Almost PARADISE
Homeport: HAWAII!
Written for the Submarine Wives' Club
By Jennifer M. Seest
2000

Yes, we had the privilege to be stationed in BEAUTIFUL Hawaii! I've been asked countless times,"OOOOOH, what's it LIKE to be stationed in PARADISE?" Let me share with you what it was like for me, the wife of a second class machinist mate stationed aboard the fast-attack nuclear submarine, the USS GREENEVILLE.

There is NO doubt that being stationed in Pearl Harbor is the opportunity of a lifetime! The island of Oahu is truly beautiful, and there are SO many things to do and see! You've all heard of the idyllic climate; that climate makes for a perfect backdrop for the tropical island duty station.

We did not live on base, but opted for small-town, local life. The little town of Makakilo on the Leeward (left) side of the island is very picturesque. With the blooming trees and brilliantly-colored bushes that typify the landscape, it took our breath away with its beauty the first time we drove up the hill! Yes, the cost of living in Hawaii is high, with a gallon of milk costing over $5 at the main grocery chain. COLA (cost of living allowance) really helped balance the financial situation out for us, though, as did WIC (Women, Infants, & Children food subsidies).

The subase is within view of the awe-inspiring ARIZONA Memorial, a must-see for any American visiting the island. And while we were stationed there, the MIGHTY MO, USS MISSOURI came to her final port beside the ARIZONA. What a site...the beginning and ending of the War with Japan...words cannot describe the feeling it gave to see that site. We had the opportunity to visit the Memorial on Pearl Harbor Day 1997, which fell on a Sunday. It touched our family deeply.

The food is WONDERFUL! Okay, folks, forget all the elementary school lessons... poi is NOT the mainstay of the diet there! The fresh fruit: pineapple, mango, papaya, banana, coconut, guava, ETCETERA!! The wonderful ways they prepared their meats; how I MISS their chicken and fresh fish!!! My husband and son would be ASHAMED of me if I forgot to mention shave ice! It is NOT a snow cone, but shaved ice--a much finer texture. Our favorite shave ice spots were Matsumoto's on the North Shore and right on Hickam Air Force Base! Attending a luau is a must...we lived near one of the best ones on the island!!! At a luau, you can experience poi, mind you; but poi is definitely NOT a culinary delight like these other yummies I've mentioned!

The clothes are SO comfortable. Like those in the Middle East, Hawaiians found that head-to-toe coverings keep one the coolest by protecting him from direct sun-exposure. Those who work out of doors even tend to wear hats that resemble Middle Eastern headwear! I realize that not everyone likes muu muus (pronounced "moo'-oo moo'-oo"), but there are some muu muu designs that are truly flattering; and those that weren't made SPLENDID maternity-wear *_* And the guys LOVE the Hawaiian-shirt, knee-length, khaki shorts, sockless-footwear lifestyle! So, no, you don't have to have the figure for a coconut-top and grass skirt! And of course, there is nothing quite like the beauty and fragrance of a lei to set off the ensemble of your choice.

The tourist spots are varying and extremely memorable, as is appropriate considering the fact that tourism is Oahu's main industry. I've mentioned the ARIZONA Memorial. There is also a Submarine Museum within walking distance of the Memorial, complete with a tour of a WWII submarine. The North Shore is the "place to be" for surfers, and rightfully so! Once during our tour we witnessed 30 foot waves, so high that one of the favorite local surfing competitions had to be postponed!!! There are many hiking trails to be enjoyed, my favorite being back in the mountains to beautiful Sacred Falls. Another popular one is to the top of Diamond Head, that ever-so-photographed, mountain-looking crater with Waikiki at its base. Do you enjoy snorkeling? Never been and want the experience of a lifetime? Head for Hanauma Bay! You will swim with literally THOUSANDS of BEAUTIFUL tropical fish!!! Then there is the "Blow Hole", Waimea Falls, Dole Plantation.... And of course there are the beaches, lighthouses, world-class restaurants, catamaran cruises, surfing, wind-surfing.... And one of the bests things about all of those wonderful tourist attractions is that nearly every one of your family members on the mainland has ALWAYS wanted to visit Hawaii! We had a steady stream of family visiting us when we were there, which we LOVED!

Okay, now those of you who read the title
are scratching your heads and wondering,
"Why 'Almost Paradise'?"
Ah, dear sisters of the elite subfleet, as you well know, duty calls....

I will be completely frank--
fast-attack sea duty will have your spouse at sea for regular 6 months tours and innumerable "short" cruises lasting from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. In 1998, he was at sea over 200 days; and the days in port were LONG ones.
What I mean by "LONG"...
working in excess of 100 hours a week REGULARLY.
So when he did have time off, it was often spent catching up on much-needed sleep, as seen on our family videos!! In 99% of the footage my DH is lying on the floor in a semi-comatose state of exhaustion with our very active then-toddler boy crawling all over him.
This is not idle grousing.
Those of you who know me, either in person or through our website, KNOW that I'm basically a very joyful lady! But the actuality of husband/Dadda-withdraw is a fact that you must be aware of to be able to accurately weigh the pros & cons of life in "Paradise"!

There are a few shadows in the sunshine of paradise itself... like the 5 inch long stinging centipedes, 4 of which I found in our townhome, one in our BED. (
AAAACK! at least $700 a seat plane tickets to "visit family" on the mainland. The tsunami sirens, though they never were officially USED while we were there for tsunami (tidal wave) or hurricane warnings, were "tested" on the first of every month at high noon. It was just a bit ominous to hear them sounding island-wide, knowing what a devastating effect nature could have on our tiny island home! The island of Oahu doesn't have to deal with the volcanoes, except to the extent that the ash sometimes created a haze over the island. But the Big Island did experience some volcanic activity while we were there!

I think it was a good "culture shock" for this American melting-pot girl of European descent to be a "minority" for a while, as most of the island is of oriental &/or Pacific Island descent.... I think that part was FUN though...I learned a LOT about the different cultures and got a LOT of good recipes from my Japanese, Hawaiian, and Fillipino friends!!!

So, there you go! Hawaii is every bit as BEAUTIFUL as you've ever heard, with rainbows nearly every afternoon and the fragrance of flowers in the air. Fast-Attack duty in the Pacific as we knew it in the nuclear machinist mate division is indeed arduous duty. As a wife, you will be husband-deprived and your children will be Dadda-deprived the majority of your time there. But when you DO get to do "the tourist thing" as a family, you have what I consider the most beautiful duty station in the United States to explore & enjoy!

For me, Pearl Subase duty truly was being stationed in "paradise", almost....

You may enjoy a cyber-tour of the island via our homepage:
4 Seests in Paradise'
**Hawaiian Cyber-Vacation* *

Jennifer Seest

Wife of a Plankowner of the USS GREENEVILLE--Pearl Subase, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
USS MARYLAND--Kingsbay, Georgia ('99-'02)


The Seest Family

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