Sociological Homework



Jane Elliott

As seen in “Eye of the Storm,” it only takes one person with a dominant character to control a room of people. Jane Elliott goes on to prove her theory, using Hitler’s methods, from third graders in California to college students in New York to working adults in Britain, of segregation. This same process is still seen in schools today and is identified as bullying; kids who lash out at other students and even their teachers. The teachers can have this prejudice too against students who are slower to learn due to dyslexia, color blindness, or autism.

These disadvantaged students do not see themselves represented in media or toys they may play with. There is not a number of them to stand up for their rights in each classroom. It’s usually 1 for every 30 students that will struggle for a reason beyond financial, relational, or personal control. The student might want to learn, but the parent isn’t educated enough or is too distracted working to support their other kids to pay attention. The teacher doesn’t appreciate the distraction that child brings to the classroom and the time they take away from other students. The children without these learning disadvantages see that it is ok to single these kids out and harass them.

The reality for these slow learners is that they are not as important to their families, peers, teachers, and the media — four out of five agents of socialization. This is a sad realization for these young people and it will go on to influence everything they do in their daily lives. They will feel less important, less needed, and less intelligent. Their families will fight more over the time, finances, and behaviors of the individual. Their peers will tease them and leave them to sit in the corner in class and alone in the lunch room.


The teachers will get flustered because they don’t know how to handle the situation, the lack of education in society about it, and the lack of staff to help give that student a chance to learn and thrive at their ability level. Cartoons aimed at children don’t show kids like them, so they must not be normal. Other animals in nature prey on the weak, so they must be like a broken zebra in a field of lions — and that’s what it feels like to them. This is their reality as they have come to know it based on the consequences put upon them externally leading to internal conflict.

Learning disabilities are not the fault of their owner. These students are human and they want their basic needs to be met too. They want to feel warm, safe, and capable — of completing the paragraph to read aloud, to color by numbers correctly, and to make it through lunch without a disturbance that further plays on their anti-social behavior. Not everyone on the autism spectrum is a savant and not every other student in the class will grow up to be astronauts and doctors, but the competition is there — it need be more equal.

By more equal I mean, it shouldn’t be the colorblind against those with glasses or 20/20 vision competing for a job as an electrician, but the person more able to do the job correctly. Society has made it easier on those unable to see or hear as clear as others by providing glasses and hearing aids, but what about those students who can’t differentiate between colors. They are not even given the chance to compete because they, and those around them, know they will lose. This is an unfair advantage, but perhaps that provides the power differential necessary to maintain competition in the education and work force realms.


People might like to think that they work better as individuals, and that might have some truth to it, but it has been proven how well we can use that individualism together to achieve greatness — the idea, the builder, the moderator, the inspector — of planes, skyscrapers, and cell phones. These students shouldn’t be singled out for a disability beyond their control, only for their lack of trying in any individual’s case. People like to help those that see them helping themselves. People in power, the students without learning disabilities, shouldn’t have to put other children in a lower social position in order to achieve their goals. The teachers shouldn’t allow this behavior to happen as it lowers the self-esteem of those picked on and the morale of the class by leaving the shy kids as a quiet witness to these brutalities.

Everyone struggles with issues — personal flaws, public persona, financial obligations, family issues, and finding themselves — whatever that means to them. Jane Elliott should be more of an influence in classes everywhere along with another good film, based on real life, called “Freedom Writers” which is about the methods used to stop the pain of segregation. The teacher had the students write to Miep Gies, the woman who saved Anne Frank from the Hitler regime, and she flew from Amsterdam to visit their class in Long Beach, California.

It might be easier to judge someone based on the color of their skin rather than the less obvious internal differences, but that doesn’t make either acceptable. From a functionalist point of view, these students serve as motivation for classrooms and society. Don’t be the student who can’t read quickly, color correctly, or go to sleep at night without banging their head on the wall. Don’t be the student that can’t get certain jobs when the problem to add shape recognition to the colors is easily fixable; or the student who can’t coordinate their business attire for the office, and accept that they may only work in black-and-white fashion industries.


These seemingly unforeseen inabilities can also pose a health risk to those that suffer and those around them. Only by knowing which light, red or green, goes on top or to the left of a traffic light can someone who is colorblind tell the difference at an intersection. Someone with dyslexia is likely to say the number wrong, but type it correctly, or vice versa which affects them in class, at work, and on vacation. These people don’t need the added stigma to this ordeal.

Someone with autism might be sweet in the classroom, but a teacher’s nightmare on the playground. They can be nice during lunch, but hold food in their cheeks at dinner posing a choking hazard and a lack of eating. These situations can be difficult, and not something just anyone is capable of dealing with. Some autistic kids don’t portray this behavior, but society needs to get rid of the stigma and replace it with understanding.

This system stabilizes society right now, giving people without these issues something negative outside themselves to focus on. This builds the non-issue people’s self-esteem and maintains a balance in society so that people can continue to feel an unneeded struggle and feel right about the position in life that they live. People may feel that they have earned this situation or that they don’t deserve these difficulties. This puts more strain on an issue that if worked on together could have less of a negative impact, so people are free to focus on more purposeful things in their lives.


People feel this system works, but having states opt out of the No Child Left Behind act because the schools, teachers, parents, and community can’t keep up with the demands that advancements in evolution and technology demand of us is not a working system. It is dysfunctional and gives purpose to those who struggle to change the way things work. They fight in the political system, they fight for civil rights, and they fight for a better tomorrow. A day that will bring a bit of change and a bit more sunshine into the dim looking futures of those that are bullied for seeming to appear less worthy in the eyes of society.

