Friday, July 27, 2012

Downsizing Possessions in a Materialistic World

Mercier sculpture and art books
We started downsizing our possessions years before we moved to Hawaii. We had  garage sales every month, gave car loads of things to Goodwill, and hired people to haul away things that were too heavy for us to move. We were amazed at how much stuff we had packed into a 2200 square foot house in 10 years. We  reduced our belongings by more than 70%, but even with all that effort we filled a 20 foot container with our stuff when we moved to Hawaii.

Since moving to Hawaii, we have had the gift of time to read books we have been collecting for years and enjoy old movies and music we brought.  We have been able to sort through boxes of photographs and every year we put up the fake Christmas tree we brought and reminisce while hanging our collection of tree ornaments.
Initially, we stored our boxes of possessions in the garage of our rental house in Hilo, however, when we moved to a smaller condominium in Kona, we had to rent a storage unit. 

During visits to our storage unit in Kona over the past few years, we have observed the continuing drama of an elderly couple and their 50-something children with a storage unit near ours.  During the family’s visitations to their storage unit, the elderly couple sits in chairs facing the open unit stacked to the ceiling with boxes as their children carefully unpack one box at a time. We have watched them unpack gleaming ceramics from the Orient, which from afar look like museum pieces.  As each piece is held, the couple recounts the story of a trip or adventure when it was acquired.  Their children interrupt to try and convince them to sell it.  A few treasures are taken away, but most items are carefully repacked and returned to the mountain of boxes.  After watching this family’s drama over the years, we look at our own stack of boxes filled with art, collectibles, and books that we cannot seem part with and realize how many treasured memories they represent for us.

One of the benefits of our new rental home on the Kohala Coast is that there is enough space for all of the boxes in our storage unit. Every week, we drive to Kona to fill our car with our stuff and unload them into our new place.  Our home is rapidly filling up with bronze sculptures and art books that we have not unpacked since we moved to Hawaii five years ago.  

Though we enjoy the possessions we brought to Hawaii, we realize the strong attachment we have to our stuff makes us less mobile and adds to our cost of living in Hawaii.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Value of good pipes in a Hawaii home

Having good pipes in your home is important no matter where you live, but having quality pipes is a big deal in Hawaii due to some unique differences in Hawaii’s water and home owners.

One of the reason homes need high quality pipes in Hawaii is the prevalence of highly corrosive water. We have never measured water as acidic or as salty as the water in some of the public water systems on the Island of Hawaii.  Water is  collected from streams on the slopes of the Volcanoes fed by snow pack and rain.  The rain gets acidic as it falls through the thick volcanic sulfuric gasses and this acidic water is tough on pipes and faucets. The other source of water on the island is from wells that pump fresh water “floating” above the sea water that saturates the porous lava under most of the island. When it stops raining, the depth of floating fresh water is thin and sea water mixes in when it is pumped out.  The water can sometimes get so salty that local media will advise people avoiding salt for health reasons to not drink the water.  Salty, acidic water is hard on any pipe, but low-quality pipe installations are more likely to fail.

Another reason a home in Hawaii needs high quality pipes is that so many are used only sporadically by their owners. It is not uncommon for people to leave their home unattended for six months at a time and leave the water turned on.  With so many vacant homes and condos, a leak can go undetected for a long time and do a tremendous amount of damage before being discovered. In a multi-unit condo, leaking water will keep oozing through walls and floors until it finally reaches a unit that is occupied.   We know of a leak in an unoccupied house that was discovered by the pool guy when he noticed that the furniture in the living room was floating in several feet of water.   We have heard so many water damage horror stories that when we travel, even for a few days, we shut off the water.

We check the visible pipes in a house or condo as one way of assessing the quality of the construction and we are surprised at how much the installation and materials vary in upscale communities.  Below are photos of two pipe installations in Hawaii condos.

This installation uses one inch copper pipes to and from the water heater.

In contrast, this installation uses ¾ inch copper pipes with a multi-directional connection to the water heater and cold water.  The copper portion of the pipe is suspended by a cord secured to a board with a notch carved into it to make room for an elbow coupler from copper to CPVC SDE 11 pipe. 

On the upside, leaking pipes are such a common problem in Hawaii that there are thriving businesses  on the island that have a lot of experience and equipment to fix major water damaged homes.  Unfortunately, having the repairs done is expensive as drying out walls and floors in the tropics is a difficult task. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Moving between climates zones on Hawaii Island

We feel lucky that our life as bloggers and authors allows us to be mobile so we can experience living in the dramatically different climate zones on Hawaii Island.  We loved the two years we lived in Hilo experiencing the joys of fast growing fruit and its year round tropical climate and intense rain. Hilo was the perfect place for us to slow down and learn about Hawaii. We enjoyed the two and a half years we lived in Kona with its unusual dry winters and great snorkeling along the coast.  We swam off the pier with ironman athletes and were inspired to lose fat and eat less. Now we are ready to explore living in a completely different climate zone on Hawaii Island.

In the book we published last year, Your Ideal Hawaii Home, we included climate and rain maps of Hawaii Island to illustrate how different the arid climate zones, where the resorts are located, are from the tropical climate zones where most people live on Hawaii Island. Ever since researching about it, we have wondered what it would be like to live in an arid climate zone on the island.   After searching for months, were able to find a rental and for the next year or two we plan to experience living in the Kohala Coast desert.

Though we are just moving in, we already have some first impressions.

Unlike Kona, the morning sunrise is not blocked by the Volcanoes so it is intensely sunny early in the morning, which encourages us to get up very early.  

It is warmer than Kona, about 8-10 degrees, and after years of acclimating to hot, humid weather, the hot, dry weather feels really good to us.  We can feel our skin and hair drying out as well as our books and furniture.  Paper feels different and wet things dry quickly.

- There is much less Vog than Kona and more sun, which makes us very happy.  The glorious turquoise and blues of the ocean are not blocked by the Vog and we have to wear sunscreen again to protect against the sun.  Instead of thick grey volcanic ash covering our furniture and clinging to our fans, Kohala has black dirt from the surrounding lava fields.

- Kohala is renowned for its high winds; Waikoloa is often called Waiko-blow-a.  We can already confirm that there is a great deal of wind and it seems most prevalent at night and sometimes the mornings. Since we are not golfers, we have nothing against the wind.  We are enjoying the sound of the trees creaking in the wind and the air blowing through our house. The air feels fresh, though it does cover everything with fine, black lava dirt. Right now, we prefer the dirt over volcanic ash. (How many places in the world can you make that comparison?)

As we prepare to enjoy the 4th of July festivities, we are happy to continue our adventures experiencing and enjoying living on Hawaii Island.