New Englad vs. the Tropics

I was born in New England and still call it home.  But during my life I’ve had the chance to live in the tropics on two different occasions.  I bring this up because we are going through our annual change from warm and sunny to cold and cloudy.  I always hate this time of year.  I’m a fan of being outside, not in.

In 1978 and 1979 while on active duty with the army, I was assigned to Schofield Barracks Hawaii, the 25th Infantry division.  I’ll always remember upon arriving in Honolulu the scent of gardenias filled the air.  I knew immediately why they call it paradise.

What most people don’t know is Hawaii has a winter season.  During December, January, and February the weather can be rather stormy and cool.  It’s all relative of course.  In Honolulu I don’t think the temperature ever goes below 50 degrees but on such days it might only rise to the mid-60s.  During the winter months beach weather can become a little scarce.  Now, I have absolutely no complaints about my time in Hawaii but I did want to make the point that it is not sunny and 70 every day of the year there.  As an aside, while I was there Hawaiian Airline used to run a commercial which showed one of the jets flying over a snow field on the big island of Hawaii.  You could also but a bumper sticker that many might take as a joke.  It said “Ski Hawaii.”  On the side of the volcano Mauna Loa there is a ski lift.

Then, from 1981 to 1982 I had the pleasure of living at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  That group of islands is just 9 degrees above the equator.  As a comparison, Honolulu Hawaii sits 21 degrees above the equator.  That puts Honolulu about 800 miles north of Kwajalein.  The temperature in Kwajalein stays between 72 and 82 all year round.  It is truly an island paradise that few people ever get the chance to experience.  There are still coral reefs there that are unspoiled by man, unlike those off the coasts of Hawaii and Florida.

At atoll is the top of a volcano, sort of.  By that I mean, the rock portion of the volcano sits hundreds of feet below and coral has grown from it until the islands were formed.  Every atoll has a lagoon and let me assure you, those lagoons are gorgeous.  You get to swim among some of the most exotic fish you could ever want to see.  One time a blue fin tuna swam about 5 feet from me and despite my attempts to touch him he lazily keep that 5 foot distance.

At night I was able to go out on the ocean side of the reef and pick lobsters up with my hands.  I don’t care for lobster but I was able to trade the lobsters for baked good from married couples on the island.

Imagine a downpour from a thunderstorm.  That sort of rain could come for hours or days on end there.  Since coral is extremely porous, there was no problem of flooding.  That and the fact that no where on the island was more than three feet above sea level.  And tsunamis could not happen  because a tsunami requires an inclined beach to hurt anything which don’t exist there.  Also, there was almost no chance of being hit by a typhoon since typhoons are spawned near the equator, as we were, and move northward.

From my experience in those two tropical locations I came to find that I look forward to the seasonal changes we have here in New England.  I think Christmas should be cold and white, no chance of that in the tropics.  I do enjoy a good snow storm.  I just don’t like the twelve plus hours of darkness.  There is something to be said for having a real four seasons, even if the are annoying sometimes.


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