Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grandma’s House

I probably should be at least attempting to sleep, but I have had so many thoughts rattling around in my head and I can't seem to get them to quiet down. Maybe writing this up will help, maybe it won't. We shall see.

I don't count myself as overly gushy and sentimental. I remember nostalgia and they were good times. I do have a "remember when" or "that one time" repository which I love to pull out and have a little sharing session, but I don't feel to attached to...things. Charity and I have lived out our lives for the most part in another country. I have many things there which I enjoy and we do have a storage unit in KC which we store many, as of yet, unused items from our wedding over three years ago.

But again, not overly attached to stuff. I hope I live out my life attached to people.

However, I had a bit of a hard time this weekend. My grandmother Moorehead is making a wonderful move from her little old house in Greenville to her new one in Ocala. This news is a minor trickle in the waterfalls of life, but it holds significance for me. "The Cousins" as we call ourselves are 24 strong+ a growing number of spouses, is a tight little group. We don't see each other always all that often. For a fact, I have not seen some of them in quite some time and it may be much longer (I hope not) before I see some of them again, BUT when we do get together there is a short pause of "what have you been doing since the last time..." and it is like we never met. I love the times we spend together and I ache for that extra hour or day we can spend with the family.

All that to say this, I rank #2. The only cousin older is only 6 months older and Stephen and I were more like brothers at times then cousins. He and I may be the only two that have a few memories of Papa and Grandma's house in Flint. To most of them, 9SP was all they had ever known and for more than 20 years, it where Papa and Grandma lived.

You see that was the place I dressed up in a black felt hat with a black cardboard rim, black cape and black clothes, painted on a cheesy mustache of black eyeliner pencil and strapped a samari sword to my belt to go trick or treating with my brother—who was wearing the exact same thing—and my Papa who believed the job wasn't done until we had visited every house in a ten block radius and stopped at the house three times to "unload" (aka Papa contributing to his later diabetes snack). For those of you that thought we were ninjas or were just plane puzzled, we were both Zorro. Why? Because at 9SP we used to watch a second rate Zorro series on their tv.

There were the many times we packed more family into that back room than any fire code would allow. How we used to love just sitting around and talking for hours. How someone would say "I'm thirsty" and Seth would disappear only to pop back in with enough drinks for everyone.

Or the two big trees out back that were perfect for climbing and the yard that I believe we dug up more than any child ought to be allowed. Better yet, the old fiberglass white camper with the green stripe that all the boys would sleep in and we would never get enough sleep and we always had a blast.

It was the place where my wife Charity and I did most of our early dating. Or course it was also the place where Stephen and Esther, Ben and Kerianne, Camilo and Jessica, Michael and Stacey and who knows how many others spent time in courting.

Today, it was hard to remember it all. Today I laughed with family and friends and enjoyed the pleasure of my family around and the closeness I sense in their interactions, but there were twinges of sadness too.

My last night in 9SP was in the room where I saw my Papa for the last time in the flesh. When nobody else was around I sat in the back room against the open door and looked at the spot where my Papa sat in his recliner celebrating his last birthday party any licking that silly card from Kerianne. It was odd, I am a guy and I know that means no crying, but I do on occasion when the occasion warrants it. There were today memories that hurt, but today's memories seemed detached a bit from reality. Not as if they'd never happened, but that they were only shadows of the here and now. The halls and yard and rooms all echo memories and you can almost feel the joy bleeding over and out of every creaking joist, sticking door and each particular scar on the various pieces of furniture.

I didn't like leaving Grandma's house today and a part of me knows I may never see it again in this life, but I came to a realization today;

Grandma's house was only that, a house. But with those people that made it what it is...something I wish I could define and shape with my meager words...they were Grandma's home.

I also realized I had the same feeling at Papa's funeral. I looked at that empty shell, carried that empty shell and said goodbye to that empty shell but it was the man I missed. I missed him. I will miss the location of memories, but I still have Grandma's home no matter where she goes and ultimately, I will have it far into the future if I have those around me with whom i can share another "remember when" story.

