Friday, July 24, 2009

The Interview that Almost-Was

Yesterday I got my first call for an interview for a journalism job. She asked when I was available, and without hesitation I said “well, I’m free tomorrow.” I was so excited that I was light-headed and giddy for hours.

Today I ironed, manicured, showered, did hair, and borrowed my boyfriend’s car since my air conditioning doesn’t work. And off I went. An hour and ten minutes later I was in the parking lot of the newspaper building.

Ten minutes before the interview, I decided to turn down the volume on my phone, only to find a message (that did not exist earlier in the day) that the interview was off: rescheduled to Monday if that works for me. Taking Monday off would royally tee-off my boss, and my next furlough day isn’t for 2 weeks. I'm still trying to figure out a solution to this problem.

I decided to sniff out the newspaper building and introduce myself to whoever was there—since I was in the parking lot anyway. I nabbed the latest edition and spent the next few hours driving and walking around.

The town itself is as cute as a bug. I’ve been exploring the city webpage, Wikipedia and google.maps for the past week, and it has a fascinating history. The town boomed in 1900 and became the IT destination for Victorian families in the winter months. A community of immaculate streets, grand Victorian and craftsman homes, brick churches and a few actual mansions, all surrounded by acres of orange trees. The town hosted three Presidents. Then a drought and the Depression combined to halt expansion of the town. Industry never moved in, and urbanity never sprawled far enough to threaten the turn-of-the-century structures. The town is a time capsule.

I went into a coffee shop and the girls at the counter (1 working, 2 visiting with her) greeted almost everyone who came in the door by name. I asked them if they could fill me in on the town, and it turned out that the barista had lived there all her life and just finished taking 4th graders on a tour of the historic sites. She gave me a list of places to see with directions. I spent the rest of the day driving around, taking pictures of some of the gorgeous homes, and walking up and down State St. – the main drag.

When I got home, I found that my former Travel Writing teacher responded to my email asking for advice on the job search. He gave me some excellent tips on improving my resume and cover letter, and also gave me some frightening news:

The Grunion Gazette job - a weekly newspaper in Long Beach - received 163 applicants in the first three days after posting an ad for an entry level reporting job.

So – even though I drove for over an hour in 101 degree heat only to get postponed, I still consider myself to be one lucky duck.

Maybe I can take a couple hours off without ticking off my boss too much.

[Yes, I am still going to post the rest of the Kauai trip. I’ve just been spending all my time on cover letters for the past three weeks.]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just for fun

Kayak Kauai

We pulled into the short gravel driveway and parked between a 1960s VW bus and a rack of kayaks. After tugging on my reef shoes I approached the woman sweeping the front steps of the hunter green bungalow and asked if we had in fact found Kayak Kauai. We were in luck. We filled out the usual forms that say we can die in any number of ways and the company isn’t responsible for any of them, and met Micco, our teacher for the next hour. Micco is a man in his mid-fifties, small, wiry, tan, with a grip that could mold cold metal. A simple handshake made me feel a world of respect for him, even if he was wearing a Speedo.

We practiced holding our paddles correctly in the yard and learned that paddling is more of a pushing than pulling motion. After that, Micco put us in a two person open kayak and we launched into the river, only about 30ft from the house. Another couple was just returning, so without time for any instruction, Charles and I had to maneuver the boat so we wouldn’t hit them. I think I have a gift for moving in water, even if it’s on a boat, because the logic of the paddle just came to me. If I held it firm in the water while Charles paddled from the front, the boat would turn quickly. Micco said I must have some kayaking experience, but the last time I was in one was over ten years ago with my dad-I didn’t think I had retained much.

We paddled out following Micco, concentrating on our technique so we wouldn’t get blisters or tire too early. Very simple lessons, but knowing a few tricks helps a lot. Keep your palm open when your hand is pushing and make sure your paddle is turned the right way (though Micco said we’d move in the water no matter which way our paddle was facing). There are different strokes, one where you wiggle your paddle in the water quickly back and forth which somehow acts to move the kayak sideways. Handy, if you have pull up alongside another kayak.

We glided to the mouth of the river and were greeted with the view of Hanalei Bay and “Bali Hai” in the vivid late afternoon light. Micco advised us not to call it “Bali Hai” – since that’s the made-up Hollywood name not much appreciated by locals. The Hawaiian name for the two famous peaks is Makana (gift). Our kayaks were inches above the reefs but Micco guided us out into deeper water. Then he said we were going to learn how to re-enter the kayak from the water, which required us to capsize first.

