Feature & Travel Writing

Megan has written for a variety of publications over the years. Below are some samples of her writing. You can reach the original stories by following the links connected to the title of each article. For more information visit the contact page. 

The Seaside Restaurant & Aqua Farm Fresh Fish and More

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Sept. 24, 2015  |   BIG ISLAND NOW

Diners looking for a real farm-to-table experience might find just what they’re looking for at The Seaside Restaurant & Aqua Farm in Hilo.

Customers choosing this Keaukaha-based location can look right out their window to see just where their food is coming from, as long as they’re ordering fish of course.

Colin Nakagawa, president and chef of the restaurant, said he raises and prepares a variety of types of fish for customers to feast upon.

“The restaurant features fish that are raised and grown here on the farm, the fish farm,” he explained while pointing to a pond located behind the restaurant.

Behind the facility is a 30-acre all-natural, brackish fishpond called “Lokowaka.” Within in the fishpond are a few different types of fish including mullet, tilapia, and local favorite aholehole. On the menu is a fried aholehole pan-fried crispy, served with daikon-suri for $26.95. It’s worth a try.

And while the aqua farm certainly adds a particular uniqueness to this restaurant, it’s the story behind it that makes this place a local landmark.

Located near Carlsmith Beach Park on the Eastside of the Big Island, the restaurant has been in the area since the early 1920’s. Nakagawa’s grandparents used to own the original restaurant. The building was previously located closer to the beach until a tsunami swept through Hawaii Island in 1946 and destroyed the property.

The restaurant was rebuilt and now seats 175 people and has three different rooms.

Nakagawa, who carried on his grandparent’s legacy by taking over the restaurant, decided to keep some old menu favorites while adding some new stylish dishes. 

The original Seaside restaurant, called the “Seaside Club” only served mullet and chicken. Now they offer seafood, as well as beef, veal, and chicken. They also offer appetizers, sushi and spirits.

For more information visit http://www.seasiderestauranthilo.com or call 808-935-8825.

They’re closed on Monday and are open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. They also serve dinner on Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 


New Juice Bar Opens in Hilo

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  June 20, 2013  |   BIG ISLAND NOW

For one Big Island business owner, the juice is worth the squeeze.

Sarah Chard, 34, owns Loved by the Sun in Hilo where she focuses on using organic and Big Island-grown produce to make an array of fresh juices that are both healthy and delicious.

Chard said she rotates about 30 different types of juices periodically, but the fan-favorite is a carrot-based concoction known as the “cure.” This semi-sweet carrot juice is made with pineapple and turmeric, as well, and costs $8.

The cure, like many of Chard’s juices, is filled with plenty of vitamins and nutrients, and each 16 oz. juice is made with three to five pounds of produce.

Starting a sustainable business that promotes healthy living is what inspired Chard to open Loved by the Sun.

“I want to see people be healthier and I want to make my juice business a closed system that supports the local farmers here and have zero waste by using recyclable jars,” Chard said.

Loved by the Sun has been open since February of this year. Chard said she hopes to one day expand her business by starting her own farm for the juice bar. Until then she’s using produce from local farmers, which she said is the key to her business’s success.

“It’s really all about making the connections with the farmers,” she said.

For more information about Loved by the Sun visit their website. You can also follow Loved by the Sun on Instagram and Facebook.

Loved by the Sun is located at 475 Kinoole St. in Hilo and is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Fri.


Hilo Bay Cafe: A Pork Place Special and Dessert 

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Sept. 9, 2015  |   BIG ISLAND NOW

Hilo Bay Cafe’s pork program adds variety to this Big Island restaurant’s menu.

Aaron Anderson, executive chef at Hilo Bay Cafe, says the restaurant purchases about two hogs per month from local slaughterhouse Kulana.

“Within the farmers on the island, we get the macnut wild boar, a Berkshire hog, a Yorkshire hog. I consider the Berkshire to be the more superior,” he said while pointing to a pork plate he made using that particular meat.

On the plate were two fatty pieces of pork and an interesting array of food, including cabbage brazed in lard, a colorful sweet potato or okinawan potato and pickled cucumber. While the plate looked busy, Anderson said the dish is rather simple to make.

“This was pork stock, celery, carrot, onion, fresh herbs…” he said of the recipe. “It’s very simple.”

Sitting next to the pork special that day was a sweet Napoleon pastry made by Hilo Bay Cafe pastry chef Jade Gusman.

While these dishes are unlikely to be seen on the menu anytime soon, Anderson said a variety of other appealing specials can be ordered each week. You never know what you might get, he said, as the specials change just about every other day.

“The specials are going to change because we start with the whole animal and we’ll work through the bone and rib chop into the brazed pork shoulder, the shanks…we’ll take the pigs feet and make stock or pigs feet soup,” he said.

Anderson said being able to use the entire animal for a variety of recipes is one of his favorite aspects of the program.

“We consider ourselves fortunate because we get to use the whole animal,” he said, explaining that even the chicharrones, or pork rinds, on the plate were made from the same pig.

Aside from buying their meat locally, Anderson said the restaurant also works with a wide range of farmers for numerous ingredients.

“It gives us a chance to use what’s in season,” he said.

Hilo Bay Cafe is located at 123 Lihiwai St. near the Suisan Fish Market. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. 


The light at the end of the tunnel

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Dec. 23, 2013  |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Cosette Bonjour has learned many life lessons.

In her 20s, the Kapoho resident was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and suffered the loss of her father. Years later, she became a widow — twice.

And if there’s one thing she’s learned through the years, it’s life is precious.

“By losing someone when they’re young, you realize we could be here for a long time, and we could also be gone tomorrow. You really don’t have any idea. You cherish your relationships more and really are present with people,” she said.

Now, at age 61, she was portrayed smiling ear-to-ear in a recent AARP photoshoot where she was one of seven people selected out of 6,000 nationwide for the magazine’s Faces of 50+ Real People Model Search. She’s using her life experiences to help other individuals dealing with grief as she works to become a certified life coach.

“I think I might be especially helpful because I’ve been through it twice,” she said. “I just feel like I have something to offer, certainly people with cancer, too.”

Her path to understanding grief started when her first husband died at age 38. She began writing in a journal to help cope with the loss, and recognized certain thought patterns that made her feel as if she was riding an emotional roller coaster.

“It’s cyclical. Some days you start to feel better and other days it’s not good at all. There’s ups and downs to it and that’s part of the process,” she said. “There’s anger and denial, especially because both times for me it was a sudden death.

“At first, life seems very surreal. It’s hard to imagine that things are continuing and moving on when you feel like you’re in a space where everything has stopped,” she said. “You’re in a place, and it’s hard to believe that this has happened. We all know we all die, but I think, underneath it, we think we won’t. I do think the first part is the most difficult.”

It was in those moments of self-reflection Bonjour said she learned valuable lessons about grief, which helped guide her through the loss of her second husband when he died of a heart attack at 54.

“The truth is, when it happened to me for the second time, it was no less shocking or traumatic. I think that because I’d been through the process before, I knew I’d come out of it. I knew it would be OK and that there was light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

With plans to complete a training program with life coach mentor Alan Cohen in Maui next year, Bonjour hopes to pass along her understanding of grief, loss and life to her future clients and friends by being a supportive and active listener.

“We have a certain innate knowledge of what is best for us. I’m just someone to give them feedback about what they’re seeing and who they are,” she said.

And to remind others no matter what you’re going through, to always remember what there is to be grateful for in life.

“What can I be happy for today? The sun is out. It’s beautiful and warm. The more time you spend in that space of appreciation and gratitude, however you can get there, the more you bring that into your life,” she said.

Read Bonjour’s AARP interview at www.aarp.org/entertainment/style-trends/info-11-2013/aarp-model-search-w….


‘It was a terrible time’: Leprosy survivor relives his horrifying years in Kalaupapa

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  May 17, 2014  |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

When Hilo resident Stanley Martin was 13 years old, he was diagnosed with leprosy, taken away from his mother, and transferred to Molokai where he would be cut off from the outside world until he turned 25.

Martin, now 83, said his life completely changed when a small red dot appeared on his face.

“I had a small red spot on my cheek,” he said while pointing to the right side of his face. “My mother took me to the doctor. Another doctor comes in, then my mother, and I saw tears coming through my mother’s eyes. My father died in Kalaupapa, he had the same disease. My mother saw that and she just cried and I didn’t know what she was crying for. I’m only 13 years old. So when we went home, three days later she stops in and tells me that I have to stay in the hospital. I said, ‘Hospital? But I’m OK.’”

Distressed and confused, Martin said his mother took him to a fenced-in hospital in Honolulu, where he lived at the time with his mother and multiple siblings.

“It was like a prison. It was a prison. My mother kissed me goodbye and I said, ‘Where you going ma?’ And she said, ‘I have to leave you here.’ I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Because you’re sick and you have to stay.’

“I didn’t understand when they took me inside. They locked the doors, my mother went and I’m crying, and then they take me into the infirmary. They gave me all kinds of tests and I didn’t know what’s happening,” he said.

From there he learned from other patients what his future would be.

“They said, ‘You better watch out. Pretty soon they’re going to give you a letter,’” he said. “I didn’t know what they were talking about. They said, ‘You’re going to find out, and if you get a letter then that’s it. They’re going to ship you to Molokai.’”

A month later, a letter arrived at his door telling him he was leaving the next day.

“Already I don’t know what to do. I’m crying. My mother wasn’t there. They take us out to the pier in Honolulu, 15 or 17 of us on a sampan and from that we sailed to Molokai. And everybody was sick, puking and everything. The nurse accompanying us was the most sick and we had to take care of her. It was a terrible time.”

When the boat arrived to Molokai, Martin said they waited in the water for another small vessel to bring him and the other leper patients to what would soon become their new home.

When they landed on shore, Martin was taken to his room that he shared with another patient before having a dinner experience he’d never forget.

“When I sat at that table I was so scared. They put me on the table. The people had such bad, advanced cases of leprosy they lost part of their ear,” he said. “They have no nose, no fingers, all stubs, and they’re just drooling and everything coming out. I couldn’t eat, you know. I got so scared, like, ‘What’s happening?’”

And that was just the beginning. Six months later, his roommate ended up dying of tuberculosis and death would soon become an everyday occurrence for the young Martin.

