Time To Reflect

I had some time to just sit and think for awhile today and I found myself thinking about things that I miss; things I can't see or do out here.
  • Wildflowers
90% of the flowers on island are growing in flower pots around people's houses. There are plumeria and orchids and hibiscus as well as a few others and while they are beautiful, one of the things I miss is fields and fields of wildflowers.
  • Hiking
I used to go hiking almost every weekend in Montana. For awhile I was taking my dogs hiking almost every night after work. I love hiking. I especially like hiking to the top of a hill or mountain and looking out over the land.
  • Camping
I really miss camping and having a campfire. Campfire smoke is my favorite smell in the world.
  • Riding motorcycles
A few months before I moved to the island I had gotten my motorcycle endorsement. I had a Dual Sport Yamaha XT-225. I loved it. I'll have to learn how to ride all over again when I get back.
  • Driving a car
Driving is fun. Road tripping is even funner.
  • Mountains
Mountains are beautiful and where I lived before I got here was surrounded by them.
  • Seasons
Fall is my favorite season. There is no Fall on Kwaj. It's always summer, the only weather we get is either rain, or no rain. That's it. I miss the variety of dressing differently for the different seasons.
  • Shopping
This isn't what you think it is......I mean food shopping. I love to cook and try new recipes and I can't tell you how often I've gone to the store here with my hopes up and get let down again because they don't carry what I need. I also really love trying new foods and having access to a deli. Grocery store items are usually what I bring home with me when I go to the States. The other thing I love is trying new beers I lived down the street from a place that carried over 100 different kinds of beer. I would just go in there and pick something based on the label and try it. Some were good, some were not but it was fun!


Astute Observation

I was contacted by a potential island resident in the recent past who observed:

"I found and read another kwaj blog last night (the whole thing) and it seems to be (on all the blogs I've found) that people start out liking it and slowly that fades and they start grumbling more and more and the time between posts on their blogs become longer and longer or just stop in mid air all together."

Let me explain what I've observed while here. Kwaj is the epitome of Groundhog Day, the movie starring Bill Murray where a weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.

When you first get here, everything is new and exciting and you try new activities and meet new friends and experience a climate that most people only dream of seeing on the vacation of their dreams. It's adventurous. You are living overseas. It's exotic.

But then you kind of get to a point where you've seen it all, done it all and the lack of seasons gets kind of boring. It gets hard to come up with things to write about and share that you haven't already said before. How many pictures of fish and palm trees can you really take?

There are a number of people who thrive in this type of "safe" environment. They are resistant to change and don't mind living in a tiny community doing the same activities, day in and day out. Then there are others to whom this is limiting to their freedom, they stagnate and eventually,(hopefully, for their sake) escape.Then there is a thrid group of people called "re-treads" who leave and come back, sometimes multiple times.

I know my time here is growing shorter. Nothing firm as of yet but when I'm ready, I'll walk you through the process of leaving, just like I brought you along for the ride to get out here.


Things That Make You Go Hmmm......

I always thought you could buy anything online.

It's been my preferred method of shopping for years. I pretty much never go to an actual brick and mortar store unless it's for food and it's one of the reasons I figured I'd do ok out here. Limited shopping; not a big deal. But I discovered something today.....it's really hard to find shorts and swimsuits (even online) in the winter!

One of my favorite places to shop is REI. They have 2 pair of shorts available right now! TWO! And I'm not having much better luck elsewhere.

Something to think about....


Lessons Learned: Bicycle Maintenance

This is one of the most important parts of a bicycle:

This is the part that your pedals attach to and keep the bike moving.....as long as they are not rusted solid as I've seen way too many times out here.

Keeping you bike maintained out here is vital!

I've been helping out in the Dive/Bike shop here for the last month or so while the owner is off-island on vacation. A few Kwaj residents have signed up as vendors and have stores with items you can't typically get here. The dive/bike shop sells diving equipment, lessons, bicycle parts and offers bicyle repair.

The most common bicycle ailment around here is the bottom bracket. So much so that we don't even have any in stock anymore. But from watching bike after bike come in to the shop and go out the door to the trash, one thing I've learned is DON'T WAIT! Don't wait until you'r pedals fall off, don't wait until they make a lot of noise while you are riding, don't wait until they start turning slowly or not at all.

Once that bottom bracket gets to a certain point...it won't come out. And if it won't come out, you have to get a new bike. There is no saving it. We're talking the difference between a $30 part and a $400 bike. (That's the going rate here for the Sun bikes which are the only ones that last longer than 6 months out here.

I've had my current bike for about 2 years now. So far I've replaced the fenders, the gear shifter and cables, the seat, the rear inner tube, and now the bottom bracket. I've been fairly lucky so far considering the only maintenance I really do to it beyond replace parts is to spray it down with a penetrating oil or liquid silicon every so often.


Hit With The UgliStick

I just have to say that their website is severly underrated. These guys are awesome! Great variety, great delivery, great everything!

Two years ago The UgliStick was here as a USO/AFE show and they rocked the house. We had a couple of really great local bands out here at the time so it wasn't quite as impactful as is it now. Not to mention, I hadn't been here as long...

We've unfortunately lost a lot of great musical talent in the last two years and our remaining groups are still getting used to each other or have completely disbanded so to have The UgliStick out here now is truly a treat and we have Community Activities to thank for the whole thing!

Tonight is their last show so we're headed out to make the most of it. If you get the chance to see them....do!


Spring Rain

Yesterday we got 5.52 inches of rain!

