View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Monday, February 6, 2012

This and That

As I write this it has now been four weeks since we arrived in Hawaii.  In that time frame we have made an offer on a home that is now in escrow, arranged for a loan that is being passed around between underwriters like a hot potato, purchased a used Volvo SUV, negotiated the purchase of the furnishings of the house we are buying, opened a Hawaiian bank account,  transferred funds, which was a nightmare, and arranged for house and car insurance.  Notice that I have not included golf as an activity.  Got no time for that!

If someone had informed me that buying a house today was this complicated, I might have had second thoughts.  As it is we are learning much more than I care to know about real estate and lending laws, and the many and varied nuances of living in Hawaii.  So what I want to share with you this time are some of the events that we have had to contend with, things we have learned, in no particle order.  Bored we are not!

1.  Attended a church a couple of Sundays ago and they asked visitors to stand and introduce themselves.  I did and said we were from NE Oregon where they have four seasons, one of which I did not like.  A couple behind us said they were visiting from Wisconsin  where they have two seasons:  Shovel it and Construction.  Whereupon the pastor replies that Hawaii has two seasons also; high tide and low tide.

2.  After the second time I filled up with fuel I noticed that I didn't have to clean the windshield after two weeks of driving.  Either the flying bugs over here are smarter and learned to stay away from the highways, or there are a whole lot less of them.  I lean toward the latter explanation as we seldom see flies or other flying insects.  Crawling insects are a different story; lots of big and ugly bugs.

3.  There are no name brand banks here on the Big Island.  Maybe in Honolulu, but not here.  No B of A, Wells Fargo, U. S. Bank, etc., just two Hawaiian banks, credit unions and savings and loans. Which makes my ATM card useless because I refuse to pay the outrageous fees both banks charge for using another bank's ATM.  So, if you come to Hawaii without a credit card, bring lots of cash or prepare to pay fees for using the ATM.

4.  There are very few marked police cars on the island.  Most of the police officers use personal cars, pick-ups and SUVs with a single small round blue light with a magnetic base mounted on the drivers side of the roof.  Very difficult to see at a distance.  A few days ago I found myself gaining on one as I was doing about 57 in a 50 mph zone.  I was about 100 ft. behind him when he pulls over.  As I was passing him I figured he was going to nail me with a ticket.  Sure enough I looked in the side view mirror as I passed him and his blue light goes on.  I raised my foot to hit the brake and start pulling over when he does a quick u-turn and pulls over a dude going the opposite direction.  Whew!!

5.  We have had Mutual of Enuclaw as our ranch, house, cars, pick-ups and RV insurance since about 1969 or 1970.  A loooooong time, 0nly to discover this year that they only write policies in the Pacific Northwest, not Hawaii.  So I had to start shopping for insurance.  What a pain that is!  I go to the phone book and call Geico, Allstate and State farm.  Eliminated Geico right out the gate, went by the State Farm agent's office only to discover that they were closed on Thursdays between 12:30 and 2:30.  Guess what day I was there at 1:30.  Yep, Thursday!  So we plug in the address of the Allstate agent into our i-pad google maps app (what a God send that is over here where there is not a decent city map of Kona) and drive over to his office.  Receptionist says the lady that will be taking care of me is on the phone and will be out momentarily.  Ten minutes later I'm still waiting when the owner comes in and asks me if I am being taken care of and I replied no.  We then went into his office and I explained someone from his office had given me a quote on house insurance and I would like to pursue that further.  He goes on his computer and says he can't find where I was given a quote.  Well, it turns out the Allstate number I called was on the other side of the island in Hilo, a competing office.  I explained I did not want to have my agent 100 miles away, so he worked up a quote which was less than the one from Hilo.  Plus he was a really nice guy.  Later when he e-mailed me some documents, I found this at the bottom of his e-mail message that was part of his signature:  I’m the agent who shops in your store, who prays in your church, who dines in your restaurant, who cares like you do about our community the same way you do. I’m the agent who is here to protect you and what’s most important to you.  How neat is that!  It is amazing how God directs your paths when you least expect it.  

6.  Turns out the phone book I thought was for the Kona area is an island wide phone book.  Businesses are listed in the yellow pages but few have the city that they are located in,  so I was dialing numbers and talking to people in Hilo thinking they were located in Kona.  That will take some getting use to.

7.  We have been staying in my sister and brother-in-law's house while waiting for our house to close escrow.  In the mean time we have had to get back in the habit of locking all the doors before we leave.  For decades we have never locked our house unless we were going to be gone for more than a few days.  It has been only in the last ten years that we even bothered to lock our car or truck when in town, or even worry about the tool box, shovels or supplies that might be in the bed of the pick-up.  Never had to look for keys to any of the vehicles or equipment because I knew they were in the ignition.

8.  Car thefts are unusual over here, except for the occasional joy ride.  I mean, really, where are you going to go with it on an island?  

9.  Most minor crimes by native Hawaiians are left by the police to be handled with families. They have found that the families deal out stiffer punishment than the courts do.  The Hawaiian culture does not tolerate crime and it is a family embarrassment.  It would be nice if their work ethic was as high a standard.  The "hang loose" mentality is going to take some getting use to.

10.  The local paper tends to dramatize their headlines.  Back in September when we were here the headline read something to the effect that the murder rate had dramatically increased from like two to four --- for the whole year of 2010.  But the real beauty was the one a few days after we arrived:  "Big Island terrorized by 5.0 earthquake!"  Then in the first two lines of the story it says there were no injuries or property damage.  We were on the big island and never felt it.  One wag wrote in from Southern California and claimed they use those kinds of earthquakes to stir their coffee.  

I think I am reaching the end of my allotted space for the blog, and probably your attention span.   Sorry about that.  More later.     Q


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