The magic of touching whales: Baja Gray Whale Eco-tour and Wellness Retreat

My friend Jeanne Teleia is in love with whales, so much so that she researched and recently offered a Baja Gray Whale Wellness and Inspiration Retreat in San Ignacio Lagoon on the Pacific side of Baja Mexico. I like whale tours but I’ve never experienced this level of intensity before. In Hawaii and Alaska waters, boats have to stay 100 yards away from humpback whales, and 200 yards from killer whales, though whales can approach the boats. These laws can vary by country, state and by species.

Gray whales were hunted almost to extinction; in 1946 they became the first marine mammal to be protected. During the last 30 years, the gray whales in three lagoons in Mexico have been approaching the small fishing boats and humans. In whale season, these pangas are filled with Eco-tourists hoping to see, touch, pet, even kiss whales. The lagoons are heavily regulated to protect the whales. San Ignacio Lagoon is the smallest of the three, only 16 miles long by 6 miles at its widest. Yet the observation area is only 2.3 miles2, so if the whales don’t feel like playing, they easily avoid the boats. As we approached the observation area, our captain had to check in with a monitor to report the number of people on board; the regulations limited the boat to 90 minutes in the observation area.

Photo of cooking staff courtesy of Jeanne Middleton

The Eco-tour camps that support this activity are extremely isolated. Jeanne had spent weeks researching the camps to find the best one for her retreat. She picked Antonio’s because it had wooden cabins, not tents, the most comfortable boats, and great food. We had use of the main meeting space/dining room any time for Jeanne’s well-planned wellness exercises, reading from their lending library, enjoying piña coladas and margaritas at happy hour, and just hanging between boat trips. They were even willing to cook special meals for the many diets the nine participants represented: gluten free, pork-free, lectin-free, dairy-free, low/no sugar; does anyone eat a regular diet anymore?

Antonio’s Camp desalinates water for drinking and uses solar to generate their own hot water, and enough electricity to power their kitchen, lights, and outlets in the camp. While they did have spotty WiFi, we were asked not to attempt to upload photos to FB or elsewhere. Hairdryers were strictly forbidden, and we were encouraged to take short showers.

Just being in such a wild, little-touched place was new for me. I never even went to camp as a kid. Baños are of the out-house variety. But instead of the pits common elsewhere, these use sawdust to compost additions to the throne. They were actually quite nice. No smell, quiet, almost contemplative.

Moon-set over the lagoon and moon-rise over the desert

One of the coolest aspects of being at the camp was the timing – during full moon and the Spring equinox. The timing of sunrise was very close to moonset and moonrise was close to sunset, just on opposite sides of the flat-terrained camp. We didn’t know which way to look!

The wind blew easily over the flat terrain, and I was thermally challenged the entire time. Nights were cold – in the 40’s? Most of the time I wore three pair of pants and six layers on top, plus a life jacket.  But the whales made up for it.

We spent four days enjoying six whale tours. We always saw whales close up, and saw how different they looked from each other. One mom in particular was a beautiful gray mottled color. We also saw their blowholes and eyes up close; Jeanne instructed us not to touch either. Gray whale blow holes are shaped such that under still conditions, they produce a heart-shaped spray. I only got one photo of this because the wind was always blowing.

Every day we saw whales breach and spy-hop, close to the panga. Daniel, our boat captain and son of Antonio, told us that this year, 230 whales came to the lagoon. Most had already started the 10,000 – 12,000 mile migration back to Arctic feeding waters, the longest migration of any marine mammal.

But 70 remained. Of that 20 were babies. At birth, the calves are 13 feet long, (for reference, the pangas are only 26 ft long) and their weight increases by 100 pounds a day. Daniel could easily tell us the age of a baby by the size. The babies needed more time to strengthen muscles for the long migration in ocean waters. So the 40 ton moms took their babies to practice in areas of stronger current. We even saw a mom repeatedly show her baby how to dive and scrape the bottom for food. Gray whales are mostly “right-mouthed,” like humans are predominantly right-handed. So the adults often had scrape marks on the right side of their mouths.

Photo taken by Malia True

Interestingly, I was surprised to hear my extremely cautious dad talking in my ear during the first boat outing and throughout the night: “This is dangerous. You must balance the boat when everyone else charges to one side. You could get pitched out of the boat and be crushed by the 40 ft mother. These animals have lice – why would you want to touch them? Humans were killing them only a few decades ago – how do you know they won’t take revenge? You gotta be outta your mind.”