A famous quote by Bert Lance, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In this instance, if it serves a function and society is continuing on, then people shouldn’t interfere with the process. Lance also states, “… The trouble with government:…not fixing things that are broken.”  C. Wright Mills argues that as a social product, the human mind might be deteriorating in quality and culture. Some might argue his tumultuous lifestyle conflicted with his theory. Society thrives on conflict to drive motivation and innovation. This means that giving these kids a chance could lead to more positive social interaction and change.

“We don’t need a melting pot…We need a salad bowl…You want the vegetables…to                             maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.” – Jane Elliott

*all images collected from Google

Posted in Art, Education, Family, Friends, Government, History, Inspiration, Media, People | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volcanoes and Rain

King Kamahameha

King Kamehameha statue

Caleb got up before my alarm and we were both in the kitchen when ours rang together. I cut up the two abui from yesterday into quarters and the edges are quick to brown. The inside is as soft as ripe persimmon and tastes like mushy honeydew to Caleb and a flan-like dessert to me – easy to scoop too. We shared a plate and I grabbed two spoons. I tried eating the waxy peel, but it will go into the trash bin along with the grape-sized seed. I washed our dishes while Caleb packed us up and we dropped the bag to the car before walking into Bear’s Cafe for more food.

Caleb ordered waffles and sausage. I ordered biscuits and gravy with eggs and reminded him that we had four hours of spelunking ahead – we’re going to need the calories. I got half of my cold brew coffee to-go so we could leave by 8am. This would get us from Hilo to middle-of-nowhere just in time, 8:45. On the way, we managed to pass the third King Kamehameha statue dedicated in 1997. The original was thought to be lost at sea in 1880 and a replacement was erected in Honolulu. When the original was found in 1912 it was put up in Kapaau, near the King’s birthplace, also on Big Island.

through the cave

through the cave

We got gas at $2.75 before leaving town, stopped at the ATM some miles from the house, before the roads went from paved and lined with trees to pitted and lined with shorter plants too. We parked behind the two cars in the driveway. There is another couple, Marshall and Allison from Salem, Oregon, standing there as Harry, our cave guide, walks up. We grab hard hat, gloves, and flashlight before making our way through the trees, but not before going over the rules – don’t touch anything!

We’re reminded that we may bring water, a small bag (so it doesn’t touch anything), and our long sleeves/pants with good shoes on are approved. I get to use a flush toilet outhouse, complete with crescent moon and full acoustics, before we descend. Harry unlocks the door and stepping inside I realized this was no ordinary lava tube – this was Kazamura Cave. I could’ve read reviews before coming, or have checked their website, but that would’ve ruined the surprise. We will use a few ladders and one rope to assist in navigation of this beautiful, dark, wet tunnel cut through the earth.


up and up

Harry is knowledgeable, not just about this cave, but Mammoth and Carlsbad (that we’ve been to) and about a hundred that we haven’t. He asked what we do and the employed, engineer and lawyers, made the top ten list of common guests; others were doctors, biologists, and programmers. I enjoy small tour groups so much, max of six allowed, because of the amount of time and details shared. We helped each other see different holes, shapes, and bones. There are roots, other biological matter, and anomalies of 1800*C elements cooling at impressive speeds and leaving their history for us to admire.

We saw a mile of the cave and about 500 feet of height explored. I found the total darkness unnerving and then very relaxing as we all stood there listening to the cave rain and I spun around unable to see myself but I could feel the wind movement. Turning on our flashlights again after at least five minutes of complete blackness hitting the corneas was an adjustment period. The walk back seemed too soon, but the girls had started asking about food. Harry explained other things to see/do and why and then gave some restaurant recommendations.

Kīlueae Caldera

Kīlauea Caldera

I let the others head back quickly after we see sunlight again so I can focus on the details. I enjoyed the torch tour, less light damage in the cave, but it limited my photo opportunities. I watched the rain drop on the leaves, photographed the colors through the trees, and captured (digitally) one gecko before he ran for cover. It felt good to get the wet gloves off that I used to protect my camera from cave droplets. I tried scraping some of the mud off my shoes from the path that tried to get me to stay – it wouldn’t be hard.

I started popping macaroons in my mouth as we backed away. We were hungry, but couldn’t let a silly restaurant stand between us and lava, so on we went to Volcanoes National Park through the varying stages of rain on the road. We stopped at the steam vents and a Chinese guide was using hand signals for my benefit. Then he lit a napkin on fire and stuck it over the vent to draw more smoke out – “monkey see, monkey do” he said. As we walked to get a better look at the caldera we passed people, some wearing booty shorts and others coats, as the weather was 15*C. From there it’s 1.5 miles to the Jaggar Museum and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on the Uwekahuna Bluff on the rim of Kīlauea Caldera.

basalt landscape

basalt landscape

We stared into the caldera in the distance – to gauge, a ranger told us lava was shooting up 30ft and we could see blasts of orange among the, barely visible with the naked eye, pool. A family was there and had brought binoculars – what a difference. I used zoom on my camera and Caleb used the GoPro. The hole is massive and one woman claimed to feel the heat from it. Someone told her to back off the wacky tabacky – we had to be a mile away.

We stopped or hung out the window intermittently when seeing dried lava flows from the 80s, growth on the rocks, and the sky beyond. The drive down Chain of Craters road towards the water was fantastic and the car behind didn’t seem to mind our tourist mode – slow. We parked at the end of the road. To get to the third volcano, located underwater, on the park you have to walk five miles one-way with snacks, water, and a flashlight. Sadly we had none. A kid was trying to convince his mom that they could make it if they ran.

walking to the

walking to the petroglyphs

Within walking distance is Hōlei Sea Arch, named after the native Ochrosia compta plant that is part of the milkweed family. Just over some dried lava and bright green plants to an edge protected by stacked black rocks and some copper cable between wooden posts, to a frothy sea below lit by the bright sun, stands an arch carved a few hundred years ago into the basalt cliffs standing at 90ft.

