By a writer of Ukrainian heritage discussing how the Ukraine must solve this crisis on its own and not rely upon the West.
By a writer of Ukrainian heritage discussing how the Ukraine must solve this crisis on its own and not rely upon the West.
One of the interesting cultural features of the Big Island is how two-sided it is. On the west is Kailua-Kona where many of the hotels are and further up the coast are the resorts of Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast (more on them in a moment). On the east is Hilo, which is the largest city on the island and historically was the major tourist location, but not anymore.
It was funny how even locals on the western side disparaged Hilo and the east. Which, incidentally, made us more interested. We liked our two short visits to Hilo. It had the better, old, cool downtown with fun shops and attractions. It also had what was once a lovely hotel sector, with a beautiful drive lined with banyan trees and nearby gardens, a beach, and the pretty Hilo Bay. Yet, from the exterior, none of these hotels looked like they were up-to-date. Clearly this side had seen its heyday pass.
One person gave us the best explanation--rain. The Hilo side has rain in the forecast almost every day. They get more than 150 inches of rain a year. The Kona coast, gets less than ten inches of rain per annum. The explanation was that vacationing tourists didn't want to deal with rain on their vacation. That makes sense.
The Texas Faith blog engaged its panelists on the religious liberty debate in response to the Arizona law that Jan Brewer vetoed. You can read their contributions here.
So neither of us was feeling very well anyway, much less the idea of leaving the warmth, relaxation, and fun of Hawaii where we had only been a week (too short) to return to Omaha where the predicted high temperature for the day of our return was 2. That last day we lounged around in our room (and packed) till checkout time at 11. We were joined that morning on the lanai by a couple of geckos.
Then we headed to Island Lava-Java for breakfast. We sat outside with a nice view of the water and enjoyed our banana pancakes with maple syrup and 100% Kona coffee.
We had not yet walked around Kailua-Kona itself. Eventually we decided to save this for the final day of our trip, since we didn't want to mess with going to the beach or some other activity and then having to clean up and change after we had packed our luggage and checked out. So today would mainly be walking around and shopping.
It felt like the hottest day so far, which wasn't exactly great for sick Michael.
After we'd pretty much covered the downtown shops and sites, we drove back out to the old airport, this time for the community garden and walking path.
After that, it was our intention to visit the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, but were surprised that the gate was locked. Apparently they close at the strange time of 4 p.m. Now we had time to kill before returning our rental car at six, so we went back downtown and sat on the lush green lawn of the King Kamehameha hoteld and watched people on the beach.
At six we returned the rental car and the McConnell's picked us up to take us to dinner. We went to the Bite Me Fish Market at the marina for fresh fish. Michael had a great ahi tuna steak, and I really enjoyed the marlin. With even more time to kill, the McConnell's drove us up to the King and Queen Shops, where we mostly enjoyed browsing art galleries.
At 9:30 they dropped us off at the airport, and we said our goodbyes. Then there were very long lines, longest I've stood in in years, to get through airport security (it seemed that passagener for four or five flights were all trying to process through the tiny airport at once). All the "gates" are outdoors and you walk across the tarmac and up the stairs to board the plane. We noticed that they were using a forklift to get people in wheelchairs on!
Five hours to Phoenix, two hour layover (with an hour of that delay as our plane had mechanical issues, and they got us another one), three hours or so to Omaha. When we arrived it was one degree, and we were still in our shorts from Hawaii. We quickly put on jeans and sweatshirts, but we had no coats (it hadn't been that cold when we left). When our ride texted asking where we'd be standing, we replied "Inside!"
Michael asked just this morning if our slow recovery from our colds was affected by simply missing Hawaii. Seems like a reasonable conclusion.
Henry Kissinger's Washington Post OpEd on Ukraine is the most intelligent thing I've seen yet on the crisis. He gives a set of principles that should guide the process. He is focused on outcomes and sensitive to history and psychology. I liked this point near the end, "These are principles, not prescriptions. People familiar with the region will know that not all of them will be palatable to all parties. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction." I particularly liked that last sentence.
While riding up to the summit Mauna Kea, we learned that they practiced the moon landing here and also test all the Martian rovers, because the landscape, in places, is the most similar to Mars on this planet (including the red colour).
