Tag Archives: Hawaii

How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk: What About Canada?

I’ve been clearing out some of the tweets that I’ve favourited over the last week or so and one of them was a fun dialect quiz from the New York Times Sunday Review. There are 25 questions that ask you the various ways you do (or do not) refer to certain things in the world around you. For instance, do you say y’all or youse or you guys (or something else) when referring to other people?

I found it relatively fun.

If you do decide to do it, though, I’d advise you to be careful in selecting an answer too quickly. There were a few questions where I clicked on one option and hit next and as the next question was loading, I noticed that there was actually an option for (none of these).

I realize that the New York Times is hosting this quiz, but I would have been interested to see where I stand in Canada. Maybe The Globe and Mail or the National Post can look into doing something similar?

I grew up in the Toronto area and have spent some time in British Columbia (and now Ottawa), but I’d be interested to see how I compare to other Canadians. Since I did grow up in Toronto, I wonder if that throws a wrench into my dialect. And, since I’ve lived in so many different places (California, Hawaii, New Zealand, Michigan, Virginia, etc.).

On the whole, it turns out that my dialect is closest to the people in Portland or Seattle. If I’m being honest, after undergraduate university, the west coast of the continent is where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I spent about a year in California and about a year in British Columbia (and about a year in Hawaii). The next closest would have been Virginia with 2 years.

The Time I Almost Drowned in Paradise

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to live in paradise. I lived on the island of Kauai — part of the Hawaiian Archipelago. It really does feel like paradise. There aren’t any roads that permit you to go faster than 50mph. The beaches aren’t usually very crowded. The temperature, on average, doesn’t get any higher than the mid-80s and doesn’t dip below the mid-60s. It’s wonderful.

Just about everyday, I got into the routine of going to the beach. I was living in Hawai’i and I knew that it likely wouldn’t be a long-term thing (though I certainly considered it!), so I wanted to squeeze out as much paradise time as I could. It helped that I had a dog who needed exercise. At some point, I wanted to learn how to surf, but I never quite got around to it. Although, I did enjoy boogie-boarding and playing in the surf. I would usually exercise my dog and then I would go and get my exercise (by boogie-boarding).

Anyhow, there was this one day where the waves weren’t particularly high, so I was just relaxing close to the shore (in the water). In fact, it was on my favorite beach in Hawai’i — Hanalei Bay. Depending on who’s rankings you’re reading, it’s often rated as one of the best beaches in the US. After having spent many afternoons, evenings, and even a Christmas morning (!) there, it’s easy to see why it’s been rated as one of the best in the US. I haven’t seen many beaches outside of the US, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it on a top 25 (maybe even a top 10?) list of the best beaches in the world.

So, on this world-class beach, I was enjoying the water near the shore. I was experimenting with the undertow, which wasn’t particularly strong that day (but which I would eventually learn that it was stronger than I realized). I would face the horizon and plant my feet in the water and lie back, while still keeping my feet planted. By doing this, the undertow would then rake against my calves and sometimes, it would pull the feet out from under me. When the undertow would pull my feet out, I would sometimes float on the water for a bit before I’d then stand up and go back to the spot that I started.

Well, one of these times that I was floating on the water, probably lost in thought, I went to put my feet down on the ground, but there wasn’t a ground. That’s alright, I thought. I can just swim back into a place where I can stand. So, I started swimming towards the shore. As I was doing this, I noticed that the waves had started to pick up a little bit. In addition, by being out away from the shore, the waves were stronger than the undertow that I was standing in. At first, I thought this was to my advantage. I thought I could just catch one of the waves with my body and have it carry me in.

I would watch the waves and try to catch one as it was picking up speed. No matter what I tried, I never seemed to catch the wave with my body. I later learned that this was probably because I wasn’t doing it right, but at the time I thought I was doing it right. By this time, the rhythm of the waves had taken me out even farther from the shore than when I started trying to bodysurf into safety.

I don’t consider myself a very strong swimmer (which is why I was trying to catch one of the waves back into the shore), but I was out of options — I had to swim. So, I turned on my stomach and started to swim (albeit, a bit panicked) back to the shore. There was one slight problem. I had to watch out for the waves, which had now grew to 3- to 4-feet. By surfing standards, still rather small, but for a not so strong swimmer trying to get back to shore, seemingly insurmountable. Watching for the waves, which were crashing down on me at times and trying to swim back to the shore, I could feel my panic rising. I would swim 5 or 10 feet and then would have to duck under the water because of the wave crashing. When I would reemerge from the water, I’d be right back where I started swimming or sometimes, even farther out!

