Finding a house to be my home

An electrician is currently up in my attic, installing another box to support one of my new ceiling fan/lights. I decided to replace the two existing fan/lights, one fan only, and one light fixture so I have four matching fan/lights. We’ve discovered that 2 out of 3 (so far) didn’t have the proper box in the attic to support the units, and I’m hoping the last one doesn’t have the same problem as the electrician doesn’t have any more boxes in his truck. Also, it’s apparently quite hot in the attic, and the poor guy is sweating a lot.

Here’s a little of the background I promised last time on what I’m doing here: I haven’t lived in proper single-family home in at least a dozen years, and I desperately wanted to. Most recently I rented a condo, in California I owned a condo. Prior to that, I lived in a 450 sq ft “in-law unit” in my landlord’s back yard, with the rented single-family home and roommates prior to that. I was very tired of having people so close to me, and in my last condo with a wall of jalousie windows, I could hear a LOT of what happened in my next door neighbor’s unit. Thankfully, they weren’t in it very often (seasonal owners). Also, I got a taste for nesting and making my space most useful and convenient for me when I lived in CA. I still miss that gorgeous kitchen that I remodeled from the studs out. It was time to buy a home.

I knew I wanted to stay near town and near the ocean. I could get a lot more space for less money if I went mauka (up the mountain) or south, but that would also require me to be a bit more self-sufficient and I’m not as rural in sensibilities as needed for moving south. Moving inland and up the mountain means more travel time, and the threat of mold (though I’m sure the temperature difference would have been fabulous). Since I sold nearly all of my possessions before moving to the island, and was renting a furnished condo, buying a “turnkey” (turn over the key, start living immediately) place was a high priority on my list. Finally, I wanted great outdoor living space. We spend so much time outdoors that I hoped to find a home with either an existing, large covered lanai or the space to build one. So, I started looking. Thankfully, I have a fantastic Realtor, who showed me some great properties. I did find the home I purchased on my own, and it was the first place we looked at.

I fell in love with this house, seriously. I probably overlooked some things that now irritate me, but isn’t that how it goes when you’re in love? The landscaping is gorgeous, unique and sortof low-maintenance (I have a landscaper for a close friend, fortunately). I’m surprised at how much joy I get wandering around the yards (they wrap around the entire house), pulling weeds and plucking dead blooms from the plants. There is a beautiful plant across from my office window that attracts butterflies. Hibiscus plants of all colors line the front sidewalk. I have no idea of the names of virtually everything, but it gives me such joy to see all of this beauty. The house is situated really well, at the bottom of a hill and the long part faces the ocean which is on the other side of the houses across the street. If the surf is high, I can hear it pounding the nearby shoreline, and I get some great tradewind action most afternoons. There is a walk-in master closet in the master en suite, a large covered lanai off the living room and a smaller one outside the sliding glass door in the master. I have a second bedroom that is currently my home office, but will also be a guest bedroom. And it was fully furnished when I bought it, which is what led to the garage sale mentioned in my last post.

Next post will talk about the purchase process and what happened after I moved in. A hui hou!

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Observations from Kona

I’ve been here 2.5 weeks now and though I haven’t been out and about a ton (darn work), I’ve started noticing some things I want to share.

1. People like to be nose-out in their parking spaces. This is not just tourists bringing hometown habits here, it’s definitely locals too. I have no idea why people do this (my dad has done it for years), but I’m seeing it in many parking lots.

2. At sunset, you’ll find locals and tourists alike parking alongside the road, in a parking a lot, or on the beach, stopping to appreciate the sunset. It’s a sight to behold, so it’s well worth doing, wherever you happen to be.

3. A bikini top or swimsuit is a perfectly acceptable alternative to a foundation garment, and many times more comfortable. ๐Ÿ™‚ I really like this one.

4. While Hawai’i is ahead of many states in their complete ban of plastic bags in shops, and they use a LOT of wind/solar power, they don’t have an easy way for recycling other than for bottles (glass and plastic) and cans. They have a 5 cent redemption rate for bottles and cans, but I haven’t seen any bins to recycle paper and other forms of plastic. After some research, I’ve found that there are places who will take those types of items for recycling, but you must drop it off. It’s not like the Bay Area where a recycling company provides bins at your home and picks them up.

5. As mentioned, I haven’t been out a lot, but I haven’t seen any speed limits above 55. I’m okay with that. The slower lifestyle is a big draw for me, and considering the views that are available from many of my local roads, I prefer that people drive a bit slower so they don’t distracted at higher speeds.