Michael chose to take the risk to his ear drum and go on the tour we had booked in advance. About 2:30 we were picked up in Kailua-Kona by Mauna Kea Summit Adventures. We soon learned that our van driver and tour guide had his masters and had studied both geology and astronomy. He was a great guide. After some stops, we made it up to the visitor's center on Mauna Kea. The visitor's center is at 9,200 feet and time there gave us a chance to acclimate some. We also had dinner, a delicious vegetarian lasagna. Some of the "guys" on the trip complained (though we knew the menu ahead of time) about the lack of meat and were informed that they don't give meat because meat in the stomach increases the amount of blood needed for digestion and while on the summit they don't want to limit the blood and therefore oxygen getting to the brain.
Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on earth, measured from its base, it is 33, 476 feet tall. Mt. Everest is the highest point on earth, but its base begins at 17,000 feet above sea level. Mauna Kea is the home to 13 observatories; this is one of the best places on earth to see the stars.
After dinner and a pit stop, we re-entered the vans with our Arctic parkas on and proceeded up the rest of the road to the summit of the mountain at 13,796 feet where there were remnants of a recent snow storm. When it snows, people flock to the mountain to ski and play. They even fill their trucks with snow and take it down to the beaches for snowfights. The night we were there, temperatures hovered around freezing, but the winds were 30 mph and more. Eventually the summit and the summit road were closed that evening when the winds approached 60 mph. So the parkas came in handy, even for us transplant Yankees.
The drive up was one of the most interesting of my life. You are above the clouds, which were thick that evening, obscuring the view of anything except the neighboring mountain of Mauna Loa. Normally you could see some of the other islands, but not that night. The landscape does look exactly like pictures you've seen of the surface of the Moon or Mars--barren, windblown, rocky with cinder cones dotting the view. We weren't able to take great pictures of this drive, but I recommend it to everyone.
Even more surprising, you learn that Native Hawaiians lived at the summit, where they mined the hardest rock on the island and food, water, and other supplies were transported up to them. Defeats your image of ancient Polynesians relaxing on the beach.
Around the summit sit the thirteen observatories, looking strange, their bright white and silver in stark contrast to the reddish-brown landscape. From here we watched the sun set, and actually got to watch it set twice, as there was a momentary break in the cloud cover, and we got to see the sun pass a lower horizon line.
After sunset, we boarded the vans again and head back to a spot near the visitor's center, where we had the stargazing show. With two great telescopes, our guides showed us a number of things in the night sky. Even to the naked eye, the sky was abundant. I saw many things I'd never seen before, both because I could see more clearly than any other place I've ever been and also because I was farther south than I've ever been, seeing a different perspective on the night sky. We did not see the Southern Cross, though you can see it from Mauna Kea. On this particular night it was going to rise much later than we were there.
Betelgeuse, for instance, stood out more dramatically than usual, with its myserious orange-red. Oh, and stars don't twinkle so much on Mauna Kea, as the light has less atmosphere to pass through.
Through the telescope we saw a handful of different things, including galaxies and star clusters, with my favourite being the Orion Nebula. These were powerful scopes and the images were clear and beautiful. One enthusiastic lady on our trip kept ooing and aahing and exclaiming, "I can see it! It's so beautiful!"
After some great hot cocoa and biscotti, we headed back down the mountain and arrived home around 11 p.m. Michael, and his ear drum, had survived, but not without some pain and discomfort. We passed out and slept soundly this last night in Hawaii.
That was the big question last Friday afternoon and evening as we prepared for our final night in Hawaii.
As I mentioned in one of the previous posts, we both got sick while on vacation. By Friday morning I was feeling a little better, but Michael was worse. He mustered enough energy for our breakfast plans with the McConnells.
We went to The Coffee Shack, beautifully overlooking Kealakekua Bay (where we snorkeled on Thursday). Months before the McConnells mentioned that we should go there for breakfast, and various other friends who have visited the island also recommended it. Kathy and I had the Papaya Special, and Michael and Gary had a daily special, ahi tuna eggs benedict. Not only is the food great and the view magnificent, there are geckos to entertain you as well.
