The Grocery Dilemma

Things never go as planned.  We worked hard on Friday/Saturday to prepare our hydrophone equipment to be ready for diving Sunday. As Simon brushed his teeth at 1:30am Sunday morning it dawned on him that a small power cable – an all important, 9-pin, submersible, irreplaceable cable that goes between the batteries and the data acquisition computer – was perhaps sitting on the lab bench in the Buckingham lab back in San Diego. Some angst, phone calls, and emails later, the cable (and a spare) were on their way from SAN to HNL, courtesy of UPS second-day air and Simon’s generous advisor who footed the $120 courier bill. With this we hope for diving…Friday.

Lauren enjoying a survey-snorkel near the Makai research pier

It has still been an incredibly productive week.  Although lead seems to have become as valuable as gold recently, we procured enough diving weights for ourselves and our floaty equipment from craigslist, did a snorkel-scout of dive sites (its difficult to find ideal sites for our equipment here), prepared drafts for journal submission, and completed lots of less interesting things on the computers.

Since we don’t have an epic tale of struggling down the beach with 300 pounds of acoustic-recording-stuff, swimming it out to deep water, then firmly affixing it to the bottom, we thought we’d share a different story today.

The Grocery Dilemma.

Like many young couples on a budget, we delight in visiting the grocery store.  We enjoy finding the best bargains on milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and meat.  (Or maybe we are just weird- but it would be kinder to not tell Simon that).  Both Simon and Lauren are fond of cooking and in general we try to make most of our meals at home.

We have been struggling since arriving in Honolulu with the fact that goods and services cost MORE in the most remote (small) city on earth. This would be understandable, except that for all practical purposes Honolulu seems at first glance to have everything that a typical American city does, and easily at hand.  So when Lauren went to the same gym we use at home (24 Hour Fitness) and was told she had to pay a premium to upgrade her membership for clubs in Hawaii, she was a little miffed.

Simon’s beloved All Bran costs $6.59 per box. At home its $3.75. The most recent array of groceries put Lauren out $27.73, and she calculates that she could get the exact same items for roughly $18.00 in San Diego.

$27.73 worth of groceries- and we were ONLY buying items that were on sale!

To try to get around this, and reduce our feelings of guilt associated with the 2000 food miles added to most supermarket products, we joined a community supported agriculture group (CSA).  This was a steal at $25 per week and everything in the box was grown or raised in Hawaii.

Our first CSA haul included a dozen eggs and a tasty homemade lilikoi (passionfruit) vinaigrette dressing

So what are we to do?  We were already savvy shoppers, but are really being pushed to our limits here in terms of coupon clipping and sale spotting.  Despite our best efforts, we are spending 50% more on food here. Even then, our meals are much less like curry and rice, pizza and salad, or that-new-recipe-Lauren-wants-to-try and much more like eclectic stir-fry or casserole-of-whatever-we-have.  (Don’t worry moms- we are still eating our fruits and veggies!)

Although I can hear your tiny violins far across the ocean, we should note that starting Wednesday morning we will be receiving free meals for 24 days on-board the ship! Understandably, this is a big deal for Simon (Diving for science, epic cruise, AND free food?!?!)

Tomorrow the start of the next phase of our adventure begins: the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai has returned from its most recent cruise and will be at Ford Island loading dock in Pearl Harbour for 6 days. We’ll need this time to load all our acoustics equipment (3 types of hydrophone systems/arrays), cameras (11) and mobile lab/offices, load Marc Lammers’ Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARS, more hydrophones) with their mooring blocks (to be deployed in 300 m), and of course, do some diving in the meantime to make sure all our gear works! Stay tuned for more from the R/V Hi’ialakai!

Finally, we promised you a picture of a fish.  Here is a falsely named (but very cute) invertebrate, the cuttlefish, posing with Simon:

Simon and the cuttlefish. We enjoyed watching these little guys change colors and swim in formation for ten minutes!

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