Friday, November 9, 2012

My Dog Has Fleas (GCEA)

ukulele, kona, Hulihue'e Palace, Kona Town, Kahaluu Beach Park, Kona Trolley
You've never truly had the Hawaiian experience until you take a ukulele lesson from Kumu Lale on the grounds of the Hulihue'e Palace on Kona Bay.  This happens every Friday morning from 10 - 12 and all you have to do is just "show up".  Some call her "Kumu" (teacher) and some call her "Auntie", whatever you call her, she is a gracious, patient teacher who enjoys introducing Hawaiian music to anyone willing to learn.

So this is how I've been passing some of my time during the last two weeks - improving my uke skills and basking at the playgrounds of Hawaiian Royalty.

Actually as far as palaces go, Hulihue'e is not terribly grand. But it is a lovely Hawaiian style building fronted by a wrought iron gate decorated with the royal crest. The palace is now a museum showcasing Victorian artifacts from the era of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi'olani.
It was considered the summer vacation home to the royals.  I don't know why - every place is a vacation palace in the islands.  But there could be some historical significance to the location with Makuaikaua Church (Hawaii's earliest Christian Church built in 1820) directly across the street and Ahuena Heiau (the last royal residence of the great King Kamehameha l) within view.
And King Kamehameha l is a big deal here.  Highly regarded as a warrior, diplomat, and leader, he holds a place of great esteem in every Hawaiian heart, almost to a spiritual level. Legend has it that he was born in 1736, the year Haley's Comet passed over the islands. He is credited with uniting the islands and was the first ruler of this island nation. Ironically he spent his later years at his compound in Kailua-Kona, now the site of the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel, the starting and finishing points for the Ironman World Coampionship Triathlon.
I've spent my entire time here in Kona without a car. This has been a valuable experience for me as I've had to be organized and follow a schedule if I wanted be at my destinations on time.  I have done a lot of walking and I have found that the public transportation, that is, the city bus, is a bit confusing and actually spent several hours on it one afternoon because I missed my stop (actually I got confused).  I hate thinking this, but at times I felt like I was in a third world country riding on that rickety bus. This could be because I usually don't ride city buses (although this bus was different from the ones I've seen in the WV).
Lucky for me, I found another form of transportation which is very reliable, and fun, and stops by my condo complex every two hours, and the driver is always nice to you.  It's a delightful green open-air trolley which is contracted by the Sheraton Resort at the far south end of the Kona coastline and is used to shuttle their guests and anyone else with $2 into and around Kona Town.  One afternoon, when the trolley didn't have a lot of passengers, the driver (who was an Hawaiian) actually gave me the grand tour from one end of the line to the other (from the Sheraton Resort to the Kona Brewing Company) and explained all about how and where the Hawaiians lived on the coastline before the Westerners arrived.  It was quite a story - amazingly the islands are  loaded with existing old historic and sacred sites - and being a haole, I was a little uncomfortable at times about how the story ended.

So today I'm going to catch the trolley and go to a really great snorkel beach called Kahaluu Beach Park.  Some say it's the best snorkel beach on the island.  It has quite a bit of historical significance and is considered by many Hawaiians to be a sacred place.

All I know is there a tons of wonderful  reef fish (all colors of the rainbow) to be seen, and abundant sightings of the Green Sea Turtle swimming throughout the bay.  It's a calm and safe place to snorkel - there's a life guard, and it's beautiful. It was here that I saw my first Yellow Tang that was not in an aquarium and they were huge.  So you see quite large fish (all the fish you see in a marine aquarium and some you haven't), and if you carefully look around you can find little nursery sites in the Brain Coral with tiny little fish that look exactly like the big ones.

It's so compelling out in the bay that it's difficult to pull yourself away from looking down into the water at the sea life.  But you need to be watchful, for even though it's a safe place to snorkel, there are currents that can take you out or down the coast farther than you'd like to go.

Well it's time to get my snorkel gear read and get out of here -  before I miss the trolley again!

I couldn't resist putting in another picture of a sunset.  The sunsets on the Kona side of the Big Island are so spectacular -  you cannot take a bad picture. The one below is totally untouched or enhanced.  I will be leaving Kona in a day, going on to visit Hilo - the other side of the island - the side with no sunsets! So aloha a hui hou kakoui Kona.

REMEMBER:  Buy Local When You Can!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kona Town

At this time I'm sitting on the deck at Bongo Bens, on the bay in Kona Town – eating a quesadilla, sipping a Margarita, watching the cloudless sky over the blue Pacific, and writing these thoughts down for my next blog post.  I wonder if this is how Earnest Hemingway felt  as he sat in a Paris café writing the greatest literature in the world – I suppose not.

As you’ve seen in the previous post, sunsets are beautiful along the Kona coast.  I have to wonder how the Hawaiians felt as they saw the sun setting on the horizon all those hundreds of years ago at this very spot. Of course they weren’t watching the cruise ships anchored in the bay, or sipping a Margarita and listening to the gentle, melodic music of the islands. So they probably felt somewhat different, but nevertheless saw something in those sunsets that contributed to the understanding of their world.

Today, as I was walking into Kona Town, I was called “Auntie”.  You remember - that term of endearment and respect  the young use to address the old here in the islands.  Well, I was a bit taken back by it, as I hadn’t thought of myself in that way, and the guy was a surfer dude with long kind of blonde and graying hair, somewhat younger than me (but no youth), so I was amused and tried to act gracefully.  I’m still amused (chuckle).  A new label for my aging self -  I better eat some more papayas.

What they call Kailua Kona or the Kailua Village is the historic part of Kona on the bay.  Although a charming village where the weather and water are considered the best, and the cruise ships dock once or twice a week, it does seem a bit worn so to say, evidently the big money is moving to the expensive resorts along the coast to the north.  

I’ve rented a really nice place along the coast to the south so that should tell you something.  North or South it doesn’t matter - the weather here is really unbelievable.  You are NEVER (never ever) cold or chilly.  The gardens are impeccable, bananas are growing at my door (this is amazing to me).  The parasailors float  in the sky overhead every 5 minutes all day and the dolphins are playing just off shore. Hey - it's paradise! 
I’ve taken to feeding the birds on the lanai with bread crumbs (which is completely against the rules in the condominium complex) but it is fun to watch them.  

The main visitor is the Yellow Billed Cardinal, an introduced species from South America and member of the Tanager family that is mainly found along the Kona Coast.  
Another species, also introduced from the South America, and also a member of the Tanager family, is the Saffron Finch – a pretty little bird, and quite abundant all over the islands.  

My last visitor is the Zebra Dove, native of Thailand, were they are considered good luck and kept as pets for their sweet “coo”.   These opportunistic rascals enjoy life everwhere from the luxurious gardens in the resorts to the street-side cafes in Kona Town.

Apparently the island is full of charming little birds that have no business being here and are unfortunately rapidly replacing the native Hawaiian species.

Aloha  a hui hou kakoui
 (Farewell until we meet again!)