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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Park


The Need to Knows:
  • Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Park is located off of Round Top Drive off of Makiki Street.  The entrance's exact location can be found here (the end of Nutridge Street is where the lookout is):
  • The park is open from 7 AM to 7:45 PM from April 1 to Labor Day and 7 AM to 6:45 PM from after Labor Day to March 31.
  • There are no fees to enter or park.
  • There are two separate areas to check out -- the lookout area (pictured above) and a sheltered picnic area.
  • Restrooms, trash cans, and water fountains can all be found here.
  • There are a few parking spots, but don't leave anything valuable behind in your car just in case.
  • It gets a bit windy here, so hang on to your hair or hat if necessary!
  • A trail called the 'Ualaka'a Trail begins here; click this link for more information.


Last week, I talked about the Mount Tantalus Drive here on the blog, and now I'll continue where I left off with Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Park.  If you're looking for some sweeping views of Diamond Head, downtown Honolulu, and beyond, look no further, because Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Park is absolutely where you need to be!

Click the picture for the full size view!
This park is a wonderful place to have a picnic and gaze out to the city beyond.  You can see all the way from Manoa Valley to Diamond Head to the western side of the island.

Diamond Head and downtown Honolulu
Manoa Valley
Honolulu International Airport and the leeward side beyond it
This place might actually look familiar to some of you; a scene from Elvis's Blue Hawaii was filmed here!


If you look closely, in the middle of the picture you can see the Star of Honolulu heading back to port
The park does close at either 6:45 PM or 7:45 PM depending on the time of the year, so stargazing from here isn't exactly a (legal) option.  But I really am looking forward to at least catching a beautiful sunset from here sometime in the near future!

Closer view of Diamond Head
Closer view of downtown Honolulu
What are some of your favorite scenic lookouts where you live?


Monday, July 29, 2013

Seven for Sunday

Whoops, I did it again!  Here's a Seven for Sunday to make up for it!

1.  I'm sorry that it feels like I don't hear you sometimes.  Trust me, I do!

2.  I'm glad we got our tropical storm preparation taken care of today.  Thank you for the help!

3.  I'm also glad you enjoyed the salmon tonight!

4.  Thanks for the date night the other night, even though it was supposed to be my treat!

5.  I love watching movies with you.  I really want to go through and watch like one classic movie a week with you or something.

6.  Yay for our new covers for our couch!  Now it's going to be a pain putting them all on, haha.

7.  I'm so proud of all the hard work you accomplished as LPO.  You're such an amazing leader!

ily <3

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: Mount Tantalus Drive


The Need to Knows:
  • Tantalus Drive is a road located north of Waikiki and the H1.  Here is the exact location of the road as well as the path we took on this drive (Tantalus Drive to Round Top Drive):
  • The drive starts off in a pretty residential area, and even though the houses get fewer in between as you progress, just keep this in mind and remain respectful.
  • Since there are so many curves and switchbacks to this drive, I would highly recommend motion sickness medicine if that's something you're prone to.
  • If you're renting a car, I'll go ahead and say that a convertible would be a great way to experience this drive ;)
  • There is a trail head along Tantalus Drive called the Tantalus-Arboretum Trail.  I didn't know it existed until later, but it could be a great way to stretch your legs a bit if you feel so inclined.  It's location and more information on it can be found here.

When my parents recently came to visit, I decided to do something that I've heard a bit about but I actually haven't done yet here on Oahu, which was take a mini-drive on Tantalus Drive.  I'd heard it was a beautiful little drive up into the mountains, and I was excited about seeing it.  I also decided to combine another stop I'd yet to see for myself with the drive, the Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park, which has a simply stunning view of Diamond Head and Honolulu all the way out to the western side of Oahu (and that I will get to in my next post!).

I'll go ahead and warn you right now -- this is definitely a winding, curvy road.  I'd pretty much forgotten about my mom's propensity for motion sickness in the car (sorry, Mom!), so she was feeling the effects of the turns a lot, even though she was in the front seat and even though I was literally going only 5 to 10 miles an hour the whole time.  So if you also tend to get motion sickness, take some medication before you start this drive!


We started our drive after we'd hiked Diamond Head one morning, and after navigating through residential streets with some help from Google Maps we finally ended up on Tantalus Drive.  Almost immediately, one of the first switchbacks in the road opened up to a beautiful view of the city below.  We of course had to stop and soak up the view.



Then we hopped back in the car and got back on the road.  I can definitely see why this drive is so pretty.  It feels like you're driving through total rain forest, even if there are some houses along the way.  And man, it took some talent to build some of the houses along here considering it's so high up and the cliffs can be incredibly steep!  We saw some driveways that had ridiculous slopes that I would be way too scared to drive up, haha.


