Monday, January 08, 2007
Hawaii. What does one imagine who has never been and is about to go? What is "Island Living" as applied to Hawaii? Soft sandy beaches, of course. Coconuts and other tropical vegetation come to mind. Sunsets. That leper island.
I had never swam in the ocean before the trip. It seemed intimidating. I felt like I would be sacrificing myself to the Pacific, not having had any practical concept of a protective reef. A couple of weeks earlier I had received snorkel gear as a birthday present, and was looking forward to using it, but I began to feel paranoid about sharks and started wanting to go out and buy a knife. "Because I want to be able to stick anything that swims up and gets in my face which I feel threatened by," was my answer when asked why I wanted one. Another issue was that I am pretty nearsighted and don't have contact lenses. "You'll be able to see well enough, won't you?" asked Mom. "Yes," I replied, "I'm sure I'll be able to discern a shark once it gets about 3 feet away from me." I finally had the idea of popping the lenses out of my old glasses and wedging them in to my mask where they fitted quite well. Problem solved.
Anyway, despite the sum of my fears, I was fully prepared and excited to spend a large portion of every day in the ocean.
The flight was very smooth, and Judy's plans for transporting everyone were executed without a hitch. Most of us were in the water by about 4:30 pm.
That first day I just swam wearing my reef walkers (old sneakers - I didn't break out the snorkel gear until the next day) and quickly learned some ocean-swimming facts: First, you essentially go where the ocean wants you to. Second, the water really is salty. Third, when seawater goes up your nose it makes you retch.
Thursday afternoon I finally donned the snorkel gear and went reef-exploring. I did not see any "crustay-shee-an" bands under the sea, but I did see several colorful fish among the coral. Occasionally I would find myself drifting along in the same current with one. After an extended snorkel session that day I began heading into shore. Because of the surf, you make progress for awhile, then the tide recedes and you are pulled back out a bit. Well, I had made some progress and was about 25 yards from shore. I was kicking and paddling - but staying in the same place. Then I felt this huge amount of force building up behind me and I thought "whoa, mama." Suddenly I was rocketing towards the beach and was deposited on the sand while the tide went out again. I'm told by witnesses that I appeared quite torpedo-like. Apparently I narrowly missed colliding with others of our party who were wading.
That morning, before we set out for the Dole Plantation, we had a visitor to our section of the beach in the form of a sea turtle. Needing no prompting, nephew Jeffrey and nephew-in-law Jared doffed their shirts and strode Costanza-like into the water in a manly attempt to catch the great beast. "The sea was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli."
The Dole Plantation was cool. At the snackbar is sold an evil substance called Pineapple Whip, which is kind of a sherbet/ice cream hybrid. Tropical brain-freeze, brah. Be prepared. Along with the whip I also bought a container of freshly sliced, cold pineapple. So good. That night I said to nephew Ross, "I think I'm addicted to Pineapple. Like, I feel like I need to go out right now and find some." We took a train tour of the various crop fields, and when you see a pineapple field, you realize that pineapples are essentially cacti. Sweet, juicy cacti.
Nephew Jeff and niece-in-law Alisha braved the Dole Maze. They contacted us via two-way radio to advise us that they had no idea where they were.
We encountered gridlock on the way home that afternoon. Which reminds me of another thing I learned about Oahu: for much of the eastern side of the island there is but one major route - The Kamehameha Hwy (which during some stretches has no side streets). Residents of the average mainland metro area are accustomed during their commutes to hear the traffic copter giving advisories, alternate routes, etc. I'm guessing a typical traffic advisory to one stuck on the "Kam" would be "Relax, brah."
Friday was devoted to our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which was just about a mile from the beach house, and about a hundred yards from the motel where the rest of us stayed. Our tour guide was named Gilbert or Gustavo or some other "G" name. Someone please confirm our tour guide's name. The center is comprised of representations of the various Polynesian Cultures. It's a good thing they named it the Polynesian Cultural Center, huh? They have demonstrations of native customs, traditions, costume, dance, food, etc. My favorite? Aotearoa, or New Zealand. The Maoris are pretty cool. Instead of a warm Aloha, they bulge their eyes and stick out their tongues. Upon a return visit to the center on Tuesday, Jan 2nd I spoke with a burly Maori fellow named Mana. I'd always been curious about one part in the film "Whale Rider" (which according to Mana is pretty popular in New Zealand for it's accuracy regarding their culture and the problems which arise in trying to balance tradition and heritage with the modern world). They make numerous references in the film to Paikea, their ancestor, having come to Aotearoa (which means land of the long, white cloud) from somewhere called Hawai-ki (that is purely phonetic spelling). I asked Mana if that meant Hawaii. He replied with some interesting information. Apparently there are three schools of thought in New Zealand as to what actual place Hawai-ki might refer to. Some believe it is in fact Hawaii. Others believe it is Tahiti, and others say it is Panama and its environs. The Panama group state that the tradition describes Hawai-Ki as being a narrow strip of land joining two waters. Interesting. Another thing I found noteworthy about the Maoris was that the weave pattern on the tops worn by the Maori women looks just like a Navajo blanket. I just think they're pretty cool.
