Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hanauma Bay

hanauma bay tours pic

Long before I got to Hawaii I had heard about Hanauma Bay.  It has the reputation for being one of the best beaches on Oahu and is a must see for many tourists and semi-new residents of the island.  It is a bit of drive from where we live (relatively speaking), and consequently we hadn't yet made it there in our nearly-a-year (can you believe it?) of residency here.  Saturday night we had our friends, Joe and Sacha, over to our apartment and they asked us if we wanted to go to Hanauma Bay with them the following morning.  We jumped at the chance.

One of the great things about this particular beach is the limited numG H Bay 1ber of people let in  each day.  Basically once the parking lot is full, that's it.  They open daily (except Tuesdays because they are closed) at 6:30 AM and by 10:00 they're usually full.  Because of this policy, there are fewer people there than a lot of the other beaches, resulting in a more pleasurable experience.  Don't get me wrong, there are still quite a few people there, but not nearly as many as say, Waikiki, which at times can be a little overwhelming.

Hanauma Bay is one of the best places to go to snorkel.  The crater of the volcanic cone that makes up Hanauma Bay is an idyllic place for fish and coral to call their home.  The marine life found here is unique, colorful, and versatile.  Sea turtles, the Hawaiian state fish (Humuhumunukunukuapuaa), angel fish, moray eels, tigerfish, and butterfly fish are just some of the many types of marine life you can expect to see.H Bay Looking OutSCI0782

Nestled deep in the back of this volcanic cone, the bay is "protected" from rip currents and large waves that are found on other beaches, making the waters there both calm and crystal clear, and an ideal place for snorkeling.  It has also been rated one of the best beaches for families, especially with young children, because of the safety these serene waters affords. 

Hanauma Bay is a Marine Life Conservation District and Nature Preserve.  Years of neglect and abuse caused by upwards of 3 million visitors annually prompted the City Council of Honolulu to take action.  In 1990 they laid out a plan to restore it by reducing the number of visitors, establishing an education program and instituting supportive restrictions.*  Their efforts were very successful and it is evident when you visit the Bay.  Admission is free for residents and $5.00 for tourists.  Upon admission you are required to watch a brief 8 minute video on the history of Hanauma Bay and the conservation efforts surrounding it, efforts which require the participation of the visitors to abide by in order to keep it the pristine environment it has become.  After the video is completed, you're given the opportunity to put your name on a list so that you don't have to watch the video every time you visit.  This is particularly handy for residents and it is good for 1 year. 

Hanauma Bay is so much more than just a great beach.  They have an education center, concession stands, a place to rent snorkels and a gift shop.  Also for the added comfort and convenience of their visitors they have a trolley that (for a small fee) shuttles people from the upper level parking area to the lower level beach.  It's a pretty fair distance to cover, (even more so when you're broken like we are) and totally worth the money.  It's 75 cents to go down, $1.00 to go up, or $2.50 to ride the whole day, like I said, totally worth it. 

Down the Hill

We left our apartment at 7:00 AM and arrived at the Bay just after 8:00 AM on Sunday morning.  There was still plenty of parking available.  As with the entire island of Oahu, you do have to pay for parking, but it's only $1.00 for the entire day.  Shortly after we finished watching the video Joe and Sacha arrived and we set off down to the beach.  We knew going into the day we weren't going to stay very long.  (We had spent the better part of the day before running errands, and then having had company over, we were up late into the night as well.  We were still kind of tired and wanted to be able to relax a little before the weekend was over.)  We were anxious to check it out since we'd never been there before, but also we wanted to see if it would be a good place to take my Mom when she comes to visit in a couple of weeks (yea!!!).  We left around noon.

On our way home, we stopped at a nearby restaurant, the Kona Brewing CoKona Brewing Company, to have  lunch.  It's located on the docks of Koko Marina in Hawaii Kai on Oahu and is the sister restaurant to the original Kona Brewing Co. located on the Big Island of Hawaii.  It's a beautiful large and airy space that stands open to the outside seating right along the water of the marina.  It's only drawback, is that due to this open layout, (like many other places in Hawaii) there is no air conditioning .  However, with their ceiling fans and the occasional breeze from the outside we were perfectly comfortable, and the views of the water and the nearby mountains didn't hurt either.

As the name suggests, they brew their own beer, each of which is inspired byBetter Kona Brewing Co Logo the culture and passion of the islands.  Garret had eaten there once before (with Joe actually) but since he was driving he didn't have the opportunity to taste any of their creations.  This time I was driving, and so he had their limited release Wailua Wheat Ale.  It's a lighter ale, with a citrusy flavor, and they brew tropical passion fruit into each batch.  Needless to say, he thoroughly enjoyed it.  You can purchase their bottled beers in most stores on the island that sell alcohol. 

Their beer wasn't the only thing that was good.  Often times restaurants that double as breweries and vice versa are a little lacking in the food department.  Their beer might be great, but their food is just mediocre and usually expensive mediocre at that.  This was not the case at Kona Brweing Co.  Their food was awesome.  Like the beers they brew, their menu is created to reflect the spirit and culture of Hawaii, making it not only tasty, but original too.  Garret had the Big Wave Shrimp Melt: Tender shrimp braised with Big Wave Golden Ale and garlic.  Topped with roasted garlic, parmesan and provolone cheeses, mayo, fresh spinach, and Hamakua tomatoes.**  He loved it.  I had their Spicy Teriyaki Grilled Fresh Fish:  Fresh fish grilled to perfection.  Served with ginger-coconut purple sweet potatoes, yellow squash and arugula confetti.  Topped with a spicy teriyaki sauce.**  The fresh fish for that day was some kind of Marlin native to the islands, and it was phenomenal.  My entire entree was phenomenal for that matter, and the purple mashed sweet potatoes were so cool!  They had a very unique taste, hard to describe if you haven't ever had them before.  The spicy teriyaki sauce was delicious.  It was the perfect amount of spicy, enough to enhance the flavor, but not so much it was over-powering.

