Thinks

Panda in Paradise:  Big Island’s Biggest and Best, Part 1

First, the best:

Best Beach – Waipi’o Black Sand Beach: You can’t really visit Hawaii and not go to a beach.  Unfortunately, most of the postcard-perfect ones are on the Kona side, and there are not too many around Hilo.  I ended up at Waipi’o Black Sand Beach, which turned out to be an amazing surprise.  The hike down was steep (25% grade), and about 1.5 miles long – which means you have to hike it back up.  But the water was unusually calm, warm, and the sand was blistering hot.  The beach is mostly locals, which meant it had the raw Hawaiian vibe.  No touristy stuff here.  And it was perfect.IMG_20170902_131215080

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Best Animal Encounter – Giant Sea Turtles: While there were lots of animals roaming around, from chickens, to wild goats, to mongooses (mongeese?), the best animal encounter was by far the giant sea turtles.  I was hiking on a beach on the Kona side, and much of the path was at most six feet feet wide.  Then, as I rounded a bend, there was a giant honu basking in the sun.  At first, I couldn’t tell if it was dead, but then it slowly bent its neck towards me and eyed me up and down.

While there were signs to stay 20’ away, there was no way for me to continue on my hike without coming about 2.5 feet away.   I figured I could snap a photo while quickly powerwalking over the sand (which is no easy feat, when you sink in about 8 inches with every step), and the turtle seemed unconcerned with my proximity.

Another 0.25 miles down the beach, the path narrowed, and I encountered two of them in the way.  Again, I figured a powerwalk was the best way, and I came very, very close to them this time.  They’re old, wise, and I think the animators of Finding Nemo definitely got it right.

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Best Park – Volcano National Park: I have no words, so I will let the pictures (more to come in a later post) speak for themselves. I also feel quite lucky, since the recent eruptions have destabilized the region, and the park has been closed for quite some time.  A visiting Hawaiian mentioned she was fearful it would never open again, and that we were privy to new earth, the goddess Pele, and something few people will ever get to see.

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Night Market

When I lived in China, going to the Night Market and haggling with the vendors, eating the food, and people watching was one of my favorite pastimes.  You can’t really replicate that here, but when Lt. Dan  and her boyfriend Granola invited me to the Vancouver Night Market, I jumped at the chance.

It’s not a terribly long drive – just going over the border and then finding a parking place takes a little bit.  We got the multi entry card for $30, which allowed 7 admissions to the market and no lines, and then we wandered around.

Lt. Dan was a little hangry, so we got food first.  There are a hundred different things to choose from, but being an occasional Korean, I opted for jap jae and pajeon.  Fast-food-stand Korean is the best.  It was delicious.  Then I saw the hundred other stands with Vietnamese, dim sum, meat on a stick, Thai, Japanese, Indian…did I choose poorly?  Maybe, but I’ll just have to go back.

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We walked around, and I decided we were in the real-life, overpriced version of ebay China.  Everything you find on ebay that ships from China was at these stalls:  cute USB drives, scarves, printed t-shirts, toys, silly lamps, you name it.  I bought two scarves (I was freezing), but we decided to head back when we failed to find me a panda carnival prize.

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At least now, I know if I don’t want to wait the four-week shipping time, I can just head to the Vancouver night market!

Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

I like baseball. Games are fun, there’s great team spirit, and as we have all learned from Season 2, Episode 1 of Sex and the City:

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Deep down, I’m still an East Coast girl, and so I like the Red Sox. And living in Washington, it’s obviously that the Red Sox are barely a concern to the Mariners fans (and vice versa). The Seahawks-Patriots hate is an entry for another day, but safe to say, I can wear something that has the “B” or something that says Red Sox on it, and not feel the hatred of a thousand suns when I go to the grocery store.

By a stroke of luck, I managed to get myself invited to a Mariners game, with some friends, of whom we will call Sandwich, Louboutini, and Sandlot, Sandlot’s dad, and Sandlot’s dad’s boss.

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Eat it up, bitches.

Because they were from work, the tickets were for the Diamond Club. These aren’t the box seats, high above the third base line; these are seats directly behind home plate, with a special tunnel access to an open bar, a giant buffet with breakfast, lunch, and all the typical ballpark snacks you can imagine. It was a gorgeous day, they were playing the White Sox, and I had great seats!

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There’s nothing like a sunny summer day at the ballpark.  Safeco Field is by far one of the loveliest I’ve ever been to; it’s clean, well designed, and easy to navigate.  The baseball diamond elicits a feeling of familiarity for every red-blooded American, and the Mariners even won!

