Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo

The ground floor of the Koehnen building,  76 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo suggests 1920s grandeur with a wide staircase leading to law offices back in the day.  The building ocupies the corner of Waianuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue  — powerful names in Hawai’i.  King Kamehameha unified the Hawaiian people and Waianuenue refers to rainbows in falling water.


Koehnen Building, Hilo waterfront


Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

The facade is akin to other early 20th c. commercial properties along the waterfront


Visiting students learn about Pacific marine ecology.

walk. But the Koehnen building has been revamped and repurposed for a global purpose.   The Mokupapapa Center is a marine education center run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration founded in 1970.

NOAA offers community events and presentations to educate students and visitors about Papahanaumokuakea (Pa-pa-han-au-mo-kua-kea) Marine National Monument in the far western Pacific.  The National Marine Sanctuary contains the remote coral atolls of Hawai’i and is truly one of the last wild places on earth.

The Marine Sanctuary is also one action by President George W. Bush that many people can agree with, though even protected marine areas are still vulnerable to deep sea mining and fossil fuel exploration.  It’s not clear whether those exploration permits include access to the extensive stretch of the Pacific Ocean included in the National Marine Monument.


Aquarium in the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, Hilo

NOAA Marine Nat Monument Chart

Volunteers may apply to be selected for participation in wildlife census projects on the various remote islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.  Work projects last from several weeks to 6 months.  Participants contribute financial support to partially cover their expenses, approximately $2,000 for travel, tent lodging and food costs for 4 to 6 months for most of the projects.  The volunteer census projects should not be viewed as an exotic low-cost vacation; the work is not easy and conditions are tough. Experience with biological data collection, daily life in extreme conditions plus a buoyant natural camaraderie are required skills.  The application form  weeds out people who are simply collecting awesome experiences or checking notches off a bucket list.


Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

The Midway Atoll  National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial previously admitted visitors, but that has been suspended.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center, 76 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo, HI 96720

808.933.8195  email:

Open: Tues-Sat 9 am to 4 pm. Closed on federal holidays. Admission free.

Posted in Education, Geography, Hawai'i, History, Marine Science, Nature, Oceanography, Outdoors Life, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

12 Travel Resources for 2017

1.The Appalachian Trail   – Go the distance or cross a small state for a weekend adventure.

2.Budget Travel in 2017 – Tips from Forbes

3. Camino Santiago de Compostela – Pilgrim trials across Europe

4.Electric Currents Around the World  – Current convertors prevent accidents

5.Embassies in Washington DC  – Visa information for travel outside the USA

6.Learn about travel writing – Check your local library

7.Money Convertor – What is your cash worth?

8.Passport and Visas  – U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs

9.Peace Corps – Great job but low pay.

10.People to People International  – Travel encounters with families and individuals

11.Travel Screening and Security  – Prepare for TSA screening

12.Wilderness Adventures  – Volunteer with U.S. National Forest and Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish & Wildlife Agency





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Honolulu Theater for Youth

After peeking into a wedding ceremony underway at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, my travel pal Marilyn and I wandered around the grounds which are close to the Iolani Palace in Honolulu. Though inaccurate to describe St. Andrew’s grounds as a cathedral close , the Hawaiian-Anglican-Episcopal cathedral certainly pays homage to the mother-country’s ecclesiastical architecture.  Squint away the palm trees and this might be Sussex.

We stopped to chat with drivers of grossly stretched white Jeep limousines.  The drivers killed time with their mobile phones while waiting for one wedding to end and the next to start.  Brides and their attendants posed for photographs against the backdrop of a fountain and foliage. We walked around the bishop’s office,  admired the stained glass windows in a chapel and, turning a corner, noticed a theater marquee.

