This year, I will put together an NFT photography collection from my time on Earth. This is the first piece of 143 planned pieces.
Here are the second and third photos of the collection (and the link to the collection):
One of the things I never expected to find out was that Tarzan was real…and that he was an Iraqi who lived in the Turkish town of Manisa.
One of the things that made me decide this was a great place to live was that when I got here, I looked around and everywhere I saw Tarzan.
I grew up reading the Edgar Rice Burroughs books of my grandfather and most of them were Tarzan (though a few were about John Carter on Mars). As such, I have a lifelong connection with the fictional Lord of the Apes.
Seriously, the last thing I expected to find in Turkey were statues, restaurants, stores, and memorials to Tarzan! But to my surprise, they are here in plenty.
The Manisa Football Club celebrates their goals with the Tarzan cry. Seriously, the Johnny Weismuller jungle scream can be heard from my apartment when they make a goal.
So, what the fuck is Tarzan doing in Manisa? I did a little bit of research to find out why there are so many Tarzan businesses and why the statues of Tarzan all look like some bearded hippie.
He was a different kind of guy and saw planting and growing plants as something holy. He became the assistant gardener for Manisa and spent his life keeping the city green.
Whether from shell shock or holy devotion, he never wore anything but rubber slippers and black shorts just like some Hawaiian surfer.In fact, the old pictures of Tarzan remind of Duke Kahanamoku.
I’m told that winters in Manisa are damn cold but that he never wore more than shorts and rubbah slippahs. Every day at noon he would fire the Manisa municipal cannon.
He took it as his duty to offer flowers to any young woman visiting Manisa and it is said that he wandered the beautiful Sypil Mountain and lived in a tent there. He would spend his salary on candy to give to children and then give the rest to the poor of Manisa. He was treated as a prince of the city and would attend cinema for free since he never had any money as a result of giving all his salary to the poor.
He was the first environmentalist in Turkey and was a key figure in the reforestation of Sypil and the Manisa National Forest. Some people say that Manisa National Forest was made the first national park because of the efforts of Tarzan.
He died May 31, 1963 and since then the city has erected numerous monuments, statues, and kebap shops in his honor.
Sadly, the statue in Fatih park, seems to have had it’s arm broken off by vandals. I hope that it will be repaired soon.
Is this what mid-life crisis feels like? Or is this just what happens when you aren’t wealthy. A vagabond’s options aren’t as vast as someone more conventional…but still there are some options. At least there should be….
Update a few days later: Wow. I’m just flabbergasted by what is happening. I’ve inquired about a dozen properties, most of them with offers over the asking price, most of them from people who have never seen the properties and may never see them. These are people with real excess wealth – so called ‘Giraffe Money’ – as in, “I’ve got so much money I don’t know what to do with it, I guess I’ll buy a giraffe”.
The CEO of Redfin said on an interview the other day that buying a home has become a luxury purchase. That means, essentially, it is a thing only the rich can do. We are quickly entering an even more gross world of extreme wealth disparity where there are wealth-lords and peasants.
Most of us (self included) are delusional in that we think we are just a couple of steps away from financial independence and the joys of wealth. That’s all conditioning to keep people working and being okay with how screwed most of us are. The truth is – and this is a hard thing to admit – most of us have never and will never matter to anyone but a very small group of people who value us personally. Our entire lives could disappear and humanity would never notice. We haven’t made a global difference and we most likely won’t. We don’t matter.
Not only do we not matter to the world – we especially don’t matter to those people who are ‘in it to win it’ which should be read as ‘fuck you, I’m getting mine’. And – at least in America – that’s everyone outside of your small circle of folks who give a shit about you. Your close family, your best friends, maybe customers who rely upon you – but the truth is – if the chips were down – that circle would get much smaller, very quickly. I’ve got about six people in my life that I would make great personal sacrifice for – I feel blessed to have that many. I think around half of those people would do the same for me and again – I count myself lucky. If we all had three people who sincerely care for us as much as they care for themselves – we are beyond fortunate. Especially in this sick society we call America.
We all know the truth – there is no safety net that protects you from falling in America. If you fall, you will probably keep going down unless you are lucky, talented in just the right way, have built your own, or you have someone willing to catch you. From the bottom, you have virtually no chance of getting back up or up at all if that is where you began.
All of this to say that my mission to buy a piece of property or shack or cabin on the Big Island of Hawaii failed. It failed because I don’t have enough money because the trillions of dollars that went out to rescue people during the pandemic largely landed with people who already have everything they need – so they are looking for something to do with that money “Hey let’s buy a giraffe or land in Hawaii”.
So, my family and myself (and millions more like us)are put into the position where we need to continue being renters and being at the mercy of landlords and developers. When I brought us to America (and myself back to America) I was hopeful of opportunities. My time away had convinced me that America really was what it portrays itself to be to the rest of the world – but I fell for the lie – just like all the other hopeful immigrants. We were doing okay out in the big world. We had a comfortable and fun life.
We got here and I quickly realized that in the tech world – at 42, I was already past the expiration date for a new hire without Fortune 500 experience and that living anywhere desirable was out of the question based on our savings. I built a couple of successful small businesses in the small town we moved to because we couldn’t afford Hawaii or San Francisco. Again, we were doing okay. Then, the Racist in Chief created a hostile environment that made racists across America feel comfortable making people of color, non-Christians, and other non-white/non-Christian people feel like their lives were in danger. As the only Muslim family in a town of 3000 where they drove around with confederate flags in the back of trucks and put up at least three chainsaw carved statues of Trump, I really didn’t like to keep my family there. I sold my businesses at a loss and moved my family to Hawaii where we were making things work until the pandemic hit but now with prices going up – any gains we made are worthless. I think most people haven’t realized their savings will now buy about 50% of what it would have six months ago. Not just in real estate but in food and everything else. Wages haven’t gone up, but prices have doubled and tripled.
I’ve gotta be honest – it feels like exactly what it is – we are being squeezed out. The bottom 80% or so of Americans are being turned into serfs who more or less work to pay the company store while the 19% don’t know it but they are next. There is room for lords and serfs in the world America has built – and if you aren’t already a lord, chances are that you can look forward to becoming a serf.
