Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last Post of 2008 - Sorry It's a Downer

2008 was kind of a rough year for me. In Nov. 2007, while on a course of antibiotics for a UTI, I contracted a serious bacterial infection of the intestines. It took me a full six months to rid myself of this infection. I was on antibiotics for almost the whole six months, and had to follow an extremely restrictive diet. It was miserable.  I lost a lot of weight and felt terrible all of the time.

Fortunately, I got better right as my now-husband and I were planning to go on vacation. Initially, we had intended to go to Mexico, but after my illness, I didn't want to take any chances with possibly poorly prepared food. So we decided to go to Hawaii instead. My husband chose Maui because we'd never been here (I had never been to Hawaii at all). While researching things for the trip, he discovered the job that he would eventually get that would lead us to move to Maui.

We became engaged on our vacation. But what should have been a happy occasion for me really wasn't. We spent most of our vacation exploring the island in a "do we want to live here" way, in case he got the job. It wasn't very fun. Honestly, I never felt very impressed with Maui. I knew I didn't want to live here, and I hoped that he wouldn't get the job. Obviously, I hoped in vain. I cried when I found out we were moving here. A lot.

We were originally planning a small, simple wedding for the Fall. We opted instead to get married in a "quickie" ceremony before we moved here. And then we were off. I said goodbye to the best friends I had ever made, to the place where I had worked for 8 years, to the city I had lived in and loved for 10 years. Everyone was happy for me, many of them jealous, but I dreaded the move to Hawaii.

It's hard for me to tell if I'm not giving Maui a chance or if it just isn't the place for me. I feel so out of place here. I would like to love Maui the way so many people do; it would make life so much easier. I'd be so much happier. I've essentially been miserable the whole time I've been here. I feel like a superhero who has been removed from her source of power.

At the end of the day, the only reason I'm here is because I couldn't deny my husband the chance to take the best opportunity that had come his way in a long time. I would expect him to do the same thing for me.

One of the most frustrating things about being both very self-aware and socially conscious is understanding - on an intellectual level - that my problems are minimal in comparison to the problems of many others. But I think that what amounts to existential angst is a very painful thing to experience. I feel crippled by the inability to truly enjoy things. I'm also aware that it's my own fault. It is my own choices and actions (or lack thereof) that have led me to this impasse.

I'm not yet sure what 2009 is going to bring. I would like to take this negative feeling I've had all year and turn it into something more positive. There's this line in the Jethro Tull song "Inside" that I love. It goes: "And I won't worry about a thing because we've got it made. Here on the inside, outside's so far away."

I'd like for that to become true for me in 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Journalistic Integrity

I've still been thinking a lot about the Nishiki scandal, although it seems, by and large, to have blown over at this point. As someone commented on my previous post about Nishiki, there's a lot more to the Nishiki story than the simple facts of what occurred.

It honestly astounds me that the Nishiki story broke after the election. While I know that it's dangerous to continue comparing Portland to Maui, it's hard not to in this case. Back in Portland, a scandal like Nishiki's would have broken months before the election was held.  Not only would the Willamette Weekly, Portland's trendy, non-mainstream weekly newspaper, have been all over the story, so too would have the Oregonian, the state's largest paper.

I would think that investigating a candidate's financial background would be a top priority on any journalist's list. So what happened here? I'm inclined to think that it's merely sloppy, amateurish journalism. In reading all of the papers here on Maui, I frequently find myself disappointed with the quality and frustrated with the lack of actual information presented. Where is the substance?

However, I'm still essentially a newcomer to Maui. There could perhaps be more to the story. Are Maui journalists complicit in covering up damaging stories for Maui politicians? I find this highly unlikely, but it's not unheard of. Politics is certainly filled with a vast amount of corruption, which seems to bleed into all other aspects of life.

This is an interesting journey that I have been on over the last 5 months, as I learn to adjust to this new place. I learn more and more every day. Back in Portland, I volunteered over the course of several years for a non-profit, independent, left-leaning newspaper. It was a paper that was beholden to no one, that chased stories no matter the fall out. It was interesting and informative. I would love to see a paper like that on Maui.

