Monthly Archives: January 2012

Hanging Around Hilo


We spent four days in and around the Hilo area of Hawaii’s Big Island and it has definitely been the highlight of our trip so far. One of the reasons was our great accommodations. Friends recommended Ray and Lani Goodness Glory’s bed and breakfast called At the End of the Road. We are so glad we stayed there. Our bed and breakfast experience on Oahu had been disconcerting, the worst we’d ever had on all our travels, so it was reassuring to come to this lovely home about a forty minute drive from Hilo where all our faith in the charm, warmth and beauty of the bed and breakfast experience was restored. 

 Dave is checking out the latest sports news on his I-pad in the cozy and spacious livingroom at the End of the Road which was decorated with gorgeous photos of Hawaiian flowers taken by Lani. We had a couple of relaxing mornings here reading and catching up with e-mail. Breakfast menus were printed out the night before and we chose what we wanted. Ray and Lani served us in the sunny diningroom. Another couple Ron and Suzanne, fellow Canadians from Kingston, Ontario were also staying there and we had interesting breakfast conversations, sharing sightseeing in Hawaii tips and stories. Ron and Suzanne had just traveled across Canada during Ron’s campaign for the presidency of Canada’s Liberal Party and although his campaign had not been successful their Hawaii trip was a reward for all the hard work they invested in the race. Ron had been part of Canada’s diplomatic corps in several places we had visited, so we compared experiences. 

One night we drove into Hilo for dinner and a basketball game at the University of Hawaii campus.  Hawaii at Hilo was playing a Baptist university from California in a league game. It was a tightly fought battle with California winning by only one basket. 

On the east side of the Big Island it seems everything is somehow connected to volcanoes. Yesterday I wrote about our hike in Volcanoes National Park. We also went swimming for several hours in Ahalanui Park in a volcanically heated thermal natural pool fed by a channel from the Pacific Ocean.

Outside the pool’s stone enclosure huge waves were crashing into the rocky shore, but we could float idyllically in the warm soothing pool water which they say is a balmy 90 degrees.

Another volcano related experience was visiting the Lava Tree Park. In the 1700’s, lava flow swept through the site, coating the trunks of the trees, leaving  lava molds of the tree trunks in its wake, frozen in time.

Can you see Dave hiding behind this piece of nature’s artwork?

 The lush green growing vegetation of the park provided a striking contrast to the dead black lava tube tree trunks.

After our four days in the Hilo area we are headed for Kona and a few days there before flying back to Honolulu. Aloha till tomorrow!

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We have been in Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island for the last few days, and one of our adventures there was a hike in Volcanoes National Park.  If you look closely in the photo you can see steam rising out of a vent in the earth behind me. Our hike reminded us quite a bit of one we had taken in the Wai -O- Tapu Thermal Fields in New Zealand, where earthquake activity has created a similar landscape. 

The Kilauea volcano is the youngest volcano on the Big Island. It is said to be the home of Pele the goddess of volcanoes. The latest eruption began in 1983 and it has been erupting continuously ever since.

dave and bill volcanic park hilo

Our friend Bill was our guide for the hike. warning sign volcanoes national park

Signs like this along the way warn of the danger of straying off the path in the park. One rather gruesome warning billboard with accompanying artwork told the story of a boy who had left the trail to explore a steam vent and had been badly burned. volcano art

Molten rocks have come together to create interesting natural art pieces along the trail. 

There was so much steam rising out of some of the vents that I told Dave if I stood over one long enough I could have a really good facial. 

Perhaps the best part of our volcano hike was lunch at the Lava Rock Cafe in nearby Volcano Village.  I was interested to learn that Volcano Village is the birthplace of American poet Garrett Hongo.  His poem The Legend was one of my favourites to teach in my high school English classes. 

warning sign volcanoes national park big island hawaii

It was nice to visit Volcanoes National Park and Volcano Village but I’m not sure I’d want to live there. 

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Georgia O Keefe Inspired Me

On Friday Dave and I did a hike in the Akaka Falls State Park on the big island of Hawaii.

 The Akaka Falls are 442 feet high, twice the height of Niagara Falls and the hike to get to them is through some colorful and lush scenery. 

On the plane earlier in the day flying from Oahu to the Big Island I had read a magazine article about Georgia O’ Keefe and the paintings she did of plants and flowers when she paid a visit to Hawaii in 1939. 

 O’Keefe was in Hawaii for almost three months and when she got back to New York she worked on her canvases of Hawaii images and opened a show in February of 1940 with twenty of them.

