Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Trip Through the Jungle

My final day I figured I'd try to do something I'd never done before. Learning to hula (man-style) would be cool. But then there was the having walked in female sandles across the city. My feet couldn't take it. I stopped by a tour company, and was very interested in the round-the-island tour, but while I was deciding, it filled up. Which left the hike through the jungle, unfortunately something I'd already done.

But it did give me a lot of spectacular views, and opportunities to see beautiful plant life. This video taken from the top of the mountain clearly shows the different biomes of Hawaii, with the increase in transpiration and the rain shadow effect of the hills as the clouds come in to the windward side of the island and get trapped at the top. On an incredibly sunny day down below, it is fog, clouds, and moisture worthy of Washington on top of the mountain.

The hike took us through the bamboo, past creeping vines and banyan trees. They plant themselves at the top of another tree and send their roots to the ground. Gradually the central tree wears away, leaving only the banyan. This approach allows banyans to grow very large, with multiple trunks.

Banyan on the rocks

Banyan tree

Banyan tree

Towards the end, in the middle of the jungle, we came across the geologic base of Hawaii, what all of it has grown on, lava. There are two types of cooled lava the world over, named after Hawaiian words: pahoehoe, smooth and flowing; and chunky, blocky a'a.

It was the final day in Hawaii. A man was carving with his feet, just as they do in Morocco. I'm finding everywhere here there are similarities among vendors. Even bargaining in the local souqs. 'Cept they know nothing about how to truly bargain with a Moroccan like myself.

A couple days ago I moved into the local hostel, as I was staying a couple days beyond the class, and no longer was being covered by my Education Development Funds for housing. By way of saying Aloha, a large police force suddenly converged next door, coming from all directions, reminding me again that, even in laid-back Hawaii, I was in a different land, one with guns, and far more violent than where I now live.
It also has appears to have a police force with a quicker reaction time than those where I live.

Monday, 8 August 2005

My First Ship

I thought I might take a look for my first ship today, the Research Vessel Kila, the first RV I worked on. It holds many fond memories for me. But to get there I needed good sandals, so I picked up some new rubba slippa from a local shop. I'm not good at picking out rubba slippa. The proprietor assured me it was for men. They were not. Women's shoes, even rubba slippa, feel strange. And they hurt when you take long walks in them. No, that's not it. Although common in the Islands, that's a catamaran, not an RV. And it's a boat- it's less than 80'. I worked on a ship. It was 120'.

Unfortunately I'd heard that the ship had been mothballed in the harbor. So it was going to take some searching. Guy at Waikiki Aquarium had said he might be able to locate it for me, but he hadn't been able, so I was on my own, with no leads.

I took the bus as far out as it would go, and then walked. I walked past the first church on Oahu (although not the first in the Islands), and the Iolani Palace, the only palace in the United States.

There is an undercurrent here of a former nation, of a nation seized and forcibly incorporated into another. Legacies breath like ghosts everywhere. To rest I stopped in at a museum on my way to the harbor, with coral building rock from the original Russian fort (an unsuccessful enterprise) and cannon balls from one of the invading nations of the 19th century. Might have been America. And a strange bit of history, the original recording in the rocks of the arrival of the first white men in their winged ships, written down in the rocks.
Petroglyph of the arrival of White Men.
There were also a few marine items, like the early diving helmet. Oh, and a real humpback whale skeleton, my favorite of all the whales Megaptera novanglieae. I used to sing my little sister a song incorporating it's name when she was one, to try to encourage her scientifically. It was about the time I taught her her first words, "Jedidiah is king." (Okay, all she got was Jed, and it was her second word, but you got to admit, good effort on my part.)
Humpback rear feet

Of special interest were the bone remnants of the rear feet of the humpback whale, another piece of the copious evidence indicating terrestrial ungulate ancestry. (Unless you're a Literal Creationist, in which case it's a strange mutation that most whales possess whose purpose is unknown but who can fathom the mind of the great unnamed Intelligent Designer?)
That was enough rest, so on to the harbor. Actually, I discovered, increasingly, it wasn't enough rest. The shoes pinched quite a bit. But it had been 20 years since I'd been there, and who knows when my next opportunity to see my ship would be.

I approached a harbor full of memories. In Blue-Water Marine Lab we also learned seamanship skills, and gave tours of Honolulu Harbor. There, on the right, was the triangular sign common to ports the world over, Red on the Right when Returning, keeping ships in the right lane. (The opposite, Green on the Left when Going, just doesn't sound as nice.) I passed the huge harbor cranes I used to talk about, and benevolent Matson containersMatson, the sole shipping company of Hawaii, from which it gets all it's produce. (That may have changed now; it was the case 20 years ago.) And Sand Island Sewage Treatment Plantthen, the fiest de resistance, Sand Island Sewage Treatment Plant. I don't know why it was so important. But we talked about it every time we did a harbor cruise, and it has a special place in my heart.

I was on a purposeful hunt. I wanted to get to the Coast Guard station, to find out if they knew anything. I should have really called, but you know, it's hard to call places when you're in a foreign land. Even if they speak the same language. And buses don't go Sand Island. So I walked. And walked. And walked to the end of Sand Island, many kilometers. Bear in mind the shoes are still female.
Interesting thing happened on the way to the Coast Guard. Saw a guy in front of me, wearing strange pink clothing with a sweatshirt wrapped around his waist. As I got closer he took off the sweatshirt, and I realized he was actually not wearing pink clothing. But happy and free, he was making his way down the main road. This continued on for about 45 minutes, before I finally reached the Coast Guard and could mention it to authorities. In the meantime, email me and I can send you the pictures.
The Coast Guard had never heard of RV Kila, but they suggested another place, near the entrance to Sand Island. So I walked back. I found the place, gained admittance, and looked around, till I could find someone working there. This place was dead. I finally found a guy who had worked that dock for a long time. He remembered RV Kila. But he thought they had demolished it- he wasn't sure. A rather ignominious ending to the day.
A day like this deserves a reward, so it's off to the movies that I rarely get to see in theatres in English in Morocco. Bonus: fun bathrooms in Bilingual Hawaii. Even a third bathroom for families.