“Everyday the church bell rang,” he said. “Everyday we heard the church bell ring and we’d ask, ‘Who died?’ They would say, ‘So and so died,’ and it’s like, ‘Ah, I just saw them yesterday.’ People were dying like flies.”

But death wasn’t the only traumatizing part of Martin’s experience at Kalaupapa.

“I really wanted to go home because everybody was picking on me because I was the only white boy. Everyone else was Hawaiian or Hawaiian-Japanese, Hawaiian-Chinese or just Japanese. I was just one little boy by myself,” he said.

Martin, although a proud Portuguese, couldn’t hide from the color of his skin.

“I started to get picked on everyday. People wanted to fight me. A rumor started that I knew how to lick sailors. Someone was spreading rumors around about me that I would fight anybody, which was untrue. I never said nothing,” he said. “I was an outcast among outcasts.”

His darkest day came when he learned an ulcer had formed inside his throat and that death would be knocking on his doorstep.

“They told me, ‘Write a letter to your mother, and get ready because you’re going to die. You only have a couple weeks to live,’” he said. “I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t tell my mother. Every time I wrote to my mother I said I was OK.”

Martin said he had a near-death experience while the doctor was looking after him.

“I had a see-the-light moment,” he said. “I saw the light and I felt like I was in this bubble going into the sky. It was a very peaceful feeling. Very warm, and I was headed up to the stars. But I didn’t want to go.”

Martin’s ability to pull through surprised even his doctor, he said. It’s that kind of willpower that he swears can get you through almost anything.

“You have to have a strong mind. Believe in yourself, and don’t believe what anyone else tells you,” he said. “Your mind has got to be strong…

“I had it in my mind when I arrived that I would get out of there someday,” he said.

That day didn’t come until he was 25, six years after he was cured of the disease after taking a new form of medication.

“Some people died from taking it, but I took a chance. Me and two others tried it. We were the guinea pigs. One guy died, another guy got so sick he stopped taking it. I kept taking it and it worked,” he said.

Although leaving Kalaupapa had always been Martin’s desire, he soon realized that life on the outside wasn’t so easy.

“I was institutionalized. I didn’t know what to do, where to go,” he said.

But eventually he paved a new path, working different jobs, meeting new people, and building a new life for himself.

For years Martin said he’s kept his story a secret, fearful of other people’s reactions. Now he’s considering writing a book, and is ready to reveal to others his painful experience.

“I feel free now,” he said.

When asked how his situation molded him as a person, Martin took a moment to think about his answer before offering a simple reply.

“I don’t know what to tell you. I went in as a small boy, came out a man.”


Courage Below the Surface

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Jan. 20, 2014  |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Pauline Aughe, a 38-year-old Pahoa resident who was born a quadriplegic, said she’s always been one to test the limits.

“I’ve always liked to push the envelope,” she said. “Any time you cross the line of the unknown and are faced with a little bit of fear or a lot of fear and you can accomplish something, it’s another step of empowerment and it’s like ‘OK. Now what can I do?’”

Learning to scuba dive was an accomplishment she never dreamed of pursuing.

“There’s just some things you’re never going to be able to experience, and in order not to be upset or depressed, you don’t focus on those things,” she said.

Aughe’s focus shifted when Hilo Ocean Adventure owner Kevin Cornwell approached her at a food court one afternoon.

“I was sitting in the food court and a gentleman came up and asked if he could talk to me,” she said. “He proceeded to ask if I’d be interested in scuba diving. It wasn’t on my radar of possibilities.”

“It’s something she’d never done in her life,” Cornwell recalled. “It’s like someone coming up to you saying the shuttle is taking off tomorrow, you want to come aboard?”

At the time of the proposition Cornwell had instructed only able-bodied divers and had to receive specialized training from a Handicap Scuba Association instructor in order to properly train Aughe.

Aughe said she prepared for the dive by swimming with a friend at the Pahoa pool until the two would meet on Nov. 15 at her neighbor’s home in Paradise Park for her first-ever scuba diving lesson.

The training started with a written test followed by what Aughe described as a challenging skills test underwater.

“First thing that Kevin did is explain that we couldn’t talk under water and to blink once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no.’ Communication could only go one way, and that’s very different than what other scuba divers go through,” she said.

Aughe said at one point during the skills test she “completely panicked.”

“Everything was so counter-intuitive to what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s just so unnatural,” she said. “Logic goes completely out the window. I panicked and he brought me up to the surface. My nose stuffed up all of a sudden. Wires crossed in my brain and I had to think about it again. I’m very lucky. I get to appreciate a lot of different things and have a lot of gratitude for what I can do and try not to take things for granted, and at that moment, I realized I took breathing for granted.”

“She put her entire life and well-being in my hands; it scared us both,” Cornwell said about the emotional moment.

But after Aughe took a deep breath and looked around, she became determined to finish what they started.

“All these people have come together at this point to help me experience this and if it doesn’t happen it’s all on me and I felt very angry at myself for not getting it,” she said.

Putting her fears aside, she gave Cornwell and his team the go ahead.

“I said ‘No. No. I’m not giving up,’” she said.

“I asked if she wanted to stop and she said, ‘No. I want to do this,’” Cornwell said. “And she did!”

After making it through the underwater skills test, Aughe said she felt “unbelievably peaceful.”

“It’s really hard to articulate to someone. You have to be completely present, which is a gift scuba diving gives us,” she said. “In our daily lives, we’re doing things and are always bombarded with information and thinking and reacting, and when you scuba dive, you have to be completely present in the moment.”

Aughe conquered the pool and has plans to go on a tour dive in the ocean once she gets clearance from her doctor. In the meantime, Cornwell is working on advancing his handicap scuba training certification, which will allow him to certify first-time handicap divers.

“This is the start of what we expect to be a long-term thing. This is a chance to offer veterans and handicaps in our communities a chance to scuba dive and to give them what they already own,” he said. “This is our island, the ocean belongs to us. And for people who can’t access it for whatever reason, let’s fix that and get that right.”

Currently, Hilo Ocean Adventures has the only disabled scuba program on the East side of the island.

Aughe encourages everyone to attempt the daring task, as well.

“You don’t have to sit out and watch people experience Hawaii. You can experience Hawaii,” she said.

For more information about Hilo Ocean Adventures, call Kevin Cornwell at 934-8344.


Community gathers for Namaste Memorial

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Feb. 2, 2014  |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hilo resident Sandy Woodward took a stroll through the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens on Saturday morning before celebrating the life of Namaste, the beloved 15-year-old white Bengal tiger who was euthanized on Jan. 16.

“He reminds me of my mom. When my mom was alive, we came at least once a month. She was a cat lover,” she said before approaching a shaded area near Namaste’s former home.

Woodward was the first of many to share stories of the prized zoo animal. More than 30 Hawaii County community members attended the memorial. Those present thanked Meka Kaiser for writing a letter to the Tribune-Herald announcing the impromptu service. Although the zoo intends to have a plaque made in Namaste’s honor, Kaiser said upon first hearing about his death, she just knew “she had to do something.”

“I had to. I had to,” she said while stepping in the center of the group. “He was just the best little furball.”

Shortly after Kaiser gave a few words, people openly shared their fondest memories of the big cat, one by one.

Donna Thomas, honorary member of the Friends of the Zoo, recalled when a few Las Vegas showgirls unexpectedly visited the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens.

“He went up to them and recognized them immediately. As it turns out, he used to walk across the stage with them when he was a little cub,” she said.

Another attendee commented, “I’m going to, really going to, miss that big kitten, that big pussycat. He was gentle. We all miss him and we all love him. Some people say animals ain’t got no soul, but they’re wrong.”

Terri Akine followed by reading a long letter aloud.

“Namaste posed for more pictures than any movie star in Hollywood,” she said before laughter erupted from the crowd.

Ron Phillips, an honorary member of Friends of the Zoo, said he remembered doing tricks with the tiger, and playing “hide-and-seek.”

“I’d say here little kitty, kitty, kitty,” he said. “And he’d come right up. He was such a smart animal.”

Debbie Anderson, a librarian at Waiakea Intermediate School, said Namaste “meant so much to the kids.”

Her son, Cormack Anderson, 8, wore an orange Namaste outfit and made a robot version of the tiger on his iPad for everyone to see.

The event ended with people putting leis around Namaste’s statue while a woman played a guitar and sang songs in his honor.

Before heading out for the day, Nina Bremer, member of the Board of Directors of Friends of the Zoo, said “He’ll always be with us in spirit.”


1,000+: For one Pahoa man, photography is more than just a hobby — it’s about capturing snapshots of life

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  March 2, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

It’s about 9 a.m. Wednesday and Jaime Daluson answers the door of his Pahoa residence with a huge smile.

“Hello! Hello! Come in; come in,” he says, his grin widening.

Dressed in a polished white button-up shirt, his black slacks without a single wrinkle, one thing is for certain: at 96 years old, he’s still got it.

Daluson proceeds to shuffle through the hallway that leads to his living room, pausing briefly to explain one of the hundreds of pictures taped on the wall.

“There’s one of the New Hope pastor,” he says, while pointing in the direction of the photograph, his aim quickly switching to another nearby.

“These are the beautiful flowers my wife plants. I’ve taken a picture of every one,” he says.

Almost every inch of Daluson’s home is covered in pictures.

With images lining the walls, from the ceiling to the floor — in his living room, kitchen, side-room, bathroom and bedroom — it appears life is one big photographic opportunity for this Big Island resident.

Mel Barao, a photo manager at Longs Drugs in Pahoa, says she’s been processing Daluson’s photographs since the facility opened in 2010.

“Yeah, every three or four times a week he comes in to do pictures,” she says. “People come in and print the same one over and over, but he does all different people. He’s the only one that does that. He’s a nice man.”

It’s evident during the visit to Daluson’s home he’s not just nice, he’s the life of the party. Snapshots of weddings, birthdays, nieces, nephews and dances cover almost every inch of his ranch-style dwelling, each telling their own story.

“I’ve been taking photographs since I was 10 years old while living in the Philippines…” he says.

“Here’s one of when I was in the hospital,” he says with a laugh, an indication he found his hospital gown amusing. “And here’s one of the trip I took to Las Vegas. We went to Vegas, Reno and Thunder Valley…”

Daluson stops talking to wake up his wife, Severina, from a nap.

Severina enters the living room, a little less enthusiastic since she was suffering from some knee problems that day.

She smiles and heads toward the kitchen while Daluson puts a disc into the DVD player attached to his flatscreen television.

