Thursday, November 10, 2011

Punchbowl Crater, Manoa Falls & Our First Visitors

I can't believe it's been two months since I last posted, but as expected, once work got going for me, my spare time dwindled.  So as not to let too much more time pass between posts, it seemed appropriate to update the blog.

We've been living in Hawaii for about two and a half months now and although the initial excitement has died down, we are still exploring the island and discovering new things every so often.  As I've mentioned before, we live in an area of town known as the Lower Punchbowl due to it's proximity to the base of a large extinct volcano.  Several weeks ago, we decided to pay the Punchbowl another visit and check out what appeared from a distance to be a lookout point on the edge of the rim.  It did not disappoint and I was able to get a new perspective of the city of Honolulu and can even identify more of it now that we've been living here for a while.

Downtown Honolulu looking towards Eva from Punchbowl Crater.

Downtown Honolulu from Punchbowl Crater.

Downtown Honolulu from Punchbowl Crater.

Looking towards Waikiki and Diamond Head from Punchbowl Crater

A few of weeks later, Roxi and I decided to go for a hike in the Manoa Valley to see Manoa Falls.  Hiking in the jungle was nice but challenging despite the path.  The valley gets quite a bit more rain than the area where we live, which made for some very muddy stretches on the trail.  Eventually, we made it to the falls and although we were a expecting a larger waterfall, it was still a very beautiful hike and we noticed another interesting perspective of the falls on our way back down the trail.

Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls

Being on Oahu is great but living so far away from family can be hard at times.  We've been looking forward to a home connection and last week we got it when Roxi's parents, Vicky and Larry, visited us.  It was great having them around and very exciting to share some of our favorite things on Oahu and do some things we hadn't even had the chance to do yet.

On their first weekend in town, we took Vicky and Larry to the North Shore via the Pali and Kamehameha Highways around the windward side of the island. No trip over the Pali would be complete without a stop at the Pali Lookout.

Vicky and Larry at the Pali Lookout.

We spent the rest of that afternoon at the Turtle Bay Resort lounging on the beach and swimming in the cove.  Roxi, Vicky and I even got to see a young sea turtle surface in the cove several times before diving below and presumably swimming out to where there were fewer humans around.  As the sun began to set, we headed towards Haleiwa stopping at a few scenic areas along the way.  We were losing light very quickly but decided to make one last stop at a beach near Haleiwa that Roxi and I had previously seen a large sea turtle while swimming in the cove.  We got more than we bargained for at this stop as there were two very large seas turtles basking on the beach.  Although Hawaii law prohibits getting within six feet of the turtles, it was amazing to get to see them from that distance.  Roxi managed to take some excellent photos in the waning sunlight.

Sea Turtles near Haleiwa

Sea Turtles near Haleiwa

Sea Turtles near Haleiwa

Sea Turtles near Haleiwa

Sea Turtles near Haleiwa

Later in the week, we went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, a first for all of us since Roxi and I had not had time to make a trip there yet.  Hanauma Bay is an old volcano crater whose eastern end has completely eroded allowing the sea to fill it and create a unique and amazing coral reef within its bowl.  It is without a doubt, the best place I have ever been snorkeling.  The colors of the fish were so vibrant and they never seemed bothered by our swimming around them; that is until Roxi and I saw an eel.  We're not sure what type of eel it was when we first saw it hiding in some coral but we were amazed and in awe. As we looked on, the eel started to make what seemed to be aggressive movements towards us.  At that point, we came to our senses and moved away as quickly as possible without further agitating it.

Hanauma Bay from the rim of the crater.

Sadly, all good things come to an end; Vicky and Larry left last Saturday to return home but not before we all got to see a double rainbow.  It sure made sitting in the Honolulu traffic much easier to handle!

Double Rainbow!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

...Two Weeks Later Part 4: All We Need Now Is Our Car

On Sunday September 4, Roxi spent a fair amount of the morning continuing her lecture preparation but after lunch we decided that it was time to make the drive up to the North Shore.  With it being a holiday weekend, I was expecting some heavy traffic but we didn't really experience too much and arrived at the North Shore in about an hour.  The view as we drove up the Kamehameha Highway was beautiful!

