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June 5th, Day 1:
1:30 PM Pacific Time

Let’s just say my day could have started better… well, if I had my choice anyway. I suppose I can’t blame an airline for having a departure time that allowed me only four hours sleep; I was up at 2:30 am to make my 6am flight. I guess since all I was missing was some sleep, I could be much worse off. Well, that and I forgot my trip itinerary booklet, but I don't think that's too big a deal.

Right now I’m sitting rather uncomfortably in a cramped DC-10 airplane about an hour from Honolulu. I must say, I can understand why people opt for first class now that I’ve experienced what my neighbour described as "horrible" conditions even for a coach flight. The in-flight movie, "My Dog Skip", was probably selected so as to not offend anyone or some ridiculous thing like that. You know, play a kids animal movie and no one complains about the lead character getting his head blown off or something. I didn’t even watch 5 minutes worth before I decided sleep would be much more entertaining, especially given the dreams I’ve been having lately.

I almost wish I was back on the Dash 8 with Horizon airlines that flew me from Vancouver to Seattle as part of my connector flight. At least then there would be a reason for being so cramped. I mean seriously, I can barely see my laptop screen because the seat in front of me is so close that I have to keep my PowerBook partly folded down. That and this stupid guy in front of me keeps readjusting himself as violently as possible, resulting in my screen being further tilted towards closed. These seats could not be any closer together, and this is no small plane either. I can see how Northwest airlines keep their fares down. I guess things could be worse though… this could be a 6 hour flight instead of a 5 and a half hour flight…

Finally, the captain just said we’re starting our decent. It’s about friggin time. So far though I can’t see any land out the window (I was lucky to trade for a window seat). Ahh, there it is…

6PM Pacific, 3PM Hawaiian:

I arrived at the participant house at about 11:45 or so after taking a ride with a blind mute Taxi driver. I’ve been in a few taxis before, but this guy took the cake. He was driving an old, beat up Cadillac Station Wagon, had one inch thick glasses, and he couldn’t hear anything I was saying. Either that or he understood absolutely nothing of I was saying. I think it was both.

As it turned out, the guy at the airport that hails the taxis knew exactly where I was going and what I was doing, so everything worked out. He even said, "he’s going to Pele Street, the dolphin place…", even though it said nothing about the dolphin project on the sheet I handed him. I guess he sees a lot of the volunteers.

Participant house
Our humble abode...
The participant house (well, actually townhouse, but house is easier to type) certainly stands out as one of the nicer ones in the area. The rest of the neighbourhood I would say is fairly run down, or at least not as well kept up as some neighbourhoods in my home city of Vancouver. One house is trying to have a front lawn, but the grass has been dead so long that the dirt is starting to show more than the yellow grass. The house at the end of Pele street (more of an alley than a street) has a yard half fenced in proudly displaying the owner’s old, rusting Westfalia van along with miscellaneous other things like shopping carts and other garbage. It pretty well sums up the whole neighbourhood, but our house is not half bad.

When I arrived, no one was around, but I expected that. After all, I was over an hour early. About 15 minutes later, I see this guy with one arm under his shirt walking curiously towards the house. I was in the middle of taking a shot of the house with my camcorder, so I didn't pay much attention until he walked up and said, "Hi, I'm Sean. Ill go around and unlock the door for you".

Sean is the live-in "host" for the participants in the program. Unfortunately, he broke his collar bone in an accident last week while riding his scooter, so we're probably going to be his last group of people he'll be able to host before he has to go back to New York. He arrived as a 5-month intern participant, and decided to stay and run the guesthouse. "I realized that in two weeks I’d be leaving here, and that would have sucked, so I decided to stay." He’d been working as a personal trainer at the local gym to make ends meet for the10 months he’d been here, but a busted shoulder makes it hard to do that any more. He’s heading back home for a while with hopes of coming back soon.

Since there was absolutely nothing to do, I decided to go for a walk to grab some lunch. After finding a Subway restaurant, having lunch, and walking half way back to the house, I had already destroyed my brand new Velcro strapped Costco special $7 sandals. I’ll have to get some more later when we go shopping.

I’ve been told today we’ll only be getting a slideshow and basic introduction to the project and we won’t actually be going to the lab. I suppose that isn’t too big a deal, but I was really looking forward to meeting the dolphins today. Oh well. I guess I can wait ONE more day.

Elele doing a straight jump
Elele shows off a little bit (click for larger picture)
Sean has tried to give me a basic lesson in Hawaiian, and I think I can now properly pronounce Akeakamai (one of the dolphins at the institute). It’s Ah-kay-ah-kah-my, or some call her Ah-kay-kah-my. Wow, that’s a mouthfull. Thankfully I can just call her Ake (say it like ‘a-kay’) since that’s what some people tend to call her. I asked him if there are any special tricks to playing with the dolphins, or anything in particular they like doing. He thought about it hard, and said that there’s really no trick, you just get to know them as they get to know you. He says they react differently to everybody and it takes a while for them to warm up to you. He also said they’re not like just any other dolphins either. They really do have particular personalities about them that make them unique from other trained dolphins (although I don’t know what frame of reference he has). I suppose it’s the environment they're kept in, but I’ll probably figure that out with time.

Slowly throughout the day the other participants began to arrive. I spent the day wondering aimlessly in the house and helping out Sean where I could, and attempting to watch the 15" TV/VCR they have in the house that only gets 3 or 4 channels, two of which are religious stations. Oh yeah, and I typed this journal. Anyway, the first people to arrive were Colin and Jane. They’re both from Scotland apparently, but I haven’t really had a chance to talk to them since they decided to leave and walk around right after they arrived. After they left, Steve arrived. He’s kind of quiet, at least so far, and he seems like a good guy. He’s from Minesota, he’s about my age (20), and he plays hockey. That’s all I’ve been able to get out of him so far. After him came Zelecia and Katie, who were obviously expecting the worst out of this experience given the amount of gear they brought. They both came stacked to the ceiling with huge camping style backpacks, ground sheets, pots and all, and a few other medium sized bags (I found out later it was because they had planned to camp out for a few nights while they were in Hawaii). I haven’t really had a chance to talk to them, but I do know that Zeleisha is 21 and Katie will be 21 in 10 days or so. Oh yeah, and I just found out you can’t go into pubs and bars here unless you’re 21 (I'm only 20). There goes my night life...

10:20 PM Hawaiian

Amy Miller came by and gave us our introduction into the project. Wow. I knew we’d be doing a lot of work, but I guess it never really sunk in until I heard her tell us about it. Not that I’m complaining though, I’d probably rather be doing something than just sitting there doing nothing anyway.

There are lots of guidelines we have to follow, most of which are obvious and completely understandable. I am a little disappointed though about not being allowed to take pictures or video during research sessions. While I can understand the reasoning behind this, I wish I could at least get a brief example to show my friends the kind of stuff the institute is doing right now. I hope there’s some flexibility in this rule, but either way I’ll do whatever they tell me.

I met the last three of the participants briefly tonight, although I only know Jon’s name at this point. The two other ladies’ names will likely come to me tomorrow when we’re at the facility. All three of them are participants who have been here for two weeks already and are staying for another two weeks along with the rest of us. They’re leaving before us in the morning to do fish duty (prepare the AM fish for the dolphins) while we’re planning to leave the house at 7:15am with hopes of arriving at 8:30 or so. I tried to buy some new sandals when we went grocery shopping, but the ones they had weren't very good and I had to resort to buying a tube of shoe goo to fix the ones I have. I hope the glue has time to dry properly.

I’m so excited about tomorrow…

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