Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Zippy’s is one of the most essential retail places in Hawaii, especially on Oahu. It’s a restaurant, the local equivalent of Denny’s with a sit down restaurant and booths, a bakery called Napoleon’s Bakery, and a take-out area.  Unlike Denny’s, Zippy's features local dishes, like loco moco (2 scoops of rice, hamburger patty, lots of gravy and a fried egg) or teriyaki chicken or chicken katsu or…But, I recently ate at Denny's as an experiment and they did have a few local items.

Zippy's Restaurant on Maui. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yick Lung

Yick Lung was a local company that made crack seed, a type of preserved fruit snack that is very popular in Hawaii. The Chinese immigrants brought crack seed with them when they came to Hawaii to work in sugar cane and pineapple plantations, but it became a treat that spilled over into the rest of Hawaii. Yick Lung used to be sold in all the grocery stores but sadly, Yick Lung is no more

Photo of old fashioned Yick Lung cracked seed. Photo from the Sunday Manoa album,
a great idea which I saw on Tasty Island Hawaii since it's hard to find any pictures of Yick Lung these days. This is a photo I took.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Xenophobia, Racism and Discrimination

No hate in the 808. This is a bumper sticker you might see driving in Hawaii.
Photo by Drazz on Flickr via Photopin. Creative Commons

The 808 refers to the area code for the state of Hawaii. No hate in Hawaii. That’s how we’d like to live, with aloha. But sometimes there is hatred or racism, though it may show up differently than one might expect.

Hawaii is a place of many different cultures and ethnicities. People were brought to Hawaii from different countries to work in the pineapple and sugar cane plantations. They had to work together and get along with each other. Many people intermarried and had children of mixed races and multiple ethnicities. 

In Hawaii, one is proud of one’s heritage. It’s not uncommon for someone to hold up fingers naming each country or land her ancestors came from: Germany, Portugal, Italy, Japan, China, the Philippines, Samoa, Puerto Rico... So mostly, people are accepted for their differences.

But, there is a bit of reverse racism that exists here. It’s mostly under the surface and is mostly directed to people of Caucasian origin, aka haoles.  Caucasians are a minority in Hawaii, like all the other ethnic groups.

How might reverse discrimination occur? Say you're applying for a job and you're new to Hawaii. Your last name is Smith or Jones. You're Caucasian. You're applying against people with last names like Sakamoto and Perreira and Wong. Chances are, you may not even be called for a job interview, because you have a haole last name. Also, the hiring staff is afraid that if you're new to Hawaii, you may not stay very long - and there is truth in that. 

Why is there sometimes racism towards white people?  Because some people who grew up here have prejudices against the white people who helped overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy and believe that white people brought a lot of bad things to Hawaii. Some people are angry that the price of land is going up and it’s more expensive to live here. Some people are resentful that they are working two or three jobs to support themselves while rich people move here and buy up houses.

Another bumper sticker expressing some frustration with people who moved to Hawaii
(and still haven't blended in with the local culture).

Often people grow out of their prejudices as they get older. Schoolchildren can be the meanest.

A few tales of racism:
I’ve heard stories about local children on the Big Island who pick on the new haole kid who also happens to have blonde hair and blue eyes. Is this xenophobia? Yes. The new kid may have picked a fight but it could also be racism.

I’ve heard stories of a friend’s haole daughter who got beaten up badly by a bunch of local girls. It was never reported in the paper or on the news because it was an incident involving minors. These kinds of incidents are rarely reported. 

Maybe the Caucasian kid played a part too and provoked the other children by making fun of them or doing something that hit a nerve. Still yet, racism and prejudice are often at work here.

Even certain neighborhoods, especially on Oahu, are not really safe for the wandering tourist or haole. All you need is a bunch of young local thugs who had a lot to drink and are angry at the world and are just looking for trouble. That’s why certain campgrounds and state parks can be dangerous for tourists to camp in. 99% of the population tries to “practice aloha” but the other 1% has anger management issues.  

A tourist to Hawaii would probably never encounter any racism or prejudice, except under very RARE circumstances.  Mostly Hawaii is very safe too, with little crime. Most people in Hawaii are kind and gentle, and go out of their way to help strangers. They even drive super nice (sometimes annoyingly so).

Another Maui bumper sticker, "Practice Aloha."

