Chapter 1.2: The condo

The second thing I noticed when entering my potential condo was the cockroach doing an enthusiastic death spasm in the corner of the living room floor. The first thing I noticed is that the “front door” is actually a pair of glass sliders opening onto the lanai. Both of these things concerned me about equally. I’ve been told they show up with about the same frequency, also.

Last Tuesday morning I met with the rental property agent to officially view the condo I’d applied to rent, and was quite pleased overall. The location is fantastic for me, near my friends, in an easily accessible area that is not thick in the midst of the tourists, but still close to the main drag. It is about 750 square feet with one bedroom and a pretty decent kitchen, so I have lots of room to move around. The set-up is pretty classic Hawaii: wood floors, vaulted ceiling, a entire back wall spanning the bedroom and kitchen/living area is made of narrow windows with screens and horizontal glass louvers, big lanai out front and overhead fans in the bedroom and living room. Wicker and light-wood furniture scattered about, pale blue and yellow walls, and the ubiquitous geckos on the walls and cockroaches on the floor. *shudder* I like the geckos but those roaches are large and give me the heebie-jeebies. Thankfully, there is frequent spraying for them which likely accounts for the one dying on the floor. I’ve decided to print and frame family photos from my long-ago trips to Kailua, Oahu to visit Tutu, Grandpa and my aunt and uncles to place on the walls that show my long history with Hawaii.

I’d sent my paperwork over prior to my trip, so I was able to be approved for the condo the same day that I saw it. This meant I had to get my security deposit to the rental agency immediately, and as it was almost the end of June, I needed to pay for July’s rent. For various reasons that I expect have to do with how long it takes to clear hard checks from the mainland, the rental agency will only accept checks on local banks for rent, so I needed to get an account opened before I left. July rent was paid by cashier’s check (FedEx overnight delivery from CA to HI, with signature was $43!), but after I left the condo, I stopped by the local KTA grocery store to set up a Bank of Hawaii account. It ended up taking an hour, due to printer problems at the storefront, but I didn’t mind. I was able to talk story with the assistant branch manager who assisted me, and she was lovely, asking questions about my move and telling me about herself and her family. I’ve been very encouraged by the reaction of people when I told them I was moving to Kona, they’ve been consistently welcoming. In fact, the gate agent for Alaska Air at KOA told me they are hiring and I should absolutely apply there. 🙂

I still need to DocuSign the lease for the condo, and set up a transfer of funds from online savings to my new BoH account so I can pay the August rent, but I have two important things established: a home and a bank account. Next up, in no particular order: starting to pack stuff up to ship over (I have friends who will put boxes in the condo for me), finding a job, and deciding whether to rent or sell my current condo when I move.

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Chapter 1.1: In-person visit

As I mentioned in the last post, I had to come to Kona in person to see the condo that I want to rent. I think this is actually a great idea, and was able to plan a quick visit here for a couple of days. I’m a die-hard Hawaiian Airlines flyer, but due to the quick turn around time, I decided to look into Alaska Airlines and the non-stop flight from my local airport to Kona. My verdict: color me impressed. I’m sure I could have gotten a cheaper flight if I’d had more planning time, but that’s not something I could really control. The flight started loading early, we left a bit early, and the service across the Pacific was pretty great. In the future, I’ll try to get a seat not so close to the back, so that there is less chance of them running out of the meal that I want. I do enjoy HA serving meals at no cost, but Alaska had some pretty good options for a reasonable price. I’m a huge fan of the outlets in each seat back for USB and standard plug charging. Just be aware that when you fly over an ocean, you don’t get wi-fi service (no towers, yeah?). Just over 5 hours after takeoff, we landed in Kona in time for brunch. I’ll definitely fly Alaska Airlines again, and even signed up for the credit card on the flight so I could pick up bonus miles. I’ll probably use my HA miles for my one-way flight when I move, but Alaska Air will be a backup for return visits to the mainland.

Sunday was spent being a sorta-local, and hanging out with my friends. The US vs Portugal FIFA game was on at noon, so my friend and I headed to a divey bar in Kealakekua to watch it, and partake of the summer-fest BBQ they had available. Those ribs were so tasty. It’s definitely a locals place, but everyone is very nice. My friend and I have been there several times and it’s always a good time. After the game, we headed over to the Aloha Performing Arts Company (www.apachawaii.com) for a performance of “Waiting for Godot”. I have absolutely no idea what that show is about, but the actors were completely amazing. I’ve been to other performances (notably “Young Frankenstein”) and have to say that it’s really a great small company, and I’m strongly considering getting back into the theater community by volunteering there. It’s a great way to get involved in the local community, and meet the people who matter. Also, theater people in general kick ass. 🙂 I was able to meet some of the staff and actors after the show, which is always a great opportunity for networking and making new friends.