The Honolulu Theater for Youth staff were rearranging stage elements in a large auditorium. We asked a statuesque young man near the door if we could look around.  Eric West — “Make sure you write ‘West’ because we have several colleagues named Eric, including the Director.” — explained that he handles multiple logistical problems like how to build and install sturdy stage elements and design portable sets for new productions. The troupe is based at St. Andrew’s and performs in schools throughout Hawaii, he explained, so the traveling productions need lightweight sets.

He told us that a previous Dean of the cathedral bequeathed the auditorium now the headquarters for the Honolulu Theater for Youth.  Why don’t more churches loan or convert space to service active educational and cultural projects?

The group  performs on O‘ahu at Tenney Theatre at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Honolulu and travels throughout the state to various performance spaces as well as school classrooms.  Creative workshops are also offered.

Productions include educational elements, like local food policy in  Grinds, the Story of Food in Hawai’i.  Grinds is the Aloha Islands word for good food.  The Tiny Tree explores themes of cooperation, helping others and celebrating cultural differences.

Performances cost  $6 per student. Several discount programs are offered for groups, children receiving free and reduced lunches. Teachers and required assistants are admitted at no charge with the group. Those who can pay are encouraged to do so, to help meet production costs.

Posted in Culture, Education, Hawai'i, Student Projects, Theater | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What is Eco Criticism?

Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology

What we read influences how we interact with the natural world. Ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment,  an earth-focused view of literary scholarship.
The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment  (ASLE) is dedicated to environmental literature and culture.  The organization offers grants, conferences and advocacy opportunities for advancing the protection of the environment, the planet and its creatures through literature and writing.

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWWP) is a advocacy union of thousands of independent writers, teachers and college and university based writing programs.

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Where the Wild Creatures Roam :: Is It Sustainable?

Wildlife Tourism 

What can we do to prevent the massacre of wild animals?  Do humans actually still get a thrill from shooting wild animals?  What streak of evil condones and continues that practice?
Does wildlife tourism help stamp out the killing of animals in the wild for sport or promote and encourage it by creating tourism infrastructure in remote areas?

Here are a few articles reporting the repulsive human tendency to shoot, poison or terrorize animals and a couple of articles examining the reasons why the polar bear population is in grave decline and whales are beaching regularly.

Elephants Everywhere

Animals Slaughtered in a U.S. Zoo

Tigers in India

Salmon in Kamchatka

Wolves in Alaska

Giraffe Massacre in a Czech Zoo

Polar Bear Population Decline

Whales Dying on Beaches

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Interview with Zoltán Géher

Special Interview With Zoltán Géher – – Specials

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Why Buy Ugly? :: The Aesthetic Cost of U.S. Taxpayer Financed Buildings

Why spend  money acquired from taxpaying U.S. citizens for structures that are ugly and not energy efficient? Why create more eyesore buildings?

People would become more visually oriented and creative if they could see beautiful structures that open their eyes to intense interrelations of beauty and nature.  If systems  thinking was applied to design then there would be more opportunity to cultivate and nurture the seeds of creativity.

Especially when the construction project is a taxpayer-funded project, it should be designed and built to the highest standards of architectural and engineering felicity.  Let federal and state sponsored building be the very best examples of American architecture.

Think of the massive structures that we travel the globe to see — the cathedrals of France, Potala palace in Lhasa, castles on the Rhine, Angkor Wat,  Borobudur,  the Pantheon in Rome, Teotihuacan and countless other ancient cities in Mexico, the temples of Athens, the pyramid tombs of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China.  These were public works projects or symbols of private enterprise in their day.  If visionary builders and paymasters centuries ago hadn’t constructed pleasing and durable buildings, there would be no residual evidence of their creative effort and social systems.

Architecture  — that which remains after the floods, hurricanes, tornados, wars and fire.  It provides specific and concrete evidence of how a society functioned, what it valued, how the humans prospered or failed, what was valuable to them.

 Would you describe any of these taxpayer financed buildings as lasting esthetic monuments to freedom and creative enterprise?

Maybe the ugly building penalty tax has a place in our culture?

