Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finally, an update.

I’ll be honest, I don’t feel at all like blogging. But I’m going to make myself do it.

I’ve been MIA the past week… not because I’ve been particularly busy with work, but because I haven’t really done many “exciting” things. My life in Hawaii is becoming less public and more personal. I have friends—real friends, I would say—and a church in which I’ve suddenly become super involved…so I’ve begun to put focus on those things, which makes for a boring blog. My life in Hawaii has slowly settled into less of an adventure and more of a… well… life.

But the good news is, I live in a touristy paradise, so I’ll still have the occasional adventure. :)

Today I hiked to the Kilauea waterfall. I only had a few hours between the ladies’ tea at church (I led worship with my friends Espi and Rachel) and work in the afternoon, so it was a quick stop… just long enough for a dip in the water, a snack, and a quick lie in the sun. I took some pictures, and yes, I was a creeper and photographed a mother and her children. Eh, they’ll never know. Look closely in the first picture to see the two guys... gives you an idea of the size of the falls. We parked our cars at the same time and they asked me directions to the falls (I love feeling like a local). I told them and they went on ahead... but they got lost and I beat them by about 15 minutes. At least they still made it! They said the final destination was definitely worth the accidental detour. 

And here are a few pictures I took on my iPhone at the ladies’ tea. The first two are of hula dancers; the third is a team of sign language interpreters. In the last picture, the girl on the left is my friend Michelle, the missionary from Kenya; the girl second from the right is my friend Anya, from Russia (she has the coolest accent), who’s moving to Texas with her husband Eric next month. We’ll miss them!

In other news, my parents are coming to visit on Monday! I’m so excited to show them around and become a tourist again. I’ll hopefully have lots of pictures and stories to share after next week, so my blog won’t be quite so dead. However, after next week I may start switching some things up just to give myself a bit of a reprieve from the typical “this is what I did today” essay structure. In effort to stave off my blog boredom, I may start posting poetry, lone pictures, or playing with the format a bit. Just a forewarning.

And by the way, I monetized my blog to try to make a bit of money (hence the ads on the sidebar), and with the monetization I also gained a hit counter… my goodness, who are all you people?! Twenty-three followers, but hundreds of hits a day? Not that I’m complaining—that’s wonderful! If nothing else, it’s motivation to continue blogging. Thanks to everyone who has been reading, whoever you are. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Backpacks, Books, and Bible Studies

I finally unpacked today. I didn’t think I had that much stuff… but between the suitcase of stuff I left here in November and the humungous (new!) suitcase I brought this time, I ended up with a dresser full of clothes, a closet full of more clothes, a bathroom full of toiletries, a cupboard full of jewelry, and two nightstands full of junk/electronics/books. It feels good to finally have everything organized. Last time I was here I never quite fully unpacked and settled in because I knew I would only be here for a month and a half. As I was unpacking, I snapped pictures of two Christmas/birthday gifts I’m excited about:

1. A hiking backpack. I told my brother I wanted one, so for Christmas he got me this awesome, multi-pocketed, waterproof backpack. It has a netted lift that makes it sit off of the small of the wearer’s back to prevent sweating, as well as all sorts of cool zippers and pockets and pouches. I can’t wait to use it and get it dirty. It will especially come in handy when I hike the Kalalau trail sometime in the next few months. If you remember my post about Hanakapi’ai Falls, I mentioned that the 4 mile trail continues past the waterfall for another 7 miles, ending at a beautiful beach. That’s the Kalalau trail, listed as one of America’s top ten most dangerous hikes. Don’t worry mom… I have a kickass backpack.

2. The book “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. My friend Marcus (not to be confused with my brother Marcus) has quoted it for years, so I finally asked for this book for birthday, and will begin reading it as soon as I finish “Velvet Elvis.” So stoked. 

A few other random pictures:

Before I left Kauai in November, I cleared some old patio furniture out of my employer’s garage to make room to store my car while I was gone. Now I get to enjoy said furniture on my deck. :)

Yesterday I took a couple pictures of a girl riding her horse on Rock Quarry Beach, which I can see from my office. Looks absolutely blissful.

Other random news:

I got asked to lead worship for a ladies’ breakfast at my church next Saturday. It will be… interesting... to see how that goes.

I accidently walked in on two geckos copulating on the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, they got embarrassed and scattered before I could grab my camera.