Charles isn’t the most secure person in the water – he had only just gone snorkeling for the first time two days before – so I was a little concerned about how he’d take this. One thing about Charles though, he doesn’t panic if he would embarrass himself in front of strangers by doing so. Don’t ask me about the logic of this, I’m just glad it works. So we bent to our right and tipped over, bobbing up on the current side of the boat so swells wouldn’t shove the boat into us. Well shoot, now what do we do? We learned fast that kayaks are deceptively heavy for hollow plastic, and Charles and I couldn’t tip the thing upright since our feet didn’t touch the bottom giving us no leverage. At Micco’s instruction, I swam to one side and hurled my upper body across the upturned bottom of the boat, clinging to the far edge with my hands. A lot like getting up on a horse without a saddle, which I have never been good at. With me pulling and Charles pushing up from the other side, we righted the boat and heaved ourselves, stomachs first, into the seats. My sunglasses and Charles’ glasses had survived by luck alone. Charles was drenched. I was in very chipper spirits, feeling alert and bright after the dip. Next lesson was how to handle waves: head straight into them because if they catch the side, you’ll tip over. We paddled into the first wave feeling the swell lift and drop us with a slapping sound. Then Micco said we could try surfing on the next one – turn around and paddle fast to catch the wave, and try not to get turned around or…

There we were again. Bobbing in the water next to our kayak. After we hauled ourselves back, Charles vetoed my desire to give kayak surfing another shot. He had had enough seawater for one day. After a few words of wisdom about going against the current going out, and with the current coming back, Micco announced that he needed to leave, but we were welcome to paddle around for as long as we wanted and return the boat later. Charles and I were tired. We headed back pretty quickly, noticing blisters forming despite paddling techniques.

Paddling along the river was bliss. It was quiet, warm, and smelled green; I could have laid back and let the boat rock me to sleep. I navigated us to our dock, somehow remembering the correct fork in the river, and we said our goodbyes to Micco. In the car, Charles had this to say: “of all the things we’re doing on this trip—snorkeling, kayaking and ziplining—Kayaking is the only one I didn’t think would kill me. And it did. Three days into the trip and you broke me.”

I just smiled. It had been a lovely afternoon, and Charles would probably come to agree with that after his muscles and blisters healed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Anglophile in India? Maybe!

I know, I know - I haven't even finished writing my Kauai blogposts and I'm already planning my next trip. I always did like jumping the gun.

But get this - I've been trying to work out a way to travel to India by myself for the past couple months and just wrote off the idea as impossible two days ago. I was looking at plan Bs (Bruges, Copenhagen, England?), but today I found this: an India Women's Tour. For $3500. With a travel writer as the guide. This October.

I'm 99% sure that I will be able to say "why yes, I have ridden a camel" before the year is out.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Kauai Day 3: Kalalau trail, Red Hot Mama's, Kayak Kauai


Each morning brings new breakfast companions. I was hoping our red-headed friend would return, but this time our only feathered breakfast mate was a chicken. But boy, did that red-headed bird miss out: Kona coffee, toasted Hawaiian sweet rolls with butter and honey, mango and apple bananas--the small extra sweet variety that is everywhere here, even sold fried out of trucks on the beach.

We drove to Ke'e beach where Hwy. 56 dead ends as the sand begins. The small parking lot was packed, and both shoulders of the road had cars parallel parked along them as densely as I’ve seen cars parked in downtown LA. We had to do some hiking just to get to the Kalalau trail head. The trail is 11 miles long and takes a full day for people who are in shape. My boyfriend and I…aren’t in shape. But, we are in our mid-twenties, and you’d be amazed at how much physical exertion we can get away with. We hiked maybe three miles. Maybe less. Maybe one mile. Hey, give me a break—that trail is practically a vertical climb over rocks, roots and streams, winding high over the Napali coast. It’s almost never level. But it does offer stunning views of the coast that are well worth the climb. With polarized sunglasses we could see the sprawling dark reefs beneath the water's surface.

I was ready to eat something big, meaty and filling by the time we trekked back to our car, so I whipped out my list of cheap eats and set the course for Red Hot Mama’s. Red Hot Mama’s is literally a hole in the wall. Specifically, it is a window in a door next to Wainiha General Store, the last chance for food and drinks on Hwy. 56. Red Hot Mama’s menu is small enough to fit on the chalk board attached to the shutter of the window- they do organic Mexican food, also known as big fat burritos that are heaven when you’ve just come from the beach. Nothing is better than biting into a hearty, rice, meat and veggie-filled burrito after burning all your calories in the water or on the trail. Red Hot Mama’s hits that spot perfectly. The name comes from their extremely spicy sauce, which I poured into my burrito before knowing quite how hot it was.

Before returning to our condo to collapse for a few hours, Charles and I stopped by the shopping center in Princeville for Lappert’s ice cream cones. I picked out a chocolate and macadamia concoction in a dark chocolate dipped waffle cone, and just about choked over the price. Five dollars per ice cream cone. But it was worth every cent. There are a few things well worth a splurge on Kauai, and Lappert’s ice cream is one of them.

At four in the afternoon we pulled into the gravel parking lot of Kayak Kauai in Hanalei for our kayaking lesson. I have a talent for dressing appropriately for every occasion, and this was no exception: board shorts, reef shoes, a “tank-ini,” and a ton of sunscreen. Charles was in a button down cotton shirt, shorts, sandals and eyeglasses even though I told him he’d be getting wet. But he stubbornly insisted that his clothes could take a few drops of seawater. I wasn’t sure what to expect in a kayaking lesson, and neither of us knew that learning to kayak entailed tipping over upside-down in the ocean. Oops.

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kauai is coming, I promise

I've been applying to every journalism job in SoCal, figuring out furloughs, stressing over family illness and finances - so bear with me while I organize my notes on the rest of my time in Kauai. Thank goodness I made detailed notes while I was there. That my friends, is good journalistic training in practice!

Estimated time of next post is Friday, when I'll have the day off for the 4th of July. Provided that certain family members don't pick that exact day to keel over.