The bottom line?
But don’t be stupid. Don’t provoke fights. Don’t get drunk and talk stupid. Don’t call people names. Don’t be anywhere near where angry young men are gathering. Use the same common sense you would anywhere else in the world, even if you’re on vacation. Again, most people in Hawaii are super nice, but you should still use common sense.

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Humpback whales are like other seasonal visitors that come to Hawaii during the winter time. “It’s cold in Alaska so let’s go to Hawaii!” From late November to mid-April the whales migrate to Hawaii to have fun and give birth. Female whales are pregnant for about 11-12 months, which means they are conceiving in Hawaii and giving birth the next year. 

Whales planning their annual trip to Hawaii.

Valleys - Some Famous Ones in Hawaii

Without mountains there are no valleys. Some valleys in Hawaii are so steep that they only get a few hours of sunlight each day. They were practically impossible to live in. Most valleys are wet and protected, perfect conditions for growing trees like breadfruit or bananas or other valued plants in Hawaiian culture and medicine.  Maui's nickname is "The Valley Isle."

Below are a few famous valleys with historic and cultural significance:

Kalalau Valley on the island of Kauai. Wikipedia Creative Commons. Photo released into public domain by Gh5046.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ulu (Hawaiian for Breadfruit, the Tree of Plenty)

If the robot apocalypse ever happens in Hawaii, breadfruit is our friend. 
Even if the apocalypse never happens, breadfruit is still our friend.

Breadfruit on a tree. There is some sticky sap on the fruit. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tourism - You Can't Have It Both Ways

Tourism is considered the lifeblood of Hawaii. Tourism dollars pour through the coffer of Hawaii. The news constantly reports hotel occupancy rates, dollars spent each night per visitor, or how visitor numbers rose or fell this year from last year. Many jobs are tied to tourism, even though they may not be directly related, like restaurant work, construction, or salon services.

Tourists on Maui watching the waves at Ho'okipa Beach Park.

The tourism debate has been raging for decades: Is Hawaii too dependent on tourism? Shouldn’t Hawaii try to diversify its economy with agriculture and technology? Do the benefits of tourism outweigh the costs of tourism? Is tourism changing the local way of life? Is tourism promoting the Disneyification of Hawaiian culture?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sun - Is There a Dark Side to Sunshine in Hawaii?

The sun in Hawaii was so dazzling, so misleading, yet we regarded sunlight as our fortune. We quietly believed, "We are blessed because the sun shines every day. This is a good place for its sunlight. These islands are pure because of the sun. The sun has made us virtuous." – Paul Theroux, Hotel Honolulu

Intense sunset over Kahoolawe Island, viewed from Maui's South Shore.

When I read this passage, it really struck a chord. Theroux is like the devil's advocate, talking about the darker side of sunlight. It’s like Dorothy pulling the mask off the Wizard of Oz.

"Stranger, be grateful to me for this sunny day" was our attitude toward visitors. The sun had been bestowed on us and we were sharing it with these alien refugees from dark cloudy places... The Hawaiian heresy, which we thought but never said, was "We are good because of the sun. We are better than our visitors. We are sunnier."

Theroux writes provocatively in his novel about Hawaii:
"This Hawaiian heresy was dangerous, for it made us complacent about the damage we did to these little crumbly islands. We were so smug about our sunshine, we were blind to everything else, as if we had been staring at the sun too long."


For me, these passages hit a nerve. Hawaii is blessed to have a lot of sunshine, even if I live on the rainier side of the island. 

I wouldn’t say that I feel superior to someone visiting Hawaii, but there is definitely a smugness about living in Hawaii, especially when it’s snowing and wintry on the mainland. Or a belief that the way of life here is somehow better, without the focus on work and “getting ahead” and status and “climbing up the ladder.” If there is enough sun, who needs all that? Is material success as important as sunlight?

Theroux is also right when he talks about the damage we do these islands. The pace of life may be slower here, but people can still do careless things, from bringing foreign species to Hawaii to overusing or damaging the natural resources. Are we too complacent in Hawaii? Or are we humans too complacent in general, no matter where we live on earth?

Is there a dark side to sunshine? Besides being smug and complacent about sunlight on a cultural level, as individuals, it's also very easy to get sunburned or increase one's risk of skin cancer. When there's so much sun, we can get careless and take our bodies for granted, the same way we can take our islands for granted. It's not intentional, but we forget to take care.

