Places and Travel

Reality check, Honolulu version

View from the lanai of a condo we could afford

Killing some time waiting on breakfast, which is a tropical splendor of fruit  — papaya, guava, star fruit, mango, cantaloupe, and pineapple — fine Greek yogurt, bread and homemade marmalade, Kona coffee; I am an early-riser, always have been, and while my wife lies still abed, snuggling under a sheet beneath a lazy ceiling fan, and our two, or maybe three, geckos chirp away in opposite corners the the beamed ceiling (fine hiding places up there), I sit on the still-dark lanai (with thanks to the Mac Powerbook’s lighted keyboard, pondering dilemmas.

The current dominating dilemma is where we would like to live in a few years when we stop the vagabond life of the foreign service. We always thought it would be somewhere in Europe, most likely northeastern Italy or northwestern Spain, although I would vote for Bratislava (my wife adamantly refuses — she is winter light deficit effected and is no fan of northern European winters), but the unfavorable exchange rate between the Euro and the dollar have made those seem to be unreasonable choices. We will at that time be living entirely on pension and investment income in dollars, and not enough dollars to lose between 30 and 40 percent of it every month.

We had hoped we would not have to live in the States at the end of our travels, but now that seems like the only viable option. With that in mind, we have tried to figure out where we could stand to live in the USA.

The desire to live outside the States is not particularly about politics or lifestyle, but more about our habits. We have lived outside the US for a very long time, with only occasional visits of short duration. When we are in the US, we often experience a sort of culture shock, a feeling of its strangeness and our alienation from it. We are quite comfortable and feel “at home” when we are in Europe. Buenos Aires, our current home, has many attractions, but we wouldn’t consider living there under any circumstances, even though our incomes would stretch much further there, or virtually anywhere in Latin America. We aren’t “Latin Americans.”

Rather than belabor this to the point of utter boredom, we conclude that we are probably going to live in the United States at the end of vagabonding. So where? Considering factors that include what he could afford, weather, friends and family, political atmosphere, ratio of creative, intelligent people to dumb as a rock people … we came down to two, somewhat disparate, places: Honolulu and Boulder, Colorado, with Honolulu our first choice. This Xmas visit north was, besides family fun, to explore those two options more seriously.

No committed conclusion has yet been reached, but we don’t have the right feeling about Honolulu. It topped our list for, besides the obvious and usual reasons, because as a young man I lived here and was madly in love with the place, we have visited here often, although the last visit before now was 18 years ago (and that has made a critical difference), and because my wife is a tropical person — she blossoms in the tropics, shrivels in the dark cold winter. Fine reasons to be here. But being here now has been a stark reality check. We aren’t rich enough to live here in a way that would allow us to avoid what has changed horribly in Honolulu. In a future post, I will put up some photos and go into more detail about what Honolulu is like these days, but for now we are thinking that we are more likely to end up Boulder — yes, it could definitely be worse, much worse … we know from wide experience in the world.

One bit of evidence we noticed yesterday. We were in Kailua, on the other side of the island from Honolulu, and decided to stop for lunch. Passing by the plethora of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, and island places, we felt compelled into Los Garcias, one of the rare Mexican restaurants around here, where our concession to the islands was to have fish tacos. It was pretty good. The owner is from Guadalajara, flagrantly evident in the decor, and also quite found of that Polish Pope whose name I have forgotten. So here we here on a tropical island choosing to eat food from Guadalajara, Mexico — among the most popular cuisines of Boulder. Umm.

Here are the cook and waitress of Los Garcias, Kailua, Oahu.

Cook and waitress at Los Garcias, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii

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7 replies »

  1. Hey Donko, like to see that Bratislava is at least mentioned here;-)) Interesting discoveries … I am looking forward to more pictures and stories! Paula from the frozen land;-))

  2. You know I will always be your symbolicky Slovak. It’s your cousin causing all the problems. Wish you were in Hawaii with us. I’ll write more about it later, and put up some more photos.

  3. What? No mention of Texas as the final settling place? Why, we have staggering…well, stunning views of…um…ok, we have stellar arrangements of….

    At least the cheerleaders are awesome here.

  4. Los Garcias, the Guadalajara place, is actually in Kailua, on the windward side of Oahu. I’ll withhold judgement about Mexico City, if that’s where it turns out to be, because after almost a month in the States, I am feeling pretty burned out with 3rd world cities.

    Don’t know about what works or doesn’t work when it comes to things on the Internet. I am a dunce about these things. If the button pushed doesn’t do what the button pushed claims to do, then I give up immediately.

    How’s life in LA?

  5. Read what I just wrote about Buenos Aires, and then suppose how I might like Mexico City. My inexperienced guess is that MC has BA’s problems magnified. But I always enjoy every new place we go in the beginning, it’s just that some places wear out faster than others, and two years is more than enough for places like this.

    Meant to add that I got your book in the mail when we returned. Thank you for sending it. Now I am going to do something I haven’t done in a very long time — sit down and read a book of poetry.

  6. I am prepared to like Mexico City, if it comes to that, because I am such a fan of the cuisine, including, but definitely not limited to, Tex-Mex. But I have to also admit that maybe I’ve been a little too long in the “developing” world.

    It’s probably mostly an age thing. Before the age of forty, I would simply put up with a ton of BS by tagging everything as an “adventure” or an “experience.” That sort of patience with irrational BS has faded.

    Now I usually respond to inexplicable nonsense by wondering “why?” If I can’t find a good reason for things, I write it all off as BS, irrational, inexplicable, unnecessary impediments to living a pleasurable and productive life.

    My ability or willingness to tolerate nonsense (and this definitely includes political nonsense) has pretty much faded away.

    So after I get used to eating well in Mexico City, I’m not sure what else about life there is going to appeal to me.

    It is only two years, if we go, and even at this age, I can do about anything for a couple of years.

    • Just thought of a PS. You shouldn’t be required to move to the back of your flat to have your morning coffee. You should be able to enjoy your coffee anytime and anywhere you damn well please. That is my point about “rights.” The right someone has to let their dog shit where it pleases ought not to to conflict with my right to walk cleanly along a public sidewalk, or your right to have your morning coffee in your own apartment anywhere you like.