Monday, May 21, 2018

15 Odd Facts about Hawaii

Hawaii truly is a unique state and a fascinating place to visit. We picked up an assortment of Hawaiian trivia. Here are some fun facts.

Interesting stuff we learned about Hawaii.


1. Learn to say Aloha! You will learn to say Aloha (Hello, Goodbye, or even I Love You) and Mahalo (Thank you) within the first 24 hours of arriving in Hawaii. You will also learn the state motto, Hang Loose, complete with a hand signal as common as a wave, hello.
 Make a fist. Stick out your thumb and pinkie finger and wiggle your hand. Hang Loose, You're on Hawaiian time!

2. The Hawaiian alphabet is a lot shorter than ours. The Hawaiian language is made up of 7 consonants, H, K, L, M, N, P, W and 5 vowels, A, E, I, O, U. It is a phonetic language and every vowel in a word is pronounced.

3. Hawaii is a bi-lingual state. Hawaiian was recognized in 1978 as the official native language. Listening to conversations between locals, you will hear an amalgamation of  Hawaiian and English, a true blend. (Two other states are also officially bi-lingual; Louisiana--French and English, and New Mexico--Spanish and English)


4. There is no majority race or nationality in Hawaii since most people are a blend. Hawaii is the most isolated group of islands in the world. Rather than keeping them free from influence, they have become the world's stopping point. The islands, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, have been colonized and settled by Polynesians, Asians, Europeans, Africans and North Americans.  Only those with actual Hawaiian ancestry  are considered Hawaiian. People born and raised there, but without Hawaiian ancestry call themselves locals.

5. Hawaii has royalty--or at least it did once. King Kamehameha was the first to unite the islands under one government in 1810. It is the only state in the United States that has an official palace. The Iolani Palace in Honolulu had electricity before the White House!


6. Hawaii is bigger than you think! Hawaii has 143 islands spread over 1500 miles! Most are extinct volcanoes or atolls. Eight islands make up the main part of the state. Of those, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Kaua'i, and Maui are the most visited. Hawaii is always referred to as The Big Island.

7. Honolulu is the largest city in the world? There are 4 counties in Hawaii with their own mayor and council: Hawaii, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui. According to the State Constitution, any island not named as belonging to a county belongs to Honolulu, making it the largest city in the world at 1500 miles long.

8. From East to West, Hawaii is the 2nd widest state in the United States. Alaska is the widest.
Hawaii has it's own time zone, Hawaiian Standard Time. They don't have Daylight Savings.

9. There are 3 active volcanoes in Hawaii. One, Loihi, is underground and continually growing. One day it may break the surface of the water and become a new island. The other two are on The Big Island; Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Although it is currently in the news because of the new vents opening up, Kilauea has been erupting since 1983.

10. Hawaii is still growing. The Big Island grows by 42 acres each year from the lava flows. Mauna Loa, one of the largest volcanoes in the world is also on the Big Island. It's lava fields were used as a training ground for astronauts before they went to the moon.

11. Leave the Lava!! It is considered bad luck to take lava rocks from Hawaii, according to the Legend of Pele, Hawaii's Goddess of Fire. True or not, it is true that thousands of pieces of lava rocks are mailed BACK to Hawaii each year!

12. At 10,000m tall, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on earth, but 6,000m of it lies beneath the ocean. However, its 4,207m above sea level makes Hawaii the second highest island in the world. (New Guinea's highest elevation is 4884m.)
13. Take a jacket. Hawaii has snow! The climate varies according to location. On one island the rainfall may be 45 inches a year in one place and 5 inches a year in another. Temperatures on the coast are warm to hot and change less than 10 degrees from daytime to nighttime, but traveling through mountains can get cold. The hottest temperature recorded was 100 degrees and the lowest was 12 degrees at the top of Mauna Kea.

14. Oahu is the Rainbow Capitol of the World. Due to the frequency of short showers, brilliant rainbows abound. If you are standing at an elevation with a view, it is not uncommon to see rainbows in more than one location, at the same time.

Miscellaneous/Odd stuff--Snakes and Plastic Bags

15. Snakes and Plastic Bags have both been banned. In July 2015, Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic bags from their stores.

