Thursday, December 7, 2017

Living in Paradise: One Year in Hawaii... and Counting

This past Friday, August 7th, 2015, marked the one year anniversary of when I flew out here from Texas to live with my brother and his wife.  The main objective from my standpoint, was to get hands-on computer programming training from my 20+ years self-taught brother, while collaborating on our own projects.  Besides that, I had lived in Texas my whole life beforehand, some 27 years, with the most "exotic" place I'd ever been being Florida... I had barely seen an ocean before. Twice. That's it.

My brother and sister-in-law also wanted some help with the rent here, and really thought it would be way more fun to have me here instead of just getting a random person. Before I decided to come, people of course warned me about the well-known high cost of living here, but I also got a lot of the "Oh, that would be such a great learning experience!" comments too, both of which are very true and valid points.

Enough of my backstory though, what is it like living here in Hawaii? Especially being non-military (people will ask you that all the time if you're white or black, or they'll just assume you are). Here's some of the things I've noticed, and just to clarify I live on Oahu, and have yet to visit any of the neighboring islands:
  • It is hot here. Often times I've actually found myself thinking, "Man, this reminds me of Texas." - and it really does, especially during summer. I lived in and near the D/FW metroplex in Texas. It's hot and humid, and when you first get into a car in the middle of the day during summer, you cannot believe the heat. I've driven cars with no A/C in the middle of summer in Texas, and I can tell you it may not be as bad here, but I am really glad the A/C works in my Mazda. Outside, the sun beats down on you and is relentless. If you're not used to tropical weather, you can tell you are closer to the Equator.
  • Speaking of weather, it does not rain here as much as I expected and the way my brother made it sound.  Bear in mind, I live in Central Oahu, which is basically between two mountains, so some parts of the island will get more rain. I love the rain though, so it was a big part of my decision to come here! Haha. The reality though is that it's overcast a lot, and it does start to sprinkle often, but that's about it. It sprinkles a lot, and only for short periods of time.  Occasionally you'll get a good soaking rain, but not as much as I'd like. Also, it very rarely ever has thunderstorms here. If you happen to live in Tornado Alley or areas where thunderstorms are common, you know those powerful storms with the crazy lightning and booming thunder, and drenching, heavy rains. I love those, and I miss them because you never see it here. No thunder, no lightning. Sometimes heavy rain, and high winds to be sure, but nothing like Texas storms.
  • It is expensive here. Not only milk and gas, and rent and electricity, but things you maybe wouldn't think about. Especially if you plan to have a car: Car insurance here is costing me about 25% more than Texas, for the same coverage. Vehicle registration is costing me about five times as much per year, and "inspections" or "safety checks" as it's known here is a bit more than rural Texas areas. Oil changes seem to be about the same, but the cheapest set of four new tires I could find were pretty ridiculous. Not to mention the fact it cost over $2000 just to have the car shipped here all the way from Texas!
  • The traffic here can be worse than Dallas. Honolulu alone has close to 400,000 residents, and there's close to one million people living on Oahu. Combine that with relatively few roads, and you've got a lot of people all trying to go one way at one time. In the past, it has taken me close to two and a half hours just to travel seven miles to get home! That's less than 3mph on average! Honestly though, it hasn't been nearly that bad in awhile. There seems to be a lot of construction going on to improve roads (many roads here are horrible by the way), but the roads that have been redone are really nice, very wide and smooth and many even offering bicycle lanes.
  • Skateboards are super common here.
  • The ocean, mountains, and beaches are nothing short of incredible. Anything negative mentioned above is wiped away by the beauty of this place. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting on a beach watching the waves come and go. It is surprisingly easy to get caught up in a "normal life" here of going to work, sitting in traffic, eating and staying alive. But then you go to the beach, or perhaps hike up a mountain, or see some other really cool scenery, and it's all worthwhile.
  • Live Aloha. I'm a pretty firm believer that you will find good and bad people no matter where you go, but in general people here are very friendly and kind. There is a spirit and mentality about this place that I really love. People seem to be more open-minded, "live and let live" types which really meshes with my personality. Sure, there's the fair amount who are clearly sucked in to the day to day grind like everywhere else, which again can be easy to do, but in general there's a laid back, take it easy vibe. People are definitely more friendly in traffic, for example, and NEVER use their horns. It's all very nice.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Life Without (Much) Television