I feel like I’m ready to give up on America again. Sometimes I feel like I’m ready to give up on everything but then I look at my daughter’s face and I know that I have to keep going and I’ll never give up on trying to build a better life for her.
So – here I am. No Vagabond’s House unless you want me to say that I’m in Vagabond’s House right now – and right now I’m in a hotel. I’ll keep looking and I’ll start exploring further options. I’m not ready to give up.
I thought it would be a good idea to have my 9-year-old watch Hawaii (the movie based on Michener’s novel Hawaii) since we live here. I’d never seen the movie but read the book some years ago. While I admit that the movie wasn’t anywhere close to as good as the book – my daughter’s review is like a totally different film than I watched sitting right next to her – but she’s not wrong. Here’s a full link to the film if you want to watch it after reading her review.
The Hawaii Movie•
There was a woman who was at her home, and she was going to marry this man, and then there was another man, who was also another one she was MAYBE going to marry, and over time they started to like each other, and then they got married. The man she married was a Christain, and I honestly thought that he was CRAZY, which he was. They decided to move to Hawaii, and so they went. About half way, there was a big storm and the water was going everywhere inside the lower deck. She was telling him to just let her die but he wouldn’t. When they got there, there were people swimming out to the boat and waving like “ hiiii hiiii LOOK AT MEEEE hiiiii” and it was actually kind of funny. So then there was a guy with all the people on the ship, and one of them was related to, like, the bosses around there. So he went and hugged them. Then the old woman who was the boss said welcome, and she was hugging all the women. She liked the man’s wife, so she said “ she’s staying here. You All can go :)”. The man said “ no you can’t take her.”. The old woman said “ Okay you her husband???? You stay too >:)”. Then the lady ( who was the young woman aka new wife of that guy) was teaching the old woman more English. “ she said we can begin tomorrow.” and the old woman said, “ NO!!! We begin NOW.” and so they did. The old woman is very bossy UnU. There was another ship that came, but they were not on the side of the first ones. They were at this party, and were trying to take some of the hawaiian women so they could ____ them. ( I would rather not say what it is because it is inappropriate. But the husband guy saved the woman and beat the others with a stick. Then the wife came and noticed that the guy that was the leader of all those people was her ex.the weird thing was that he had waited for her for so long and said that he “missed” and “loved” her, when he was going to ____ ALL THOSE OTHER hawaiian women. LIKE HOW IS THAT LOVE?! Okay so then the christian guy aka husband built a church. Then he and his wife had a baby. The baby was a boy, and it was VERY cute. ( I am just writing down things that I remember so if I skip then it is because I do not remember some 🙁 ))))))))) Okay so then what I remember is them finding a child sleeping in this house, and they adopted her as their own. Then I remember him baptising her into a christian and the husband and wife’s baby was about a few years old and holding the thing they do the water thing with. Then, in my memory, the people that came on the first ship made the old woman make laws and they chose the laws for Hawaii. The people on the second ship didn’t like the laws so they were trying to burn down everything and they did, but at least the things didn’t get burnt too much. The only thing they burnt was the church. Then The hawaiians chased them out of their territory, but then the little child that the husband and wife adopted got tricked by the leader of the second ship. When he came to get her, they dumped him off the ship and there was a shark. Luckily the shark was on the side of the hawaiians ( they said and in the movie it didn’t attack them) so it didn’t get him. But he didn’t get the girl back. The old woman was dying. She was married to her brother ( EW) and she had to divorce him to become christian. So she did. And then she died…. The brother tried to kill himself, so he knocked his teeth out, and then found a sharp stick and plucked his eye out. Luckily he did not die. Then it forwarded years later and the husband and wife had three children. Then in my memory, they saved a baby with a big birthmark from dying. But then there as another, but that, they could not save. The husband found the blanket wiped up on shore of the baby they could not save. I felt so bad for that poor baby 🙁 . Then I remember that the husband was alive and his wife died. He was involved in the sugar companies, and then he had to say bye to his three kids, in which one of them was an adult, and the other 2 were like late teenagers. Then he found the baby that was saved by the wife and husband, and he was an adult by then. He was so excited. When he went to tell his wife, he then remembered that she had died :(. Then it was basically the end.
2020: Christmas Eve this year was simple. We didn’t make plans to go anywhere and here we are. We hope you and yours are safe and happy this Christmas Eve of a challenging year. Meli Kalikimaka.
2019: Well, we messed up again. Once again, I had a great plan for Christmas – we were going to go to Molokai but by the time we were able to find my wife’s work schedule – the prices had gone sky high – as they always do on school holidays when capitalists know that families have the opportunity to travel so demand goes up – and while we could have dealt with that – there were no more rental cars available and the place we wanted to stay really needed one. So, once again, here we are again – home on Oahu for the holidays. It’s not such a terrible thing – we will certainly go to the beach and do some sand castle building and body surfing to celebrate the pinnacle of the blight of consumerism that seems to never have a start or end point any longer.
2018:It was my intention to meet up with friends on Maui and have a Merry Christmas trip to the island of Molokai this year – but things don’t always work out the way you plan. In this case, the fake nuclear attack, near misses with hurricanes, and Big Island volcanic eruptions (plus the largely unspoken economic crisis that is looming) hit our tourism based income incredibly hard this year. As the holidays loomed, my wife and I were left with the choice of working in Honolulu during the Christmas break or taking our annual holiday – due to our budget – we opted to go with working.
We will have Christmas Day off together but during all the other days of our daughter’s school break, one or the other (sometimes both) of us will be working. We’ve enrolled Sophia in a Christmas break day camp, so she will still get to have lots of holiday themed fun – and frankly- that’s the most important thing to us. We’re lucky – actually. This year, there are a lot of workers such as those who work for TSA, Homeland Security, or Border Patrol who won’t be collecting a paycheck. There are many families here on Oahu and throughout the Hawaiian Islands (and the USA) who are homeless and won’t be celebrating Christmas, getting presents, or spending any time with loved ones. There are many families who can’t afford to send their kids to day camps during the holiday and without school to watch over them while the parents work – many children are being left to their own devices – not through cruelty, but through necessity.