More to come...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oahu, Hawaii

Ok, this has been written and rewritten many times and it has been lost due to my not paying close attention.  grrr.  Anyhow, I will now try to put down—at least in brief—some impression of our trip as well as some tips for your travel potentially.  Also, unlike Sydney which I meticulously (ok, somewhat meticulously) documented each day, Hawaii will come in probably only one post where I will approach it more topically than chronologically.



Well, this is the part that will not encourage those living in the USA.  In fact, I just checked and the cheapest I could find from Kansas City was over $700 ($526 if you are leaving LA).  However, if you are living in Southeast Asia, then you simply add it as a stop to Honolulu.  On a whim I went out to and checked it a couple of times and I can’t get the deal we got or even anything close to it.  Each of us only paid about $150 extra per-person for our tickets which made it all the more attractive.  Even at a cost of about $500/person it would still be a pretty reasonable rate. 


We flew into HNL (Honolulu) on the capital island of Oahu around 8 in the morning for our stay on the nearby beach resort area of Waikiki.  This arrival leads into the next topic…


NOTE: We did all of our flights on Wednesdays and that really changed the price of the hotel and the flights which I really recommend.


SECOND TOPIC: Transportation

Not knowing much about the size of and ease of movement in Oahu, we decided to opt for the rental of a car.  We appreciated our military friends there in Korea for helping us find a good deal on the car itself.  Adding insurance to the whole things more than doubled the price, but I think it was worth it for the first time. 


We could have taken buses, but we only made one major trip around the island and there was little need of even having the car really.  HOWERVER, the convenience of the car was great.  No waiting on buses or sharing one with the homeless drunkards and after living in Korea, the absence of mass transit was pleasant. 



We looked at dozens—nay, hundreds—of hotels looking for the best deals when planning for our trip and settled on one and then a week later, switched to another.  I don’t know that the old one was better than the new one or vice versa, but this one was nice.  Even with parking and taxes included we stayed just under $100/night.  Now if staying on the beach—facing the beach or hotel location—be prepared to pay for it.  Most of the ones that we found on the beach (and would have been willing to stay at) where well over $150 and if you wanted to I hear that a few of them on the $1000.00+/night.  (Any readers want to put us up in one of those next year, just email me for payment information!) 


Anyhow, I think the decision of hotels in Waikiki at least is based almost entirely on closeness to the beach.  So if price is your concern, each block away you go from the beach equals about $100 of savings.  Our hotel was only about two blocks from the beach and the walk really wasn’t bad for me.  Charity on the other hand couldn’t stand the overwhelming odors of all the restaurants on the way to and from the beach.  She almost threw up every time she passed them. 


Our hotel had beach towel service (fresh, dry towels just for the beach), breakfast (pancakes, muffins, bread, oatmeal, fruit, nothing-special-at-all, etc.), private porch and they even upgraded us at the desk because we came in too early for check in and our intended room was not ready.  Major props to the Aloha Surf and Spa!


All in all, I think there i s probably little difference between the hotels in each range.


FOURTH TOPIC: Activities

We actually have to split this up into many different categories.


A. Beach Activities

There are really wonderful beaches on Waikiki.  On the last day I went to our front of a hotel next to the armed forces recreation area and found the best priced cabanas  but the water surrounding them is not so great for swimming.  Rocky and filled with coral, the water at Waikiki will tear your feet—and any other body parts—to shreds if you do not have those ridiculous shoes. 


On the beach, if you plan on staying the whole day, then simply get a cheap cabana for the whole day and then you have a base of operations.  Look for one where the owners have very few chairs and the likelihood of stolen items should decrease a little bit.  The cabana will keep you off the sand and give you some shade if wanted.  Perfect for reading and if you go to “UV Rays Beach Services” beachside of the Outrigger Waikiki hotel, there is free WiFi there and it was awesome to post beachside! 


There was surfing and I reeeeeallllllyyyyy wanted to do it, but ran out of time to do so.  And other then swimming, floating (kinda like swimming but with no auto-kinetic movement) and surfing, there was little else to do (ok, little else I wanted to do).  Of the surfing I discerned two types: Longboard with a paddle and longboards without paddles.  Both looked equally fun…maybe next time.