This drive is more about the trip itself than the stops.  However, there are some pullouts along the way, especially at the beginning, and I would highly suggest you take advantage of them (especially if you or someone in your party is feeling ill!).

Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures since we were mostly driving, but you can at least see from the few shots we did get that the drive is beautiful and is actually a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and all of its people.  And the Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Park, which I'll be talking about next week, is a wonderful way to end such a charming drive!

Do you have any favorite relaxing drives you like to take?



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Think: The Modern-Day Exploitation of the U.S. Military - Part One

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We've all seen the YouTube videos and the TV shows revolving around the ever-present theme of military homecomings.  Spouses cry with happiness, children shriek with joy, and even dogs slobber with pure jubilation when their uniformed loved one comes home.  It strikes a chord in all of us collectively as a nation, and we feel that sharing that moment with those military members and their loved ones offers up a connection we wouldn't otherwise get.  They are feel-good stories, and while it is an incredibly emotional and wonderful experience for those parties involved, I have a bit of a different take on the situation because I actually consider it to be a form of exploitation.

I was recently watching a music video from Carrie Underwood titled “See You Again.”  In the video, Underwood showcases home footage from not just military homecomings, but other kinds as well.  There are countless other music videos just like hers, many with the focus solely on military homecomings.  It’s obvious that this particular video’s intent (I can’t attest to the song itself's actual intent having only heard it once) was to express that wonderful, fuzzy, warm feeling we all get at seeing loved ones reunited.  So why couldn't I help but cringe at each video clip of a military homecoming?
Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s great that these artists are bringing attention to the fact that the military really does still exist (sadly, it’s all too easy to forget we are in the middle of a war and other conflicts around the globe) and that they deserve this nation’s undying support.  But perhaps it’s the cynic in me that can’t help but wonder at the artist’s true intent.  Is it to spread awareness for the plight of the military and their families, or is it just to make a buck?

Now, I have no idea where the profits of Ms. Underwood’s songs go to or the profits of other artists who also put out military-centric music.  Some of them may actually donate the profits of a particular song to military organizations, and if this is the case, I will be the first to stand up and applaud them.  Our military needs all kinds of support, and making music to drum up that support is a fantastic mission that deserves acknowledgment.  But it’s the artists that hold on to their profits that keep me cynical.  Unfortunately, this is how life is in a capitalistic society, which is why I tend to be surprised when I actually hear about those that donate their profits to a worthy cause.

Unfortunately, the media in general is no better when it comes to this situation.  Whether it’s a news station or cable television, military homecoming videos are guaranteed to drum up eyeballs and profits because everyone wants a little slice of that warm, fuzzy feeling these kinds of videos supply them.  But this isn't surprising either since, just like in the music industry, the media industry solely exists to make money as well.  Sadly, even journalistic organizations abide by this these days even though they’re supposed to be the watchdogs of the government.

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You may be asking by now, “But why is this a bad thing?  It just means people are trying to connect with military families and isn't that actually a good thing?”  Any kind of connection we can encourage and foster between the civilian community and the military community is wonderful.  The military community needs the recognition and understanding from its public so the public can be knowledgeable and informed about the experiences of “the 1%.” 

However, there is a distinct problem here because the American public is only receiving an incredibly romanticized view of what military life is like.  The basic understanding is, “Oh, this person was gone for a year serving our country and now they’re back and everything is great!”  It’s too simplistic and absolutely not representative of the effects that real deployments and real military separations have on military members and their families.  In those 30 second clips of a joyous reunion, we miss hours, days, weeks, and months of emotional turmoil, heartbreak, depression, emptiness, loneliness, and insanity.  We miss just how long a day can be when you’re separated from your loved one, and how time can sometimes slow to a crawl just when you need it to fast forward for a little while.

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And we also miss the moments of pride, love, joy, satisfaction, and yes, even happiness felt by spouses left behind who are able to push through on their own and accomplish amazing feats while worrying every single minute about their deployed loved one.  Deployments are complicated, multi-faceted, and above all, emotionally draining.  And the issues don’t necessarily end when your service member comes home, either, even if there was an amazing homecoming and a fantastic video to show for it.  Reintegration can actually be a huge hurdle for many families to overcome, especially if the service member comes home particularly troubled, but even if he or she doesn't.  You try reworking all of your well-laid routines you've had in place for months or a year at the drop of a hat to make room again for your spouse -- it’s hard!