So often here, I feel starved for information and "out of touch." How I would love to not feel that any longer.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave

I recently got sucked into a political scandal that developed on Maui after the Nov. 4 election.  I have to admit, local politics here are a bit bewildering to me. I think maybe you need to live here for a while before it all starts making any kind of sense. But the uproar over the Nishiki brouhaha has been rather loud, and it caught my attention, so I started to do a little digging to figure out what was going on.

So Wayne Nishiki, it seems, was a retired county council member.  (On Maui, there is no city government, only county government, which also includes the islands - counties- of Lanai and Molokai.)  He left politics 4 years ago - to do what, I'm not sure.  Seems he has a stand at the farmers market?  At any rate, during his tenure on the council, Nishiki was well known for his anti-development stance.

Development is a very hot button topic here.  Really, it's kind of a dirty word.  The prevailing sentiment on the island is the "anti" standpoint, which I do get.  Without proper laws in place, it's hard to control development, and your elected officials really have to want to do it.  And most people have no interest in Maui becoming another Oahu.  From what I've seen of Oahu, I totally agree with that, because yeah, yuck.

Apparently, during his retirement, in 2005, Nishiki accepted a $100,000 business loan from Dowling, the biggest and "slickest" (as I have heard it described) development company on the island.  Then, in 2008, he decided to run for the council again.  Nishiki won the council seat, by a mere 2,000 votes, in November.  However, he had neglected to file the proper paperwork to publicize the loan he received in 2005.  In fact, news of the loan didn't didn't reach the public until a week after the election.  And that's when the sh*t hit the fan, as they say.

There are a lot of people angry with Wayne Nishiki.  The more cynical believe that this was a long-term, evil plan.  He gets the loan in 2005, waits a few years, and then gets re-elected so he can start scratching a few backs.  While that seems a tad far-fetched to me (it seems a rather long time for Dowling to wait to get their payback), I do get where people are coming from.  I wouldn't trust pretty much any politician as far as I could throw them, particularly not after what we've seen in the last 8 years on the national level.

Nishiki says the loan was innocent. He says that he became friends with Dowling over the years.  I'm inclined to actually believe him. I certainly have friends who believe the exact opposite of me, and they would probably give me money if I needed it. I find it hard to believe that a man who spent 14 scandal-free years opposing development would have such a sudden change of heart. But I could be wrong.

What I find less innocent is his "neglecting" to file the paperwork until when it would coincidentally do the least amount of damage to his campaign.  I think it's pretty obvious he did it on purpose.  He knew it was a political hot potato, and he knew it would likely scuttle his campaign.  So he went the route of most politicians and did something underhanded to win the election.  A politician caught being dishonest?  Really not the most shocking thing in the world.

I think the best thing he could have done for himself is disclose the money from the very beginning of his campaign.  He might not have won, but I think he would have had a shot. Americans in this day and age are hungering for politicians they can trust. I think they would have had some amount of admiration for a man who disclosed potentially scandalous information right from the start.

The question is, what happens now? Many are calling for him to resign. Certainly, if he stays, his whole tenure will be tainted. He will never be able to vote on any Dowling projects without the specter of this looming over his head. If he votes for a single one . . . I can already hear the howls of anger.

I don't know what the answer is, but I'm looking forward to keeping my eye on it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thanksgiving vs. Christmas

I love Thanksgiving.  It's my favorite holiday.  I think that, in spirit (if you ignore the whole slaughtering of Native Americans thing), Thanksgiving is the purest holiday.  It's all about family, friends, good food, and taking stock of what's important in your life.  It's a holiday that genuinely makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

So I have to confess that I get angry every year that Thanksgiving is more and more overlooked.  As soon as the Halloween decorations come down, the Christmas decorations go up.  The commercials start on TV; the Christmas music gets played in the stores.  The pressure to BUY ramps up about 200%.  

Frankly, I find it sickening.  I realize that Thanksgiving isn't a "consuming" holiday in the sense that it's not really a holiday one buys a lot of stuff for.  I know that this is why American businesses try to rush us straight from Halloween into Christmas every year.  This is what makes it particularly disgusting to me.