Bible Study this week was relieving. We went over the material from last week’s Bible Study (remember, I was alarmed about our guest speaker’s claims regarding legalism) point-by-point and dissected each argument. A few days ago, Texas-guy (our guest speaker) had emailed both Ryan (our leader) and I a few academic articles supporting his theories. I read through them and felt confused. Ryan, luckily, had read through them and felt outraged. He typed his own rebuttal notes into one of the articles and added a full five pages to it. Obviously, we had plenty to discuss at Bible Study… I’m thankful for Ryan’s extensive theological/biblical training, as well as his general wisdom and the way he explains things so accessibly. It’s frustrating to sit through an off-base presentation and think, “That just doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know how to refute it,” but it’s liberating to witness someone debunk that same presentation both biblically and logically. It made me miss college and writing research papers. Maybe I’ll go to grad school after I finish working in Hawaii, couch-surf the U.S., and backpack through Europe.
We’ll see. :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Waterfalls and Sushi

Yesterday was beautiful.  Sunny, but not unbearably hot.  Here’s a recap of how I spent my day:

1. Worked until early afternoon.

2. Drove to Wailua Falls, which is a beautiful 80-foot waterfall. There’s a road that winds back to a bridge where you can park to look at it. There is a trail leading down to the base of the falls, but I decided to leave that for another time. On the way back out to the highway, I stopped at the Immaculate Conception Cemetery (just because the name is hilarious) and took a picture of a random cactus.

3. Went to Glass Beach. It’s a small, black sand beach in the industrial area of Ele’ele that is littered with thousands of tiny sea glass pebbles. Most of them are various shades of brown, but there are some green and blue glass pieces mixed in. All the glass comes from the western shore of Kauai, where broken bottles and auto glass were dumped by Swiss Cheese Shoreline. The beach was beautiful, and I collected a handful of greenish sea glass. Not sure what I’ll do with it, but I’ll think of something.   

4. Drove to 'Opaeka'a Falls, which is another waterfall accessible by an overlook. It was getting dark, so the picture isn’t that great.

5. Went to Kintaro with my friends Shikinah, her husband Ryan, Hosanna (who recently had a baby boy named Judah), her husband Joel, and a bunch of people I’d never met. It was a good thing we had reservations… the restaurant was packed, and by the time we left the parking lot was full.

Because there were so many of us (16? 18?) they gave us a special room toward the back. We all took off our shoes (side note: in Hawaii, everyone calls flip-flops “slippers”) and walked up a few steps to the platform holding our table, which looked like it was about a foot off the ground. The chairs had no legs but were just wicker mats with backs and cushions. I thought we were going to have to sit cross-legged on the ground for the whole meal (which I wouldn’t have minded), but under the table was a cut-out opening for our legs. Hard to picture? Think of it like an empty, in-ground swimming pool with all of us sitting on the edges.

With the input of Shikinah and company, I ordered a Hanalei sushi roll (smoked salmon, tuna, and avocado, all deep fried.) I learned how to use chopsticks to mix some sort of hot green stuff with soy sauce, dipped the roll in the concoction, and stuffed the whole thing in my mouth (I wasn’t being a pig; that’s how you’re supposed to do it.) It was interesting! Not bad at all. The first bite was my favorite because I hadn’t let myself stop to think about the fact that I was eating raw fish. The more I ate, the more I thought about it, and the less I enjoyed it… but at no point did I not like it. Here’s a shot of the sushi roll (sorry for the poor quality… restaurant pics were taken with my iPhone.)

And a shot of all our plates stacked on each other once we were finished. A really bad picture, but cool to see the Japanese style:

None of the girls could finish our rolls, so we kept sending our leftovers down the table for the guys to eat. They managed pretty well… but at the end of the night, this plate got sent back to our end:

All in all, it was a fun night. I enjoyed myself even though I didn’t know most of the people, and it was nice just to get out of the house and eat at a fun place… and not alone, for once.  Aloha!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Monsoons and Manliness

It’s been a lazy couple of days. Not work-wise, but otherwise. Yesterday was HOT! Not sure what the temp was, but I worked up a sweat slicing cheese for my sandwich.  Not kidding, I really did. Slicing cheese is always a serious matter for me, though… my roomie Julie used to make fun of how hard I would concentrate to slice it as thin as possible. Anyway, yesterday was hot.

But today was a monsoon. We had an afternoon meeting for Radnight staff at the church, and we nearly got blown out of the tent. Chairs were flying everywhere, rain was coming in sideways, and we couldn’t hear each other talk over the roar of the wind. Since then it’s continued to be dreary and chilly. I’m wearing sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt… in Hawaii. Yesterday I was sweating in the cold shower. 

Obviously, I don’t have much to report. Church went well this morning. I enjoyed playing with the band, although I’ve been spoiled the last several months with in-ear monitors… now it’s back to wedges with only one crappy mix. Hopefully next week will sound a little better. But if not… I’ll get used to it. :)

Oh! Tomorrow I’m going to have my first experience with sushi. Sort of. I tried a bit at a barbeque I went to with Mark back in October, but it wasn’t really enough to fully experience the dish. And I don’t remember it having much of a taste. Tomorrow I’m meeting Shikinah and some friends for dinner at a sushi place… I told her she’ll be responsible for ordering for me, as I have no idea what is what when it comes to sushi. But I’m excited to try it.