So, we are thankful. Hawaii is a strange place for Christmas in any event – we try really hard here with lots and lots of decorations and Christmas music- but if you’ve ever spent time anywhere else for Christmas – it just feels really odd to have perfect weather, warm water to swim in, and everyone wearing shorts and Santa hats. Merry Christmas in Hawaiian is Mele Kalikimaka. The Hawaiians in ancient times didn’t know anything about Christmas. They celebrated a four month period from about November to February called Makahiki when there was generally no work done, lots of games, contests, and all warfare and hostilities were called off. This is just one more way the Hawaiians lived better in the past than we do today.
There was no money, no economy, no imports, no exports, and nearly everyone could take four months of the year off from working or fighting to just enjoy life. When you average it out, the ancient Hawaiian family only needed a total of 4 hours of work per day to provide everything they needed in life. They didn’t need all this stuff we have now. I noticed something odd this year – people were frantic about their Christmas shopping, often neurotic and seemingly in a panic. In Hawaii, it’s not like other places – you’re expected to give good presents to all of your coworkers and friends and family – and that gets expensive fast. Then there’s the Secret Santa tradition – in the jobs I had on the mainland – Secret Santa was a way to ensure that everyone got one nice gift and no one had to spend too much – something like maximum $25 – and no other gifts needed. Not here – my wife’s work laid out the rules $25 minimum! And- they all went ahead and bought gifts for everyone else too…
Growing up, Christmas was never that fantastic for me or my siblings so as an adult, it really took becoming a parent for me to grow to love the holiday. When our daughter was old enough to open presents – I began to spoil her the best I could (okay, from birth, I admit it). I love watching her wake up and look for presents. I love the mystery. I’m going to admit something here though – I’ve always been really honest with her. I’ve never wanted to tell her lies about anything – and frankly – I became terrified that she would discover that I was lying about Santa Claus and feel it as some sort of betrayal of trust. I felt incredibly guilty about it. She had started to ask questions that were leading to the answer and in a moment of what may have been bad judgment – I just told her that Santa isn’t real. After that we worked through the way the whole process works.
When she was a baby, we took her to where the real Santa Claus lived in Demre, Turkey – so I went from there and explained the tradition. As it got closer to Christmas though, we both agreed to suspend reality and believe in Santa together. We have a tiny little tree in our tiny little apartment. I’ve kept all her presents hidden so I can put them out on Christmas morning – and just like last year on the Big Island (I snuck the presents in an extra suitcase) – Santa will be visiting us again. So we will leave him cookies and milk. I have to admit, it’s much more fun to suspend our disbelief together than it was to fool her – I think it’s going to be a lovely Christmas in Honolulu this year. We’ll go to the Beach on Christmas Day, build sand castles, and maybe go see a movie and eat Chinese food. Maybe next year we can restart our holiday travel tradition. Or maybe not. In any event, we wish you a Merry Christmas!
Oahu is just one of the Hawaiian Islands but it’s the one that I call home. Back in 2008, during my last year at the University of Hawaii, I decided that it would be a good idea to walk around the entire island. I didn’t know how long it would take or even if it could be done, but I decided that all there was to it, was to do it. Like taking Amtrak from Coast to Coast in the USA, this was a way for me to learn more about my home. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. 130 miles of discovery, aloha, and making myself a true kama’aina. I don’t know many people who have done this – but one thing for sure, it will bring you closer to the land and the people if you take the time to do it.
I created a slideshow of it: https://vagobond.com/slideshow-saturday-my-2008-walk-around-oahus-coastline-photos-from-the-ground/
and also did a combined post of all the days: https://vagobond.com/flashback-friday-my-2008-walk-around-oahus-perimeter/
The Plan and the Gear
Day 1 and Day 2 – Waikiki, Diamond Head, Sandy’s, Koko Crater, Koko Head, Hanauma Bay, Kahala, Aina Haina, Waimanalo
Day 3 and Day 4 – The Windward Side – Kailua to Mokapu, Mokapu and Kaneohe to Chinaman’s Hat
Day 5, Day 6 , Day 7 , Day 8 – The North Shore, The LOST set and inciident, Haleiwa, The West (Leeward Side), Pearl Harbor, Ewa Plains, and back to Honolulu
The Completion of the Circumnavigation of Oahu
Back in 2008, I left Hawaii and set out on an adventure that took me across the USA by Amtrak train, I called it the Amtrek. This week, for the Vagobond Travel Museum, I bring you the collected articles and videos from that trip. The trip began in Honolulu and then went to Portland, Oregon from where I crossed the country and ended in New York City with a one way flight to Barcelona – the truth is, the trip has never ended since I’ve never gone home.
Along the way, I couch-surfed and asked my hosts the same set of questions, those videos are below and worth watching. Keep in mind, this was before couch-surfing had gone mainstream.
Here are the ten lessons I learned on that trip:
The Host Videos
Couch Questions in Hawaii
Christmas in Portland
Couch Questions in Portland
Couch Questions with MJ in Sacramento
Couch Questions in Salt Lake City
Couch QUestions in Chicago
Couch Questions in Boston
Couch Questions in Providence
Couch Questions in New York City
If you are heading to Volos – you aren’t going to find any hostels. The hotels in Volos tend to be pretty basic without really offering very much in the way of services. 60-100 Euro per night will get you a fairly generic hotel room. Some will have wi-fi and some won’t. Some will have breakfast included and others won’t.
I opted for the very simple, very central, and very clean Hotel Argo (165, Dimitriados Street) for the two nights I needed to be in Volos. A small hotel run by two families- it doesn’t have any listings on-line. If you bargain with the manager, Nikolaos Papanikolauyou, can get a room for 35 Euro per night. A basic room and shower but kept clean and neat. Central location near the bars and restaurants and only two streets up from the waterfront. Free wi-fi in the rooms along with basic TV (with Greek channels) and A.C. The balconies face a fairly busy street but at one point looked out over the water before tall buildings were built between the Argo and the waterfront.
The backpacker favorite that is listed on the Lonely Planet Thorntree and other forums The Galaxy Hotel – has now gone out of business.
Overall- Volos isn’t really a great place for accommodation – that’s the bad news. The good news is that the many towns and villages around Volos offer tons of unique, boutique, cheap, and enjoyable options.
Makrinitsa Hotels are a great option for the times when the heat of Volos gets overwhelming. Both Makrinitsa and Portaria are on Mt. Pelion above Volos and offer stunning views. 15-20 minute bus ride from Volos center. Portaria Hotels offer a bit more upscale options to Makrinitsa.
