The Hardships of Transitioning to a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Aloha!

I’m always consciously thinking of ways that I can help save the environment. I’ve been contemplating composting, ways to reduce plastic use, gardening, etc. I’m still mostly on the research phase because of 1. lack of resources 2. limited space and time (emphasis on SPACE living in a small apartment). While doing my research on the Internet, I came across the “zero waste movement” or “zero waste lifestyle”. After watching several videos about it on YouTube, I felt more aware of the amount of garbage I produce every year! I know what happens to food waste in landfills, which is why I’ve been trying to think of ways to compost at a small apartment. However, I never really thought of the “other waste” I was producing and how I can minimize them.

After watching several zero waste movement/lifestyle videos, specifically by Bea Johnson and Laura Singer, I found so many aspects of my life that could be improved to minimize trash. Despite the abundance of great tips and ideas, I found many of the advocates of the movement recommend purchasing a certain items i.e. containers for the most part. The amount of things I think I need to live this lifestyle was so overwhelming!  It then dawned on me that consumption does not break the cycle but continues it. Not to mention a potential for an unplanned shopping spree!
Wasn’t this lifestyle supposed to help me save money? What about people who are on a strict budget and can’t afford to change everything in their lives in one go? Of course there were a handful of people who strongly emphasized the 3 Rs: reuse, reduce/refuse and recycle.

These dilemmas made the transition to zero waste extremely difficult. I felt lost and overwhelmed. I learned a lot from zero waste advocates, but there are certain things that I wish I knew about transitioning to zero waste, or let’s be honest, to at least 10% waste.

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Manoa Falls Trail + Update

Aloha!

So many things have happened this past month. I finally got a full time job (yay for not being homeless!) in Honolulu. It’s such a big deal since my husband and I moved here with limited savings and with the goal of my getting a job as quickly as possible. After weeks and weeks of interview, I finally landed a job where I can use my language skills. I speak 3 languages, including English, fluently. Being on the computer for hours really discouraged me to try update my blog and our business website. Today’s motivation is due to a nice little hike we did yesterday.

I love nature! It is one of the many reasons why I moved here in Hawaii. I also love moving around and getting my workout on, so we decided to go on a little hike. I’m a beginner hiker, so we decided to go to Manoa Falls Trail, which is a relatively easy hike. I also wanted to see the Banyan tree on the path that is notorious for being haunted. It was daytime so it wasn’t that spooky, but I bet it gets pretty scary at night time. First rule of hiking, which I found the hard way, is always put on bug spray! I was a walking feast for mosquitoes, and all the sweating from the hike made matters worse. I now have mosquito bites all over my thighs and legs. Lesson learned. Anyway, there was a bunch of people yesterday since it was a Sunday. It was quite a busy day at the trail and everyone wanted to take a picture in front of the Banyan tree! I felt that the two trees with the red bark that lead to the Banyan tree had more of an eerie aura though, but maybe that’s just me? I was sort of hoping for something paranormal, to happen but nothing really occurred. Well, except for that time when something apparently fell from a tree and hit my left arm. I thought someone threw a rock at me cause it really hurt. My skin was actually cut a bit and bruised. I asked my husband if he threw something at me and he said he didn’t and he never saw what happened. I don’t know about you guys, but I do believe in the supernatural so after that I just said “excuse me” and “thank you” whenever I sat down a rock or something!

 

Anyway, I enjoyed being in nature and just exploring the place. I saw a cute little bird chirping a beautiful melody up close! I wish I could’ve taken the time to explore more, and just hike as slow as I could to take it all in. But there were just too many people and it was hard to stop and smell the roses when everyone else is in a rush. There were areas of the trail that were rock and steep, especially close to the falls. And there was little room to rest or just stop to let everyone else go ahead of us. Nevertheless, we had a great time!

When we got to the falls, there was more than 10 people already there. Many of them went past the wires that are meant to keep them safe. Apparently, rocks started pummeling down the falls which made the government put the signs and wires around the area. I did want to go past the wires and maybe dip my feet in the water, but when I heard about leptospirosis I decided to not take that risk. We didn’t get rain this past week so the waterfall was not gushing with water, which disappointed some hikers. I heard some people saying that it was not as big at the picture. In reality, it is quite a small area and the falls although beautiful didn’t really pack a punch. Still, it was a great hike surrounded by lots of beautiful scenery, verdant greens of leaves, ferns, algae and bamboos and a peaceful stream going down rocky boulder on the right hand side.