After the show, I headed over to L&L Hawaiian BBQ to meet some other friends. The plan was to grab some dinner and take it to White Sands Beach for dinner and sunset. I’ve been to L&L on the mainland and always enjoy it, but I’m glad to see it’s not something that was just imported as a touristy-type thing. That L&L in Keauhou was BUSY with lots of locals getting their ono grinds (delicious food). My favorites are the chicken katsu and kahlua pork with cabbage. If you get the plate lunch, you’ll get a protein, 2 scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. Seriously, your scale will hate you but your belly will thank you. It’s at least two meals, so it’s a great way to stretch the dollar. I had the kahlua pork with cabbage rice bowl, and it hit the spot.

Once we all had our food, we headed down Ali’i Drive to White Sands Beach (aka Magic Sands) to watch the sunset and eat dinner. The place was filled with lots of people hanging out, riding the waves on boogie boards, playing in the surf and watching the sunset. It’s really one of those magical times every day, when everyone takes a few moments to watch and marvel at the beauty of nature. I have at least three friends on Facebook who regularly post “Kona sunset porn”, and it’s hard to not resent them. I choose to be grateful that they still take the time to stop and savor the gifts of this island town, as do so many others. For every tourist couple who snagged a table along the edge of the lanai at Sam Choy’s for pupus at sunset, there are 4 or 5 locals gathered on a public access beach watching the waves and the sun going down.

I was seriously exhausted after dinner and headed back to the condo to crash, as my body was three hours ahead and I only got about 4 hours sleep the night before. I wish I could say that I slept better, but I can’t. That meant that I was able to be up nice and early to catch some work emails and get some yummy Kona coffee from Green Flash Coffee. I asked the employee what the special coffee of the day was, and she said it was Costa Rican. I snorted that it was just silly to come to Kona and not have Kona coffee, that those people are philistines. By 8:15 a.m. my friend was on his way to work, I’d finished my coffee and it was time to start the day. Breakfast was at Java on the Rock, with some tasty smooth Three Stone coffee and The Florentine breakfast. I love this place in it’s breakfast incarnation and when it flips over to Huggo’s on the Rocks for lunch/happy hour/dinner. This is where most of the tables are set in the sand, so you take off your slippahs, and sip your Mai Tai or Longboard and just dig your toes into the sand while you look out over the water. There are great deals for pau hana (happy hour) and it gets very crowded for sunset. They have local entertainment most nights, frequently including hula. Breakfast is relaxed and quiet (at least, it is at 10 a.m. which is when I arrived) and you can just sip your coffee and gaze into the distance. I can’t do that too often because Kona coffee is deservedly pricey, but it’s nice when I’m on “vacation”. The rest of today, I’ve mostly piddled about: swung by the Z condo, stopped at the BoH up in the KTA to get info about setting up a new account (and probably making all the BoH employees and other customers nervous because I completely missed the “please wait here sign” and wandered about). The reason that Bank of Hawaii was recommended to me is because there is a location near my putative rental that is in a KTA grocery store, which means it is open 7 days a week. There are no mainland banks on the island, and the credit unions are some distance away. I’m pleased with the options available to me, and will likely get a new account started tomorrow. I read the “West Hawaii Today” and noted the great classified section; many locals have told me to check CraigsList and West Hawaii Today online for leads on furniture, jobs and used cars, as well as housing.

Tonight, I’m taking my friend to Sam Choy’s for pupus at sunset, because I have to go have the poke. Tomorrow is the meeting with the rental agent where I will see the unit and officially apply for it, open the BoH account, and do some last minute gift shopping before I fly back out (non-stop again). It feels really good to be taking these steps, and know that if all goes well, I’ll have an island address by next week. Next step: assuming I get approved for the rental, I need to decide what to ship here to outfit it, and what to buy on island. I think those pre-paid shipping boxes at the post office are going to be my new best friends.

Chapter 1: Living arrangements

This morning I am sitting on my lanai, laptop on my lap, cup of Volcano Coffee Company coffee by my side (thanks Hawaii Coffee Connection!). A little over 24 hours from now, ignoring the time difference, I could be sitting at Java on the Rocks, feet in the sand, sipping Three Stone coffee in Kona. Of course, I’ve just discovered the Kona marathon will be run tomorrow morning so I need to factor that in to my getting-around plans. Oh, and the “could be” refers to being at Java on the Rocks. I will be in Kona, ready to take the next step: finding a place to live.

I don’t know if this is true in all of Hawaii, but the rental agency I have contacted said that they do not do “sight-unseen” long-term rentals. That means you need to go in person to see the unit that you want to rent and hand over your $25 cash application fee. Another factor to consider is that once I am approved for the unit I applied for, I have to turn in my security deposit within 24 hours in cash, money order or cashier’s check. This presumes that I will be on-island to turn this stuff in (I’m going to utilize FedEx). I’ve heard that many people deal with this by moving to the island and into a local hotel/motel for several weeks, while they search out the perfect home and place applications. Considering that my physical move is planned for early October, which is directly before the Kona Ironman when hotels will be full and pricey, I think it’s a worthwhile investment to start looking now.

I’m lucky enough to know people who are in a position to help me find a great, safe place to live in a convenient location, and boy have they come through. It almost seemed too easy, which means I’m doing it right. I got the lead on a condo, in an area I’m familiar with, on June 9 and made a phone call. I received a call back the next day and started an exchange of emails that culminated in me buying a plane ticket that night. The unit I want is going to be available as of July 1, so I need to get out there before then to check it out and apply. Again, I’m lucky that I have a job that allows me to be flexible about taking vacation and a boss that I’ve kept informed about my plans. I was able to get a non-stop flight on Alaska Air at the painful hour of 7 a.m. tomorrow morning, coming home Tuesday evening. I have to admit, I called a girlfriend of mine in a panic that Tuesday night when I bought my ticket, and spilled all of my panicky excitement on her. “Oh my god, this is real! I’m actually doing this! What am I doing?!” She very calmly talked me down off the ledge and gave me some helpful suggestions regarding my current home (do I sell it? do I rent it out? that’s another post).

At this point, I’m mostly packed. It’s only 2.5 days so I’m taking just carry-on, and not even a very large carry-on at that. I still need to print my boarding pass but I’ve made the taxi reservation for o’dark:thirty in the morning. There are no guarantees, but I’m hoping that I’m approved for this condo, and I can take the next steps: getting a local bank account, finding a job, shipping my possessions and the rest. I’ve even started thinking that I could probably do at least one quick weekend trip when I check some bulging suitcases and overstuff my carry-on, just so I can get a start on moving stuff. I’m fairly sure that’s more expensive than just shipping it, but once I get a place, will I be able to wait 3 months before I start making it my own?

While in Kona the next couple of days, I’m going to have breakfast with the friend whose couch I’m crashing on, see “Waiting for Godot” at the Aloha Theater, have dinner with the Z family, probably visit Kona Henna to tell them the jelly fish I got last October worked in bringing me back to the island and request a new one, visit some hotels and resorts and ask for job applications, start getting a Bank of Hawai’i account set up, and watch the sunsets. Most important, I will slow down, relax, breathe and feel the Aloha welcome me to my new home.

ImagePhoto circa approximately 1978, visiting my grandparents, aunt and uncles in Kailua Oahu.

Prologue

In 2005, I traveled to the Big Island for the first time, as the “nanny” for my friends’ kids. The Z’s were looking to buy a condo in Kona, and I tagged along to watch their kids while they went around with the REALTOR. I was hooked. I went back to visit many more times, and was house-sitting for them in August 2012 when I decided, “I want to live here.” Yeah, Hawai’i sounds great and all, but why do I want to live there? To co-opt some of that annoying language I’ve heard, I feel like my best self when I am in Kona (and not just because the humidity does awesome things to my curly hair). I feel peaceful, I love the sound, feel and look of the ocean. The geckos running around make me smile and I talk to them. I want an opportunity to slow down and experience life, which I won’t get living in Silicon Valley where I have to take a job that will cover my mortgage and drive an hour and a half round trip to get there. I need to re-connect with the basics in life, which I got away from when I bought a home here. I have so much STUFF now!

So, here we are in June 2014 and I’m about 3.5 months away from my move. I should have started this blog sooner, but I spend so much time in front of the computer at work that I didn’t want to log on to one when I got home in the evening. However, it’s time. On Sunday.. well, let’s let that be another post, okay? Will you join me on my journey to the Big Island. Aloha and mahalo nui loa.