We did go out on a catamaran but I cannot suggest it or even tell you the one we went out on as I found the behavior of the crew and passengers to be by and large…revolting.  I have heard there are better ones, but I would say that you should do some research and review searching before taking any of them (there are lots so I am sure they are not all bad!).  I would like to do one that had some snorkeling activity attached to it.


B. Inner-Island Tourism

I cannot suggest this enough.  While it is fun on the beach…the beach has little to offer after you have been to it…thrice!  (Charity disagrees.)  On one of the days, Charity and I both went exploring on the island.  On the internet, I found a Kona coffee and Macadamia nut farm on the east side of the island.  We planned a route—pretty simple if you look at the map—that took us around the east and north of the island and back down the middle again.  The views along that road were awesome!  We basically stopped once at the farm on our way up and then drove along the east coast going north.  The sights were wonderful and the weather was great on the day we went. 


We didn’t do much on the north side of the island, but on our way back down the western side we stopped at Sharks Cove and rented snorkeling gear.  We spent several hours there and I found a new love for snorkeling.  Despite the name, I saw no sharks in the cove, but I did see turtles, fish of huge assortments and beautiful scenery that made the time there awesome.  I would highly recommend snorkeling and Shark’s Cove was awesome place to do it!


We then spent some time at Waimea Bay Beach.  After being on Waikiki beaches, this was much more pleasant.  There was much less corral and rock while still having loads of beach for as few people that were there.  I would say a day at the beach—if you brought everything you needed for the day as there are no shops nearby—would be nicer at the less crowded Waimea.


We topped off our travels at the Dole plantation.  Under advisement from several people, we came, bought some souvenirs and ate some of the Pineapple soft-serve.  I know there are rides and some other activities, but we chose to enjoy what we did and head for the hotel.


C.  Pearl Harbor

Wow!  I love this so much that I gave it a category all to itself.  Pearl Harbor has loads of activities for the historical minded.  I probably could spend 2 days touring the place a couple of times. 


Charity was feeling extremely sick on the morning we planned to go to Pearl Harbor and not wanting me to miss out on one of the main reasons I came to Honolulu, she sent me by myself.  (Her saying she was sick did not stop her from making her way to the beach that morning….hmmm…)


Upon arriving to the Arizona Memorial center, the first thing you MUST DO is get your ticket for going to see the Memorial.  There are boat rides out to the memorial about every 45 minutes if I remember right and you have to be there early enough to get tickets.  There are tour buses that come in the late morning and because it is a first come first serve basis, you could get stuck looking at the memorial from the shoreline.  Because I was by myself, I got on the 8:45am ferry even though I arrived at 8:15!  I overheard the next available tickets weren’t till noon. 


Even if you get stuck with the later tickets, there is plenty to keep you occupied.  There at the memorial waiting area they have a small museum devoted to the the Arizona and the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Well worth the walkthrough.  Several outdoor exhibits include a memorial to several submarines lost during WWII with individual placards about each.  The USS Bowfin also moored at the memorial is up for tours…for a price…as well as a maritime museum in front of the Bowfin.


I purchased a ticket to go to Ford Island (an operational Navy base and therefore is only accessible by bus service.  There are 4 things to see on the island, but only three can a civilian see.  The USS Utah is the only you won’t be able to purchase a ticket for unless you are military or sponsored by military personnel.  Not to worry though as the Mighty Mo (USS Missouri battleship), the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Oklahoma memorial are all there and worth the view and price to go. 


If you had to choose an activity though—of course after the USS Arizona—I would have chosen the USS Missouri even over the Pacific Aviation Museum.  I know, the guy who wanted to be a pilot picks the battleship over the plane.  Yes.  The reason is the historical significance of the Mighty Mo.  It was the ship that played a huge part in WWII and also the sight of the signing of the surrender of the Japanese.  Furthermore, this ship was called back to duty in the Persian Gulf War.  Really cool.


Please don’t let me sway you from doing ALL that you can at this, the site of one of America’s darkest hours which would become the rallying point for the war in the Pacific and one of the last glimmers of the greatness of America’s resolve as a unified country.


