Final Hawaii Blog

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Final Hawaii Blog

I just spent 4 months in Hawaii. Right now it doesn’t quite register. Like how it doesn’t register that it’s snowing in Maryland and I’m about to step off the plane in shorts and a t-shirt (at least I’ll get to show off my tan).

Hawaii has been an amazing experience and I want to share my story with future ASH students so they can get a glimpse of the possibilities that await them in Hawaii.

My main concern with school was that I wanted to do as little of it as possible so I registered for only 3 classes and chose classes that were only held on Tuesday and Thursday. I definitely recommend this as it allows much frolick time. Working out this schedule with classes that would transfer credit back to UMD was a bit of a headeache though.

If you’re interested in classes I took, then read the following:

HIST151 World History up to 1500 with Prof. Bentley (8/10 rating)

I like this class a lot because I felt like I needed to learn some history so I was interested and motivated to learn. Bentley is also a pretty good lecturer. He wrote the textbook for the class so it is a very organized and easy to follow class.

LLEA122 Greek and Roman Mythology (8/10)

I liked this class not because it was really boring (it was amazingly boring), but because it was really easy. I usually couldn’t bring myself to sit through this class but I faithfully attended every Exam Review session because the TA, Josh Hevert, tells you everything you need to know for the exams.

GEOG405 Water in the Environment with Prof. Tom Giambelluca (9/10)

First off Tom is awesome. Everyone calls him Tom and he is an extremely knowledgeable professor but also a great guy. Throughout the semester we worked ona research project involving the manoa stream watershed. We installed 2 weather stations, recorded all kind of data, and were like amateur scientists. It was actually pretty great.

Housing:

I spent the first few days at a hostel on Seaside avenue called Hostel Aloha (right next to campus), to get my bearings with UH. Then I spent a few days in a hostel on Lemon st. in Waikiki to be close to the beach. I finally found a place in Waikiki on Craigslist and ended up staying there for September and October. My roomates were awesome: A 29 year old ex-mormon gay guy who had just quit working at Greenpeace and a 25 year old girl from Colorado who dropped out of UH pretty quickly. So with 2 unemployed roomates and my own open schedule we adventured often and camped out at North Shore almost every weekend.

After 2 months I got tired of living in the city so I moved up to North Shore. I had always wanted to be a WWOOFER (willing workers on organic farms) so I went to the farmers market in Haleiwa (Sundays 9AM-1PM) and talked to all the farmers about WOOFING on their farm. I ended up WOOFING on a chicken farm that was 200 yards from Chun’s Reef surf spot. In exchange for 10-20 hours of work a week I got to live in a little shack on their property. My responsibilities were to give the chickens food and water every day at sunrise and in the afternoon, as well as other tasks and projects. I also helped with the chicken production (catching, killing, de-feathering, cleaning), which was a little disturbing at first but eventually became normal. This was one of the coolest places I’ve ever lived. North Shore is an awesome place and has even better surf (at the right time of year). If you’re interested feel free to contact me.

Transportation:

The first couple weeks I took the Bus everywhere. The bus service is really good and it can take you almost anywhere on the island. After a few weeks I bought a van on Craig list and this opened up the island a lot. This sparked much more exploration, surfing, and camping trips. I got lucky too and got the van for real cheap and managed to sell it for more than I bought it. (If you’re interested in buying a vehicle there are many people that will sell for cheap because they are trying to leave the island).

Food:

Down to Earth Grocery store: on the corner of King and University. You might think its expensive since it a health food store but they have specials that are very reasonable. Plus, they have the best peanut butter! You grind it fresh

in the store yourself!

Bangkok Chef: Awesome Thai food. Almost fast food. Very large portions for cheap. I call it the Chipotle of Hawaii.

Activities:

This is the best part. Lets start with the best…

Surfing:

I learned to surf here and got totally hooked.

Winter Season (Nov. – March): Large waves in North but small in South

Summer Season (March – Sept.): Generally flat in the north but good waves in the south

The windward side is more remote and unexplored for surfing so I don’t know much about it.

The south is a good spot but can be crowded since its so close to town.

White Plains on the West side is a good beginner spot. The leeward side is risky because they say you’ll get your car broken into there.

The north is one of the best surf spots in the world. Large swells hit the north about once a week in the winter and can produce VERY big waves…the biggest I saw were about 30 feet and people were surfing them!

Getting a board:

-rent in Waikiki (you can usually bargain with them there)

-Craigslist

I found my board on Craigslist. This guy Patrick on the windward side rents/sells boards for a good price and will buy back the board he sells you for half the price when you leave the island.

The Leisure Center on campus does surf trips. I went on one but wasn’t too impressed.