Before sitting down, Severina points to an older photograph that features her husband, his children and a wife from a previous marriage.

“We met in 1998,” she explains. “And married in 2000.”

When asked what she thinks of the photographs, Severina laughs and says, “That’s what he likes to do.”

The conversation is interrupted by a sudden blast of music coming from the television.

“It’s too loud! Turn it down!” she says while chortling.

Daluson follows his wife’s request, but not before explaining the people on the screen are performing a type of Filipino wedding dance number.

Music, like photography, is his passion and a hobby.

“I like music and I like taking photographs. It just fills my heart,” he said. “When I take a picture of someone, I’ll give it to them and they’re so happy…”

Daluson later brings out his own digital Canon camera, and before leaving has one request:

“Come here. Come here. Let’s get a picture…”


‘Sugar Daddies’ Look For OU ‘Sugar Babies’

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Jan. 16, 2013  |   The Athens NEWS

Taylor Jones sounds like any other 22-year-old Ohio State University undergraduate student. She’s dealing with the struggle of scheduling classes, working part-time at the campus hospital, and planning for her next step in life. For the most part, Jones lives a pretty typical college life, but there’s one aspect about Jones that’s distinctly unconventional.

Since 2007, Jones has been a member of the online dating website www.seekingarrangements.com, where she meets “sugar daddies” who have twice helped her pay for her tuition and at one point footed the bill for an out-of-town trip for Jones and a friend.

Alarmed? Don’t be. This is what “sugar daddies” do. In a generic sense, the term is used to describe older men who lavish young women with gifts and money in exchange for their companionship, a word that can be code for a variety of things including sexual relations. With more than two million users, the website has seen substantial growth since starting up in 2006, and it’s evident that Jones is not alone at Ohio colleges.

(READ IT ONLINE HERE)

 In a recent study conducted by the website, Ohio University won placement (No. 17) among “The Top 20 Fastest Growing Sugar Baby Schools,” as did Kent State (No. 11).

Leroy Velasquez, public relations manager for seekingarrangements.com, said in terms of actual numbers, the website saw 103 OU students join in 2012, for a total of 192. He said the real numbers are probably higher than that, however, because the 192 total doesn’t include students who might have registered under non-.edu email accounts.

 Velasquez said the website offers premium benefits to “sugar babies” who use their .edu email address.

 “Wealthy and generous members pay monthly membership fees to post a profile and look for their ideal partner based on their own personal preferences.

‘Sugar babies’ can post on the web site for free, but can potentially get premium membership if they use their .edu address, which is how we got the information in the first place,” Velasquez said.

 Jones used her .edu email address when a co-worker suggested she join the site. Since she decided to use her school address, she received premium access to “sugar daddies,” including priority listing and the ability to search and even message certain prospects; both options are not available for users with regular email accounts.

Velasquez said they encourage members to use their .edu accounts for a couple reasons.

 “It’s a combination of a few things. It’s easy to study and track,” he said. “We like to know our demographic, and like to know the types of people that join our website because we have a very unique community. On top of that, we want to get interest from women who are actively pursuing higher education, who are intelligent, independent and driven women. By giving incentives to females who have .edu addresses, we are getting the type of woman that ‘sugar daddies’ want when engaging in these mutually beneficial relationships.”

There are also “sugar mommas” who search for male “sugar babies” on the website, but Velasquez says that it’s a much smaller population than the “sugar daddies” looking for female “sugar babies.”

 Statistically, he added, the site has approximately 12 “sugar baby” females to one “sugar daddy” male.

“Most current ‘sugar mommies’ used to be ‘sugar babies’,” Velasquez noted. “They loved the lifestyle so much that later on after they are satisfied with the ‘sugar baby’ lifestyle, they share that experience with someone else by becoming a ‘sugar mommy’ and having their own ‘sugar baby’.”

 He describes this trend as “an evolution of desire.”

“At first, they desire to be spoiled. I mean who doesn’t want to be treated like a princess?” he said. “So those current ‘sugar mommas’ who used to be ‘sugar babies’ were spoiled with lavish gifts, expensive trips, and so on. But now, as ‘sugar mommas’ they’re spoiled in a different way. They’re spoiled with a man’s beauty and youth or whatever they personally seek in a mutually beneficial relationship.”

 Maddie Bryan, a junior at OU, however, says she holds no such desire.

 “It sounds sketchy and kind of iffy. But it sounds exactly like ‘sugar daddies’ trying to find cute young girls,” she said while finishing up her lunch at OU’s Baker Center.

Bryan is using loans to pay for school and said that she “understands why some people think that’s an option.”

 “I personally would never consider it, so I’m biased in that regard,” she said. “I think that the girls are getting used in some way, if not completely, then definitely in regards to their time, and I just don’t like that. I do, however, understand why some people would do that. It’s the easy way out.”

Jack Carley, a 21-year-old advertising major at OU, said he doesn’t believe that becoming a “sugar baby” is an easy way out.

“I think that depends on how you look at it,” he said with a laugh. “I think people are entitled to date who they want, but I just think for a college campus such as Ohio, it’s a bit unorthodox to join a dating website looking for a ‘sugar daddy’ when you’re trying to obtain an education so that you can support yourself on your own.”

Carley, a business-oriented individual, said that as a whole, the operation seems deceptive.

 “It’s an unethical way to make money off people’s emotions,” Carley said. “I think dating sites in general are an unethical way to make money off people.”

Carley’s friend Kurt Chapkowski agreed with him, questioning the motives behind a company promoting the trend of a “sugar daddy” lifestyle. 

“I think there are some moral issues with it,” Chapkowski said. “I think the whole idea of ‘sugar daddies’ and ‘sugar mommas’ are frowned upon by most of society in general.”

Velasquez acknowledged that the company has faced some adversity based on the assumption that the “sugar daddy” and “sugar baby” relationship is a form of prostitution, where an exchange of sex as a quid pro quo is implied as part of the arrangement.

 But that’s not the case, he said.

 “They react negatively because they assume that it is prostitution because there is money involved in this type of relationship, when in actuality, money is a very small part of what the relationship entails. That, and it’s also illegal,” he said.

On the other hand, sexual relations are definitely a possibility in these arrangements, as a promotional quote from a “college sophomore” makes clear on the website:

“Men my age are too immature. My current arrangement is wonderful. Unlike other cash-strapped students, I am pampered with expensive gifts. My sugar daddy is the sweetest man I know. He is my mentor, my benefactor and my lover.”

Jones, the OSU student who’s a member of the site, noted that she has been messaged by men and have heard of men who are looking for sex to be “a part of the relationship.”

“Some guys will tell you that, or it’ll be on their profile or when they contact you that’s what they’re looking for – a sexual relationship,” Jones said. “You can choose to respond, and I know people who are open to that, but I know females who aren’t open to that or aren’t open to that yet, so they talk and see how it goes. Most women put what they’re open for on their profile.”

Velasquez emphasized that the site is highly monitored, and that any and all unsolicited activity is dealt with immediately.

“We have a lot of administrators and moderators that look for suspicious activity, whether that means soliciting messages or inappropriate profile pictures, and we have a zero-tolerance policy,” he said. “We encourage members to report any such behavior and action is taken immediately.”

They also offer background checks for all “sugar daddies” and do it through a third-party company. When a “sugar daddy” is verified, then a “background verified” symbol appears on the member’s account, a handy-tool in helping to choose prospective partners.

 Jones said that safety hasn’t been too much of an issue for her, but she always makes an effort to bring a friend along or meet in a public location for the first meeting or two. These are both suggestions that the website posts on its ongoing blog that gives tips on how to properly go about having “an arrangement.”

 With plans on leaving seekingarrangements.com after graduation, Jones said she has made it through college without having to take out any loans. She is in a good relationship now with someone she met outside of seekingarrangements.com, and expects that after graduation she will no longer need the web site’s services or its “sugar daddies.”

For more information about seekingarrangements.com visit their web site or Facebook page.


Living On The Edge

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  July 23, 2011 |   The Walton Sun

Steve Trotter is an intelligent, well-spoken and charismatic individual who happens to have barreled over Niagara Falls, twice.

 And, he’s about to do it again. 

When he was 22-years-old, the Freeport man was the youngest person ever to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Doing what most people define as crazy, Trotter lives life on the edge.

Now 50 and shucking and jiving at the Acme Oyster House at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Trotter spoke to the Sun about the first time he decided to do the unthinkable.

“I went to visit the Falls as a kid when I was 7 years old, and I just had a draw to it,” he said. “Then I saw Annie Taylor’s barrel and I thought, ‘I have to do that.’ ” 

 Taking the plunge

Annie Taylor was the first person to survive a trip in a barrel over Niagara Falls on her 63rd birthday in 1901.

Trotter’s glory day was Aug. 18, 1985, when he tucked himself into two Greek pickle barrels. The barrel was padded with ballistic Kevlar with hatches on both ends and encircled by inner tubes to dampen the blow. Trotter and his tricked-out barrel safely and successfully made it over the edge.

“It was wild,” he said. “The Falls is about 178 feet high. So you have that initial hit when you get over the Falls, then you have the water accompanying you at 1,200,000 gallons a second.”

But despite the dangers, the stunt was accomplished. Coming out with barely a scratch, Trotter was quickly thrown into jail as well as into the limelight. After serving a mere 30 minutes in jail, he was released and bombarded by the media. His most famous interview was on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, where he and the King of Late Night joked and discussed his latest adventure.

After the thrill of the stunt died down, Trotter went back to his home in Fort Lauderdale, where he worked as a bartender. Although he had accomplished his dream, he wasn’t done.

 “I wanted to be on a 10-year-plan,” Trotter said during an interview at his home. “I knew I would do it again.”

Ten years later, on June 18, 1995, Trotter made his way back to Canada, this time in disguise — having been red flagged by officials from his last stunt— and bringing a friend with him.

“I went up two weeks before disguised in a Rollie Fingers mustache, sunglasses, and a hat. I tried to keep a low profile,” he said. “Then I went back and got the crew, and we stayed up there a week before getting everything together.”

Once everything was in position, Trotter and his friend Lori Martin took the plunge. The second stunt was less successful, and Trotter walked away with a compression fracture in his back, two weeks of jail time and a $14,700 fine.

With help from his fellow bartenders and friends in Fort Lauderdale, Trotter paid the fine and was released. Although he had to pay substantial costs for both trespassing and retrieving the barrel that was stuck in the Falls for more than a week, Martin and Trotter became the first male-woman duo to go over the Falls in history. 