North Shore of Oahu

North Shore of Oahu

The traffic got a little heavier as we made our way through the town of Haleiwa but thankfully the majority of it was going in the opposite direction.  After driving a little further, we spontaneously stopped on the roadside where several other people appeared to be enjoying a beach.  We unloaded our things and set up on the very rocky beach.  Signs around the beach informed us that this was a basking area for sea turtles and instructed us to remain at least six feet from any turtles.  There was even a volunteer on the beach monitoring the area to make sure that any sea turtles approaching from the ocean would not be disturbed by the many swimmers, snorkelers and paddlers.

We headed for the water and it was very cold!  It seemed colder than the water in Waikiki although it's hard to imagine there being that much of a temperature variation.  We decided to sit on the beach for a few minutes and let the sun heat us enough to offset the temperature of the water.  After a little while, we tried again but the water was still very cold.  We decided to just bite the bullet and dunk ourselves and that did the trick.  It was a pretty calm afternoon with most of the waves breaking far from shore leaving us to slowly bob up and down in the rocky cove.  We floated out pretty far on boogie boards, but once we started to notice an increase in rocks and coral under water, we paddled a little way back to shore.  I certainly didn't want a trip to the beach to end with one of us getting some nasty cuts from shallow coral.

As we continued our relaxing float, we began to drift further out so we again paddled ourselves closer to shore.  When we were about halfway back to shore, I noticed a rock protruding from the water that I hadn't noticed before.  As Roxi and I steered away, I noticed that the rock had a little head protruding from the water in front of it.  I realized that this was no rock but rather a sea turtle attempting to swim to shore!  We were only about eight feet away and it was huge!  It was amazing, but a little terrifying to imagine this sea creature attempting to surface from underneath you as you swam unsuspectingly.  I'm sure the turtle would be equally surprised and scared but it wouldn't change the fact that it was a giant sea creature!

We watched as a snorkeler was swimming directly towards the turtle and shouted warnings so that he wouldn't swim into it although he couldn't hear us with his head below water.  The turtle began to go underwater just as the snorkeler reached it and he reacted a lot calmer than I would have in the situation.  He was visably and audibly excited and came up out of the water to tell anyone nearby what he saw.  We talked for a second before he put his head back in the water to see the turtle again.  As slow as turtles are on land, they must be pretty fast underwater since none of us could spot it or any evidence of movement in the area.  After a few minutes of scanning the ocean floor through the crystal clear water, we gave up.  Any one of the large round rocks we could see might have been the turtle but it certainly wasn't planning on surfacing again while we were around.

We paddled back to shore and sat in the sun to dry off a bit.  After we got a little too hot, we decided it was time to move on to another spot on the North Shore.  When we visited the area for our honeymoon a few years ago, we spent an afternoon at the Turtle Bay Resort, so we continued our drive north along the coast to the hotel.  One of the great things about Hawaii is that there are no private beaches.  Even if you own a home on the beachfront, state law prohibits private ownership beyond the line of natural vegetation.  As a result, you can use any beach you want so long as you do not cross private property to get there.  We arrived at Turtle Bay and made our way to the public beach access area.  We decided to have a beer and an appetizer at the beach side bar and grill and enjoy the afternoon.  Just as we sat down, it started to drizzle but this did not cause anyone sitting in the uncovered patio to move indoors.  As with most Hawaii rain, it was a very short shower.  It actually gave us the opportunity to see a double rainbow! Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me to capture it and become part of the internet meme

After our snack, we took a walk along the beach and the volcanic rock.  As we walked on the coarse pumice, we couldn't help but think of the volcanic formation of the island so many eons ago.  It was also fascinating the see the vegetation that has managed to survive and even thrive on what seems like inhospitable terrain.  Along the walk we also noticed deposits of salt that were the obvious remnants of puddles of seawater that had long since evaporated.  I sure hope that children in Hawaii appreciate all of the amazing geology and earth history that they are privy to but I'd imagine that, like most youths, they take where they grow up for granted to some degree.  If some of the local radio commercials I have heard are any indication, there is a desire for young Hawaiians to move to the Mainland for various reasons.