Hiking:

Stairway to Heaven: Stairs leading to top of mountain. Best views I saw of the island.

Manoa falls: nice easy hike near campus

Soccer:

5:30 PM Sat. and Sun. at the field past the Hawaiian studies building on Date st.

5:30 PM Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat. at Kapiolani Park at the Diamond Head end of the Park (furthest away from Waikiki). Caution: this group can get rough.

Ultimate Frisbee:

Ask Maya or Isaac for info.

Rock climbing:

Small cliff at Makapu’u and larger, harder cliff at North Shore near Mokolueia. Sport climbing but very easy to set up for top rope too. Don’t need any static rope because its set up for you to drag the dynamic rope up through bolts at the top. Check out the Climb Aloha site for info.

Beaches: Oahu is one big beach. Explore, relax, enjoy.

Sailing: Check out Ala Wai Yacht club or Hawaii yacht club. One of them has friendly races on Friday afternoons that you supposedly can join if you ask nicely or bring some beer.


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Winner!

Congratulations to the winner of our blog contest: Dan Mehrez.  Read his post “Inter-Island Sailing Adventure” here: winner

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the blog this semester!  It’s been wonderful to read about your ventures in the islands.  Many thanks also to our contest judge, Dr. Hye-ryeon Lee, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

Keep the news coming!


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Dan at Sea

Inter-Island Sailing Adventure by Dan Mehrez

At Sea

My eyes open briefly to see the sails bellow with the wind. Ever so slightly though. The boat rocks in every direction as it dances with the waves. The boom and the ropes swing back and forth on every rock of the boat, creating a smack and keeping a steady tempo with the dance. I glance up at the dark sky and gaze at the spread of stars before my eyes, and then they close again. A few minutes later my eyes open again to the same scene. The lighthouse on the island of Lana’i looks no closer.

“At this rate we’ll get there next week” I think to myself. We left Ala Wai harbor in Waikiki just eight hours ago.

Down below sleeps Captain Charley, and above deck on the bench next to me are his two granddaughters Maggie and Alex. They’re practically sleeping on top of each other to share the narrow bench. Across from them on the other bench I sit, locked in a constant struggle to keep awake. A struggle that I lose every few minutes.

Eventually, after several slow hours of sailing, Charley stirs and comes up to join me.

“Where’s the wind go to?” he asks me.

“Not here Charley.”  But sure enough, as soon as those words leave my lips the sails are pushed out and the boat begins slicing through the water. I tell Charley he must be magical.

Captain Charley

Though I don’t really think he’s magical, Charley sure is an interesting character. Born in a very small town in Missouri, he left home at 18 to join the navy and has worked as a Navy Diver for over three decades, traveling the world and even working aboard a submarine for an entire month. As I write this on October 20th, Charley is somewhere in the middle of the ocean, sailing towards Guam and then on to the Philippines. I worry a little for him. Not because I think he’ll have any trouble, but because he won’t have any eardrums to fill with constant chatter. Charley is the single most talkative person I’ve ever met. And so I briskly slip down under the deck to get some sleep before I become captured by strings of run-on sentences.

Several hours later I awake to see the island of Lana’i off the port side of the boat. Nearly the entire side of the island drops hundreds of feet to the ocean below, where the waves crash and send pillars of white foam into the air. The land above is parched and brown.

A view of Lana‘i

We soon come to a break in the cliffs where the marina can be found and we motor in to a rickety old dock. The cleats are old and loose so we tie the ropes around the entire dock to be safe. After a nice cool shower we strut over to the fancy 5-star hotel and stroll through like we own the place, sampling some fresh lemonade on the way. At the front we catch the hotel bus up to town and celebrate our secret agent skills with some lunch.

The town is tiny. There is one small grocery store, a handful of small cafes, and a bank on the corner that looks just like a house (except for the sign in the yard reading “Bank”). After taking the grand tour we head back to the boat and I wander off to the beach to watch the surfers. I sleep on the beach that night under the stars.

The next morning we have a light breakfast and depart for Maui. It’s a short three hour cruise and we soon find ourselves in the boat channel, with surfers riding waves on either side of us. We dock at the gas station temporarily and let Charley loose to find us a slip for the night. Sure enough, within a half-hour Charley comes back and announces he’s found a slip for us. Sometimes it’s useful to have a motor mouth.

Docked

That day we roam around the town, enjoy some Maui ice cream, and I go for a sunset run on the beach. I pass an older man with long grey hair and funny spectacles standing on the beach with a drink in his hand. He smiles at me and says “Good evening.” I greet him back and notice in the yard behind him a dozen more old hippies with long grey hair sipping their brews.

“Only in Maui” I think to myself.

