Of Pilgrims and Saints, Festival and Revelry (February 2016)

Welcome back to the madness.

Canterbury Tales (Polynesian Edition)

Like Chaucer’s famed travelers of old, we continue along our lengthy journey for the second year running, and the story (so far) is more about the characters than the destination. (Come to think of it, those literary pilgrims never reached their intended place before the scribe’s pen went dry…) For your entertainment pleasure and general edification, please enjoy this brief update on our cast and crew:

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Nursery Worker

The Stable Boy. As a fine example of the flexibility offered by homeschooling, this one decided to enroll this month in an online Smithsonian Institute course of study on modern folklore that delves deep into ancient world mythologies (from Native America to Oceania to Russia), history as it has shaped the art and content of story (especially in the WWII era in our nation), and a sprinkling of world religion as it influences world view and moral narratives. Did I mention that this homework-laden course is taught by none other than Stan Lee? That’s right…a structured, regimented course of learning centered around the modern American folklore genre known as “comics.”  (A sub-discipline of anthropology, folklore has always been one of his old man’s favorites, with Nordic and Anglo-Saxon varieties holding a special place of reverence. As they say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” (Unless, of course, the tree is planted on a cliff’s edge).)

The Boy was also gifted another 120 pounds of banana by the local CSA to support his vinegar enterprise (that’s 240 pounds so far) and he began experimenting with production of pineapple vinegar this month.

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College Buds

The Scholar. Don’t we all fondly remember our first fender bender, especially those that were not our fault? Joe College had the wonderful experience this month of being cut off in traffic and tagging the back panel of the offending vehicle. Police, insurance, the whole nine yards. What fun. She was also invited this month to join the collegiate honor society in the Greek system–ΦΘΚ (Phi Theta Kappa). Then, while innocently ordering some food in a local Thai restaurant, she was offered another job, which she readily accepted. (Her previous gig at another Thai eatery came to a close when the owners affected a significant staff cut to improve the books.)

The Jester. Her efforts last month to up her SAT score paid off. With a new final score of 1990, her super score (the combined best of all tests, which the colleges focus on these days) is now 2050.

imageThis puts her in the top 1-percent for reading, top 4-percent in writing, and top 7-percent in math. Not too shabby.  She also acted on an invitation to judge a local grade school science fair with her dear ole dad, Professor Hippy.

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Processing Cacao

The Squire. Following in Big sister’s footsteps, this one began experimenting with music composition using Music Maker Jam and advanced her Manga drawing skills (see samples below).  A 4.1 Richter scale earthquake early one morning left the little one drearily asking various family members, “Who shook my bed?” and gave the siblings a wide range of retort possibilities, mostly revolving around flatulence.

imageThe Mistress. The buxom lady from the East passed her exams and was awarded a nationally-recognized certificate dubbing her a Master Food  Preserver. She delighted the family with after-class treats, products of her study, from raw chocolates to exotic preserves (passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry). The fine arts of lacto-fermenting, dehydrating, packing sausage into casings, and canning (even tuna and other meats) have now been securely added to her already impressive list of homesteading skills, and she made a number of useful contacts in the green community (a great side benefit of all the classes we have both taken).

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Phonics and Felines

The Bard. The Transportation Security Administration finally issued my medical clearance (some 18 months after first applying for the job). Next and final step? Background check. (I think this will be the fifth background check conducted on me since I touched down here.) Between this lengthy job application and the building permit process, I am quickly becoming a master of the little known pass time of Recreational Waiting. Meanwhile, one non-profit that I work for celebrated my one-year anniversary by giving me a 20-percent raise and the international student placement non-profit organization for which I work asked me to be a regional advisor for the entire state of Hawaii. (The “non-profit / no profit” equation may be shifting.) The Empire of the Seed is rising too, with a new bulk customer in Kona and a putchze into the ranks of the local farmer’s Union. (With germination rates far superior to locally available and common variety seed carried by national chain stores here, our offerings of heirloom, open pollinated, non-GMO varieties are developing a following.) The Seed Whisperer hummeth contentedly.

