For this blog post, I thought I’d treat it as an opportunity to share stories of the issues encountered and lessons learned during the planning process for cohort #2.  The Pacific Desk has learned a lot over the course of evaluating cohort #1 processes and procedures and the planning for cohort #2.

The Journey to Hawaii for Cohort #2 has been interesting.  Early in the planning process, the US State Department visa/passport processing system crashed and that caused major delays for millions of people including our participants.  Luckily the system came back up and participants received their visas before travel…the last visa was received 5 days before scheduled departure.  In addition, flights were limited due to aviation authorities standoff in the region and so flight options for the participants were limited.   Now because of this, the itineraries also had to be creative so that participants may arrive safe and sound!  We considered things like, only have a carry-on luggage because there are no baggage agreements between these airlines, what countries require transit visas, and many more.

One thing we haven’t been able to quite figure out yet is the shipping.  Prior to cohorts coming to Hawaii, we have sent USBs to incoming participants… to date, none of them have received the drives.  They were sent to Tuvalu, Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands.  It is puzzling to me at this point.

In spite of all those things, the recent hurricanes, flooding and other weather related events, Cohort 2 is on schedule.  Participants arrived in the aftermath of Hurricane Iselle and looming Hurricane Julio over the weekend of August 8.  Representatives from the Pacific Desk were able to greet them at the airport…something about going to a foreign place but always comforting to see a familiar face.   Silipa and Maccarios from Samoa were the first to arrive early Saturday morning.  Their flight was rescheduled 24 hours to wait out Hurricane Iselle forecast for landfall Friday night.   The Big Island and Maui saw the most destruction during the hurricanes.  Fortunately, Oahu (island where Pacific Desk is located) was spared…mostly… some areas on the mountain side were hit.  Wayne from Fiji then arrived the Sunday morning.  Slade from the Solomon Islands flew through Australia and then to Honolulu.

Participants spent the weekend exploring Ala Moana, Waikiki, downtown Honolulu.  They also took the time to visit families who have long been away from home.

Day 1 – Weather is pretty hot today! It was at 88 degrees but felt more like 98.  The participants took The Bus to UH Manoa campus from Pagoda Hotel.  That in itself was an adventure.  Learning the ways of public transit in Hawaii.  We spent the morning in Orientation, meet the Pacific Desk team and going through the dos and the donts.  We had lunch with Ray Tanabe and Jason Gilbert form NOAA.  By afternoon, it was time to start instructions!

More to come…