I sleep soundly on the gently rocking boat that evening and at the first crack of dawn I hear the engine start and Charley steers us out of the harbor. I go up and watch the sun rise behind the mountains of Maui. That day we sail from dawn until midnight. The wind is at our backs for the whole sail and the seas are huge. Occasionally a large swell overtakes us and we glide down the face of the wave as though we’re surfing it. A tugboat passes us going the other direction and we watch as it fights the swells, shooting up walls of water with every wave.

Soon we see the outline of Diamond Head, then the lights of Waikiki, and finally the channel markers guiding us home. We take down the sails, motor in to our slip, and drag ourselves off the boat. As I walk down the dock I feel like I’m still aboard the boat. I probably look drunk. I thank Charley for the amazing experience, say goodbye to Alex and Maggie, and with disheveled hair and salt crusted skin, begin my stumbling swagger back home to dream of waves and winds and the open seas.


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STUDENT SPOTLIGHT II: Maida Besic and Dan Mehrez

Maida and Dan enjoying the red ginger

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT II:  Maida Besic and Dan Mehrez

Senior year sometimes brings much more uncertainty than freshman year.  What to do once the degree is in hand?   Maida Besic and Dan Mehrez, both seniors spending part of their last college year at UH, seem to take it all in stride.  Neither has decided exactly what will happen next semester, but their spirits are hardly dampened by the uncertainty.  In fact, just the opposite seems true.  To them, the world is open with possibility.

Before coming to UH, Maida attended Oakland University, a large commuter school in the suburbs of Detroit.  She always worked while taking classes.  Her jobs varied from pretzel baker to real estate agent to leasing consultant.  She will graduate in December, and it’s been wonderful NOT to work this semester, she says.  Her days are filled with studying, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and her list of Hawai‘i to-do items includes surfing, sailing, scuba diving, and horseback riding.  Life wasn’t always so leisurely, though.  Maida and her family lived in Bosnia when the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in the early 1990s, and they spent some time in a concentration camp.  After release, the family moved several times, living in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Chicago, finally settling in Michigan when she was in second grade.

In August of this year, Maida enrolled at UH and the ASH program, taking 6 courses, including Arabic and physics.  Through Oakland University she is also taking an online religion class and is studying aikido in Honolulu. She beams when speaking of her UH Hawaiian Studies class, describing the teacher, Lilikala Kame‘eleihiwa, as “amazing”, and one of the best instructors she’s ever had.  “Her teaching is like telling a story,” and every day as class begins, the students gather outside to chant in Hawaiian, asking permission to learn.

Maida, always poised and articulate, is involved with the Common Bond Institute (http://www.cbiworld.org/index.htm), an organization that sponsors conflict resolution and transformation among different races, cultures, and religions.  She is considering how her new contacts here in Hawai‘i can become involved with the organization.  Maida always planned to continue her studies at graduate school immediately after graduation, but now she is considering some travel first.  Perhaps travel would be more valuable, considering her interest in social psychology and world issues of conflict and resolution.

Traveling and being on the move seem to be where Dan is most at home.  He has a bit of a restless spirit, spending a lot of his time outdoors. Somehow he’s managed to fit college in between all his ramblings, and a semester in Hawai‘i meshes perfectly with his adventurous nature.  His interests include rock climbing, kayaking, and hiking, to name a few, and he’s been a trip leader for excursions to Norway. He even speaks a little Norwegian and understands Hebrew.  Dan spent time in Lake Tahoe as a snowboard instructor and afterwards rode a motorcycle across the country, back home to Maryland.  The bike at some point began to break down and eventually required a screwdriver to start, which just added to the experience.  All this Jack Kerouac style cavorting might seem to point to a rough personality, but Dan is always gracious, soft spoken, and fun.

To read about one of his excursions in Mexico, check out this site: http://liquidadventureskayakschool.org/mexico-advanced-trip-dec-09-by-dan-mehrez/.

A geography major, Dan enjoys the physical openness of UH’s architecture and the green surroundings, which makes sense, given his affinity with the outdoors. He is especially enjoying his class, “Water in the Environment” and professor Tom Giambelluca, who Dan says is experienced and passionate about the subject, but laid back at the same time.  Dan is also planning an independent study with one of his professors back at the University of Maryland, possibly involving organic farming here on O‘ahu.

Other plans while in Hawai‘i are to revisit surfing and to crew on a sailboat, which will include a 5-day trip to the outer islands.  Dan has one more semester after fall, and then graduation, but he’s considering traveling to Mexico before finishing school, or perhaps staying in Hawai‘i.  Who knows?  There’s plenty of time to decide.

Even though Maida and Dan have different backgrounds and interests, a semester in Hawai‘i offers both a place to continue their pursuits and ponder the next step.  We’ll have to check in with them at the end of the semester to see what future they choose.