Four and a half months ago I moved to Hawaii, which is a pretty big change from Texas in itself, but moving that far away can mean even more changes than a normal move.  My brother and his wife moved here over a year before I did, and they, for example, sold most of their stuff and started here with very little.  I followed in step, except I admittedly am more materialistic than they are (not in the sense that material things mean the world to me above, like, people... but in the sense that I didn't want to sell my stuff before I moved here haha).  I am a bit of a hoarder, just a bit.  Not that I have a Public Storage unit somewhere packed full of anything I've ever owned or held, but just that I do keep things like video games/movies/CDs instead of trading them in for new ones or stuff like that.  I also can't seem to part with my first car which I've had for something like a dozen years now, but that's another matter altogether in my eyes as I am a car guy.  But before I get any further off topic, what I did was box things up and luckily have nice enough parents to spare some room in their house for my stuff for the time being.  However, sacrifices were made...

TV is a pretty big one.  Not only did I leave behind my physical LCD television set, but I came into a situation here where we don't have television service at all.  I thought I would miss it a lot more than I actually do.  I was/am big into racing, and had gotten to where I watched most NASCAR Sprint Cup and Tudor United SportsCar Championship/Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge races, along with all Dallas Stars games and various other shows like Top Gear and many others I won't bother to name here.  You start to add up the time invested into TV though, and wow.  You will feel some shame.  So, I knew coming here we might not get cable TV, but the main thing I really wanted to be able to keep were the Stars hockey games, which my brother was cool with since he is a big Stars fan as well.  We got NHL GameCenter Live in order to satisfy this, for better or worse... I want to love the service, but the app for the PlayStation 4 is pretty terrible.  We have good internet and a good router and all that, and it still has subpar quality and often times has to rebuffer and in general does not have a very user-friendliness about it, like with fast-forward and rewind "scrubbing", which skips minutes at a time.  I want to go back eight seconds like I could on my Tivo back in 2005, but this thing goes in four minute increments - really?  Anyway, we also have Netflix, which pretty much takes care of any other movie/TV needs we may have.

I do miss some shows like Top Gear and seeing some live races, but for the most part, I just don't see how I'd have time to watch more TV than the Stars games anyway.  It really hasn't been as painful a transition as I thought.  I was a big supporter of DirecTV for a long time, but it really is stupid the way cable and satellite companies charge you tons of money for channels you don't even want.  You should be able to pick channels individually and pay for each one alone, but that'll probably never happen.  Streaming is a cool alternative, with services like Netflix out there, but still you're paying a rate fee for access to tons of stuff you don't care about, not to mention the fact it's all older stuff - you don't get live TV programming obviously.  If you've considered ditching TV though, you might be surprised how much time you free up for yourself on top of the money you'll save, and that's a good thing.  I have no regrets in doing so!  The only thing I may regret is NHL GameCenter, haha.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Opinionated With Reserve

I remember the moment when I realized that I am quite opinionated.  I'm pretty sure it was in high school, and I thought "Wow, I feel pretty strongly about certain things."  Which is silly, granted, because everybody has opinions.  Yet I wasn't very assertive or vocal back then or now, but at least around friends I would argue my cases and want people to see it my way.  What I've realized since then, is that everybody a.) has opinions and b.) wants you to see it their way.

The thing is, everybody thinks that they are right, right?  About any and everything, if you think about it.  Do you think oranges taste better than apples and that Pepsi is better than Coke?  Do you feel strongly that your sports team deserves victory over the others?  Do you agree or disagree with "Mopar or no car"?  Whichever way you swing on these, you do believe you are right, don't you?  Yes, some of these might be simple preferences which you can easier shrug off as "Yes, I prefer the taste of Pepsi and oranges, but I don't think there's a 'right' or 'wrong' answer, it's just my personal preference." But what if you take it to a deeper level, like your political or spiritual beliefs?  What about ethics, what you believe IS right or wrong?  There's less arguing those, right?

