RT Cunningham


Exploring the Island of Oahu in Hawaii as Temporary Residents

Oahu, Hawaii My wife, Josie, and I have been staying with our younger son and his wife on the island of Oahu in Hawaii since February 2019. Jon and Cathy live in military base housing at the Helemano Military Reservation near Wahiawa. The reservation is small, with only one military unit on it.

Wahiawa is the nearest city, about six miles away. Whitmore Village is about the same distance, but it isn’t a city. Schofield Barracks is the nearest military base, also about six miles away. The only thing that directly neighbors the reservation is the Dole Plantation.

There’s only one place to shop on the reservation and it’s an AAFES Express store (called a “shoppette”). The reservation is small but the store is tiny. It’s smaller than the average 7-Eleven convenience store. It’s sorely lacking in anything but the most basic of consumer goods and the prices are higher than most other places.

Helemano Military Reservation

The Helemano Military Reservation (HMR) is small, but I can’t tell you how small it is. It’s in the north, central part of the island but not close to any shore. It can come up as part of North Shore (which is an area, not a city) on Google Maps instead of the city of Wahiawa. The only thing it has in common with Wahiawa is the zip code.

Since HMR is mostly military base housing, it doesn’t need to be big. There’s only one military unit on it, near the only entrance gate. There’s an enlisted barracks and dining facility nearby. There are a few other facilities available, including the shoppette. There’s a physical fitness center, a chapel, a child development center and a fire station. If there are other facilities, I don’t know about them.

There are no transportation services nearby. The closest bus stop is about three miles west of HMR, on Highway 99 (Kamehameha Highway). The only options, other than owning a vehicle, are using services like Uber and Lyft or getting a ride from someone. Walking isn’t a good option.

Schofield Barracks

We do most of our shopping at the main exchange (AAFES) and commissary. We spend a lot more for groceries at the commissary than any other place on the island. We try to buy as many non-food items as possible at the exchange, but the exchange doesn’t carry everything we need. The only real advantage in shopping at the exchange is not paying taxes on everything (unless we eat at the food court while we’re there).

The commissary is like a supermarket while the exchange is like a department store. Regardless of how well each of them is stocked, they can’t carry everything. It just isn’t possible.

The medical and dental clinics are at Schofield Barracks. Cathy has regular appointments for her pregnancy there, but she has to go to the Tripler Army Medical Center at Fort Shafter in Honolulu for ultrasound scans. She’ll also be having her baby there, unless something unusual happens.

We mostly avoid Wahiawa, even just driving through it. There’s too much traffic on its narrow roads. We’ll drive past Schofield Barracks just to get to the freeway. It may be a couple of miles farther, but it’s quicker. Regardless of which route we take, we have to avoid potholes on all the roads.

Mililani, Waipahu, Kapolei and Waianae

The Town Center of Mililani has a Walmart, a Petsmart and a theater, among other things. Consolidated Theaters is the only place we go to rarely watch movies. Cathy takes their dog, a chiweenie (chihuahua/dachshund), to Petsmart for grooming on occasion. Walmart is one of the places we go to shop for things we can’t find at Schofield Barracks.

Waipahu seems like the Filipino capital of Oahu, Hawaii. We’ve shopped at the Waipahu Festival Marketplace, Seafood City and Waikele Premium Outlets. There’s a Jollibee fast-food place that shares the building with Seafood City. Jollibee is a franchise from the Philippines. Josie bought shoes at Famous Footwear at the Waikele shopping center.

We attended a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and shopped at the Ka Makana Ali’i outdoor shopping mall at Kapolei.

One of Cathy’s friends lives in Waianae. We once drove her and her daughter home from the Ko Olina Beach Park, where we had been swimming. They normally ride buses all over Oahu to get around.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

We went there on September 2, 2019, Labor Day, because the women wanted to shop at the Navy Exchange. They were disappointed when they found out it wasn’t any better than the exchange at Schofield Barracks.

The last time I was there was in 1984, when the Navy and Air Force bases were separate. The first time I entered the base in 1983 was on a helicopter, landing on the flight deck of a Navy ship. I went on a Marine Corps deployment a day or two later for a period of about six months.

Honolulu and the East Side of Oahu

We recently had to go the Philippines Consulate in Honolulu. Josie had to renew her Filipino passport (she’s a dual citizen). We’ll have to go back to pick it up. Cathy had to take a test for a college course at one of the college campuses. She didn’t pass, so she has to return and take it again. That will be on some date yet to be scheduled.

I have no reason to want to go to Honolulu or the east side of the island. I was stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (called “Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay” back then) from 1982 to 1984. I lived in the city of Kailua for several months. I have no desire to visit that side of the island ever again.

When nonresidents (and tourists) think of Hawaii, they think of Honolulu or Waikiki Beach. Residents think differently. They avoid the Honolulu area when they don’t live or work there. It caters to tourists and prices are higher than anywhere else on the island.

The North Shore Area

All the places I’ve mentioned so far require me to turn left on Kamehameha Highway. There are other places that require me to turn right. Each time I’ve gone that way, it had to do with one event or another tied to Jon’s Army unit.

The area is composed of four small towns and the actual shoreline. I’ve dropped Jon off in Haleiwa for various reasons and for hiking at a place just past Dillingham Airfield in Waialua. I have not been east of Haleiwa for any reason at all.

When It’s Time to Leave

The plan is for Josie and I to return to the Philippines in October 2020. We own our house in Olongapo. We would have left Hawaii sooner, but Cathy got pregnant and Josie wants to be here to help out after she has the baby. After all, Jon has to work every day. Cathy shouldn’t have any issues after three or four months.

Photo Attribution: skeeze at Pixabay

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By RT Cunningham
January 6, 2020

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