How Yoga Has Helped Improve My Life

There are many things in our everyday lives that we wouldn’t think would affect us in a big way. For me, it was as simple as walking. To put it in broader terms,  I had no idea that my walking habits and the footwear I chose to wear would affect my life so drastically! I’m 5″1, and so I loved wearing high heels when I was a teenager. Typically, I chose 3 to 4 inch heels. That may have been okay if I drove around or sat down a lot, but my lifestyle when I was a teenager involved walking everywhere. I grew up in a small city in Japan where you have walk to buses, train stations, to school, to stores all the time! To top that off, I developed a muscle imbalance because I always kept my hand bag on my right shoulder. I am right handed after all!

Then when I was in middle school, I fell hard on my back in gym class. I was supposed to do a hand stand then land on a bridge. For some reason many of my classmates were able to do that or at least land gently, while I slammed on my back repeatedly! I think I may have done it only once, but I can’t remember for sure. I feel like maybe it has contributed to my condition.

Fast forward to high school, I started having serious pain on my lower back, right around the glute and the whole leg on my right side. It was almost like a sciatica type of pain since I feel the pain running down from my iliac crest (around your bum) down to the outer side of my foot, especially during a terrible flare up. I was in such terrible shape that I couldn’t sleep at night because of the pain. I never really said anything, it’s almost as if the pain was numbing itself. I had so little sleep that I did terribly at school and my attendance also dropped. It’s not an excuse, but the pain was excruciating and unbearable!

This went on until college. But by then, I was a little smarter and wore flats instead of heels most of the time. Although I still used a messenger bag when I probably should have invested in an ergonomic backpack. I did go to the doctor while I was in Japan. They did an MRI of my knee and hip, but found nothing. When I moved to the States, I still had the pain. I went to the doctor again and still nothing 3 painstakingly long MRIs later. I was prescribed an NSAID that I believe has done nothing but made me more susceptible to acid reflux. Then I was prescribed a muscle relaxant which actually stopped the pain! Finally, something that worked! But I did not really want to take meds for the rest of my life. I wanted to know the root of the problem so that I may be able to fix it better. I was a bit naive and did not particularly know how Western medicine works. My husband, who has had a very vast experience with lots of doctors has told me that the usual route is to treat the symptoms with medicine first. And yeah, now that makes sense of course. What else would they recommend? Not yoga for sure.

Well, no one really recommended yoga to me. Of course yoga has been trending for a while now, and I have seen it on the Internet, movies, television and social media. Our local YMCA, which I was a member of, offers free yoga classes. I decided to take one to see what it was like. After the first session I noticed how my back and leg did not hurt at all after svasana!

Now, I am not officially diagnosed by any healthcare professional. I have had physical therapy sessions, and although my PT was fantastic and very thoughtful, the exercises did not work that well. Although we did address some things that my husband has already suspected I had: weak core, weak oblique, tight hip flexors, tight IT band. I believe that I have piriformis syndrome, which according to Spine-Health.com is “a condition in which the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region, spasms and causes buttock pain. The piriformis muscle can also irritate the nearby sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot (similar to sciatic pain).” It really matches all my symptoms AND the symptoms (the PAIN) goes away when I do stretches for the piriformis and the muscles surrounding and connected to it. Suddenly everything makes sense!

The only 2 things that really helps my symptoms are 1) heat and 2) yoga. Of course there are stretches that help alleviate my pain, such as McKenzie exercises. SMR (self myofascial release), sort of a fancy way of saying self-inflicted massage, also helps at times. But I really noticed a big difference after doing yoga consecutively for about a week. Of course, continuing yoga for more than a week is ideal! I found that flow or ashtanga yoga works best to stretch the ligaments around my hip area. I start with suryanamaskar or sun salutation A then once I feel a bit more warmed up I do B next. Once I feel warmed up I usually do some yin yoga poses, which is basically static stretches.

Of course yoga is not a miracle cure. It takes a lot of practice, dedication and patience, especially if you’re just starting out. Your hands may not be able to touch the floor at first, but that’s okay. Those things don’t matter. What matters is listening to your body’s needs at that moment, and not getting stuck on expectations of how things ought to be or ought to look like. As many yoga teachers say, “everything comes with practice”.