The whole meal, combined with their friendly and enthusiastic wait staff in their distinctly Hawaiian setting was extraordinary.  We definitely want to take my Mom there when she comes to visit. 

G H Bay 3

Sometimes living in Hawaii is just like living anywhere else, and sometimes after a weekend like this, I realize that while there may be the normal homes, schools, stores, etc you are likely to find anywhere, there are also some places you can find only here.  Before we moved to Hawaii I had heard about a lot of things to do and see, and so far all of them have lived up to their hype.

*Referenced http://www.honolulu.gov/parks/facility/hanaumabay/welcome.htm

**Referenced http://www.konabrewingco.com/uploads/koko_pub_menu.pdf

Hanauma Bay Slideshow

Thursday, May 14, 2009

At Least You've Got Your Health?

As you may have noticed, I've been a little MIA lately.  While there are a few reasons for Sneezing Clip Art lacks of posts recently, the biggest has been mine and Garret's collective health.  A couple of weekends ago, Garret woke up with the scratchy feeling in his throat that usually precedes a cold, and sure enough by lunch more cold symptoms had made themselves known.  By Tuesday of the following week I decided to join the party.  Good times.  Besides our colds, which at times mimicked either a sinus infection or the flu depending on the day, we've also had to contend with our other health dilemmas.

For Garret, those dilemmas are nerve pain as a result of three hernias and consequent surgeries.  The most recent step to alleviating this has been a referral to a pain management physician.  This doctor recommended a series of nerve block injections, which he began last week.  Hopefully, these will be helpful and restore him to his normal self.  If not, we've already been warned, it might result in a medical discharge from the Army.  This news was obviously not what we wanted to hear. 

When Garret came back into the Army last year, it was one step in a larger plan for our future well-being and happiness.  Without the Army, that plan would be dramatically altered, the thought of which has caused us a little stress, to say the least.  I really do believe everything happens for a reason, and worrying about that which has not yet happened is a severe waste of time, and so for now we're just taking things one day at a time, step by step. 

The next step in Garret's recovery is to get him transferred to the Warrior Transition Unit, which his pain management doctor also recommended.  Depending on the type of injury, and about a million other factors, the Warrior Transition Unit is designed specifically to help soldiers who have been hurt transition back to the civilian world or re-class to a new job so they can continue their Army career.  At this unit, he would be able to completely focus on rehabilitating and have the added and much needed benefit of coordinated care through a primary physician.  Unfortunately, just like everything else in the Army, it's a process to be transferred to this unit, but hopefully it will happen, and sooner than later would be the ideal, considering he's been in pain for almost a year now.  I'll keep you posted on his progress.

For me, my health dilemmas seem to be many at times.  Right now the biggest one is my  toothaches (what's the plural for toothache?).  I finally got dental insurance and went to theDentaist Clip Art 3 dentist on the first of May.  The result was that I needed some pretty serious dental work.  Two root canals and two bridges to be exact.  Total bummer.  Since I now had dental insurance I was just going to bite the bullet (no pun intended), kick my anxiety causing fear of dentists to the curb, and get everything taken care of.  Too bad that when I went for the second part of my first root canal, I found out that even with insurance, I would still have to pay $800.00, and that's just for ONE root canal.  Total, total bummer.  For that day's visit my portion was only $300.00.  Gee thanks, let me just pull that out of my change purse, but what can you do?  I had to have the root canal, my tooth was in really bad shape and causing tremendous pain, and so I did.  That just leaves, roughly $1300.00 more and I'll have completed both root canals, too bad that's only half the work I have to have done.  Ugh.  All I can do is stop, take a breath, and handle one thing at a time, and the next thing on that list is our recently discovered Army Finance Department screw up.

It has been brought to our attention in the last few weeks, that we were receiving an additional $250.00 a month than we were supposed to.  So, now not only are we less that money, but we have to pay back that which we've already received, which is around $2500.00.  It will be paid off in $100.00 installments from each pay check for the next year.  Even though it wasn't our mistake, the Army never gives away money, and so the responsibility falls on us.  Yea.

Now you can see why lately I've been a little lagging in the blog post arena. Despite all the drama, we just try to stay positive, having faith that everything happens for a reason, and in the end everything will work out just as it should.   After all we still have each other, we do live in Hawaii, my mom's coming to visit soon, and in the fall, come hell or high water, I'll be going back to school.  When you look at it that way, things aren't so bad.  In fact, they're rather good.

Couple Dancing Under the Stars

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Many thanks to the women in our life who endlessly devote themselves to motherhood!
Kathy Provencio, Maggie Tellez, Erica Johnson, Erline Norton, Wanda Stephens, Priscilla Western, Tanya Norton, Karyn Norton, and Ashley Christensen!!!! We love you!!!!!

Happy Mother's Day!

"Children and Mothers never truly part - Bound by the beating of each other's hearts" -- Charlotte Gray