Inspired by the article about Georgia O’Keefe I decided on our Akaka Falls hike to take photos of  flowers and plants I saw along the way. Here are a few of them. 

Georgia O Keefe transformed my hike in Akaka Falls State Park. Motivated by her images of Hawaiian flowers and plants I decided to look for them too. I wonder how many of these lovely things I would have missed if I hadn’t been deliberately seeking them out with my O’Keefe inspired camera lens.
Other posts you may be interested in……..

Georgia O Keefe Changed Her Life

The Flowers of Jamaica

You Wouldn’t Believe What You Can See On A Golf Course in Mexico

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Luau with the Mormons

A luau is a kind of Hawaiian feast started in 1819 after Western influences had convinced the Hawaiian king to end the religious taboos about men and women and royals and commoners eating together. We attended a luau and a musical dance show at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. The Cultural Centre is kind of a theme park. There are areas in the park for six different Polynesian islands with displays, demonstrations, performances, activities and of course gift shops to sell you things from that island. Many tourists spend the whole day at the Cultural Centre but we decided just to go for the luau meal and the Ha Breath of Life Show which had received rave reviews.  We were a little put off to have to pay $8 to park, but the parking attendants were cheery and polite so we coughed up the money and headed into the Cultural Centre. As we entered the hall where about a 1000 people were attending the luau we each received a lei from a lovely young woman. 

We were seated with couples from Denmark, the United States and New Zealand. Visiting with them was the most interesting part of the luau for me. The young couple from New Zealand was from the city of Napier, where we had spent four days in 2009 and so we knew quite a bit about their home town and had plenty to chat about.  The couple from Denmark were our age but hadn’t been able to retire yet. The new age for receiving government pension in Denmark is 67. They were very knowledgeable about the American election, had traveled widely and spoke great English. The American man, who was a little older than us, had been in the military, so had been in Hawaii several times before on leaves from tours of duty, but said on those visits he had been too drunk to really appreciate the islands. We were treated to all kinds of entertainment during the luau meal including these male hula dancers–apparently originally the hula was for men not women.  We knew that the Polynesian Cultural Centre was run by the Morman Church and staffed by young church missionaries and students from the Hawaii campus of Brigham Young University. The students work at the Centre to earn money for their education.  The Morman influence was certainly evident, since no alcohol was served and before we ate we had to join hands with the people at our table while a young man sang Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow in Hawaiian. There are about 70,000 Mormon church members worshipping in 132 congregations in Hawaii.

During the meal we were introduced to actors dressed as the Hawaiian royal family, who were our supposed hosts. This was the king. The meal was okay–served buffet style. The only thing that seemed Hawaiian about it was the pineapple in the salad and the buns made from taro root. Between the luau and the evening show you were invited to take a trolley ride to visit the nearby Mormon Temple and the Brigham Young University campus. Dave and I decided to do this.
Here Sister Fish from Arizona talks to some tourists. She and Sister Rodreguiz from Guatemala were our guides for the tour. They made sure we knew ahead of time that we were going to see a Morman Temple and invited us to exit the trolley if we weren’t comfortable with that. They told us a little bit about the history of the Mormon Church in Hawaii and how the Polynesian Cultural Centre got started. I hadn’t known that the Mormon University –Brigham Young, whose main campus is in Provo Utah,  had a satellite campus outside of Utah, but apparently the one here started as a Mormon College and later was accepted as part of the university. The Polynesian Cultural Centre provides employment for many of the students who otherwise would not be able to pay for their education and helps to fund the university as well, since 70% of costs at Brigham Young are subsidized by the members of the Mormon Church. 

We saw the Mormon Temple on our tour but couldn’t go inside–only Mormons are allowed, but we did get to go into the visitor centre, see a film about Mormons in Hawaii and look at displays which included an impressive stack of the Book of Mormon in all the different languages it has been translated into. There were guides in the visitor centre who spoke other languages to talk to the guests–I heard Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and German. We were asked to fill out a comment card with our name and address and phone number and were asked if we would like a Mormon ( Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) representative to contact us. Since over a million tourists visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre every year, it is a great way for the Mormon Church to evangelize. 

The evening ended with the ninety minute Ha – Breath of Life Show. It cost 3 million dollars to produce and is really very good especially when you consider that most of the performers are college students who are doing this as an extra job. The fire dancers and fire walkers were very impressive. It tells the story of a young Polynesian boy growing up and learning about love, life and what it means to be brave. Both Dave and I thought it was kind of like Lion King. The song at the end espoused the values of family and the faith of ancestors–Mormon ideals presented in an entertaining and engaging way. 

