Written for the Submarine Wives' Club
By Jennifer M. Seest
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
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
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. (
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",
You may enjoy a cyber-tour of the island
via our homepage:
4 Seests in Paradise'
**Hawaiian Cyber-Vacation* *
Wife of a Plankowner of the USS GREENEVILLE--Pearl Subase,
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
USS MARYLAND--Kingsbay, Georgia ('99-'02)
The Seest Family