Archive for March, 2012

Polar Plunge

March 28th, 2012

Thrill-seekers are invited to participate in Special Olympics Hawai'i’s fourth annual Polar Plunge on April 1 at Waterfront Plaza. Although plunging into a pool filled with 10 tons of ice may seem like a creative April Fool’s Day joke, participants will be freezing for a very good reason as they boldly raise money and awareness for the athletes of Special Olympics Hawai'i.

Courtesy: Special Olympics Hawaii

Courtesy: Special Olympics Hawaii

Participants can take on the challenge as an individual, form a team of friends, co-workers, or even toss their boss! All plungers are  required to raise a minimum of $100 by the day of the event. In addition to the sheer thrill of experiencing sub-zero temperatures, participants are eligible for a number of awards and prizes, including an April Fool’s Day costume contest!

"All year round, our employees continually commit to community give-back programs, working alongside organizations like Special Olympics Hawai'i that provide crucial services to individuals and communities within the state," said Lisa Chun, HawaiiUSA AVP, Business & Community Development. "We work to help our members, as well as others in the communities we serve to fulfill their dreams. We build partnerships to provide athletes the opportunity to succeed on the playing field, as well as in other areas of life. This is a small step toward achieving our overall goal of giving back to the community."

Courtesy: Special Olympics Hawaii

Courtesy: Special Olympics Hawaii

If one dive into the bitter cold water is too tame of a challenge, participants can up the ante by registering to become a "Super Plunger," taking the plunge 12 times in 12 hours during Special Olympics Hawai'i's Super Plunge - Dawn to Dusk!  Super Plungers must each raise a minimum of $1,000 and will receive a special prize package, including a professional massage and meals during breaks, as well as recognition at the Polar Plunge. The Super Plunge - Dawn to Dusk begins at 6 a.m. on April 1 and will conclude at 6 p.m.

For those who can't brave the ice water but still want to support Special Olympics Hawai'i the event also offers a "Too Chicken to Plunge" option, which allows supporters to raise funds for Special Olympics and participate in the day's events - from the safety of the "chicken coop" which offers preferred viewing of all the action.

"Our athletes take new challenges head-on on a daily basis so this event is a fun way for the community to come together in that same spirit and push themselves to new limits for a good cause," said Nancy Bottelo, Special Olympics Hawai'i president and CEO. "The employees at HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union have been longtime volunteers and their generous support lends itself to sports training and competition as well as health initiatives which improve quality of life for athletes across the state."

On the day of the event, the Super Plunger, team and individual who raise the most funds will be awarded a prize and have their names engraved on the Polar Plunge Perpetual Plaque. Prizes will also be awarded for the best April Fools' Day costume. The festivities will begin at 10 a.m. at Waterfront Plaza's makai lawn along Ala Moana Boulevard with food booths and entertainment.

Last year Special Olympics Hawai'i's Polar Plunge raised more than $40,000 for local athletes. Special Olympics Hawai'i provides year-round sports programs for athletes free of charge. All funds raised through the Polar Plunge will directly support the programs and cover the costs of facility rentals, equipment, food, lodging, and transportation at the State Games held three times a year.

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Korean day spas

March 26th, 2012

I've had my first experience at a Korean day spa, and it was very interesting. I liked it, but it sure was different.

Having worked in Kalihi for 13 years, I passed Loess Day Spa just about every day on my way to and from the station. On the outside, it's not much to speak of, and frankly, I thought it was a hostess bar.

Recently, I read an article about how great Korean day spas are, and I was talking about it at my new job. I now work with a lot of Asians who have strong ties to Japan and Korea, and my coworkers reassured me it was fabulous, and they go, too.

They warned me about the nudity. The concept of communal (emphasis on communal) bathing is common in Asia, where cleansing is a social experience.

Here is my personal experience: Upon check in, I received a locker and a terrycloth robe, then was ushered into a large, open room where it all happens. I was shown the showers and instructed to bathe with soap then soak in a hot tub to prepare the body for a massage. I had hung my key on the hook with the robe, but the clerk was nervous about theft and told me to keep it around my wrist at all times.