I took this photo of a statue of Jesus inside the Mormon Temple Visitor’s Centre. We were at the centre with our Danish friends from the luau at the centre and they told us this statue was created by a Danish artist and the Mormon Church has copies of it in all their temples around the world. I’m not sure how comfortable I was with the whole mixture of religion and entertainment and the supposed ‘preservation’ or was it ‘exploitation’ of Polynesian culture. It was certainly an interesting evening though. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…….

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Arizona

Hiking Diamond Head


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Hanauma Bay

We’d heard Hanauma Bay was THE place to snorkel on Oahu so we decided to spend yesterday morning there. The bay is a nature preserve, so there are strict rules for using the beach. Looking down from the entry to Hanauma which is at the top of a mountain, the bay below was beautiful in the morning light. We opted to walk down to the bay although you can take a trolley. Dave is in the orange shirt. You have to watch a movie before entering the nature preserve and learn all the rules about not touching coral, fish, or turtles, not smoking on the beach and where the strong and potentially dangerous currents are. To prevent littering they don’t sell any food or drinks on the beach. We got to Hanauma by 8 am so we got a parking space but by noon when we left, the lot was full and there was a long line of people who faced about an hour wait time to get onto the beach. 

We rented snorkel equipment, checked our valuables, slathered on sun tan lotion and took our beach mats down to the shore. It was a hot day and perfect beach weather. By now we are old hands at snorkeling so we soon had our equipment on and were heading out into the water. 

The water was clear and a lovely aqua blue, but I have to admit I was disappointed in the snorkeling. We saw fish, but not that many and not a very great variety. We didn’t see any of the turtles or octopus promised in the movie. The water was shallow so it was hard not to scrape yourself on the coral. I got two cuts from the sharp coral, one on my hand and another on my big toe. Compared to some other places we had snorkeled like Fiji, the Perhentians, and Boracay in the Philippines, the coral and fish at Hanauma Bay were pretty mundane. 

The park limits the number of visitors to 3000 a day, but that was plenty for some great people watching and few enough that it wasn’t a problem finding a spot to have a nap on the beach. 

After about four hours at Hanauma, more than half of which we’d spent in the water, swimming the whole bay looking for the elusive fish we decided to head home. When we got back to our bed and breakfast, another couple who was staying there as well, was just arriving home too. They had also been at Hanauma and claimed to have seen lots of fish, some sea turtles and an octopus. I guess it just wasn’t our lucky day. 

We had a good time at Hanauma Bay but the snorkeling wasn’t great. Still at $5 a piece and only a $1 for parking it was a bargain for four hours at such a pristine and well maintained beach. 

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Hiking Diamond Head

We hiked to the top of Oahu’s Diamond Head Crater. The trail was pretty steep but the view from the top was definitely worth it. Dave had an interesting start to the hike, when he met a student who had been in his class in his first year of teaching in Landmark, Manitoba nearly forty years ago. Dave thought he recognized him so called out his name, “Howard” and when the fellow stopped he recognized Dave right away too. We paused for a ‘catch-up’ chat. 

 My knee was a little wonky so Dave got way ahead of me. This allowed me to take some good photos of him from down below on the trail. There were tourists from all over the world hiking with us. 

 The Diamond Head crater was formed by a volcanic explosion 300,000 years ago and the trail up to the top which has over 100 steps and a long dark tunnel to walk through was built by the army in the early 1900s. The crater gets its name from the fact that British soldiers picked up some calcite crystals in the crater in the 1700s and thought they were diamonds.

From the top of Diamond Head, you can see the ocean…….

a lighthouse…………..

and the city of Honolulu

Dave got way ahead of me on the hike down as well, but he wasn’t bored waiting for me near the end of the trail. When I finally caught up with him he was deep in conversation about farming and professional sports with a corn and soybean farmer from Indiana.

It was a very hot day so we shared one of Hawaii’s famous shaved ice cones at the end of the hike. We had rainbow ice that featured coconut, pineapple and cherry flavours. It was a perfect ending to our hike.

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ICS Honolulu Connection

Today we got together with the Jang family. Irina Jang was a student in two of my high school English classes at the International Christian School in Hong Kong and Dave was her physical education teacher. She is now a kinesiology student at the University of Hawaii. Irina, her mom Michelle, her grandmother Inez and her brother Matt met us at Waikiki Beach. They all live together with Inez in Honolulu. 

The Jangs took us to see the rare Hawaiian monk seal. One of these seals has been coming up on the Waikiki shore to rest for the last couple days. At night the seal goes out into the ocean to hunt but then returns at sunrise to rest on the sandy shore. There are only 1,100 of these seals left in the world. Yellow tape had been put up around the seal, and a conservationist was keeping careful watch to be sure no one bothered the seal. 

