were told Good Morning America is showcasing the grand opening later this week.

The property is nice, not cheesy at all. Disney really did their research. We ate dinner at Ama Ama restaurant, where Liane, our waitress, told us how Disney had a difficult time creating Aulani. This wasn't a made up Disney, Cinderella-type story. Disney had to exemplify a real story, the Hawaiian story. Other than Chip and Dale playing games with the kids and the rock formation around the pool, not much that looks like Disney is visible. Hawaiian images of kapa cloth patterns, Pele on a building, torches designed to look like kukui nuts were visible. I missed the small details at first and I wondered who would drive all the way out here for a Disney escape. Halfway through dinner, I told Mark, "I feel like we're on vacation." Disney had done it. They had transported me to vacation mode while only a few miles from home.

A side note, our dinner at Ama Ama was excellent. Great flavors blended together in everything we tried. I had a delicious Burrata and tomato salad with sweet white corn dressing and tender smooth beef filet.

Okay, enough from me. I'll be quiet now and let you enjoy the photos.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Aloha Festival

After watching the USC football game at Jimmy Buffett's in Waikiki, we wandered onto Kalakaua Avenue for the start of Hoolaulea, part of Aloha Festival. Tented booths lined the mauka (mountain) side of Kalakaua Ave. Cars were blocked from the street and only walkers and strollers wandered down the avenue. It was so quiet without the cars, we could hear birds in the banyan tree near the Duke Kahanamoku statue. The first stand I saw was selling poi mochi. I swear, there's a way to put poi in everything.

The man at the lei stand started talking to me about the dancer with a sign asking for money for "Chronics of Narnia". (Whatever that is.) The lei man and I laughed about his drug induced dancing ability.

We watched tourists line Waikiki beach waiting for sunset.

Our return walk held the interesting discovery. Just before the Honolulu Police Department's Waikiki sub-station is a fenced off area with four large rocks. These rocks were placed in honor of four Tahitian healers who wandered the island with miraculous healing abilities during the 1500's. When it was time to return to their island of Raiatea, they asked that four large stones be placed near their residence. They gave their spirit power to the stones before their departure.

I've walked Waikiki along the beach many times and this is the first time I've seen this healing space. It's also the first time I've walked Kalakaua Ave without cars. The tradewinds were blowing slightly, just enough to keep the festival goers cool. Bandstand areas were preparing for tonight's music. The Brothers Cazimero were playing at a later time. It looked to be a perfect evening to enjoy a concert, good food and artist wares.