Intense sunburn. This tourist from Germany was kind enough to let me take his photo for my blog to illustrate the danger of too much sun. Tourists on their first day or two on Maui don't realize how intense the sun is here, closer to the equator.

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rain in Hawaii - It's Not Like Rain Anywhere Else

Where I live, there is quite a lot of rain. It’s the wet side of the island, the windward side, facing the north east. The leeward side of the island, facing the southwest, is a lot drier and sunnier, with less rain. 

This is true for all the Hawaiian Islands – there is a leeward side and a windward side. Also, it’s true, the windward side is windier too… bringing the rain from the trade winds into the island. For tourism, the major resorts are generally located on the drier, leeward side. This makes sense because who would want to fly all the way to Hawaii for vacation and deal with a week of rain and gray skies? Even though it's warm and comfortable rain.

The windward side of the Hawaiian Islands get trade winds from the NE and more rain. They are also more lush. The leeward side of the islands are drier and sunnier. This photo is altered from a NASA satellite image (public domain) on Wikipedia Commons.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quilting, Hawaiian Style & How the Quilt Preserved Hawaiian Culture

Missionaries and other foreigners brought many things, both good and bad, to Hawaii in the 1800s, including: books, Christianity, tools, opium, their music, the mongoose, diseases, kiawe trees, the alphabet. They also brought quilting.

A Hawaiian quilt pillowcase I stitched, bougainvillea pattern. I did break a rule of not following the contour quilting all the way through the center of the quilt. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pidgin - Hey, It's Now Considered a Real Language in Hawaii

Many people in Hawaii think of pidgin was as a mish mash language, a broken up version of English, complete with bad grammar. It’s a language that developed during the heyday of the plantation era. People from all different countries were brought to Hawaii to work on plantations, and no one could understand each other. So over time, they cobbled together this language that borrows words from Hawaiian, English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Samoan, and the languages of the Philippines.

A Hawaiian pidgin bumper sticker. It makes sense to an English speaker, but the grammatical structure is that of pidgin.

Now, linguists are saying that pidgin is a real language and have analyzed it to find consistent rules of grammar and usage. Some linguists believe there are more than 600,000 native pidgin speakers. For some people in Hawaii, it is the first language they learn. But it is not the language of business, of education, or of higher classes.

This video "Sh*t People From Hawaii Say" may not make any sense, but you might hear people in Hawaii talk this way. 

During my childhood, pidgin was frowned upon. Teachers didn’t like pidgin in the classroom because they feared their students would never speak proper English or get real jobs. 

While I understand some pidgin, I was not allowed to speak it. You could say, pidgin was kapu (forbidden). My mother flipped out when I came home from school speaking pidgin. (In pidgin, you might say “her mass wen drop” like “her mouth (jaw) went dropped.”) So I never really learned it. I’ve always been a bit sad about that because I was a bit of an outsider growing up in Hawaii and knowing more pidgin would have made things easier. Thank Goodness for books like Pidgin to da Max which help fill in the gaps. This is a wildly popular book in Hawaii, and a must-read for anyone who lives here.

A classic book on Hawaiian pidgin (and it's pretty funny too).

Important Note: Pidgin, to me, is a language of insiders. If you do not know pidgin and try to speak pidgin with most locals, they may laugh at you or worse yet, take offense. There are classes for pidgin and it may be ok to practice with other students or with good friends, but not everyone.

Another post on pidgin: Kathy "Tita" Collins shares Hawaiian ghost stories in pidgin, These videos are easier to understand than the one above. 

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Overthrow (One of the Most Significant Events in Hawaiian History)

The word overthrow has at least two connotations in Hawaiian history. The first is the overthrow of the kapu system, but for more people the word overthrow refers to the coup d'etat of the Hawaiian kingdom. The 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was a carefully orchestrated and bloodless coup. It has some parallels to the Russian takeover of Crimea and to the colonization of Native American tribal land.

Overthrow image represented by the symbol of the king falling.
Queen Lili'uokalani wanted a new constitution. The constitution she inherited was so weak that it did not even allow Hawaiians, citizens of Hawaii, to vote. But it did allow Caucasian foreigners (haoles) to vote and hold office, even though they were not citizens!                                                                                        
Meanwhile, American businessmen and politicians were meeting to discuss the possibility of annexing Hawaii. In January 1893, things came to a head.  Rumors of the Queen’s new constitution triggered a series of events, leading to American troops in Hawaii, a new provisional government, and the overthrow of the monarchy. Eventually Hawaii would become annexed by the United States.