A couple of times I began to believe him, like when the adult whales got under the boat and gently pushed us up. It has taken years to release my urge to be fearful of new situations and I thought I had finished with all that. But I wound up having to address it one more time: “I release my fear for my physical safety.” Jeanne, a Holistic Wellness Coach, also helped. She encouraged me to finally “get in there” and put my hand in the water.

Photo courtesy of Valerie Masi

So on our second trip out, I knelt down at the edge of the boat, pulled up my sleeves, put my hand in, and chanted, “Splash, splash, come on baby.” (The splashing is the signal to the whales that we humans want to play.) Sure enough, a baby surfaced nearby and I reached out. She swam right into my hand. I will never forget it; so smooth, like a hard-boiled egg, and too young to have barnacles. It felt magical, and I felt euphoric-silly-happy all the way back to camp.

Photo credits: Valerie Masi left; Laurie Hrdlicka right.

The whales came close enough to the boat for petting on at least four of our outings. I touched and petted them twice, the first time a baby and the second time a baby and her mother. Some of the gals were able to kiss the whales, but that was a bit much for me. I had the mental image of a mother whale’s barnacles scraping across my lips.

On one of the boat trips back to camp, Daniel stopped near shore and jumped out. He returned with two species of scallops growing on the bottom. These were not at all the mental image I had of scallops. Daniel carefully opened them, and shared the meat. So sweet. We were all joyful to learn we’d be eating scallops that evening back at the camp.

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Teleia.

It’s chance opportunities like this, the fun of the group, the wellness work we did, and of course, the whales, that created an all-around fantastic experience. If you get the chance, do go. Jeanne plans to offer this and other whale and dolphin retreats in the future. Check out her website and FB page for future adventures.

For my essays on humpback whale-watching in Hawaii, see:

Big Island Waters – Humpback Singles Bar.

Humpback heat run, catamaran style

Thar he blows…and breaches and spy hops and slaps his tail 

If you like this essay, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in eating right, facing my fears, getting out of my comfort zone, links to my past, living full out, Manifesting your life the way you want it, Personal growth, travel as a transformation tool, using a life-coach, whale watching, Wisconsin roots | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Lessons learned on my first trip to Mexico

I’m in Baja, Mexico for an EcoTour camp and Wellness Retreat to see whales. This is my first time visiting any country in Central or South America, so I feel some trepidation mixed with excitement. Every opportunity to travel provides surprises, both pleasant and disagreeable. What’s important for me is to turn everything into “Lessons Learned.”

It was a good idea to come a couple days early to acclimate. However, it may have been a mistake to stay at an American-style resort 30 minutes from the closest town, Loreto. The resort was beautifully manicured, much like the resorts on the Big Island. But like those resorts, this one is isolated, and hardly provides an authentic encounter with the locals. Yet it did provide a safe experience for the uninitiated (me).

The good news is that there’s a shuttle several times a day into Loreto. We were on it at 8:30 am our first morning here. Loreto is a small town on the Sea of Cortez, only 18, 535 people; it has only one stop light. It’s clear that they rely on tourists. Even the advertisement on the wall of the pharmacy left no question that they are catering to the tourist trade: everything an American might need away from home, including Viagra.

I’m with a friend, Malia, a veteran traveler who’s been to Mexico many times. It was a comfort to rely on her experience and ability to speak some Spanish. Loreto was inviting with its shaded main street and Our Lady of Loreto Mission. Our first order of business was finding a bank to exchange dollars for pesos. To our astonishment, the centrally located bank in the heart of town did not offer money exchanges.

So we trudged off to another bank in a nearby neighborhood, off the tourist path. Malia reminded me to look where I was putting my feet. There were many dogs (and some dog poop), though most had collars. Malia said this was an improvement over the scruffy bone-thin dogs she had seen in other regions. The bigger problems were the holes in the sidewalks, some very deep and big enough for a foot, and gutter pipes that ran into the sidewalks. Dodging these and teetering on cobblestone gave my knees a workout. I switched to sneakers after realizing the sandals were part of the problem.

