Here is an update on Hilo's cost of living for today, Feb 28, 2008.
There are breakfast deals at I-Hop located in the Hilo Mall (Prince Kuhio Plaza) if you get there early.
GAMESTOP IN HILO
At the mall today (Prince Kuhio Plaza) GameStop is popular with the kids.
THE ONGOING VOG IN HILO
Hawaii County Civil Defense finally issued a warning about the Vog. We have been seeing people jogging in thick vog- completely oblivious of the detrimental impact of Sulfur dioxide (SO2).
Today our neighbor came over to tell us that one of our banana trees was ready to be harvested. It is fun to have bananas in the backyard. But the reality of fighting the ants and spiders and climbing up a ladder to cut them down, is another thing all together.
What you don't get to see is the fall off the ladder drama right after this picture was taken. We gave the bananas to our neighbor, but shared in the the booty with a couple of "hands" of bananas.
After the banana harvesting, it finally started to rain cleansing the air.
SCIENCE FAIR IN HILO
We visited 'Imiloa Astronomy Center on Sunday and were treated to an fantastic collection of student project displays for the science fair.
The projects were very well presented and we were sorry not to be able to read every one of them.
We were struck with how closely the projects were related to things that impact us daily in Hawaii. There was a project to create a solar oven , to desalinate sea water with solar energy, to trap coqui frogs, to use mulch instead of herbicide. I wanted to take notes! After a couple of hours of reading the charts and experimental findings we came to the conclusion that the kids on this island are very impressive.
HAZE IN HILO CONTINUES
The hazy conditions and daily earthquakes have returned with vengence. We can't see Hilo Bay most of the day. Until the tradewinds pick up or it rains, this Hawaii vog (volcanic fog) will continue.
Even paradise has reminders of our fragility.
ANOTHER DAY IN HILO
Today a cruise ship arrived, an NCL. The skyline had a thick layer of volcanoic gas circulating around the island from the very active Kilauea volcano.
Even the sun rises are a strange redish hue due to the ash in the air.
While we were downtown, we received a leaflet about a protest being organized by the Malu' Aina for Saturday Feb 23, at the Pohakuloa Training Area located above Hilo on Saddle Road. The US Military uses the 133,000 acre site for live-fire training, dropping bombs and shelling the area resulting in radiation contamination from depleted uraniun and potentially impacting the health of those living in Hilo.
A GREAT DAY IN HILO
We woke up this morning, had our Kona coffee on the couch and noticed a big cruise ship coming into Hilo harbor - the Diamond Princess. The passengers are coming from Los Angeles and have been out to sea for 4 days! They are going to be eager to disembark and enjoy the glorious weather in Hilo today.
A ship in town means that the business owners head downtown to open their shops, cook up extra food, and open up their stores and cafes. It means that Farmer's market will be larger than normal to provide fruits and veggies for downtown eateries and flowers and baked goods for the cruise passengers. We headed for the car, to get to the farmers market before the tourists disembarked.
The captain gave the passengers the slow tour of the bay, giving us plenty of time to drive downtown and take some pictures of the ship going by. Downtown was still empty.
Soon all the parking spots will be full, traffic will be bumper to bumper, buses will unload visitors, and everything will be alive with tourists. But, we had the pick of the day on papayas, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and flowers at the market.
COST OF LIVING AND HEALTH PLANS IN HILO
Since we're settled into Hilo, we've turned our focus to further downsizing our cost of living. We created a budget before moving to Hilo based on living here for a month last year. We learned a lot about rents, neighborhoods, food shopping, gasoline and stuff like that. But a lot of our budget was speculation based on our optimistic estimates of health care costs, insurance, auto costs, entertainment, etc. Fortunately for us, coming from Northern California everything in Hilo is a lot cheaper.