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Gulangyu :: China


Cars are not operated on Gulangyu. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

Gulangyu (Piano Island) lies off the eastern seaboard of China approximately 300 KM from Taiwan. It is a quiet place because no cars are allowed on the island. The nickname Piano Island reflects its shape and a nod to the famous music academy located on the island.  Gulangyu Island, though a short ferry ride away, is considered part of Xiamen, an urban center of 2 million. Students at the music school practice all day and in that vicinity you can hear their scales, harmonies and rare screeches.

Mansion on Gulangyu. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

Entry gate to an abandoned estate in a formerly elegant neighborhood on Gulangyu. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil



Supply boats unloading at Gulangyu. © 2007 L.Peat O’Neil

On the beach when the tide was out I found pottery bits and sea glass. Paths along the waterfront are outfitted with speakers for recorded music of a better quality than Muzak.

Ferry Terminal, Gulangyu. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

Feral cats thrive on Gulangyu. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

Worker hauls away cut tree limbs. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

Solo fisherman. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

Xiamen is the city in the distance. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

Gulangyu’s main attraction would be the amazing mansions built by wealthy Colonial and Chinese merchants during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gulangyu has always attracted smugglers and drug dealers. Many of the mansions are being snapped up and renovated by China’s new bourgeoisie class.

Former U.S. and British consulates dating back to the mid-19th c. are now hotels or repurposed for civic benefit. The Spanish consulate next to the Catholic Church was converted to a communal home for senior citizens.

Former Spanish Consulate, Gulangyu. ©2007 L. Peat O’Neil

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Training for a Walking or Hiking Tour

YOU KNOW that walking regularly can mitigate or even prevent a host of conditions ranging from obesity to heart disease. But do you know how to walkto get the most out of your exercise sessions?

Image from

Image from

Here are some pointers.

* Aim for a confident, “walk tall” posture, which means keeping your head
high, shoulders down and back, stomach in, and buttocks under. Slouching over
compresses your organs and diaphragm (the muscle that moves the lungs), making
it difficult to breathe as deeply as you could with good posture.

* Start at a comfortable pace with even steps. Gradually pick up speed, but
don’t shoot for an overly long stride. It won’t burn extra calories or work
your muscles any better.

* Let your arms swing freely and rhythmically, using them to help power you
along. Moving your arms while walking also helps give you balance–and works
more muscle groups in the process.

* Take full, relaxed breaths. “People often hold their breath during
exercise–it’s an unconscious behavior,” says Jennifer Layne, an exercise
physiologist at Tufts. But not breathing freely means short delays in getting
oxygen to all your body tissues as you move along.

* Try to work up to a brisk pace. If you’re not moving at a pace that’s fast
enough to deepen your breathing and make your heart beat faster, you may be
burning a few calories and even lifting your mood–but you’re not
strengthening your heart and lungs or improving your endurance. In other
words, if you’re not challenging yourself at all, you’re not engaging in
aerobic conditioning.

Note: Many of these tips come from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder
Affairs’  Keep Moving program


* Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Nov 1999 v17 i9 p7.  Are You Using The Best Walking Technique? Full Text COPYRIGHT 1999 W.H. White Publications, Inc.

* Interview with Rebecca Solnit,  author of Wanderlust. A literary history of human perambulation.

*Peace Pilgrim walked around the continental USA sharing a message of simplicity and peace.

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi walking installed adjacent to Embassy Row -  Massachusetts Ave. NW near Dupont Circle, Washington DC. Image © L Peat O'Neil 2009

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi walking installed adjacent to Embassy Row – Massachusetts Ave. NW near Dupont Circle, Washington DC.
Image © L Peat O’Neil 2009


Posted in Outdoors Life, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Diego Rivera’s Museum – Anahuacalli

Diego Rivera My Art, My LifeDiego Rivera muses about his museum in Diego Rivera – My Art, My Life.  An autobiography with Gladys March, The Citadel Press, New York, 1960, pp. 250-253.