After the bank, we walked along the waterfront, and looked for breakfast and a baño. We found a tiny place recommended on social media. Its second floor location provided great views of the water. Even though we arrived before they actually opened, they seated us, and we happily rested for a bit. The food was so good. The home-made chips were crispy and not greasy, and the salsa was warm, a nice touch. What I learned here about the baño is that it is typical to have mercy on old plumbing by folding up one’s toilet paper and putting it into a trash can in the stall. This place went the extra step of not providing toilet paper. Thank goodness for sinks, water and soap. From now on I will always carry a toilet-paper substitute. I should have learned this long ago.

Then we enjoyed some leisurely shopping with our newly acquired pesos. The colorful eye-catching contents of the tiny shops spilled out onto the sidewalks and street.

There, in the middle of color-chaos, I thought I saw bit of home. Could that be a piece of metal-work with the Green Bay Packer’s logo on it? Yes! Most of the merchandise we saw was not marked with a price, and this was no different. I hate haggling, but it is the custom here. “Quanto?” How much for the Packer art? The merchant said, “10.” How could I pass up 10 pesos? But I dutifully haggled. “How about eight?” We agreed on nine and I looked for nine pesos. But the smallest money I could find was two five-peso coins, so I offered them to him and said “Keep the change.” He looked at me incredulously. “Dollars, not pesos!” Wow, did I feel stupid. The good news is that I did have exact change in dollars. The big difference in the exchange rate tripped me up a number of times, but eventually I learned to think in pesos.

On the way back to the resort, we stopped in the town’s largest supermarket, on par with Malama Market in Honoka’a, but with many empty shelves.  Since our resort studio has a kitchen, we decided to cook some meals. I picked up a half dozen eggs. Unlike the US, these eggs were offered by weight – take as many as you wish. The cashier placed them in a separate plastic bag, but this provided no protection. Unfortunately, back at the studio, they fell out of the refrigerator door and cracked. Oh well, I ate them anyway over the next couple days. Next time I’ll cushion them.

One thing I did right on this trip was to not sign up for the All-Inclusive Plan at the resort. Given my proclivity for getting my money’s worth, I’m sure I would have been eating all the time. Lots of people are over-drinking too. At the resort’s hot tub (the biggest I have ever seen – more like a small swimming pool) half the people were so drunk they could barely stand up, especially during two-for-one Happy Hour.

Something I almost regretted doing was beachcombing for shells on the resort’s private beach. The selection changed daily depending on wind and tide conditions. It was legal to take these shells, and I carefully chose a few to bring home. What I didn’t know is that the EcoTour camp for the four-day whale tour was on a Marine Reserve where no collecting was allowed. On the van trip across Baja, we were stopped at an Army checkpoint complete with machine-guns and were “asked” to get off the van. Later, we were stopped by the Mexican Federal Police. If either had searched our bags, they might have accused me of taking shells illegally. I was sweating. Luckily, they didn’t. Our tour leader told us this might happen, but knowing and experiencing are two different things.

Overall, my first trip to Mexico was wonderful. My next blog will be about the EcoTour camp, the retreat put on by my friend Jeanne, and the whales:

The magic of touching whales: Baja Gray Whale Eco-tour and Wellness Retreat

If you like this essay, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in beachcombing, enjoying other cultures, getting out of my comfort zone, learnng new things, Travel, travel as a transformation tool | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Building a home in Hawaii, Part 2

My latest project is building a house on the lot I purchased in 2016. After I had the land cleared and grubbed, the next step was to decide what to put on it. My expectations were high, because readying the land proceeded fairly easily (except for the rain).

My original idea was to build a modest one-bedroom cottage, and rent it out. I started by heading straight to HPM, and their HPM Homes, working with Brigitte Spry, Senior HPM Homes Consultant, at their location in Kona. This was May 2017. I liked her immediately. She patiently explained the HPM Homes process and I left with the book of models tucked under my arm. Perusing this catalog was like getting the Sears Christmas Catalog as a kid – so many delightful ideas on every page.

The more I thought it through, the more I wanted the new house for me, creating the perfect home to age in place. One thing I liked about the HPM Homes was that I could customize my design. While HPM has several designs that already have County approval if no changes are required, I wanted a model with an indoor laundry (versus in the carport which is more typical here) and a place where I could enter the home from the backyard. With the steep slope of the land, I was not going to put myself in a position of having to walk up nearly two flights of stairs at the front, just to bring my groceries inside.

Original Lauhala house plan (left) and my house design (right).

But models with both of these features did not exist in the book. So I found one I could alter, the Lauhala home. It was a simple change of swapping the locations of a bathroom and the laundry. By adding an external door to the laundry, I had direct access to the backyard and the driveway along the side of my current house.