Let's ignore the holiday that encourages us to reflect on what makes our lives special in order to BUY things?  What kind of message is that?

I was hoping that I might get away from some of this in Hawaii.  It certainly seems to be outside of a lot of the bad influences of the mainland in a lot of ways.  People are kinder and more trusting here.  They have a a different view on life and what's important.  So I thought maybe this would be different too.  I have, however, been sadly disappointed.  I guess, no matter where you live, you still deal with the same companies, the same chains; they make a cookie cutter life for everyone.

But they can't force me to spend nearly two months celebrating Christmas. They can't suck meaning from me.  I'm going to live life on my own terms.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And I Saw Stars

We started meeting people lately, and that has resulted in two of the more awe-inspiring things I've seen recently on Maui.

First, a couple of evenings ago, I was driving to Kihei to meet some folks for a drink.  On my way there, I was caught between a little rainstorm on one side, and the sun on the other.  Thus ensued the most stunning rainbow I've ever seen in my life.

I truly understand why the rainbow is the symbol of the islands now.  This was a full-on, spectacularly bright spectacle that I could see from one end to the other.  I'd never seen a full rainbow before.  I couldn't capture the whole thing in a picture.  Unfortunately, the pictures that I did take with my phone did not do the phenomenon justice.

It honestly lifted my spirits and made my heart light.

Second, last night, we were invited to an event at Camp Pi'iholo in Makawao, which is upcountry.  I'm rather fond of Makawao and the surrounding countryside.  It rains more up there than where we live, giving it more of the rainforest atmosphere that I know and love from the Pacific NW.

The camp was nice, and so reminiscent of home.  But it's the stars that were truly astounding. You can see a lot of stars from where we live, but we still suffer from quite a bit of light pollution.  Up in Makawao, it feels like you can see the whole universe.  We had gone there for a Halloween party the night before as well, and had spent much of our time looking up.  The things you can see with the naked eye up there - it's hard to comprehend!  I never could have guessed that some day I would be living somewhere where I could merely look up and see a whole galaxy.

As an aside, we also happened to go on a star gazing cruise this week.  The event was facilitated by an astronomy expert who used a microphone to relay facts to the participants and ask them questions.  During a series of questions she asked, I loudly whispered joking, funny answers to my husband that were meant to amuse him.  However, the young man of the couple sitting next to us started shouting out my answers for all to hear, as if he were the one who came up with them!

While I was flattered that he thought my jokes funny enough to share, I found the whole thing frankly somewhat bizarre.  I mean, I was sitting right there and could clearly hear what he was doing.  I guess some people are just incapable of coming up with their own original thoughts.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Golf and Letting Go

We went to the LPGA tournament out at Kapalua Resort today.  It's not something I normally would have been into, but Hubby got the tickets free from work, and I thought it might be interesting to do something new and different.

We decided to take the "back road" there, which goes around the NW corner of the island.  It's a very narrow road - one lane in some places - winding, and barely paved for part of the way.  I love the roads like this that you find here.  The views of the ocean were stunning.  I'm in awe of and perplexed by the people that live out there in these huge homes, totally isolated from other people.  I wonder why they seek such solitude?

One of the things I like about Maui is how it incorporates all these different climates on this one small island.  You have the very jungle-like climate (what I think most people imagine Hawaii to be like), and you have places that are more like the rain forests of the Pacific NW.  There's the beach climate, and areas that are more desert-y.  We discovered a new one today out on that road.  I don't even know what to call it, but I've seen it in pictures.  It was like this mountainous farmland.  Just beautiful.

The tournament itself was actually pretty fun.  I don't know much about golf and typically find it boring.  But I think all sports are better live.  We got to see some of the famous golfers - Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Christy McNichol.  I never realized before how impressive it is, what golfers do.  They hit those balls incredibly far!  The sound was a lot louder than I'd anticipated.

I like it over there in Kapalua.  I wish we were rich so we could live there.