A budget is a great planning tool, but achieving it is another matter. Just moving to Hilo has resulted in immediate improvements in our quality of life while at the same time reducing our monthly expenses. We rented a 3 bedroom house with a garage and great view of Hilo Bay for less than 1/3 of the rent we paid for an old (1960's) 3 bedroom, upstairs apartment in Cupertino wedged between I280 and I85. The foods we like are much cheaper in Hilo as well. For example, we paid $5 for one organic Hawaiian papaya at Whole Foods in Cupertino; in Hilo $1 gets you 6 Hawaiian papayas. Fresh line caught fish and Big Island grass fed beef are other examples of foods that are really expensive in California versus Hilo where they are caught and raised (see Healthy Hilo for more).
Our latest cost reduction victory is health insurance. We urgently needed to get off of COBRA which is outrageously expensive for a family and mostly useless to us in Hawaii due to the lack of doctors. Having any interruption in health insurance is a huge ding against you when trying to get new health care insurance, so as appealing as it sounded, we couldn't just ditch COBRA. There are really only two health plan insurance choices on the Big Island: HSMA and Kaiser. HSMA is Blue Cross/Blue Shield for Hawaii, and although expensive, it seems to be the popular choice for Hawaii businesses and government workers. There is a shortage of health professionals on the Big Island and some urgent care facilites don't accept Blue Cross/Blue Shield so its usability is a question. We investigated getting HSMA's more affordable catastrophic insurance but it has Hawaii residency requirements which we won't meet for another year. Kaiser on the other hand has its own care facilities, doctors, and hospital (on Oahu) in Hawaii guaranteeing that some health professional will actually see you if you require help. The monthly cost for Kaiser's family coverage is less than half the cost of COBRA. It is yet another step in cutting our monthly cost of living.
UPDATE ON OUR VOLCANO
Today, Feb 18, Hilo's weather is absolutely gorgeous. The tradewinds have picked up, blowing the vog to some other unfortunates. Mauna Kea is snow capped and a beautiful sight to see.
The daily update from the USGS notes that "As expected from the recent breakdown in trade winds, SO2 concentrations have increased over east Hawai`i. At the summit, values peaked in mid-morning at 4,000 ppb (4 ppm) at Jaggar Museum. In Hilo, several people reported sulfur smell and hazy air yesterday morning. The tradewinds are currently back but weak."
CHINESE NEW YEAR FESTIVAL IN HILO
The air is hazy from the Volcano in Hilo,
but clear enough for us to go to the Chinese New Year festival at Kalakaua park in downtown Hilo. The festival was very well attended with lots of food booths, dancing and things to buy.
This morning, Feb 16, our Hilo Bay view looked like the Los Angeles basin due to the pollution from Kilauea. Our eyes are burning and our throats hurt.
The Kilauea Volcano is acting up but there isn't a lot of updates or information available for us. Since the Volcanoes National Park visitor alert for hazardous fumes on 2/8 we have only had crypticdaily updates from the USGS which mentions that the sulfur dioxide concentrations at the summit are increasing and the Pu'u 'O'o vent is dangerous. The CAM of the Pu'u O'o vent shows near zero visibility presumably due to the gases and ash being spewed. The Big Island earthquake activity has picked up as well. And finally, there is some fairly significant activity with the Tiltmeter for the northwest rim of Kilauea's caldera and the Pu'u 'O'o cone on the northwest flank of the active vent.
In Hilo today, near the mall it smelled like rotten eggs. All these signs may point to an impending eruption.
We got our Kaiser Medical cards in the mail today. It will be a relief (and incredible savings) to get off of COBRA. I am happy to see Kaiser is making a profit. Hopefully, that will mean health care will exist in some form in Hawaii for the money we are paying each month.
ANTI-GMO SENTIMENT IN HAWAII
Hawaii State Sen. Mike Gabbard introduced a bill requiring all genetically modified whole foods sold in Hawaii to be labeled and another requiring companies to reveal their test plots of genetically engineered crops. Gabbard and his staff say the bills are the first of their kind in Hawaii, although similar legislation has been introduced on the mainland. There was support for the bill in downtown Hilo today (Feb 14).
Here's a video that we took this month of Rainbow Falls in Hilo with heavy water flow due to the heavy rain and flooding. We were covered with mist from the tremendous amount of water crashing over the rocks.