 A history of stunts 

It’s said that those who don’t learn from the past are bound to repeat it. But with Trotter, he had learned how to push the envelope, and he wasn’t willing to stop at the Falls.

One of his favorite memories was after performing a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. On his 23rd birthday, he stood on the bridge overlooking Alcatraz prison when the Coast Guard showed up.

“They said, ‘Mr. Trotter stay where you are.’ I’m thinking ‘Crap. They know my name.’ I had nowhere to go.”

But down.

After the jump, he was thrown in jail and was suffering from a severe laceration on his thigh where the cord cut into him. Stuck in jail on his birthday, bleeding and unhappy, he thought, “Wow, what a birthday.”

All of a sudden, his luck changed. A deputy came to his cell and said that his bond had been made and to follow him. Confused as to who helped him, Trotter didn’t ask questions and followed orders. He was met with a surprise to see two complete strangers waiting to take him out of jail and celebrate his birthday with him.

“They said they had heard about me before and were big fans,” he said. “It was a woman by the name of Esther Green and a guy named Lorri Wilkins who dragged me down to this old jazz bar in San Francisco. When I walked in there was a band there who said, ‘Hey it’s the guy who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.’ At which point they started to sing this song called, ‘The guy who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.’ It turned from the worst birthday ever to the best.” 

Back to Niagara 

Trotter is 20 years behind on his 10-year-plan to conquer the Falls. He hasn’t performed a stunt since 1997, which is not a coincidence. Aside from being on the black list in Canada, Trotter has other reasons for taking a break from thrill seeking.

“I would do other sorts of stunts, and one I did in 1997 went terribly wrong,” he said. “My buddies and I were going to do a pendulum swing off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa. So we had a 200-foot long cable that we attached and five small wooden disks attached to the end of the cable that would be the weight of the pendulum. So we jumped off and halfway through we hear, ‘snap!’ and the cable broke. We went flying 70 feet into the bay, and hit it like a ton of bricks.”

That incident left two of his friends in critical condition and Trotter with major injuries. Out of respect for his friends, Trotter swore off his daredevil ways for a while.

“When you see two of your friends almost die from a stunt you put on, it shakes you up,” he said.

But his mourning period is over, and Trotter is in the planning stages of performing his third and final drop from the Falls. Without giving too many details about when and where it will happen out of fear that the Canadian government will interfere with his plans, Trotter did say that he’s already making his “Trottersphere” safe and solid. With help from an engineer, Trotter is taking all precautions to make sure he can perform the stunt safely.

“I may try some crazy stuff, but I’m huge on safety,” he said. “I’m not stupid about it.”

This includes insulating the Trottersphere with nuclear warhead packing materials, and having the barrel designed and inspected by a team that consists of Navy Seals and top-notch engineers.

“I just have this draw to the Falls, and it’s calling me back,” he said.


The Godfather Of Drumming 

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Sept. 24, 2011 |   The Walton Sun

Maybe it’s the confidence. Maybe it’s the raspy voice tangled up in the southern drawl. Or maybe it’s the story. Whatever it is, John “Jabo” Starks is just downright cool. 

And behind the cool is talent to back it up. Starks has a musical resume that would sing and dance around many musical legends.

He worked with James Brown for more than 11 years, playing along fellow accomplished drummer Clyde Stubblefield, creating beats and rhythms featured on the well-known tracks “Sex Machine,” “Mother Popcorn,” and “Ain’t it Funky Now,” just to name a few.

“I’ve been blessed to have been able to travel with a few well-known artists. I’ve gotten to see a lot and been a part of quite a few things. I really, really did,” says the drummer who plays almost nightly at The Red Bar.

 A South Walton Celebrity

In his musical career, he’s traveled to every major city in the United States, many more than once, and performed in various venues around the world.

The 72-year-old has even been called the “Funkmaster.”

But as celebrated as his career has been, he’s clearly cozy in South Walton. Last Thursday night, Starks sat outside The Red Bar with a placid look on his face, soaking up some sun before heading to work. As the drummer for The Red Bar Band, Starks plays about five nights a week while foodies wine and dine. Before the band kicks off, the bar is quiet. As soon as the soulful sounds resonate from the speakers, chatter picks up and before you know it the joint is alive. This is a job he defines as one of his favorites.

“This is the best gig I’ve ever had,” he said. “I can’t compare it. I’m in one place playing what I want to play and enjoying it.”

So over an order of spaghetti and meatballs, Starks started in about his journey that led him to The Red Bar. Approximately 15 years ago, while living in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., Starks was asked by a friend to play at Bud & Alley’s. 

“So I did. I would come down on Fridays and play Friday and Saturday then go back home,” he said.

But the gig was short-lived, so The Red Bar picked him up. The Red Bar band, although a jazz band, plays a little bit of everything.

“We were just ‘that band’ for a while. But after a while we would play more gigs here and that’s what we are now. We’re The Red Bar Band.”

Learning ‘The Hard Way’

Before The Red Bar, before his decade with James Brown, before recording with Bootsy Collins and B.B. King, Starks was first and foremost a musician. He started playing the drums in high school, focusing on the snaredrum — and largely self taught.

“I got it the hard way. The way sometimes you have to learn. By asking, watching and listening,” he said.

So in his earlier days, he would watch, ask, and listen to artists that would roll through the southern cities.

“We’d go and listen to different groups that were playing. Go to the city and whoever was playing in the city you’d go out and listen and talk to them. I’d talk to their drummers and ask them how they did some things, and ask them to show me certain things. That was just the way you got it. Most of the guys that were drummers that came through Mobile were very nice and supportive.”

One memory he has was learning how to play a shuffle from well-known jazz musician Shep Shepherd.

“I used to say that I play a Shepherd because if you were down south, you had to play a Shepherd shuffle,” he joked.

Somewhere down the line, Starks got good— really good. He is a creator, not just a player of music. He started out playing with Bobby “Blue” Bland, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and original member of The Beale Streeters. From there, Starks said his career led him to the Godfather of Soul and other artists.

Having traveled with the musician for many years, Starks has gathered a collection of memories. One in particular surrounds James Brown’s concert on April 5, 1968 in Boston. Brown and the band’s performance after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death on April 4, 1968 was historic and noted for having stopped riots in the city that night.

“He stopped that riot. Initially they wanted to cancel the show. But if he canceled the show, they were really going to riot,” he said. “It was real tense. He did the show, and it went over the radio and the TV, and it stopped that riot. It was a good concert, real tense, but it was good.”

The Problem With Modern Music

His contribution to music cannot be overlooked, and now that famous hip-hop artists and rappers are sampling his rhythms, Starks and his drumbeat has surpassed soul and funk music. So what does Starks think about how his music is being used today?

“I don’t know, man. I just think we could do better,” he said after finishing up his spaghetti and meatballs, offering compliments to the chef.

“There was a time when I was coming along, that if you couldn’t play good music, they’d tell you to get off the stage. You had to work at getting yourself together to be able to sit and play with someone else. Back in the day, they’d have the old musicians, and if you couldn’t play, they’d tell you right off the bat, ‘Hey, get off. Leave.” You’d have to sit and listen to good songs and good music, words that were saying something. Nowadays, a lot of what you hear is just talk. Talking about women, or talking about killing.”

It’s the talk that doesn’t jive with Jabo.

“See, I think you can express yourself, real, real well without using all the four letter words. You have young children listening and they’ll pick up on those four letter words quicker than they will the understanding part of it. I’m not putting down hiphop or rap, but I just feel like if you’re going to do that, do it in a respectable context.”

And according to Starks, if you’re going to use his beats, at least give him a shout out.

“What they’re doing is stealing. I’m glad they’re using my stuff, but at least recognize Clyde and me for what you’re using. It’s just a matter of respect.”

Respect is a priority for Starks. Whether it’s respect for people or respect for music, Starks seems to be a pseudo preacher of the seven-letter word.

“I’ve never forgotten where I came from and how I got to where I am. I care. Along the way I’ve met a lot of really beautiful people. The Lord has truly blessed me. You name it, and I’ve almost been there and done my share of what there was to do. And for that, I’m thankful,” he said before heading off to jam for the lucky listeners at Grayton Beach’s The Red Bar.


The Historic Hilo Kaikodo Building

By MEGAN MOSELEY | Ke Ola Magazine

On the corner of Keawe and Waianuenue Streets in downtown Hilo stands the historic Hilo Masonic Lodge Hall built in 1908, currently known as the Kaikodo Building. From the outside, the structure may catch your eye for its concrete walls and towering windows.

If you were to take a closer look and stroll through the inside of the facility, make sure to take a breath as the beauty of the early 20th century facility may leave you speechless.

Replete with towering ceilings, spacious rooms, delicately crafted wooden staircases and a view of Hilo’s bayfront and downtown hub, this building’s aesthetic appeal is hard to beat.

About the Building

Located at 64 Keawe St., the Kaikodo Building, also formally referred to as the Bishop Trust Building, was built around the same time the Volcano Block Building and the S. Hata Buildings were constructed in downtown Hilo when Hawaii was still a territory.

This large edifice made a name for itself as being one of Hilo’s only concrete-constructed buildings. It has three floors, a basement, and was designed in a way to resemble the Renaissance Revival style.

It’s exceedingly spacious with stairways made of oak that lead to the upper floors. According to a newspaper clip dated January 18, 1906, the structure’s estimated original cost was $30,000.

On the second floor, there is a ceremonial temple room that was used by the Masons for gatherings. This one-of-a-kind meeting hall contains high ceilings (the room is about 35 feet by 55 feet) and has cast brass suspended light fixtures, along with an organ gallery. This room, in particular, is so incredibly spacious that it gives your mind room to think and inspires creativity. It’s also where the popular Hilo dance studio, Center Stage, used to reside before moving to its current location at the other end of town. While this area may have the “wow” factor, there are many rooms in the building that have been used for a variety of purposes.

One room, for instance, was the location for filming a dramatic scene for the 1987 crime thriller movie Black Widow. Multiple rooms have also been used as political campaign offices, hosted wedding parties, fashion shows, and more.

A partial third floor is also home to several offices, a former Ladies Lounge, the Organ Gallery, restrooms, a central light well, and several storage rooms, including an armory.

