Wandering Around the North Shore

A Hygiene Store?
A Hygiene Store?
I’ve declared victory over the bedbugs too soon, it seems. Perhaps I just jinxed it! So, we’re asking the landlord to bring in an exterminator. I’ve no idea what the exterminator does, but I have great hopes….

Today was our Preparation Day. Nina spent the morning going through a few of the sister missionary apartments checking out their kitchen kits … table ware, plates, bowls, glasses, other utensils, etc., in the process of getting all the apartments properly and similarly equipped. While she was doing that I tended the laundry and cleaned the bathroom and kitchen. After lunch we decided to take a drive south towards but not into Honolulu and stop wherever we saw anything interesting. This ‘Hygienic Store’ was one of those stops. It’s a very small but jam packed convenience store at a rather important junction on the north shore road. The name is certainly an anomaly. It wasn’t very clean, but definitely had plenty of stuff inside! We left with a bottle of water (for Nina), a Twinkie, and a candy bar (for me). Just down the road is a small shopping center with a McDonalds, so we stopped there for two ice cream cones and a Diet Coke (for me) before turning around and heading back towards Laie.

Macadamia Nut Store
Macadamia Nut Store
One place that we’ve driven by numerous times is “The Macadamia Nut Farm Outlet“. Today we stopped and found a nice parking spot under a tree. The hot humid weather continues and parking under a tree and some shade is indeed a blessing. The place turned out to be a store packed with every possible method of packaging a macadamia nut: breads, candy bars, snack packs, energy bars, garlic, honey, or cinnamon roasted, ice cream, coffee, and dozens more. Check the link for detailed information. Outside the store was this signpost. Nearby were four huge tour busses and the store was packed with people from Japan, China, and Korea all happily spending money buying all kinds of macadamia treats along with cheesy souvenirs, as well as lined up to use the restrooms (I think these big tour busses have a restroom on board, but most folks prefer using something that isn’t moving around. I’m pretty sure a couple of women spent the entire time the bus was stopped standing in line for the women’s restroom. I also saw a fellow assist his wife/girlfriend into the men’s room and a stall as she wasn’t going to be able to wait any longer!). We didn’t spend any money at this stop and probably won’t stop there again unless we have company who really, seriously want macadamia nuts.

Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch
Coming back towards Laie is the Kualoa Ranch. This place is a major tourist attraction. Several movies have been set on this ranch, including Jurassic Park. There are a lot of tourist options including ATV tours, a zip line, horseback tours, bus tours, overnight camping tours, and different themed tours. The parking lot was jammed and the bus parking area was full as well. This place does a major tourist business, for sure.

We were interested in what things were available (I think the two-hour ATV tour would be a lot of fun) and what kind of money does it cost. The prices seemed reasonable, for a Hawaiian tourist attraction. It would be a place I’d recommend to visitors as well. Our Ward’s young men recently had their high adventure camping trip at the Ranch and had a great experience.

The Kualoa Ranch had a small, but very interesting museum telling the history of the ranch. One of the displays was this carving of a kamapua’a … an entity from Hawaiian folklore who can be either a hog or a person. The carving was very intricate and beautifully done.

I’m just beginning to learn a bit about the Hawaiian folklore and legends and find them very interesting. The Wikipedia article shows how fractured the Hawaiian folklore is as the stories are quite different depending on what part of Hawaii the story comes from.

We had a nice, unhurried afternoon followed by a delightful Skype chat with Jared and Tania in Seattle. Jared’s birthday was last week so they had gone camping over the weekend in celebration. They had a great time and had some fun stories from the weekend. Happy birthday, Jared! Enjoy your last year in your 30’s … !!

Life is delightful.