I've been thinking a lot today about letting go.  I've been pretty hung up on Portland and missing it.  I know that my friends back there, and what I knew as my life, are all moving on.  I can feel it happening.  I know that it's something I need to do as well.

I was reflecting on a couple of past break ups I had and how I made myself mix tapes to help me move on.  It might be time to make a "letting go" CD.  I don't know that these things actually help.  But maybe it would help me get "in the mood," so to speak.  I don't think I can fully embrace life in Hawaii until I give up life in Portland.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Island Fever

Before moving to Hawaii, I heard a lot about island fever.  People from the mainland, I was told, rarely last long.  Couple years at most, and then the island fever gets to them, and they move back.  No one ever explained to me what island fever is, though.  And now I wonder if I'm suffering from it.

I find Hawaii very....monotonous.  Everything is always the same.  It starts with the weather.  Sunny and warm every day.  You'd think that anyone would love it, but for some reason it's really getting to me.  I get up every morning, see the sun, and feel depressed.  It's probably not the sun itself.  If I woke up every morning for 3 months and it was cloudy, that would depress me too.  It's the lack of variation.

My days are the same too.  I get up and go to work.  My job is monotonous and boring.  I come home and settle in for the evening.  I watch TV, or I play around on the Internet.  Maybe I read a book.  We usually try to go out and do things on the weekend.  Sometimes we try to do things during the week.  But mostly it's the same thing, day after day.

I know that it's partly my fault.  I need to keep putting myself out there.  I need to keep finding things to do.  And I am trying.  There's just something about monotony and boredom that's very paralyzing.  As much as I want to spice up my life, there is this part of me that is working against myself, for some reason.  I'm afraid of something, although I haven't figured out what that is.

I do want to give Hawaii a fair chance.  Sometimes it feels like things will never get better.  I've always hated making new friends.  I feel like I'm not very good at it.  I know that having some friends would definitely make me feel better, though.  This week has been tough.  But I'm going to get back on the horse and try again.  It's the only thing I can do.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Political Chatter

In general, Hawaii doesn't seem to be a place that's particularly into politics.  Maybe it just seems that way because I came here from Portland, where constant chatter about politics is the norm.  I mean, there are, of course, the requisite political signs in yards here, and supporters waving along the side of the road.  And I have to admit that the debate between the candidates running for mayor of Honolulu that I accidentally caught on TV was one of the most heated and least polite I've ever seen.

But political chat around the water cooler is non-existent.  And people just don't really seem to talk about it in their day-to-day lives.  Maybe it's because I don't really have any friends yet.  I'm used to talking about politics all the time.  At work, with friends, at my volunteer jobs.  So maybe once I make some friends, it will come up in conversation more.  Or maybe not.  Maybe in Portland I was just in a hyper-charged political environment, and now I'm not.

It's not that I mind so much.  It's just weird.  It's different, like everything here.

Although, I suppose that Hawaii has been a liberal, Democratic state for so long that the outcomes of elections don't seem to be in much question.  The Republicans are starting to get a foothold.  I think that's largely due to the fact that they're new and different, after some 50-odd years of Democrats.  But it's not a strong foothold.  There is no question, for example, that Obama will win here.  So really, what is there to talk about?

Last night we went to the movies.  Hubby was wearing his "Mario Luigi '08" t-shirt.  The young lady who sold us our tickets looked at his shirt and said, "I'd vote for them."  We chuckled and she added, "Anybody would be better than McCain."  We chuckled again and moved on.

When I thought about it later, I found it interesting that she felt comfortable enough to share her opinion openly like that.    I wonder how much of it was due to Hawaii's inherent liberalness.  Or maybe we just don't look like McCain voters.  Whatever it was, it was nice to hear someone's opinion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Big Island

I went to the Big Island for one day this past weekend to visit a friend.  It's a fascinating place, very different from Maui - or at least, very different from where I live on Maui.

I was outside of Hilo, in an area that was very jungle-like.  It was fascinating, this completely foreign world.  It reminded me of Vietnam War movies.  The plants grow huge there.  I thought of my small, potted hibiscus plants on the balcony at home and tried to reconcile that vision with the fist-sized hibiscus I saw growing outside of the place where we stopped for smoothies.