As the sun began to set, we began our drive back to Honolulu.  Shortly after leaving Turtle Bay, we passed one of Oahu's only wind projects, the recently completed Kahuku Wind Farm.  I loved the way the turbines looked on the hills and despite it's small size, the farm generates a considerable amount of power.  In a place where almost all of the electricity is generated by burning imported coal and oil, it certainly seems logical to capture the resources of the wind and sun to reduce the reliance of off island energy sources. 

Kahuku Wind Farm

Kahuku Wind Farm

Our Labor Day, Monday September 5, was spent at the apartment working.  Roxi was busy getting ready for her first day of class on Tuesday while I worked on organizing things on my computer.  I learned several years ago that if you don't keep up with your computer files, eventually you will have a mess (and lots of duplicates) on your hands.  Although I've only had this computer since April, I have been working on consolidating all files from my previous three computers onto it and then working to create a master backup on an external hard drive.  I know what you're thinking: "Wes, you're in Hawaii and you're working on your computer instead of going to the beach!"  This is true but like I try to remind myself, this is life in paradise not a vacation.  I have to utilize this time for my personal projects before I start on my work projects because...well, you can see my blogging activity over the last year.  I can't say with certainty how much time I will have when my work commitments kick in about a week from now. 

On Tuesday September 6, we were up early and eager to see about finally getting our car.  Since our arrival in Hawaii, we've been in a rental car as our vehicle has been making its journey across the Pacific by ship.  Since we dropped it off at the port in Long Beach, we've been able to keep tabs on its progress through the shipper's website.  We've seen the status change from "Delivered at Port" to "Loaded onto Ship" to "In Transit Aboard Ship" until finally over the weekend it was listed as "Arrived in Honolulu."  Late Sunday evening, the status had changed to "Estimated Available for Pickup on 9/6/11." Needless to say we were excited so we fully intended to pick it up on Tuesday morning before Roxi had to be on campus for her classes that afternoon.  Unfortunately, as of that morning the status had changed saying that our estimated pickup day was back to 9/7/11.  We were a little bummed, but since that had been the date we were expecting since we dropped it off in Long Beach, we weren't too heartbroken.  It gave me the opportunity to get our things in order for the vehicle registration process.

That afternoon, I dropped Roxi off on campus for the afternoon and I took care of some errands.  As usual, the traffic was pretty bad in Honolulu so errands that should have only taken about an hour wound up taking me most of the time that she was in class.  So right around the time I was finished with my errands, she called me ready to be picked up.  I'm very glad that we are located as close as we are to downtown, otherwise the commuting and traffic would really get to both of us!  Roxi had a great first day and enjoyed meeting her students.  All in all it was a good and productive day for both of us.

On Wednesday September 7, we were up early and eager to get to the port as soon as possible to avoid a repeat of the long wait we had dropping off the car in Long Beach.  We beat the rush, but we still had to wait but only for about twenty minutes this time.  The convertible made it and although it was a little dirty, it was otherwise in the same condition that we left it in!  We signed our release paperwork and then headed to airport to return the rental car.  As soon as we were done with that, we put the top down and made our first drive together in Hawaii in our convertible.  As usual, the traffic was bad because it was the morning rush hour, but at least we were doing it in style. 

So after two weeks in Hawaii, we were finally done.  We had found an apartment, furniture, gotten oriented to life on the island and finally had our car.  The last six weeks have been stressful and challenging but they've also been exciting and rewarding.  If we'd had more time to prepare, I honestly don't think that we would have made the move so smoothly.  And we certainly couldn't have done it without our friends, both old and new.  Thanks to everyone who have helped us along our way! Mahalo!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

...Two Weeks Later Part 3: Getting Settled In

On Tuesday August 30, we awoke in our Waikiki hotel renewed by the knowledge that we had secured an apartment and that we could move in as soon as we had furniture.  All of our utilities would be covered in our monthly rent except for internet so I set about to getting us connected as soon as possible.  After getting our appointment set for Wednesday between 8 AM and noon (got to love those reasonable installation windows!) we left the hotel to start getting furniture and other household items.

