Monday, April 30, 2007

The Following took place between Day Three and Day Five

Aloha! So I had intended to blog a bit more often, but we've kept nicely busy. Here's a little recap of the last 3 days here on Oahu. One thing you should note before reading, my wife has asked that I point out that we are having a really great time here. Almost everything has been wonderful and I can't get enough of the beaches. I guess I tend to dwell on the negative in my blog and she doesn't want anyone to think that we're not having a marvelous time, which we are. I can prove it with pictures and everything!

Day 3 - This was to be our final morning in Waikiki. We were determined to maximize the beach time there. As we were walking towards the beach from our hotel we decided to "shortcut" through one of the beachfront hotels (one of the really nice ones). With the beach in sight, we took like 10 steps into the lobby area, before we were confronted by a security guy with keen observation skills asking us if we were looking for the beach. (we were carrying towels, beach mats, sunscreen . . . etc.) What he really meant was, "you guys so don't belong in this insanely expensive hotel, why don't you step outside with the rest of the public." He had one of those earpieces with a wire, so he looked even more serious than your typical hotel security guy or maybe "W" or at least Rosie O'Donnell was upstairs. So we made our way AROUND the hotel to the beach. Later that morning we checked out of our hotel and started our drive around the island towards our bungalow.
All of the tourist stuff tells you that there are a gazzilion cars on the island and only a few miles of roads. So this obviously leads to pleasant traffic situations and lots of gas stations. Congestion is just part of the deal, so it takes quite a while to get very far. Couple that with tourists taking in the "view" (I'm an offender) and driving on Oahu is slightly frustrating. But I have to admit to kinda digging the slow pace of things. We stopped at a few spots along the way, including the famed Giovanni's Shrimp Shack. I don't really do seafood much, so Traci took in this piece of Hawaii. She assured me that it was great, and there were several Japanese tourists sitting around us nodding and smiling, so I think that was a stamp of approval as well. Or they were laughing about paying $12 for 12 pieces of shrimp sold out of some Italian guy's trailer.

Traci just pointed out that there's a beach here called "Sandy Beach" - that made me chuckle. I hope to also visit the "Wet Ocean" some day.

We arrived at our Beautiful Beach Bungalow (I'll call this BBB from now on). We rushed out to the beach right next to us to check things out. What we saw stopped us in our tracks. The huge waves were breaking right on the shore - apparently these are wisely called "Shore Breaks." There were signs posted everywhere warning against swimming at all. They even had a drawing on them of a guy being flipped upside down by a wave. You don't wanna be that guy. It was still very impressive to see, and of course, so was the BBB.

Day Four - We spent Saturday morning at Waimea beach. This beach also had the forboding shore breaks, but they were quite a bit smaller. It took some time to get used to, but after a while we were having a blast getting pummeled by the waves. (by "we" I mean "me" - Traci wisely swam out past where the waves broke) The waves would drag me up the beach - I routinely had to empty my pockets and shorts of the sand that mysteriously got together there. Good times though. Another odd highlight was that we met a family from Wichita. We Kansans get around!!
After a quick shower back at the BBB we cruised over to the Polynesian Cultural Center. (PCC) Everyone told us this was a must-do, and they were absolutely right. I got to do a Samoan Dance, kill a "pig" with a spear, and we had a big-time luau where our table-mates were all from the Philipines. We had a fun time observing all of the different nationalities that were visiting. For one of our shows they asked for 3 volunteers and they ended up with a guy from Korea, one from Egypt, and a dude from Australia. The shows were really well done, and we're contemplating going back tomorrow since we only saw about half of what we'd have liked. It was a long day though and the drive back to the BBB couldn't end soon enough.

Day 5 - Since today was Sunday we tried to keep it low-key. We did church with a ward in Laie in a building right next to the temple. It was fun to hear every speaker say Aloha and then have the congregation respond in kind. I'm so gonna try to get that going back in Kansas, but Traci is skeptical for some reason. We spent most of the rest of the day driving around the island - we even got to see our first, and only, WalMart up close - a real treat to be sure. We did squeeze in a nap, and a decent rain burst blew threw that really cooled things down. It's wild how the rain blows in and out here. We went for a walk on our beach when it was sunny again, and another shower blew threw - leaving us running for the BBB. In the PCC we learned that in Hawaii the men do lots of the cooking, so thanks to that bit of useful knowledge, Traci told me that I would be making dinner tonight - we had marvelous pasta with sauce from a jar. (that'll teach her)

Coming up: our last precious beach moments (trying to get a tan), we do last-minute, mad-dash, souvenir shopping, and the joys of long plane rides

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Following took place between Day zero and Day two

We've been here in Hawaii now for a couple of days, so I thought I'd share a little bit about our voyage here and what we've done since we got here.

