Archive for January, 2005

makiki fire

January 30, 2005


I was on the phone with my buddy Derick talking about buying used cars. Honda good, toyota good. Ask to see maintenance receipts, that sort of thing.

A lady outside says, “call 911″. She doesn’t sound very serious, and we start unlocking the sliding doors to get to the balcony to see what’s up. Then more persistently and louder, “someone call 911, your building is on fire!”

Whoah. “Gotta call you back, *click*.”

We get out onto the balcony, though we can’t see the lady because there’s a large tree outside our apartment. The fellow below and to the right yells, “what floor?” and she counts it up, “1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Seventh floor”

I dial 911 and I’m on hold. As I wait, more shouts from people outside to get out of the building.

As this is happening, I can actually feel “the stupid” starting to set in. That part of you that doesn’t think straight when panicking. The basic instinct part of my brain was shouting, “GET OUT JUST GET OUT” and the thinking part is saying, “ahhh, it’s probably not a serious fire, there’s probably lots of time to grab stuff, and it’s on the 7th floor, hmm, what should I bring? Why can’t I think?” Evgenya was more together. She grabbed her laptop, got her shoes and kept telling me to come, to get out.

I wandered back and forth, sort of waiting to see if the 911 operator would come online, then gave up on it and hung up. I must have gone into the bedroom at least 3 times, looked intently all over the floor for my shorts because I just knew I should see them. It turned out they were in the laundry.

What was scary was how paralyzed I was because of it. I couldn’t do anything else before finding my shorts because at any moment I might have to dash outside, and who wants to be wandering around in their undies all day looking silly? Compared to that, was the possibility of DEATH BY FIRE. And yet, based on the consequences versus the odds my brain was choosing to look for my shorts. Stupid.

I eventually found some swim trunks and put them on backwards. I got my laptop and power cord, couldn’t find my shoes, grabbed my cellphone and we headed out. Totally forgot my wallet. I handed Evgenya my bag and went upstairs to knock on people’s doors. After a few floors I was encouraged in no uncertain terms to descend by Evgenya who was standing outside.

After doing a few floors and finding no-one I went back down. The fire trucks had arrived but the firemen didn’t seem to be doing anything. I called my buddy Geoff who’s a firefighter with the Langford fire department and he said they were probably assessing the scene and the plan of attack. Makes sense to me, this wasn’t the kind of fire to rush into. As it turned out they also didn’t have a source of water within the building which slowed things down as well.

Downstairs, we watched the building burn for about an hour. I didn’t take this picture, but it shows the fire at it’s worst.


Ultimately the fire consumed 5 units, from the 7th floor right to the top of the building. The concrete walls and floors must have prevented it from moving sideways or down, but they said if the building had sprinklers it would have been just one unit that was damaged. The building is old though, so it’s grandfathered under the old code, unfortunately.


Our apartment is near where the trees are on the left, on the 3rd floor. Standing outside we spoke to some board members who seemed unconcerned with the fact that the fire exits weren’t even marked. As in, not marked at all in any way. Here’s a picture of the garbage chute door, the fire exit door and our neighbour’s door. Can you tell which is which?


Now pretend it’s 3:00 AM, you just woke up to an alarm bell, it’s smoky and you’re 70 years old and trying to find the stairs in teh dark. Or perhaps you’re a guest in the building.

That’s gotta be some kind of negligence on behalf of the board, ya think? When we first asked the board member about it, the first thing he said was “you didn’t say anything to the press did you?” Well no, Evgenya didn’t. But maybe we should. We did tell several different firemen, but I wonder if a little public attention might be a good thing.

The doors also aren’t the push-to-exit doors that are (I believe) legally required back home in Victoria. Those are designed so they’re easy to open, even simply by running into them as might happen in a fire.


Evgenya was interviewed by the press a few times and was quoted in a newspaper. They even spelled her name right. A lady ran out of her house with some pop for the channel 9 crew. Kinda depressing that she was giving it to them and not this poor fellow, who just lost everything he owned in the world.


Thank God everyone was ok.


don’t let go

January 26, 2005

Tenacious little fellah, isn’t he?

a happy surprise on moving day!

January 24, 2005

We found this on our door when we moved in yesterday. The landlord has offered to go with a month-to-month lease or a reduction in rent, but at the end of the day, we’re probably movin’. We spent today looking at places… again. The irony is our stuff is due to arrive early but because we don’t want to move it all here and then move it all again, it will sit in storage while we sleep on a floor.

It’s all gone pretty well so far though, so no complaining. It makes for a better story anyways. :)

pics of the new place

January 23, 2005

It’s been exactly one week since we arrived. Wow. It feels like we’ve been here a month. We have an apartment, a cellphone, a landline, food in the fridge, cable internet is coming in tomorrow, we know the lay of the land and we have a boogie board. It’s been a hard, wonderful week.

Below are some pics of our new place. The move was mostly uneventful, but more on that later. I’m online via cellphone and the battery is dying.

Resize of IMG_1163.JPG

Evgenya’s desk is at the University of Hawaii. Mine is right here at home. A very new model, hardly out of the wrapper(s).

Resize of IMG_1165.JPG

The blow-up mattress we’ll be sleeping on while our stuff trudges its way across the Pacific ocean. We couldn’t quite blow it up all the way even using a car-driven pump, so it’s really only supportive enough when we’re both on it at once. Some kinda enforced romance thing, I suppose. :)

Resize of Rotation of IMG_1166.JPG

In the shower and nothing clean to wear? No More Excuses!!