But everybody thinks that way, everybody thinks they're right.  You don't walk around thinking you're just wrong about stuff.  So, I think I have more and more become reserved when it comes to my own personal beliefs, especially the big picture ones.  I keep most of that to myself, unless someone specifically asks or is interested in having a conversation to discuss it.  Otherwise, it's kind of a waste of time, right?  Most of the bigger beliefs you hold are woven pretty deep within you, and it's just plain annoying if someone tries to tie in their own beliefs onto your fabric.  OR the opposite happens, especially in social media (namely Facebook), and suddenly you're sharing something personal that people will either agree with and read, or ignore altogether because it doesn't pertain to them.  In that case, I'm just not sure I see what good it does to post/share it in the first place.  Which is definitely ironic because this very blog entry is my opinion on opinions, and here I am posting/sharing it which means it will probably either be read by those whom it makes sense to, or ignored completely by the vast majority, heh.

So I suppose I should come up with a purpose or overall point here I'm trying to make, because what I'm not trying to do is convince anyone of anything except to maybe just keep this in mind:
Everybody has opinions/views/beliefs which they believe are the unwavering truth; so instead of trying to force and spread your own ideas on others, maybe it's more beneficial to seek/ask/learn about others, and to try to understand why they see things the way they do.  Above all else, respect other people's viewpoints.  That's all :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Smiling Adds an Indefinite Amount of Attractiveness

I was having one of those "reminiscing" phases earlier tonight, trying to be careful not to drift off course and cross the line into the "regretting and dwelling upon" states.  I was looking through some old pictures, which I enjoy from time to time.  What I noticed above all, that connects with something I've been noticing a lot of in the real-time world lately too, is that a simple smile adds a ton of attractiveness to anybody, regardless of physical traits.  Now, I fancy myself a pretty positive person these days, but I do have to admit one area I still lack confidence in is physical appearance.  But it's a funny thing with that; the whole smiling thing seems to erase some characteristics you or others might see as "flaws" in your appearance.  I noticed it on older pictures of myself, and I've noticed it on some of my friends' pictures on things like Facebook.  I've noticed it in person too, when you see someone smiling.  Even if you don't have the prettiest of smiles, such as myself.

Without trying to come off sounding too philosophical, it's almost like that facial expression is a window into the true essence of the person.  And who wants to see or be mad or sad, right?  A smile brightens a picture, and a smile brightens a mood.  When I was younger (and perhaps am still a bit guilty of to this day), I used to get scolded by the elders in my family for not smiling for pictures.  A large reason was I knew I didn't have a nice smile, with my crooked teeth that weren't anywhere near pristine white.  Somehow I thought faking a grin would be acceptable and look better than me with a smile.  I really didn't like taking photographs.  Honestly I still don't for the most part, I'm just not very photogenic.  But...

Man, I look back now and realize how I cared way too much about what others saw and thought of me, and how I really allowed that to make me way unhappier than I ever had any right to be.  A smile illustrates and expresses positive and good qualities like confidence and just plain happiness in its purest and most unfiltered form.  Have you ever found yourself smiling or laughing so big or hard but you just couldn't help it?  I'm sure you have, and that's good, we need more of that.  Forget everything else, forget money and stress and what anyone else thinks about anything - and just smile.  None of that other stuff is worth anything, but a smile is worth a lot more than you might think.  Another great thing about them is that they're totally contagious.