There is a steam room, sauna, and cold plunge tub; I'm sure they are all nice, but I am not fond of any of those amenities, so I sat in the very large hot tub letting my pores open and my muscles relax. There were women of all ages and races (mostly Korean national, though) at the time I went, including a very old Korean woman who was showering with the help of an assistant, because she couldn't stand up well on her own.

After about 20 minutes, my masseuse called my name, and then told me to follow her. One area of this room has half a dozen plastic-covered massage tables on it, side by side, upon which you lie down while a Korean grandmother dressed in black bra and panties rubs and scrubs you down.

At first I did not understand why it had to be done in undergarments, but now I realize they sweat so much doing this, they scoop cold water onto their bodies to cool off. Black is just their uniform color. The undergarments should be viewed as more like a swim suit.

Next to the massage table is a grey plastic garbage can filled with hot water. She used a smaller bucket to scoop this water onto my back, then she used one of those Japanese scrubby cloths (the kind you get at Longs), a bar of soap, and she rubbed me down top to bottom, front and back and sides.

Because my skin was softened by the hot tub, it came peeling off in long, grey noodles. Like, seriously. I have never been exfoliated like this. I liked the idea of all that old and dead skin coming off but it was also a tad gross to see as it fell off by my face.

Don't take this as a complaint. It's just me marveling at the stuff happening to me. Periodically, she threw water on me to wash the surface clean.

Here are more differences between the efficiency of the Asian experience and the fru-fru, modest, American experience: 1) Draping - what draping? 2) She gets the washcloth right in there. Like, she is as thorough as possible while remaining maternally clinical.

After this, she had me shower off briefly and then return to the table, for the massage. She poured oil on me and went to town.

First she did my back, then she had me turn over. While she was rubbing this side, she also applied a cucumber mask to my face. Decadent!

To finish it, she shampooed and conditioned my hair. I was not expecting this. Aside from my hairdresser, nobody has done this to me since I was a kid, and I loved it.

The whole thing- the way she scrubbed me, the brief and familiar way she communicated with me, the way she washed my hair - reminded me of being coddled like a child, and I enjoyed it. It felt very assuring and comfortable.

I should clarify that I am part Asian, and I am used to being spoken to by my Chinese relatives in short, brusque, commanding tones. I think other cultures sometimes interpret it as rude, but to me, it's just the way it is. If this is not your orientation, you might not receive it as I did.

After it was over, she told me to shower again, and sit in the hot tub. I did not want to, but she insisted. I don't totally know why, because she only knew enough English to get by, but I'm guessing there is some theraputic reason.

When it was finished, I dried off and asked the front desk clerk, who did speak English, what else there was to do or see. She showed me the other rooms, which were heated and were made of certain elements believed to boost health - charcoal, jade, and mud rooms.

She suggested I lie down in a room, so I laid on the floor in the jade room. It was warm and pleasant, but I was soon bored, so I left.

There is a kitchen area where you can buy food to eat, but I didn't have time to try it.

I paid for my scrub+massage package and left, with the hopes of returning one day soon!

When I went to work the next week, I told my coworkers about the massage. They were happy I liked it - but we agreed to warn each other before our next visit so as to avoid awkward encounters!

Ouchie note

March 23rd, 2012

Kids are so violent. I never quite realized when I was childless, how much children bite. Other than having my head proverbially bitten off  🙁   now and then, I haven't ever been literally bitten, that I can remember.

Olivia came home with a note from school documenting why she had a bandage between her fingers. I don't know if you can read it.

Ouchie note preschool

It says Olivia and another child were "arguing over a wagon, the other child then said I'm going to bite you, then Olivia said 'Try.' Then the other child bit her between the fingers."

This is the first time Olivia's been bitten at school (maybe second - it doesn't happen often). She is not a biter.