From there we visited the nearby Painted Church. A pretty little building with a nice garden, the inside is uniquely painted. There are six images painted on the wall; they aren't the six Bible stories I would care to emphasize. In fact, they are rather macabre, including one of "A Good Death" which is supposed to contrast with the image of "Hell" next to it. I found the painting of Cain and Abel most interesting, with Eve crouching to hold her dying son. Wouldn't you want to see these images every week while worshipping?
Gary had hoped to drive us around and show us more things, but Michael was just not feeling well at all, so Gary showed us where we were to catch our ride that afternoon for the tour van taking us to the summit of Mauna Kea, and then he headed home. This was one of the things that Michael most wanted to do--go to the top of Mauna Kea to see the observatories and stargaze. Tours to the top are rather pricey, and we had booked and paid ahead of time.
After Gary showed us the spot for catching the van, I took Michael to the Urgent Care. The physician told us that this virus was going around all over the U. S. and that they were seeing 30 cases a day. He said it would last about a week and there was really nothing to do but take some over the counter medicine, rest, and drink lots of fluids. He asked when we were flying home.
"Then Michael especially needs to get better because with the fluid behind his ears he could have trouble on the flight, as they pressurize the plane to 8,000 feet."
Hmm, I thought, the summit Mauna Kea is 13,000. I said, "Tonight we are going on a tour to the summit of Mauna Kea."
The physician, "No you aren't." He explained to Michael that the changes in air pressure due to the elevation could rupture his ear drum.
After the Urgent Care, we returned to Wal-Mart for more medicine and then drove back to our room to rest. Along the way Kathy called to see if we'd still be able to go that night. I told her that the physician said that we should not. Michael said as emphatically as he could in his weakened state, "We are going up the mountain."
So, we did. I was worried the entire way up and down. And there were moments of pain for Michael, but he endured.
Shortly after they were married, my parents lived in Honolulu for eighteen months while Dad was stationed at Pearl Harbor. My parents loved their time there, except for being so far away from family. My dad's parents did get to visit once while they were there.
I grew up in a household where my parents, especially Mom, talked longingly of Hawaii. We had Hawaiian things around the house which were exotic to me. They talked often about wanting to take us to visit and even how about they considered living there. Mom would occassionally say, "You could have been born in Hawaii."
When I was 18, just graduated from high school, Mom was planning our final family vacation before I went to college. She wanted to do something big. At first she was just thinking DisneyWorld, but as she sat at the travel agent talking, suddenly she said, "How about Hawaii?" I was shocked. But, that's what she planned--a vacation for the three of us to Oahu with a day trip to Kauai. Only a couple of weeks ago did I realize that my young adulthood was bookended by trips to Hawaii.
In response to my first blog post about last week's trip, Mom e-mailed me "You made me homesick!!!! It is so lovely...and restful to the soul and spirit. . . . I really wanted to go back there to live."
I wrote back, "I've always imagined how different life would have been and what a different person I would have been. . . . I was telling Michael all about it."
She wrote, "It was a very happy and special time in my life. I loved the meeting of the different cultures, traditions, and especially the people."
So, this is one of the great "what ifs" of my life. What if my parents had moved back there and raised our family there? I'd definitely be more tan.
Last night at our Ash Wednesday dinner I was sitting next to Bowen who turned nine last week. He was talking about his birthday party. I mentioned that my birthday was the day after his, and he asked me if I had a birthday party.
"No, I went to Hawaii." Bo's mouth hung open in surprise.
"I went kayaking and snorkeling on my birthday. That's better than a party." He was speeechless.
That morning we started early and were in our kayaks by 9:30 a.m. We rented from a fun woman named Annie at Pineapple Park. She made a handful of jokes while we were filling out the rental forms. After she ascertained that we were married, she wanted to be sure we knew who would be paddling in front and who in back. "Sometimes they are known as 'divorce kayaks.'" This fit with our experience on Lake Superior a couple of years ago! Fortunately we had no (serious) disagreements about the paddling or steering this time.
We were kayaking across Kealakekua Bay to the monument marking the place where Captian James Cook was killed. It also happens to be one of the best snorkeling spots in the world. Unfortunately, I have not pictures of our kayak trip, the reef, or of Michael next to the monument (one of his bucket list items), because apparently I sat the waterproof camera down to put on my life preserver and failed to pick it back up when we got in the boat. We realized we were without it when we were out on the water, and it wasn't on the rocks when we returned.