From the top of the structure is an incredible view of downtown Hilo. When standing on the roof, one can see the ocean over the breakwater in Hilo Bay, down Kinoole Street and Kilauea Avenue. You also have a beautiful view of a nearby arched Wainaku Bridge over the Wailuku River. According to older records, this area used to be a rooftop garden.

The Evolution of the Kaikodo Building 

While the building is certainly alluring, there’s currently only one tenant left—Le Magic Pan, Hilo’s only French crepe restaurant.

Liza Belykh, a 23-year-old Le Magic Pan employee, says she’s always hearing customers comment on the building.

“They’re always saying how big and beautiful it is,” she says. “Of course they always try to check it out and go up the staircase.”

Next door to the French-inspired restaurant is where the Kaikodo Restaurant used to exist before closing down in 2007. The current owners, Howard and Mary Ann Rogers, opened that restaurant around the time when they first bought the space. However, that wasn’t their original intention.

“When we bought the building, although it was a wonderful and very special structure, it was tired and needed some attention to bring it back to life,” say the Rogers. “Our vision was to have a museum on the second floor, using the vast Masons’,  what we called ballroom, as the center of activity.”

With that idea in mind, they started making some additions and renovations, including adding a freight elevator, which ran from ground floor to the third floor in hopes of being able to transport the art they envisioned would occupy the upper floors in an almost gallery-like setting.

“We also reconstructed various room spaces to allow a more even flow of movement with the museum in mind. We then explored how we would have to do further renovations in order to satisfy the museums and private collections that we would be borrowing from for the agenda we had planned. We had actually gotten the archaeological team in Pompeii on board and had selected an exhibition of numerous treasures we would bring from that city destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius to the foot of Mauna Kea—Pompeii to Pele! A brilliant idea!” the Rogers contest.

They also had plans to bring in an exhibition from Yokohama in Japan. Unfortunately, those plans fell through.

“After some testing and research, it became clear that the expense and time spent would not be met with the reception that we had hoped. So, that idea went, sadly, down the drain,” they explain.

So, instead of a museum, they decided to establish a restaurant, which required major renovations. The Rogers say, however, those renovations did not compromise the character of the landmark building.

“We removed some of the old walk-in vaults that were installed when the structure was used in part as a bank, and turned others into wine-cellars. We established a large restaurant area on the ground floor and laid new floors, installed an early 20th century, 20-foot wooden bar from England, a large set of tall wooden doors from a 19th century library on the Hainan island near Taiwan, their beautiful stained glass and carved wood setting off one section as a special Chinese dining room, with its deep red walls and ancestor portraits as décor.”

Another room was made into a sushi bar with large Japanese landscape-painted folding screens mounted on the walls. That area is currently where the Le Magic Pan is located.

While the restaurant may have closed a few years later, some of these beautiful details are still visible today, including light fixtures that are made of hand-blown glass from Murano near Venice.

“The restaurant saw some great days, got great publicity nationwide, but again, despite exciting activities year in and year out, it was not quite the right fit for Hilo,” say the Rogers.

Before the Rogers owned the building, it was purchased by Toyama Hawaii, Inc. in 1992, the same company that at one point owned Nani Mau Gardens. They are attributed with making some major renovations on the antique structure. In 1993, the building was added to the state registry of historic places, and in 1994 was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Hawaii Island. It is also included on Historic Hawaii Foundationʻs list of properties.

Building a Brighter Future

The Kaikodo building has seen many walks of life come in and out of its doors. The Masons built the structure between 1908 and 1920 and left around 1985, when they decided to move to new premises. Since then, there’s been many people coming and going, yet nothing seems to last.

“What makes us most sad is that the building is not being used to its fullest potential,” say the Rogers. “It must sometimes feel abandoned and alone.”

Over the years, there have been various tenants that have occupied the structure including Bishop Bank, now known as First Hawaiian Bank, and Uncle Don’s Ohana Grill in 2009.

While the history of this Hilo staple may be written on its walls, its future is unknown and the current owners are hoping to bring new life to its doorstep.

“We hope that someone will bring life and activity back into it. It has great beauty and nobility and much potential.”


Hawaii Preparatory Academy Goes Green

By MEGAN MOSELEY | Ke Ola Magazine

The students at Hawaii Preparatory Academy (HPA) are pushing the term “going green” to new heights thanks to the construction of the school’s state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind energy laboratory.

The $3.7 million, 6,100-square-foot facility is truly unique. Replete with wind turbines, an array of photovoltaic panels and a specialized cooling system, this building runs completely on renewable energy and acts as an ongoing, never-ending science project.

Erected on a hillside overlooking the quiet Hawaii Island town of Waimea, the HPA energy lab building’s detailed construction makes other science facilities around the nation look pale in comparison.

According to Dr. Bill Wiecking, director of HPA’s energy lab and one of the main designers of the facility, there is a purpose for almost every inch of the structure.

The building’s architecture, for example, was intentionally designed to mimic the traditional three-pitch Polynesian roof model. Bill reports that in Polynesian culture, houses were often built facing the equator for better airflow and shade. This model also helps the energy lab’s cooling system work more efficiently.

At nighttime, water goes through the thermal roof panels and is then cooled and stored for use as chilled water for air handling units. Air flows through the building, which is shaped like a wing, up to the peak of the roof, ventilating without noise or power. “It’s like a vacuum,” Bill says of the mechanism.

There is also a certain character within the building, expressed in such features as the ‘ōhi‘a wood column made from salvaged wood, or the building’s outside bench which depicts an outline of the Waimea hills as a reminder of the school’s roots.

The symbolism doesn’t stop there. Throughout the building there are clusters of lava rocks within the concrete walls. According to the school’s website, Vladmir Ossipoff, architect of the HPA chapel, has observed that “the lava rocks in the concrete wall represent our students: they come to us with rough edges.”

Bill also likes to point out the several flat-screen televisions hanging from the middle of the ceiling in the building’s main hall. Desks for the students can be seen surrounding the area, which he compares to a communal fire. He explains that the room is set up in such a way so that it acts as a gathering place for students and teachers, enhancing the likelihood of creative exchanges among them.

Creative exchange is a main focus of HPA and the students and educators who use the energy lab. With all the classrooms and public areas being easily accessible from one another, Bill says there is a building-wide fluidity that aids in the free exchange of knowledge.

And the best part—it’s quiet.

“Students like to come in here even when they don’t have class just to do homework or study” he says, noting the lab is more popular than the lunchroom.

The view is worth noting too. The building includes large windows and a front deck that opens to beautiful views of Waimea, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualālai. It is also located away from the other school buildings, giving it a serene feel that would be ideal for any young student trying to study.

The science behind the structure
While there’s plenty to say about the aesthetics of the building, it’s really the science behind it that makes it so special. Indeed, one has the impression that Bill barely scratches the surface during an hour-long tour and interview.

For starters, the creation of the HPA energy lab construction readily satisfied two green building certification standards, those from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the Living Building Challenge (LBC).

There are multiple levels of certification for LEED buildings including platinum, gold, silver, or “attempted.” The HPA energy lab received the LEED platinum rating in 2011.

Comparatively, the LBC has even more strict guidelines which must be satisfied to obtain its certification. According to HPA’s website, LBC extends the challenge of LEED to include an assessment of materials sourcing, a one year post-occupancy auditing, and many other criteria.

To receive an LBC certification, the building is judged on seven “petals,” including site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. Certification is awarded only if the building meets or exceeds certain criteria for every petal. Remarkably, the HPA energy lab did just that. It is now the third project in the entire world to meet the LBC standard.

According to the LBC website, the building site was intentionally located on the windward side of the school property in order to capitalize on the trade winds that move down the hillside. The site location also provides for optimal solar, thermal and photovoltaic panel performance.

As for the water petal, the building received recognition for a system that treats domestic wastewater and provides for on-site infiltration. The energy lab also has a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, providing potable drinking water.

Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the building are the renewable energy systems. Power for the building is provided by three arrays of photovoltaic panels that provide a total of 26.13 kilowatts of power. The building also has automated louvers that maintain temperature and humidity levels for comfort. In addition, there are more than 400 sensors that measure and control everything from water use to the amount of carbon dioxide in each room.

Bill reports there are multiple benefits to monitoring the amount of CO2 in the building, pointing out that research shows that CO2 levels can affect the way people in small rooms think, focus, and even retain information.

Luckily for the students, they have full control of this information and are able to adjust temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels accordingly to provide a prime-learning environment.

“Imagine if every school could do that,” Bill noted.

Apart from such technological innovations, the materials used for the construction of the building were also distinctive: they were all made from toxic free substances. Even the white boards are made toxic free, a product, which according to Bill, took some time to create.

Further, all wood in the building is either Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified, or from salvaged sources. Finding some of the materials locally was one of the most challenging aspects of construction. To receive the LBC certification the materials have to be obtained within a certain radius. Also, some materials have to be mass-manufactured and given that the school is located in Hawaii, acquiring such materials posed a challenge for the designers. Bill reports the difficulty was nevertheless a blessing in disguise, causing the students and contractors to develop creative solutions.

The final product
The building was designed during a 12-month period with construction finally being finished in January of 2010. It now serves many purposes. Currently, the energy lab allows students to partner with both local and distant scientists and its cutting-edge technology assists with some pretty impressive research projects. These projects include research being conducted at the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, the NOAA Mauna Loa Research lab, and the NASA HISEAS program.

Beyond the features of the building itself, the facility also contains various high-tech tools and equipment that the students can use. The students have access to fabrication equipment, high-tech digital media tools including EEG brain wave headsets, research drones with high-resolution cameras, a 3D printer, DNA cloning tools, and many others. They also have servers that monitor water, light, and energy and many other metrics both in the lab and in other buildings on campus.

According to Bill, HPA students invented their own telemetry, control and monitoring system which accumulates information gathered year after year. Information put into the system helps to enhance the building’s overall functionality by adapting it to weather cycles using student analysis of data.

Ultimately, the energy lab exists to nurture student learning. HPA serves hundreds of students, from all over the world and from on-island. The students use the advanced facility to perform sustainability research that impresses not only their peers and teachers, but the public as well.

Patti Cook of the Waimea Community Association says that she got a chance to hear firsthand from the kids about their experience at the energy lab during a presentation in May.

“The kids were awesome. During the presentation they showed the different kinds of projects they’re working on. The things they are doing are mind boggling” she said. “I think the kind of work they talked about is generally what you would find at a college level.”