Our first stop was the mattress store that we had visited the afternoon before.  We were able to ensure delivery by Wednesday afternoon.  So with those two tasks completed, we set about to stocking our kitchen.  We made a trip to the very busy but affordable Wal-mart to buy essential kitchen ware, bathroom items and a couple of fans.  Because of the mild climate, most places in Hawaii don't have air conditioning and if they do, it is in the form of a window unit or two.  Central air in homes seems to be a mostly unnecessary expense.  From spending a little time in our apartment the day before, we did find that it was a bit stuffy, even with the windows open so fans were definitely in order to circulate the natural airflow.

After getting our new purchases to the apartment, we rushed back to the hotel to enjoy the free weekly happy hour drinks in the lobby.  The happy hour was literally sixty minutes keeping in the spirit of the continental breakfast they offered in the morning, but the drinks were very good so I wasn't complaining.  We were originally planning to check out on Thursday September 1 (hoping that
would have found an apartment within a week of our arrival) but since we were going to be able to stay in our new place a day early, we made arrangements to check out accordingly.  The hotel served us well for our first week on Oahu but we were ready to be cooking meals in a real kitchen and having a lot more space.

That afternoon/evening, we got our things packed up and then headed for a visit to the beach one last time while we were still within walking distance.  We made it to the beach just in time to enjoy the sunset. 

Diamondhead at Dusk

Sunset at Waikiki

We celebrated our move with overpriced Mai Tais at a hotel bar.  They were good but they really gouge the heck out of tourists in Waikiki!  As we were heading back to the hotel, we stopped in at a little Japanese restaurant for a sake and a sushi snack.  Tempura avocado is pretty tasty!  After that it was off to bed for us since we had to be up and out of the hotel early so that I was at our apartment by 8 AM to wait for the cable guy.

As planned, we woke up very early on Wednesday August 31 to check out of the hotel and get the rental car packed up.  We easily made it to the apartment before 8 AM and began the waiting game.  We only had a little while to wait before the cable guy showed up to install our internet.  By 9:30, we were ready to go and I had the router up and running as well.  With our mattress delivery not scheduled until 2 PM, we decided to check out some furniture stores for a couch, chairs and computer desk.  I am always amazed by the ludicrous prices for furniture.  Even on the Mainland I think that there is a real disconnect between what you pay and what you get when it comes to furniture, but then again I am a function over form kind of guy.  New furniture was really not in our budget so we did some searching on Craigslist to try to locate a few items.

We didn't want to limit ourselves to Craigslist so we followed up on a recommendation that our realtor friend Sandy gave us about a place that sells discount furniture that was previously in hotels on the island.  We visited it and found a few pieces that we liked right away and others that we thought might be worth getting.  We weren't ready to commit to some of the things right away but we did opt to purchase a TV and large mirror for very reasonable prices and we were able to move them in our rental car.

With some comparison furniture shopping finished, we headed home to await the arrival of our mattress.  Again we had a window (only two hours this time) but they arrived just after 2 PM and were in and out in a matter of minutes.  We spent the rest of the evening making some dinner, getting our new apartment organized and Roxi also continued her class preparations.

On the morning of Thursday September 1, Roxi continued her class preparations while I continued trying to find furniture options on Craigslist.  After a few hours, we decided to make a trip to the western side of the island to visit a Target store in Kapolei where we still had a valid gift card from our wedding nearly four years ago.  It was a long drive even though it was only about twenty miles away.  Traffic on the freeway was terrible and it really made us glad that we had such great advice about where not to look for an apartment.  It wasn't even rush hour and we crept along slowly for miles.  Since then, I've heard that there is a plan in the works to build a commuter train from Kapolei to the airport and downtown Honolulu but it is years away at best.  It's a shame really because it is evident that there is a real need for a reduction in the cars traveling in both directions on a daily basis.

After completing our shopping at Target, we rushed (as quickly as possible with the traffic) back to the HPU campus in downtown Honolulu to pick-up Roxi's desktop computer that we had shipped from Memphis about two weeks before.  We made it in time to pick it up before the office closed for the day.  It was nice having it again not just for making Roxi's work easier, but it has such a large monitor, we routinely use it as a TV to watch shows on Hulu.  Thanks to some Craigslist work, I had located a used printer/scanner/copier for sale that we picked up on the way home.  Craigslist is such an asset in a place like Hawaii; so many people move the the islands for a short time and for various reasons return to the Mainland.  It doesn't really make much sense to ship things either way unless someone else is paying the bill (i.e. company relocation package) so there are constantly nearly new items for sale on Craigslist.