Just Some Odds and Ends

Give and Take
Give and Take

Today was pretty much a “normal” day. We were at the Visitors’ Center this morning from 9 until 2:30 pm. There were quite a few workmen out in the courtyard chiseling out tiles for some reason. While it threatened rain all day, the humidity was above 90% the entire day, and there was quite a bit of thunder over the mountains, no rain fell at the Center. The pool level has gone down somewhat so the fountains look more like they should as they aren’t having to push through so much water above the nozzles. The most distant visitors were from Rotterdam, Netherlands.

This afternoon we dropped of quite a bit of excess stuff from sister missionary apartments at Give and Take. This is a recycle operation run by BYU-Hawaii for the students. People can drop off whatever they don’t need. Students can “shop” there after performing some service, such as helping to sort through donations and put them away. There are a LOT of clothes and kitchen stuff available. It’s a nice service.

I’ve been doing some ham radio stuff over here. I’ve now got a couple of VHF (very high frequency) antennas up and working. I’ve been able to check into several ham radio networks active on the islands. Since severe weather is a constant potential, a couple of these nets are specifically oriented around emergency services and weather spotting and reporting. This afternoon I finished putting up a station that is connected through the Internet with other ham radio stations around the world. Ham radio operators local to the Laie area can now communicate with other ham radio operators around the world through this station. It’s been interesting to get the station up and operational. Every Sunday evening at 5pm Hawaii time is a ham radio net on this system for LDS ham radio operators in Hawaii and the mainland. Some thirty or forty ham radio operators check in each week on the net to report on what’s going on in their area. I find it very interesting. Now I just need to recruit someone to take over this station in eighteen months when we go home!

We’ve gone another day with no bedbug reports. I’m almost ready to declare the war as being won!

Tomorrow is our Preparation Day for the week. We don’t have anything special planned and will be staying right around here. We’ve got enough things to do here in the house that will keep us busy enough.

Hurricane Ignacio is the next weather event on the horizon. Right now conditions are such that the storm is strengthening as it moves towards the islands. The forecast is for the storm to make landfall on the Big Island mid-week next week (50% probability). It’s equally as likely that the storm will turn more northerly and pass east of the islands. I’m voting for the northerly turn. By Sunday we should know better what this storm will do. There’s a pretty strong El Niño in the Pacific (that’s a weather situation where the water along the equator is warmer than normal by a couple of degrees) which helps fuel these storms. There are usually fairly strong upper atmosphere winds that tend to shear off these hurricanes, but this year the winds aren’t as strong as usual. A weather person at NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) says this kind of double whammy comes along every ten years or so and makes for a “more active” hurricane season. Where there are normally five or six named hurricanes in the central Pacific, so far this year there have been fourteen named storms. We’ve dodged all of them, so far. The odds aren’t totally in our favor of dodging the rest of them!

My favorite brother Perry had his right knee sliced and diced today and is now partially bionic. He was feeling no pain a few hours ago. Hopefully the nursing staff is staying right on top of his medication schedule. We’re praying for you, bro. Have a good recovery and an excellent outcome!

“Stuff” must be my new favorite word as I re-read what I’ve written.

Life remains sultry and mellow….

Tropical Disturbances and More

Nina Documenting the Flora and Fauna
Nina Documenting the Flora and Fauna

The weather people are saying that this is a very active tropical cyclone season. A tropical cyclone can be any one of a hurricane, tropical depression, or a tropical disturbance. It just has to be rotating. Otherwise it’s just a tropical depression. Right now we have a tropical depression moving across the islands and we’re getting intermittent torrential downpours followed by brief periods of sunshine while water evaporates, saturates the air, and the downpour happens all over again. Meanwhile Hurricane Kilo fizzled out a few hundred miles west of here, but Hurricane Natcho is coming our way quite rapidly. These storms have a tendency to turn north as they approach the islands, so maybe that’ll be what keeps the hurricane from making landfall. Meanwhile, the heavy rainfall has impacted Waikiki causing sewer overflow and closing several beaches. It has also been a problem here in Laie seriously impacting the sewer system as well. At the Center the problem is the fountain pool is full to overflowing! Today was a very good day to spend most of the day indoors.