There are some great little hotels in Milina, but you have to drive a bit to get there. A taxi will cost you about 50 Euro or the bus will cost you 5 Euro to get there. Worth the effort, but not close enough if you need to be in Volos.
The hotels in Agria and the Milies are closer to Volos and offer amazing beaches and/or rural Greek village life. The same is true of the Kalamos Hotels and the Afetes Hotels but they are a little further outside of Volos – not as far as Milina, but a good 45 minutes – 1 hour bus ride.
And closest to the airport is the small town of Nea Anchialos which also offers some interesting historical ruins and a very pleasant small town.
Many visitors to Hawaii are curious about the ancient and traditional religion of the Hawaiian people. They want to know where it is practiced, how it was formed, who the gods are, and what the rituals are. The first thing to know is that the ancient religion of Hawaii was overthrown and abandoned by Queen Ka’ahumanu in the years 1819 and 1820. She overthrew the religion (called the Kapu System) and adopted Christianity when missionaries showed up – not because she was in love with Christianity, but because she understood that the overthrow of the Kapu System would never work unless she could fill the void created with a new system of belief. Christianity showed up at an opportune moment. Since that time, the Hawaiian religion has been dead as a coshesive societal force.
The Kapu System was both polytheistic and animistic with belief in a wide range of gods and a number of nature spirits and forces in animals and natural phenomenon like waves and wind. The religion was born from an even more ancient Polynesian set of beliefs but during one thousand years of isolation in Hawai’i developed many unique characteristics. It’s important to note that there are modern Hawaiian religions which claim descent from the ancient practices of the Kapu System, but which are very different in both practice and belief. Most notable among them in Huna, which is a new and modern invention which many claim as cultural misappropriation.
The four main gods of Hawaiian religion were Ku – the god of war, Kane – the god of the sky, Lono – the god of peace and fertility, and Kanaloa, the god of the ocean. In addition there were the ‘parent’ or ‘creation’ gods of Papa (Mother Earth) and Waikea (Father Sky) as well as elemental gods and goddesses such as Madam Pele of the volcano and the demi-god Maui. Families, clans, villages,and other groups had protector spirits called ‘aumakua and there were literally hundreds upon hundreds of lessor gods and goddesses.
The ‘priests’ of the ancient system were known as kahuna. They were learned men, healers, and scholars. Kahuna played a large part in all aspects of ancient Hawaiian life including birth, mating, death, and burial practices.
The entire kapu system was a prohibitive system, meaning that it was more about what you could not do than what you could or should do. The word kapu comes from the tahitian word ‘taboo’ which literally means forbidden. The things forbidden were vast – everything from women not eating bananas or pork to men and women not eating together to times and places when fishing or hunting were prohibited. There were literally tens of thousands of things forbidden. The punishment was most often death but there was a relief valve built in which allowed for escape and exile for a set amount of time into a city of refuge, a pu’uhonua. There was an element of human sacrifice in ancient Hawaiian religion and ritual cannibalism was practiced (as it was in many other times and places such as ancient Scotland).
Among the forbidden things were a few practices that were proscribed, chief among them was Malama Aina – or caring for the land. The world land in Hawaiian is aina and it means ‘that which provides for us’. Hawaiians considered kalo (taro) as their older brother. Much of the ancient Hawaiian system revolved around an invisible force called mana. Mana came from the land, was strong in pohaku (stones) and was distributed to living things, it was passed to the people and then given to the chiefs or kings. The leaders would use the power of mana to take care of the land and the cycle would begin anew. The motto of the Hawaiian kingdom was translated as ‘The life of the land is perpetuated in the righteousness of the leaders’.
Prayer played a huge role in ancient Hawaiian religion and constructed many stone temples (heiau) on the islands. In addition there was the practice of hula which was considered sacred. Many of the practices and beliefs of the ancient Hawaiian religion are still with us – though with the meaning and context changed.
There’s really no place like Kamuela and Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Once home to the largest cattle ranch in the USA and still the fifth largest – this town is famous for rodeos, tropical fruit, and horseback riding.
Sadly, because we were traveling in a time of travel lockdown amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and a hurricane threatening – much of Waimea was either shut down or inaccessible to us – but having been there before, I can tell you three things that I love about the town – it’s an artsy little community, it has multiple amazing farmers markets, and the Parker Ranch is a must see.
On this trip, I discovered a fourth thing I love in Waimea – The Kamuela Inn. As their website says Upcountry Hospitality and Timeless Charm. It’s not just a couple of phrases. They live it. I’d also add that there is a level of comfort and luxury that is missing from nearly all hotels and inns these days. Here’s one example – the bedding.
My wife and I have stayed in a lot of hotels all over the world. Never in all the years we have travelled together have we ever looked to find the tags on the sheets and pillows – until this trip! These were the most comfortable sheets and pillows either of us had ever slept on and when we found the tags and looked to acquire some for ourselves – we discovered why – the sheets, duvet, and pillows on our king size bed added up to nearly $1000! I’m not talking about the bed here – I’m talking about the sheets, pillows and blankets on the bed.
That wasn’t the only detail. The shower was magnificent and the overall design of western wood design, and luxury western decor really worked. There are multiple outdoor areas where guests can lounge or even barbecue. Unfortunately, as mentioned these were secured because of the pending hurricane while we were there.
Our room was outfitted with a kitchenette where we were able to cook for ourselves and the breakfast in the morning was very generous. Due to the pandemic the regular breakfast buffet was shut down but the staff has adapted to the situation by giving guests the chance to order breakfast the night before with generous portions of hot local breakfast (Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice), cereal, yogurt, bagels, juice, and coffee.
Kamuela Inn is close to parks and shopping centers and when there isn’t a pandemic, one of Hawaii’s best restaurants Merriman’s is right next door. Our favorite restaurant in Waimea though is Dan-0’s Doner. We lived in Turkey and love a good doner. This is the German style served in bread with a variety of sauces and the best falafel that either my wife or I have ever tasted. Their fries too are amazing!
Edlyn, the manager of the Kamuela Inn was an amazing source for information while we were there. She and the staff were incredibly approachable and informative. Since the ranch activities we had been planning on were closed she let us know about some of the locals only deals going on – one of which fulfilled a dream for both my wife and daughter. That was our trip over to Dolphin Quest. Due to the pandemic – there was a significant discount offered to Hawaii residents. It was a great suggestion and since it was on the dry side of the island – it was open even with the hurricane approaching.
