The Spirit of Aloha

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Ulle (Tiiu’s mom as if you couldn’t tell!), Tiiu, Mark and Frank

I began our blog posts on Maui with the word Aloha and will end it the same way. Why? It’s not just because the word Aloha means both hello and goodbye. It’s because Aloha is more than a word. Aloha is a way of life. 

When we arrived two-and-a-half months ago, we wondered what “living” in Hawaii might be like. Yes, we will always remember Hawaii’s beauty but the thing that will stick with us even more is the beauty of the people we met. In them, we experienced the true Spirit of Aloha.

The Spirit of Aloha is all about mutual regard and affection. It means extending warmth and caring with no obligation in return. From the cheerful waitresses at our favorite breakfast spots to the helpful cashier at the grocery store to the kind-hearted church ladies who kept asking us to take up the gifts(!), we were always treated warmly. Every day we looked forward to the friendly neighborhood “regulars” and dedicated lifeguards at the community pool. 

But most of all, the Spirit of Aloha was exemplified by our gracious hosts. From day one with Tiiu to weeks later with Mark, they both treated us like ohana (family). They opened their homes to us. Together we shared wine, meals and laughs. Frank and I will never forget their warm hospitality and friendship.

The ancient priests explained the Spirit of Aloha, “When you live the Spirit of Aloha, you create positive feelings, energy and thoughts, which are never gone.” 

And never forgotten. Mahalo and Aloha.

 

 

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Hawaii Sugar Story Not So Sweet

C and H pure cane sugar
From Hawaii
Growin’ in the sun!
Island sugar, growing pure, fresh and clean
C and H pure cane sugar is the one!

No doubt I’m dating myself, but who remembers that jingle from the 70s and 80s? Many people, myself included, think sugar and pineapple when they hear the word Hawaii. But guess what? The last sugar mill in Hawaii had its final harvest three years ago. The last pineapple cannery closed back in 2007.

I had no idea. When we arrived in Maui, we saw acres and acres of overgrown and unharvested sugar fields, along with several abandoned mills. I wondered what was going on. I found that these industries were no longer a part of island life and it was all due to a common storyline: “High labor and land costs resulted in lost market share to foreign growers and processors.” So sad.

The island is dotted with charming towns that were built around the plantation industry. Their buildings, however, now house businesseses catering to the state’s current and now lone economic engine — tourism.

Our Turtles Are Back!

28D4244D-A559-4656-B896-DD5FDDA7DD7DFrank and I are staying at our friend’s house, which sits on a small beach. Aside from being absolutely beautiful, we were delighted to discover that the area is a sea turtle hangout! Almost every day we’d rush outside and spot several in the water or catching rays on the reef and beach. Then the “bad” weather came — strong winds, high surf. For over a week, there were no turtles. Last night, we were happy to find a gentle giant sleeping soundly on our beach. Today, there were a bunch — sunning and swimming along with the beach goers. We’re beyond thrilled to have them back!

So what makes these creatures so captivating? I keep telling Frank they look prehistoric, which, in reality, they are. Sea turtles have been swimming earth’s oceans for over 100 million years, pre-dating many dinosaurs. 

I searched “the Google” and found a few more turtle factoids . . .
• Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species can be found in Hawaii. We’ve spotted two, the green turtle (the most common) and the hawksbill. All seven species are considered endangered or threatened.
• Green turtles aren’t green. They get their name from the color of their body fat, not the color of their shell.
• Sea turtles can weigh up to 400 pounds and are primarily vegetarians. They eat algae and seaweed. Frank read that once in a while they’ll eat shrimp.
• Sea turtles can live up to 150 years.
• In Hawaii, sea turtles are federally protected and it’s illegal to touch or harass them.

 

So this happened today . . .

A weekly reminder at the beginning of Maui Mass is that you should remain in your pew until after the priest leaves the altar. Some Sundays, you get a priest with a long-winded homily. By the time he gives the final blessing, we’re ready to bolt. But we can’t.

The priest returns to the front of the congregation, “Are there any visitors in church today? Please come forward.” He asks each person where they’re from and leads a blessing over them. Each visitor gets a lei and returns to their seat.

Next, “Is anyone celebrating a birthday this week? Please come forward.” The priest gives them a blessing and everyone sings “Happy Birthday.” They each get a lei and return to their seats.

Finally, “Are any couples celebrating their wedding anniversary? Please come forward.” He asks each couple how long they’ve been married, there’s a blessing, they all get a lei and they return to their seats.

