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After a vacation, it’s tradition that we list our top 5 things about the trip. We went to Oahu for a quick three-day trip and here’s our Oahu top five:

1) Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove on the North Shore. The ocean is calm in the summer and we got to the cove early enough to get a prime spot on the beach. The snorkeling was fun and being back in the pacific ocean felt fabulous.

2) Spending time with our friends, The Karamaths and The Petersons. Always great to see Army family again.

   Heather, CJ and Hayden

 Jake, Shelley and Hoss

3) Parasailing with Hawaiian Parasail Inc ($62 per person and $30 for their photos) in Waikiki:

4) Paddleboarding in Haleiwa, lots of turtles in the river/bay:

5) Driving along the North Shore ~ checking out all the beaches such as Sunset and Waimea Bay. For a few days, I was no longer a Displaced Beachbum. I will never tire of being on a beautiful beach!

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Space Available

During our current PCS (permanent change of station), John had more leave time than we had money so we decided to attempt a Space A vacation.  For those of you not familiar with Space A, The United States Air Force offers Space-Available (Space A) travel as a benefit to all active duty, dependents (with restrictions) and retired Uniformed Services members. There are different categories during travel depending on the circumstances.  For example, Cat 1 (highest category) would be for those on Emergency leave ~ they get picked first.  Rank does NOT factor into  category or selection.  To find your category, check the link below.

Space Available travel is a great benefit for Military families if you have a lot of leave time (something like block leave), are flexible, are willing to be patient while waiting for flights and would like to save a lot of money on airline tickets. It’s not for the faint of heart.  Ideally, you’ll have a place to stay with friends or family because making hotel reservations in advance is not an option.

In the 17 years I’ve been an Army wife, I’ve used Space A twice.  The first time, it was just Logan and I taking a hop from Germany to the states to visit with my mom.  It was in January 2002 and so easy to get on the flights because most kids were in school. The aircraft was a charter so it was just like flying commercial.  It’s much harder to catch a flight when schools are out whether it be for summer vacation,Christmas, New Years or Spring break.

A lot of the passenger terminals are on Facebook and update their flight status at least twice daily.  It’s also important to CALL and speak with an actual person at the desk for the absolute most updated info.  For example: we were planning to travel from Hickam AFB, Hawaii to Travis AFB, California. Unfortunately, even though there were four flights scheduled and we were very optimistic we would make it to Travis that day,  all four flights were cancelled and we ended up spending the day on the North Shore at the beach, paddle boarding.

Not only do you need to be flexible, have a backup plan. John has a  PACE plan which stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency plans.  Thankfully, we only made it to alternate plans or as I call it, Plan B.  I can’t thank our friend, Heather, enough for welcoming us to her home in Oahu.  When we landed in Hawaii there was a huge military exercise going on so there were no hotel rooms or rental cars available. We finally found a rental car after a long search.

Here’s a link for the FAQs re: Space A  http://www.military.com/Travel/Content1/0%2C%2CSAF_faq%2C00.html

Lessons Learned from our Space A adventure:

  • Things change frequently ~ check the facebook updates, call directly or hang out in the terminal. Sometimes unlisted flights go out and allow space A folks to hop on.
  • All the aircrafts we were on (C5, C17 and a KC10) were COLD and loud. Be sure to wear lots of layers.  I’m talking ski hat and gloves wouldn’t be inappropriate :).  Ear plugs are a must.  On most flights, the crew will pass out ear plugs but take your own just in case.
  • You must wear close toe shoes.
  • Luggage weight can’t exceed 2 bags and 70 pounds (less on smaller planes). Pack light!
  • Buy the in flight meals for about $5.00 ~ they’re substantial. Our meals included a sandwich, chips, fruit, soda, water and granola bar.
  • Be flexible ~ we got “stuck” in Travis AFB, CA but really enjoyed visiting San Francisco, Muir Woods, Stanford and UCDavis.
  • Be prepared to rent a car one way in order to reach your final destination.
  • Make sure you understand the sign up procedures. You’re put on the list according to when you sign up so it’s important to email all the terminals you may use during your trip.
  • Don’t bother venting your frustration if a flight cancels.  You’ve got to be able to roll with the punches.  It’s all about what the mission requires not about transporting passengers.  One thing I noticed while traveling ~ people were disappointed but no one got angry.
  • Be prepared to spend money on a cab, rental car and/or lodging.
  • Enjoy where ever you end up ~ whether it be California, Alaska, Illinois, etc… Enjoy the journey!!!!