She says it’s the building that is giving these students a leg-up in education.

“A lot of it is due to that facility. The lab is a smart building which allows them to monitor energy consumption on campus. What it enables the students to do is really amazing.”

According to HPA’s website, the mission of Hawaii Preparatory Academy is to provide exceptional learning opportunities in the diverse community while honoring the traditions of Hawaii.

Thanks to the creation of this intricate building, HPA is able to do just that, all while reducing the school’s carbon footprint. ❖

Contact Hawaii Preparatory Academy: 808.885.7321


Student Mural Takes on Life of its Own

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  May 5, 2015 |   West Hawaii Today

Five enthusiastic students at Kahakai Elementary School stood in front of a large mural where hand-painted pictures of monk seals shined on a 4-foot by 8-foot canvass behind them.

The young scholars spent more than two months crafting the drawings of the endangered species and joyfully expressed their knowledge and pride of the animal and a mural that has taken on a life of its own.

“We made the mural because we wanted to try to save the Hawaiian species of the monk seals. They are a part of our culture,” said Andrey Sawinski, a fourth-grader at Kahakai Elementary.

“The monk seal is very native to Hawaii and is a majestic animal,” said Sawinski’s classmate Taylor Bear.

The mural portrays painted blocks with pictures of monk seals inside them. The drawings are supported by a bright, ocean-blue background and each seal is different with its own set of eyes that fourth-grader Brooke Aragon described as “windows to their soul.”

There’s also a small mirror within the mural that Aragon explained is to show the viewer that “you’re the missing piece.”

The mural recently left the school to go to the Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo. When the Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Visitor Center is completed then the artwork will travel there. Plans are also in the works for the piece to go to Maui and Oahu.

So how did these 9-year-old students decide to create a painting that is now in high demand?

The idea came after a volunteer from the West Hawaii Marine Mammal Response Network gave a presentation on the plight of the Hawaiian monk seal to Tracy Foyle’s fourth grade class.

Foyle said after her students heard about the mammal and its struggles, they felt compelled to share the monk seal’s story with the rest of the world.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, the Hawaiian monk seal was listed as an endangered species in 1976 under the federal Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat was designated in 1988 from beaches to a depth of 120 feet around the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

The students learned these facts and more and were inspired by the animal’s story. So from there, the students in Foyle’s class spent two months creating their masterpiece. Many of the chldren gave up their recesses and free time to work on the project.

“They gave up all their free time. It was amazing. They just kept going,” Foyle said.

And the project was a first for many, she said.

“Some of the students said they’ve never painted before so it scared them but they kept at it. They never gave up,” she said.

An artist from Susun Gallery in Kona also assisted the students with the project. Coupled with the painting is a book of poems that the children wrote about the monk seals, as well.

Kona Trans volunteered to take the mural from Kahakai to Mokupapapa on Monday and Foyle said the students were sad to see it go.

But as Kahakai fourth-grader Peyton Winkel explained earlier last week, the mural is meant for others to see.

“I hope this mural goes around the world for centuries and makes a difference,” he said.


Young ropers riding high

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  March 2, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Two local junior high students were practicing throwing rope at the 58th Hawaii Saddle Club Memorial Weekend Rodeo in Honokaa Saturday.

Waimea Middle School student Levi Higa, along with Hilo Intermediate School student Jonah Menino, both 14, were sporting cowboy hats, jeans and boots, while practicing slack roping with 9-year-old Chance Miranda.

Menino, who joined the rodeo almost a year ago, said the key to success is practice makes perfect.

“You definitely have to practice. Practice swinging it, swing and throwing it. You start by practicing on a dummy,” he said while twirling the rope.

Menino is the header, meaning he throws the rope around the cattle’s head to catch it. His partner, Higa, is the heeler, and to him, it’s all about focus.

“I look at the legs because I’m the heeler,” he said. “You have to go through the process in your head before you even go into the chute. So, you just think to yourself that when he catches it, then I throw it,” he said.

Miranda wasn’t competing Saturday but said he plans to in the next couple months. For him, bullriding and rodeos are just in his blood, as his father used to ride in the Makawao Rodeo in Maui.

“I’ve been riding since I was five,” he explained.

People of all ages were competing for a chance in today’s rodeo show starting at noon as part of the community’s Western Week. There were about 10 teams of high school and junior high students and the competition featured people of all ages, from 80 years old all the way down to 5 years old.

The sounds of horses stomping and people clapping resonated outside of the newly renovated Rose Andrade Correia Stadium Saturday. The renovation project was worth about $3 million, and the arena is named after Hawaii Saddle Club member Rose Andrade Correia, also known as “Grandma Rose,” a lifetime Saddle Club member.

Many rodeo attendees were seen sporting a brown and pink T-shirt in her honor.

While focused on Saturday’s competition, Higa and Menino had their eyes on their future.  Both will be leaving soon to represent Hawaii in the 2014 National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 9. This is the first time both boys will be competing nationally.

Their mothers, Lynn Higa and Jodie Menino, said when they first heard the news that their sons would be representing the state in the competition, they cried tears of joy.

“When they first qualified, it was Mother’s Day and we were crying and hugging each other and then found out we had 20 minutes to decide if they’re going,” Higa said. “We’re going, but it’s costly.”

The cost of competing totals around $10,000.

“And it was kind of a hard decision to make because it’s not like you have time to call the bank on Sunday before you decide,” said Menino.

Putting money aside, both mothers and their families decided that the experience would be well worth the cost. They pulled together, raising funds for their trip and collecting various donations from around the community.

Higa said already the boys’ involvement in rodeo has helped them learn new skills and forge a bond of friendship that she expects will last a lifetime.

“It was kind of crazy. We didn’t know them,” she said, pointing to Menino. “And they came here to practice. And both boys needed a partner, and that’s how they got to meet. Come to find out, their grandfathers worked together at the Hilo Correctional Facility and they have all these similarities. So it’s been great.”

Higa’s father, Stanley Cypriano, rodeo enthusiast and a Honokaa native, said that’s what the rodeo is all about.

“It’s for the kids and all the families,” he said. “It really brings everyone together,” he said.

For more information, follow Honokaa Western Week on Facebook. If you’d like to make a donation to Higa’s and Menino’s competition, call Lynn Higa at 808-938-1496.


Keiki to go on ‘Journey Through the Universe’

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  March 3, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hilo High graduate Devin Chu said thanks to Gemini Observatory’s Journey Through the Universe program, he’s reaching for the stars.

“Journey Through the Universe furthered my interest in astronomy, and I was motivated to conduct my own science projects with the help of a Mauna Kea astronomer,” said the 22-year-old physics and astronomy major at Dartmouth College.

Chu is one of the program’s success stories. What started as a small presentation with several astronomers has grown to host 80 industry experts all looking to share their love and knowledge of the universe with students at Hilo-area schools.

Michael Hoenig, data analysis specialist at Gemini North, has participated in multiple Journey programs. In the past he’s used interactive techniques to show middle school students how infrared light makes seemingly hidden objects become visible.

Hoenig said he’s looking forward to educating local keiki on the impacts and aspects of astronomy and science.

“It’s a chance to connect with the community and give back to the community,” he said.

Kathy Roth, associate scientist at Gemini North, said Journey helps to raise awareness about science and jobs.

“It drums up interest in science, as well as exposes what career options are out there,” she said.

According to Gemini’s web site, Hilo is one of 10 communities around the nation that are designated Journey sites. The speakers will visit 15 schools and teach in an average of 400 classrooms.

This year marks Journey’s 10th year in existence. Janice Harvey, community outreach and education programs leader at the observatory, said the program started when the observatory and the Hilo-Waiakea Complex of the Hawaii State Department of Education decided to expand the studies of astronomy on Mauna Kea and around the world into local classrooms.

Journey advocates are calling the decade-long program a success.

“We measure our success by our impact on our students,” said Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area Superintendent Valerie Takata in a press release. “But we are also proud of the partnerships this program has fostered with our local community and when community partners come to us to participate we know we are having an impact.”

The program starts March 7 with an Astronomy Educators Workshop at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. There will be a Family Science Day at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Education Center on March 9. The event is free to the public and will consist of garden tours, numerous talks and presentations including a discussion on space suits and one titled, “Why did bees, moths, pigs, fish, frogs, butterflies and monkeys fly in space?” by Rob Kelso, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) director and former Space Shuttle Flight director. The program will conclude on Wednesday, March 12 with a presentation at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Dr. Kevin Grazier, science advisor for the film “Gravity,” will be talking about his scientific studies and his work in Hollywood.

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawaii Gemini North and the other telescope of Cerro Pachon on central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky.

For more information visit www.gemini.edu.

Dr. Kevin Grazier, science advisor for the critically acclaimed film “Gravity,” said he’s looking forward to this year’s Journey Through the Universe program.

“It’s the people you meet and the look on the kids’ faces when you talk to a classroom full of kids,” he said.

Part of Grazier’s enthusiasm for science started while watching Apollo missions on the television with his family.

“It was an all-day thing. They’d tell you what’s going to happen and what you’re going to see. There was much more excitement, so much more national pride,” he said.

That’s one reason why Grazier said he likes to share with the public his studies and support programs like Journey.

Attendees can expect to hear him discuss his role as a science advisor for the SyFy Channel series “Defiance,” as well as his work with “Battlestar Galactica,” “Eureka,” “Falling Skies,” “The Zula Patrol,” and “Gravity.”

Grazier will also be talking about his role as a planning engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Cassini/Huygens Mission.

He’ll be speaking at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Science and Technology Building Room 108 on Wednesday, March 12 at 7 p.m. The event is free to the public.


Students to honor Kalaupapa patients

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  June 2, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

It’s a disease that took almost 8,000 lives.

The history of Hansen’s disease, more commonly referred to as leprosy, is intertwined with Hawaiian history.

In 1866, King Kamehameha V banished all Hawaiians suffering from Hansen’s disease to the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai where they could live out their last days and were blocked off from the rest of the world.

June 30 marks the 45th anniversary of the end of the isolation law, and a Hilo-based nonprofit is making it their mission to place a lei at every known burial site at Kalaupapa in remembrance of former outcast patients.

According to Kerri A. Inglis, a history professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, it’s Hui Malama Makanalua’s goal to both honor and respect those who lived there and to raise awareness about the disease while quelling any negative social stigma associated with it.