And the highlight of my day:

The older Hawaiian man who plays the ukulele prelude every Sunday morning tracked me down after the service to tell me that I play the keyboard like a man. Haha. Evidently he’s used to most women playing delicately/softly, but he was impressed that I pound on it and “play with passion.” In any case, it was the most amusing compliment I’ve ever received (and he did mean it as a compliment.)

The end!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Just a quickie.

Quick post tonight (don’t get used to this daily update thing, people.) 

So tonight was middle school youth group, which I will henceforth be referring to as Radnight.  It was loud and chaotic and unruly.  I broke my sandal, bruised my foot, and sweated through every pore of my body.  Basically, it was glorious.  It will be even cooler when I get to know the kids better… but until then, it’s worth being involved just to hang out with the other staff members and beat the middle schoolers at all the games.  

That’s all my day consisted of, really, other than work. 

Random: Here are a couple shots of the adorable baby Nene who have been hanging out on my (employer’s) property.  They waddled around my patio for a while this morning.  So cute. 

And now I’m going to spend the evening playing The Sims 3, given to me by my brother for my birthday.  I had mentioned that I wanted it, but in hindsight it might not have been such a good idea… I’m probably going to forgo things like sleep and eating to play it constantly.  I am way too exited about this.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some thoughts on some things.

Bible Study was interesting tonight.  We hosted a guest preacher who was visiting from Texas, and he chose to speak about the dangers of legalism within the church.  The discussion got slightly heated toward the end.  He was basically asserting that not only do works not play any role in our salvation (with which I agree), but that no part of the law has any significance to Christianity, and ultimately, in a roundabout way, that neither do works. Most of us weren’t able to accept all parts of that claim, so in the end we agreed to disagree until we had studied the matter further.  I think we all felt a bit disarmed by the time Bible Study ended… It’s alarming to have someone refute with evidence something you’ve believed all of your life to be a truth.  But it wasn’t just the living under the law discussion that made us finally shut up and go, “Wow, I really don’t know anything about anything.”  We touched on topics like total depravity, compulsory confession, and faith vs. works… all without coming to any conclusions. 

The older I get, and the more I experience the world and the people in it, and the more I realize that I don’t know… the more I think that being a Christian is nothing like what I’ve always been taught.  In fact, I bet most of us have most of everything wrong.

I’m reading the book Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, and so far it’s been focusing on the fact that we as humans are wholly incapable of comprehending God, the universe, or any aspect of spirituality.  We can understand religion because it is man-made, but God is beyond the limitations of the human brain and language constructs.  I’ve spent the last five years coming to this conclusion, but have still wrestled with the itchy need to have an informed opinion about every doctrinal matter.  I think this book is going to help me to finally come to peace with not completely understanding faith.  I am ready to feel that freedom.  I believe I'm embarking on some sort of journey to reconcile the man-made religion of Christianity with my own personal, spiritual convictions... and certain aspects of living in Hawaii and being surrounded by these people are going to help cultivate that reconciliation.  

In other news, I’m evidently recreating my life in Ohio by playing the keyboard for the North Shore worship team and helping with their middle school youth group.  I practiced with the worship band this evening (going to play on Sunday), and tomorrow night I’ll be experiencing my first “Rad Night” (the name for their middle school ministry.)  When I left home a few days ago, I honestly had no intentions of getting involved beyond church and Bible Study.  In fact, I was pretty miserable to leave the ONE80 band and DFC.  That longing for my home band and church won’t go away… but it’s very evident to me how God has swooped in and transformed all of my negative emotions into revelations.  

Oh, and the McDonalds’ in Kauai have coconut pies!  Who knew?!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Airport Debacle

Aloha. :)

As of a few hours ago, I’m back in Kauai… and back to blogging.

I made two rather significant packing errors for my flight back to the island.  The first was discovered twenty minutes after my parents had left the airport—I had forgotten to shed my coat and give it to them for storage.  So I now have a heavy winter coat in Hawaii.

The second error was discovered as soon as I boarded my first plane.  I hadn’t packed a pen.  This wasn’t a problem for the first flight, since I slept like the dead for most of it, face-planted into my travel pillow on top of the tray table.  When I woke up and began preparing for descent, I decided I would have to buy a pen during my layover in Denver, because I just could not go the entire day without one.  I had crossword puzzles to do, notebooks to write in, and books to read (I can’t read a book without underlining things.) 