We pass the ranger playing ukulele and drive to the Pu’u Loa petroglyph trail, 0.7 mile one-way walking. There are cairns to guide us and a boardwalk to protect the kapu (keep out/sacred) where families come to leave the piko (umbilical cord) of their child in the large hill to connect their spirit to the ancestors and give them a long life. There are over 16,000 pukas (holes), some shallow, some deep, but all unique to the family they bond.

feet, shadows, petroglyphs - GoPro

feet, shadows, petroglyphs – GoPro

The weather is perfect and the sunset phenomenal as we leave the park and make it to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. There are dirty ducks, cross-eyed cats, and kids practicing their ninja gymnastics barefoot. There are also eight Green Sea turtles, either sleeping or moving extremely slow, in their protected rock circle. We enjoy the sound of the waves, the feel of the gravelly sand, and the colorful clouds streaming across the sky.

It’s finally time to eat and we stop at the next place on our left – Hana Hou, meaning “encore”, and it’s the southernmost restaurant in the U.S. They sell pork burritos and chicken salad in papaya. I grabbed a lilikou bar and caramel brownie for back up rations. This meal will give us the energy needed to drive the next hour of winding roads to our stop for the night – Pineapple Park. It’s calm and quiet when we arrive at 7:30. We do some exploring and I was hoping for a social evening, but the crowd doesn’t arrive till Friday from Australia.

pond at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

pond at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

I grab my phone to use the light. I want to find the source of the sound in the tree – the tiny Coqui frog. I’m checking the branches and leaves. Our hostess assures we won’t find them as they’re as tiny as dimes or the tip of this woman’s finger, similar to Caroline’s pinky, whichever is smaller. I think knowing what I’m looking for will make it easier, but the light only helps to quiet the tiny creatures. It’s time for a shower.

Caleb’s not ready for bed at 8:30 so we walk to the market across the street so he can get a six-pack of Castaway and I can grab a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream. He reads while I think about the stories of Columbus, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Gold Rush, and how Hawaii has a very different and unique history. Caleb has two beers and I don’t start reading till I finish what’s left of the melted banana ice cream in the bottom of my pint – the flavor name is fitting.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach - GoPro

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – GoPro

We will sit, till after 11pm with a Hawaiian station playing, on a couch with a lamp on one side and stairs on the other leading up to where another couple enjoyed their dinner and are now enjoying the evening as well. I miss the feel of country nights – stars, critters, quiet or rambunctious relaxation, but we have to sleep at some point to be ready for tomorrow.

Posted in Animals, Art, Education, Food, GoPro, History, People, Places, Plants, Travel, Water | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hostel in Hilo


Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

I fought myself this morning between sleeping in and jumping out of bed. I was still under the covers 45 minutes later. We collected our things, grabbed a snack with juice from the hotel buffet, and went to the dive shop to get stamps in our dive logs – sad I didn’t get someone else to sign mine.

We visit the Kaloko Fishpond of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Park. The weather is great, the fish are feeding, but there’s this awful sound coming from one of the three vehicles parked within miles of us. We explore the rough sand with waves crashing into the rocks a few meters out to sea, leaving little ponds of calmness at our feet. On the other side of a basalt wall is a larger pond used as a fish breeding and nursery area.


Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

It’s our interest in the disturbance in the water that will have us accidentally trespassing into bird-only territory. It was clearly marked by the random lava rocks, as nature has yet to lay things down in such a pattern, and we find our way out behind the Do Not Enter sign posted on the other side of the trees.

We leave the loud music and the man fishing on the wall to drive north on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. Google Maps alerts Caleb to a roadside tourist attraction – a lava tube open 24 hours a day. I reverse on the shoulder a bit and we begin our descent into temporary darkness. It’s incredible to see the crater where the flow started and to be standing in its path. We begin to see the light from an opening, but a short peek into this great wonder.

State Park

Kekaha Kai State Park

Our retreat leaves us passing tourists who managed to stop with no sign to attract them. Is this all Google or did I miss a website or tourist book in my research – time will tell. I drive us down an unimproved road, term used loosely, as the shoulders seem rougher than our all-terrain vehicle, and sharper than our tires, can handle through Kekaha Kai State Park. Caleb tells me to go faster, fly over the volcanic rock, and let the shocks do their job. The timing was perfect, the road improved and I parked us in the first lot.


Kekaha Kai State Park

We walked past the second lot, all 528 feet, to the beach. Families are setting up coolers and umbrellas, couples grabbing swimsuits for a beach down the trail, and we are looking for the shade. The temperature seems to rise ten degrees and the facilities offer no relief for sweaty skin. I think Caleb does this on purpose to acclimatize me to the port-o-potty life. He’s in there reading Calvin and Hobbes while I’m debating which tree or crevice to hide behind. I assure myself the passing families won’t mind, but when the battle comes down to nature (mine v bowels) vs nurture (my soul) I find myself inside debating to drag the trashcan out.

Pu'ukohola Heiau National Park

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

I find Caleb outside looking for me behind the trees. He knows me oh so well, but maybe I’m getting myself used to the thunder-box situation. I take it easy on Caleb’s back on the return to the smooth road that would take us among a resort next. He was looking for a picture on the map but it is guarded by private property. I drive us further north and stop at an intersection when I notice a sign for donuts sold out of a small trailer.