Image from

Image from

In this excerpt, he describes selecting the site for the museum.

A Home For My Idols

The second dream, one of thirty-five years’ standing, was renewed by the destruction wreaked everywhere by the war.  It was to build a home for my anthropological collection, which I had started to assemble on my first return to Mexico in 1910.

So while the bombs menaced our very lives and made painting seem a thing of insignificance, Frida and I started a strange kind of ranch.  Here we planned to raise our own food staples, milk, honey, and vegetables, while we prepared to build our museum.  In the first few weeks, we erected a stable for our animals.

The site we chose was near Coyoacán, right on top of a lava bed.  Cactus sprang up profusely from the crevices in the stones.  Nature had landscaped the area as if for one purpose, and I decided that our house should be in harmony with her work. Accordingly, we cut our stone from the basalt indigenous to the region.  The structure would rise from the earth like an extension of its natural surface.

I designed the building in a composite of Aztec, Mayan, and “Rivera Traditional” styles.  The squarely built exterior resembles an ancient Mexican pyramid of the pre-Cortes period.

The main floor is the museum where my sculptures of this period are displayed. The rooms here wind and open into each other like those of a labyrinth.  Walled in unfaced stone, they are gray and dank.  On the ceilings are white stone mosaics, mainly abstract in form.  One of the mosaics, however, is of the rain god, Tlaloc, whose face I represented as a formation of two wriggling snakes.

The upper section is still to be completed.  I intended it as my studio, where I could create my own sculptures to adorn the outside walls.  But lack of time and money have so far prevented me from carrying out this part of my plan.

Surmounting all is a tower representing the god of air and open on all sides to the raw, cool drafts of mountain air.  The cool and stony aspect of the place gives one the impression of being in an underground temple.

During the war, this building was “home” for Frida and me.  After the war, it was converted exclusively into a home for my idols.  Guided by Dr. Alfonso Caso, Mexico’s leading anthropologist, I passed many wonderful hours placing my statues in chronological order in the different rooms of the building.  Dr. Caso and his associates were enthusiastic about my collection, declaring that while my dating of some pieces might be in error, I had sown an uncanny instinct for what was authentic and important.  They rated the collection among the best in the world.

This venture, however, has almost impoverished me.  The cost of maintaining the museum has been about $125 a week.  With this outlay added to the $300 a month I gave Frida for household expenses for our home in Coyoacán and the forty dollars a month I paid for my daughter Ruth’s college tuition, I was left with hardly enough change to buy the daily newspaper.

People are under the impression that I am wealthy because I have sometimes paid as much as $250 for a single idol.  But when I have made such a purchase, I have often, as a result, had to scrimp on necessities.  Frida used to scold me sometimes for not keeping enough money to buy such prosaic things as underwear.  But my idols have more than compensated me for their expense. Whenever I feel disgusted with some painting I have done, I have only to look at them and suddenly I feel good again.

By now, I have already spent more than fifty thousand dollars on the museum and still it is not complete.  Most visitors are astonished to hear this low figure. However, I did so much myself:  the architectural designs, the engineering, and even the overseeing of the actual work, thus cutting the cost of construction considerably.

Since beginning the project, I have put into it literally every penny I have earned above modest living expenses.  Work on the museum halted during Frida’s illnesses, when the heavy medical and hospital bills virtually bankrupted me. However, when Frida was well and earning money from her own paintings, she would refuse to accept any money from me, and I would go on idol-buying sprees. All in all I have spent about one hundred thousand dollars on my collection – apart from the building itself.

I calculate that another forty thousand dollars will be required to complete the building.  My plan is to give the museum to the state, provided it appropriates the money needed to finish it.  My only other stipulation will be that I be allowed to supervise the final construction.  If I cannot arrange a mutually satisfactory agreement with the authorities, I shall dynamite the building with my own hands rather than have it put to some stupid use at odds with the purpose for which I designed it.

Visit the museum:

Calle Museo 150

Mexico City, D.F.


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