The only snakes that can be kept are those in zoos. There is one native snake, the Island Blind Snake, but it could easily be mistaken for a worm.

A parting thought: The word Hawaii comes from a Polynesian word meaning Place of Gods, or Homeland. After visiting this beautiful place, we agree. We loved it and hope to go back.

Aloha, and Mahalo for visiting this site.

For more interesting facts, visit these websites.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pearl Harbor--Last Thoughts

There are events in every generation that define them. People in my generation have grown up with Pearl Harbor as much a part of our history as the Great Depression was for our parents and grandparents, and 9/11 will be for my children and grandchildren. While we didn't live through it, it was so closely tied into our past, it was as if we did.

Visiting Pearl Harbor has been on my Bucket List for a long time. It did not disappoint. Through viewing the displays, the political climate around the world became clearer, describing the Japanese expansionist program, and the reason for the Isolationist attitude of the United States. Between the photographs, visiting the Arizona, and watching the videos, two impressions stand-out.

1) The most poignant moments were hearing the voices of those who were there and survived. Nurses at the hospital, children, soldiers, regular citizens; people who watched the planes flying low overhead, and heard the bombs drop.

One of the most startling images was this photo of children in gas masks. It is a haunting image and I was really taken aback.

The quote that accompanied the photo: "Life after the attack--We carried gas masks in our arms and wore hibiscus in our hair."

As I looked at the photo, my first thought was 'How awful!' But it was a war-time reality. It made me think about all the times that children have had to cope with extreme dangers. I hate the fact that my grandchildren live in a time when they need to be taught how to react in an Active Shooter situation. This photo reminds me that children, all through time, have had to cope with terrible situations. Children in England were sent by their families in London to live with strangers in the country, so they'd be safe from WWII bombs. Hitler's Youth were used to search the ghetto basements for abandoned babies when Jews were moved out. These are just a couple of examples of real life.

As adults we've always taught children to beware. Centuries ago, parents used stories like Little Red Riding Hood to teach Stranger Danger. Teaching children how to protect themselves may be scary for them, but it also empowers them. It is through the love and guidance of nurturing adults that most children survive terrible events and grow up relatively unscathed, even as they carry nightmares of bombs falling.

2) Pearl Harbor is a wonderful memorial, but it is when you visit the Arizona, that the impact hits home. Standing in the memorial, looking at the ship below, seeing fuel slowly bubble up to the surface, looking at the names on the wall; it is sobering.

I have had the privilege of visiting a few Sacred Sites in my life. The first one was in Germany when we visited Dachau, the concentration camp. The second one was the empty pit of the Twin Towers in New York. Pearl Harbor was the third. At each site, people walked in expectantly, curious about what they would find. At each site, people left in silence, overwhelmed by the inherent understanding of the loss of life, the sadness of war, the ultimate sacrifice, regardless of whether the victims had signed up for duty or simply been a victim of an ideology.

There was something else that I saw. Beautiful displays of Origami Paper Cranes.

The Japanese legend of 1000 paper cranes promises that whoever folds 1000 paper cranes will have their wish.
Sadako Sasaki with her parents, before she became ill.

Sadako Sasaki was a young girl who developed leukemia following the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Sadako pledged to make 1,000 origami cranes before she died. Her wish? To live. She didn't. But her family carried her memory forward. Today the crane lives on as a symbol of world peace, and appears at sites where terrorism has taken lives. They are a sign of hope in the midst of tragedy.

From Dachau to Pearl Harbor, The canes remind us that war is sad, futile, evil, and should be vigorously avoided. But when it's inevitable, we have an honor and a duty to stand for those who can't stand for themselves. Pearl Harbor left me contemplating so much about America's place in the world, about the sadness, the futility of war, and about the dignity of life.

Most of all, it reminded me that, while we must never forget our history--both the good and the bad parts--we use the past to learn the lessons for the future, to remember the heroes, the survivors, and how we were able to grow beyond our tears.
The Tree of Life created for Pearl Harbor

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hawaii Pt. 3: Pearl Harbor

I am so grateful we had booked a tour of Pearl Harbor before we boarded the cruise ship. It was the only excursion we could manage and it was well worth it.