Much to the delight of today’s gathering, there was a guy who came up for all three blessings! Before dismissing the last group of couples, the priest winked at a woman in the pair next to the man, “Stay close to your husband and away from this guy. He’s already been ‘lei’d’ three times this morning!”

Yep. He went there! Hilarious!

These weekly ten minutes of celebration bugged us at first. Now we find it charming. We haven’t raised our hands when they ask for visitors but Frank and I did join a large group of married couples on Valentine’s Day for a blessing and renewal of vows. It was nice. We left feeling part of the community. We left feeling good.

A whale of a good time!

Whale watching is the “thing to do” when you visit Maui in the winter. Over 10,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska between December and April to mate and give birth here. Why Hawaii? Like us, they come because it’s warm. Frank loves whales. We went to see them twice — once on our own and again with Nick and Marcy. Both times, we were fortunate and beyond delighted to witness a myriad of mothers and calves, whale spouts, partial and complete breaches — truly a gigantic, non-stop spectacle of whale wonderment!

Some fun humpback facts…

  • Humpbacks can grow up to 60 feet long and weigh around 40 tons. The females are larger than the males.
  • The adult whales live on plankton and krill but there aren’t any in Hawaii so they don’t eat here. They do all their eating up in Alaska before they migrate!
  • Scientists have never witnessed whales mating.
  • Gestation period is about a year so most whales are conceived and then born in Hawaii. Babies stay with their moms for a year.
  • The calves drink mother’s milk — about 100 gallons per day. They need all that weight and fat for when they travel back to the cold Alaskan waters.

Wacky Weather

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What a wild week it’s been! While our friends and family back in Wisconsin have been pummeled with historic wind chills and wave after wave of heavy snowfalls, Hawaii is experiencing some wacky winter weather of its own.

A strong Pacific storm ushered in waves of 40 feet+, hammering our North Shore and closing beaches. It was a spectacular show! Without a person or object providing scale, however, photographs hardly depict the enormity or intensity of these ferocious jaw-like monsters. Our friend had some minor damage to his beach area and yard but his next door neighbor wasn’t so lucky. Mother Nature seized back several grassy feet of frontage and tumbled his massive rock retaining wall.

It felt like we were back home as we watched the National Weather Service warn of intense snow showers, slippery roads and blowing and drifting snow for Mount Haleakala. Although the summit at 10,000-foot elevation has often been snow covered, no one recalls seeing the white stuff at 6,200 feet.

The strong winds have caused their share of havoc. Trees and plants have been uprooted, there is a lot of debris and some power lines have toppled. Last Sunday, half the island was without power for several hours.

So other than a little inconvenience here and there, Hawaii’s weird weather has been intriguing but it hasn’t affected our lifestyle like it would back home. Our place is closer to sea level where temperatures hover in the 70s. The rain — often heavy — alternates with brief periods of intense sunshine. We continue to swim outside every day. When you’re wet you’re wet, right? It also helps that the manager at our local pool keeps the water at a balmy 82 degrees! Frank shakes his head while I grin like a fool, floating on my back as the rain drops dance around us.

Aloha from Maui

78a4b707-59d7-4a6c-8836-d71536ac058aA stunning rainbow stretched across a clear blue sky when we arrived in Maui a week ago. “Aloha and welcome!” it seemed to announce. It didn’t take long for Frank and I to feel welcome — to acclimate to the weather and settle into our new place.

Weather? It couldn’t be nicer, 82 and sunny every day. Our place? It couldn’t be more comfortable. The furnished apartment is the entire lower level of our landlady’s home. We have two bedrooms, a full kitchen and a private porch that spans the length of the house. It sits in the midst of the rainforest just off the Hana Highway, about a half mile from the ocean. Every night, the temperature pleasantly dips into the sixties with intermittent showers — perfect for lulling us to sleep.

When we were in Vancouver, we played “travel roulette” to find inexpensive, last-minute flight destinations. I can’t say we were disappointed when a non-stop flight to Maui popped up. Hawaii has always been one of Frank’s favorite places. We have visited the islands twice, once for our honeymoon and once, with the boys, around our fifteenth anniversary.

Flash forward 15+ years and here we are again. Maui remains as beautiful but much busier than before. Our plan is to live here a couple months. How will it be different from previous visits? Resort versus house. Island hopping vacation versus more of a “staycation.” We’re anxious to see if life in paradise lives up to our dream of life in paradise. Stay tuned.