Friday, March 16, 2018

Via the Internet - one final post from Kauai 2018

We heard Kimberly McDonough play several times while we were in Kauai. She seemed so talented to be playing at farmers' markets and art fairs. I guess this is what you do if you are a musician on a small island.

She mentioned being on YouTube and having a collaboration with a singer from Italy. I finally found the YouTube video. Note, these two musicians are not in the studio together. They met and traded content online and skilled editors spliced their music together.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


This is likely the last post for this trip. Since Hawaii for most means the ocean and the beach, I should probably offer some pictures of the ocean. I am not a beach person. I don't like to bask in the sun and I don't enjoy swimming. I had a bad experience trying to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and that was kind of the end of me in the ocean. I do like to take pictures so here are a few from this afternoon.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Aloha Pricing - "when they go high, we go low"

I have probably mentioned before that things cost a lot in Kauai. I had pretty much assumed that this was the way it was going to be with the exception of COSTCO - a foot long hot dog on a soft bun and a soda for $1.50. I have learned that products you are known for are often overpriced. I have no idea what the going price is for coconuts, but I do know coffee. I have consumed coffee pretty much everywhere they speak English and a few places they don't.

My wife knows the prices of things she buys at grocery stores and can recognize good deals even at expensive groceries. I know the price of brewed coffee. The coffee at one of my favorite coffee spots (Fresh Start Coffee Roasters) is $1.75 for a medium (25 cents for a self-poured refill). The Sparrow, one of the two coffee shops I can find on my own in Minneapolis, is $2.50 and I have always been afraid to ask for a refill because they will likely charge me the same for the second cup.

I understand that they grow coffee here and all that. They are probably very proud of their crops and status as the #1 coffee producer in the U.S. Where else would you grow coffee in the U.S.? Anyway, I pay $4 or so for coffee (straight) and since the price of a latte is about the same, I usually have a latte.

The exception is the Koala Mill Ice Cream and Coffee shop. This shop has what they describe as "Aloha Coffee Pricing".

I hope you can see the prices. One dollar and a quarter for a small coffee (with coffee from the largest coffee farm/plantation in the country) and a latte (small) for less than two dollars. In addition, they prepare your coffee using the pour-over technique. You pay extra for coffee prepared in this manner elsewhere and the baristas at a Starbucks would likely just stare at you if you asked for a pour over. We used to use this technique when camping (a cheap funnel from Target holds a filter and you dump hot water over the ground coffee). Making coffee in this manner must have discovered by the elite. You pay for the show. You can tell if the barista knows. You slowly pour the hot water over the coffee first just a little at first to wake the coffee up. After a pause, you continue slowing rotating the hot water source over the grounds. All of this for under $2.

Mahalo, Koala coffee place. I left an extra quarter in the tip jar for the barista  

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Strange botany

There would probably come a time if I spent enough months in Kauai that I cease to be fascinated by the physical beauty I can see and photograph just walking around. Here are a couple of examples from today's trek back from the coffee shop.

This is the flower of the plumeria. I associate it with the flower leis most probably think of when thinking of Hawaii. I took almost this identical picture this morning with my phone and then came back this afternoon with my camera because I wanted an image with more pixels I might have printed. There were several trees just starting to flower and this one flower caught my attention because of the yellowish cast. It was a tough shot. I had to hold my camera over my head as far up as I could and shoot blind.

Here is the interesting thing to me about this plant. My understanding of trees and the various parts of trees suggest that in a given year, a tree opens leaves that generate the food (sugars) the tree needs through the process of photosynthesis. This sugar is used to accomplish the things a tree needs to accomplish - sustain existing structures, grow, and produce seeds of some type. The plumeria seems to accomplish all of these things, but in the wrong order. I guess this is considered winter here and the plumeria when we first arrived looked dead (for a region where everything else was green). Then a couple of leaves emerged and now the flowers. I assume the full foliage will emerge eventually. The work the tree is doing now all must be accomplished with the energy stored last season. I have no idea why this tree needs to make things so difficult.

Example 2 - note the strange coloration on this tree trunk - greens and oranges.

What is not really visible in this image is the more traditional bark that used to cover this trunk and still covers most of the rest of the tree. The tree seems to molt. I tend to think of a tree losing the bark in a complete circle of the circumference of the tree as fatal (girdling) because it exposes the cambium. This must not be what is happening in this case. This is a common tree along my path, but I have no idea what it is. It was the unusual colors that caught my attention.

Making a living

It is expensive to live in Hawaii. Housing and pretty much anything you must purchase is expensive. I wonder about how folks get by. The barista at my favorite coffee shop now knows me by sight and we have occasionally had brief conversations. When she learned I had retired from a career in education, she volunteered that she had first been a teacher in Kauai, but made $35,000 and now made more as a barista. That experience I catalog as another in the series of things I know about support for K12 education. She said she lives on the other side of the island. I have pretty much seen all sides of the island and there is lots of housing that appears to me to be "low income", but I can see how getting by on $35,000 would be a constant struggle.

A very large proportion of the economy is based on the tourist trade - rentals, food, entertainment, sightseeing, etc. I still don't see how folks afford all of the million dollar homes. Outside money, real estate investors, and builders I assume.

I find the small plot farmers the most interesting. How do they survive on growing produce for farmer's' markets?

The coconut sellers fascinate me. You see at least one at every farmer's market and many set up along the road here and there. Pretty much the same image - a pickup with some coconuts in the back and a guy hacking away with a machete in a very skilled way. I am not a fan of coconut so I have not sampled, but I do have questions. Coconuts are everywhere. The palm trees are part of the scene, but require maintenance. There is a job there if you want to climb to the top of these very tall and slender trees and lop off the coconuts so they don't fall on the rich clients who inhabit your fancy hotel, but might sue you if they were hit by a falling coconut. So, do these same folks have a side income selling these discarded nuts to guys who sit beside the road selling as a way to stay alive and surf. Are coconuts farmed in places? Are there varieties of coconuts with some more suited to consumption? I suppose I could Google these things, but it is time to go back to being a retired tourist.