Of course, I’m not one to do things halfway. I got design happy. Here are some of the changes I made:

  • Made ceilings 9 feet instead of 8.
  • Added two feet to width of house.
  • Added two feet of length, one in the house, and one in the front lanai across the entire width of the house.
  • Widened bathroom to make space for a soaking tub (one of two luxuries I allowed myself).
  • Took out two smaller windows and a door in living room/dining room and replaced with a 16-foot four panel patio door. This is the other luxury; I have a great view, I might as well be able to see it.
  • Replaced large lanai on the north-east corner of the house, adding space to the master bedroom. This also created a foyer, my very own mud room. I always wanted one.
  • Removed walk-in closet in master bedroom to make room for a walk-in pantry in the kitchen.
  • Squared off the peninsula in the kitchen and swapped the sink and range locations. (When entertaining, I want to face my guests in the dining room while I cook.)
  • Moved hot water heater under the house allowing room for the addition of a powder room in the foyer.

My plan is to scale down my own living space now that I am living alone. So some of these changes accommodated my desire to rent the master bedroom, or provide a separate space for a daughter, should one decide to return home. The renter will have 450 square feet plus their portion of the lanai. I will have the remainder.

Brigitte seemed surprised by the level of detail I had created, down to an electrical plan. She says I no longer have a kit house. It’s a custom home. Maybe, but I still see the bones of the original house within it. She also teased that I should come to work for them, as I had great ideas for improvements to my design.

Once the topographical map of the lot and the septic system design were completed, the architect was able to marry those up with my house design to create a final set of plans. It’s amazing how many details you have to think through ahead of time, like designing in a closet tall enough for the ironing board, mop and broom, and even to the placement of electrical plugs if you want them somewhere besides near the floor. The final modification I added was doors and hallways large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. A dear friend’s experience is top of mind – it can happen to anyone.

Brigitte submitted my final plan to the County for approval at Thanksgiving 2017. At the same time, I was working with Peggy Benson, HPM’s Kona Kitchen and Bath Designer.

The layout changes I had made to the Lauhala house were easy to visualize because I created the plans myself with PowerPoint. But to really picture the kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinetry, Peggy had to work her magic with her design program. Poor Peggy, stuck working with a Gemini perfectionist. If you know me well, you can imagine it. If you don’t, it’s best not to know.

Meanwhile, I interviewed a couple of builders and decided to hire the folks that my friend Stacy used, Ohana Homes. Brigitte praised them too. I love working with Kathryn and Ron.

All throughout the fall (2017), I thought I’d be starting construction in January 2018, and indeed, the County Planning Department approved the plans on January 29, 2018. I didn’t think the damn bank would take an additional six months to finalize the construction loan – nine months total to birth that loan. I will never recommend this bank. Contact me if you want to know more. “Livid” and “loathing” only begin to describe my feelings about them.

But I put that aside as I watched my house materialize. We started July 31, 2018. We’re lucky to have had only one calamity: Hurricane Lane washed parts of my lot away while Ohana Homes was setting the foundations. That cost us three weeks as they brought the soil back up the hill. Not bad as calamities go.

This may be the hardest, most multi-faceted project I’ve ever taken on – a real workout for my brain and decision-making skills. I’m so grateful that my current house abuts the new property, allowing me the luxury of inspecting the progress on the new house every day, and being on-hand when questions arise.

Back of house

As I write this, the outside is almost done, with only the doors and decks left. The electrician is finished and the plumber is busy inside. Next step is drywalling, then cabinet installation. I can’t wait to see them go in. Wish me continued luck.

For more information, see Building a new house in Hawaii, Part 1.

If you like this essay, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in Building a new house, Decide and take action, getting out of my comfort zone, hurricanes, life choices, the nearby Pacific Ocean | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Parasailing in Paradise – UFO Parasailing in Kona

I so enjoyed having my daughters and nieces visiting me on the Big Island over the holidays. Actually, who am I kidding? They weren’t really visiting me as much as the island. There were only three of them here at any given time, so the house was not overflowing. And I especially loved that I was not expected to cart them around. I was happy to turn over my car keys and let them do their thing. But I did manage to squeeze in one adventure while they were here, mostly because no one else wanted to go. My niece Carly and I tried parasailing in Kona.