I don’t remember how much I ate and drank, but I’m sure my nutritionist-RN friend would not have approved. There were hotdogs and sausages (and we tried out the Silicon Valley Season 4 Hotdog-Not-A-Hotdog app), Ezell’s Famous Chicken (SO overrated), burgers, roast beef, nachos, a giant tuna carving station, salads, pastas, an omelette bar, fruit and pastries, regular sandwiches, and all sorts of candy.

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And Cracker Jacks. Because no ballgame is complete without peanuts and Cracker Jacks.  And beer that you can drink at two in the afternoon without judgment.

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Crabbing, Canoeing, and Coconuts, oh my!

If you’re from New England, it’s a good bet that you have gone crabbing at some point (or at least know people who have participated in this fond past-time). You tie a bit of raw chicken/fish to a string, throw it out into some brackish water, and wait for the string to pull taut. You then slowly pull the string towards you, lest you frighten the crabs, and when you can finally get it high enough (they are piggy scavengers – they don’t notice if they are being lifted in the water as long as they are being fed), you take a net and scoop it out of the water as fast as you possibly can.

My uncle lives on a canal where he can dock his boat, and the dock also makes an ideal place to crab. Gem and I had nothing to do on our last day, and we called to see if we could hang out and try our luck with the nets. We did not fare so well, but we did catch a few!

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The first victim.

After a few hours of no bites (literally), my uncle suggested taking the canoe out. We soon discovered that a canoe’s turning radius is only slightly less than a semi-truck, and if we are wrong and you can actually turn a canoe on a dime, well then, we are just bad at turning. My uncle had suggested rowing up to a few neighbors with the mango, lemon, and avocado trees and asking for some, but we had a hard-enough time going straight and not crashing into the retaining walls that managing to get to a dock might have been more of a challenge than our sunburned bodies were ready for.

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We did manage to pick up a few coconuts that had landed in the water (after several unsuccessful attempts), and I was super excited to open it and see what was inside. Seriously, the coconut trees are awesome, but if they fall off onto your head, they can kill you. So, when we managed to grab one from the water, it was a treat! It was, unfortunately, waterlogged and inedible, and made a nasty brown mess on the driveway. (We did get one that my dad managed to peel – yes, peel – the next day.)

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While we lost a good six crabs to our solidly poor netting skills and the fact that they are just crafty creatures – they pretty much give you the finger when you get them to the surface, go to net them, and then they let go of the bait and spread their legs like they just did a mic drop – we ended up with five of them. When we got back, my mom had arranged for a cookout with the family, and also steamed our catch for the day. We were munching on salad, rice pilaf, and crab, and talking, telling stories, and laughing while the sun set. It was a perfect last full day in Florida with the fam.

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“Sex Definitely Happens There”

Spoiler – this has no photos. You’ll see why.

We had no plans on one day, and after an early brunch, Gem and I were driving around, trying to figure out something to do before the Cardboard Regatta at noon, when Gem suddenly said she could go for a massage.

“You know, one of those Asian nail places that give you a shoulder massage while you’re getting your nails done. Let’s find one.”

A little Google Mapping and a few minutes later, we found several places that either didn’t offer massages or have any openings for hours. We resolved to finding an actual massage place, and we identified a business close to my parents’ house that seemed to be exactly what we were looking for.

It’s at this point that you will have to use your imagination, because we could not take photos. We also could not get out of there fast enough.

We parked and walked into the massage parlor. Eyebrow-raise #1 was not such a big deal.  The windows were tinted at maybe 10%, but then again, this isn’t a huge shock because it’s Florida, and they are trying to keep things cool, right?  Eyebrow-raise #2 came when we took a look around the lobby. It looked a lot “nicer” than the $15, 30-minute massage place we’d expected. The walls were a darker purple, the curtains were heavy dark velvet, and there was fake marble. Then, we saw that there was a menu of services and prices on the counter. They were asking for $80 for a 60-minute massage…something is off here?

Then, the true nature of this massage parlor revealed itself.  (If you haven’t guessed by now, you are as naïve as we were.)

Two women came out from a side room where they’d been chattering in an unidentifiable Southeast Asian language (Thai?), and a third relaxed on the couch in the side room, trying to hear what we were saying. Gem and I had saucers for eyes. We weren’t exactly what to make of it.

One woman was an Asian-50s, – still looking good, but definitely older. She was wearing an electric blue romper, with her biddies pushed up till they were coming out of her neck, and her entire cleavage was visible. She had full makeup, big earrings, her hair was done, and her nails were long. The other girl was younger, about 5’11”, in giant heels, and had on lace boyshorts and a bright orange tank top that left absolutely nothing to the imagination.