After another long day of work, we decided to hit the beach for a walk.  We made it to Ala Moana Beach (just west of Waikiki and less crowded) just after sunset. We took a leisurely stroll along the beach watching the last of the surfers paddle in for the day.  Even though we don't live by the beach, we are a very short drive even in afternoon traffic so this will be a nice option for an afternoon activity.

Roxi had work meetings on campus on the morning of Friday September 2 so I stayed at home and did laundry and other domestic activities.  I should have squeezed in some blogging but instead I caught up on several episodes of Master Chef and Hell's Kitchen.  Roxi can attest to my man crush on Gordon Ramsey and his slew of reality TV shows about cooking.

Friday afternoon, we continued our search for furniture, revisiting some stores and reconsidering some items that we thought we might need. Ever since we sold most of our things in Memphis, I am really hesitant to repurchase a lot of items.  I love this stripped down lifestyle and I want to keep it this way for as long as possible.  We survived for seven months in the Netherlands with hardly any real possessions; we can certainly do the same here as long as we always remember what a pain it is to get rid of stuff when it's time to move.

We didn't really come to any decisions about furniture other than that we weren't about to spend over $1000 on a couch.  After another long day of searching for furniture, we decided to return to Ala Moana Beach for what was left of the afternoon to relax.  With the sun going down, it was a bit too cold to swim so we sat with our feet in the surf for at least an hour and half just relaxing and discussing our move so far.  It was a really nice time even though we barely got in the water.  After returning to our apartment and doing a bit more research about furniture options, we called it an early night determined to complete our search on Saturday.

On Saturday September 3, we decided it was time to cross furniture off of our list once and for all.  We returned to the Inter Island Hotel Furniture store and selected a great computer desk and office chair combo, a coffee table and two oversized chairs.  We may get a couch in the future, but at that point, we were happy to have a couple of comfortable places to sit.  The only snag left was delivery.  The store had great prices for the gently used items and a very reasonable delivery rate since we lived relatively close, but they told us the earliest we could expect our furniture was September 14!  That was too long to be sitting on beach chairs so Roxi pleaded our case and the salesman was able to arrange delivery for later that afternoon.  We were so excited that this would be done!

After leaving the store, we searched Craigslist for any moving sales and found one that looked good in Kaneohe.  On our way up the Pali Highway, we stopped at the Pali Lookout to the get some pictures of the Nu'uanu Valley.  It was very crowded, windy and cold up there so we didn't stay long but it was a breathtaking view to say the least.

Nu'uanu Valley and Kaneohe Bay as seen from the Pali Lookout.

After our brief stop at the Pali Lookout, we continued down to the town of Kaneohe to visit a moving sale.  We didn't get a lot of items but we were in need of some coffee mugs, wine glasses and a few other sundries.  Although our furniture wasn't scheduled to be delivered for another couple of hours, I didn't want to dilly-dally; so far all of our appointments and deliveries had been early in the specified time windows.  Sure enough, as we drove back to our apartment, I received a call from the movers asking us if we were home and ready for delivery.  We were about ten minutes away as were they, so we rushed to beat them there.  Thankfully we arrived a couple of minutes before they did.  As with all other deliveries so far, they worked very quickly and in a matter of minutes our apartment was furnished!

Roxi spent most of the rest of the afternoon working on her class preparation while I tried to straighten up around the apartment now that we were essentially set up.  I did a little more searching on Craigslist for a TV stand to complete our furnishings and made arrangements to pick one up on Sunday morning.  I have been amazed at how much we have been able to accomplish in such a short time, but I suppose making as many moves as we have made over the years has made us very adaptable!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

...Two Weeks Later Part 2: The Apartment Hunt

Roxi and I woke up at about 5:00 in the morning on Friday August 26.  Between our excitement, anxiety and not having made the adjustment to our new time zone, we couldn't sleep any longer.  We made the spontaneous decision to drive to the east end of Oahu to watch the sunrise.  We didn't quite make it in time see the actual event but we did get to enjoy a quiet morning at the Halona Blowhole.  The tide wasn't quite ideal for the water to spray up through the rocks but the views of the morning sun and island of Molokai were both breathtaking.