One of the questions of the overthrow, that I've heard asked over and over, is Why didn't the Hawaiians fight back? I'm not a historian, but one answer is that the queen was told by her trusted advisors (some of whom were not Hawaiian) that she would be able to regain her kingdom back through diplomacy and to avoid bloodshed. 

Source: Wikipedia Commons. Queen Lili'uokalani

Maybe she would have succeeded with more support. On December 20,1893, President Cleveland sent a letter to the Provisional Government of Hawaii, asking the provisional president to resign and to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom. This request was turned down. For years, the Queen continued to make diplomatic efforts to regain her kingdom.

Though the events of the overthrow happened more than a century ago, it still can be felt in modern Hawaii.  There is a sovereignty movement to restore the kingdom of Hawaii, going on for decades, just simmering under the surface. Most visitors are not aware of it, and it’s kept under wraps in most tourist areas, but it’s always present.

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Neighbor Islands (Those Other Islands of Hawaii Where People Live)

As a child growing up on the main island of Oahu, I always wondered about these mysterious Neighbor Islands. Maui, Molokai, Kauai, and the Big Island (to be confusing, this island has the same name as the state of Hawaii) were the fringes of the known world. The island of Kaho’olawe was still being bombed as a military test site. Ni’ihau was, and still is, forbidden to outsiders.  

Oahu in relation to the other islands, the Neighbor Islands. 

Who lived in these Neighbor Islands besides farmers and ranchers and plantation workers? Why did tourists go there? Didn't they used to be called the Outer Islands? When did they get the name Neighbor Islands? Was it connected with promoting tourism? 

After all, Oahu was the center of everything. It’s where Honolulu, the state capitol is located. It’s the island of Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, Diamond Head, Hawaii Five-O and Magnum PI. It’s where King Kamehameha I ruled from after uniting (or conquering) the other islands. It’s where the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy took place.  It’s where most people in Hawaii live, more than 1 million of us. Visitors to Oahu are often surprised by how built up and developed it is. The trick with Oahu is to know where to go, to find exquisite natural areas and beaches.  
As a child, the Neighbor Islands seemed so far away, even though it was only a 30 minute plane ride. When you add driving and airport time, they always seemed like they were in another state. Despite attempts at an interisland ferry throughout the years, it mostly hasn’t worked.

The Neighbor Islands aren't secondary islands, but almost everything comes through Oahu. When I mail a letter to another town on Maui, it goes first to Honolulu on Oahu, then back to Maui. When we buy things at a store, they are often shipped from Oahu, which is where many distribution centers are. 

Now that I’ve lived on two Neighbor Islands, I can say plenty of people live outside of Oahu, and yes, there is a lot less nightlife here! There are real jobs, cars, hotels, houses, and problems. Some issues seem to affect the Neighbor Islands more than Oahu. These issues include the Superferry controversy, Jimmy Pflueger’s destruction of a coral reef and a dam on Kauai, and a hot issue now: GMOs (genetically modified organisms) because of the extensive GMO crop testing done here. 

Oahu residents sometimes seem so insulated to me, going from Longs (a drugstore), Foodland (a locally owned supermarket chain), Costco and Zippy’s (a local restaurant chain) while struggling with ongoing traffic problems.  Neighbor Islanders sometimes look at horror at Oahu’s development, asking “Could that happen to us?” The answer is yes, if we don’t learn from Oahu.

If this topic interests you, here’s another post about the differences between Maui and Oahu.

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mongoose - One of Hawaii's Big Failures

This animal often creates a lot of confusion for visitors to Hawaii. What is it? Is it a weasel, a ferret, a possum, a weird looking squirrel? It’s a mongoose, like the famous mongoose Rikki Tikki Tavi that Rudyard Kipling wrote about in India. The mongoose is one of those introduced species that someone thought would be a good way to control the rat population. Maybe the rats were getting into the sugar cane mill and eating everything.

The mongoose can often be spotted outside beach trash cans around sunset.
Two words: Epic Fail.  Since rats are nocturnal and mongooses are diurnal, the two animals never met.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lava and the Dangers of Lava Watching

Many people come to Hawaii hoping to see a lava explosion or lava flowing out of the volcano. The only island in Hawaii to see any kind of lava activity is the Big Island. But going to watch a lava flow is not as easy as it looks. It’s not predictable how much seismic activity there will be.  The lava also changes its direction, and where it flows out of and flows to. It’s kind of like predicting the weather.