My house is leaking in places it's never leaked before. (I've had my roof repaired 3 times already)

It was amazing to witness and hear; it was very loud. This morning when I woke up it had stopped and it was eerily quiet.

I was going to label this post something along the lines of "record breaker" but I went to the RTS Weather website and discovered that this was not a record...not by far.

In 1995 the 24 hour record was 8.86 inches and in 1972 they got a massive 17.15 inches in one day!!! I can't even imagine. You would need scuba gear just to take out the trash!


Heading Home....

No, not permanently this time; just for a visit.

One of our perks here is that once a year, we get a paid trip back to the States. Back to your point of origin specifically. When your anniversary date rolls around, you get a deposit for the amount of a plane ticket at that moment in time as well as some paid travel days and a weeks worth of paid time off. They call these admin days....it's for taking care of things you can't do on island like renew your State drivers license, visit your own personal physician...whatever.

This year I'll be spending a week of rest in Honolulu, a week in Oregon listing my house doing some work on it while I'm there, and getting a quote from a contractor for a few projects. After that a week in Atlanta, GA and then on to South Carolina. Hopefully the schedule will include some hiking and camping and motorcyle riding! Once all the fun stuff is done, I'm headed to San Francisco, CA for a 7 day CCNA:Security bootcamp.

When all is said and done I'll have traveled 15,076 miles. UGH! Boy will I be ready to get back home so I can relax!

This is a pretty typical itinerary for a Kwaj vacation. Lots to cram in when you only get back once a year; or less. I've actually been to Palau and Australia since I last went to the States. It's cheaper and closer for us to go the other direction from here.



The Rustman Cometh

2012 marks the Kwajalein Running Club's 33rd annual Rustman swim-bike-run Triathlon. It will be held on April 30th and this year, I'm participating! My portion of the 1-kilometer swim, 42-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run will be the run. I have never participated in anything like this before.

Wish us luck!


Spring Break Music Festival 2012

The Kwajalein Yacht Club sponsored another fine Spring Break Music Festival this year. Complete with all the fun events:
The Dunk Tank
The chili contest (Watch out for #11!)
The homebrew tent
This year was notably quieter than years past. These public events reveal the dwindling population on Kwaj quite a bit. There were fewer vendors and no BBQ contest like the last two years I've been to this event. It was still a great time and a great event, not to be missed!


On The Road Again

Or maybe I should say, in the air again.
Time for another short vacation. This time to Cairns, Australia! I can't wait!

We've got a few major island events coming up so I should have something to post about soon. Most days are pretty much the same though....


Release of Big Guy and Speedo

Quoted from Island report:

It’s true! Big Guy and Speedo, long-time residents at the Dr. Donald Ott Turtle Pond, were released on the morning of March 7th, 2012. First, the two adult male green sea-turtles were taken out of the pond and placed into two large crates, custom made by the Carpentry Shop.

Heavy Equipment personnel used a crane to lift the two boxes onto the back of a truck and drove them down to the Marine Department where The Patriot and its Captain, Tracy Hampson, were waiting. After the precious cargo was loaded onto the deck, the passengers went to work on cleaning and marking the turtles’ shells with their initials, Big Guy with a “B” and Speedo with an “S.”

Once they arrived to their destination, the Captain and crew lowered Speedo’s crate into the water and the hatch was opened. It took a while, but once he found the exit, Speedo stayed true to his name and was out of the crate and out of view in quite a hurry.

Then it was Big Guy’s turn. The hatch opened and Big Guy swam out of the crate and really took his time navigating his new home. He spent some time surfacing but eventually plunged low and then out of sight. Thank you to all of the departments and individuals that made the release smooth, efficient, and successful!

They've requested that we report any sighting of the turtles to the Enviromnmental department. I'll let you know if we hear of any sightings.


Operation Sail 2012

The Indonesian Tall Ship "Dewaruci" arrived at Kwajalein today as part of "Operation Sail 2012".

I'll be touring this ship tomorrow afternoon. I can't wait!

Activities revolving around the ships visit include a soccer game at the high school field and a pot luck dinner at Emon beach.I'm so glad Kwajalein was included in this!



Kwajalein Sunset Time Lapse

I wouldn't have to keep stealing this guys work if it wasn't so cool! The photographer is one of the teenagers on Kwaj, Jarem Erekson. Enjoy!


This Could Get Me In Trouble

While they never specifically mention it; this is Kwaj. Those of you that have lived here will get it, those that haven't may not think it's funny. I've heard that the current Commander was not amused. I do think it's funny, so here it is:


Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs....

And a significant number of them have misspellings or mistranslations; like this one:

Hared hats; is that anything like bunny ears?


A Quick Tour Around Kwajalein

One of our island residents made this video of a bike ride around the island. I like it!


The End Of An Era

Last night at the Scuba Club monthly meeting we were told that the turtles in the turtle pond were going to be released. There have been rumors of this going around for awhile but now it is confirmed.
They recieved a physical to ensure they were healthy and disease free so they wouldn't cause any problems for the local wild turtles.
The idea is that sea turtles are endangered and reintroducing these two back into the population would allow them to contribute to their species and help the dwindling population.
It is not known where the turtles originated from and it is unknown whether they would remain in this area or possibly relocate to another region. The hope is that they will be tagged so they can be tracked for at least the 30 days or so that a satellite tracker could provide. The cost of each tracker is around $5000 so it's unknown if the expense will be incurred.
I believe they said the two remaining turtles are known as Big Guy and Speedo. I had no idea they had names.....
Here is a picture I took of one of the turtles when I first arrived, almost 3 years ago!