The woman inside has made fresh malasadas (meaning ‘under-cooked’ in Portuguese) and I ask for three – one with li-hing (sweet/sour plum sugar), one stuffed with haupia (coconut mango), and the last with lilikoi (passion fruit). They are delicious and the filling is mushed fruit paste inside that has covered the container and erupted on my fingers. I try to save a bite for Caleb and a convenient store stop for water interrupts my devouring process. I’m licking my fingers as we walk in.

Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

We find the National Historic Site in Kawaihae after a few turn arounds. It’s a short drive to the visitor center of Pu’ukohola Heiau (temple) and we patiently wait at the door for the 200 students to pile out, two to three abreast. We buy a map inside for $7 so we won’t get as lost with phones that don’t get signal on the north end of the island. Outside we learn that in 1791, a cousin of Kamehameha, was slain here. That event led to the conquest and consolidation, over a period of 15 years, of all the warring Hawaiian islands into one monarchy that would be under the rule of Kamehameha I for nine years till his death.

Hawaii Belt Rd, Hwy 19

Hawaii Belt Rd, Hwy 19

We walk the paved path, enjoying the sailboats to our left and the temple to our right. We’re not allowed inside, but we can enjoy the shrine set up between the two closed trails leading around to the entrance. We continue on, enjoying the patches of shade and the calming beauty that surrounds us. The sunscreen is starting to make our faces glisten as we walk back to the Jeep, passing only one other couple on the trail.

On the road again, and we pass a large boot commemorative of the four Waimea paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) who reigned as World Champion steer ropers in the 1908 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming. Caleb had put the top down on the Jeep this morning and by now my hair is an island mess. I pull over as the rain hitting the windshield begins to climb in with us. The top would help keep us dry while listening to island music (not as popular as I thought it would be) and look at the animals (horses, cows, goats) getting soaked along with the plants (banana and papaya trees) growing beside them.

Waipio Valley Coast

Waipio Valley Coast

It will rain on and off for the rest of the day. We try out the 4WD on Waipio (curved water) Valley – a steep descent (25% grade) into wetness and beauty. We parked along the road and walked to the lookout for a peek at the coastline and the valley leading to it. The road is narrow, but the views grand as we inch downhill in high-range fourth gear (meaning we can travel at normal speeds), but that’s definitely not the case as we pass hikers, one horse, and a few cars. Closer to the bottom, we turned left towards Hi’ilawe Falls where there is no public trail to get us closer to the falls, just a two-foot high river (at the crossing) and some muddy road to turn around.

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Had we turned right, we could’ve dipped our toes into the black sand beach (where the characters of Waterworld find dry land, in 1995), about a half mile from the road junction. The climb up by foot would need proper shoes, strong thighs, and patience, but the Jeep gets us back up in moments, passing a horse leg-deep in the Wailoa Stream.

Waipio is like heaven, don't drive like hell

Waipio is like heaven, don’t drive like hell

We continue south to Akaka Falls State Park, with $5 parking, which is a great deal considering all the other parks have been free. I see the pile of people wearing their plastic bags and I debate getting out into such weather. I finish my donut for strength and put my camera under my arm to partially shield it from drizzle – let’s go! On the welcome/info board, there is a picture of a small fall as a movie site (this might be for Jurassic park, but not sure which one).

Down the stairs, to the right, and the foliage protects me from the light rainfall, as it provides droplets of its own. It’s not a long walk, whole loop is 0.4 mile, until I hear a commotion behind the trees. I appreciate the racket as the Kahuna Falls seem smaller from the distance, hidden in the crevice it created, falling over 300 feet.

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park

The paved trail is lined with handrails providing a safe and clean (no falling, no getting lost, and no trekking through mud) way past lush greenery and shiny red plants that we’ve been warned not to pick or eat as they may be poisonous. Some may find this path boring, and maybe stepping-stones or a raised wooden walkway would be more interesting, but I’m ok with focusing on the rest of the surroundings.

We are able to get a better view of Akaka (meaning a split), and it’s twice as tall as Niagara Falls, the famous one on the border of New York and Ontario. We’re inland of a cliff lookout making it hard to see all 432 feet of waterfall in the steam and excitement of learning about the o’opu alamo’o and the ōpaekala’ole. A freshwater goby fish and a native shrimp with embryos born in the stream and carried to the ocean. Once they hatch, they begin their 2.5 mile swim upstream and then climb, using a suction disc and pectoral fins for the goby, the falls to repeat the process.

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park

I’m happy that we stop to see the details of the native plants, describing what they look like to us, unlike the poor girl left standing alone pointing to something as her boyfriend blows by with his one track mind – to see the falls and get out of the rain. I knew we were walking faster than usual, but this pace will keep us drier as the rain starts to drop heavily again.

I’m probably more excited than I should be, but we passed a bakery and a fruit stand on the way to the falls and I’d been thinking about them since. I parked close to the pineapples and apple-bananas. I handled the ‘mango’, rambutan, papaya, and starfruit, but when the girl laughed at my mistake of abiu (also a yellow and green fruit) for mango I hesitated to buy anything. I grabbed the new fruit as she told me how to eat it (cut and scoop) and charged me $2 for two. She thought it was funny that I knew ‘nothing’ about tropical fruit and said I could find mango on the drier side of the island.