Lava flow seen from a helicopter. Pahoehoe is the smooth lava and aa is the poky lava.  Photo by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Three main ways to see lava flowing:
Pay for a helicopter to fly you over the volcano or over the lava flow. Depending on how active the lava is flowing in that period, it might be wonderful, or not very exciting at all. Usually, tour companies will try to only book when the lava is actively flowing. It used to be $300 per person (for a volcano air tour from Maui to the Big Island), but I’m sure it’s more now. If you're on the Big Island, I'm sure it should be less. This is relatively safe, as long as the helicopter does not crash.

Second way, find where the lava is flowing and hike over miles of lava rocks to see it close up. Yes, I said miles. How many miles? Could be 2 miles today but oh, maybe 4 miles tomorrow. Maybe it’s 5 miles. Remember the lava flows and can change direction daily.

This is the do-it-yourself approach. In the Pahoa area, south of Hilo, sometimes there are cars parked by the side of the road near the closest access point to active lava. People will hike out to where they THINK the lava is flowing or near where it WAS flowing yesterday or where other people SAID it was flowing earlier, to see it for themselves. I’ve also heard of lava tour guides by the side of the road who will guide you to where the lava is flowing.

How close can you get to the lava flow? I don’t know since I haven’t actually done it. Last time I was on the Big Island, there was not enough time to get there and back in one day. The other danger is getting too close, even if you’re several hundred feet away. Where you are standing could be still be unstable and fall into the ocean. This is not good for your health.

This is the kind of lava one dreams of seeing close up. Photo by By J.D. Griggs edit by User:Mbz1 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Another problem is that after finding and watching the lava flow, it is very hard to go back in the same direction to where your car is parked. Even the most farsighted person will not be able to see his car miles away. Some people have solved this problem by putting up something high like a pole with a bright flag on top of their truck so that they can see it in the distance. I have also heard stories of people wandering around for days looking for their vehicle.

The third way is to find out from the National Park Service where the lava is flowing into the ocean from a SAFE distance. This is something I have done. It’s still very cool to watch but it’s far away.  But it's safe and you won't die from the lava.

There are two main kinds of lava: a’a – a sharp jagged lava and pahoe’hoe a smooth undulating lava. Why is it called a’a lava? My husband claims because it’s so pokey, you cry out “ah ah” in pain.

Pahoehoe lava. Very smooth looking. Public domain photo by US Geological Survey via Wikipedia Commons.
A'a lava. Pokey, loose, rough, jagged stuff. This is from a lava flow on Maui, at the Ahihi Kinau Natural Preserve (aka La Perouse).

There are also different kinds of things you can find in the lava like Pele’s hair, long strand-like formations of glass; Pele’s tears, tear shaped pieces of lava; and also little pieces of peridot or olivine. The peridot on the Big Island is not really gem stone quality.  It is considered bad luck to remove any lava rocks or other things found in the lava from the islands. You can read more about this in V for Volcano, last year’s post.

Pele's hair, golden strands of glass. Photo by DW Peterson for USGS. Public domain. 

Can you really get close to lava? Can lava kill people?

1.    You can move faster than lava. Lava is pretty slow moving here. This is not the kind of volcano that destroyed Pompeii.

2.    There is plenty of advance notice when lava is threatening to flow into your neighborhood. Some people do live in areas with active lava flows. Those houses are often less expensive. Gee, I wonder why. Most people do evacuate, but inevitably one or two people will stay behind, insisting that the lava will flow around them or that if not, then it was their time anyhow.

3.     It is very hard to get close to lava unless you are a geologist. Usually the access is blocked. They don’t want tourist casualties. But I have one friend who used to live on the Big Island. She belonged to an artist group that was allowed to get really close to the lava flow so they could dip into the hot lava to make art. I don’t think the state allows this anymore – too dangerous and there are too many lawyers these days. 

House destroyed by lava in Kalapana on the Big Island. Photo by United States Geological Survey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lava and the smoke and ash during and after a lava flow can be very hazardous. The USGS has a website of the hazards of lava flows. There is so much more I'd like to say about lava. But I have to stop writing!

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter.