This job has its perks! (Tropical Travels – Part 1)

January 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Yes, grad school is rough. It’s stressful and competitive and overwhelming even if you haven’t had a baby recently. But, I have to admit, studying tropical climate and weather has some nice perks – like the occasional working trip to Hawaii.

Tropical Afternoon

This year, I went to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu for a 3 day workshop on Tropical Atmospheric and Oceanic dynamics. Mark had enough miles left over from our trip to Thailand a few years ago to get his ticket for free, so he tagged along with me. My parents even agreed to come out to Colorado and watch the kiddo for us, so we had a baby-free trip to Hawaii! I spent three days in a conference room talking about atmospheric waves, coupled convective oscillations, models and observations, while Mark ran amok in the city of Honolulu.

Coco Puff from Liliha Bakery

On his first day in town, Mark spent the day on the Hole-in-the-Wall Food Tour, where his guides drove him all over the city to taste the unique flavors of Honolulu. Mark said of the tour:

Our hosts were Matthew Gray and Kiera. Matthew used to be a celebrity cook (cook for celebrities) and Kiera is his fiancee and a local who knows everything so you get a good deal of personal knowledge of Honolulu as well as some good food history and cute stories.

Local-boy plate: Spam musubi, ahi poke, and pineapple!

The Hole-In-The-Wall Food tour was a great way to start off the trip. The tour was a great way to get familiar with the city while eating lots of interesting treats and learning a great deal about all the people and cultures that Honolulu grew from. Note that the tour wasn’t native Hawaiian food, that would only take a few minutes (eat a pineapple, turn your nose up at some poi and then scarf down some Kalua Pork). These foods are the unique foods of the city. Often it is the food of another culture that has been tweaked by the local Hawaiian influence. We had a wide range of foods from many cultures. If I had to pick a favorite of the day it would be the “five layers of heaven roast pork” (see picture). The first layer of heaven was layer of fat fried so crispy as to essentially be a fried pork rind followed by meat/fat/meat/fat to create deliriousness. On the sweet side, the chocolate cream puff was certainly the winner. We had bizarre fruits, a tasty cocktail, lots of snacking and even of a tour of one of the last by-hand rice noodle factories left in the world. It was a great day out.

Five layers of Heaven roast pork in Chinatown

He spent the next two days wandering around Honolulu. After learning basic navigation from the food tour, he was able to take busses around the city to the giant flee market at the Aloha Stadium and back to Chinatown in search of more layered pork heaven. He even found a CrossFit box in Waikiki and participated in one of their workouts.

Mark doing L-Hangs at CrossFit Waikiki

After my last day of meetings and conference work on Thursday, we got in an hour or two of beach time together, and I was finally able to unwind. While some people might accomplish this with alcohol and napping in the sun, I rented a paddlebaord and went out on to the water for a couple of hours.

Kate on the paddleboard

I have tried regular surfing a few times, but this was my first time on a paddle board, and I really enjoyed it. The board was huge, and easy enough to sit on, but standing was tricky for me. I eventually found the rhythm and was able to stand-up, paddle and catch a few little waves! At one point, a giant sea turtle swam right under my board, and scared me so bad I nearly dropped the paddle!

Kate standing up and paddling!

In all, it was a great trip. I got to participate in a lot of great science, and Mark got to enjoy Honolulu from every angle. We had one day free on Friday before our red-eye flight out of town, and spent it on a whale-watching tour that was fantastic. But I’ll leave that for another post…