Aloha,
Gem

Nude Beach Anyone? Makaleha Beach Park / Polo Beach Park

Last week, my husband and I decided to hit the beach. I was about to start a new job at the time, and so we wanted to get our beach on before we get busy with work and other grown-up stuff. We drove towards North Shore and found a beach right across from a place called Dillingham Ranch. At first we didn’t know we arrived because there were no signs that say there was a beach park there. Well, there was a small sign that said public access to beach, but we had no clue what the name of the beach was. The only other thing that let us know it must be the entrance to the beach was the number of cars that were parked on the side of the road.
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Getting to Know: Tisane

tisaneI was browsing the coffee and tea section of the supermarket when I stumbled upon the word “tisane”. I recall having read it somewhere online, saying that it was good for relaxation. Though not a tea expert, I am an avid tea drinker. Growing up in Japan, tea was an essential part of everyday life. It is served much more often than water in most restaurants. In middle school, we were served hot tea with our lunch regardless of the weather! So, keeping my tea drinking experience in mind, I would say that I’m pretty close to an expert when it comes to tea. But I have never heard of Tisane! That did not prevent me from purchasing the box labeled tisane because it is marketed as “special relaxing herbal tea”, and therefore it has no caffeine. I have been searching for the perfect bedtime tea, and so I decided to give this product a try. But, being the nerdy person that I am, I decided to do some more research on this “tisane” tea.

What is tisane?
Apparently, tisane is a French word for “herbal infusion” (1). If you want to impress your friends and family on your knowledge of French, well there you go. Basically, tisane is tea without the caffeine, therefore it is great for bed time and great for those who need an alternative for their habitual night cap.

What does tisane taste like?
It tastes like any other herbal tea, really. The tisane I bought has chamomile, peppermint leaf and catnip leaf as the main ingredients. It mostly tastes like chamomile and mint, which is great! Because it also contains licorice root, but I am not a fan of licorice tea!

How to select a Tisane
When selecting a tea blend (bagged), it is best to check the ingredients list. The major ingredients will be listed first, with the least used in descending order. For relaxation, I find chamomile to be the best. However, from experience, lemon grass tea has also helped improve my sleeping habits.

Benefits of Tisane

  • Relaxation
  • Caffeine-free
  • Digestion (2) (some tea blends, containing chamomile)

References:
(1) http://www.adagio.com/info/tisanes.html
(2) http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/german-chamomile
Read more on the benefits of herbal tea:
FALL HOLISTIC HEALTH: A FLU SHOT OR HERBAL TEAS? by the American College of Health Care Sciences.

Aloha State: Commuting Around Honolulu and the Kindness of Strangers

Aloha friends!

It has officially been 3 weeks since I landed on the island of Oahu. Did I mention we got a brand new car? Daring, crazy, stupid move I guess? But you can’t go without a car here in Oahu. If you really want to experience all that Hawaii has to offer, going around the island in a car is probably a good option, despite the headache inducing traffic. Yes, I guess you’ve heard time and time again about the terrible traffic in Hawaii. The stories are true (surprise?), especially in town. I remember being stuck on H1 (one of the 3 freeways here) on our way back to town during rush hour, which is around 5PM. Good thing you get a nice view of Hawaii Kai, and the fresh air to keep you company. Unfortunately, my days of being driven around are soon coming to an end. (Insert wailing noise here). I have actually already treaded the murky waters of commuting. Well, murky mostly because I am unfamiliar about getting around with the bus. I lived in Japan for about 10 years, and thus commuted for all the years I lived there. I am not afraid of going on an adventure, but it is always nerve wrecking to commute for the first time on your way to an interview!

First challenge: Where is the bus stop?! 
Thank God for Google Maps! I was running a little late that morning, and was a bit under the weather due to an oncoming cold (ugh), so I had no time to research the routes and times the old fashioned way. But with Google maps, I just put where I am going, the time I want to arrive there and change the car symbol to the bus one. And Presto! It tells me where to go, what time the bus arrives, if it is late or early and gives an estimated ETA. It is so traveler/tourist friendly in my opinion.