I have spent seven years looking at parasailers out on the ocean when I go to Kona – the experience looks amazing. I was supposed to go with my sister Nancy while she was here in September. On our appointed day, we patiently watched the boat come into the Kona pier, scrutinized the crew as they folded the parasail from the previous “flight” back into its bag, and eagerly boarded. But once we moved out to open water, the captain found the wind was too irregular and he cancelled the parasailing flight. We were bummed, and I promised to wait to go with her this spring. Sorry Nancy, I couldn’t wait any longer.

Carly and I “flew” with UFO Parasail. They are located inside the King Kamehameha Hotel, just a short distance from the Kona pier. After watching the safety videos and signing waivers, we wandered out to the pier to watch the UFO boat come into berth.

Our Captain, Rob, didn’t talk much. Jonathon was the talker; he did the “dog and pony show” for us and another couple. We were able to watch the other couple get strapped into the gear, launch and return. The flight time is about 10 minutes, plenty of time as we were to learn.

When it was our turn, I found myself very calm. The harness is worn like a swing with a wide flat loop around each thigh. While Jonathon strapped us in, he said, “Don’t straighten your legs to shift the harness unless you want to fly with a giant wedgie until you land.” That mental image was very clear and we complied with all instructions.

Then we sat on the back deck of the speed boat and Jonathon clicked our harnesses into place on the bar above us. There were just two attachment points and that gave Carly pause, but it was too late to back out. They unfurled the sail behind us as the boat moved forward, and we felt ourselves lifting off the deck. The boat sped away and the guys gradually let our cable out 800 feet. So we were not 800 feet up, but 800 feet from the boat. There’s also a 1200 foot option for a little more money.

Those first moments pulling away from the boat were thrilling, watching the boat get smaller as we soared higher and higher into the air. My ears even popped.

But soon that calm peaceful feeling returned. It’s so silent up there. It was just us and that blue tow line, connecting us to the tiny boat below. We could see so far, including the decks of the cruise ship moored off-shore. I always enjoy watching a shoreline from a boat, but this was a different experience entirely – so clear for many miles.

Ever since Pele stopped spewing lava from Leilani Estates, the air quality has changed drastically on the west side of the island. From 1983 to May 2018, Kona had a good chance of having vog (volcanic fog) in the afternoon. When Pele started pumping lava in May 2018, Kona had a thick brown blanket of vog most of the time. But now that this latest eruption has ceased, the vog has stopped entirely. The air on the west side of the island is clear, and even the green flash has returned at sunset on some evenings. This was a great parasailing experience.

Just about the time the “swing” under our thighs got uncomfortable, we could feel the crew reeling us back in. Ten minutes is definitely enough time in the air. All guests are asked if they want a foot dip in the water before landing. Of course! As we came in close to the water, I mused out loud, “I wonder what would happen if there was a shark right under us…” Carly was not amused.

Then back up into the air for a concluding maneuver to position us for the landing. I took this final opportunity to finally go “no hands.” I felt very brave and sassy. Carly thought I was nuts. Aside: you might be asking, what’s with the Maui Jim parasail? It turns out the owner of Maui Jim used to be a crew member for UFO Parasail. So they have some sort of joint advertising program.

Landing is as easy as take-off. The crew is able to position the harness frame right over the back deck and all you do is stand up. They quickly unbuckle you from the frame, remove the harness, and you’re free. Then it’s a leisurely ride back to the pier.

Will I do it again? Yes, with my sister, Nancy. I don’t want her mad at me. Worth the price? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes. This adventure makes my proposed itinerary for guests from now on.


If you like this essay, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in getting out of my comfort zone, learnng new things, Parasailing, Play, sightseeing on the Pacific Ocean, Things to do on the Big Island | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Building a new house in Hawaii, Part 1.

View from my backyard when I bought my house.

On top of everything else happening in my life, I am also building a house. Sometimes I question my sanity. I actually bought the lot while I was in England two years ago. No it’s not in England. I’m not that crazy, though doing anything in Hawaii that requires interaction with the state or county government is always dicey.

While I was on that six-week solo trip across southern England in 2016, my now-Ex texted me to say a surveyor was marking the land on the empty lot behind my house. The owner from Florida was finally selling.

View from my back lanai when I bought the lot behind me.