On our walk out to Akaka Falls, I saw many flowers that looked like they were from some alien planet.  Honestly, I just couldn't get over it.  I'm Michigan born and bred, and have never lived in any other climate that's much different from that until now.  While I have often been chided by my friends for a lack of love for the outdoors, it's not that I don't appreciate them.  I just like my creature comforts.  I am awed by the beauty of this earth, though.  I don't know how anyone could not be moved by the wonders of Hawaii.

When I went to bed, there was a gecko on the wall.  Now, I've seen geckos outside of houses on Maui.  I've even heard them in my office.  But I've never seen them inside.  I have to admit that I was pretty freaked out by it.  I hate creepy crawlies, mostly for two reasons:  I can't stand the way they "scuttle" and I hate the thought that they might be crawling on me while I'm sleeping.  I realize that geckos aren't creepy crawlies, but it did scuttle when it realized I saw it, and that's what freaked me out.  I'm sure it found a safe place to hide as soon as I turned out the light.  Later, in the morning, I was ashamed, and wished that I had taken a picture of it.

As I left, the air on the Big Island was hazy from the vog of an erupting volcano ("vog" is the local term for fog-like conditions created by volcanic ash).  It was clear when I landed on Maui, but the vog rolled in later in the afternoon, the thickest I've seen it yet.  Our view of the valley below and the mountain beyond it was completely obliterated.  The vog stayed through this morning, when I took an eerie, blurry picture of the sun.

I really liked the Big Island and hope that I can go back some time for more exploration.  So far, though, I'm glad that we ended up on Maui.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Murder on Lanai

Last week there was a murder-suicide over on Lanai.  A man killed the wife who was divorcing him and then turned the gun on himself, leaving their 5 children orphaned.  It's a story I've read about all too often lately, over and over again.  I'll never understand what makes a person think it's okay to kill someone just because they dare to break off a relationship with them.  I'll never understand why they think it's okay to desert their children, to leave them to grow up with the knowledge of what one of their parents did, to leave them to always wonder why.

Violent crime is relatively rare in Hawaii.  We live in Paradise, after all.  Everything here is filled with "aloha."  Drivers are more polite.  People are friendly.  Things move at a slower pace.  I don't hear shouting from the streets every night like I did when I lived in Portland.  It's always sunny, always warm.  It's hard to imagine that in the midst of this, there was a family in turmoil.

They say that Maui is a small island - everybody knows everybody sooner or later.  I experienced this myself when my husband and I went to a bar this weekend and I ran into one of the approximately 5 people that I know on the island so far.  Lanai is even smaller.  So I wonder, did people know?  The other family members, the neighbors, teachers, friends?  Did they know that this family was in turmoil?  Or were there no warning signs that things were about to tragically explode?

Details in the Maui News were scant.  Neighbors said that the family was nice, that they knew of no problems, that they were shocked.  I wonder, how well do we know each other, even in a small community such as this?  How can you really ever know another person or what they are capable of?

Tragedy is, of course, sad, no matter who or when or where it strikes.  But it seems particularly sad in this beautiful place, especially when there was so much left behind.  I hope that someone good and kindhearted gets to keep those poor orphaned children.  I hope that they don't grow up haunted by this terrible act of violence.  And I hope that they can grow up still knowing love and aloha.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Observations

I have to admit, moving to Hawaii hasn't been easy for me.  I think I'm a Portlander at heart, and leaving the city that I have loved so well for 10 years was hard.  Ultimately, I think that it was a good move.  It's only been two months, and we're both already doing much better both financially and professionally.

But Hawaii will never be Portland, and that is something that will take some getting used to.  By far, all of my favorite Hawaii moments to date have come from something out in nature.  This is an amusing irony.  As one of my friends put it (although she tried to take it back), it's "a shame" that moving to such an outdoorsy place was "wasted" on someone like me.