Day Zero - Let's just say that the trip here took way longer than I expected. We flew from KC to Vegas just fine. But while in Vegas our ATA flight to Honolulu was delayed almost 3 hours (that's following a 3.5 hour layover). I felt like I needed to declare Nevada residency or something. The Vegas airport is very classy to say the least, that is if you're into questionable airport food and frantic gamblers trying to hit it big, by which I mean get their money back on the slot machines before their flight takes off without them. I'm actually convinced that several folks knowingly missed their flights in an attempt to, well, lose even more money to the slot machine gremlins. Our delay was caused by a hydrolic fluid leak on one of the wings - sounded ominous enough that I have no complaints. It took 'em so long to fix it though that they actually had sent a plane from Phoenix to try to pick us up. Here's a photo of Traci watching Dancing with the Stars (yes, those are slot machines in the background) and me staring at my Treo/IPod (those of you who know me well now have photographic proof of my Treo addiction now) while we waited for the plane to get fixed:

The flight to Honolulu wasn't terrible as much as it was monstrously long and terribly mind-numbing. But it is what it is. By the time we got to the hotel it was 5 AM Kansas City time, so we were feeling energized.

Day One - Thanks to the magic of time zones we woke up at like 7 or 8 in the morning. We were able to do coherent sentences and everything.
Our first stop was the Aloha stadium swap meet, so we could load up on authentic Hawaiian souvenirs made in China. Traci bought a cool flower dress and I got a ball cap and a hoodie. Of course we made excellent purchases for the kids as well. Never have I seen so many t-shirts in one place at a time - you could buy like 30 of 'em for $5. Somehow we held back. We also learned about "liquid sunshine." This is when it rains on you, sort of, while the sun beats down. Oddly enough, you hardly get wet and you can count on the clouds to pass quickly.
After this we visited Pearl harbor. As you may recall (see earlier post) we were advised by many to arrive there before the sun came up so that the line would only be 3 hours long. Well, we showed up around lunch time, hung around for 45 minutes, and we were in. The whole thing really was humbling. I had no idea that they raised and repaired several of the sunken ships, which were then used later on in WWII. I couldn't help but wonder what the old Japanese folks that I saw were thinking as they looked at everything. There were lots of 'em there at the memorial, and I know it was a long time ago, but still . . . anyway. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Waikiki. And I mean walking. We did hang at the beach and swam for a while. We continue to be confused about why everyone told us that Waikiki was so terrible (dirty, stinky, crowded . . . etc.) That hasn't been our experience at all. I'll elaborate later. Some of the highlights, and I use that term loosely were Traci walking me to spots that she had visited as a little girl. I think the one I'll most remember was the dramatic "Changing of the Guard." (see photo) This is where at 6:15 PM an impressive group of seven "pretend" soldiers appears in front of a shopping center. The say Hawaiian things, and do that really great stuff with the fake rifles (you know what I mean). Then they lower and dramatically fold a Hawaiian flag. Afterwards, they ask everyone to follow them to the center of the shopping center, where they do even more impressive things with rifles and hand out coupons. It was even more impressive and dramatic than I'm making it sound. Traci was enchanted though, so I'm good with it all.