Hansen’s disease is a chronic infection caused by certain types of bacteria. The bacteria was discovered by Norwegian scientist G.H. Armauer Hansen in the 1800s. Inglis said there was strong evidence and understanding of the bacteria early on, and by the 1950s, effective treatments were available.

However, people were still skeptical about whether or not the disease was contagious.

“(It) took a long time for the public to accept it’s not highly contagious and that people didn’t need to be quarantined the way they were,” Inglis said.

Raising awareness is one reason that Inglis continues to bring students at the university to the island, and it was during a visit to Kalaupapa in November that the idea for the project, “Lei Hali‘a O Kalaupapa,” surfaced.

“Last November, we took a few lei to the cemetery. Students got to choose who to put the lei for,” she explained. “Some have family; it’s personal. Some would choose whoever they felt inspired by. But we felt it wasn’t enough.”

There are approximately 1,200 marked graves, along with several unmarked burial sites in the area. Inglis said she and the students decided everyone should be remembered and that every grave site should have a lei.

“A student planted the seed for the idea, and it blossomed from that,” she said.

Inglis said the visits are often emotional.

“When we get there, it’s a mix of the awe of the beauty of the place, the amazing geography, and the heaviness of the history,” she said. “So we spend time there and give service to the community and aina to feel apart of it, and connect to that history and understand it more deeply.”

Drew Kapp said he visited a couple years ago. Kapp, a geography professor at UH-Hilo and member of Hui Malama Makanalua, described it as a “profound experience.”

Fellow Hui member Noah Gomes said the feeling of the place is slightly indescribable.

“You definitely feel the mana there. You feel the power, and at the same time there’s this feeling of immense sadness of the place and it’s a reminder of what happened there,” he said.


Treasured tree: Nearly 200-year-old giant gets tender, loving care

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  May 18, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Within the branches of the 194-year-old Kamani tree that towers over the corners of Haili and Ululani streets are many stories.

For Mary K. Namahoe, 85, it’s a tale of her childhood, youth, religion and community.

“When I was a little kid, we had a bench completely around the tree,” she said. “All the old folks would gather outside after church and stand around the tree.”

Namahoe’s father, Steve Desha Jr., and grandfather, Steve Desha Sr., were preachers at the mid-19th century Greek-revival church known today as the Haili Congregational Church. It also happens to be one of Hilo’s oldest churches.

From 1906-1944, the church sponsored a weekly Hawaiian newspaper, Ka Hoku o Hawaii, printed every Thursday. Namahoe, a young girl in those days, said her cousin’s plan to make some quick cash off the paper failed miserably.

“My cousin, I won’t mention any names because I don’t want to get in trouble, but my cousin decided he wanted to go to the Palace Theater but he didn’t have enough money,” she said. “So, he grabbed a stack of newspapers, and I didn’t look at them or anything, and he told me to go sell it to the old folks sitting under the tree…

“They bought the newspaper and next thing I know, everyone was crying. I didn’t know what was going on. Well, as it turned out, he didn’t look at the paper and it was a newspaper about World War I. They all thought we were going to war again!”

Namahoe paused to laugh and look toward the tree before continuing.

“So, my dad got really upset and asked my cousin what happened and he pointed to me! I said I didn’t do anything!” she said with a laugh.

Namahoe had plans with friends that day but she canceled them to visit the church to watch the ancient tree get a little bit of a facelift Friday.

Church member Kelcey Bufil said the tree was in desperate need of maintenance as its branches were projecting halfway across Haili Street and putting stress on above power lines.

Namahoe said the tree was getting to be “too much.”

“Last year was the worst year. The leaves and the nuts…Oh my! They were everywhere!” she said.

But in order to cut off a few branches from a 194-year-old tree that is part of a national historic tree registry, the church’s board of trustees had to jump a few hurdles.

Finally, the board received approval and employees of Tree Works Inc., a tree trimming, pruning and removal company based in Papaikou certified to perform work on historic trees, worked to remove the debris and appendages while Bufil, Namahoe and others stood by to reflect on and appreciate the tree’s natural beauty.

For Bufil, the tree reminds him of his childhood.

“Before I started coming to the church, as a child I would look at the tree and say, ‘wow, that’s a big tree.’ I would stop to climb the tree…”

Now, it’s taken on an even bigger significance.

“The kupuna grew up with the tree and watched the tree,” he added. “We like to say in church to look at the tree, be like the tree, because it’s like our church. It’s strong; it’s held together…”


New boss, same focus

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Jan. 4, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hilo native Glenn Hashimoto recently replaced Rex Matsuno as president of Suisan Company Ltd., a 106-year-old, Hilo-based food distribution business that employs 175 people on the Big Island and serves local hotels, supermarkets, schools and restaurants.

Hashimoto, who started in the position on Jan. 1, said he hopes to continue Suisan’s long history of expansion.

“I have goals for the company. Over the years, Matsuno has built a very good foundation for the company,” he said. “I think it’s important to use that platform to grow the company and by reaching farther in the food industry for growth. We’re exploring several things right now.”

Although Hashimoto did not disclose what his plans for growth are exactly, he said the company is exploring going “more green.” According to a press release, he wants to “develop further efficiencies via technology in the business to control costs and improve productivity.”

He also said he would like to see Suisan’s food and non-food divisions expand in order to create more job opportunities for the Big Isle’s future generations.

“I think it’s important for young people to have mobility,” he said. “They talk about moving to the mainland because there aren’t any jobs here. It’s important for the organization to continue to grow and to create more opportunities for these smart kids.”

Suisan has expanded several times since it first opened as Sui San Kabushiki Kaisha in 1907. The company saw its first growth spur in 1950 when its fish exports increased to neighboring islands and the mainland. Suisan expanded again in 1970 when it opened its westside division and its current annual gross sales total $81 million.

According to a press release, Hashimoto’s predecessor Matsuno led the company’s growth during his time with the company. Matsuno started at Suisan in 1947, and is credited with its 1950s expansion into frozen foods, produce and other products, as well as the post-tsunami rebuilding of the fish market on Hilo Bay (the Suisan fish market was destroyed twice by the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis). He became president of the company in 1967.

Hashimoto said Matsuno has been an invaluable mentor to him since he first started at Suisan as a bookkeeper in 1973.

“We play golf together, have meals together and, of course, we talk business together,” he said. “We’ve traveled together, and have done a lot of things together and you can’t help but learn when hanging around the guy.”

And one of those lessons includes maintaining the company’s main objective, which is to build long-lasting relationships with its customers and the community.

“On New Year’s Eve, I went up to him to wish him a happy New Year and he said, ‘Glenn, what is the most important thing at the company?’ I said, ‘The people.’ He said, ‘Good,’ and walked away.

“We pride ourselves on customer service. That is the mantra here,” he said. “We try to build our relationships with our customer.”

In 2013, a scholarship was created in honor of Matsuno and will go toward a Big Island student looking to pursue a culinary arts program at Hawaii Community College.

Hashimoto said plans are underway for the first student to receive the scholarship in May or June.

According to a press release, Hashimoto is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa in business management. He is a past president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii and of the Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association. He is also a member of the Board of Governors Hawaii Employers Council.

Hashimoto said he became emotional when he first heard the news in December he would be Suisan’s seventh president in company history.

“Of course I’m excited. I’m excited for the transitions we’ll be making. But when you step back and think about it all, you become emotional. You think about all the people that helped you get to this point — my mother, my wife, all these people made sacrifices to help me, the employees, too,” he said. “When you do that, it can really tug at your emotions.”


Sunny days are here again: East Hawaii dries out, but some rain expected later this week

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  May 14, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hilo native Robert Agcalon visited Onekahakaha Beach Park on Tuesday with five generations of his family.

The former Big Island resident currently lives in Eugene, Ore., and said it’s the sunny weather and time with his ohana near the ocean that calls him back to his beloved home.

“I was here yesterday, we’re here today, and we’ll be back tomorrow,” he said with a smile while watching his 4-year-old son, Roger, swim with his cousins.

“He’s been out in that water since 11 a.m.,” he said.

Agcalon is among many in East Hawaii who have had some fun in the sun during a streak of pleasant weather.

The forecasted high for Tuesday was 81, according to the National Weather Service. NWS hydrologist Kevin Kodama said the warm weather came after trade winds died down, and some scattered showers are expected during the latter part of this week.

“Some rain should be expected now through Thursday,” he said. “Trades are going to weaken again as the frontal system approaches northwest, stalls, and brings back conditions to last week. Not going to see too much rain next week.”

Kodama said showers are likely in the early morning and nighttime this week.

“Daytime might be all right. Get into the weekend, and things will dry out again,” he said.

Kodama said Hilo saw 3.7 inches of rain on May 1, and hasn’t seen much rain since May 3.

Despite the dry spell, Kodama said May’s rainfall totals are still high.

“Right now, we’re above normal for this month,” he said.

There’s a total of 4.15 inches so far recorded for May, with 3.68 being the norm for the month, he said.

As for Mauna Kea, Ryan Lyman, forecast meteorologist for the Mauna Kea Weather Center, said the mountain has been dry and visibility has been primo for observing conditions.

“I think it’ll be relatively dry and quiet. Once the trades come back, we’ll see rain again,” he said.

Although Agcalon plans to spend the rest of his time in Hilo at the beach before heading back to the mainland, he said any expected showers won’t rain on his parade.

“I’m a Hilo boy. I know it’s going to rain,” he said. “I don’t care. I welcome it.”

According to the NWS, today’s forecast includes a high of 82 degrees, with scattered showers, mainly afternoon and winds of 5-8 mph becoming easterly this morning. The chance of precipitation is 30 percent. Tonight, it’ll be mostly cloudy with a low close to 66.

For more forecast details, check out page A2 of today’s edition or visit www.weather.gov.


Coqui conundrum

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Nov. 24, 2014 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Has the state given up trying to battle the issue of coqui frogs on the Big Island? Depends on whom you ask.

“As far as the Big Island, we don’t have any projects going on,” Clayton Nagata of Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch said. “The problem is too widespread.”

But, according to Deborah Ward, public information specialist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, that’s not entirely accurate.

“That’s actually not true,” she said. “People haven’t given up on controlling the coqui frogs. They’ve given up on trying to eradicate the coqui frogs because it’s unlikely that they will ever be eradicated from the Big Island.”

Since the 1980’s, these invasive species have essentially taken over certain areas of the Big Island. While the state originally attempted to track their population growth, they have since given up.