So I'm not known for my love of the outdoors.  But I'm digging them here.  Here are a few of my favorite places thus far:

1.  Iao Valley.  Cute parks, a river, a little waterfall, swimming pools, a fabulous view of the landscape below.  Absolutely stunning.  I love this place.

2.  Our favorite beach.  I have seen so many amazing things at this place.  Three weeks ago I watched tiny sand crabs get buried in their holes by waves, climb back out, and continue their searches for food.  Last week we found a blue lobster shell and a large light bulb with barnacles growing on it.  Today I saw a school of tiny fish jump from wave to wave, and we watched a sea turtle search the reef.  I am in love with this place as well.

3.  Mt. Haleakala.  Watching the sun set at 10,000 feet was an incredible feeling.

4.  Paia.  Adorable little town.  Cute shops and the loveliest little beaches I think I've ever seen.  We would like to live here.

The jury's still out as far as I'm concerned.  But this is where we are now, and I feel dedicated to learning to at least like it here.  I like to find these little things to love.  If I find enough, I think that a love for the whole island will begin to grow.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What's Wrong with the USL?

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a die-hard fan of my local football team, the Portland Timbers. However, I'm not so rabid a fan that I'm incapable of recognizing when my team plays poorly, when they make a mistake, or even when they commit my cardinal sin of football - diving (or other general poor sportsmanship).

So when I complain about how dreadful USL referees can be, don't think that it's just sour grapes. In fact, I feel that the quality of refereeing in the league has really gone up over the last couple of years. However, what I saw today was some of the worst officiating I've ever seen in my life.

It began when our coach was ejected from the game for kicking a garbage can (although one can imagine that he may also have had a few choice words to say, perhaps even about the referee's mother). Now, while I do understand that you can't have an out-of-control coach in the stadium, one would have thought that Mr. Wilkinson would have deserved a caution before being ejected. After all, he didn't hit anyone, or run out on the pitch, grab the ball, threaten anyone, etc.  But no, kick a garbage can, get thrown out, apparently.

We also saw our star forward ejected after a second yellow in as many minutes. The first was for fighting, and was likely well-deserved. But the second came on a hard challenge, one where Mr. Suzuki did get a foot on the ball.  A foul?  Yes.  A yellow card?  Doubtful. It's very likely the second yellow came only because there was a first one. Had this hard challenge occurred before the fight, I doubt the ref would have felt it warranted a card.  One could argue that Mr. Suzuki brought it on himself, and one might be right.

However, it was clear that the ref on the field was very quick to pull cards in this game.  I got the impression that he felt it was the only way to control the game. Rather than talking to players, out came the card, time and time again.  Unfortunately, his calls were quite inconsistent.  A hard challenge by Miami would receive the "play on" signal, whereas a hard challenge by the Timbers saw a yellow.  In the end, the two teams ended up with a similar foul count, but the Timbers saw far more cards flying in their direction.  And they often found themselves getting fouled without getting the calls.

Inconsistent is the nicest thing I can call today's officiating. Blatantly one-sided is a better description.  Timbers fans are known for "taking the piss" out of the refs, but the mood in the air was different today.  Questions about the quality of ref eyesight and hearing are frequent amongst the fans, as are calls for the ref to "get off his knees."  But it's been a rare day in the Park that I've heard the chant "How much have you paid the ref?"

It was disappointing. I also feel that it was a real backslide for the league. I'd actually managed to forget what it felt like to have these crap referees. But very quickly, those old feelings of frustration came rushing back in. Oh yeah, we played games like this for years.

As an aside, what's happened to USL players?  When did they turn into a bunch of pansies? It's really getting tiresome. I'm sick of seeing guys fall to the ground at the slightest touch, rolling around like they've just lost a limb.  Get up! It's a man's game! What's worse, the refs always seem to fall for this obvious play-acting. It's disgusting. This isn't Italian league soccer, guys, get up and play the damn game. I give props to Vancouver, one of the only other teams in the league that doesn't need to resort to such ridiculousness to win a game. You schooled us the other night; well played.

At any rate, you played well tonight, boys. You played your hearts out. You deserved to win, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.