Sunrise at the Halona Blowhole in East Oahu

After enjoying the natural beauty of East Oahu, we headed back to the hotel for breakfast before we were set to meet Sandy to talk about our apartment hunt.  I liked our hotel but what they call a continental breakfast wouldn't even be considered a snack in most places.  They basically had sliced bread that you could toast and/or butter, banana nut muffins, some kind of breakfast cake and there was a lady making pancakes on a portable griddle.  It was included in our room price so I made sure to punish them for their meager offering but Roxi wasn't of the same mind as me.  On subsequent days she chose to forgo the breakfast altogether.

After breakfast we met with Sandy, our realtor connection, to talk about parts of town we should investigate and see some apartments that she had made appointments at for us.  She really gave us a crash course in Honolulu neighborhoods and steered us away from areas that offered much cheaper rent but ridiculously long commutes.  Oahu's dirty little secret is that the traffic is horrendous.  There are a couple of "interstate" freeways on Oahu and at many times of the day, they are more parking lots than roads.  As a result, the surface streets around the freeways are also terrible during the morning and afternoon rush hours.  Oahu is not big and commuting for work is common, but a few miles on the map translate to an hour or more in the car one way!

We settled on searching in the downtown area and adjacent neighborhoods.  Sandy had made an appointment for us in a downtown high-rise so we visited it and were actually quite pleased with what our money could get us in Honolulu.  It was not going to be an palatial apartment but it also wasn't going to be as bad as many of the tiny studios that we were expecting from our online research prior to arriving on the island. 

After our time with Sandy, we compared our notes with ads on Craigslist and in the newspaper.  Roxi and I were able to make several appointments during the afternoon and by the end of the day had found two studio apartments that were at the low and high ends of our budget that we could actually see ourselves living in for at least six months.  Housing is very competitive in Oahu and even if you have had an application accepted, there is no telling how many other qualified applicants are vying for the same space.  So we had no guarantees but were given encouragement from the leasing agents for the two apartments.  After a long day we called it night feeling a sense of progress in our Hawaiian adventure.

We woke up very early in the morning on Saturday August 27 to get ready for a faculty orientation event that Roxi needed to attend for Hawai'i Pacific University.  She will be teaching classes at the downtown campus but this orientation was being held at the Loa campus over the Ko'olau Mountains northeast of Honolulu.  The drive from Waikiki up the Pali Highway is beautiful and capped off by an amazing view of the towns of Kailua and Kaneohe from various spots along the road.

I dropped Roxi off and headed back to the hotel to do much needed laundry.  We hadn't had the opportunity to wash clothes since we had been in Lafayette more than a week before and we were running low on a few everyday items.  While I was waiting for clothes to dry, I did some more research on Craigslist and in the newspaper to find an apartment.  A few hours later, I drove back up the Pali Highway to get Roxi and we decided to take a drive down to Kailua and see what we thought of the area.  It was definitely more suburban and calmer than Honolulu, but the beaches were very crowded for the weekend and we felt like this would probably be too far out of the way for a commute to the city.  On our way back to Honolulu, we had time to stop at a food truck for some delicious garlic shrimp!

View from the Pali Highway

View from the Pali Highway

After a few hours rest back at the hotel and still more research on apartments, we played tourists and had a sunset dinner at the Hula Grill along the beach at Waikiki.  After dinner we went for a walk along the beach and tried to remind ourselves that despite all the stress and hard work we were doing, we were getting ourselves set up to live in paradise.

We slept in a little on the morning of Sunday August 28, but were still up and out of the hotel rather early.  Roxi was busy at work preparing syllabi for her upcoming classes but we took some time out to visit another potential apartment on the west side of Oahu.  It was another strong contender.  On our way back to the hotel, we paid a visit to Chinatown.  Based on our realtor friend Sandy's recommendations, we took some time walking through the markets and getting some very fresh fruits and vegetables.  We also marveled at the multitudes of fresh meats and fish that were available as well.  Roxi made a few mental notes about potential gumbo ingredients. 