Twice before that week we had tried to kayak, but we were lucky it was today that worked out, because it was the calmest water of our visit. We paddled across the bay and approach the monument side. There are rules against disembarking from your boat onto the land, this to protect the corals. The only way you are supposed to get to the land is to hike down (about a four hour roundtrip up and down a steep slope). I did notice that many kayaks, including whole groups, were beaching in a little cove to the west of the monument and the main snorkel area, but we never beached ours.
The waters will filled with visitors--some had hiked down, plenty others had kayaked, and then there were a number of snorkel guide boats and even big party boats with people sliding off water slides and such. The lifeguards and tourguides of some groups were on paddle boards, standing up paddling themselves around. Some had even paddled all the way across the bay.
Captain Cook presented himself as a god to the Native Hawaiians. It was at this location, during a skirmish, that he was wounded and groaned. The Hawaiians heard him and yelled "He groans. He is not a god!" And then killed him. The monument on this location calls him the discoverer of these islands. A Native who was sitting nearby saw us reading the inscription and yelled out, "Lies, all lies. That's the British version. He didn't discover anything."
Stunning beauty awaits you under the water. A reef filled with coral, various sea life, and an abundance of colorful fish. We took turns snorkeling, the other one minding the kayak. Michael also clambered on shore to explore the area.
After a couple of hours, we paddled back across the water, which took a little longer, as it was now windier and choppier. The bay itself is mostly fronted by a tall, steep cliff that drops sheer into the water. Only on the two points does the land drop down to the water's edge. There was once a great beach on the opposite side (where there are neighborhoods), but it was washed away. The state park facilities remain, but no beach.
From Kealakekua Bay we drove back along the coast and through town to check out the beach at the old airport. You drive and park on the old runway. On one side is a beautiful community garden, which we visited a couple of days later, and on the ocean side is a long white sand beach (though it is very rocky in places). We spent a couple of hours lying here in the sun.
Unfortunately, we both caught colds on this trip. I was the sickest on Monday. On Wednesday I had a runny nose that wouldn't quit. By Thursday I was beginning to feel some better. But Michael was getting worse. He had started with a sore throat on Wednesday and by Thursday afternoon, after we'd spent the day in the sun, he was feeling pretty miserable. He got worse and continued to feel bad well after our return. Neither of us has yet fully recovered.
After the beach Michael was zonked out, so I ran to Wal-Mart to get medicine and food for that night's dinner. The Big Island Retreat had a great outdoor kitchen that we wanted to use one night for our dinner. Since we had already had a really nice dinner the night before, I asked for a simple birthday dinner. Michael stir fried shrimp with fresh coconut and pineapple. We had rice and black beans, local beer, and local cookies and chocolates for dessert.
The day started well enough. In fact, it was the clearest, prettiest day of our vacation, which was quite fitting because we spent the morning driving across the island from Kailua-Kona to Hilo over the Saddle Pass Road that runs between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Usually clouds hang around the peaks of the mountains, obscuring views, but not today.
The beautiful morning drive ended at the Hilo Market, which is on Wednesday mornings. We browsed the many booths tasting food and checking out the crafts.
For lunch I noticed that there was a Filipino place across the street, and Michael got all excited when I showed him. He enjoyed some of the things his Mom used to make, and we particularly liked the Filipino roast pork, which reminded us of what we had at our wedding.
Then we toured around Hilo, visiting the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, the King Kamehameha statue, and the Naha Stone. Like the sword in the stone of Arthurian legend, whoever could first move the Naha stone, which weighs 7,000 pounds, would be the first king of a united Hawaiian islands. If someone tried to move it and failed, they would be killed. The story goes that Kamehameha tried and when he was unable, the priest was approaching to pronounce his death, when he was able to overturn the stone.
[Note: Michael was not touching the stone, as per the sign near it.]
Our final stop in the immediate environes of Hilo was Rainbow Falls, where we also saw a pretty incredible banyan tree.