COST OF LIVING IN HILO
I have had some emails from folks asking about cost of living in Hilo. Evaluating cost of living is colored by where a person is coming from; we moved from Cupertino/Sunnyvale area of Nothern California, so Hilo is inexpensive from our perspective. To evaluate Hilo's cost of living with yours, use the McDonald burger comparison. Below are prices from the local McDonald's in Hilo today. I haven't been to McDonalds in a long while, but I have to say their coffee is good and cheaper than Starbucks.
In addition to fruit and veggies at Hilo's Farmer's Market, there are gorgeous flowers available, including the amazing Anthuriums.
We bought this bunch of Anthuriums today, Feb 11, for $4.
HEALTH FOOD STORES IN HILO
Today we made our monthly pilgrimage to Abundant Life in downtown Hilo. Though we eat local as much as possible, there are a few items we have only found in health food stores.
The things we head to the health food store are: Veganaise, non-hydrogenated margarine, nutritional yeast, and real maple syrup.
Abundant Life has shelves filled with all the health food items that we grew accustomed to in California. In order to keep to our tight budget, we keep our purchases to a minimum.
HILO TRAFFIC AND AROUND TOWN
There is traffic in Hilo. On weekdays there are folks rushing to work in the morning and there is a 4:30pm crush of cars and trucks flooding out of Hilo to Puna and beyond. Here's a view of the downtown traffic this morning, Saturday, Feb 9, due to farmer's market and a cruise ship in Hilo Bay.
Here Hilo gas prices on Feb 9, 2008.
We checked up on Rainbow falls today, Feb 9, to see what the water flow looked like after all the rain. There was a ton of water!
The rain has been endless this February. This is a picture from our porch of the heavy rain. The banging on our metal roof keeps us up at night and has been so loud that we can't hear the TV or talk. Hilo rain statistics show that November is suppose to be the rainy month - this may be yet another sign of a global weather change.
The water runoff below our house was a river.
The telescopes above Hilo on Mauna Kea are having a rough time this winter. They have an abundance of ice and snow and haven't been able to open their telescope windows for weeks. No one can drive up to the observatories from the visitor's center. A good view of their latest weather can be seen from this Mauna Kea CAM.
There was an amazing rainbow over Hilo today, Jan 25. It was so big we couldn't capture its entire span with the camera.
Visit to University of Hawaii at Hilo
We visited the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus today. We checked out the bookstore and library. They have an excellent collection of books in the Hawaiian history room in the library. The campus is very laid back, almost muted. They don't have a lot of places to just hang out. Here are photographs of the campus center. Classes had started up a week earlier.
Oh the stress of living in Hilo...........
Rainbow Falls in Hilo
We went to visit Rainbow Falls near downtown Hilo on Jan 24. We still haven't caught sight of a rainbow.
There is a beautiful walk up to the top of the falls.
Hilo Sea Wall
The waves are crashing over the Hilo seawall (Jan 15). At night, when the town is quiet, we can hear the waves crashing, even at our great distance from the Hilo Bay.
'Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo
We joined the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center. The $100 family membership will pay for itself since it is the type of place we will want to go repeatedly and it is expensive by the trip ($17.50 per adult). The membership allows us to bring 2 people with us and unlimited access to everything. The Center is above the University of Hawaii, Hilo campus.
In addition to trying out the cafe, there are numerous displays and movies. A 3D globe with an Earth movie created via 4 projectors is quite impressive.
You can walk around the globe as they project and spin the earth.
Paddling in Hilo Bay
We caught the paddling teams heading out for practice in Hilo Bay on Jan 8. Paddling is a big deal in Hilo and Puna with lots of clubs and most of them competitive.
Coffee at Kope Kope in Hilo
We like having coffee at Kope Kope in the Hilo Shopping Center. This is a local hang out for those looking for caffinated wireless access.
Cruise Ship leaving Hilo
Here is a cruise ship leaving Hilo Bay in the evening. They usually come in in the morning and head out at dusk with their lights on.
Beautiful Mauna Kea from Hilo
The weather cleared to show the new snow on Mauna Kea. This was taken Jan 5, 2008 and is clear enough to see the telescopes on top of the Mauna Kea.