By the time 8pm rolled around after our 9-hour flight, we were falling into bed. It was 2am according to our body clock. Likewise, we were up very early ready to leave on a tour of Pearl Harbor at 6am. "Why?" you say? Because that's when the tour bus told us to be, is our only answer! In retrospect, it was a great plan because we were up at 4am anyway. (That whole Body-Clock thing again!) I suspect the local tours try to be done early because the cruise ships coming in would have inundated the Memorial site later in the day.
We were warned in advance to leave everything in the hotel and bring only ID, a camera and/or a cellphone. Anything else would have to be left in a locker at the gate. No bags allowed.

Once through security visitors could purchase tickets to tour the different sites, as well as recorded headsets that explained some of the displays. I am very glad we got the headsets.

One of the anchors able to be salvaged from the Arizona

Although the Memorial site houses a battleship, the USS Missouri, and a submarine, the USS Bowfin, the most popular attraction is the memorial for the USS Arizona. Four ships were sunk during the attack on Dec. 7, 1941. All except the Arizona were able to be salvaged, repaired and participate in defending our country during WWII. The Arizona took four direct hits from Japanese bombs, and the explosions from the munitions on board helped to sink her before most of her 1177 sailors could escape. Only 75 sailors survived. It was the single greatest loss of life on any ship.

Upon our arrival, we were assigned a time to be in line to board the tender. We viewed a brief movie giving a history of the attack before we went out to the Arizona. Meanwhile, there were exhibits to view, from Pre-War to Post-Attack.
A Japanese plane carrying a torpedo bomb.
Diorama of the Attack
The exhibits covered the political climate in Asia, mostly Japan, and the United States that led up to the attack; the battleships in use, the introduction of Radar, and life in Hawaii following the attack.
USS Arizona

Two things were a direct result of WWII. First of all, the military realized that Radar was not just a new toy, but an important tool. Secondly, In WWI, battleships were the strength of the military, but aircraft became of paramount importance during WWII.

We boarded a tender that took us out to the white low-slung building with the big windows in the side; the memorial to the USS Arizona. Our guide explained the concept behind the design. The memorial rises on both ends above a sagging center. The concept embodies the height of American pride, the depression after the attack, and the rise of American power. There are 7 portholes on each side and in the ceiling; 21 portholes representing a 21-gun salute.
The Railing in the photo surrounds a hole that offers a view of the ship below.

The memorial is built over the ship, but perpendicular to it. As you stand within and look out a porthole you can see exposed parts of the ship resting beneath you.
Viewed from a porthole, the base of a gun turret is visible above water.

Looking through the hole in the floor you can easily see the base of a gun turret just under the water. It is eerie looking down and seeing the ship directly below you. 

Survivors of the attack have asked to have their ashes returned to the ship. A diver takes the ashes and places them into the turret. One diver said "When I place the ashes into the turret I can feel a slight tug. It's as if the ship is welcoming them home."

In the distance viewers can see where the Battleship, USS Missouri, is moored. The Missouri is the ship on which the Japanese surrendered.

Standing on the Arizona memorial, and looking down, I could see the oil slick that constantly bubbles up from the ship's hold. It drifts toward the Missouri.

One end of the memorial building houses the Shrine Room. The Shrine Room lists the names of the casualties from the Arizona.

There is a marble bench on each side of the room listing the survivors who requested their ashes be returned to the ship. The wall on both sides of the room contains the sculpture, The Tree of Life, representing Life Survives, Renews, Goes On.

Pearl Harbor means many things to many people. It is a remembrance to the time a small power "awoke the sleeping giant". It is a testament that we will never give up. It is a reminder that Life will go on. It is a remarkable place to visit. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hawaii; Part 2--the Cruise

When we first booked this cruise, we had expectations of cruising the islands and going off on excursions to see the interior. Hawaii is known for its volcanoes, waterfalls, surfing and luaus. As I mentioned before, we weren't able to get out and about very much. In fact, one of our 'biggest' stops was a free shuttle bus to Walmart where I was finally able to locate souvenir t-shirts for the grandkids! Of course, who did we see at Walmart but lots of ship crew members stocking up on the day-to-day essentials.