I was in trouble.

A poor swimmer who was already fatigued was now caught in between the waves and the undertow. I had given up. I wasn’t going to be able to swim back to the safety. Thoughts of drowning started to flood my head. I’m not going to make it. I’m going to be a statistic! I’m going to die in paradise! All I had left to do was to try and wave someone down. My eyes caught the shore which seemed like it was 200 feet away. The beach was sparse. More panic. It was a lazy weekday prevening. I started to wave one of my hands towards the shore trying to get someone’s attention. In order to wave one hand towards the shore, I lost one of my four limbs to keeping my head above water. More panic. I could feel the water getting shallower, so I turned my head to notice — at the last second — that a 5-foot wave was about to crash down on me. I ducked under the water just before the wave crashed on me above the water, but that didn’t stop it from hitting me once under the water.

The force from the wave spun me. When I reemerged from under the water, I was facing the horizon. I turned again to face the shore and began waving an arm again. More panic. The beach was so sparse that I was sure no one saw me.

And then…

It looked like someone was taking a boogie board into the water. Was he coming for me or was he just coming to play in the water? He didn’t seem to be moving with much urgency, so I waved my hand a bit more vigorously. I wanted him to know that I was in trouble. It looked like he was coming for me. Crash. I wasn’t paying attention and the wave crashed down on me. Luckily, it wasn’t like the 5-footer that spun me under the water, but it still knocked me under and forced me to swallow a bit of salt water.

I turned again to face the shore and noticed that the boogie-boarder was only 20 feet or so from me. He was coming to save me. I’m going to live!

When he reached me, he told me to put a hand on the boogie board and we began swimming towards the shore together. With the boogie board, it didn’t take us very long to get into the shore. One of the waves caught us and helped us forward a bit. Soon enough, I was standing again in the water. I was standing! It never felt so good to have the ground under my feet. Even walking through the water back to the beach, I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins to the point that I was almost shaking.

When we got the shore, I thanked the Hawaiian man — profusely — and he explained to me that, at first, he thought I was waving at a friend to come out into the water. I’m glad that he eventually realized that was not the case. He also told me what to do in those situations, if it ever happened again (while I was thinking to myself, “yeah right, I’m never going in the water again!”). He instructed me to swim parallel to the shore rather than perpendicular. By swimming parallel to the shore (or on an angle that’s more parallel than perpendicular), I’d eventually get to a place where I could stand. If I continued to swim perpendicular, I’d be stuck in-between the wave and the undertow for hours.