6. Kona has a built in method for making sure you don’t hide yourself away on your electronics all day. Each weekday afternoon, I have to shut down my laptop around 2 p.m. if not earlier, because it’s getting too hot between the temps inside my condo and the numbers of hours the computer has been on. Today I had to put my cell phone on a chilled bag that is usually used for muscle inflammation, to cool down the phone battery so it could charge. It had only been in direct sunlight for about a half hour, but it had been outside on my lanai table as the sun moved towards it for a good 2 hours.

I’ve unpacked most of my belongings, and am feeling more settled, but now I’m off to run errands including the bank and picking up some basics like cotton balls and small trash bags. Oh, and food. I’m trying to implement a practice I thought of on the mainland which is to buy fresh food twice a week, so I don’t rely too much on packaged, processed stuff by the end of the week. Yes, I’m still buying pre-made salads, but those are made up of fresh food, and they are generally only good for 2-3 days beyond the purchase date so I can’t buy a week’s worth of salads at once. I’m also going to augment my pre-made salads with a salad mix from local farmers, so I can get a larger salad with more greens in it. The added benefit is supporting the local economy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tonight is my stint as a guide on the Halloween Journey at Kona Pacific Public Charter School, and I’m fairly sure I’ve managed to do a rote memorization of my lines. There aren’t many, and I’m taking my flashcards just in case. We’re going “Around the World in 80 Days”, and I’m really looking forward to it. I hope you have a very spooky night!

The first 10 days

Kona Transport delivering my personal possessions
Kona Transport delivering my personal possessions

I’ve now been in my new home for 10 days, and I’m feeling pretty good about the whole thing, Hurricane Ana notwithstanding. Yes, we experienced a hurricane this weekend, but it’s path veered leeward and the Big Island didn’t get more than wind and lots of rain. Where I am really only got rain, and we weren’t bothered by wind or damage to property.

Let’s go back a bit, shall we? This was the week that I started working remotely and it was… challenging. Nothing to do with my move, other than trying to catch up on everything that happened last week. My employer had been acquired as of mid-September, and last weekend was when the people and technology were moved into the new company. That created some technical difficulties that had to be sorted out and worked out. Some of them still aren’t fixed, but we’ll have to deal. Thankfully, some of those issues will die a natural death when we switch over completely to the new company’s systems in another 2-3 weeks, but until then I need to hustle to keep up. My work hours are running approximately 6 a.m. HST – 3 p.m. HST, brief break for a swim to bring down my body temp (sometimes this occurs as early as 1 p.m.) and then back online for an hour or two. I haven’t really established a “life” here, so it’s not like I have a ton of social engagements to take me away from the work. Also, it’s a huge relief to not spend 1.5 – 2 hours commuting on a daily basis, and I can put those hours into work without being completely exhausted. Thursdays are brutal, as I have to be up at 3:40 a.m. or so for a 4 a.m. conference call and my day still goes until about 3 p.m.

One thing I do need to get to work on is regular exercise, and the other is eating clean. I used to have regular walking dates twice a week with girlfriends, and a weekly visit to my trainer (miss you Cyndi!). I don’t have that here, and since I start work so early, I don’t have the opportunity to go for a walk before it gets hots in the morning. As for the food thing, I had a routine of food that I would buy at Trader Joe’s and Fresh and Easy. Since those stores don’t exist here, I have to adjust my shopping and determine what the replacements will be. I’ve had some junk recently that I generally don’t indulge in, but I’ve made an effort to include salads, fruits and veggies. The strawberry papaya and avocado that I had for lunch on Friday were so good! Oh, and I’m eating more “meals” due to the weird hours: my breakfast shake at 6 a.m., second breakfast between 9 and 10 a.m., lunch around 1 p.m. and dinner about 6 p.m. As long as I can keep the meals small, I should be okay with that schedule.

I had dinner with an existing friend on Tuesday night, which was fantastic as I hadn’t been able to see him when I was out here in August. Catching up with him, sitting on the balcony at Humpy’s, listening to the pub trivia and enjoying a very tasty “True Hawaiian pizza” with kalua pork, garlic and pineapple was a fun experience. I may try going back for the trivia night, I used to be pretty good at that sort of thing. On Thursday night I made a new friend, introduced to me by Julie, when the three of us met for Happy Hour at Sam Choy’s. A note about Happy Hour: I’ve been told that the hours have been changing at various places, shortening and ending earlier (i.e. 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Huggo’s ). Conjecture is that this is so that only the tourists can take advantage as the locals have jobs that don’t allow them to make the hours. I’m not sure if this is accurate, but I’m glad that I work from home, on mainland hours, so that I can go Kenichi Pacific for half-price sushi rolls! So, Thursday night at Sam Choy’s was we three women, and we had a great time. I love the marinated poke and the brie wonton. Ono grinds! We laughed, talked, shared and made future plans to get together. I am now going to a burlesque show at My Bar on November 8, which should be fantastic.