There aren't easy answers or solutions when it comes to trying to solve the problem of the growing disconnect between the civilian world and the military world.  To even begin to understand the scope of the differences is a pretty large task and honestly quite intimidating.  Now, I'm not trying to make you boycott homecoming clips and TV shows or feel guilty for watching them.  Like I stated before, it actually does drum up support for our military, and that can be a really great thing.  But it is important to realize that behind those 30-second clips of love and happiness that we see on television are real life people with real life complications, pains, emotions, and triumphs.  We all must understand that this simplistic view offered to us via our media outlets is never the entire story, and we must also attempt to remember the sacrifices made by these real people and how these sacrifices are truly a gift to this country and its citizens.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five for Friday

1.  I really appreciate it when you're my sounding board for my thoughts/musings of the moment.

2.  I'm really glad something is starting to work for your issues!

3.  It's nice having you drive again, haha =)

4.  Hopefully we can check out that festival this weekend!

5.  Thank you for making me feel loved =)

ily <3




Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: Aloha Stadium Swap Meet


The Need to Knows:
  • The Aloha Stadium Swap Meet is located at the Aloha Stadium in Aiea.  Here's a Google Maps link for the exact location:

View Larger Map
  • It is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 6:30 AM to 3:00 PM and also Wednesdays from 8 AM to 3 PM.
  • Admission is $1 per person, and kids 11 and under get in free.
  • I'd definitely recommend sunscreen, a hat, or even an umbrella, especially if you come here in the early to late afternoon.  There's relatively little shade and it can get hot since there's so much asphalt!
  • Because of how hot it can get, I highly recommend going in the morning (there will be more merchandise anyways!)
  • If you're looking for genuine made in Hawaii clothing, look for the Made in Hawaii label.  That way you can spot what was actually made here and what was manufactured abroad!
  • For more information, check out the swap meet's website at http://www.alohastadiumswapmeet.net/.


The swap meet at Aloha Stadium is a fantastic place to grab all kinds of souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones back home.  When it's time for Christmas or birthdays throughout the year, you can bet Mr. L and I head here to find that unique Hawaiian treasure we know the person we have in mind will love.  It's also a must stop for souvenir shopping when we have guests visiting us, and it's often cheaper than the International Marketplace down in Waikiki (then again, I'm pretty sure anything outside of Waikiki is automatically cheaper...they must have a "location tax" or something added to their products, haha).


The swap meet actually wraps around the entire Aloha Stadium, which is about a mile long.  There are tons of vendors and multiple rows, so be prepared to do a bit of walking to find stuff you're interested in.


Also be prepared for the heat and intensity of the sun (mentioned above in the Need to Know section) and definitely crowds.  Some days, particularly on weekends, parking may be more difficult to find, but we've always found somewhere, even if we had to park in the giant lot pretty far away from the main entrance.


The swap meet has all kinds of goodies, from wood crafts, jewelry, and art to dresses and t-shirts (the 7 shirts for $20 deal is quite popular here!), handcrafted soaps, and delicious homemade treats like coconut peanut butter and jams and jellies.  The great part is if some of these things are sold elsewhere (Wal-Mart, Target, our NEX, etc.) they are normally a bit cheaper here at the swap meet.


There are also relatively few snack stands here, so if you do see one and you're hungry/thirsty, I'd suggest pouncing.  We always enjoy shave ice, but we've also seen ice cold fruit and yummy Hawaiian bread stands!


Do you enjoy visiting swap meets or flea markets?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Six for Saturday

1.  What a whirlwind these past couple of weeks have been!  Thank you for helping me through it all!

2.  I'm so glad you were able to do all that you did.  Thank you for hanging in there with us!

3.  Let's keep up with the positive thinking and maybe we'll have a concrete answer soon!

4.  I'm excited about our new furniture being shipped!

5.  I'm so happy we were both blessed with awesome in-laws =)

6.  I'm also happy you had a decent day at work!  Yay!

ily <3


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ten for Friday!

Well, I missed a Friday, but I hope this makes up for it!

1.  I love how truly kind you are and how that's shaped you as a person.

2.  Watching you with people that make you happy makes me happy.

3.  I wish my hugs were a miracle cure.

4.  I'm glad I can talk to you about anything and vice versa.

5.  Thank you for helping out even when some days you feel like total crap.

6.  I love how your smile lights up your whole face!

7.  You make me strive to be a better person and believe that I can make it happen.

8.  You're so understanding and forgiving, and I appreciate it more than you'll know.

9.  Thank you for sticking through things this week.

10.  You're my best friend and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I love you Chawwie!!! <3