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park

I couldn’t be mad at the girl, but I figured there was other ways she could’ve handled that situation instead of laughing at me the way she did. I parked us in front of some guys socializing in front of the bakery just around the corner from the fruit stand. I grabbed some Hawaiian bread, since I’ve been known to be such a fan of the sweet stuff on the mainland, and some garlic Macadamia while Caleb got me some chocolate macaroons. We tried the bread and agreed it was dinner time. This didn’t stop us from detouring off the 19, Hawaii Belt Rd, to see the Tropical Botanical Garden.

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park

They stop admitting guests into the garden 20 minutes before closing, just as we arrive, but let us inside to check out the gift shop/museum. There are nuts and chips, soaps and lotions, shirts and trinkets. Caleb pointed out the opium bottles as I admired the Chinese carvings and shells of the Indo-Pacific. The best part is having a gecko stare at me. I didn’t bring my camera in, so I didn’t get a good picture of his blue-rimmed eyes.

Fifteen minutes down the road and we are looking for restaurants and parking. I figured better to continue on foot than to pass a spot and go somewhere else anyway. We notice lots of Thai restaurants here too. We walk into Jackie Rey’s on the corner – on their fifth day of business. The price seems a bit high for mushrooms or lettuce, but I’m willing to try the pork and ahi. The fried rolls aren’t thrilling in their appeal, but the sauce is good. The tuna stacked with mango, avocado, and tomato comes out looking like a rainbow of flavor –  more so with the wasabi. It wasn’t overwhelming so I kept eating and the waiter knew we were done after I cleaned both plates.

Kamehameha Ave. Hilo

Kamehameha Ave. Hilo

The view from our table is of a hostel across the street – something new to try. We walk down to the KTA grocery store to have a peek inside at their elephant garlic and aid in digesting my dinner. Upstairs at Hilo Bay Hostel, we get the tour of bed choices – sleep in the same room or in different ones for the same price. House Rules: no smoking, vaping, candles, incense, sageing, or unregistered guests. No food in the rooms, no alcohol in the lobby or noise after 10:00pm.


We walk the two blocks back to the car for our bag and split ways to shower. I get stopped by the long table in the social area and talk with a man who lives in Spain and his 68-year-old brother is from San Diego, but they want to build a house nearby. The shower is warm and orange liquid soap ready so I don’t have to use the round soap bar provided. I come back to the room after skimming the bookshelf for readable material with two choices, but go to the kitchen for water at 7:00pm and the temptation to chat is strong.


Hilo Bay Hostel kitchen

I drink some water out of a white mug with blue stripes. I return to the room, but am soon gone again to talk with Metal Man as I fill my cup with chamomile tea. Caleb joins us and the conversation is everywhere till 9:30 – it’s comforting. We make our final, or so I think, return to the room for the evening. Caleb goes to the car for a piece of paper and I excuse myself to another room to use paper in a different manner. Caleb is asleep by 10:30pm while I continue to enjoy the high-pitch whistling Coqui frogs outside the nailed-open windows with other faint animals and bar music in the background.

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Our 50th State

flying into Kona, Hawaii

flying into Kona, Hawaii

Alaska and Hawaii seemed out of reach, but so did the other 47 states as I grew up in Florence, Texas. I used to wish for a Disney ending or the American dream, but I’ve gotten more than a pumpkin carriage and a picket fence, and I’ve gotten to explore more than just this great country. As soon as Caleb got approved for leave I booked us a one week trip to the Big Island. I wanted to see turtles and volcanoes and am told this is the place.

I didn’t think much about it for the month in between booking the flight and rental car. I got sent home with a legal memorandum midterm, a passing midterm in Sociology, and six assignments and a group project in Business Communications. Caleb stayed up late with me to make sure I packed something and to help with my homework. I did what I could, which I realize was more than what was assigned to me, and figured the rest could be finished in the two days allotted upon my return.

Kona International Airport

Kona International Airport

Our neighbor Dan came over to say hi to the dogs and me while Caleb went to get a fourth key made – and still only mine works. We will be fixing that when we get back. Dan offered to drop us to the airport, even if we were leaving home at 4:15 am, to help us save on parking fees that start at $10/day. We laid down around midnight and I talked to Caleb’s different snores about how excited I was. He had made sure I had my camera, swim suit, and national park book before passing out.

Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP

Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP

Caleb woke me with, “We have to leave now!” I jumped out of bed and on the toilet while getting dressed. I grabbed my purse and sunglasses while he picked up the one bag we were bringing for a week of hiking and diving in Hawaii. He locked the door and then noticed Dan across the street, just calmly adjusting his vehicle for our presence. We felt rushed as he told us, “I was beginning to wonder…”

I wanted to ask why he didn’t knock, but I didn’t want to use the wrong tone either. Part of me had stayed up thinking about the shower and coffee I would have at 4:00 am, but here it was already 5:00 am and I hadn’t even said goodbye to the dogs. Surprisingly to us both, Dan got us to the airport in 15 minutes. Even more so was getting through security in under five, with an unexpected line at this hour.

Green sea turtle near Ai'ōpio Fishtrap

Green sea turtle on Honokōhau Beach

We sat by Gate 13, reading, and thought about the coffee we could drink if either of us had bothered to get up. We didn’t, until they called early boarding for active duty. Here I come seat 7A. We got the three seats to ourselves, along with plenty of complimentary coffee, water, and one Mai Tai. I tried to sleep. Caleb said I accomplished that for 20 minutes. Otherwise I was admiring flying over a new ocean together or reading.

walking in the park

walking in the park

I was able to use the first class toilet once and luckily the back didn’t have a line – twice in 5.5 hours. I saw the mountain peak and grabbed my camera, then I saw the water through the clouds. Soon our plane was descending towards the beach. I wouldn’t say we got the ‘Hollywood airport’ at first because of all the dirt, but as soon as we landed I noticed the huts that make up the open air port. We stopped to remove our jackets and take a picture of a statue, but not before a dad put his daughter close enough to let her cry – touching the day lit bronze.