Hurricane Ana was still a Tropical Storm on Thursday and Friday, but I was rather nervous since I had no idea what to expect. I did buy two cases of water, a 10-pack of Longboard Lager and a 6 pack of toilet paper, plus assorted other food items. I figure I covered the most important stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚ I made it out to a new doctor appointment Friday morning, and got established with a nearby nurse practitioner. She’s lovely and I’ll probably see her for most of my care. The irritating thing is that the endocrinologist I will be referred to is based in Honolulu and I’ll likely have to fly there to see him for my new patient visit. He only visits Kona twice a month, and he doesn’t have an opening here until February. *sigh* Definite downside to a small island. Early Friday evening, a handful of us were at the pool and it was great to start connecting with my neighbors as a resident. We all shuddered over the cockroaches and compared stories. It’s a good thing I’m not inclined toward pets, as I’ve learned that cats tend to catch and bring roaches into the house, and will drop them on your bed. While you are in it! The lanai chairs and umbrella were pulled in Friday evening, and I made sure that the louvers of the windows near my work desk were closed, as well as pulling the desk away from the windows and moving my laptops elsewhere. Stayed up entirely too late reading and listening to the rain, which started out sporadic and light, and continued throughout the night and into today, becoming fairly heavy at times. I don’t know why but I didn’t sleep well last night, after a week of sleeping wonderfully on the gel-foam mattress pad (absolutely worth the $170!). Maybe it was the heat, humidity or even the noise of the rain on the roof, something I’m not used to anymore. By late Friday night, we had word that Ana was officially a Hurricane but was veering more leeward and we could still expect a lot of rain and wind. I have since heard that further mauka (towards the mountain) was pretty windy as well as rainy, but makai (towards the ocean) we had mostly just rain.

Today was spent piddling about the house and reading some more. I do have a to-do list and I must work on it tomorrow since I lagged today. Having a rainy day made lazy curling up inside much more appealing, but I can only let myself do it for one day. Tomorrow is the start of a new week and I have lots to do, including backing up my phone so I can get a new one that has a better camera so I can take gorgeous sunset photos. I’ll be editing this post to add a photo from Friday afternoon, but I need to do that backup first to pull the photo from my phone. Stay tuned friends!

Acclimating

Ooof. I’m tired, my body aches and is covered in dried sweat, I’m itchy in too many places and have multiple welts from bug bites. Also, I’m fairly sure my credit card is smoking from the workout it’s gotten the last couple of days. All in all, a successful first few days, but tomorrow starts the true test: when I start acting like I live here, and working remotely. Vacation is over!

I spent half of Wednesday traveling, and was picked up by Eric and Julie. They gave me the lowdown on the events for the weekend, and we made plans to have dinner that night. In the afternoon, I set about unpacking and making my condo livable, which included a trip up to the KTA for essentials, coffee creamer and a six-pack of Longboard Lager included. A quick swim in the afternoon helped bring down my body temperature, and I’m going to try and make that a habit while I can. I missed the first night’s sunset but we did go up to Bianelli’s for some stellar pizza. I can’t go back there too often, or I’ll need to buy some new clothes. It’s good to know they offer slices-to-go, however! Had my first, “omigoddes, there’s a cockroach IN my house!” experience, and we declared a detente when I couldn’t smack him and he crawled into the grooves of the wood vaulted ceiling. I went to bed fairly early because my body was (and still is) on Pacific time, but slept poorly due to the new surroundings, a very firm mattress and general body discomfort.

Thursday morning I was up bright and early, before the sun, which should be the norm for a while. I was able to locate the cockroach and scoop him outside before he died in the house. Plans had changed a bit, but I was on the road by about 7:30 to go pick up my car, which went smoothly. If you have the opportunity to ship your car to the Big Island, and you are on the West Coast, use Hawaii Car Transport. They ship into Kawaihae, which is maybe an hour north of Kona, and they only charge $1075 from Oakland, which is cheaper than Matson. There is a ship sailing weekly on Wednesdays, and the pick up was very smooth. Customer Service was terrific, and there’s a gas station fairly close to fill that tank back up, which needs to be at 1/4 full or less when you drop it off. I piddled around for the rest of the morning, got in a brief swim in the afternoon and hit the KTA with coupons, and the BOH there with a deposit. Again, great customer service at both places. You WILL pay more for food/beverage here due to the high cost of transport, so expect it. I picked up some dinner at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (much bigger selection than on the mainland, including burgers/fries, breakfast and musubi options), and started eating it while sitting on a lava wall at the top of my street, watching the sun set. Another early night to bed, and yes, I sweated and woke up frequently.