If anyone else has done Space A and has additional lessons learned, please leave a comment with your advice.  It’s such a great benefit but takes a little planning.  For those of you who have never tried it,  it’s a lot of fun and can lead to unexpected adventures.

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Best of the Islands

Once we finish a trip, we like to recap our favorite things or most memorable times. Hawaii gets its own list.

John and I agree, we will most remember:
* The friendly locals on both Pohnpei and Kosrae and how little they have yet seem happy.
* Our simple room with the breathtaking oceanview at The Village in Pohnpei.
* Swimming with the Mantas in Pohnpei.
* The pepper in Pohnpei as well as the green tangarines and limes in Kosrae.
* The tour car in Kosrae with no brakes ~ he had to use the parking brake to stop.
* Touring the Copra Factory in Majuro.

Once we got to Hawaii, our favorites had a lot to do with resettling after the island hopping:
* Visiting with good friends: Perry, Sally and Mindy
* Sitting under the stars, listening to the Brothers Cazimero
* Dinner at “Spices” restaurant ~ everything was so yummy!
* Build-a-Bear
* Doing our laundry after our island-hopping ~ it felt like everything was wet and sandy.
* The Hawaii papayas and mangoes ~ no other comes close to the Hawaii grown taste!

Next stop: Long Beach, California

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The Sweet Sounds of the Islands

Enjoying the Brothers Cazimero concert on the lawn

A visit to Oahu wouldn’t be complete without seeing one of my favorite couples, P & S. They were originally friends of my parents when we lived in Puerto Rico in the seventies. I was just a kid and their babysitter back then but now I consider them friends. They are really exceptional people ~ so smart, well-traveled and super nice. They, along with my other favorite couple W & S, have always been a good influence on me. And they continue to be today.

S. got tickets for all of us to go to the Brothers Cazimero concert on the lawn of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The Cazimeros have been around a long time and I’m familiar with their music but it was all new to FG. The concert included both a woman hula dancer and male dancers. Male dancers are a rarity but I know the Cazimeros are encouraging more men to take an interest in Hula. The music and all the dancers were fabulous. The Brothers have such wonderful harmony and just the sound brings back lots of island memories. Thanks again, P&S for such a lovely Hawaiian evening.

There was one foul-up on my part during the visit which FG and FM are not going to let me live down for a long, LONG time. Before bed on our second night, P. asked if it was OK if he turned on the house security alarm. No problem, I said immediately. I was already in bed having taken some benadryl for allergies, which always knocks me out. I was awoken about 45 minutes later when I heard FG walking around. She could hear the neighbors talking next door. In my half-sleep/half drugged state, I decided to close the window in the room she was staying in. Big opps…AS SOON AS I touched it, I had that sinking feeling and it was a split-second before the alarm sounded that I thought “Oh, no ~ the alarm.” Of course, I woke up the entire house and most of the neighbors. The good news is the alarm does work and it’s just like on the commercials ~ the company calls to see if they need to send the police.

We were very sad to leave, not only because we love being in Hawaii, but because once we got on the plane for Los Angeles, we had to face the realities of the move. But, then again, everything is an adventure so here we go.

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A Beach a Day

Beaching it

We went to a different beach each day we were on Oahu ~ there are so many to choose from but, for our first day, we settled on Waimea Bay, on the North Shore, where it’s unswimable for us mere mortals, in the winter months. Waimea Bay is famous for its winter surfing. The day we were there, the ocean was as calm and refreshing.

The other two beaches included the Kapiolani Beach Park down past the Aquarium and the Ala Moana Beach park where you can’t beat the wonderful view of Diamond Head. Surf was up outside the protected reef area and it was fun to watch the surfers. We tried to get a surfing lesson for FG but it was too rough with strong currents. Yet another reason to return soon.

At Ala Moana Park

After being in Guam for a year and being spoiled by the WARM ocean waters, we had to laugh at ourselves at fussing over the “cold” water in Hawaii. FG started referring to Hawaii as the ice island. It doesn’t bode well for our swimming in Lake Ontario when we get to New York. 😉

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Feels Like Coming Home

Diamond Head

Having spent the first 10 years of my life in Hawaii, and having visited family & friends there over all these many years, I always feel like I’m coming “home” when the plane lands in Hawaii.

I love the sights, sounds and,of course, the ocean. Maybe feeling so comfortable is the reason I feel so at home.

We got to spend four wonderful days in Oahu. If we’d had a few more days, I would have taken FM and FG to the Big Island (Hawaii) to see my mom’s side of the family and all my old haunts. We’ll have to save it for next time though…

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