The bedbug battle is finally being won. The landlord’s person after a couple of trips seems to have conquered the little beasties. No bites have been reported for a few days now. Life is returning to normal!

The big news, and it is indeed big news for us, is that President Uchtdorf of the First Presidency is coming to Laie to participate in the dedication of the new Hukilau Marketplace at the Polynesian Cultural Center this coming Saturday. We’re quite excited to be there. One of the security guys says that they’ve been instructed to set up a corridor so that President Uchtdorf can shake hands as he enters the marketplace and goes to the gazebo where the ceremony will take place. I think that means we need to get there early.

Life is full of anticipation today!

Bedbugs Are Currently Winning

Aloha Luau Royalty
Aloha Luau Royalty

Today was another downer day in the battle of the bedbugs. So far everything we’ve done has not eradicated the pests from one of the apartments. We upped the ante today by bringing in someone from the landlord’s arsenal to do a thorough cleaning and spraying of the apartment. She was scheduled to be there at 6pm this evening. I’m hoping to hear good news tomorrow morning! If nothing else, their apartment will get a good cleaning. Of course, this doesn’t come free. The charges will be added to this month’s bill!

We had another assignment at the Polynesian Cultural Center. This was our 2nd favorite assignment, guarding the exit at the Aloha Luau. I took the picture just as the luau program was getting underway. The program starts with the introduction of the “King” of Hawaii and his entourage. Shortly after the picture was taken the two tables in the foreground filled up with a family all dressed in purple t-shirts (note the color of the napkins on the tables) advertising “The Smith Family Reunion”. Why weren’t we invited?? Some things are just mysteries, I guess.

The assignment at this luau is quite straight forward:

  • Direct people to the bathrooms or smoking area
  • Keep people from coming in the back way

Supposedly there are people who try to slip in through the exit. We haven’t encountered any of those. However, there are always a few people who have tickets for the luau who try to come in through the exit rather than walking all the way around. The PCC is forty-two acres in size (a little more than 1,800,000 square feet). That is, it is somewhat large. The PCC is about half the size of most Six Flags theme parks and slightly smaller that Lagoon. Cedar Point, the world’s roller coaster capital, is about 300 acres in size, and that’s very large. So, PCC is kind of on the order of a theme park and takes all of an afternoon to experience everything there. So, lots of folks are plenty tired when dinner time rolls around and walking another hundred feet to find the real entrance would be avoided if possible. But, it isn’t. We kindly direct them around to the entrance.

The benefit is that we can see the entire show while we’re sitting at the exit. This is the only luau assignment were we can watch all of the show. Even though we’ve seen it several times, we do enjoy watching the show. The host MC for this show is also very good and runs a very lively show.

Stuck Paddle Boats and Boards
Stuck Paddle Boats and Boards

When we volunteer at the PCC we get a free meal. The menu is the same every time. I have no trouble with that at all (this from the guy who happily eats the same thing for breakfast every day of the year). Nina likes a variety. But, that’s not going to happen at the PCC. Most people go there only once in their lifetime. A few may go a second time many years later. Consequently, there’s no reason to vary the menu. It’s more important to be good food and plenty of it. Doing the same menu over and over day after day makes it possible to be close to perfection.

On the way to dinner we passed this little waterfall with stuck boats. I thought it was funny. I wonder what happened to the boaters? Did they abandon ship under the waterfall or someplace upstream? The water is about two or two and a half feet deep, but who knows what’s lurking on the bottom! Maybe the boats weren’t secured and made a dash for freedom only to be thwarted by the waterfall. I’ll never know and the only way I’ll ever even remember is if I somehow look back on this blog post sometime in the future.

Life is quite sanguine!