Friday was the day I planned to get stuff accomplished, and I mostly did. Throughout the day I did laundry, a couple of hours of work email, checked FB numerous times, and started my credit card workout at Walmart, Target and Sports Authority. I needed to pick up such essentials as shorts (which I haven’t owned in more years that I can remember), shortie pajamas (long pants aren’t cutting it), slippahs (aka flip-flops), and additional swimsuits. I did wander downtown in the morning to check out the activity and had to continually check to make sure I wasn’t openly drooling at all the very fit athletes training in the area. This occurred on Saturday too, I’m ashamed to admit. I did manage to pick up a cute Ironman visor in Ironman Village, which I was very grateful for the next day. There was actually rain in the late afternoon/evening, which I thoroughly enjoyed, as I’m from drought-stricken California and I sorely miss the rain. It also brought the temps down, which was a relief as it’s been in the high-80s this week.

So, Saturday. Epic, amazing, incredible, exhausting, inspiring. Any of those words would do to describe the experience of volunteering at an Aid Station. I got there with Eric and Devin about 11:30; the aid station was one sponsored by Devin’s school so the volunteers were parents, kids and others associated with the school. They’ve been doing this for years, I believe, and they have it down. I felt a bit guilty for arriving when we did and immediately sitting down with a plate lunch, but I was ever so grateful that I had when I finally left 6 hours later. Those volunteers work HARD. I spent most of the time from about 12:30 to 5:30 standing in the middle of the road, among the caution cones, holding out cups of water, calling out “water, water”, squatting to pick up fresh cups and repeating. It’s a very specific stance, since you want the athletes to be able to grab the cup off the flat of your palm on their way past, and not spill it. We had cups of ice, Perform (a fitness drink), cola, red bull, water and chicken broth, half bananas, orange slices, gel or “Gu”. We were on both sides of the lane since we were stationed right at the turnaround point, so we’d have the athletes come up one side and pass us again on the other. It didn’t always work like that, as in the early hour they might head back to the side where they originally got their treat, but when we got to the point where there were athletes in both directions, it all worked out. The athletes themselves were completely amazing. You could tell the pros in the beginning, and those who have done a lot of these: they kept a steady stride, called out for what they needed, signaled if they acknowledged your call and were going to take your offering, and SO MANY took the breath to say “thank you.” That’s the part that surprised and humbled me. These people have already swam 2.6 ocean miles, ridden a bike 112 miles and run a little over 5 miles by the time they got to us. And they still had the presence of mind to spare a precious breath to say thank you. There were a lovely couple of tourists standing near me, for most of about 4 hours, who took lots of photos with camera and iPod, and they frequently stepped in between athletes and picked up the cups that were dropped on the ground. They weren’t volunteers, I’m fairly sure they weren’t American, and they just stepped up to help when they noticed it was needed. The energy of the volunteers was sustained pretty high, we cheered the athletes as they came by, they were announced on a speaker, there was music from the radio station playing through that speaker, we were constantly reminded to hydrate, and we were there for them. Personally, I didn’t want to stop because I was so inspired. I saw professionals, amateurs, amputees, many nationalities, fit bodies, not so fit bodies, runners, walkers, smiles, grim determination and sheer, unrelenting focus. At 5:30 p.m. I finally called it quits because my friends had left earlier for another engagement and I wanted to walk the mile home before the sun set. I slogged my way home with my booty of a dirty Kokua Crew t-shirt and plastic Ironman bag filled with 5 oranges and two large bottles of water, my hair slung back in a hasty pony tail because my cute top-buns had fallen out fairly early, and a smile in my heart. I was definitely in bed early after a hasty shower.

Today, I started my island life, which meant a bit of lounging with coffee in the morning followed by errands. Up to the Kings Shops in Waikaloa for some proper slippahs with orthopedic support from The Walking Company (computer-assisted fitting!), membership at Costco plus a gel-foam mattress pad, a new desk, chair and reading lamp from Target (those got put together tonight with a lot of sweating and some swearing), and a run to Wal-mart for some hair do-dads to keep my hair out of my face. Oh, and a stop at Safeway for some proper salads and such, since my kitchen gear won’t get here for about a week. Right now, my desk is all set up with my work stuff, ready for tomorrow morning, and I’ve been typing this out on my lanai, with a Kona Brewing Company Big Wave Golden Ale keeping me company.