We decided to have a dim sum lunch at Mei Sum and it was fantastic.  Not only was the food outstanding, it was the best value for our money at any restaurant since arriving on Oahu.  I have a feeling that we will be eating in Chinatown quite a bit!  After lunch we did a little more exploring of the area before heading back to the hotel.  Roxi continued working on her class preparations while I returned to the grocery store to get a few more things we had run out of.  Roxi spent the rest of the evening working on her classes while I completed several apartment applications and emailed them on to the leasing agents and/or owners.

Monday August 29 was more of the same.  Roxi was working on her class preparation and I was making contacts with apartment leasing agents.  We left the hotel at around noon to head to an appointment to see a place not too far from downtown.  We drove by before our appointment and thought it looked promising.  It was cluster of bungalows as opposed to the larger apartment buildings that we had been looking at.  We met with the agent about thirty minutes later and were pretty amazed at what he showed us.  It seemed like a pretty great deal although it was at the upper end of our price range.  We talked with him about ourselves and he urged us to fill out an application on the spot.

After Roxi and I left, we were discussing the possibility of the apartment we had just seen and decided to start thinking about furnishing whatever we ended up getting.  We were looking at mattresses when I received a phone call from the agent that we had met with only thirty minutes earlier.  He had spoken to the owner and she had given him the okay to rent us the apartment.  I was so shocked at how quickly he got back to us that I was lost for words.  I told him I had to talk it over with Roxi and that I would call him back in a few minutes.  Roxi and I went to a Starbucks to discuss the pros and cons of the apartment.  Besides being a little bit more that I wanted to spend on rent, there weren't really any other cons.  I called the agent back and we made arrangements to review and sign the lease later that afternoon.

After Roxi took care of some paperwork at the HPU downtown campus, we went to the leasing agent's office, reviewed and signed the lease, paid our deposit and first months rent and were given the keys to our new place in Hawaii!  It is located about a mile north of the heart of downtown Honolulu where both Roxi and I will be working yet it doesn't feel like we are living downtown.  It is in an area called the Lower Punchbowl named for the proximity to the extinct volcano crater that is a few hundred yards from us that is now the site of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  It was such a relief to find an apartment and be done with that stage of the process and it only took us five days!  The next step was to furnish the place but that work would start in earnest on Tuesday.

Lower Punchbowl: Our new neighborhood in Honolulu

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

...Two Weeks Later Part 1: Los Angeles to Honolulu

I had planned to be much better about updating my blog during this transition, but in our defence, we had a lot going on and limited internet access until late last week.  So without further ado, here's a part one of what we've been up to since my last post:

After a week of driving from Memphis to Hermosa Beach, CA we had our first multi-night stay in the same place since we left Lafayette on August 20.  I woke up pretty early on Wednesday August 24 and set out to get our car ready for dropping of at the shipper later that afternoon.  This mainly involved me getting all our personal belongings out of the car and giving it a thorough wash.  Although the Autozone and carwash in Hermosa Beach were only a couple of miles away, the whole process of washing the car took about two hours because of the ridiculous amounts of traffic.  Little did I know that this would just be the beginning of my experiences with gridlock.

After washing the car and having some lunch, Roxi and I borrowed my brother Garrett's car so that we could caravan to the port in Long Beach to drop of our car.  The process wasn't terribly complicated so much as it was a lot of sitting around and waiting our turn.  Apparently, Wednesdays are the last day to get cars on the next outgoing ship so they are the busiest day of the week at the port.  Had we known this, we might have planned our travel accordingly, but there we were.  In reality, it wasn't so bad but we did have to wait about an hour before they processed and inspected our car. 

With that finished, we headed back to Hermosa Beach.  We spent the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening relaxing.  Rather than cook dinner again, we went out to eat with Garrett and Nicole and tried to fathom what we were about to do.  It still seemed so unbelievable!