I have since gotten braces and have learned to smile more, even though my teeth and smile remain subpar.  There's a popular quote floating around, that varies but essentially goes "what other people think of you is none of your business," and sometimes it's elaborated to include "if you start to make that business your business, you will be offended for the rest of your life."  I've seen several variations and authors, but no matter who said it or how it was originally worded, it certainly remains true.  I've learned firsthand that if you make it your business, it will grab you and hold you down, and limit anything you ever do.  This is why a smile is so attractive, because it exudes confidence and says "I don't care what you think, I'm happy."  It also tends to spread the happiness around.  What I think of myself right now though is that it's getting late and I'm rambling, so I'll end here.  Remember to smile, my friends.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Deja Vu

How do you feel about experiencing deja vu?  The topic recently came up with my roommates. Personally it kinda freaks me out.

It seems to me like I won't have it at all for long stretches of time, and then I'll have it like once every couple weeks for a month or two. Those numbers are probably sheer speculation on my part, but either way they probably don't mean much of anything heh.

It's a bit funny I even pose the question, because I'm not sure I really have a position on it myself other than "it's a bit creepy" haha. My brother really likes it however. Says it makes him think he's on the right path. If anything though, I think it makes me think I'm running in circles. Like I've experienced something so similar before, I'm remembering that as I experience the present. The official definition of deja vu by the way is "the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time." So... even though it feels like you're reliving a past event, it's technically a new experience. Reading the definition does make me think it's more of a positive experience then as opposed to "you're doing the same thing over and over, spinning your wheels". A new outlook for me on deja vu then. Excellent. Onward and forward!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Locals" and Civil War

I believe the first thing I ever got into big time and am still into to this day, is cars.  "Eric's always liked to play with cars," they'd say.  Play with, draw, look at, admire, drive, dream of:  Cars.

So today I was out driving, and happened to be following behind a car that was the same generation and model as mine.  Now being a car guy, I'm the type that gets excited when such an event occurs. So even though the kind of car I have isn't exactly exclusive, they are somewhat rare to see, so my first reaction as usual was something like "yes, a fellow Brother in Car!  I shall follow you to the ends of this road, my friend--or until I need to turn off at least, should that happen to me first anyway.  But as I got closer to him approaching a red light, I noticed a bumper sticker on his car which read "Just cuz you live on the islands, don't make you a local".  I should mention that I am living in Hawaii, but no, I am not in fact a local to these beautiful islands.  I am however a "local" to this Earth and a fellow human being, so when I see things like this, all I can do is shake my head... to its message and its grammar.

The reason I believe there is so much violence and grief in the world, is because we tend to find ways to separate ourselves (meaning humans) into different groups.  Race, nationality, gender - even something like which sports teams we choose to root for.  All ways to divide ourselves into groups.  Some of it I believe is fairly harmless, or all in good fun, such as cheering for different sports teams.  Some of it though is saddening, like this bumper sticker.  What do you think that sticker is trying to achieve?  What point is it trying to get across?  It certainly isn't welcoming, is it?  It invites discomfort, a reminder that you're an "outsider".  For someone like me, however, it just makes me a bit sad that a fellow "Brother in Car" and human shamelessly believes the way he does.  See the thing is, where you are born is not up to you.  Nor are you the owner of the piece of land where you happened to have been born.  I was born in Texas, but that doesn't mean Texas is mine, or that I wish only people born in Texas would live there.  I understand it's a bit different with a place like Hawaii, because the land is much more limited than a place like Texas, and much more highly desired.  But still - that's just another means of dividing ourselves instead of uniting and trying to make the entire Earth a better place for everyone to live.  So long as they're not trying to hurt you or the land you reside in, I believe we should be inviting and welcoming to "outsiders" and get to know people from other places, as well as travel and see other places ourselves to get to know different cultures and ways of living.  I worked with many Pacific Islanders at my last job in Texas, all of them were very nice and interesting people.  There are good people no matter where you go, and there are some you'd rather not deal with.  Surround yourself with the good, and ignore the bad as much as possible, I say.  Like the old Guns N' Roses song indicates, any fighting/violence/war is a civil war.  We're all one people, we're all one race, we're all one group - we're all "locals" here, or anywhere on this planet. We're in this together, my friends... Peace!