Some of the best reasons for visiting Waimea (Kamuela) are to explore the restaurants, shops, and galleries – this unfortunately was something we weren’t able to do this time – but we did make it out to a couple of the farmers markets where I bought some special Big Island treats. Not just the heavenly mangoes and papaya but also very reasonably priced and perfectly roasted coffees from Makua Coffees, our favorite amazing mamaki tea from Waimea Herb Company, and some really great beef jerky that I forgot the name of and will have to go back for!
There are multiple farmer’s markets in Waimea. Go to LoveBigIsland.com where they have detailed each of them and where I lifted the names and dates from below.
- The Waimea Town market, open Saturday between 7:30 a.m. and noon.
- The Waimea Homestead farmers market, open Saturday between 7 a.m. and noon.
- The Waimea mid-week market, open Wednesday between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 pm.
- The Kamuela Farmers Market, open Saturday between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
- You can also buy farm-fresh produce at the Kekela farm market.
So, even though there was a hurricane threatening, a pandemic raging, and we even had a 4.8 earthquake one morning, we really enjoyed our trip to the Big Island. I would say most of that was because of Kamuela Inn and our new friend Edlyn. We will be back! Thank you for making us part of your Ohana!
Kamuela Inn 65-1300 Kawaihae Rd,
Kamuela, HI 96743
Let me start out by saying that these are not my ideal conditions for travel, but that being said – it’s sort of nice to be able to wander around the Big Island without the crowds so we came back for a second trip before tourism is scheduled to re-open. We spent an afternoon at the Mauna Kea Beach Resort which has one of the most beautiful crescent sand beaches on the island and there was only one other family there.
The downside is that a lot of what we wanted to do was closed either because of the pandemic or because of the impending hurricane (which thankfully bypassed us completely). We look forward to dining at Merriman’s in Waimea and horseback riding in the Waipio Valley – but those will have to wait.
Our trip this time was super low key – I met with a couple of friends in Waimea, we explored some amazing backroads, and we swam with dolphins. Yes, you read that right! We swam with dolphins. This is usually something that is far outside of our budget but our daughter’s 9th birthday is in a few days and we had a great recommendation from our friends at the Kamuela Inn (highly recommended as your base while you are here – see my full post on Waimea/Kamuela for details ) that because of the pandemic, the rates for a swim with Dolphin Quest had been slashed for kama’aina (residents of Hawaii). We were able to do a 30 minute family swim with the dolphins and a trainer for right around $400 (usually $1600). It was awesome and an amazing pre-birthday present. I’ll write about it in a separate post. On the day we swam with dolphins, Hurricane Douglas was possibly going to hit Hawaii but as mentioned, it passed us by. Locals say it is the power of Mauna Kea that pushes the hurricanes away and meteorologists agree but for different reasons – but really, does that even matter?
On our last day in Kamuela, we even got to wake up to a 4.4 earthquake! The fun never stops on the Big Island! Pandemic! Hurricane! Earthquake! (thankfully the hurricane missed and there was no tsunami from the quake!)
We didn’t plan to come during a hurricane and Southwest Airlines cancelled our flight and extended our stay by a couple of days – which was a bit of a big expense we hadn’t anticipated. So, we rented a car for an additional two days and got an AirBnB near Hilo for the last two (unexpected) days of our last trip of the summer.
As 2019 drew to a close, I told myself that 2020 would be the year that I started doing serious travel again. I booked a trip to Australia and Tasmania for February and March and was actively looking for other island destinations to visit over the course of the year. Some ideas were Cuba, Iceland, Bali, New Zealand – but as we all know – the pandemic came and the world changed. Things were starting to look iffy in February but I opted to take my trip to Australia and Tasmania because there were only single digit cases in Hawaii or Australia at that point. I’m very glad I took the trip.
When I got home, things got more serious with the virus, in fact, it looked like the world was going to crash. My daughter started Spring Break and we were pretty sure she wouldn’t be going back to school in 2020. That’s most likely how it played out. We went into lockdown mode from March through June in our little Honolulu apartment – and after months of the three of us in there – we were feeling stir crazy. When Hawaii opened up the beaches, we began to take some cautious trips to our favorite places. When restaurants re-opened with new limitations in place – we visited two of our favorites Cholos in Haleiwa and Nico’s Pier 38 – granted both experiences were nerve inducing and weird with servers and cooks wearing masks and strange new policies (please wait in your car, we’ll phone you when your table is ready!)
In mid-June when the state dropped the mandatory 14-day quarantine for travel between islands, we decided it was time for a scenery change. We booked a cottage for the 4th of July weekend on the Big Island of Hawaii, rented a car, and booked our flights. Vacation rentals on Oahu are still closed down but on the Big Island they have been open for a while.
The first part of the trip was the most stress inducing – we took a Lyft from our apartment to the airport. We wore our masks and the driver wore his mask – but it was still a bit freaky to be in a strangers car and not know who else had been in it. It was a ten minute ride. At the airport we filled out all the new forms, had our temperatures taken, and waited the appropriate distance behind all the other brave (or foolish) people taking a chance at travel. We sat and kept social distance before boarding the plane – onboard were around 114 people – and socially distancing on a plane is not really an option at all.
Arriving in Hilo, we traversed the airport and waited in another manicured line to pick up our rental car – which had a note inside that said it had been professionally sterilized by Daryl.
We drove to our remote and isolated vacation rental – one of a group of cottages in the country. Only one of the other cottages was occupied – by a young family of Ukranian Yoga instructors who had come from the mainland and had quarantined for 12 days so far. I appreciated the fact that they were honoring the local regulation to self-quarantine for the full 14 days. We said hello – from a distance and relaxed to the sound of coqui frogs and distant views of the Pacific Ocean.
Travel during a pandemic is strange to begin with but when you arrive at your destination, you realize that everything is different. Tours and attractions are shut down. Restaurants are mostly open for take out only and only for very specific hours. As we drove through towns that I remembered as being bustling little places, the empty shops and boarded up restaurants bear stark witness to the cost of this pandemic in terms of small businesses here. Those that relied on tourism are either in trouble or gone. Towns that seemed decrepit with agricultural businesses barely hanging on now show far more life than those that bustled with tourists before.