I always wanted to buy it, mostly to preserve the peekaboo ocean view from my back lanai. But if anyone else built on it, I’d wind up with a view of someone else’s new house. In fact, even the peekaboo view had become compromised. The invasive trash trees growing on the lot completely blocked it.

So I asked the Universe to help me buy the lot. I immediately texted Stacy, my realtor and friend, and she investigated. Within two weeks we had written up an offer and it was accepted – all long distance!  Processes usually take a long time with multiple snafus in quirky Hawaiʻi, so it was a pleasant surprise that the purchase went so smoothly. All the paperwork was completed electronically and I got home just in time to sign the final documents at the title company on September  27, 2016. After that whirlwind, I just sat with the idea of owning this property. That didn’t last long. I wanted the trash trees out so I could actually see it and get my view back.

Enter Steve, my friend and yard guy. I call him a Force of Nature. This guy can move mountains. He single-handedly cut down all the vegetation and most of the trees with a machete and a bow-saw. It took him six weeks, three or four hours a day to chop most of it down.

Every day I would check, hoping to be able to see the lower street from a vantage point in my yard (the lot slopes downhill) but it wasn’t until near the end of this clearing phase that I could get any sense of the lay of the land. Even after Steve called in some guys with chainsaws to get the few big trees down, there were so many piles of brush and logs that I still couldn’t really see it.

I began to toy with the idea of putting a little cottage on the lot, as a long term rental. It seemed wrong to leave the land unused, especially given the shortage of housing on the island. I was sure I could place a cottage on the lot in a way that would not obstruct the view from my lanai, perhaps behind the large avocado tree. But to see if that was even possible, we had to remove all the piles, instead of letting them compost in place which was my original intent.

Fencing lot on a rare sunny day.

About this time it began to rain steadily for five weeks, making the lot a sea of mud. It was a good time to start a different project, fencing the property along both sides. Steve brought in Chey and the two of them worked around the periphery where the mud wasn’t too bad.

By January, Steve found a grubber and brought him in. Mark did a nice job of digging out all the trash tree roots. Now I had piles of logs, brush and roots. Mark even transplanted the banana trees that were in the middle of the property to the edges, beautiful sentinels along the new fences. They thrived there and are bearing fruit.

My East Garden grubbed out.

I soon realized that if I wanted to build on the lot, I’d need to find a different way to access it because the street it’s on is basically a one lane road with steep hills and curves. No large equipment or delivery trucks would be able to maneuver to my property.

So I did something drastic that set me on the course to building: while Mark’s CAT was there, I had him removed all the foliage and brick planters along the Hilo side of my house. My East Garden was now gone, replaced by a long access driveway to the new lot. It felt like I had made a no-going-back decision, and I questioned my sanity.

But now we could clear the lot through that access. I brought in three 10 yard dumpsters, one after the other, and Steve and Randall trudged the logs up the hill to the dumpster for hauling out. They removed a total of 9.2 tons of green waste in less than a week. Like I said, a Force of Nature.

After this, even Steve cried Uncle and he found a guy with a chipper. In February 2017, Bully ground up the remainder of the logs and brush. As a final touch to this phase, Steve and I planted some ornamental plants, and threw what seemed like tons of grass seeds on the land.

I could finally see what I had bought. My new lot has a steep slope, but also has quite the view. With everything on the land done, my thoughts turned to that cottage.

I was fearful because I had never built a house before, and was definitely getting out of my comfort zone. But sometimes I cannot talk myself out of taking a risk.

Continued in Building a Home in Hawaii Part 2.


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Posted in asking the Universe, Building a new house, Decide and take action, facing my fears, getting out of my comfort zone, home, plants in my yard, working in my yard | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Peace Now (Peace Week 2018, Honoka’a)

Above: Miles Okumura, chair of the Honokaa Peace Committee with opening parade banner. Below: the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko performers


We are living in difficult times, with much social upheaval. I despair at the rancor we show each other, and wonder when we will become civil again. It was with this backdrop that I welcomed our little town’s celebration of Peace Week.

Local Bon Dancers; Dominic Yagong – announcing the parade participants; and the Honoka’a Senior Club sings for us.

Selecting from activities like Wine at 5, Reading for Peace at the library, and a day of Mindfulness Meditation, the residents of Honoka’a had many opportunities to honor and manifest World Peace. Even children are encouraged to participate with their creations of Posters for Peace. My favorite part is the Peace Parade and the Festival. It’s so family-friendly and welcoming of all. There may be more Honokaʻa residents IN the parade than watching it. This year, more than ever, it seemed important to celebrate and pray for peace. And all this was made possible by some far-thinking Hawaiʻi youth eleven years ago.