Hālau wa'a at Ai'ōpio Fishtrap

Hālau wa’a at Ai’ōpio Fishtrap

We found the right shuttle and the driver had us laughing for our two-minute ride. He delivers us to Thrifty where I had planned on picking up a Chevy Spark, but ended up leaving in a eep (no J) for its four-wheel drive capability. The agent tried to explain words and numbers and I just asked, “Where do I sign?” I’m grateful Caleb was there to make sure I don’t totally regret uttering that. We threw the bag in the back, but didn’t worry about the convertible top just yet.

We had to visit a park, check-in to our hotel, wash our bodies, and find something to eat in two hours before checking in for our night dive. The park came as a surprise as I thought it was five minutes north. We stop at the visitor center and get directed to the fish pond to see turtles. I’d like to blame it on the lack of sleep or the sun, but I told the ranger it was tunnel vision that brought me within six feet of a sunbathing turtle.

Pu'uoina Heiau

Pu’uoina Heiau

There are two signs posted nearby and a line in the sand to keep people 20 feet away… oops. We walked further , touched the water, and looked at birds. We get a discount at Big Island Divers if we check in early and get there a minute before 1:00pm. The cashier has us try some flippers on and gladly agrees to rent me a mask like the one I own. We can now meet at the harbor at 2:45.

boat ride to first dive

boat ride to first dive

We check into the Holiday Inn and it’s open air like the airport – open patio to reception desk. I compliment the agent on her view and she checks our reward points. We got this room at half price. We’ll be on the second floor. We walk to Longboard Legends Pizza because it’s the second closest restaurant that we see next to McDonald’s that isn’t closed. We order the Thai pizza and a spicy sans-pepperoni one, ten inches each.

We walk back to the room to change and pull up to the Honokohau Harbor on time. Sitting there already is William from Montreal, a couple from San Francisco, and a girl who flew from Australia. Captain Justin gets the boat in the water while Dive master Jessi does the rest. They collect our shoes into a bin and welcome us aboard. Both are funny and willing to share their stories and the scientific stuff as we are eager to learn and see. The ride is short and the setup easy. Soon I am taking one stride forward – off the boat and into the water. Everything is amazing – my mask and wetsuit, the water temperature… and, holy crap, the visibility seems infinite. The beauty blows me away.

bubbles and boat

bubbles and boat

We descend quickly to 70 feet and I’m not cold in a 3mm suit. Caleb chases me down to deliver the GoPro. I try taking all the pictures and pointing at everything. We see a large Manta Ray and the sea urchins are black and white. I pet a sea cucumber that has the body consistency of whale poop. There are so many fish and I’m very excited, but I also need to come up to 30 feet to preserve air and lengthen my time underwater.

fish and coral

fish and coral

My watch tells me to rest at 50 and 30 feet and I try my three minutes stop at 18 feet. I’ve gone from 3,000 PSI to 500 in 42 minutes and soon I surface. It feels weird to be the first out of the water, but I can’t go back in at this point. Caleb joins me and we wait for the others to share our choice of ham, turkey, or lettuce wraps and then learn more about our next dive – how to hold the light, how to sit, how to leave the ‘campfire’.

We watch the sunset and don our gear, that was magically changed for us, to go below the snorkelers and closer to the blue lights. The water feels colder now, but I figure if the girl who weighs 90 pounds can handle it then so can I. We make our way to 34 feet where we will sit for 45 minutes and watch at least five Manta Rays drop their jaw to collect the available plankton. I watch some of the fish nearby as I shove my bottom, butt and feet, between rocks to stay put. Others will add the rocks to their laps and I wonder if this gives them warmth, but I don’t wonder long and go with a personal method – one available inside my suit.

divers and ocean

divers and ocean

I don’t know which felt better – a manta ray touching my finger, getting video of rays doing somersaults, or letting the pee warm me from waist to knees. I had mixed emotions upon leaving, but it’s a good thing we did. Back on the boat I see the tiny girl’s purple lips as she describes how badly she was shaking during the show. We piled our wetsuits, wrapped in towels, and most of us drank hot chocolate – one guy was lucky enough to wear some.

Justin turned out the lights and Jessi worked wonders in the dark, on a moving boat in a bikini. I saw a cloud that made me think of a manta ray and then noticed Mars shining on the water. The ride back was quiet. I wear the same flip-flops as the little girl, but mine are 3x larger. I climb in the driver’s seat with nothing but my swimsuit on.

manta ray at night

manta ray at night

We take another shower before we do a walking tour of all the Thai restaurants nearby – and all but one closes by 9:00 pm. There is a bar, ice cream shop, and mini grocery store inside the one that’s open, but we continue walking till we come upon another closed restaurant on our list. I heard singing across the street and took a step closer. Part of me felt like a pervert, but I peeked in through the open wall anyway. Inside was a choir and a crowd, and tables covered in food. We watched one song and then moved to the door for part of another.

eating by flashlight

eating by flashlight

We settled for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for my trio-dessert for dinner. We sat by the water, near the torch, and listened to Maille’s taco and dive recommendations. The vibe is definitely different here on the island – relaxed, calm, and friendly. The walk back to the hotel is nice, but it seems too short. Good thing it was as Caleb fell asleep before I finished the first paragraph. It’s 2:00 am San Diego time and I could use a nap.