Things Sundry

Ever the nomads, we began scouting out our next temporary residence as county officials continued to (apparently) savor the intricacies of our housing permit–16 months and counting. A tight rental market left us settling on a vacation property, which is equipped with all the modern conveniences, but will have us back on a beans-and-rice diet to accommodate the rent. (Did I mention that this is back in the same neighborhood where we lived during our first two months on island? Our neighbors then included an FBI fugitive, nudists, and drug users–but all of the nicest sort possible. Just last month in this lovely neighborhood, they found a dismembered, decomposed human body in the bushes and one resident was robbed at knife point while checking his mailbox. Everyone needs a little adventure in life, no?)

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Bug-resistant Phoona Kheera Cuke

Ever the experimentalists, we continued our exploration of the hardiness and productivity of vernalized (artificially hibernated) garlic, south Asian and African strains of cucumber, African squash, Caribbean and Southeast Asian edible hibiscus, and pest resistant yard-long and lima beans. Slowly, slowly we are building a selection of staples that can be grown here in full sun, full rain, without any pesticide or fancy inputs (beyond those varieites already long established by the local growing community, like Brazilian spinach and chayote, lemongrass and poha berries, and various and sundry tubers).

Saint Valentine’s Day. When, pray tell, did Hallmark hijack this holiday? As far as I understand the origins of the tradition, this day was meant to mark romantic interests. Under commercial marketing pressures, one is now expected to give some type of card or gift to every member of the opposite sex in the family (kids and parents in particular) and, of course, every member in your grade school classroom. What’s next? Father’s Day cards for your nephew? Kwanza chocolates for your Jewish friends? This world is becoming evermore confused. (Speaking of “evermore,” I for some unknown reason recall–and hereby share–that the Led Zepplin ballad dubbed Battle of Evermore is a sheer delight for any fantasy fiction fan. Of course, for you Tolkien acolytes out there, their ditty “Ramble On” is said to document the departure from Rivendell of the adventuresome party known as the Fellowship of the Ring. But I digress…)

Manga, Brought to You by Half-Pint

The bride and I marked Valentines with a leisurely jaunt to a few favored eateries, including drink and fine fare outdoors while overlooking the shimmering teal bay, and an exploratory drive around the many back roads that cross our property’s district and that have long puzzled us as to their destination. What romance…

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A Manly Shade of Mauve?

Then there was the mother of all faux pas. After carefully selecting a sufficiently girlie card out of the store rack labeled “Husband to Wife” and personally inscribing it with heartfelt prose befitting the most adept of paramours, I was surprised after the bride read this beautiful, well penned masterpiece to be paralyzed by that kind of glare reserved for the body-language arsenal of wives alone as she ever so casually noted that the pre-printed drivel on the card was, in fact, addressed to “husband.” This, of course, has given the children no end of material from which to draw when needing to chastise their father (all in good fun, of course).

“Double Happiness” (as the Chinese love to say). This month also saw the cosmic convergence of Super Bowl 50 and Lunar New Year’s Eve on the same day. We admired the feats of athletic prowess, filled our bellies with typical game day fare, and gawked at the hip-hop bling bling of the halftime show at a large gathering of congregation members at our pastor’s home.

image(Speaking of halftime, have societal norms devolved to the point where we really need three different performers to fill such a short time slot?). We then celebrated the onset of the Year of the Monkey with one group of friends that night, and other friends the following eve. From drunken chicken and tofu skin wraps to shrimp-paste-infused watercress and tea eggs, we filled our bellies well. (This animal year aligns with the zodiac sign of Wee One; mayhaps it will be an auspicious one for the lass.)

A Happy Hound

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No One’s Touching My Dinosaur Bone!