Children from Prince Dance Troupe in Peace Parade

In 2007, our United Junior Young Buddhist Association lobbied and succeeded in having the State of Hawai‘i recognize the United Nations Peace Day, by then more than 20 years old. Honoka‘a has celebrated every year since then. Many US communities have followed, but we were the first. This is positive thinking and visualizing on a grand scale! I am so blessed to live in this town, with its special vibe.

Above: United Methodist Church Contingent in ethnic dress. Below: parade poster calling for participants.

For the first time, the Honokaʻa Hongwanji’s Peace Committee chose a theme, “Calling all Immigrants,” reminding us that most of us came to Hawaiʻi and to the US from somewhere else. (I loved the United Methodist Church members marching in their ethnic dress.) We are most fortunate to have a rich cultural heritage on the Big Island; a true Global Village. Every group that has come here has contributed to our global soup. Perhaps we can be a role model for other places. In these times, making the link between Peace and Immigrants is an important humanitarian effort.

Feeding people for free at Peace Parade: Cooks and servers – Phaethon, Elijah, Ravi, Paul, Annie (and Lynn, not pictured)

A vivid example from this year’s festivities was the vegetarian Indian meal served at the parade. In the Sikh tradition of langar, it is customary to feed others for free regardless of race or religion. Sikhs open their doors to people of all denominations of Christianity, Hindus and Muslims to share food as a way of acknowledging that all people and all religions are equal. Here at the parade, Ravi, Annie and others served multiple pots of rice and two kinds of dal they had made that day. They were a symbol, both of new immigrants seamlessly integrating into the culture of the Big Island, and ordinary people peacefully addressing the humanitarian needs of others.

Above: the Honokaʻa High School Jazz Band. Below: the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko performers and their blue lion

The Festival continued the family-focused celebration with the Honokaʻa High School Jazz Band led by our beloved Mr. Washburn, the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko performers and their blue lion, aerialists and jugglers led by Ms. Alea Backus, even an address by our island-wide mayor, Harry Kim.

Aerialists and jugglers led by Ms. Alea Backus

Mayor Harry Kim and Reverend Bruce Nakamura address those gathered.

Reverend Bruce Nakamura from the Honokaʻa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple led the invocation and expanded on the need for peace to include other species and the land itself in his address at the Festival:

“ALOHA dear sisters and brothers … Thank you one and all for joining together in these 2018 Honokaʻa Peace Day activities and events … Let us pause for a few moments … amid the scurry of modern day living and its pressures. PEACE – Is it simply … the absence of fear, hurt, conflicts, violence and killing? With our shared desire for peace, (let’s) explore its deeper, dimensions rooted in the actual world we live in.

All beings, animate and inanimate live and exist interdependently in a flux of change joined by inter-relatedness. This net of constant flux requires the taking of life whether, human, animal, plant or minerals. As human beings, we inevitably benefit taking life indirectly or directly. This sustains our well-being, and the irony is, we have not discovered a way of subsisting as a species without hurting and destroying other organisms – animate and inanimate.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Anderson.

How piteous the human animal, lacking True Wisdom not to take that which should not be taken nor given to him … At times even in his arrogance of religious piety, he claims the right to utilize what the creator has endowed him in providence and for prosperity.

Hence, grasped by Great Compassion, let us enlarge our shared responsibilities to ‘Aina and to our brothers and sisters in need in our human family … Evoking the Name of Great Compassion – Na Mo A Mi Da Butsu – Na Man Da Bu – Na Man Da Bu – Na Man Da Butsu … Thank you everyone.”

I know I need peace in my life. How about you? As the song goes, give peace a chance.


I’d like to acknowledge Mr. Miles Okumura for his leadership on the Peace Committee for the past 12 years.

Prior essays about Peace Week:

Our little town invites world peace

The ones left behind,

Meditation, fellowship and the dentist

Useful links:

The Peace Committee FB Page.

The Peace Committee Website

See also Big Island Video News:

Bon dance at end of Festival – all are welcome to participate

If you like this essay, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in enjoying other cultures, Gary Washburn, Honoka'a, Honoka'a Peace Day, Honoring tradition, Making community | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I found a new tribe – Packer Bar in Kona, Quinn’s Almost by the Sea.