The older woman (we’ll call her Blue) wanted to know if we wanted a massage, and started quoting us prices that were $10 off the advertised price. The younger one looked us up and down. Gem and I are both under 5’2”, and we were not dressed for the occasion – we were not wearing makeup, we were just looking for a diversion before heading to the beach where we would inevitably get rained on, and we were tired.
Blue kept trying to sell us on their services, and I was trying to make excuses that it was getting late, and we needed to get back to the other side of town for the Cardboard Regatta. Gem stood there, frozen. The woman on the couch got up, and Gem noticed a hula hoop in the other room where she was sitting.

After a bit more of polite, then earnest declining, Gem and I went for the door, and Gem couldn’t get out of there fast enough. As we power-walked to the car, Gem said, “Sex definitely happens there.”

Editor’s note: After some research, the owner of the massage parlor was indeed arrested for prostitution in 2010. Then we found a rave review from a month prior, where a single dad took his two girls and they all got massages. Take that for what you will.

A Long December

I’m a few days late in writing this, but I suppose it’s better late than never.

This last year was mildly eventful, and my recap, once written out, looked like more than I remembered:

March
I turned 31.  I’m officially into my 30’s.  I think they should start digging a grave now…it’s all downhill from here 😦  When did I get so old?!

June
I quit my job at Yale, after 5 years.  It was bittersweet, and I’m lucky to still have friends there.  I miss them a lot.

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I started working for United Health, and moved to Dallas, Texas – the land of Pecan Lodge BBQ and Tacos y Mas.  You would not believe how attached you get to $1 crispy tacos until you don’t have them anymore.

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My parents sold the house I grew up in and moved to Florida.  They owned it for 26 years, and it’s where some of my best memories are.  It was really, really hard to see that Sold sign.

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My dad was diagnosed with lymphoma.  He’s undergoing treatment and is almost done, and will be moving back to Florida in March.
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September
I celebrated two weddings on opposite sides of the country:  One in RI, one in WY, on back to back weekends.  I also taught my mom how to take a selfie. #mistakesweknewweweremaking

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November
I packed up and moved to Washington.  We’ll see how it goes, but it’s really gorgeous when the sun is shining.

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This is the point in this blog entry where I usually write out my resolutions and lofty goals for the new year, instead of reflecting on how I did on last year’s stuff.  True to form, I am sure I failed at last year’s, and here are my lofty ones for this year:

I am going to blog more.  I promise.  I want to run a half marathon (my goals are getting more realistic).  I need to read more, and since I just found my Kindle, I will be able to.  I want to hike Mount Rainier and explore the national parks around me, and also eat my way through Vancouver, BC.

I have little challenges for myself for each month, like in January I need to run 100 miles, and in February I am going to try not to spend any money outside of bills and necessities.  Those will be fun, and anyone can do something for 30 days.

But my big, overarching resolution is to stay positive.  Surround myself only with people that are good for me, make me happy, and bring joy and kindness. I know it’s trite, but negativity is a poison and choosing to focus on the good is difficult – it’s something I know I need to work on.

Here is to a wonderful, happy, productive 2017 full of adventures and

Falling For You

Ahhh, fall.  The colorful leaves, football season, the brisk air, the pumpkin spice everything

It’s my favorite season, even though I don’t have school planners to decorate anymore (go ahead, laugh it up). There’s something special about the cooler weather, when my allergies change, and when I have to sleep snuggled deep in several blankets.  Also, it’s when people don’t look at me like I’m insane when I drink hot tea all the time…

The only thing better than October in southern New England is October in northern New England. It’s cooler, so things usually happen a bit earlier, and fall really feels like it’s in full swing.  This past weekend, I trudged up to Vermont in my rental Jeep (don’t ask) and spent two glorious days in a 1700’s farmhouse, surrounded by all that is fall, all that is New England, and all that is family.

My whole family was there to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday.  We were at Reading Farms Estate in Reading, VT, on the way to Killington and right near Woodstock (no, not that Woodstock).  It’s a spectacular old farmhouse that sleeps what feels like 50, has ponds, a barn, hiking trails over hundreds of acres, and amazing views. 
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There were giant trout in this pond, but there was a “NO FISHING” sign…They wouldn’t have noticed if we took one, maybe…though we had plenty of food anyway.  There were pellets you could throw in the water, and it was a veritable feeding frenzy.  My aunt and cousin did this all weekend.  Any time we couldn’t find them in the house, they were outside feeding fish, and giggling. It really is the simple things in life. IMG_20151003_104522619 IMG_20151003_112548107 IMG_20151003_112726806_HDR

The best thing about the leaves being late to change this year are the half-and-half trees.  Splashes of color in what would otherwise be a monochromatic view.  It’s a good reminder that life goes on – no matter how hard the green tries to stay, it will eventually become bright orange and red, and change will happen. The only thing we can do is look forward to next spring, and starting over.

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