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Wedding Weekend


steps at SD City College

Caleb took me to lunch as our last meal together before four days apart. I ate half my rice at noon and prepared for the haboob at 4:15. I only had to endure the high winds for ten minutes before it started to rain. The change of weather was beautiful and I appreciated the zen atmosphere before the dark roads of Phoenix were upon me. I arrived to my dad’s shortly after 6pm Thursday night and joined him for dinner at El Conquistador at 7:45 with Kirk. They played Words With Friends while I slowly ate my spinach-mushroom quesadilla and helped myself to some of my dad’s beans.

Back at the house, while waiting on Caroline to return, we discussed the past and its work to get us into the present and how that will affect our future. I always enjoy my dad’s theories, lessons, and ideas, and though sometimes intense and perhaps a bit overwhelming, they are always educational and motivational. Caroline showed up to put us to bed after 10:45.


I’m still feeling exhausted when I wake up Friday morning from the broken sleep, congestion and headache not helping, of last night. I’m still laying down when they leave and I am slow to shower and don’t eat breakfast till 10am. I get to Kwality Ice Cream ten minutes before opening. I think some fig & walnut and blueberry cheesecake samples will help me study for midterms and complete homework that’s due this week.

Customer influx is slow, but there are family friends coming and going to help with preparation for tonight’s garba (a Gujarati folk dance performed as a fertility ritual) and tomorrow’s wedding. I closed up at 9pm and met Caroline at the house, mid-instruction from Dad on how to use the projector for her guild meeting. We got changed into our tight pants and long tops, added some jewelry, and were ready to join the party.


Border Patrol Station, Hwy 8

We showed up to the Indo-American Cultural Center in time to see the children finish their dance and then headed outside to line up for faloodah and socializing. Back inside, we sat for a bit and counted the steps of the garba before grabbing some dandiya sticks and attempting to join. We couldn’t help but notice that it seemed to come to a screeching halt soon after and one guy took the lead to get us started again – more than once, which is no longer our fault.

We had fun and then went back to watching others dance until it was time to watch the screen. The family and friends had put a picture slide together along with voice recordings of their memories and blessings. It was sweet and brought tears to some eyes in the crowd. We left them to finish their private goodbyes to get back to the house by midnight. I was grateful for the invite and the opportunity into an intimate part of their Northern Indian culture. Having a community like this is great for helping each other along with children, school, work, and happiness.


the dust before the rain

Caroline and I didn’t have this in our German and American childhoods, and it’s not something we see much of today, though I think communal living is catching on, it’s definitely not the same as being able to see grandparents, cousins, and best friends influence you to be a better person and to love yourself. Indians share food, dance if they can, and put others’ needs before their own. They all ask about my dad who is sitting at the house after another long day at the office.

We went to bed after 1:00am and I was still up by 6:30 Saturday morning to join them for breakfast at The Wagon Yard. I’d been there a few times, but this was the first that I needed the cowgirls room and got to know the size of this place. It’s twice as large as I thought inside, complete with billiards table, and has outside seating with a place for horseshoes. We enjoyed our food with laughs around the table and I’m reminded of Kirk’s new nickname for me – sock-puppet, earned at dinner when I thought he wasn’t paying attention.


Ganesh at the garba

Kirk took Dad to work and Caroline dropped me to grab my books before I joined her at the AZ Desert Weavers and Spinners Guild meeting. There were snacks to share, books to buy, others’ projects to eye, a table covered in items to be raffled, and the presentation table – two women talked about their trip to Peru in the spring of 2012 and showed us a bit of what they saw and how much they learned during their excursion. The thing that most caught my eye was the works of Maximo Laura and his 3D weaving abilities.

I had to watch the time and leave early. I had triple booked my morning 1) guild meeting with Caroline from 10 to noon, 2) breakfast and or lunch with Grandma (who is in California at the moment), and 3) offered to come to the shop at 11am and open up so the wedding cake could be finished. Around 3pm a woman called to order seven tubs of ice cream. I found the flavors and put them in freezer bags for her, and put it into the computer, and three hours later she walked in with her husband and daughter to help her carry it to the car. Dealing with that much ice cream, and time in the walk-in freezer, cost me three nails and a bloody knuckle, but it was worth the sale.


bride and groom watching the childhood montage

Being distracted, I ended up doing a bit of the wrong homework, but didn’t mind since I figure any learning is good learning and the book seems to tie itself all together, so the more chapters I know the better. I tried getting back on my computer a few times, but was grateful for the crowd. I packed myself up and walked out on time again. It was a nice feeling to walk into a dark home, having the place to myself for an hour, though I always appreciate the warmth they bring to the room – and the loudness and laughs. Caroline went to bed while the old man and I typed away at our keyboards at 11 o’clock at night.

Breakfast at the Wagon Yard is a weekend ritual and I put jam on my toast to change the taste of my regular order. Back at the house and Caroline planned to call her mom while I looked forward to some sunshine on my bicycle as I rode towards one of the many highways. I returned in time for a shower and some editing before getting ready for work. The boss’s daughter stopped by and brought leftovers from the wedding with instructions to fill my face with paneer, naan, strawberries, greens, potato balls, and truffles.


AZ Desert Weavers and Spinners Guild

The boss stopped by later and brought family and friends, the out-of-town guests, by for some ice cream sampling. The little shop was full of warm conversation and sticky floors as the daughters and their husbands helped me scoop flavors into cup and cone. One person wanted to try all the flavors, which can be done, but usually takes some time – and an appetite. The crowd cleared out and I finished my homework while they continued the goodbyes on the grass. I still needed to study for my sociology quiz and finish amending my résumé for my Business Communications class.