If you've cruised the Caribbean, the ports are usually surrounded by the big shops, like Diamonds International, that greet you at every port. The town is within easy walking distance of a few small blocks where you can find local shops and restaurants. Tourism is their number one income and there are taxis, tour guides, or vendors hanging around, ready to take you where you want to go.

When you visit countries with more active industry and shipping, the port for the cruise ship is not surrounded by shops. You can expect to hire a taxi or locate a shuttle bus to get anywhere, if you aren't planning on a ship sponsored excursion.

We always enjoy watching the 'business of the world'. Hawaii has a hearty shipping business. We watched the barges load and unload and tugs bring them into port or escort them back to sea. That is fun to watch, but the immediate area around the ports themselves had little to offer visitors like us.

Our Port Stops

The beauty of Hawaii is apparent as soon as you exit the plane. Lush greenery and exotic plants!


The main sights in Honolulu are Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, and Waikiki Beach. Honolulu is the state capital and there are plenty of historical places to visit. There is much Hawaiian history to learn here. Hawaii was initially a monarchy, ruled by a King. That in itself, makes its history much different from the rest of the United States.

We saw Paddleboarders at every port. This guy was in Waikiki beach, but at one port I watched a paddleboarder cross the entire harbor and go out to the breakers. Half an hour later he was still cruising the harbor on his board going from sailboat to sailboat.


Kauai was the most picturesque port we sailed into.  Rugged cliffs rise from the ocean. Because of the landscape, towns are scattered and development is centralized in small pockets. The island has imposed height restrictions on buildings keeping it free from towering hotels and protecting its tropical island feel. Kauai landscapes have been featured in more films than any other Hawaiian island.
The Lighthouse at the mouth of the harbor

Harbor Views

Kauai was once a major sugar player in the sugar industry, but the marked collapsed in the 1990's and Kauai is now known for its coffee.

The port itself is tricky to get into.

The ship has to navigate a narrow passageway between rocky seawalls, and then make a U-Turn into the dock!

Yep. Tugboats are handy!

As we were eating lunch, Larry noticed a large chicken, or rooster, strutting around the parking lot on shore. It was the first wild chicken we saw, but not the last. The Polynesians introduced jungle chickens centuries ago. After a hurricane in 1992, fighting chickens got loose from their cages and the hearty breed blended with the wild population.

One of the interesting things we learned was that Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii.


Kona, on the Big Island, was the port most like what I expected, because it has a small, shallow harbor and we had to be tendered in. That was interesting because the ship used lifeboats to take us to shore. We can say we've both been in a life boat!
Here is an inside view of the lifeboat. It says 150 person capacity. Our observation was that meant average sized women and children. While they wanted 4 people to a bench, that poor person on the edge would be spilling over the edge. But the boat rode well in the water.

The  Pilot sat above the passengers to navigate the boat.

People may be tendered to shore, but livestock had to swim. In the not too distant past, when cattle needed to be shuttled back and forth, barges would park offshore, near the pier and cattle would have to swim!

Kamakahonu, a recreated Hawaiian compound including a restored temple is alongside the harbor.

Kona is a small, quiet town with some Hawaiian history. I saw this group along the road just hanging out and playing the didgeridoo.
Small shops and restaurants were nearby.

This shop was selling wind chimes and windmills made from local seedpods and feathers, along with the usual t-shirts.
Mokuaikaua Church, the first church founded by Christian missionaries in 1820, sits across the street from Hulihee palace, built in the 1800's and used as the vacation home of Hawaiian royalty.

Kilauea (Kill-a-way-a) is the volcano that is in the news right now and is on the opposite side of the island from Kona. However, there is another active volcano, Hualalai, that last erupted in the 1800's. Some experts say it is overdue. Yikes!


The clouds hung low as we pulled into Maui, concealing the terrain beyond.

Maui is known for its beaches and in the winter is a good destination for whale-watching. However, it is an island with many facets from highland ranches and sugarcane fields, to winding mountain roads and hidden waterfalls. Maui is the second most visited island in Hawaii.