Currently, community members, volunteers and members of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee work to control the spread of coqui frogs from the East side of the island to the West side, as well as try to quell their presence in certain neighborhoods by spraying them with citric acid, hand capturing them or by using other low-cost techniques.

And while it’s unlikely things will ever get back to normal in some parts of the island, BIISC manager Springer Kaye assures the state learned a valuable lesson.

“One good thing that has come out of it is a much better understanding of the need to have a ready response,” she said. “Since that time, the island invasive species committee has kept on top of things to prevent their spread to other islands. Coqui frogs were a turning point. We know now that you really have to be ready.”

So, what can people do? Attack them? Capture them? Eat them?

“Well, you could eat them, but they’d be awfully small,” Bill Mautz, professor and chairman of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Biology Department said. “As far as introducing predators, there really aren’t any good ones.

“My main advice for homeowners is that they do as much as they can to remove the understory of plants, shrub and dense vegetation,” he said.

Kaye suggests residents in impacted areas work with their neighbors to take preventative measures. According to a pamphlet provided by BIISC, if coqui are heard in areas higher than 2,500 feet, forested aeas, or where no other coqui are heard for miles around, call BIISC at 808-961-3299 to report their location.


‘Most Irresistible Shop’ has new owner

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Dec. 8, 2013 |   Hawaii Tribune-Herald

It was a special day when Sally Mermel sold her business of 37 years to Tracie Yoshimoto.

“When we went to sign the papers, she gave me this fairy wand that had purple glitter and then made this proclamation of being her ‘fairy godmother’ that made her dreams come true.

“The attorney that day said, ‘of all the things I love to do, I love adoptions best. This feels like an adoption,’” she said.

In October, Yoshimoto became the proud owner of The Most Irresistible Shop, a gift store whose history began 37 years ago when Mermel decided to switch careers and take a chance on a dream.

“I was tired of setting up at craft fairs so I thought, ‘I’ll just start a store!’” She said.

Mermel put her plans into action and opened her first business in a 150 square-foot space on Keawe Street in 1976.

“It was just a tiny store,” she said with a grin. “An architect said that this is how something happens. Someone has the guts to do it, and make it happy and cheerful.”

A happy place indeed, albeit small, and over the years Mermel and MISH expanded. Mermel grew as a local businesswoman, becoming a founder of Black and White Night, winning Business Woman of The Year and opening up Bear’s Coffee among other businesses around Hilo. MISH expanded to a second location in the Prince Kuhio Plaza where, as fate would have it, Yoshimoto was marketing director. Having been a customer both as a child and as a mother, Yoshimoto said she always felt drawn to Mermel’s unique shop for gifts.

“So, one day she said she was going to sell the store. Jokingly, I said keep me in mind if you ever do. She took my name and number down and it’s been in the back of my mind for many, many years,” she said.

“It’s a dream of mind that I didn’t really share with anyone, that I wanted to own my own business some day,” she said.

That dream became a reality when Mermel finally decided she wanted to sell her beloved shop in July.

“It was just perfect. It was magical and synchronistic,” she said of selling MISH to Yoshimoto.

With the holiday shopping season in full gear, Mermel is helping Yoshimoto transition into her new position while working with her husband to sell his business, The Fireplace Center. With Mermel’s background in retail, and Yoshimoto’s in marketing, the two appear to be sharing their expertise with each other.

“She’s going to have the tools that I don’t have to take it to the next step,” Mermel said.

“There are so many possibilities. It’s been here for 37 years. It’s established, people know about it. At the same time, there’s so much we can do with social media, our web site and online,” Yoshimoto said.

Yoshimoto intends to integrate more local goods in hopes of expanding her clientele from tourists to more locals.

“We get a lot of tourists by the nature of where we’re located, so I want the Most Irresistible Shop to be a place that locals come to get gifts as well,” she said.

Mermel said she has no doubt that Yoshimoto will do just that.

“I think she’ll be amazingly successful. You can only be successful if you believe you’re going to be,” she said.

Find MISH on Facebook and Twitter or call 808-935-9644 for more information.


‘We were very fortunate’

By MEGAN MOSELEY and DAN NAKASO |   Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Tropical Storm Iselle threw trees into Hawaii island homes and left thousands of people without power Friday but also gave county officials the hope that they had been spared the worst of Iselle’s powerful punch.

Only a handful of homes — mostly on the eastern side of Hawaii island — were reported to have damage. And it could take weeks to tally up all of the costs from the first tropical storm in 22 years to reach island shores.

But as the sun came out Friday and the winds and rain subsided, Mayor Billy Kenoi stood in the county’s Civil Defense headquarters in Hilo, grateful that no one was reported hurt or worse — and there were no reports of major damage.

Even as Hurricane Julio churned more than 700 miles east of Hilo with Category 2-force winds of 105 mph, Kenoi allowed himself a moment to relax with the knowledge that Iselle had spared Hawaii island the kind of devastation left behind when Hurricane Iniki tore across Kauai in 1992.

Kenoi credited residents and visitors for heeding warnings to stay off roads and out of surf for helping to keep people safe.

“We’re just very appreciative that there was no loss of life or reports of serious injuries,” Kenoi said. “We were very fortunate. I’ve said it before: I’ll take lucky over good every time.”

However, Iselle certainly left its mark.

Several homeowners reported wind and tree damage to officials, including a roof that was torn off and windows that were blown out on a home in Hawaiian Paradise Park in Puna; a home that burned down in Hilo in what may have been a hurricane-related fire; a tree that fell into a house in the Hawaiian Acres subdivision; a roof that was blown off a home in Hilo; and a tree that fell on a carport and a car at Hawaiian Shores.

County spokesman Kevin Dayton emphasized that teams were still out looking for damage Friday and had not reported their findings.

“We still have assessment teams out in the field,” Dayton said. “The damage assessment is incomplete.”

Along Kahakai Boulevard in Pahoa, fallen albizia trees blocked traffic, and downed power lines intruded into residents’ yards.

Lurline Milare, who lives at Kahakai Boulevard and Ahi Street, was in her pajamas and had not even brushed her teeth when she anxiously arrived at her five-bedroom home at about 6:30 a.m. Friday to find two large trees had fallen on top of her roof, destroying the home’s parlor. Milare initially was “scared to death” when she saw the damage because one of her daughters and her 6-month-old grandchild were inside when the trees crashed into her house.

The mother of four said no one was hurt. And Milare could not help but feel blessed by all the help she received from neighbors and family members to clean up the mess.

“It’s so heartwarming and so touching because you don’t see things like that happen every day — people stopping and helping each other,” Milare said as loved ones and strangers helped clean her yard of debris.

She had no idea how much repairs will cost and plans to file an insurance claim.

Down the street on Kahakai Boulevard, Sid and Michelle Chacon on Friday were clearing away the wreckage of a fallen tree that crashed on their yellow-and-brown house the night before. The couple and their two children rode out Iselle at a friend’s house Thursday night and were shocked to arrive home Friday to see a large tree on their house.

“I’m distraught,” Sid Chacon said. “We left and came back and found the tree had landed on our kid’s room. One of us could have been killed.”

Flooding or fallen trees closed 16 Hawaii island highways and streets.

Some 21,900 Hawaii Electric Light Co. customers initially lost power in the storm. On Friday, HELCO repair crews continued to work to restore power to 17,200 customers and urged all customers to cut down on power consumption.

“During the storm many trees fell and knocked down power lines and poles,” HELCO spokeswoman Rhea Lee said in a statement. “Critical transmission lines on the east side of the island are out of service and we are unable to take generation from Hamakua Energy Partners and Puna Geothermal Venture. This has created a generation shortage.”

A broken water main along Pohakea Mauka Road also affected customers from Ho’o Kahua Road to Pa’auilo Mauka Road who had little to no water pressure, according to Department of Water Supply officials. And low water tank levels were reported in the Laupahoehoe water system in the Hamakua District, so some customers were asked to restrict water use to essential use only.

County parks that were shuttered Thursday remained closed Friday.

National parks on Hawaii island also were closed Friday, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.

“The highways and roads are still unsafe, with downed trees, power lines and flash flooding,” park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said in a statement. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, “the power is out and the phones are down. It is far safer for our employees and our visitors to stay off the roads.”

But there were also plenty of signs that life for many on Hawaii island was already returning to normal.

Some 1,020 people and nearly two dozen pets crowded into 12 emergency evacuation shelters as Iselle approached Thursday.

Only three shelters — Kealakehe, Keaau and Kau high schools — remained open Friday.

“On a big island like this,” Kenoi said, “you are going to have different impacts in different areas. But we were very fortunate.”


Sightseeing on Hawaii Island

By MEGAN MOSELEY |  Sept. 3, 2015  |   Big Island Now

Visitors are attracted to the Big Island for its diverse landscape, beautiful beaches and captivating waterfalls.

If you’re new to the island, there are numerous sightseeing activities to participate in that will help you make the most of your trip.

When people think of Hawaii Island, they instantly think of the volcano. At the Hawaii Volcano National Park, you can book a private tour for $150 that will help you see the Kilauea Volcano and all her beauty during both day and night. There’s also small and large group rates available if you’re traveling in a pack.

Also, if you’re in the park make sure to check out the Kilauea Iki Trail for a day hike. It’s definitely worth it.

While molten lava may be your idea of an adventure, for those looking to experience Hawaii Island’s luscious rainforest check out the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

Located near Highway 19 on the lush Hamakua Coast’s 4 Mile Scenic Drive, the garden hosts an array of living plants and is an ideal stop for photographers and people with a green thumb. Home to more than 2,000 species, there’s plenty of plant life to explore.

Visitors who like to cruise will find the Big Island’s Saddle Road a site to see. The road connects the east and west sides of the island and travels in between Hawaii’s largest mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. It takes a little over an hour and half to travel the road from one side of the island to the other. Enjoy the wildlife along the way.

For the beach bums, a trip to Hapuna Beach may be right up your alley. The popular beach is located on the west side of the island and has beautiful white sand and clear blue water to swim in. The beach is near the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and is a great place to spend some time in the sun.

While on the west side, try to stop by the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. 

And don’t forget to visit a waterfall during your trip. Akaka Falls is a fan-favorite destination for locals and visitors. Watch in awe as the waterfall plunges 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge.

There’s plenty to see and do on the Big Island, so make sure to keep checking BigIslandNow.com‘s activities section for the latest adventure updates.