Round and Round at the VA

Nina and a PCC Cast Member
Nina and a PCC Cast Member

Some of the cast members at the Polynesian Cultural Center go to luau venues where a vendor takes pictures and sells them to the PCC guests. A couple other cast members walk around the area and pose with people so they can take their own pictures (often a selfie) with that cast member. The fellow in the picture was out and about last Monday when we were taking tickets at the Island Buffet. He’s pretty impressive!

The bedbugs seem to be still under control. I haven’t done more to the vacuum, yet (either tomorrow or Saturday) as we spent almost all of our Preparation Day doing shopping and errands.

One important task was to go to the VA in Honolulu by the Tripler Hospital to get a new ID badge. This one supposedly has the coding on it so that I can get through security much easier. Because if have to have some tests done it has become necessary to transfer my records and medical care from the Salt Lake VA system to the Hawaii Honolulu system. I’ve my first appointment on September 8th. However, I needed to get my picture taken for the new badge before September 8th … at least a week before. The guy on the phone told me that parking would be problematic after about 9 am.

That was a definite understatement. We got there about 9:20 am and there wasn’t a parking spot to be had within a mile of the VA Outpatient Center. Because there were so many cars looking for parking spaces, I was sure that when I got inside I’d be waiting and waiting to have the picture taken, so rather than have Nina just drive around wherever while I went inside, we decided we needed to wait it out to find a spot. So, we circled through the small lot by the building, then through a larger lot, then through a multi-story parking garage. First pass, second pass, third pass … no such luck. I followed a woman who came out of a door in the parking garage, hoping she was going to her car. Nope. She was talking on her cell phone, walked down a ways, turned around, and walked back. I couldn’t backup as there were cars behind me. If she ever got into a car, someone else scored the parking spot. A while later, I did the same thing in the larger parking lot. He got into a car at the farthest possible parking spot from the building and I was finally able, after more than an hour, park the car.

We walked (and walked) up the hill to the facility, were directed to the 2nd floor and Reception Area 5, were immediately directed around the corner to door 5, where I went in, signed in, and was immediately called into the office for the picture. Five minutes later we were done. We should have let Nina drive around while I went inside and saved an hour. Definitely a lesson learned. My appointment on September 8th is at 8 am. I’ll get there early!

After that we went to an interesting Japanese store in Honolulu, Don Quijote. That was a very fun stop!! That was followed by stops for a hair cut, Walmart, and Costco. We’re now supplied for a couple more weeks. A successful day, even including the merry-go-round at the VA.

Life is grand!

The Bedbug Battle Has Been Engaged

Bedbug Juice
Bedbug Juice

Now the question is whether or not the war has been won. Last evening the sister missionaries in the affected apartment began the battle by mixing up the bug-toxic solution and spraying down their beds, bed frames, carpet, molding around the walls, and anywhere else that looked “suspicious”. They then put the mattress into a mattress bag. One of the sisters, a Chinese person from Hong Kong, was absolutely delighted to do the job. “Goodbye bedbug! We’ll see you in heaven!” she exclaimed several times. Her bed was the most affected and she had quite a lineup of bites.

One critical step was to thoroughly vacuum the carpet. “But, the vacuum cleaner stinks!” one sister complained. “It smells of feet!” Now, I’ve no idea what “feet” smell like, but the vacuum definitely didn’t work very well. I turned it upside down and discovered that the beater bar was completely plugged with hair. I’ve never seen so much hair wrapped around the beater bar in my life and I had no idea so much hair could be there and the machine still rotate the bar. After using scissors to cut the as much hair out as possible, more than a grocery sack full of hair came out of the machine. It still isn’t completely hair free. I need to take my screwdriver over to take the machine far enough apart to remove the beater bar and finish the job. It doesn’t smell like “feet” any more … and it does now vacuum the floor. I’m certain the floor hadn’t been vacuumed in months.

While putting one of the mattresses into the mattress sack, the zipper broke on one of the sacks. The sister missionary (this one from Taiwan) asked if we had any tape. “Sure!” replied one of the other missionaries, a newly-arrived-six-weeks-ago missionary with the longest blond hair of the whole troop, and she pulled out of a drawer a roll of duct tape.