Michelle and I went swimming while the rest of the group hung out on the shore. The water was warm and there were some colorful fish in the clear sea. 

After our swim we all walked down the beach together to the International Market for supper. Here’s Dave with Matthew Jang, Irina’s brother.  I taught Matthew in fifth grade at ICS and again in my grade ten Literature class. He is now a senior at a private school in Honolulu. He is on the school canoeing team and takes ukulele and Spanish lessons. He is also a Parkour enthusiast and this year is doing some volunteer Parkour coaching.

Irina and Dave pose in front of a statue of Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii’s Olympic champion known as the father of modern surfing. Irina is very involved in gymnastics and competes nationally. In February she is heading to Montreal to try out for the Cirque du Soleil. 

We enjoyed some great seafood at the International Market and had lots of time to visit.  We reminisced about some of our Week Without Walls trips at ICS. I chaperoned a trip to Israel that Irina was a part of, and a trip to Borneo that Matthew participated in. After supper it was dark outside and it was fun to walk back down Waikiki and see all the street performers in action. 

As we hugged the Jangs and said good-bye, Irina and Matthew’s Mom Michelle noted, that after you teach at ICS you seem to have connections almost anywhere you go in the world. She could be right. 

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Pearl Harbor- Sleeping with Torpedos

Would you like to sleep above a torpedo?  Today we visited Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. We started our day by touring the Bowfin, an American submarine that was launched into service exactly one year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It’s mission? Revenge!! It sunk 23 Japanese submarines before the end of the war in 1945. It was hard to fit 24 torpedos and sleeping quarters for 80 men onto the ship so some of the sailors had bunks right over the torpedos. 

Neither Dave nor I had ever been on board a submarine before.

We found it very interesting to see how people lived, worked and waged war from a submarine.  George Bush, the former American president was rescued by a submarine after his plane was shot down in World War II. After spending time in a submarine he said battling from onboard a submarine as part of what was known in World War II as the Silent Service, was much scarier and far more demanding than flying an attack plane. 


We saw the kitchen where the crew’s meals were prepared……


and the dining area where the seamen ate, played games and wrote letters home.


We saw the captain’s bunk. The dials at the end of his bed kept him informed on what was happening with his ship even during the night.


The Bowfin’s flag records how many Japanese merchant and military ships the Bowfin sank as well as the presidential citations its crew received.

I checked out the view through the large binoculars on the guns on the top deck.


We received earphones and an audio guide that was excellent and gave us lots of interesting information about the Bowfin. 


After leaving the Bowfin and touring the submarine museum near it, we went out to the USS Arizona Memorial. 


The memorial has been built over the wreck of the Arizona which the Japanese sank on December 7, 1941, when they attacked Pearl Harbor. You can see the partially submerged ship from the memorial. 

The 1,177 men on board that day lie entombed beneath the sea, trapped in the boat forever. Here Dave reads the names of all the people who died in the Arizona which are printed on the wall of the memorial. 


In 2009 Dave and I visited museums and memorials in Hiroshima Japan, that helped us learn about World War II from a Japanese perspective. 


At Pearl Harbor, we were able to learn about World War II from an American perspective. 

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Cowboy’s Coffee Hour

We didn’t have an internet connection at the condo where we’ve been staying for the last ten days in a Phoneix suburb.  So in the morning when I woke up  I would drive to a nearby coffee shop that had wifi to read my e-mail and write this blog.

At around 8 o’clock every day a group of men started drifting in for their morning cup of coffee.  They were all seniors, from various places in the United States who had retired here in Phoenix. Most of them seemed to own horses and a number wore cowboy hats. They called themselves The Cowboys.  The guys would trickle in one by one, pushing tables together as their group expanded usually to about ten. They had hearty voices and it was impossible not to hear what they were talking about.

As I listened to the men talk I was reminded of this painting by Manitoba artist Margruite Krahn called Rosenfeld Farmers

They usually discussed the news and politics.  They didn’t have much use for President Obama, but they were upset that Republican candidate Mitt Romney has been getting income tax breaks. They were very derisive of that ‘yellow-bellied’  captain who had abandoned his sinking cruise ship in Greece. “Said he was pushed by accident into a lifeboat”, snorted one guy. “A likely story!”

