Sunday, November 29, 2015

2016 Year of the Fire Monkey Predictions

It is time for our annual predictions based on the Chinese lunar calendar for 2016, the Year of the Fire Monkey.  As we predicted, the current 2015 Wood Sheep year has seen some financial improvement of the economy and more jobs. Unfortunately, the strength of the hostility star overshadowed the normal calm and diplomacy that Sheep years can bring.

The Chinese Monkey New Year starts Feb 8, 2016. In contrast to the Sheep Year, the Monkey Year will be wild, crazy, and disorderly. Organizations and groups will find it hard to make progress during the constantly fluctuating Monkey Year; accomplishments and financial success will be through your individual efforts. This year will bring the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and a contentious U.S. presidential election in November.

During the last Fire Monkey Year, 60 years ago (1956), Eisenhower was reelected as the U.S. president and the Olympics were in Melbourne.  The Soviets invaded Hungary, Britain and France bombed Egypt to reopen the Suez Canal, Israel captured the Straits of Tiran, and there was a military coup in Sumatra. Racial tensions were high in the U.S. and the Supreme Court ruled that race separation on buses was unconstitutional. Morocco and Tunisia gained independence from France, Sudan became independent from Egypt, an Islamic republic was formed in Pakistan, and the last French troops left Vietnam.

The 2016 Monkey Year will go by at a fast pace with lots of communication, humor and wit. This is the year for new thinking, new ideas, and inventions. It is a time for taking risks and wild ideas, but watch out for monkey schemes and deception.

Unfortunately, the year will be dominated by the star of illness, so you should guard your health and energy. Extreme views and lawlessness will pervade the year and it will be more difficult for world leaders to keep control.  The Monkey Year will be a great  for money opportunities, but make sure to keep safe, healthy, and secure.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Life on Oahu versus the Big Island

We recently moved to Central Oahu from South Kohala on the Big Island. Though we are still in Hawaii with its great weather and aloha spirit, the differences between the two islands are dramatic. It is a lot like the difference between living in one stop-light town in the Midwest versus an apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan, NY.

Oahu is very crowded. On a recent Saturday night at Ala Moana Mall there were so many people we struggled to walk through the mall.  Less than half of them were speaking English. It felt more like being in Hong Kong or Tokyo than the US or anywhere else in Hawaii. Everywhere you look on Oahu there are houses, cars, and people which is a major contrast from the miles of desolate lava fields, acres of pastures, and empty beaches we are accustomed to on the Big Island. At our condo complex in central Oahu, cars come and go at all hours of the day and night,  a big change for us after years of living in a mostly empty (except around Christmas) condo complex in South Kohala.  All the people on Oahu keep things very lively and there are endless activities and events, but unlike the Big Island it is surprisingly more difficult to make friends.

Distances and Traffic
Everything on Oahu is only a short distance and if you are lucky and there is not much traffic, you can get anywhere quickly. On the Big Island, everything was a long drive.  It was a long drive for us to get to COSTCO and potlucks with friends in Kona from Kohala.   On Oahu we can drive to three grocery stores, Walmart, our bank, and 20 or more restaurants in our neighborhood in less than 5 minutes.  However, it recently took us 30 minutes to drive a little over a mile on a Saturday morning near Ala Moana mall when dropping someone off at the Convention Center. We rarely ran into traffic on the Big Island.  Occasionally, the traffic from the airport into Kona would jam up a bit and it was frustrating to get behind a slow moving truck, but Oahu has epic traffic jams which we just have to surrender to sitting in the car for a very long time.

Driving Style
Folks drive slower on Oahu than on the Big Island and the speed limits are lower. Honolulu police are out in force giving tickets to speeders, a rare sight on the Big Island. In our seven and half years on the Big Island we saw maybe a dozen people getting tickets, whereas, we see one or more cars getting pulled over every day on Oahu.  Driving in Oahu requires threading your car through tiny parking lots with tiny parking spaces. The freeways are massive in Oahu compared to the two lane roads throughout most of the Big Island, but the lanes are narrower and it feels like the cars are going to scratch the paint off your car as they pass.  Freeway driving takes a great deal of concentration on Oahu. There is just more room for cars and parking lots on the Big Island.

Shopping on Oahu is amazing. There are so many stores and malls it feels more like New York or Paris than Hawaii. On Oahu every neighborhood has a wide selection of stores and there are numerous malls.  The Big Island is just not the place to be if you like shopping, whereas Oahu has an amazing selection of things to buy and great prices.

