2012 Kauai IN STEP Children’s Science Show

Volunteering at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (here’s a previous post if you missed it), is already opening all sorts of unexpected and enjoyable opportunities to me, in addition to simply chatting with and informing visitors at Kilauea Point.

Last week I was at the Kauai IN STEP Children’s Science Show in Lihue. It’s a two-day science and technology fair, where businesses/groups explain to kids (from 4th, 6th, and 8th grades) how they use technology in their day-to-day work. This year KPNWR were one of five groups invited to participate – the others being the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Kauai Utility Cooperatie (KIUC), Hawaiian Telecom, and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) which manages the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The kids were split up into groups and were shuttled between the five stations for a mere 10 minute presentation at each.

Myself and another volunteer were there with a Ranger (Sheri), ostensibly to talk about the various technologies that help us at the Refuge, but at the same time to enthuse them about conservation, and maybe light a fire in them that might lead to a future career, or at least foster another caring volunteer.

The kids were tremendous. They came to us in groups of anything from 10 to 25 or more, and had to deal with a great deal of noise and chaos around them, as we were all in a large conference hall. They sat on the floor and were (mostly) fascinated to listen to Sheri, as she explained how the birds were here long before us, and talked of the responsibility we have to safeguard them. We fielded a remarkable number of thoughtful questions from genuinely interested minds.

Sheri’s pitch was guaranteed to peak their interest. Many of these kids go hunting with their dads, and have some familiarity with, for example, the remote scout cameras that we use to keep track of birds and also their predators. So, she pointed out a camera that was ‘watching’ them from the moment they arrived.

Garmin GPSThe idea of using technology as a form of ‘spying’ appealed to that age group. 😉 So their eyes opened even wider as we demo’d the ‘burrow-cam’ (a car mechanic’s flexible inspection camera), as well as the handheld GPS gizmo that rangers use to record the position of the remote cameras.

One of the most successful visual aids was the brief video clip we had set up on a continuous loop in the center of our display table. Recorded by an infra-red remote camera, it captured a cat scaring a Nene (Hawaiian goose) from its nest and attempting to grab an egg.

That story had a happy ending: after repeated attempts, the cat was unsuccessful, the Nene returned, and the chick eventually hatched. Since we had the GPS location of that specific camera, the rangers were able to trap the cat a few days later; it was neutered by the Kauai Humane Society and relocated.


Not born again, just another first birthday

September 22…my first birthday celebration on the island!

It started with Tai Chi at the Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, overlooking the ocean at Hanalei Bay. Serenely beautiful and uplifting.

That was followed by a visit to the Hanalei Farmer’s Market…a regular Saturday event…

…and then brunchfast at the Hanalei Wake Up Cafe – love their excellent omelettes and bottomless coffee mugs.

Later in the morning, Steve and I took a bike ride around Princeville, with a couple of stops…one at the St. Regis, and another at the Westin (to check out the venue for the evening event). We planned the route so that we’d end with a gentle coast downhill to the house. Yes, I know Princeville is pretty damn flat, but neither of us have had the bikes out for a good run since we moved, so the legs were feeling a tad pathetic.

Mid-afternoon, I got a call from the tennis club (Hanalei Bay Resort) saying a friend was looking to hit for a while. Perfect timing! Steve’s been closely following the Fedex Cup, and particularly this final weekend, so I left him in front of the box and got a good one-and-a-half hours workout with a wiry, canny, player whom I first met on my visits last year and thoroughly enjoy playing. Sadly, he’ll be returning to his other home in Thailand in October…a common phenomenon on this island where many folks split their year between two or more homes.

I returned with just enough time for a much needed shower before Steve and I left for my ‘birthday party’. By pure fluke (perhaps less so since this year it fell on a Saturday), my birthday coincided with the Westin’s Jazz and Wine Festival. It was a celebration of and by the various restaurants around the island, together with suitable wine pairings, and some excellent jazz musicians. Proceeds from the silent auction went to the Kauai Lifeguards Association, who perform a necessary and unenviable role here, given the number of visitors who are unaware of the hidden dangers at many of the beaches.

We spent the evening in the company of a number of interesting and amusing folks, enjoying the entertainment, food, and beverages…the latter so much so that we were pleased we’d had the foresight to ride our bikes instead of relying on four wheels.

The trip home was slightly challenging due to the effects of inebriation, but was without incident…until, that is, we reached our driveway, where Steve successfully slowed to a stop but forgot to take his foot off the pedal! 🙂

Darn it! Why is it that the camera isn’t readily available at the most inviting moments?!