From Hilo we headed north on Highway 19 with plans to see sites along the northeast coast, but we'd spent so much time in Hilo, that there was little time left for any attractions, especially if we were going to make the Waipio Valley Overlook before sunset.
There were things we wanted to see along the Hamakua Coast which we did not, but that and much else will have to await a future trip.
We did take the scenic drive overlooking beautiful Onomea Bay and decided to hike down the donkey trail (that's its name) to the shore of the bay. When we reached the idyllic shore, we set our stuff down and wandered out onto the rocks.
Not only was it beautiful, but there was lots of ocean life in the rocks. I pointed this out and said something about not wanting to be those stupid people who stand watching the ocean only to get pulled in by a big crashing wave. Not long after that, just after Michael took a picture of me with his phone (I still haven't seen that photo) a big wave did crash on us. Fortunately, it didn't pull us off the rocks (though Michael, who was facing the ocean was momentarily frightened) but it did drench us. We laughed and laughed at ourselves, enjoying the adventure.
Except that we then had to change into our swim trunks and dirty beach t-shirts for the rest of the evening--when we were planning our nicest, most expensive dinner that evening at Merriman's in Waimea. And sure enough, hours later, we enjoyed our magnificent steak dinners in our grungy beach-wear as everyone else around us was properly attired!
After leaving Onomea Bay, we continued our drive along Highway 19 along cliffsides and across gulches, with beautiful views of the ocean, the rainforest, and the occassional waterfalls. In the quaint town of Honokaa, we turned toward the overlook. I've already written about this magical moment and my sense of gratitude, on this the final night of my thirties.
So, even being all wet and in our dirty clothes didn't ruin this enjoyable day.
Following our long and exhaustive day driving around the South Point and visiting Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, we had a much more laid back day. Since we hadn't gotten home till after 1 a.m., we slept in the next morning. And then, even once awake, we laid around in the lanai eating breakfast and reading (plus Michael did some work).
Michael wanted to kayak that day, and we wasted about two hours trying to make connections before we were told that it was really too late in the date and that the waters were rough (it was a windy day). As it worked out, it was better anyway, we just wish we hadn't wasted the time. Also, I finally seemed over my agitation and anxiety of the first couple of days.
We went to lunch at Annie's Island Fresh Burgers because we kept seeing a crowded parking lot. I had the
Everywhere on the Big Island that we encountered a historical site of Native Hawaiians there were signs informing people that this was sacred space and should be treated with respect. These warnings weren't just for sites associated with religious practices, but with all aspects of life. I found this to be very interesting.
It didn't seem to be simply a matter of respecting cultural or historical artefacts, the proclamation of sacred space connected to the entire location and lifted it to a higher level of respect than general historical or cultural sites.
I wonder if Native Hawaiian religious practices views all aspects of life as sacred?
These locations are often in the middle of tourist areas. Sacred locations are adjacent to beaches where people are lying out, playing, snorkeling, etc. The result is an integration of the sacred with a wide array of daily living.
There seemed to be an abundance of churches. I wondered if Hawaiian society is deeply religious? I know that our denomination is strong in Hawaii (we have 80 churches on Oahu alone).
The signs end up suggesting that you as a visitor also look for sacred interpretations of your experiences. I liked that.
News out today that group of GOP leaders have sent a brief to the 10 Circuit supporting marriage equality on conservative and libertarian grounds. Sen. Alan Simpson, Sen. Nany Kassebaum, and Gov. Gary Johnson are among those on the list. You can read the full brief here. It makes the now standard arguments that none of the oppositions claims can withstand rational basis review while making the further claim that marriage is a fundamental right and should be defended for same-sex people against biased majorities.
Our Nation has undergone too many changes for the better already—especially inits repudiation of discrimination against minorities—to allow social policy to bedictated by unexamined assumptions undermined by evidence.
The Utah and Oklahoma constitutional provisions at issue here rest onsimilar beliefs—sincere and strongly held, but ultimately illegitimate in the eyes ofthe law and devoid of any true grounding in facts—and thus cannot stand evenunder rational basis scrutiny.
In their argument for the fundamental right to marry, they claim that marriage helps to limit government and that the currently existing right is the right to marry who one chooses, that the current right is not limited by gender definitions.