Yup. She had a roll of duct tape stashed away.

The mattress was sealed into the mattress bag and all was well. When I later told Sister Priday, the Center Directors’ wife about the duct tape, her response was, “Well, of course she had some. She’s a farm girl from Idaho!”

We’ll now monitor the situation and see if any new bites appear. With any luck we caught and stopped the problem in an early stage. One of the locals in our Ward who reads my blog, told me on Sunday about another very effective treatment: diatomaceous earth.  Apparently the bedbug’s body is kind of like an accordion that expands when it’s gorged on blood. The diatomaceous earth when sprayed on them as a dry powder, gets into the accordion wedges and dries the bug out. Thanks for the info, Curt! I’m hoping we don’t have to go that far.

Some other little tidbits:

Standing In the Shade
Standing In the Shade

The workers have started the process of cleaning the granite / travertine tiles on the courtyard around the fountain. The tile has a very white cast to it that has darkened a bit over the past few months. It really reflects the sunlight, so when there aren’t any guests on the grounds, the sister missionaries stand in the shade. All of the missionaries, including my wife Nina, wear these distinctive (and very eye-catching) blue muumuus. When the sun is shining, some of the sister missionaries will also wear a hat. The chemical that the workmen are using is making the tile even brighter than it was when first installed! It does kind of hurt one’s eyes until one gets used to it. After the cleaning they’ll be putting on a sealing agent. Hopefully they’ll be putting the one on that darkens the tile a couple of shades!

Wedding Party
Wedding Party

This is definitely the season for weddings at the Temple! Just about every day recently there have been big weddings. As part of the tour through the Visitors’ Center, we have a set of pictures of various rooms inside the Temple, including one of Sealing Room #3, the room where most of the weddings and live sealings are performed. Every time I take a tour through that area, I’m reminded about how many “destination weddings” we get during the Summer, in February, and apparently during Christmas. While we love having all of these people visit Hawaii, come to the Temple, and spend time at the Visitors’ Center, I’m wondering about the long-term value of the cost of a “destination wedding”. I also wonder if the real thought and meaning behind the marriage covenant always comes through when so much attention is being paid to the location and all of the physical trappings. One wedding last Saturday had eleven brides maids plus a maid of honor and an equal number of groomsmen. They all came over from the mainland for the wedding. It just makes me wonder.

Well, enough for tonight. Life is great and I’m quite tired!

Transfers, Bed Bugs, and Radios

Paddleboards at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Paddleboards at the Polynesian Cultural Center

Last evening we got an emergency call … bed bugs in one of the sister missionary apartments. Nina captured a couple of them and they are definitely bed bugs. This morning we learned that another apartment probably has bed bugs as well. As a result, I’ve learned something interesting. Bed bugs must be a worldwide missionary problem. The Church has a bed bug kit! It consists of a spray bottle with specific instructions and a bottle of Permethrin 13.3% solution and a mattress sack. Four teaspoons of Permethrin to 16oz of water sprayed liberally on the bed, mattress, box springs, floor, floor boards, etc. to kill as many bugs as possible. Then all of the bed linens, blankets, etc. are washed in hottest water and dried on hottest heat. Vacuum the floor and empty outside. Then put the mattress into the mattress sack and close it up. Any remaining bugs in the mattress will die. The whole kit can be ordered from Church Distribution.

So, I remembered seeing a spray bottle in our garage. Turns out it is the Church’s spray bottle. I also found two bottles of Permethrin, one full bottle and one partial. So, tonight when we all got together for Transfer News, Nina and I instructed the missionaries on how to prevent bed bugs and, when infested, how to treat the infestation. Hopefully it’ll work!