20 Years on from Hurricane Iniki

This week marked the 20th anniversary of the day Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai and caused massive destruction across the island.

We knew of Iniki before we moved here, and we viewed several clips on YouTube showing the power of the hurricane, both during and after, but we learned much more this week from a local TV station, KGMB, which replayed a news broadcast from that day in 1992 that brings home the trauma that the islanders suffered, especially due to the lack of warning, something that has evidently been improved upon in recent years with advances in technology.

I was fascinated to see the path that Iniki took (and why), since it at first appeared to be skirting the Hawaiian islands relatively harmlessly to the south, as it grew in intensity from a tropical storm, but then took a disastrous turn north.

Another KGMB news segment this week recalled the aftermath of that day, but focused on the tremendous community spirit at the time, and how well the island has recovered since.

We were aware of the risk of hurricanes when we bought our home here. The hurricane season typically runs from June to November (though these days there doesn’t seem to be anything typical about the weather anywhere in the world), and the community is frequently encouraged to be prepared – know of evacuation routes, maintain food and water reserves, etc. – but it’s not something that overshadows our day-to-day lives. It’s not much different from living in an earthquake zone, as we did in California where we were perched almost on top of the San Andreas faultline. We’ve simply traded one of Mother Nature’s risks for another.

However, it’s comforting to know that our current home was locally dubbed ‘The Shelter’ when it was built, immediately after Iniki swept through. [Incidentally, while there are several evacuation centers, such as school halls, provided for visitors, there simply isn’t enough room for everyone, so, in the event of a hurricane, residents are requested to shelter-in-place! Bummer, that!]

The previous property on this lot was completely destroyed, its roof sheared off and structure so badly damaged and buckled that it was an insurance write-off, so the lot was cleared.

Not surprisingly, the owners had no wish to suffer a repeat performance, and employed an experienced architect and builder, in an attempt to ensure that their replacement home could withstand a similar onslaught.

The house is a single-storey dwelling built into a sloping lot, so that its roofline is way below that of the surrounding houses, with the back supported on 16″ square solid concrete pillars. The roof is tied down with metal hurricane clips at every rafter (as opposed to every 3 or 4 in many houses). In brief, just about everything in this house is over-spec’d as far as hurricane-proofing is concerned.

It’s also wired for a generator. Just a flick of a switch can divert us from the grid to a generator tucked in the over-large crawl space under the back of the house; a crawl space, incidentally, that’s deep enough and tall enough to provide shelter for us, and probably several neighbors too, with plenty of room to store food and water reserves. [The photo shows merely a third of it!]

While I’m not freaked out by the possibility of a hurricane, it’s very reassuring to know that if ever the island-wide alert is issued to shelter-in-place, we have as a good a chance as any, and better than many, of still having a roof over our heads when the storm subsides.

On the lookout for mongooses and other invasive species on Kauai

I previously mentioned that I’m now volunteering at the KPNWR (Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge).

I thoroughly enjoy working being there. I’m learning so much from the rangers, and have such fun conveying all that I learn to the visitors.

One of the privileges of being a volunteer is that we get to attend the monthly meeting…a couple of hours on a Friday morning.

The first half of the agenda is an established sequence of updates, to keep us all up-to-date with what’s going on at the refuge, including a biological report…whatever’s happening depending on the time of year (currently, the wedge-tailed shearwaters have hatched a few weeks ago and are growing, and the Newell Shearwaters are approaching their fledging season); followed by, among others, an update from the KPNHA (Kilauea Point Natural History Association) which runs the Visitor’s Center.

After those various reports, for the second half of the meeting we’re treated to a “Featured Nature Nugget” speaker. Today, three members of KISC (Kauai Invasive Species Committee) joined us, to discuss the invasive species on Kauai and how to recognize them. Tiffani Keanini fascinated us with her talk and samples.

MongooseOur main interest was the mongoose (a truly vicious looking b*stard), since we’ve been hearing of several sightings and a couple of captures in recent months, and they would be a particular threat to our ground nesting birds and hatchlings if they were to establish a colony on this island.

However, we also learned of several plants that threaten the environment in a number of ways.

Ivy Gourd

The Ivy Gourd is the vine standing on the far right behind the speaker. Its flower and seed pod are shown in the slide.

For example, Pampas Grass (well known to my California friends) is a big no-no here. Apparently, some well-meaning but naïve homeowners have tried to plant them in their yards. However, I’m now on the case … looking for any further PG occurrences.

