Thursday, July 31, 2014

The First Shock

My first shock happened the following day after my arrival to Honolulu. Since my temporary dwelling has a kitchenette, I decided to do some grocery shopping and cook something edible. It appears that one of the most common and popular grocery stores in Honolulu is Safeway (which also seems to be ubiquitous on the West Coast). So, having learned from CNN Money that the prices in Honolulu are on average 30% higher than in Connecticut (which, by the way, is the most expensive state in the contiguous US, according to the same CNN Money), I embraced this knowledge and headed to the store. And that's exactly where the first shock befell! Let me tell you: You need to try REALLY hard to find items that are 30% more expensive than in Connecticut. In reality, everything is 50-400% more expensive, with the majority of items costing the double of what you would be expected to pay on the East Coast. Below is a comparative chart of some of the items that I was looking for to buy at Safeway (all items listed are organic or locally grown produce, with the CT prices taken from stores like Stop&Shop, ShopRite, and Trader Joe's):

ItemPrice in CTPrice in HIPrice Difference
Potatoes$5 for a 5-lb bag ($1/lb)$6 for a 3-lb bag ($2/lb)+100%
Milk$6/gallon $12/gallon+100%
Spring mix$5$10+100%
Mineral water$1.50$3.50+133%
Orange juice$6/half a gallon$3/half a gallon+100%
Parmesan cheese$8/lb$20/lb+150%
Olive oil$10/liter$20/liter+100%

The winner is gas: Only $4.33 at 7-Eleven (compared to $3.78 in New Haven, CT), which is only 15% more expensive! It's one of those one-in-a-life-time moments when I wish I were a car, not a homo sapiens :).

So, the bottom line is that CNN Money sucks! Big time! And as one of the Safeway cashiers told me, "You have to pay for living in a paradise." I, however, resisted the urge to retort and simply thought to myself: "But at what point this 'paradise' becomes hell for all those people who simply cannot afford living here?" Now I think I know why there are so many homeless people here and, at the same time, so many cars...

Trip and Arrival

The thought of moving to the most remote place in the world called "Polynesia," not having the four seasons, and just overall now knowing what to expect can be both exciting and quite intimidating. So, buying a one-way ticket to Honolulu seemed somewhat surreal, but the flying experience turned out to be one of the best I had ever had. Virgin America delivered me safely to Los Angeles, whereas Hawaiian Airlines took me across the Pacific to Honolulu. It was my first time using these two airline companies, and they both exceeded my expectations, especially in terms of their in-flight service. Virgin America's A320 was perhaps the most comfortable plane I had ever flown, and their entertainment system was simply fantastic and kept me busy throughout the flight. Hawaiian Airlines, on the other hand, is the only airline company in the USA that still provides complimentary dinners. The 5-and-a-half-hour flight in Airbus A330 from LA to Honolulu was so smooth and enjoyable that I even managed to take a nap. I particularly enjoyed the blueish light in the cabin that definitely had a pacifying effect on typically agitated-during-the-flight me. Hey, Delta and United, you have a lot to learn and catch up with!

After landing safely in Honolulu when it was already dark (and after spending the past 20-something hours traveling), I was greeted by my new director, his friend, and a lei, which is a wreath of fresh flowers that, according to Wikipedia, symbolizes affection in Hawaiian culture. What a nice welcome to my new home!