Sunday, 7 August 2005

Diamond Head

Strange as it may seem, after a year in Honolulu, I never went to Diamond Head, the large igneous formation towering above Honolulu. So I took advantage of the free afternoon and extended subtropical daylight to head out there.

It's in a giant bowl, perfect for a very crowded football game. You can see it above. If you can play it again and again and get a head rush. It's kind of fun.

The main thing to do there is to hike up to the top, some 750'. This takes you through some really steep stairs (the picture to the right is not exaggerated), and through some very scary dark tunnels that go on and on into Mordor.

But once you reach the top, you are rewarded with some breathtaking views.

Smoke of a forest fire in the distance.

On the return trip, from below in the bowl, you can see native Hawaiian Avian life- or what's left of it, after the rats came in with the Europeans, and then they brought in the mongeese to eat the rats, not realizing mongeese live in the day, and rats at night, and both eat songbird eggs...

And speaking of extinction, Diamond Head was also used as an observation post during WWII, as the highest point in the area. Some of the posts still remain.

In the remains of the evening I also saw a bit of a hula. You never see things when you live there. I didn't go to Knotts or Universal Studios until I was about to leave LA after living there for a decade. I rarely saw hulas while I was there.

It was a relaxing day. Then I realized it was all a dream, and a great light appeared at the end of the tunnel, and I realized I had died...

Saturday, 6 August 2005

Return to the Hana Uma Bay

But sadly, without Brooke Shields.

I used to love visiting Hana Uma Bay on Oahu. It was the best place to see the most varied fish within easy reach of Honolulu. OK, it was at least the most popular place.

It's broken up into three areas. The closest is where most people go, and is the one you can see in the bottom half of the picture. Safe and shallow.

And then for some reason the phone companies decided to blast two channels through the bay to allow undersea phone lines to leave the island. This resulted in powerful rip tides, so that only experienced swimmers are recommended in the outer Zone 2 (out to the spit in the picture) or Zone 3 (to the edge of the bay). Zone 3 is where I practiced exiting and entering the water in high-surf conditions and warm-water rescue, when with Blue-Water Marine Lab.

Entering the reserve you see a number of exhibits, such as a real (dead) sea turtle, invasive wild chickens, and strange maurading amphibious Jafo.

Sadly, once in the water, I noticed a profound difference from when I was last there 20 years ago. Zone 1, the most populated, is a barren wasteland. Where there were once constant fish and a mulitude of colours flitting within reach of your hands, now there is only an anemic remnant. The coral was dingy and covered with what looked like a brown fluffy mold. It was difficult to find any sign of fish through the countless shuffling feet.

It turn out that twenty years of tourism has taken it's toll. The coral has died out, and with it the fish. UH is currently doing a study to see what might be the effects on coral and the benthos if no humans are present- that's what the six meter diameter ring above is for. But for now, I had to swim out to Zone 2 before I could experience any of the rapture of the deep. There it was like it had been decades ago- deep 30' water, constant schools of fish in a rainbow of colours, and a powerful surf surge to remind us constantly of the power of the true ruler of this domain.

Friday, 5 August 2005

Back in the Day

Alawai Canal While at the AP conference I took some time to visit old haunting sites. My frosh year was at Our Redeemer Lutheran, which since then ran out of funds and had to amalgamate with four other schools into All Area Lutheran Schools, and close down the lower grades. Since then almost all my Our Redeemer Lutheran parking lot and recess areaold teachers have left too, although the one really mean art teacher who gave me a B remains. My old biology teacher now is a shark expert for the state of Hawaii. Others have retired, or died, like my orchestra teacher. I feel very old.Biology classroom

The Biology classroom was there, where I knew more than the sophomores taking the class simply because I cared about the subject more, but they knew a whole lot more about human Orchestra stagesexuality, simply because they cared more.

The orchestral stage where I played violin in a few concerts was there too. (See GWA- other schools use a Memorial stairscombination cafeteria-gymnasium-stage too!) And the famous adjoining stairs. I came to school one day against the express wishes of my mom, as I was very sick. But I really, really loved school. So my mom dropped me off, I got to the stairs, and promptly threw up all over them. Guess who was there when I looked up? Yup. Blythe Hirata, only the cutest girl in the school and a cheerleader. I'd love to regale you with our romantic escapades after that point. In case you're confused as Libraryto why I don't, go back and read the last few sentences.

The library was where I spent most of my time, and the same librarian was still there, Chapeland remembered me. Which is amazing after five years. (Anyone who thinks differently...Shhh!) Much smaller than what we had available at GWA. And our chapel, for weekly...chapel.

Our second year was in Oahu, and we lived in three locations, including Salt Lake and Manoa. In Manoa we were staying with YWAM, which is still there, after a very long walk through the entire UH campus to get to it, but no everyone who might remember me was gone on vacation.

The Manoa Valley is very beautiful, within easy reach of the city but still with a wild feeling. I took a hike into the deep country to the falls. Saw a woman there who knew what to truly do with a banyan tree.

Banyan Tree

The falls are gorgeous, albeit it populated with warning signs. And of course, some chose to ignore the signs and hopped over the guide rails to bathe. At least, they did, till I reminded them of that other warning sign about trypanosomes in the water, and shared with them about the similarities between brain infection by trypanosomes and swiss cheese. Then they got out very quickly.
Manoa Falls