Day Two - This morning was our Hanauma Bay excursion. This has easily been the highlight of the trip so far. Interestingly though, before they let you walk down to the bay they show you a powerful video explaining two basic things: 1. Don't touch the reef or the fishes (yes, they used the word "fishes" repeatedly) and 2. If you touch the reef or the fishes you might tragically destroy the planet. The bay itself is amazing. This goes on the "must-do" list for anyone going to Hawaii. Yes we did snorkel, and we didn't even need calculators or spreadsheets (see previous post) This was every bit as relaxing and entertaining as everyone made it out to be. We saw many different types of fishes (I just love that word) and other underwater things like coral, sand, rocks, other people's snorkeling fins . . .etc. Our trip there ended when we both woke up for beach naps to realize that "like bread in the oven too long" we were cooked.
Tonight we had our first terrible experience since arriving here. We made a really, really bad choice for a dinner restaurant. Now I'm a pretty easy to satisfy guy, but the place we ate dinner at, and remember that food here is astonishingly expense, left me feeling sick before I took a bite of anything. It was a buffet place with a fairly typical list of items, but EVERYTHING tasted horrific. The place even smelled bad. We barely ate a thing and quickly left. I'll be sure to post something to the internet travel boards about the place. We then returned to the "Changing of the Guard" thing for night number two. This time so Traci could video tape it to watch again and again later. (actually, so she could share it with her parents and sister) For the rest of the night we watched several different "native" shows at the various hotels along the beach. At one point there were hula dancers performing and wearing coconuts (and you know where they there wearing them). Traci thought this was a bit in poor taste, but she was ok with the almost entirely naked "Samoan King" dancing, yelling, and twirling fire-sticks. But we did get a good bit of the Crash Course on Hawaiian Culture for Tourists (CCHCT) tonight. We ended the evening by re-eating (is that a word?!) dinner at a restaurant that served actual food.

Coming soon: we meet our bungalow, a real Luau (there better be a pig), and a full day of Polynesian Culture!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hawaii advice

Well tomorrow we embark (EQ quote) on our Hawaii adventure. This has been a long time coming and the planning, which I observed Traci doing (from a safe distance of course), has been extensive. As the date has gotten closer, more and more people have found out about our trip. We're a little bit surprised at all the people who seemed to have found out, and chosen to care. What I have learned though, also to my surprise, is that everyone I ever come in contact with, hasn't just been to Hawaii, but they are certified experts working for the Hawaiian Commission of Tourism. EVERYONE has a very strong opinion of what we should do and not do while we're there.
For instance, I've never been snorkeling in the ocean, which shouldn't be a big surprise given my childhood and adult life in, well . . . Kansas. So in the planning snorkeling was a "might do." Well, I had several folks ask if I planned to snorkel (you have to admit that's a funny word - I think the IRS should use that word instead of "audit" . . . i.e. "Mr. Farnsworth, we've reviewed your records and in the next few weeks you will be "snorkeled" by several of our brightest agents.) So because we hadn't decided yet I said, "no, we probably won't get to the snorkeling." The looks I received were similar to those I might receive if I told somebody to give me their new car so I could use it in a demolition derby. I was met with disdain and disgust (two really rough "D" words.) So for the record, we will be snorkeling. We even have the masks and stuff in our suitcases to prove it. Here are some other things our dear friends have told use we should/shouldn't do in Hawaii:
  • Do make the time to go to the Dole Plantation and eat the pineapple
  • Don't waste your time with the Dole Plantation - it's totally boring
  • Do check out Waikiki beach, it's beautiful
  • Don't waste your time with Waikiki beach, it's a trash pit
  • Do get in line early in the morning at Pearl Harbor
  • Don't show up at Pearl Harbor until lunch time or so
  • Don't leave anything in your car, ever - it will be stolen, guaranteed. In fact, just leave the doors open so the thieves can easily get what they want and not break the car windows (actual advice). Actually, if you see a surfer who looks a little shady, walk up to the guy and give him everything of value that you have with you. (not actual advice)
So you can see, just based on these few points, we now have a wonderful idea of what to do and not do.