On Thursday August 26, I woke up early as usual and set myself to getting us ready to make it to the airport on time for our flight.  Roxi and I did I final luggage check, loaded up Garrett's car and said goodbye to Nicole as she left for work.  Garrett dropped us off at LAX on his way to work and now it was really setting in: we were about to travel to Hawaii on a one-way ticket!

Check-in went pretty well although we found out that we had oversold tickets.  It really seems like that is information that you as a consumer should be privy to when you purchase a plane ticket.  I certainly would have considered a different flight if I had been given notice that this was an oversold flight.  But since I had been in this position before, I wasn't worried yet.  My biggest concern at the moment was getting through security and to our gate.

Security proved to be a much bigger deal than check-in.  We had so much stuff packed tightly into our bags, I guess we both seemed suspicious.  Roxi and I both had no trouble going through the body scanners but our carry on bags were completely unpacked and checked through by screeners.  When they were done going through our things, we were left to repack our bags as best as we could in the middle of the airport.  Again, it wasn't so bad but it was still security theater as far as I'm concerned. 

We got some breakfast and checked-in at the gate and we were still on the oversold list.  This made Roxi a little worried but since I'd had this happen before and made it on a flight, I was still okay.  Sure enough, ten minutes later when I checked with the gate agents again, they had our boarding passes.  Not long after, we boarded our flight and there was no turning back now...we were island bound!

The flight from LAX to Honolulu was only five hours and we slept for much of the time.  Before leaving Garrett and Nicole's I had downloaded a few movie rentals from iTunes so we watched one of them when we couldn't sleep anymore.  By the time the movie was over, we were in range of the islands and Roxi took a couple of good pictures of the Big Island and Maui before we had to put our electronic devices away in preparation for landing on Oahu.

The Big Island

The Big Island (left) and Maui (right)

After we landed and got our bags, we had a long wait to get our rental car but eventually we made it out of the airport area and began our adventure on Oahu.  We had so much to do it was a little overwhelming but we were both hungry and we happened to find a great fish taco restaurant called Wahoo's and had a delicious lunch that was so large, it would end up being our dinner as well.

After lunch we decided the best thing to do was to check into our hotel so that we could feel grounded before we tried to tackle our next orders of business like finding an apartment.  We had found a good rate at the Aqua Aloha Surf & Spa in Waikiki and it turned out to be on the same street as the hotel we stayed in on our honeymoon!  Needless to say, we were familiar with the area which was a plus since there was so much that was still unfamiliar to us about the island.  Twenty-eight days after deciding to make the move to Hawaii, we were here and pretty proud of ourselves for accomplishing so much in such a short time.

Thanks to our friend Jay Mac Sanders in Houston, we had a connection with a Realtor in Honolulu who was going to help us figure out where we should try to find a place to live.  We talked to Sandy shortly after checking into our hotel on Thursday afternoon and scheduled a time to meet on Friday morning to start looking at rentals.  Feeling like we had accomplished a fair amount of business, Roxi and I rewarded ourselves with a trip to the beach.  We dug through our luggage to find our swimsuits and headed for Waikiki Beach.  After the very short walk we got in the beautiful blue water that was the perfect temperature for the heat of the afternoon and had a relaxing swim.  We still couldn't get over the fact that we were in Hawaii!

After the swim we went back to hotel before venturing out to the nearest grocery store to stock up on supplies.  We had to constantly remind ourselves that although we were in paradise, this is not a vacation but rather a change of venue for our lives.  We had booked the room we did so that we would be able to make dinner and lunch and save our money for living expenses for the next year or more.  We drove to a nearby Safeway which seems to be the chain grocer on the island.  I knew that groceries would be more expensive in Hawaii but I was shocked by some of the prices.  Even more surprising was the amount of savings that we could get if we had a club card.  After getting our essentials for our first week in the hotel, I took a chance of asking about a club card at the service desk.  Since I couldn't prove I had moved to Hawaii, I wasn't sure that I would get a card, but they gave me one and told me to enter my address online when we were settled in an apartment.  Score!

We took our groceries back to the hotel had some dinner and settled in for bed.  It had, after all, been a very long day considering that we added three hours with the time change.  We were exhausted and knew that we had several more long but exciting days ahead of us.

Day 9: LAX to HNL: 2,556 miles