I profusely thanked him again and then walked with my wobbly legs to the car. When I got to my car, there was a surfer there who asked me if I was alright. I said that I was still shaking a bit, but that I was embarrassed and grateful that the Hawaiian man came to save me. He said not to worry about it and that it had happened to him before, too. I thought to myself, really? I was watching him surf and he certainly knew what he was doing. He continued by explaining that sometimes, the waves can get stronger when you’re not expecting it and by the time you realize it, you’re stuck. He said that someone had to come and get him. Wow, I thought to myself. If it can happen to a skilled surfer, I guess it can happen to anyone. I thanked him for telling me. Again, he told me not to worry about it and that it could happen to anyone. I got in my car and drove home.

~~~

I didn’t go to the beach the next day, but I did eventually go back to the beach (I mean, I was still living in Hawai’i, how could I not go to the beach, right?) When I did build up enough confidence to get back to the beach, you can be sure that I was vigilant in my ability to stand while I was in the water.

I thought I’d share this story with you for a couple of reasons.

1. You never know when you’re going to be humbled by nature. I didn’t go to the beach that day expecting to nearly drown. Water makes up 99% of the Earth! The sheer size and force of water is awe-inspiring. As a result, it’s necessary to respect the water. If you don’t, it’s sure to humble you.

2. The kindest of strangers is infinite. The Hawaiian man could have easily ignored my waving hand assuming I was waving to a friend. Luckily for me, he thought I might be in trouble to come check it out. To him, and to strangers, I am forever grateful.

Could Washington, DC, Use a Little More Selfless Service?

During a trip I took earlier this year, I happened to pick up a USAToday. I don’t often read the USAToday, but that has more to do with the way that I aggregate articles. As I was reading, I came across an op-ed about Tulsi Gabbard, the newest member of the House of Representatives from Hawai’i. In the context of what had just happened with the drama of the fiscal cliff, there were some important points that I want to highlight:

The problem in Washington today is that legislators almost always act based on how they think their actions will help or hurt their political careers. An antidote to our epidemic of partisanship can be found in the “great tradition of conciliation” in which American statesmen from Thomas Jefferson to John Kennedy put the good of the country above the interests of self, party, or region. This tradition could be revived, if only we would heed the words of George Washington, who warned against the “mischiefs of the spirit of party,” or of Patrick Henry, who exclaimed, “I am not a Virginian but an American.”

It could also be revived by an infusion of the Gita’s principle of selfless service. If Democrats and Republicans could learn to cast their votes without first (and foremost) calculating the costs and benefits to their personal careers, Capitol Hill would start to look a less like a battlefield between rival clans and more like the arena of compromise and conciliation our Founders intended it to be.

Selfless service.

How often do we hear that phrase used in the context of politics?

The irony of this op-ed about selfless service is that a day later, I heard this same point echoed on conservative talk radio. Dennis Praeger and his call-in guests were opining that politicians weren’t concerned about the big picture — they were focused on what was going to get them elected and keep them elected. How interesting, eh? While I don’t know that the author of the op-ed is liberal, the fact that he’s writing about diversity in Congress (and about a Democratic House Member, in particular) might lead one to believe that he might be. There’s also the fact that he wrote a rather pointed post for CNN around election day last year. So, it’s safe to assume that back in January of this year, we had people on both sides of the ideological aisle talking about how important it is for politicians in America to start thinking about what’s good for the country rather than their district, party, or reelection chances.

While I’m totally on-board with a bigger picture perspective, I would wonder how to reconcile not keeping the interests of my district in mind when voting. Isn’t that how people get elected in the first place? I’m going to represent you in Washington… I’m going to represent what’s important for our town when I get to DC… How could one turn one’s back on one’s district?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but it’s a conversation worth having.

Five Years, Five Christmases: You Never Know Where You’ll Be…

As 2012 draws closer to its end, I find myself reflecting on the past. Not the distant past, but the recent past. In fact, with Christmas here today, I found myself reflecting on the last 5 Christmases and just how much things have changed for me over those 5 Christmases. Let’s journey back, shall we?

2008

At Christmas in 2008, I was on reprieve between quarters of the first year of my PhD in clinical psychology (obviously, I didn’t continue with that route). For that Christmas, I left the balmy shores of San Francisco for a flight home to visit my family in Toronto and Detroit. It was a great time.

2009

In 2009, I was in Victoria, British Columbia living on a floathome. My partner and I had just recently come back from New Zealand and decided to spend some time living in the floathome that we had for sale. For that Christmas, my partner and I accepted an invitation to have Christmas dinner with some of the folks living on the Wharf. This particular family had invited a bunch of folks over, so there were like 20+ people inside of this one floathome having Christmas dinner!

2010

The Christmas of 2010 was one that I won’t soon forget, partly because I was just recently married, but probably more so because I spent it on one of the top 10 beaches in the world — on the island of Kauai (in Hawaii). My wife and I got up early on Christmas morning and we went down to Hanalei Bay. The exquisite backdrop of the mountains paired with the sound of the gentle waves kissing the shore… amazing.

2011

In 2011, my wife and I drove up to visit our families in Ottawa/Toronto. If I recall correctly, we spent Christmas in Ottawa visiting with family and friends. It was a rocking good time and makes me consider Ottawa as a place that I might like to live.

2012

And now, 2012. This year, my wife and I have decided to *stay* in Fairfax, VA. I wrote stay like that because it’s not as if we’ve lived in Fairfax for very long (only since August), but we have been in the DC area for over a year now, with me finishing up an MBA.

~

If you would have asked me in 2008 about any of the subsequent Christmases, I almost assuredly wouldn’t have been able to guess how any of them turned out. Victoria!? HAWAII!? FAIRFAX!!? Who knows where I’ll be for Christmas in 2013. Wherever I am, I hope I’m happy and surrounded by people that I love.

Enjoy the rest of your day!