There was a bit of confusion as to whether I would see Grandma this trip, so I had sent her my number and she called me immediately. We agreed that I would stop by tomorrow morning, Monday, on my way home. I got up at 6:30am and left Dad’s house an hour later to deal with traffic on the way to Tempe to see Grandma and say hi to Dan. She cooked me some eggs, that I put on bread, and made me a Paleo coffee (consisting of ghee, cocoa, and coconut) that I stirred and drank, all 16 oz, while we sat outside with the dogs watching them mooch and play around. We had an hour or so to spend together before she had to go to work and I had to leave for my five-hour drive back to San Diego.


scenery on bike ride

We enjoyed the moment – the shared interest in my dad, our dogs, the birds, good coffee, and our family’s wellbeing. It was great to talk about the past, ponder about the present, and make plans of the future. We captured our faces, covered with a deer filter, thanks to Snapchat and posted it to Facebook. Grandma was happy that she got to see all her grandkids and great-grandkids in the same week and suggested I head towards Los Angeles to visit my aunt and cousin with his family that has grown. It’s been at least ten years since I’ve seen them.

Grandma and I hugged again, she locked up the house, and we climbed into our SUVs. I took some distorted route out-of-town, but appreciated the change of view, perhaps something I should do more often. I focused on that and as the road grew familiar began to answer political questions from the site to curb Caleb’s curiosity. I stopped for gas in the outskirts of Yuma and pulled over just as I felt like I was getting back on the highway when the engine and battery light came on at 12:30pm.


Grandma’s dogs

I opened the hood and investigated. I took two pictures of what I thought the problem was so I could send them to Caleb for an evaluation for when I call roadside assistance. One was the sight of metal where rubber used to be – a missing belt. I’ve heard of fan belts and timing belts and since there’s only one here it runs everything. I really should look under the hood more often. It was part of my training as a young driver. Second thing I noticed is what appeared to be a broken hose or just all the anti-freeze that leaked from the car as it started to overheat.

I called my insurance company and they connected me to a third-party roadside assistance number that put me through to a local tow company that had to call their driver who was out on a pick up already. I’m told help will arrive within an hour and appreciated that it was only 90 degrees in the shade and that I brought my jacket with hood to protect me from the sun while I waited. Caleb updated me on the situation. Something else has happened to cause the serpentine belt to disappear and it’s responsible for the air conditioning compressor, power steering pump, and water pump.


hanging out on the highway waiting on the tow truck

This meant I had to have it towed to a shop to be repaired. I was hoping the Belt Guy would appear and send me on my way. I was in luck though as a Highway Patrol officer stopped to check on me. He seemed hesitant at first, but I gave him space and allowed him to assess the situation. He gave me a water and wished me luck. He told me to call the station (or 911) if someone wasn’t there within that hour. After the officer pulled away, a man on a Harley pulled up to keep me company for 30 minutes. He figured it his duty to protect a lady on the roadside – how thoughtful, but I was grateful.

The tow truck driver was parking in front of me as I was on the phone with one company trying to get ahold of another and find out where he was, being he was 30 minutes late. His arrival sent the biker on his way, but as the driver went to deliver the car already on the bed the officer returned to give me more water and a number to a different tow company with faster service. I had their number dialed in when the driver finally returned and was able to put my car on the bed at 2:30pm.


Pete loves Round Table too!

By this time Caleb was already on his way to me. I wanted to get the car home and he wanted me to go to class. I thought it’d be cute to drive beside each other, something we’ve never done, but also a waste of his time and unneeded gas. The assistance office had given the tow company the old address to the repair shop and we had to drive across town to their new location. I forget how big this city is, or seems, as I only ever stop near the Prison State Park.

Three guys and one car later and I’m told that my water pump is broke, which is what ruined my belt. Chris called Pep Boys and I used Google to check the price. Caleb arrived at 4:00pm and the guys were busy working on the problem so we went for pizza which also seemed across town, but is only five miles away. Chris called us on our way back, with food in mouth, that a thermostat was also ordered – a common issue in this scenario.


into the sunset and towards school

I was grateful for Caleb coming as quickly as he did, not only so he could drive while I ate dinner, but that we would have a ride home while leaving our Tribute overnight until the thermostat could arrive and the guys could replace it. I was nervous about leaving anything in the car (I got robbed years ago in a similar situation), so Caleb took my bike apart and crammed it into the backseat of the Mazda 3 along with my heavy school bag, small bag of clothes, and his uniform/lunch bag.

I wasn’t worried about getting to class and had already messaged the teacher who told me to “be safe” – which means drive slow and eat lots of pizza, but Caleb was adamant and the time difference, thanks to Daylight Savings Time, ensured I arrived during the mid-class break. Caleb agreed to hangout in the parking lot, and take pictures of me through the window from outside, while I finished the class. I got to discuss the film they watched, Merchants of Cool, that I remembered from one of my classes back in Florida.


SD City College Learning Resource Center

My studying and fast driving paid off as the professor told us to take out a sheet of paper. I numbered the questions and wrote out my answers. Our first quiz was open-note and not everyone did well. Sadly, the results were almost similar to this quiz. It probably doesn’t help that some of the students spend more time on their phones, chatting with each other, out in the hallway, or sleeping at their desk. I also don’t understand how some of them were able to get by their language teachers with such poor handwriting. Maybe I was lucky to have an old college professor as my 8th grade teacher to ensure pride in what we did – even if it was different styles. We pass the papers forward.

*We returned to Yuma on Tuesday to pick up the car, probably minutes before the last guy was planning on leaving for the day — Thanks, Obama!

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