Did you ever walk into a crowd of strangers, and just know that you had a deep connection with them? It happened to me last week at Quinn’s Almost by the Sea. I discovered it in 2013, and love the vibe. This place is the Southernmost Official Packer Bar in the USA, so proclaims their website.

My sister was visiting, and we decided to celebrate the Packer’s 100th season by watching the opening game against our biggest rival, the Bears, at Quinn’s.

So we went early and got a good table. Before our lunch even arrived, we were already acquainted with the Southern California gals at the next table, Carol and Barbara (with Dallas fan husband, Jerry). These gals have been Packer fans for years, and have even flown to Green Bay for a game. That’s more than I can say. It’s on my bucket list – a Packer game at Lambeau Field some year before the weather turns cold. But this could be a long time coming, because according to Wikipedia, the Packers have sold out every game since 1960. And even if I still lived in Wisconsin, forget about season tickets: at least 115,000 names are on the waiting list with a wait time of 30 years.

The young couple on their honeymoon was from Montana; the older couple behind us was from Alberta. A bunch of local guys sauntered in wearing Packer shirts. A Minnesota couple arrived, she a life-long Packer fan, he a Viking fan. It would have been fun to sit with them at the Packers-Vikings game.

The bar room was also packed, everyone rooting for the Packers. Here I found some Wisconsin refugees, Kimberly, her husband and son, and a silver fox from Wauwatosa. Photos and hugs all around, the whole restaurant seemed like one large family reunion. All you had to do was make eye contact, grin, and raise your hand for a high-five to start a conversation.

Even the dismal Packer performance did not seem to dampen the mood. When Aaron Rodgers was carted off the field, the atmosphere toned down, but we never lost faith. Down by 20 points in the third quarter, we prayed for Aaron’s return. Reporter to Rodgers: “What goes through your head when you look at the scoreboard and see 20 to 3?” Rodgers: “7 times 3. We gotta score three touchdowns.” What a comeback, playing the rest of the game with an injured knee!

With only 2:15 left in the game, Chicago was still ahead 23-17. Everyone was on their feet, praying, yelling, and willing the team on. Then Rodgers connected with Cobb for a 75 yard return and a touchdown. Such a noise! When the game ended with a Packer victory, the crowd went wild. It was the largest 4th quarter deficit the team had ever overcome in 100 seasons of play.


I had so much fun last week, I decided to go again this week with Game Two of the season against the Vikings. My sister had gone home where she was assured of getting the Packers telecast for every game. Not so for me; if I want to be sure to see every game, I’ll have to drive to Kona. This was a noon game in Green Bay, which meant a 7 am kick-off in Hawaii. Yes, Quinn’s opens at 7 am on Sunday during football season. I left the house at 5:30 am, and picked up Stacy at 6. When we arrived at 7:10, there wasn’t a seat open in the bar or adjacent dining room. Just then, Jerry (the Dallas fan husband of Barbara) walked up and said he had two seats saved for me. YES! There they were, Barbara and Carol, already cheering for the Packers.

Around me were people from Oshkosh, Beaver Dam, Rice Lake, Kenosha, Horicon, and a suburb of Milwaukee. The folks from Beaver Dam and Kenosha also have condos here in Kona. Wow! Even Stacy’s Dad was originally from Wisconsin, so I’ll count her too. There was one lone guy in the bar wearing a Vikings shirt. Even he was welcome. I told him he was a brave man and he gave me a big hug. Quinn’s is my kind of bar; everyone is on their feet for the Packers.

It was way too early to drink beer at 7 am, even at a Packer Game. So I contented myself with coffee and a breakfast that could only be dreamed up by someone from Wisconsin – a Reuben omelet complete with sauerkraut, corned beef and 1000 Island Dressing drizzled on top. It was good! But the game was so intense, that I barely finished it. The game went into overtime and still ended in a tie. At least we didn’t lose.

On the way home, Stacy and I stopped off at the beach for a long swim/bob, the best way to work off all that energy from the game. This is not something I could do after watching a game in a Wisconsin Packer Bar. So what more can I want? I’ve got my team, my bar, my tribe, and am lucky enough to live on the Big Island. I am so grateful.

For more on Quinn’s, see Packer pity party…in Kona!


If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column.

Posted in Honoring tradition, Kona, links to my past, Wisconsin roots | Tagged , , | 10 Comments