So I'm not really concerned, though adds more perspective on these four year olds who are biting: "After age three, children usually bite when they feel powerless or scared, such as when they are losing a fight or think that they are going to be hurt by another person. Children older than three who frequently bite other people need to see a doctor. Biting at this age may be a sign that a child has problems with expressing feelings or self-control."

Reading the note made me wide eyed in amazement, before I let out a laugh. I could totally picture this little schoolyard incident. It's the succinct, wacky, threatening dialogue. It's the slight pidgin accent I presume in the retort "Try."

Can you even imagine if adults went around solving our workplace issues like this? What I picture in my head is SNL-skit random hilarity.

White Doves of Ko'olau

March 19th, 2012

When Maureen Nakashima began her second act in life 11 years ago, she literally was doing it on a wing and a prayer.

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

"I had just lost my job at the Hawaiian Waikiki Beach Hotel in a mass layoff. I had no idea what to do next, but I knew we had these rock doves as pets, and I'd seen them at weddings and funerals. I thought I'd try my hand at that," she says.

After training her doves to fly back home from any location around Oahu, Nakashima hung the proverbial shingle on her door and called her new business White Doves of Ko'olau. It's a bird release service that helps people commemorate important events in their life. Though they can be hired for any type of event (birthdays, graduations, homecomings, you name it), they're most often booked for weddings and memorials.

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

Pastor Karen Russ of Weddings of Hawaii often works with Nakashima at ceremonies. She says the birds are always met with oohs and aahs from the audience. "The dove symbolizes love and peace, and doves mate for life. To see two white doves flying into the sky at the end of a wedding is so beautiful. It's a metaphor for the newlyweds' future taking flight."

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

Sometimes the couple will request a second basket of doves to be released, after the first pair. "That symbolizes the family and friends that will support this marriage throughout their lives, to say they're not alone on this journey," adds Russ.

Nakashima's is one of two bird release services on this island. The other is Rainbow Pigeons Hawaii, and she hired them at her own wedding in 1996. "The difference between Rainbow Pigeons Hawaii and me is that his doves are rainbow colored and mine are pure white," she explains.

The first year was hard, she recalls. She lacked experience, so she had to wing it in certain situations.

Over a decade has passed, and hers is now a thriving business. "I love all animals, and I love that this job has let me get a glimpse of all walks of life. I've met important people and gone to fancy places I otherwise would not have," Nakashima says of her job.

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

Photo credit White Doves of Ko'olau

We are sitting in her cool, verdant Kaneohe garden, listening to the calming sounds of dozens of doves cooing from their cages. Other wild birds find their way and visit. Two pet ducks waddle around the lush green lawn. Inside, there's a cat, dog, and another bird. Along the sides of the house are ten thousand gallons worth of fish and marine life.

While she and her husband Dennis love animals, the irony is that animals don't always love Maureen. "I'm allergic to my pets. I get monthly allergy shots at the doctor," she laughs. But it's worth it. "They're our babies, " she says. It's nice to know that her babies have brought joy to hundreds of people over the years.

To reach White Doves of Ko'olau:
(808) 286-6729

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Foot, meet Mouth

March 16th, 2012

At the annual Consular Corps Inaugural Ball in February, Claus and I were in the parking lot at the end of the night, finding our car so we could leave. It was a long night and everyone was probably a bit tired and tipsy. I say this by way of excusing the following faux pas.

We paused to let another car pull out of the stall. The man and wife inside were long-time professional acquaintances of mine, super nice people. The husband had actually bumped into me in the ballroom and we chatted earlier. "Bye," he called out from his window.

The wife didn't figure out who I was for a couple seconds, then said, "Oh! Diane! You look lovely! I didn't even recognize you!"

I totally understand her meaning as probably something like, she didn't recognize me out of context. But her husband sprang into action in an extremely awkward, stiff, comical way. His eyes got big as saucers then he emphatically said, "But of course she looks lovely! And that's how you would recognize her! Because she looks lovely every time you see her!"

We all laughed at his overstated compensation.

"It's OK," I assured him. Then added some congratulations: "I can see you've been a husband for many years. Good reaction time."

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