Food shopping on Oahu is easy compared to the Big Island. There are numerous grocery stores with greater selection and lower prices than the Big Island stores. But Oahu does not compare to the Big Island for fruits and vegetables.  There are fewer Farmer’s markets on Oahu with limited selection compared to we had on the Big Island.  On Oahu, there is no place like Suisan or the Kona harbor with fresh fish and the amazing Big Island Beef is hard to find. Restaurants are abundant, excellent ,and affordable on Oahu, a very unfortunate thing for our waist lines. We never found a place on the Big Island that had consistently excellent food and service at an affordable price whereas on Oahu we have trouble deciding where to go among all the choices.

Weather and Vog
The weather on Oahu depends on where you live, just like the Big Island. We live in central Oahu where it is very rainy, similar to Hilo.  When we drive to west Oahu the weather is usually hot, dry and sunny, similar to Kohala. A bad Vog day on Oahu is like a no Vog day on the Big Island. We are happy to not have to deal with the Vog.

Rent and Jobs
Rents are substantially higher on Oahu than the Big Island.  We are paying $600 more a month in rent for a much smaller condo than we had on the Big Island. The same size and quality of rental on Oahu is about double the cost on the Big Island.  The driving factors for Oahu’s high rents seem to be the large number of soldiers who get a substantial housing allowance and the job market.  Getting a job on Oahu is fairly easy and although they pay better than Big Island jobs, the pay is still very low compared to the cost of housing.  The competition for housing can make it a challenge to even find a rental.

Beaches and Parks
The gorgeous white sand and black sand beaches on the Big Island are in a league of their own.  The famous North Shore beaches on Oahu are tiny with only a few places to  park along the road.  It is a big contrast to the Big Island’s long stretches of beach with large parking lots near many of them.  On Oahu, the malls are more accessible than the parks and trails and beaches.  We miss counting the turtles, talking to the eels, and enjoying the gorgeous scenery on our daily beach walks in Kohala.

We are enjoying our new life in central Oahu but we are missing the incredible outdoor lifestyle we had on the Big Island.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Surprising costs of an interisland move in Hawaii

Packing crates on the Big Island for Oahu
We always assumed that moving between islands in Hawaii would be much easier and cheaper than our move from California to Hawaii Island. The distance from Kawaihae harbor on the Big Island to Honolulu is only about 160 miles compared to 2300 miles from Oakland to Hilo, so we figured that the move would be less expensive and take less time. We were surprised to discover that the cost and complexity of an inter-island move is the same or more than our initial move to Hawaii from the mainland. 

The major expenses shipping between the islands include: 

  • the materials and labor to pack everything to survive an ocean trip, 
  • the labor to load a container or crates,
  • the cost of transporting the container or crates to the harbor,
  • the cost of shipping, 
  • and finally transporting the container to a residence and unloading. 

It turns out the fuel savings from shipping the shorter distance between islands versus from the mainland is only about $200.

In Hawaii, Young Brothers has a monopoly on all shipping routes between the islands. Young Brothers prices are based on weight with a set amount for different types of items such as cars, containers, cement, etc.. They publish their tariffs on their website. They do not offer the type of moving services Matson does, like dropping off a container at your residence and picking it up. 

So, to move personal effects you need, at a minimum, a moving company to deliver a container or  wooden crates and transport them to the harbor. The cost of loading a container or wooden crates (which have to be covered with plastic) and transporting them to the harbor is the same or more in Hawaii as on the mainland. In addition, the cost of packing everything for transportation, including the expense of boxes and wrapping material, is also the same or more on Hawaii as on the mainland. 

On the Big Island there are only six companies authorized to move between islands including Big Isle Moving, Royal Hawaiian, Kona Transportation, and Town and Country Moving. The moving companies provide door to door services including packing, loading, transporting to the harbor, pickup and unpacking. You can save some money by packing yourself. 

The moving companies send a person to estimate the total weight of your effects and overall moving costs. Regardless of their weight estimate, you are charged the actual weight of the container or crates weighed at the harbor for Young Brothers portion of the shipping costs. 

We had three local companies provide us an estimate and were shocked at the differences. Their  weight estimates ranged from 9300 pounds to 6100 pounds. Their cost estimates, after adding in packing, supplies, and delivery ranged from $10,000 to $4,621. 

Although all the moving companies use Young Brothers and their tariff rates are fixed, the actual rates they provided varied from $67 to $59 per 100 pounds.  Their moving estimates included only about 60 cents of insurance per pound. Additional insurance, which we required, was an added cost. 

The actual weight of the four crates was 6800 lbs. The crates took over a week to arrive in Honolulu from the Big Island, which was almost as long as our 20 foot Matson container took to get to Hilo from California. On the bright side, all of our things made it safely with no damage. 
Crates arriving in Oahu
Overall moving between islands in Hawaii was complicated, expensive, and time consuming.  Our  challenge now is getting all our stuff to fit into our much smaller apartment. 

In our next blog we will tell you about all the things, good and bad, that are different  living on Oahu than living on the Big Island.