The internet was a frequent topic.  They bemoaned the way it had invaded their private lives. One man had received a phone call from someone in Kansas who had heard about a quarter horse he had for sale. “How did you get my phone number?” he demanded of the stranger when he called. “He found my phone number on the dang Internet”, said the elderly cowboy. “No one has any privacy anymore.”  

One morning they swapped fishing tales. Apparently, there is a lake nearby where some of them go fishing. Another morning they discussed their family trees. One cowboy claimed that both Queen Victoria and Wild Bill Hickcock were his ancestors. 

Another morning, after reflecting on Republican candidate Newt Gingerich’s divorce woes those who were divorced told stories about their first wives. One fellow said, “She told me she wasn’t happy and wanted a divorce. Then later she decided she wanted to come back. I told her it was too late. She got all my stocks”, he chuckled, “but after the recession, you know exactly how much those are worth. Now I have me a real good second wife. When I get home after this she’ll have a nice big hot breakfast ready and waiting for me.”

Last Monday morning after the Green Bay Packers had lost a National Football League playoff game on Sunday they were supposedly a “shoo-in” to win the fellows were livid. “They pay those players millions of dollars and they can’t even catch the damn football.

Death and illness were also frequent topics of discussion as members were noted absent from the group to attend the funerals of friends and family and the cowboys exchanged information on the medications they were taking for a variety of ills associated with ageing. One morning a scandal had occurred in the trailer park where one of the cowboys lived. A resident had died and left his trailer in his will to a neighbour and good friend, but the morning after his death his children arrived with a truck and hitch to haul the trailer away. “All hell broke loose”, he told his coffee buddies describing the confrontation between the dead resident’s friend and family. 

One morning a cowboy had a cut on his chin. He had nicked himself while shaving.  As each of his buddies showed up they teased him. “Your wife got a little wild last night eh?”  

Now that we’ve left Phoenix I’m going to miss my cowboys. I wonder what they talked about this morning.



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Food Rules

Since coming back to Canada I’ve been struggling to keep my weight down to what it was in Hong Kong where eating Asian cuisine and walking to work, up and down stairs to my classroom and office and to and from public transportation made it fairly easy to maintain healthy numbers on the scale. Recently I spent an hour or so looking through Michael Pollan’s latest  beautifully illustrated book which details 83 rules for healthy eating. 

Pollan is the best-selling author perhaps most well- known for his nutrition advice to Eat Food. Not Much. Mostly plants. Many of the 83 rules in his latest book are easy to remember and make a lot of sense to me. I especially like these……. 

1. Do most of your shopping in the outside aisles of the store where they usually keep the fresh stuff. Stay away from those inside aisles. This makes it easier to follow another Pollan rule- never eat things that have more than 5 ingredients on the label. 

 2. Get your caffeine from natural sources like coffee and tea rather than from products that have had the caffeine put in them in a factory. Here my brother Mark and I enjoy a cup of coffee at one of Hong Kong’s Pacific Coffee houses. 

3. This picture of a salad I ordered at the Quattro Leoni restaurant in Florence Italy reminds me of the Pollan rules to a) eat leaves b) order small portions c) buy small plates for your cupboards

4. I took pictures of these loaves of bread in Hiroshima which remind me of the Pollan rule The Whiter the Bread the Sooner You’re Dead.

5. Although Pollan advises to make water your beverage of choice he also thinks it is a good idea to have wine with your supper. This picture of Dave and me eating in a restaurant in Italy also reminds me of the Pollan rule to never eat alone. 

6. This picture of my Dad and my father-in-law making a Mennonite dessert called rollkuchen for our 25th wedding anniversary reminds me of Pollan’s rule to cook things yourself rather than buy them in the store and to “treat treats as treats.” 

8. I took this picture in Halong Bay in Vietnam. This mother and daughter’s colorful boat of fruits and vegetables reminds me of the Pollan rule to eat foods of different colors. 

9. This photo of my Dad in his vegetable garden reminds me of two Pollan rules. Only eat foods that will eventually rot and it is better to eat what stands on one leg (plants)  than eating what stands on two legs (f0wl) but that is better than eating what stands on four legs (mammals).

10. When Dave and I stayed at the Melba House Bed and Breakfast in the Blue Mountains of Australia our hosts Marion and Trevor served us sumptuous four course breakfasts. It reminds me of Pollan’s rule to Breakfast like a King, Lunch Like a Prince and eat supper like a Pauper.  

There are lots more great Pollan rules for healthy eating- like eat slowly, eat when you are hungry not when you are bored and love your spices. Finding pictures from my files to illustrate the rules in this blog post proves to me that I do know the rules. Now I just need to buckle down and follow them!


Filed under Books, Food, Health