Other examples were the Ivy Gourd (“regarded as very invasive and on the Hawaii State Noxious Weed List”), plus another vicious, but teeny critter, the Little Fire Ant, which was inadvertently transported from South America and made its way to the North Shore of Kauai via a landscaping company working on an individual homeowner’s yard in the area.

A good reminder for me was how seeds can be spread inadvertently by hikers. KISC pleaded with us to brush off our boots whenever we’ve been for a hike, to avoid spreading the seeds of one species (particularly an invasive species) from one part of the island to another (which reminded me of a trip to the Galapagos Islands with a good friend back in 2002, when we diligently washed off our boots, snorkel equipment, etc., whenever we left one island to go to another).

Gotta love the KISC guys who provided us all with free boot brushes, as well as key rings and fridge magnets, to try to spread the word.

Heads up, any keen hikers who comes to visit us! From now on you will definitely be subjected to the boot brush!

No Rain – No Rainbows! *

I set off with Freya for our usual stroll this morning…opened the door to a gentle passing shower. Not enough to stop us; in fact, rather refreshing!

Turned the corner from Keoniana to Kaweonui and was treated to this!…
Double rainbow

Out at the point, the rainbow was starting to fade, but the moon was still up…

I do love where we live!

* Researching the origin of this popular saying led me to Kimo’s Hawaiian Rules (below). Turns out, according to Lonely Planet, that it’s Kauai’s own Nite Owl T-Shirts that takes credit for bringing together this collection of rules.

Kimo’s Hawaiian Rules

Never judge a day by the weather.
The best things in life aren’t things.
Tell the truth – there’s less to remember.
Speak softly and wear a loud shirt.
Goals are deceptive – the unaimed arrow never misses.
He who dies with the most toys – still dies.
Age is relative – when you’re over the hill, you pick up speed.
There are 2 ways to be rich – make more or desire less.
Beauty is internal – looks mean nothing.
No Rain – No Rainbows

However, we also have G.K. Chesterton to thank for that last one:  And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

Enjoy many more of his best quotes here.

The metamorphosis from house to home

Well, that was a mighty busy couple of weeks!

Matson containerOur containerized home arrived from California a week ago last Thursday, and we’ve been unpacking, sorting, and rearranging ever since (with admittedly some beach, tennis, and golf time in between our surges of homemaking).

Final furniture collectionThe previous few days had been spent removing the existing furniture, to make room for the incoming items. I found a non-profit housing project in Koloa whose manager was so delighted to have the donations that she was happy to collect the bulky furniture. It took them a few days to organize a couple of trips, but to our relief the last load disappeared the day before the container showed up.

Since we had bought the house last year (June 2011) with the initial intention of using it for our own and for friends’ vacations for, oh, perhaps a couple of years or more, until we were ready to make the ‘big move’, it had been very convenient that the purchase came with furniture included.

Master bedroom 2011The seller left pretty much all the basics: beds, linens, sofas, chairs, chests-of-drawers, lamps, silverware, as well as a large number of paintings and nick-nacks (even a couple of old TVs and VCRs), while our generous and thoughtful realtor gifted some important missing items: coffee table, saucepans, towels.

Living room 2011So, we really didn’t need to add much for our occasional one- or two-week vacations. [The only item of ours in the photo (right) is the painting, a spontaneous purchase from a local gallery in April 2011 when we first saw the house.]

While our taste in furnishings is very different, I was grateful for everything in the house, and even found the heavy accent on Hawaiiana amusing, perhaps because it was so very different from our CA decor. I assumed that we’d retain many of the smaller items once we moved in full-time.

Master bedroom August 2012All that changed, however, once we started unpacking our own possessions. Very quickly the previous furnishings, ornaments, and paintings looked out of place and just ‘not us’!

At the risk of sounding ungracious, I couldn’t wait to box up and remove all (well, almost all) the remaining vestiges of the previous owner.

Living room August 2012

Still, I don’t feel so bad knowing that there are others out there who are grateful for the donations…as were we, last year.Living room August 2012

Office August 2012

What a mess! Looks like we’ve lived here for years! Still need more drawer space in the office.

We’re not done yet, but this house is very quickly becoming our home. The final push now is to unpack more of our artwork, ornaments, and glass…once we figure out where on earth to put them. 

Dining area August 2012

At last, my keyboard’s out of storage, having been packed away in May during the pre-open house declutter.