The attempts to survive and create a safe environment are many. People haven’t given up – but the struggle is real. We met up with a friend and visited an empty National Park with him one day – he had quarantined and we had been exposed to the world – but we opted to take our chances – a calculated risk to enjoy some camaraderie with an old friend. Friendship and hanging out being another one of those things we used to take for granted….
Driving through the empty resort towns and seeing the closed luxury resorts and timeshares, visiting once packed beaches, and enjoying the blissful lack of mainland and international tourists…those have been the highlights. Tourists are starting to show up here – we locals all recognize them driving in their rented jeeps and mustangs – living their island fantasy – that is mostly not the way that anyone actually lives here (the jeeps and mustangs are almost all tourist or military vehicles – definitely not locals).
The locals I’ve met here – they don’t miss the tourists. They don’t miss the tourism industry. They don’t miss the busloads of tourists at every scenic stop, beach, or historic point of interest. I don’t miss them either. In fact, this aspect of things will probably be fondly remembered by all of us who live here – this ability to enjoy this place we sacrifice to live without being crowded out by people who sacrifice to visit.
The tourists are coming back though – the jeeps and mustangs are increasing in number. The floodgates will open in August when the state will allow people to come as long as they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 within 3 days of their flight. I’m afraid of what that will mean – in terms of people bringing more cases of the virus to us, in terms of the roads getting crowded again with tour buses, tour vans, jeeps, and mustangs, and in terms of losing this ability to have space, to enjoy Hawaii, and to feel even a little bit secure in going out to eat, swim, or play.
This trip has been wonderful. Completely different, but completely wonderful. So much so, that we’ve booked another trip back in a couple of weeks – before the tourism floodgates open again and hide the amazing beauty of this place beneath the crass and disgusting capitalism of mass tourism.
These are a real flashback to the past. One of the best things about these videos is the ever changing shape of my facial hair. I was in still in college when we made these. Cameras and computers were not nearly as good or easy as they are today.
If you thought that Oahu is ‘the city island’ of Hawaii just because it is home to Honolulu and nearly half of the state’s inhabitants – think again. Oahu is filled with nature, rural life, history, and plenty of surprises.
There were many more hikes, but these were the ones I made videos of. Thankfully, I’ve learned my lesson – at least for now.
Kuliouou Ridge Trail
Kokohead Rim Trail #2
Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail
Kealia, Oahu’s North Shore
There are some astounding hikes on Oahu. This one is considered to be mediocre unless you happen across the Wallabies which actually do exist.
Ka’au Crater is a fantastic hike with some dangerous points, plenty of waterfalls, and lots of birds. Count on spending 5 hours minimum.
Waianai Kai is a surprise and you won’t find a lot of other people there despite the stunning beauty all around you as you hike.
Mount Olo’mana near Kailua offers three peaks and plenty of challenges plus a stunning payout in terms of the view. Unfortunately, I was getting a bit too arty and trying to use aspiring musicians for the soundtracks.
Okay, this last one — it’s just weird. Easter at Pu’u Pia, an easy hike in Manoa.
Hawaii has a long history of exploiting labor of the many for the profit of the few. In the days before European contact, the common people, the maka’aina worked the taro patches and fishponds for the chiefly class – the ali’i. And yet, despite the feudal nature of this relationship between worker and master – the labor was not exploited. There was no hunger unless there was famine and no one was left out in the ancient Hawaiian society. The ali’i used their power to take care of the land and provide for the people – it wasn’t perfect but the average Hawaiian needed to work only 4 hours per day to get everything they needed to live and took 4 months off for the festival of makahiki when warfare and work were replaced with celebrations and games.
The exploitation I refer to came after contact. Missionaries established small farms and plantations. The Hawaiian system of responsibility of those controlling the land towards those living on it disappeared and was replaced with the exploitive practice of bosses and workers.
Workers were brought in for nearly a century – waves of migrant workers brought from places where no language was shared and put against each other – the ruthless exploitation of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and other workers was brutal and violent. It was not chattel slavery, but the so called ‘contract labor’ was just a step above it. In some cases wives of some workers were sold to other laborers – stolen from their families and given to others. This was the basis of the vast fortunes of the upper classes in Hawai’i.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that labor in Hawai’i began to organize. The 6-month longshore workers strike of 1949 crippled the Hawaiian economy and turned the tide in favor of workers. For three decades, workers fought bosses to establish fair wages and better treatment. By the 1980s, sugar had become a still hard job but one that provided a living family wage where a worker could buy a house, raise children, send them to college, and retire.
It was then that sugar and large agriculture pulled out of Hawaii – they reversed the victories of the workers and left the Hawaiian economy completely. In less than a decade, big agriculture had left the Hawaiian islands and gone to where labor was less powerful and workers could still be exploited for big profits. The Hawaiian economy was left in a shambles.
Today, tourism has replaced agriculture. Gone are the days when workers could afford to buy a home, send kids to college or retire. Instead, the children of those sugar workers now work as I-9 wage slaves to avoid employers having to give benefits, they work as low paid cleaning and maintenance people, they work as underpaid waiters, drivers, guides, bartenders, or desk clerks. The bulk of most of their wages don’t come from the employer, but from the tipping customer. While there have been some small victories with tourism wages (the big hotel strike in 2018) – mostly, workers have lost. Those who have money have always been fine in Hawaii. Those who do not either move away or become homeless eventually.
Workers in Hawai’i – regardless of industry generally earn 10% less than they would in an equivalent mainland city. They generally pay at least 10% more for rent, food, gas and everything else. Hawaii is paradise – but you only get to enjoy it if you are wealthy, subsidized by the military, visiting for a short time – or if you’ve given up on making it in the capitalist system and have decided to live the life of a homeless person in paradise.
I will update this as time goes on…I
My Experience with 2020, the year of COVID-19.
I’m not sure if I’ve just been waiting for a disaster or if I’m just more informed or if I tend to have a longer view of things than other people – but this pandemic has come as no surprise – though I must admit that the speed with which it is happening is mind blowing.
