Monday, April 4, 2011

Hawaii part 1 (Tsunami)

This may take a few posts, but I'm finally getting around to documenting out trip to Hawaii. We've been home for 2 weeks and I want to get this posted before I forget details.

It was an absolutely amazing trip - but what trip to Hawaii isn't?? After waking up at 4 am to get everything in car, including kids, we had a relatively smooth trip to Hawaii. Flights were on time and the kids did well. We flew from Oakland CA to Honolulu HI then took a short flight from Oahu to the Big Island, landing at Kona Airport. Kona is the cutest little airport. Everything is outdoor, gates and all and it's right on the coast so you get to enjoy the view of the pacific as soon as you get there. Before this trip we had only been to the island of Oahu (and we LOVE that island), so we were excited to try out a new island. The Big Island is very different than Oahu. Obviously, it's much bigger, but the terrain is very different too. I believe it's the youngest of all the islands and it has the world's most active volcano, which has been errupting since the early 1980s. We stayed on the dry side of the Island. The Hilo side is very wet and rain foresty. So we got the best of both world's - lot's of sun at our resort and then we drove to the beautiful greenery on the other side of the island. All that will come later with pictures.

This was our view driving from the airport to our condos. These are lava flows. I believe this is the area of the island where the famous Ironman triathlon takes place.

So we got there without problems, until we got to the rental car place. We made the mistake of being the last ones off the shuttle, so we were the last ones on line to get our car. Then when Matt finally got up to the counter, they had no record of our rental order on their computer. We had one printed out as proof. In return for the mistake, they gave us an upgrade at a discounted rate and didn't charge us a per diem for a second driver which was nice. The reason I'm telling you this seemingly insignificant detail is that have the bigger car (a minivan instead of a sedan) came in very useful the next day. SO, we got our rental car and after a trip to Costco (since we had the extra room with our luggage in the minivan) we headed to our condo. Gorgeous 2 bedroom luxury condo with full kitchen and granite counter tops, 2 baths and 2 bedrooms plus a pullout sofa for a very amazing price. The only problem was the AC was very finnicky and we coud not get it working that first night, so as exhausted as we were, I did not sleep well in our 80 degree condo.

We were very excited about this trip because the only people who knew we were coming on the trip were my parents. My brother and his family was going to be there along with 2 of my younger sisters. I was pretty proud of myself for holding out and not telling them. The surprise was totally worth it. We knew which condo my brother and his family was going to be staying in and my dad had mentioned they would be flying out the same day. So the next morning we had Maya and Luke go up to their door and knock and they were supposed to say they couldn't find their parents. I thought it would be hilarious to see how long it took for my brother to recognize my kids. So the kids do this and I don't hear any reaction from whoever opened the door. So I walk around the corner into view and see a strange older asian guy standing in the doorway looking very confused. So embarrassing. I apologize and we head out not sure if there's another B-4 in the condos. Turns out my brother and his family weren't checking in til later that day. The asian guy checked out that morning. So we did the surprise later when we saw them hanging out on their back lanai. I sent my kids running over and the surprise was fantastic. My brother was shocked just asking "My sister's here? Jenny's here?" So great and my kids had a blast with their cousins. The last time they'd seen each other was almost 3 years ago - the last time we were in Hawaii together.

It's a good thing my brother and his family were there because that night was the night of the Earthquake near Japan.

We had tucked the kids in bed. I had spent the evening organizing the condo and was settling in my bed to read a book. I turned on the TV about 8:30 and saw the live news coverage of the earthquake and tsunami. Within half and hour the Hawaiian Islands were under a Tsunami warning.

With our condos being right near the beach we started packing our things (that I had just finished organizing) and loading the nice big minivan with our luggage, food and water and lots of blankets and pillows. We carried Luke and Seth out to the car, but made Maya walk. I was struggling to get her up, so I tried to explain what was happening. I started with the wrong sentence. I said "Maya, there was an earthquake." Her eyes popped open and I quickly realized my mistake and assured that the earthquake happened far away, but there might be a big wave called a tsunami coming, so we need to leave the condo.

The tsunami was expected to hit around 3 am. We followed my brother and his in-laws (who knew the island well - they own the condo my brother's fam was staying in) up to first a bank and grocery store [sidenote: My brother's father-in-law went in the grocery store to buy food and water in case it's a disaster here on the island. He's loading up on sandwiches and water bottles while every else on line at the store has armloads of beer!] Then we followed them up to a church building in Waimea, up high in the mountain - a 30 minute drive away from the beach. Luckily the missionaries live in a house on the church property and they opened the building for us to use. That gave us bathrooms which was very nice. We took our pillows and blankets and a few couch cushions for the kids to sleep on and hunkered down for the night. It took another hour or so to get Seth back to sleep.

This is where we spent the night. Grateful for the safety and shelter, but I got no sleep on the hard concrete floor.

We set our phone alarm for 2:45 so we could go turn on the radio in the car and listen to what was happening. Matt went out while I stayed with the kids. After a few minutes, the tsunami sirens were going. They lasted quite a while. Matt came back and said that Japan was devastated. My heart broke in that instant. Regardless of what was going on with us, we were safe. We had warning. I'd already seen horrible footage before we evacuated. I truly hurt for Japan. At about 7am we headed back to the condo. Our resort was unharmed. Though the big Island stayed under tsunami warning for most of the day. The was some damage at different parts of the island. A few homes destroyed and a couple of hotels. Near us, the only damage that I know of was to "A' Bay" (It's a big long Hawaiian word that starts with A so it's called A bay)

A bay is backed by the Marriott resort. Across the street, inland, is the King's shops and then our condos are behind those. The morning before the earthquake we played on A bay. I saw a few humpback whales breach on the horizon and had a wonderful 1st morning on the island. A bay was closed to the public for a couple of days while they cleaned it up and made sure it was safe. Below are pictures of the damage. A bay was a semicircle beach. As you can see in the picture below to the left, ocean water is now freely coming in where there used to be beach. Behind the beach was a wall that separated the beach from some ponds. That wall was destroyed as are the ponds. The picture below to the right shows that ponds, drained and freely mixed with ocean, which is bad because is was a delicate habitat for the animals that had been living in them.

The picture below is from the pond area facing out toward the ocean. The wall is washed away and the ocean water is flowing through.

This was our experience with the Tsunami. I hope to never have another one. I'm grateful for our safety and that we had a place to go.

After 3 nights of no sleep (travel, no AC, then tsunami evacuation) I was so excited to finally get some sleep.

The rest of our trip was nice and uneventful disaster wise. Now that I've documented our experience with the tsunami, next I'll post with all the pretty and fun "vacation" pics.

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