D. Food

Not much to say here really.  There is food of all kinds there on the island.  Everything from Fast to Diner to Foreign to Hawaiian to High End Food.  All of it looked great to me…all of it made Charity sick except for a few choice dishes that seemed ok one day and not another…I know….weird.


We did try “Sorento’s Top of the I” one night because we had a Groupon for it and let me tell you it was awesome!  Pricey…but awesome!  Other than that, Wal-Mart in Pearl City provided much food for a cheap price (sandwich money goes a long way!) and we did eat out enough to make it fun still.


I may say a few more things about Hawaii in the coming days/weeks, but I think I will leave it there for now…especially as this post will probably exceed 2000 words and if I remember right, that makes this post >500 words longer than my EN102 term paper at BJU!


more to come….



























































































































For those of you who scrolled down, look for an extra special post on or around January 23rd! 




































For those of you who don’t get it, look back through my extremely long post for hints! :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sydney – Day 9 & 10

This day will actually encompass two days. 


With our flight not leaving till 9pm, we wanted to spend the last moments in Sydney to the fullest.  On that note, there was yet one set of activities we hadn’t participated in—getting up-close and personal with the indigenous wildlife.   Sydney Wildlife World at Darling Harbor provided that opportunity.  The cost was a bit much and the animal viewing was not of supreme importance to me, so I ate breakfast at a little corner café while the girls toured the wildlife exhibits.  I am sure that Charity gave several high-pitched squeals of delight at the various cuddly kangaroos, koala bears and wombats. 


I met up with them again near the IMAX and we settled on returning to Paddy’s Market as well as the nearby Chinatown.  One last time we walked the booths looking for last minute items as we attempted to relieve ourselves of Australian currency.  Personally, I had to have a hat.  One of those hats of true Aussie style. 


In this search, I came across a man and his daughter that sold only hats and a huge variety of hats at that!  I could have settled on the very inexpensive hat which did not look as if it would stand up to more than a couple weeks of wear or the soft, supple, expertly crafted kangaroo leather hats which looked fantastic…hence the high price!  I chose middle ground.  A buffalo hide hat with what appeared to be solid craftsmanship.  I LOVE THE HAT!


Funny enough though, the hat seller and his daughter were Korean!  I traveled all that way to buy an Australian hat from a Korean man!  His house here in Korea was only about 6 stops away!  How weird…


The time sure went fast as we arrived back at the hotel around 5pm.  We changed and picked up our bags at the hotel.  The taxi arrived and the extremely humorous—albeit, a bit racist—driver dropped us at our airport check-in.


With only a slight hiccup with the ticket printing machine at the counter, we went made our way through security, which took only a few minutes even with two of the girls being stopped and asked some security questions.  A meal and some waiting later, we were on the airplane heading to Seoul via Beijing.


At this juncture, due prudence dictates I must tell you some traveling tips.  Australia was comfortably warm most of the time.  Therefore, shorts and a t-shirt marked the majority of my clothing options.  Knowing what I knew about Incheon airport in Seoul, I also knew that during the winter the internal temperature can seem to Westerners like myself, well, rather balmy.  It also makes sense not to carry more items onto the plane than is needed. 


With all these facts and experiences in mind, I wore a light t-shirt and shorts and Charity wore similar items as well, as we boarded the plane in Sydney.  Surrounding us were Chinese and Korean people wearing Ugg boots, heavy coats, long sleeves and thick pants.  This is the first indication of trouble.


The flight was comfortable and there were few problems on that long ride to Beijing.  However, when we arrived in Beijing, we discovered something about the airport.  While the amenities and various staffs at the airport were kind and cordial, the temperature was not!  We arrived in Beijing around 6am with an external temperature of –12 Celsius and an internal temp pretty much the same!  What an enjoyable 3 hour layover it was… Have I mentioned I how much I like China?


The short 2 hour hop from Beijing seemed like almost nothing as the meal took most of that time (yes, I said meal!).  Through emigration, gathered our bags. through customs and out to the busses to take us back home.


This blog cannot possibly recount the things seen and done in their entirety, but I hope that this small series of snapshots gave you a bit of a taste!


More to come…

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sydney – Day 8

Today is all about the Blue Mountains!


