Life in Hawaii

When we left Omaha, Nebraska on Dec. 28, 1994, it was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. We arrived 16 hours later in Honolulu (via Chicago). It was in the low 80's. I took off my long-sleeved shirt at the airport and I haven't worn one since.

We were greeted in Honolulu by thick clouds that shrouded the mountains. They were the kind of clouds that would make us expect a thunderstorm. We soon realized that these clouds are always there - that it is always raining 'mauka' (toward the mountains) and that it is usually clear 'makai' (toward the ocean). The phenomena is called orographic precipitation and you don't get to see it in mountainless Nebraska.

I was invited to take a one-semester position for Spring1995 to teach two courses in cartography within the Department of Geography. The chair of the Department met us at the airport and took us to our apartment in faculty housing near the University.

This is the view of Diamond Head from our dining area.

This is the view from our 'lanai' (porch).

This is our view of the hotels at Waikiki. Waikiki is the tourist hot-spot in Honolulu. Its tall buildings contribute to one of the highest population densities in the world. University of Hawaii-Manoa student dorms are located in the foreground on both the left and right sides of the picture.

Our two children were concerned about their new school so we first visited Hokulani Elementary School. Like most schools here, it was constructed with exterior walkways. Schools and homes in Hawaii generally do not have air conditioning but are constructed with louvered windows that maximize air circulation. The trade winds from the northeast usually provide a cool breeze.

Tantalus drive provides a beautiful overview of the city. The drive winds it way up a mountain near Manoa. In this picture you can see Diamond Head with Waikiki on the right and part of the University campus in the lower right.

The University is located in Manoa valley. The campus is beautifully landscaped with many types of tropical trees and shaded walkways.

The buildings vary in architecture from the elegant greek revival to the 60's factory look.

The view from Diamond Head is stunning. The walk-up to the former military bunker on top takes about 45 minutes. The path takes you through a series of unlit tunnels and a spiral staircase. From the top, you can see the hotels of Waikiki.

You can also see the University and our apartment from Diamond Head (pink arrow).

One of our favorite places to visit was Hanauma Bay, a beach and coral reef fish sanctuary near Honolulu. The Bay is filled with fish. Snorkeling is a favorite activity here and you can see many types of tropical fish.

The cost of living is high in Hawaii. Our apartment is $800 a month. Food prices are at least 1/3 higher than on the mainland (never refer to it as 'the states;' you'll be corrected). A gallon of milk is $4.65. Bulky items are particular expensive. Breakfast cereal varies between $5.00 to $8.00 a box. There are sales and we found one grocery store that sells milk regularly at $2.99 a gallon. Of course, the cost of housing is astronomical. They generally start at about $350,000. This house would be about $500,000.

The weather is almost always perfect and one wonders why people would choose to live in any other type of climate. Daytime temperatures are in the mid-80's. At night, it usually gets down to 70 degrees. One night, it got down to 59. People thought that was very cold.

Two agricultural crops have been dominant in Hawaii - sugar cane and pineapples. Both are in decline. This sugar mill recently went out of business in Waipahu, near Honolulu. There is now only one sugar cane processing plant left on the island. By the way, only raw sugar is made in Hawaii. The raw sugar is sent to California to be processed (C&H Sugar stands for California and Hawaii).

Pineapples are also no longer canned on the island of Oahu. Pineapples are still grown in the central part of the island. They are consumed locally or exported as whole pineapples.

The North Shore of Oahu is particularly beautiful. Waimea Bay is a favorite spot for surfing and swimming.

There are many other beaches along the North Shore.

No, we haven't surfed. We did go to Sandy Beach one day and I went into the water in an area that has very high waves called 'The Gas Chambers' . Locals go out with their boogie boards (short surf boards used for body surfing). The power of the waves is amazing. I got caught under the curl a few times. Once, the curl put my face down into the sand and scraped it along the bottom for awhile. I may have done a somersault but I'm not sure. I lost all sense of orientation. I got back on the beach and walked-off in a daze.

Swimming isn't always possible at the beaches because the waves may be too high. In the winter, they're too high on the north and western side of the islands. In the summer, they're too high on the southern side. The waves are usually 1-3 feet. You can't go near the water when the waves are 3-5 feet. Winter waves on the north shore get up to 25 feet. The surf report is a major part of the weather forecast.

We will miss Hawaii. The people have always been very friendly. But, in many ways, it's easier visiting than living in paradise.