PS - Look for lots of posts over the next week or so about our Hawaiian Adventure

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Some things I like (Part 1 of many)

So for whatever reason I thought I'd post a list of things I like. It's just stuff that's in my head at this moment. They're not in any particular order, and probably no one would care, but well . . . I'm gonna do it anyway:
  • Ed (the TV Series)
  • NCAA March Madness
  • Peter Breinholt, particularly live in concert
  • Being a human jungle gym for all 4 kids at once
  • Speaking Spanish
  • When Larry talks me into playing ball
  • 24
  • When it's just warm enough to roll down your windows while you drive for the first time in the spring
  • My friends from my freshman year at BYU
  • Watching my kids realize that they are learning something, anything - and that they're proud of it
  • Counting Crows
  • When my wife laughs at my little jokes
  • Reading a news story that has a happy ending
  • Hitting a 3 pointer
  • When I can be with my siblings, for any reason
  • When I get home from work and my baby Allison is always the most happy to see me - I get that huge smile, maybe a little "Da Da" and always a hug & kiss
  • The West Wing (TV series)
  • Watching people at work who struggle, but eventually succeed in doing something that they thought was over their heads
  • Monet paintings
  • When I get a voicemail from Traci and she's just calling to say hi and for no other reason
  • Dashboard Confessional
  • Waking up in the morning (usually on Saturday) and knowing that I don't really have anything I have to do, and then getting out of bed in spite of that.
  • Answers to prayers
Yeah, it's an odd list I know, but I'll be adding to it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What the pile is trying to tell me

So this afternoon I faced down something that I'd been avoiding for months . . .


Just kidding. I got to "clean out the closet." By my wife's definition this means choosing the clothes that I never wear and putting them into a large bag destined for donation. (or possibly to sit in our garage until I need something she put in there) I took my first shot at it, and apparently shot an "airball." I thought I had created a sufficiently large pile, but Traci made it clear that we were just getting started. You see I have what I call "the rotation." This means I have like 4-6 outfits that I've worn over and over the last 7 years or so . . . and that's about it as far as clothing that gets used. To my credit the rotation does change a bit with the seasons - for instance, I try to keep the grey cotton shorts in the drawer during the most serious blizzards. But I also have my essential back up drawer of miscellaneous t-shirts. Few, if any, of these have ever seen the light of day. But I NEED them, all 36 - unfortunately I can't really explain why to my lovely wife. There are quite a few other things in there that get worn maybe once every 2 years, but I can't part with them. Well, after my feeble attempt, she sat me down and took over. Over the next 20 minutes or so my "wardrobe" (I feel silly calling it that) decreased by exactly 92.56%. In the process she helped me to understand that I have as much sense of style as my three year old does - expect without being cute in any way whatsoever. Also, this enjoyable 20 minutes that I'll never get back served as a pleasant reminder of the several pounds that I've packed on since I last went clothes shopping in the 90s. So that part was fun. Anyway, everything turned out fine. And there's a large bag of clothes in the garage (for now) to prove it.

Here's a little photo of Sydney with "The Pile"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

There's no frostbite in baseball!!

Weather in the middle part of the country is about as predictable as my 3 year old girl. She can warm you with hugs and kisses one minute, and send a shiver through your spine by screaming at you for no apparent reason the next. (some recent things I've been screamed at for were terrible evils like when I tried to put socks on her or when I sang her a good night song . . . guess the singing is pretty horrific.) Anyways, a few days ago at my 5 year old's first ever baseball practice it was approaching 80 degrees - wonderful baseball weather. Then this little thing called a "cold front" moved through. I'm no meteorologist, but I think "Fronts" are another name for Mother Nature's mood swings. Just 3 days later I found myself shivering on the same baseball diamond try to convince my son that it really wasn't that cold once you got moving around. (if by "moving around" you mean walking back to the car where the heater was blasting) His first to-do at practice was to pick up a bat and hit a few balls. Pretty benign, right? Well, these bats are made of aluminum, and the part I haven't shared with you yet was that the wind chill put the temperature at 22 degrees. So in essence, when you picked up a bat, it became part of your hand in a painful way. Like a guy with hypothermia hugging a giant ice cube. He was a trooper though and did his thing . . . but the volume of the muttering increased with each swing. By the time he was done, he was in fact, DONE. As his friends fielded grounders and ran around the bases, Braeden let me know that he wouldn't be doing any more baseball today. It was just too cold he told me every few seconds. I tried in vain for almost 30 minutes to convince him that he could do it, partly because all the other kids were doing their thing. But it was in vain - his mind was made up . . . perhaps frozen in place. Eventually he was telling me through slushy tears that he wanted to just go home. Finally, I let my pride down and told him we could leave. As we drove home I asked my son if he had fun . . . almost rhetorically. I got the exaggerated rolling of the eyes that I deserved.
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