Sad, Sad News

First of all, happy New Year 2009 to all, and thanks to the readers who are still checking in here.

I’ll start with the good news: one of my new year’s resolutions is to blog regularly again, I even fixed my blog software so I can approve comments now.

And now the bad news: as I alluded to in a recent post, I have been neglecting this blog because there have been some upheavals in my life. Due to the recent economic situation, at least indirectly, my family and I have had to move away from Kaua’i.

As I detailed in an early post, I had the good fortune of working for a Silicon Valley-based computer company entirely remotely from my home office on Kaua’i. However, when I got hit by a round of lay-offs at my company, I found out how vulnerable and precarious this arrangement was.

I’d rather be living, hiking, and exploring on Kaua’i, but supporting my family is obviously my first priority. So after 9 months of unemployment, I had to face the facts and start looking for work in California. Even then, I feel fortunate to have found a good job in this economy, and so we reluctantly had to go through the long process of moving back to the San Francisco Bay area.

The job market on Kaua’i, and even Hawai’i as a whole, is rather difficult for people in the computer industry. There are precious few computer jobs on Kaua’i, and they’re all with military contractors at PMRF—not my cup of tea. On Oah’u, there are definitely opportunities, but again mostly with the military, and none willing to hire someone off-island. My biggest hope was to work on computers for Aloha Airlines, thinking I could actually commute by plane to HNL for work, but then they went bankrupt. There are a few programming and web development jobs on the neighbor islands, but mostly freelance contracts that do not pay market rates, nor anything near enough to sustain a family.

I also looked into other fields, trying to find something that would let me stay on Kaua’i. But the rest of the job market is hurting as well, and I just didn’t have the qualifications for the few high-paying jobs there are. All of the service jobs are taken by locals, who work 2 or 3 of them to make ends meet. Government jobs and contracts go to the well-established and well-connected. Tourist industry jobs have all disappeared with the downturn—Kauai is being hammered by the drop-off in tourism. Hawaii’s second industry, development and real-estate, has tanked as well—but that’s probably a good thing for preserving the island.

Outside of my field, there is definitely demand for professionals, doctors, nurses, even lawyers maybe, and they always need teachers, but pay is lower than elsewhere, which is why there is a shortage in the first place. The ideal would be some sort of self-employment with clients both local and remote, whether it’s technology, a web-based business, writing, or even new-age spiritual guru. But that takes time to establish, and we were running out of time and options. In the end, we decided we had to move away using our remaining savings so we wouldn’t be forced to sell our house.

The 20-foot Matson Shipping container ready for loading. This was back in October, note the lush green vegetation on Kauai, even before the winter rains.
The same container, delivered 10 days later to the Bay Area, direct via the port of Oakland. Note deciduous tree losing its leaves already.

Moving away has been a long, tiresome and depressing ordeal, having to put so much energy into leaving the place we love and chose to live. After several job interview trips, a house-hunting trip, a month of sorting, selling, tossing, and packing, several weeks of getting our house rented, a few days of loading a 20-foot container to the top, then a few weeks of living in empty houses, another few days of unloading, and finally weeks of unpacking and rearranging our stuff and our lives, we’re finally getting settled.

We still plan to return to Kaua’i, hopefully in the not too distant future. My computer job can be done remotely, once I’ve proven myself to my new company. We kept our house there and hope to move back in someday. In the meantime, California is probably my second favorite place to live in the US. I lived here for a few years before and there is so much to do, especially around the Bay Area, both indoors and out. Here’s what we’ve sampled already:

Museums and dinosaurs, oh my! The new California Academy of Sciences.

Christmas decorations and advertising on San Francisco’s Union Square.
The sun also rises in California.
And there is also fog, lots of it, and you don’t have to drive up to Koke’e to see it.
For all its sprawl and housing creeping up the hills, the Bay Area has a significant amount of parklands and trails.
The ocean is nearby too, here a shorebreak at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Note the seagull, a species that never got established in Hawai’i.
And then there are mountains, perhaps what we missed the most in Hawai’i. The Sierra Nevada is a true wonderland of trails, backcountry treks, and grandiose vistas. And the cold season isn’t so bad, both my wife and I are avid skiers, so we are actually looking forward to the snow.
Above: lake Tahoe and Mt Tallac with a dusting of snow at Thanksgiving. Right: granite formations at Pinnacles National Monument–I’m looking forward to rock climbing again, too.

What this means for A Kaua’i Blog: I actually have so many pictures left to publish, I’m going to just keep on blogging, hopefully at least once a week. Some hiking buddies on Kaua’i promised to keep sending me pictures of their adventures, so there should be some fresh photos as well [and if they’re reading this: hey guys, don’t forget to send me some good pics]. In between, I might add a bit more filler in the form of news stories and links to interesting posts in other blogs about Kaua’i, as well as tidbits from California or the mainland that might have some remote connection to Kaua’i.

Without further adieu (nor ado), I will now get on with my favorite topic, namely exploring Kaua’i.

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  1. Kauaibrad says:

    Nice pictures from the Bay Area. Thanks for taking the time to blog the whole story after all that packing, moving, and unpacking. I still haven’t unpacked from my last move on the Northshore.

    Aloha, Brad

  2. Mark Craig says:

    Happy New Year! Glad you have not had to sell your house in Kaua’i.

  3. dallas crowell says:

    hi andy,

    My GF reads your blog all the time. I feel for you man, i was born and raised on Kauai, went to highschool at Kamehameha Schools on Oahu. Had an IT internship at PMRF a couple summers. Once i went to college on the mainland ive never looked back. I still visit every year and i always wish i could move back but the job situation is so bad, its almost impossible to do unless you hit the lottery. good luck in san fran, at the very least you have a number of L&L drive inns there to satisfy the plate lunch cravings.


  4. homesnake says:

    Hey man. I checked out your blog for a long time waiting to see something else. Now all of the sudden the situation becomes clear.

    Sorry you had to move. Its a strange, incredible island

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