Late last year (December 31, 2019) I started reading about the outbreak in Wuhan, China. This was the official notice that China gave to the WHO that there might be a problem. I didn’t think much of it, but decided to keep an eye out.
This was going to be the year I started traveling again – so by the start of 2020, I already had several trips planned. The first to Australia in late February and early March – then a trip to the mainland USA in April, and then I was thinking Iceland over the summer and maybe Cuba before the year ended. In any event, I pay attention to the world. I’ve had more than a passing interest in epidemiology for more than a decade.
By January 3rd, China was reporting 44 cases. On January 7th, they identified it as a coronavirus. The first death came two days later. Thailand had it by January 13th. Another Chinese death on January 15th. Japan had it by the 16th. It jumped to 204 cases on January 19th. On the 21st, WHO revealed that it was passing from human to human. On the same day, Netflix released a series called Pandemic.
I made some snide social media comments about how callous Netflix was to release their mini-series ‘Pandemic’ right on the heels of the ‘Wuhan Coronavirus’ starting to spread in early January (They released it on January 21st) . A couple of days later the death toll was at 17. By January 23rd China had three cities on lockdown and had cancelled Chinese New Year Celebrations in the Forbidden City. Singapore and Vietnam now had it.
I didn’t really expect it to be ‘the one’ but apparently it is – at least so far. I began to feel alarmed when China began taking extraordinary measures to quarantine and contain the virus. China is far away – I’ve been there, I pay attention to China – and putting millions of people into a lockdown quarantine was not a normal thing for the Chinese government to do.
January 24th there were cases in the US as well. The next day Hong Kong suspended flights to and from Wuhan. France had it, Australia had it, Malaysia and Canada had it. January 26th more than 2800 cases and 80 deaths. January 29th the WHO finally declares it a world health emergency. The U.S. In the meantime was doing nothing, the president brushing it off as nothing. It kept spreading. Philippines, India, Nepal, UK, Russia, Spain, Sweden. February 1st 14,380 cases and over 300 deaths.
On Superbowl Sunday (Feb 2nd) – I had a tour with a couple off of a cruise ship. I was already feeling hesitant about cruise ship passengers – because cruise ships are notorious for norovirus and as virus incubators. Still, I took them to the North Shore where they sat on Sunset Beach and enjoyed the day. While they sat there, I had a conversation with a woman named Sally in the next car over – we were both watching the big waves from our cars. She was coughing – I joked – “Did you just come from China?” To my surprise she said yes. She and a friend had just come from a tai-chi retreat in Wuhan province and he was back at the hotel sick – she had come out to see the waves but was heading back to the Turtle Bay Resort and they were going to watch the Superbowl in the bar there…
I’m incredibly grateful that we didn’t get out of our cars or shake hands!
At this point, I knew that things were serious. I asked the app developer I work with to put aside all projects and build me a coronavirus app that showed where cases were, number of deaths, and the spread. I told him to build it fast. He told me he could have it ready in three days.
This was the day that the first death outside of China took place. A 44 year old man in the Philippines. Travel bans began and donations began to go to China where millions of people were under quarantine. 17,386 cases and 362 deaths at this point.
China was building hospitals in days and various anti-viral medications began to be tried. In early February stories began appearing on the mainstream media in the US though no one outside of the Gates Foundation, medical personnel, or geeks like me seemed to be taking things very seriously. February 5th was when 10 passengers on a cruise ship in Japan were identified as infected. 28000 cases and 565 deaths.
My developer told me the app would be late – February 7th. On February 7th – he said it was delayed further. That day an article came out from some guys who built an app that launched that day and had 3 million users. They beat me to the punch, but I should have been two days earlier if my developer had done what he said he would. Who knows, maybe he built it for them instead. In any event, this should have been a bit of foresight that earned my family millions – but my mistake was trusting someone else to do it. No matter how you look at it – he royally fucked me, but given that hundreds of people were already dying – I tried to keep it in perspective.
February 7th the WHO announces that there is a severe global disruption taking place. Cases on the cruise ship explode upwards. Two days later deaths exceed the SARS epidemic from 2002-3. Over 800 dead.
I started thinking I might have to cancel my trip to Australia – but with only a few cases there and a few in the USA and none in Hawaii – I figured I was probably okay but I had a number of things to make sure were done before I left – health insurance, deferring my student loans, getting taxes done, paying the rent, getting the registration and safety inspection on my car up to date…I didn’t have time to agonize over my missed opportunity with the app – actually, I give myself credit for seeing it – and have mixed feelings about profiting from it – so maybe I got missed by a bullet there. On February 11ththe death toll passed 1000 and the virus was named COVID-19.
On Valentines Day, I took my wife and daughter on a whale watching cruise. Cruise ships were already a big problem in my mind, but this was on a smaller ship – still, I couldn’t stop looking at the other passengers to see if they were coughing or sweaty. Feb 16th, an American woman on another cruise ship tests positive.
At this point, it was already global and obviously going to be a big problem so I made sure that my friend would take care of my wife and daughter if I were stranded in Australia because flights were cancelled. He thought I was being paranoid to even think it a possibility.
On February 20th – Iran and South Korea announced that they were seeing spikes. On Feb 23rd it becomes a big problem in South Korea with over 340 cases. Italy begins to see a spike. On February 24th, the day before I flew out – I heard the first use of the word Pandemic – the WHO Director General warned that the world needed to get ready for a potential pandemic. US President Trump suggested that it was all a hoax.
I was in Australia for ten days during which Hawaii reported no cases and Australia’s cases grew from 8 to 12. In Tasmania, I was struck by the abundance of caution in airports and on a brewery tour where they said that anyone who had been to China, Japan, Iran, Italy, or South Korea would not be able to go on the tour. I watched and hoped that my flight back to Hawaii would not be cancelled. COVID-19 began to spread much faster outside of China than in it. Travel bans began cropping up. The US still was playing a game of poo-pooing the seriousness while the world began to take notice. Toilet paper shelves were stripped naked in Australia in the days before I left. I found it bizarre, especially since Aussies are much less prone to panic than Americans. I suggested to my wife on March 1st that she go buy toilet paper, bottled water, and some shelf stable food. She thought I was being a bit silly, to be honest, so did I.