Reliving Old Times. We were this month graced by visitors, some of the few “good people” from our past (career) lives, who first met our kids as a young married couple in the nation’s capital many moons ago and now brought along two little ones of their own to link up here in the Sandwich Isles. Nothing like hours of meaningful conversation over fois gras and and a nice Zinfindel, a tour of our 10-acre weed farm, and a little beach time to refresh and edify both me and the bride. Our brood, a good bit older than their new friends, delighted in the antics of the young tikes and jumped right in to take care of their fellow, young world travelers. Interestingly, next month, we are scheduled to receive yet another young(er) couple (and two more wee ones) from our past professional lives. It’s just one big family reunion for Uncle Sam’s progeny out here…

imageSchooling. Many of you have asked about our homeschool routine. Here is a brief glimpse into one element: reading. After awaking each morning, the kids have one hour of required material. Scripture (religious studies) and the daily newspaper (current events, politics, economics, etc.) come first as assigned content, followed by a free-choice selection from our reading table, where Mental Floss, National Geographic, the Christian Research Journal, and Popular Science are standard offerings.

On occasion, mom or dad will assign additional short pieces (a particularly appropriate article from Acres or Mother Earth News, for instance). Other reading is part of more formal coursework. The Boy, is now working through a historical fiction on the world-changing Battle of Agincourt, for example.

Reading time is not all “work, work, work,” though. Leisure content factors in as well. A shining example of a member of a (mostly) nerd family, Pea Pod is currently skipping through the works of Douglas Adams and is now angling for a waitressing gig at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Crime.  Why bring this up, again?  You guys keep asking for it.  Why?  I speculate that it is because most folks world ’round are appalled when they learn the state of public security here in Paradise, particularly the tourists who experience it first hand.  Well…this month?  Same ole stuff, but I will note that in the first 10-days of the month, the police shot dead one individual behind a local McDonalds (in a shopping center where we buy groceries) and killed a second individual in the parking lot of our local Walmart (where we try not to shop, lest we be violated by the very special brand of Walmartians found on this heavily tattooed, pierced, and spam-satiated rock).  Also, a new Neighbhorhood Watch coordinator in the police department reached out to me to restart our meetings, which have been dormant since July of last year for hard-to-explain reasons not of the citizenry’s doing, even though we have suffered a number of incidents in our area to include the recently attempted abduction of a young girl right on the road that leads to our property.  As always, will keep you posted…

…and back by popular demand…

Hawaiiana (and a little gratuitous sass)

Did you know that Hawaii is the only member of the Union that does not have a statewide board to ensure that law enforcement officers meet standards for hiring and training? In a likely related matter, the police this month released a report noting that in the past year alone, 17 officers were fired and 54 were formally reprimanded and disciplined–the highest annual number of disciplinary actions within the force in recent memory and double last year’s rate. The most common offense? Not showing up for work. (In the same vein, 40% of the guard force at the Hilo Correctional facility called in sick on Super Bowl Sunday.)

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For those of us who have lived in dengue infested areas abroad for years, this “crisis” is not of huge concern. Puzzling, though, has been the local government’s response. While third world Asia has long combatted the problem with public education on the use of mosquito nets and long sleeve and long pant clothing, the feeding habits of the culprit bug, and the elimination of breeding areas near homes (standing water in gutters, discarded tires, etc.), the first response here was to launch a pesticide spraying campaign followed by encouragement for people to increase their use of toxic bug repellents on their bodies and then discussion of possibly importing genetically modified mosquitos to breed out the problem.

Further on the health front, this month we learned that studies by the National Cancer Institute (where I worked as a lab assistant in my high school years) have identified Big Island residents as being prone to melanoma, leukemia, and cancers of the uterus, pancreas, mouth, and cervix at a rate that is higher than the national average. Why? No clues.

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Triggering flashbacks to our years living in developing nations, we this month had rolling black outs on the Big Island, news reports claimed that the mayor was entering a plea agreement for theft of public funds, a former county council candidate was charged with ballot fraud, and it was announced that the island has not been able to fill (has a shortage of) 52-percent of its medical specialist positions (psychiatrists, pediatricians, obstetricians, surgeons).  In the same vein, did you know that–much like, say, Calcutta–there are no vehicle emission inspection requirements here?  (Nothing like catching a lungful of blue, carbon-monoxide-laden exhaust as you try to savour a Kona espresso at an outdoor cafe.)

On the bright side, all this led me to some new PR copywriting work for the Hawaii  Tourism Authority.  My latest ad reads, “The Big Island – Bringing You the Very Best of the Third World!”

And with that…I’m out.

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