Second Challenge: No Change for my 10!?
The App does tell you about the bus fare, too, but I wish it mentioned the “no change given” part! I only had $10 with me, no singles or change when I mounted the bus and I saw the sign. I mildly panicked because I had no other form of payment available. The bus driver gruffly told me to ask someone in the bus. So, there I was, sweating for I was wearing a jacket (interview attire), looking like a dummy asking for a kind person to break her bill. A lot of the patrons were rummaging through their bags and wallets. One of them was quick enough and broke my $10. I was so flushed and nervous that I think I forgot to thank her properly.
But the great thing about the buses is that it is affordable, and they also give you a transfer ticket which can be used I think within 2 or 3 hours. It will tell you on top of the ticket. A more detailed account of fares is on their website.

Third Challenge: I think I’m lost.
After the interview in Waikiki, I decided to head to UH Manoa campus mainly because I can’t go in our place. We had our locks replaced and we haven’t made a copy yet. I have been planning to stop by UH anyway to ask about admissions and whatnot. I knew which bus to take thanks to the App. I also was able to use the transfer ticket since it was within the allotted time. Whew! But I did not know exactly which bus stop to get off at. The campus is huge! Way larger than my college in Japan. Asked the driver where to get off, and he was very helpful. I got off the bus, but I still had to find the building in which admissions was located. I saw a bunch of students seated on benches in what it seemed like a bus stop. I did not feel like getting lost, for the 4th time that day, so I asked someone for directions. She was so helpful, and even went her way to walk me all the way to the building. I was surprised cause I never expected such kindness. I would have most definitely have gotten lost in that campus. Sure, I would have found the building, but maybe like 15 to 20 minutes later. But then again, with the supply of good-natured souls in the island, someone would have probably done the same thing that she did.

It was an eventful and adventurous day that I will never forget. If I learned anything, it would be to have cash handy at all time. And make sure to have my phone fully charged before leaving the apartment!

 

Aloha! from the Aloha State

img_5782It has been about two weeks since we moved from sunny Florida to the Oahu island of the Aloha State. I’ve been very busy with moving and job search. We luckily were able to find a place during our first week in the island. A few days later, I found a temporary job! Everything is moving quite fast, and thankfully things are falling into place. Last two weeks were quite crazy, hectic and sleep deprived! But I had some down time this week, so the hubby took me to some beaches around the area.

The first beach he took me was Lanikai beach, located in Kailua. There is only street parking available in this beach, and there are not toilets too, FYI. You will have to walk all the way to Kailua beach park to use the restroom. The waves were small, which makes it a great beach for people who aren’t strong swimmers and for kids.

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The Yamas and the Niyamas: Ahimsa Week 3 and Week 4

For this post, I will be combining entries for week 3 and week 4 of observing Ahimsa. The fall semester has started and my schedule is packed with work, school and studying among other things! I still hope to observe the next Niyama in the book next week.

Week 3:
Watch where you are running interference on other’s lives. Are you a worrier? A fixer? Discern the difference between help and support. Notice what you might be avoiding in your own life because you are so interested in others’ lives.

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The Yamas and Niyamas: Ahimsa, Week 2

What is Ahimsa (non-violence)?

Week two:

This week, guard your balance as you would your most precious resource. Don’t find your balance from a place in your head of what it should look like. Instead find guidance from the messages of your body… Act on the messages of your body and explore what balance looks like for your this week…

 

The previous week has been pretty hectic. My husband and I went on a short trip up North for a family visit. We also had a chance to explore parts of New York City during our stay, but since we were only there for a few days, we had pretty much crammed everything we needed to do in a day and a half. Even though we were on vacation, I tried my best to observe the week’s question for exploration: find balance in my life.

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The Yamas and Niyamas: Ahimsa, Week 1

I read a book about yoga called “The Yamas and the Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” by Deborah Adele. It’s a very inspiring book about Yamas, meaning “restraints” and Niyamas which is translated as “observances”. They both talk about 5 jewels, which can be considered as ethical guidelines for yogis. I may be finished with the book, but I hope to journal my experiences as I observe the Yamas and Niyamas. I will start with the first Yama in the book: Ahimsa.

Ahimsa can be translated as non-violence. In a nutshell, it guides us to be kind towards others and ourselves without sacrificing our own needs or inflating our ego. On page 40 of the book is a segment titled “Questions for Exploration”, which list some thoughts and ideas for journaling. I hope to keep track of my weekly progress in observing each jewel of yoga in this blog.

Week one (summary):

    This week practice courage by doing one thing daily that you wouldn’t normally do… See if you can discern between fear and the unfamiliar. Watch what happens to your sense of self and how your relationships with others might be different because you are courageously stepping into unknown territory.

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