Maui was probably the first island to be settled by navigators from Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. Although Hawaii was known for it's sugarcane fields, the sugar industry collapsed in the 1990's. The Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Co. on Maui, is the last operating sugar plantation in Hawaii.

I got off the ship and walked into town, about 3/4 of a mile through the shipping and industrial buildings. The path is almost comical as it winds between fences and guard rails. A guard referred to it as The Green Mile.

Once in town I found a nice outdoor mall that had a few local things.

As for my search for something for the grandkids, I was told my best bet for tourist stuff, like t-shirts, would be at our next stop in Hilo.
View from Downtown. There's a mountain in there somewhere!
One common sight in Hawaii is feral chickens. These two were scavenging in a parking lot, but they were all over.


Hilo was on the opposite side of Hawaii, from Kona, and it was our last stop before heading to Vancouver. The harbor was very pretty and located downtown.

There was a park not far from the ship but after we took a shuttle into Walmart I knew, as pretty as it was near the ship, I didn't want to walk through the business district to get there.
The land gently rises from the ocean, green and grass covered.

Smaller boats, and catamarans were moored in this little harbor next to our dock. 

The port is situated between two volcanoes that had their heads in the clouds, so it looked like a gentle island. Don't let that fool you. Excursions to Kilauea, and Volcano National Park start at Hilo. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa lay beyond the bay at Hilo. If Mauna Loa sounds familiar, you are right. Macadamia nuts are a part of the diverse agriculture that has replaced the sugar plantations, as well as ginger, papaya, and orchids!

Agriculture may be a big part of the economy but while we were in port we watched as cars of all makes and conditions were loaded into containers and shipped out.
With the presence of volcanoes, legend has it that Pele, the goddess of the volcano, doesn't like it when people take lava rocks home with them. If you do, she will bring you bad luck. Whether it's true or not, it is a fact that thousands of pounds of lava rocks are Mailed BACK to the islands, each year! It sounds like some people found it was better to take a picture than take the real thing.

Ship Life

After visiting the islands it was time for our ship to leave the beauty of the islands behind and head towards Vancouver. It may take 5 hours to fly to Hawaii from the coast, but we were at sea for 5 days. We had anticipated some rough seas, but the trip was actually very smooth, and the staff kept us entertained with their creative towel animals.
 Our Steward left this guy hanging from the rafters in our room.
 These displays were advertising a Towel Folding Class.

There were a variety of activities for us to participate in. A marine biologist, Nancy, gave excellent talks on everything from Hawaiian history to whales. We didn't miss any of her talks. She also did nature walks in the morning, watching for marine life, and star gazing at night. It was pretty windy and getting colder as we headed north, so I didn't do that as much as I thought I would!

The entertainment at night was some of the best we've seen on cruise ships. That's not always the case. The troupe members audition for an agency and then are assigned to a ship. The cast meets on board. If someone transfers off or a new member is added they'll have to adjust accordingly. We found all of the singers and dancers were well matched in talent.

A couple of the comedians in the comedy club were hilarious. During the days, there were ballroom and line dancing classes, karaoke, a lip syncing contest and a 'Glee Club'. All of it was very low key, with an emphasis on having a good time. In other cruises we've been on, 25-30 people will join a 'ship choir', but on this cruise only a handful showed up. I guess that just shows there was plenty of other things to do.

The top deck had outdoor courts and mini golf. Casino's and shops kept lots of people busy.
The pool was quiet when we were in port, but busy when we were at sea. A covered roof helped keep it warm as we went north.

I joined the Glee Club. Normally, Larry would have as well, but he wasn't feeling up to it. On the last day of the cruise there was a show that included the Glee Club, 4 of the Ballroom dancing couples and a lip-sync sing off. We sang songs from the 50's and they needed a female soloist, and 2 male soloists. I stepped forward to do "Teenager in Love". One guy who likes to do Karaoke stepped up and did the other two songs. We weren't great, but we had a good time!
James and I, the two soloists, posed with the Entertainment Troupe after our debut!

After 5 days at sea, we could all appreciate the excitement early sailors would have felt when they called out Land HO!

It was a good cruise, but it was time to go home.