PS: Evgenya just got back from Safeway. The mangoes were from Ecuador, mushrooms were $5/pound USD and they didn’t know what free range eggs were.

We did get a nice Merlot for $7.99 though. :)

petty theft

January 23, 2005

Hawaii has more crime than you would expect, but that’s reasonable considering all you see is Fun In The Sun marketing. There are bad apples everywhere, right?

The warning everywhere is not to leave anything of value in your vehicle, and this is the first time I’ve seen a rental car without “Hertz!!” or “Avis!!” on the bumper. This is reassuring and disquieting, but ultimately I have a feeling anybody interested can tell it’s a rental by the big “this car equipped with an alarm!” stickers on the windows.

Sunday’s our last day with the rental – moving day. In Victoria terms, we’re moving out of Government st. into Fairfield.

another day

January 20, 2005

Costco here sells surfboards. :)

Most of the little cultural differences are quite enjoyable but some aspects of the culture here are suprisingly backward. Helmets are optional, and rarely used on bikes or motorcycles. Not good. Recycling is pretty new here too, which is just boggling coming from BC.

They’ve just implemented this new idea wherein you pay a small deposit on bottles, and when you return them you get that deposit back. Sort of like BC did in the 70s. :)

We got the keys to our new place today. Woo! Roadrunner internet will be installed on the 25th. My cell is supposed to be able to do wireless though, which will help if we ever travel.

Yay du jour: It’s so gosh-durned windy in our apartment.

Beef of the day: Nothing ever dries here if it’s in the shade, so our hotel room is full of semi-damp clothes. Mildew Danger, Will Robinson!

Also, rush hour sucks just as much here as anywhere else. 900k peeps live in this city, ya know.

Other stats:

Hawaii is the most culturally diverse state (Caucasion = 20%).
Hawaii ranks last in school system.
5th highest cell phone use here.
Best weather. Ever.

north shore

January 19, 2005

We drove to Sunset Beach on the fabled north shore today. Ummwow.

It’s everything it’s supposed to be. I played in the biggest waves I’ve ever seen up close, and these were tiny. Maybe 7 feet high. Nobody even bothered surfing them…

I’ve heard about how powerful big waves are, but this was up close and personal, and they’re not playing around. Wow. Just before I called it quits, one picked me up and moved me about 15 feet towards the beach, and all I could do was paddle my hands along the bottom and try not to faceplant.

Some people there could actually bodysurf them, which was wild.


As we left, I went to shower the salt water off and change into some dry clothes. I got than I bargained for…

As I was drying off, I kept hearing someone saying, “oy” (as one would say “hey” to get your attention) but didn’t pay it any mind as I didn’t think they were talking to me. They kept on getting louder and louder. Finally I looked up, and there were about 8 guys milling around on the property next to the park/showers.

Someone said, “go home and don’t come back here”. It was time to go, calmly and without fear. As I finished drying off a few small rocks landed in the grass around me. Little ones, designed to scare and not to injure. Ok, no problem. Just keep moving and we’ll be fine.

I walked out of the park, ignoring them and that was that, I was back in the car parking stalls.

Gotta be careful if you’re white around some parts of Hawaii. :/

found a place

January 18, 2005

Cool bike lockup huh?

Pretty sure we missed many call-backs for apartments because we had to give a long-distance number. Not so much because it’s long-distance, but because people would rather rent to someone local. Fair enough.

We saw a few more places today, including a two-bedroom in Waikiki for $1750 with a very nice view. Thing is, we don’t want to live in Waikiki. Each bedroom had an ensuite marble tub though. *sigh*

Later today we found a place we really did like though – $1500 for a two-bedroom apt near the University, Waikiki and downtown. The price would be laughable in Victoria but here it’s a pretty good deal.

By bike, everything will be accessible. Our bikes arrive along with everything else by ship in 4-6 weeks if all goes according to plan. We’ve got a rental car for a week, then it’s

Folks here are very friendly for the most part. I think they’re friendlier the less you look like DefaultTourist, too. As I get a little more tanned, I might be able to pass for SurferBum, which is an upgrade from WhiteTourist.

Gotta take what you can get! :)

I know it sounds positively odd, but I’m kinda missing the snow a little bit. Strange huh?

We adjusted quickly to the differences in apartment-hunting here. Rather than looking for south-facing like in Victoria, here the landlords emphasize the A/C in the unit, and how it’s shaded by trees. The place we did find had a great breeze blowing right through it. In Victoria it would be Darn Windy but here’s it’s Just Right.

looking for a place

January 17, 2005

Jogging in the morning, then a wade into ocean while it’s still cool.

Top priority – find a place to live. We don’t want to live in Waikiki as it’s not a real neighborhood. Like living on Government st in Victoria – there’s no community.

We’re looking for the Cook St. Village of Hawaii, but there doesn’t seem to be one. (Captain Cook died here by the way, stabbed to death when he didn’t handle diplomatic matters well.)

Apartments available: not many.
Prices: high
Expectations: Adjusting…

University of Hawaii campus is beautiful.


January 16, 2005

Very little time, gonna have to take notes brain-dump style. :)

Today’s actually the 18th, but the first few entries will be backwards date-adjusted so they show up on the right dates.

up at four,
snow on the ground.
flights delayed,
it’s perfect.

hot and humid
flew through Seattle, then Maui.
to the hotel, we made it.