As we landed, I had a conversation with a nice man (in his 50s?) named Jim who was on his way to El Paso to close on a business deal.  We said goodbye and wished each other luck as we gathered our things, but I found him waiting for me as I exited the jetway.  He said, “I forgot, I wanted to give you this pen,” and handed me the coolest pen I’ve ever owned, a purple ballpoint pen with his business information printed on it.  I reacted a little more enthusiastically than was probably necessary, but he got a kick out of it when I told him the dramatic story of my penlessness.  From now on it will be my favorite pen.  It writes perfectly, is translucent purple with a twisty silver thingy, and has the word “erection” on it.  Do they even make pens better than this?

Anyway.  My first flight was wonderful, but the second flight was not.  We boarded the plane only to be told that the landing gear was broken and would take up to an hour to fix.  So we de-boarded, the plane was taken to the hanger, and we were given no information for almost 45 minutes.  Finally they had us change gates because they were bringing in a backup plane.  Half an hour after that, we had to change gates again because the backup plane had technical problems.  I realized at this point that even if the plane left soon, I was likely going to miss my connecting flight.

Finally we boarded our flight… I slept like the dead again, and when we landed in Phoenix I discovered that my next flight (from Phoenix to Lihue) was delayed 20 minutes and that I might have a chance to make it.  So I did the whole run-through-the-airport-while-trying-to-juggle-all-your-luggage-awkwardly thing, and then I got to the looooong line at the security check and realized that no, I didn’t have a chance to make it.  So I decided to take my time and quit rushing.  I’m glad I chilled out and took a look around me… if I hadn’t, I might have missed the hilarity of a short, plump, middle-aged Asian woman pulling off her shirt (the only one she was wearing) when the metal scanner beeped as she walked through it.  The security guards rushed her, yelling, “No!  Keep that on!”  So she put it back on. 

Oh, and somehow, with all of the foreigners and grumpy-looking men around me in line, I was the one who got chosen for the body-scan and pat down.  Of course. 

I went to my gate to confirm that, yes, I had missed my flight, so I then went to the U.S. Airways Customer Service desk to have them issue me a new ticket.  After three different ladies (all of them sweethearts) collaborated to get me a U.S. Airways flight to Los Angeles that night and a United Airlines flight from LA to Lihue the next day, I took the shuttle back to terminal 2 to talk to a United representative about getting a hotel in LA. (Because United was the airline that caused me to miss my flight, they were responsible for compensating me.)  The United lady was irate at U.S. Airways for reissuing a United ticket (and evidently they did it wrong), so she got everything straightened out.  Finally, I caught the shuttle back to terminal 4, ate at Pizza Hut, and sat in my terminal for three hours waiting for my flight to LAX.  Whew.

The flight to LAX was uneventful… I shared a row with a mother and son who switched back and forth between English and Spanish.  Her son was pretty cute, and I think he developed a thing for me throughout the flight.  Every time I stole a sideways glance at him, he covered his face and giggled.  Did I mention that he was a six-year-old?  Adorable. 

After arriving in LAX, I took a shuttle to the United terminal, where I waited in a loooooong line to get vouchers for a hotel and meals.  I then took a shuttle to the Westin hotel, which was pretty snazzy.  I was much too exhausted to explore the LA nightlife like I had planned.  I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed.

This morning was lovely.  I woke up without my alarm, having gotten nine hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep.  After showering and putting on the same clothes from the day before (ew), I snapped a couple shots of the airport, the planes coming in, and one of the cute soap in the bathroom.

My breakfast was delivered by a jovial, fat hotel worker whose hand just happened to brush against my butt.  Twice.  I let it go… but did not tip him.  Breakfast was delicious—over-easy eggs, english muffin, bacon, orange juice, and coffee.  If it weren’t for my meal vouchers, it would have cost me $22 plus a 9.75% sales tax, a 17% service fee, and some other fee they tack on for good measure.

I took a shuttle to LAX, got the body scan again, and boarded my flight to Lihue only to find out that we were delayed half an hour due to maintenance on one of the wings.  Not too sure how I feel about United after the last couple days. 

The flight itself was fine—I had a seat on the exit row with an empty seat next to me, so there was plenty of room to stretch and sprawl.  There was quite a bit of turbulence, but for some reason I get more thrilled/excited about things like that than worried for my life.  After landing, I trekked down to Hawaiian Airlines to claim my luggage that had arrived without me the day before, got picked up by my employer, came home and worked for a few hours, and now… I’m ready to go to bed. 

I usually boycott New Years Resolutions because they’re often so mainstream and superficial.  But this year, I made one: reply to blog comments.  I’m doing so because I appreciate the sense of companionship and anti-loneliness (is there a word that means the opposite of lonely?) that comes with staying in touch with people.  So there, that’s my resolution… hold me to it!

Goodnight, loves.  Or to most of you, good morning.