I flew back to the USA on March 5th.On the very empty Quantas flight, I watched Mr. Rogers with Tom Hanks and thought to myself how he was the most iconic of baby boomers and how the shit would hit the fan if he contracted the disease. I have no way to prove it – but it’s true. As Forrest Gump, he pretty much represents the way every baby boomer thinks of themselves – as Vietnam Vets an protesting hippies both.
By that time, the US had started to take notice. The US Congress had approvedan emergency spending package. It wasn’t much, but it was something. March 7th, the number of COVID-19 cases passed 100k. It was pretty much everywhere by this time – over 100 countries had reported cases which meant it was probably everywhere. The U.S. Hadn’t even begun testing yet.
In Tasmania and Australia I had been rigourously tested and screened before my flights. Arriving in Hawaii, no one even bothered to ask if I had been to any hard-hit virus areas. No thermal scanning. Nothing. I was surprised to see that cruise ships and tourists were still operating.
On March 11th, the WHO finally declared COVID-19 a pandemic. President Trump continued to claim it was under control even as Seattle, the SF Bay Area, and New York began to to see a huge increase in cases. By this point – which seems a year ago but was less than a week ago – there were a couple of traveller cases reported here in Hawaii.
On March 12th – Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson were diagnosed with COVID-19. I started having dreams that I was actually in some sort of artificial reality. I find it difficult to believe that I am not. The world has flipped on it’s head. I had one dream where I was told that I was in a coma and needed to wake up if I wanted to live. I saw similar social media posts.
In 2005, my girlfriend (a brilliant epidemiologist!) and I went to Burning Man – when we came out, we learned that Hurricane Katrina had happened. It was surreal. It was nothing compared to this reality.
I suppose I must summarize the past five days – The U.S. Cancelled flights to and from Europe, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York went into lockdown, and the state of Hawaii slowly moved to stem the tide of possibly infected tourists. Schools have been closed. A friend (also a tour guide) took a group of people from an infected ship on a six hour tour – no word if he has it yet. My wife and daughter were going to go visit friends in Oregon on Spring Break but we cancelled the trip. I am so grateful we did. Spring break has been extended one week and then two weeks and probably will be more. All of us are being told to shelter in place and exercise social distancing. School has been cancelled in California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii – and probably everywhere else in the USA. Every hour there are new developments in the past two days we’ve gone from 1 case in Hawaii to three to eight to sixteen to twenty-six. And we’ve barely begun to test people.
The US and Hawaii governments seem to have finally woken up to the nightmare unfolding. Hawaii resisted shutting down tourism since we rely on it – but it is foolish to keep letting irresponsible vectors come here to enjoy paradise and bring the seeds of destruction with them. Wiser heads seem to be prevailing. Shut down the airports, put arrivals in quarantine, shut the hotels and restaurants, stop the fucking madness.
As for me, I have what I think is the flu. My wife has it. My daughter has it I think it is flu. Our noses are running. We don’t have fevers. We are all tired and grumpy. We have mostly been inside our little apartment together for almost a week.
I’ve bought a reasonable amount of food (but no toilet paper- yet) and my wife has slowly fallen into a depression that I am becoming fearful of. She’s a teacher, so her work has been stolen from her by this virus. All of my guide work has also been taken away, but I don’t really mind. The stock market has only begun to crash losing 33% so far, but I suspect it will go much further down. Still, I’ve been surprised by the resilience and recovery of hated capitalism before – so I keep buying quality stocks as the price goes down.
The truth is, I don’t know if any of us will survive what is happening. This may just be the end of us all. Or, maybe it’s the end of the world as we know it. I hope so.
I feel like this is a last ditch effort by our planet, Mother Nature, to get us to stop. It’s funny, but while we are freaking out about toilet paper, the air and water are clearing. Dolphins are re-appearing in Venice, Italy. People in Beijing can see the stars at night because the pollution that blocked them is gone. I have always felt like it’s ridiculous to think that my collection of cells and systems has consciousness but OUR entire collective collection of cells and systems does not. Our planet almost certainly has a consciousness – and if you think it does not – well, I urge you to rethink that. Why wouldn’t it? We are a part of that consciousness.
I may die in the coming days. You may die in the coming days. It is my hope that my daughter won’t die in the coming days and thus far – I can only express gratitude to whatever powers may exist that this disease is largely sparing children.
I love my child. I don’t want to see her grow up in the disgustingly ugly, dog-eat-dog, god-eat-god, capitalist monstrosity that has emerged from our collective history. I want to see us change the way we do things. I want to see us begin to take care of each other, take care of our planet, and take care of all the other inhabitants on it. If COVID-19 is what it takes to make that happen, I’m happy to welcome it, but I fear it may just make things worse – it may just bring out the worst in us.
But of course, it’s easy for me to say that. All I’ve lost from this is work that I didn’t particularly enjoy and money that I’ve never felt particularly in love with. It is so early – and there is no telling what I will think tomorrow.
I have to admit that this thing is starting to look pretty scary. The number of cases that have been reported in the past couple of days have grown from 7000-9000+. Delta and American airlines just shut down all of their flights to and from China. Wuhan Coronavirus has spread to India, Nepal, Dubai, and virtually every Asian country as well as France, Canada, Australia, and the USA. So far it has not spread to any country in Africa or Indonesia yet – but it’s really just a matter of time. If you are planning to travel internationally any time in the next few months – it is likely that this will affect your travel plans – if it hasn’t already.
We in Hawaii are further from everywhere than anywhere else in the world – but the entire world comes here – including multiple daily flights to and from China. The chances of Wuhan not being here – are probably lower than the chances of it being here. That’s a big worry – the Honolulu International Airport only started screening for the virus yesterday – and frankly, that’s too late. How many thousands of visitors have come and gone from our airport since this started? How many from China? From Wuhan?
And, in our airport, everyone from everywhere encounters everyone else from everywhere else.
But, let’s hope that I’m wrong about all of that. Let’s hope that they find a solution soon. Let’s hope that a vaccination and a cure are imminent.
Personally, I’ve got plans to go to Australia in late February. Given the rapid spread of this virus – I’m not sure what the situation will be like at that point. There are currently nine cases in Australia – in some of the cities I plan on going to. There is a possibility that the virus will grow over that amount of time. There is a possibility it will surface here. Flights to other places may be cancelled.
The thing with a pandemic is that it happens very fast – so we have to be ready for plans to change.