When we planned for the Blue Mountains, we originally thought we would take a tour bus to see the sights.  However, tour bus companies wanted about $60 AUD for the cheap ones all the way up to $160 AUD for the premium packages.  At church on Sunday, I had met a very friendly and helpful mate who told me to simply go to Katoomba, the city nearest the Blue Mountains, and simply walk around to see everything we wanted sans tour.  I am so glad we didn’t go with the pre-packaged tour because it gave us great flexibility in where we went and when. 


The only complaint—and I can hear some of you groan as you slip on your cold boots and heavy coats—was that it was hot!  Wish I had a hat…


We rode the train to Katoomba.  Round-trip tickets were only about $12.  The train took about 2 hours, but it was clean and nice enough to make the trip comfortably.  From the train station, there is about a 2km walk with restaurants and tourist orientated shops.  We were going to stop several times as one restaurant or another presented itself to us as we walked, but finally settled on the Blue M Café.  Wow!  It was soooooo good.  Quick service, great food and a beautiful day, what more could you ask for?


After lunch, we made it to the lookout where we could see the Three Sisters rock outcropping.  From that vantage point, the Blue Mountains looked like a very green Grand Canyon.  Absolutely gorgeous!


We decided—or maybe it was I pushed—to walk the trail around to the sky-rail/nature walk/vertical railroad area.  The trail was extremely wet as it must have rained the night before.  Still, it was nice to walk to the various lookout points and see everything again from different perspectives. 


After about an hour and a half, we arrived at tourism mecca of the Blue Mountains.  Even though it was really touristy, we did ride the steepest railroad in the world, a walk on the rainforest boardwalk and then a ride back to the main road. 


We went, we saw,…we finished and decided to go.  We hurried back to the train station, stopping only long enough to pick up a Subway sandwich…although one in the party had a recent experience with Subway which led her not to get a sandwich…and that still gave us plenty of time to get on the train.


By the time we made it back to the hotel it was very late and we were all ready for bed.


More to come…

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sydney - 7

The girls planned the day and they did a great job! We started the day at Circular Quay where we took the ferry to Cockatoo Island. REALLY AWESOME!!! Cockatoo Island originally was covered in trees and used primarily as hunting and fishing by the Aborigines. Later, the primary use became a trade school and reformatory school for troubled women. After the turn of the century, its primary use became a ship building and refitting base of operations.

During WWII, the island became a major base of operations for keeping both the Australian and American fleets operating in the South Pacific.

Today, the island is opened up for touring and camping. Evidently there is a new year's fireworks display nearby and Cockatoo is a great place to see it.

We made the mistake of missing the first ferry back, but that gave us an opportunity to eat some hot chips on that beautiful island.

The ferry arrived and we enjoyed the ride back to Circular Quay. At that station we rode the bus out to Bondi (pronounced "bond-eye") Beach where we spent most of the rest of the day.

The surf at Bondi was intense. Its shores are best known for surfing because of the fast and hard
rip tides.

While the girls lay soaking up the sun, I attempted to swim. While the surf was great for those with some kind of board to ride, it was terrible for any kind of casual swimming. I was done-not to mentioned worn out-after about ten minutes.

While the other girls lay there on the beach, Chare and I walked to the north end of the beach where a rocky outcropping met the sandy beach. Can not express how awesome this part was for me.

As we made our way among the rocks, memories of nature walks with the family came flooding back. On those walks we would walk circumspectly in attempts to notice something new or "cool" while dad would describe some fact, facet or process of God's creation all around us.

On that rocky beach we saw all manner of animal and plant life. Everything from sea anemones and sea snails to baby star fish and minnows.

As we walked, all Charity could say was "I cannot believe I don't have my camera!". Folks, if she said it once she said it a thousand times. She really didn't like it as we approached the point where the surf came crashing against the rocks. Awesome!

After we met back up with the others, we may our way back to the bus heading for Circular Quay. Once back at the Quay, we stopped to get some dinner from one of the restaurants right on the water front. Chare and I had some more fish and chips-not as good as the place near Manly Beach-and a pretty good salad.

After our fill, the girls took a walk to an area of the Quay called "The Rocks" and this tired swimmer went to the hotel!

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