Unfortunately, 5:30 a.m. will come way too soon, so I’m going to log off and go hose down.before crawling onto my (hopefully) soft mattress pad and sleeping the sleep of the just. Welcome to Kona!

Aid StationAid Station 5 at the Kailua Kona Ironman 2014

Leavin’ on a jet plane

[Ed. note: this post was hand-written in my Hawaii notebook on Oct 8]

Sitting in the boarding area for Gate 11 in Kahului Maui (Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t fly direct from San Jose to Kona, and I used miles to buy my one-way ticket), almost at the end of this stage of my journey. When I step off my next flight, it will be as a resident of Kailua Kona, Hawaii, and my journey will continue in a new direction.

The last week has been fairly emotional. I realize and accept that I am a bit of a soft touch, but I think many people would be affected the same way when saying “good bye” to so many people. As much as possible, I tried (and succeeded) to see the people who are most important to me. There were definitely tears, then. Saying good bye to the various pieces of my family was heart-wrenching. Overall, I have cried tears of loss but in a somewhat restrained manner. I fully expect to lose it tonight. And that’s okay. I am embarking on new adventure and my life will never be the same (cliche alert!). While I do expect to see my family and friends again, I will do so as a different person and I plan to do a bit of mourning for our current relationships.

[Ed. note: I absolutely had 3 glasses of champagne on my last flight, and just inhaled a rather large Longboard at the Maui Snack Bar. Let’s be grateful I didn’t also take advantage of the half-price shot.]

My friend Eric will pick me up in Kona and we will travel through the madness that is “pre-Ironman”. I’m already hearing about traffic and delays caused by athletes out training. I have a volunteer assignment on Saturday and possibly another on Friday night. Picking up my car will occur Thursday morning after the famous “Underwear Run” (Iron-athletes in their skivvies? Yes, please! And bring on the locals and tourists to help celebrate!) I’m hoping that being thrown into local events will help stave off disorientation and homesickness. Also, it should be a lot of fun! What a fantastic experience in which to be involved!

Should be boarding in a few minutes, so I’ll close for now. Mahalo for following along!

One month and counting…

I’m moving into the final stretch, pun intended. Now that my big event is out of the way, I can focus back on the move to Kona and I don’t have a lot of time to waste as I fly out one month from today.

Using some references from my friend Julie Ziemels’s upcoming book, “How to Move to Kona Successfully”, I contacted Hawaii Car Transport today. Not only are they a bit cheaper shipping from the Port of Oakland, they also ship to Hilo AND Kona on the Big Island. Cheaper, plus I don’t have to worry about getting a ride to Hilo to pick up the vehicle, PLUS my vehicle will arrive no later than Oct 8? SOLD! Per their website, http://www.hawaiicartransport.com, shipping from the mainland ports of LA, Seattle or Oakland to the Hawaii ports of Honolulu, Hilo, Kahului, Kona orย Nawiliwili will run $1075.00 total. According to the nice young man on the phone, shipping takes no more than 14 days. That gives me until Sept 22 to buy a vehicle and get it to the Port of Oakland. Best of all, I get free storage in Kona for 10 days in case the ship arrives before I get there, or I have trouble getting a ride to the port. The CSR I spoke with was able to make me a provisional reservation without me even knowing what vehicle I would be shipping! So far, I’m having a seriously great experience with them and would recommend them. I’ll let you know if there are any problems with the actual transport.

Now I need to hit up my references and get myself a vehicle! Currently I own a 2004 Miata, and that just isn’t practical for day-to-day living in Hawaii. I’d like to be able to go to the beaches and some of them are across lava fields that would rip out the Miata suspension. Also, everyone and their mother will visit me, so I want to be able to accommodate more people than the 2-seater Miata will fit. Oh, and their luggage, but my baby has no junk in her trunk. Buying a second vehicle now allows me to experience the least downtime of being without a vehicle. I’ll just have the 4 days between when the buyer picks up the Miata, and when I go to the airport. As I’ll be staying with my parents, I’ll mostly be staying home to maximize my family time anyway.

Next steps: transferring funds so I have cash to buy the new vehicle, and finding a transport company for the household goods/checking UPS shipping bulk shipping rates.

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.