Apr 14, 2009

Changing with the weather

I haven't been working much at all the past couple months. It isn't due to the gloomy economic climate so much as the very unstable tropical climate. There isn't much point in sending me up to the summit to work if the sky is completely overcast with a chance for snow and ice, since the telescope isn't even going to be able to operate. The extremely delicate mirrors of the telescope cannot be exposed to high levels of humidity lest hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage occurs. Hence, the domes housing them must remain closed in such conditions, and no observational work is done.

The weather has been very unusual; frequently storming over the summit and dropping at least a couple inches of snow every other day, which add up over the span of several weeks. The summit of Mauna Kea is typically an absolutely bone dry and very cold region with absolutely zero humidity- the textbook definition of "alpine desert." It seems however that the harshness of winter carries on a little longer each year. I do suspect the weather will settle down by May, allowing for more laser guide star operations to be done, but one never knows. The climatic patterns that govern the weather on this island are probably as quirky as anywhere else in the world, which is why we have rain forests, hot deserts, steppes, alpine deserts, sub-alpine zones, mesic woodlands, cloud forests, marshes... the list goes on and on.

Even before the economic recession began cutting in deep, worthwhile employment opportunities were scarce on Hawaii Island. Now they're practically non-existent, as either no one is even considering the possibility of hiring, or managers are extremely selective about who is hired for a position. There isn't much going on around here to begin with, besides the retail, hospitality/tourism, agricultural, and usual education/medical industries. And those jobs are pretty much all locked up by people who are very well established on the island. Fewer people traveling to exotic isolated locales translates to fewer jobs here. It's quite a dismal situation. I just take what I can get with the extremely unique part-time job I have now.

I've lived here for maybe 12 or 13 years of my life, and I still don't feel quite at home in a social or professional sense. I probably never will. The most redeeming quality of Hawaii is its natural and cultural beauty and lushness, and its natural environment is what I have always taken to- probably due in part to the absence of much else. I have come to firmly believe that being raised in such a special place has significantly shaped who I am and what I value. Hawaii is what I know best, and the spirit of Hawaii will always be in my blood and something I most strongly identify with, no matter where I go. I wonder how much of a different person I would be if I was raised in a place like, say, Chicago. I'd probably be a city slicker without much appreciation for nature and outdoor recreation but a strong affinity for fine dining and fashion. It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, just very, very different.

Given a choice, I wouldn't change a thing. My childhood and adolescence is full of unique experiences here in the islands that have left me full of stories to tell. Such as the time we navigated a couple small inflatable rafts through several miles of underground irrigation tunnels, wherein our flashlights died, leaving us helpless but to slowly drift along for hours with the lazy flow of the water. When we first spotted the literal light at the end of the tunnel, we were overwhelmed with relief, but it took us another 45 minutes of shivering in the dark and floating idly along to reach the end of the tunnel.

There is also a certain amount of pride that comes with being from such a unique and enchanting place. I'll always have plenty of Hawaiian in me no matter where in the world I end up.

I still feel the time is coming to leave this paradise behind in search of greater opportunities elsewhere. It's difficult to leave behind almost all my familiar possessions and a place so deeply familiar to me, but I believe greater promise lies elsewhere, and I don't believe I can realistically realize my dreams in such a constricting, isolated place. I seem to want more out of life than the average person. I don't want a wife or kids or a perfect little house in the suburbs or a necktie job, but I do want to be closer to my pack of soul family. Money is of little importance to me so long as I have enough to comfortably survive. Ultimately, I want to be able to finance my survival doing something to help the natural environment, but I don't wish to remain thousands of miles away from those that are dear to me. Something I crave most is the freedom to travel, which is horribly limited in a small archipelago almost humorously located smack dab in the middle of the Pacific. My strongly adventurous spirit becomes more and more restless for new experiences, and everything here is pretty much same ol' same ol'.

I believe I'm just waiting for the right time and the perfect excuse. I just find it ironic that so many people consider Hawaii to be an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime escape... and here I am looking to escape Hawaii.

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