Speaking of Transfer News, next week is missionary transfers. On the Saturday night before transfers we all meet at the Visitors’ Center in the large theater where the Coordinating Sisters have put together a video showing the new companionships, what apartments they’ll be living in, and what their proselyting area will be. It’s a lot of fun and the whole video is greeted with whoops and hollers as the information is revealed. On this transfer we’re sending three sisters out for their full-field proselyting assignment, bringing two sisters back from full-field, sending one sister home as her mission is completed (she’s been an excellent missionary), and two new sister missionaries are arriving from the MTC. It takes a couple of weeks for everything to settle down.

I’ve also been introduced to a new ham radio capability and have been busy getting it set up here in Laie. This is a system that links over-the-air radio repeaters around the world by way of the Internet. There are a couple of systems that I already knew about, Echolink and IRLP, each being rather convoluted to set up and operate. The new player is AllStarLink (http://www.allstarlink.org), a more capable and less convoluted setup. It has important use for emergency communications. I now have (for free!) a new radio with associated computer and hardware to setup which will result in an AllStarLink node here in Laie, Hawaii. Sometime over the next ten days I should have this capability up and running. I’m interested to see how this works in reality when compared to the other capabilities.

We had an assignment this afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center. This particular assignment means one person counts the people coming into the luau and records the count every five minutes while the other guards the exit side from interlopers and helps people in the luau find the smoking area and the bathrooms. Nina did the count, I did the guard duty. The benefit was that we were able to watch the luau show. These are always a lot of fun. We’ll be back at the PCC on Monday afternoon, on a different ticket taking assignment, one that we haven’t done before.

Humidity is down, the tradewinds are blowing. Life is somewhat mellow tonight!


Seven Straight Mornings

Funky Fountain
Funky Fountain

Next week we shift schedules. What that means is, that on the days we’ve been on the afternoon shift starting next week we’ll be on the morning shift. When we’ve been working the morning shift, we’ll now be working the afternoon shift on those days. Meanwhile, we finish this week on the old schedule, meaning that we’ll be at the Visitors’ Center seven days in a row at 9am. That actually doesn’t mean a thing, doesn’t change anything in the universe, and I rather like the morning shift over the afternoon shift. It’s just interesting to me.

When we got to the Center this morning to open up at 9am, the fountains were running, but significantly lower than on Wednesday. As the morning progressed, the fountains went lower and lower. The pool was filling with water and by the time our shift was over, the pool was full to overflowing. As a result, the surface of the water was about six inches above the top of the fountain jets, and they didn’t have enough force to break through the surface with any height. The engineers were going back and forth between the fountain and the pump room, but nothing was changing. I wonder what it’ll look like tomorrow morning?

Meanwhile, a surveyor guy showed up mid-morning to measure the straightness of the flag pole! It is definitely not straight, according to the surveyor. He  set up his transit in several different places and his helper marked where the top of the pole was in relation to the bottom of the pole on the concrete at the base of the pole. After they left, I checked the marks and it looks like the pole is about a 1 1/2 feet out of plumb at it’s maximum. Next question is whether or not that is “sufficiently straight”. When a flag is on the pole and the wind is blowing, this pole is not going to be straight up and down, anyway, as it seems to be fairly flexible.  According to the surveyor guy, the pole is 125 feet tall, so in my thinking, 1 1/2 feet is noticeable but not necessarily significant.

We finished off the day doing apartment inspections. Nina does the inspections. My job is to check the smoke detectors, replace defective ones, and replace batteries as needed. The air temperatures weren’t all that high, about 85°, but the humidity hovered around 96%. It was the kind of a day when one needed a shower and clean linen every few hours. So, I checked air conditioners in those apartments that had them. One AC machine is not functioning, so I’ll have the facility guy replace it. Two apartments down by the beach don’t have AC at all and one of them was just sweltering. I’m very happy for working AC in our home. Willis Carrier, inventor of the mechanical air conditioning system, is on my list of people I intend to personally thank in the next life after I die.

Part of the day was spent in sweltering heat, part spent in air conditioning, so on the average I’m just warm….