We spent all day there, enjoying the songs and dances, browsing the shops, etc. We went to the big luau that night. Upon entry we were each given a real flower lei, and then we went in to dine on, among other things, shredded pork with sticky rice, and of course several helpings of fresh cold pineapple chunks.
The capper of the evening was the big show, which featured song/dance performances from each of the islands. I got several photos and videos. One in particular I hope to show you as soon as I figure out how to put a video clip on the blog. Anyway, it was a hula - the first live one I'd seen. Let me tell you - when those hula girls really go to town? Wow. Talented.
Saturday some of us (Judy, Mom, Jenn, and myself) went into town to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
Sobering. Survivors of the attack can be seen here and there talking, answering questions, posing for photos with visitors, etc. We stood in line for ferry tickets (which are free) and recieved a 12:15 pm time slot, I believe (Judy?). We passed the time in the museum and gift shop, then had lunch at the cantina where we also took pictures in and beside Admiral Nimitz' jeep.
At 12:15 (Judy?) we reported to the theatre where they showed a movie - Happy Feet. Kidding! It was a docu about Pearl Harbor. We then exited out onto the dock, boarded the ferry, and sailed out to the memorial.
It is eerie. You don't get a sense of the whole vessel down there, but you do see certain features.
I found myself imagining the Arizona still above water along with the others in Destroyer Row, then I turned to the north and imagined seeing those planes appearing over the mountains.
One thing I'd heard about the memorial was that you can still see drops of oil surfacing from the ship even after all these years. It's true.
I'm glad I went.
I don't remember much else of what went on when we got back to our part of the island, but it's safe to say it involved more swimming/snorkeling. Judy will be detailing it in her Day 3 entry. "Oh, I'm sure yours'll be more outlandish," said Judy when asking if I'd read her Day 1 & 2 blogs. I must say that I remember the main events and when they occurred, but beyond that, swimming and snorkeling is my standby plug-in memory. So definitely read Judy's blog, particularly if such things as accurate facts and details are important to you. I'm thankful she can fill in the hazy areas. As for me, well, I will continue to, as George Costanza said, tell "the truth as I see it."
Sunday several attended church. I was not one of them. My penance was seeing the Cowboys lose their final home game to the crappy Lions. I will say no more about my Cowboys. They are dead to me. At least until next season. Jeff, Jeanette, Caitlin, and Ross had decided to make their own excursion to Pearl Harbor, and the rest of us went up to visit Waimea Falls, stopping en route at one of the many shrimp truck eateries one sees.
The trail to the falls is beautiful. It is described as a hike, but it's an easy one. Maybe 3/4 mile.
There is some amazing flora to be seen there. I took hundreds of photos, of which here are some.
The pamphlet lists some of the animal life to be seen, but I was never able to spot any besides the peacocks wandering the grounds around the entrance. I had an encounter with one at a picnic table back by the gift shop. He hopped up on the bench behind me and was just hanging out. Waiting for food I am sure. I got some pretty good shots of him, and then Becky obligingly took one of the peacock and I. It turned out hilarious because the peacock is both facing the camera and also leaning in my direction as if to be more "in frame."
That night the plan was to build a fire on the beach, which nearly was doomed due to the annoyingly strong winds. Jeffrey and Jared persisted however, and were successful.
Then I broke into the supply of fireworks which I had bought a couple of days earlier at Foodland.
At a grocery store! Amazing. They were a little dissappointing in that they all pretty much did the same thing - emit sparks in various colors. There were some tall, rocket appearing ones which I was looking forward to seeing in action. But no, they just stayed on the ground and emitted sparks. I should have been clued in by the discovery of the fuse at the top of it, instead of the bottom. Also I had bought about sixteen tubelike ones which looked just like Roman candles. Nope, sparks. Despite all that, we still had a great deal of fun with them. I don't know why, but seeing them stuck in the sand, shooting out sparks, seemed to touch off some kind of tribal thing in several of us - brother Jeff in particular, and we began running through and around, and jumping over the fireworks as they were blazing away. I have proof. That was our New Year's Eve.
I may be wrong but I don't think any of us made it to midnight.
On Monday Judy, Mom, Becky and Jenn wanted to go to the nearest mall after being tipped off on a mumu sale. Ross and I decided to go along for the ride. I ended up finding some inexpensive island sandals for about $4. Come to think of it, exactly $4. The rest of the day? That's right - swimming and snorkeling. Judy made her b-day commemorative entrance into the water that afternoon.
Then, being New Year's Day and Judy's b-day, we had a party that night at the house. Our cousin Lisa Wagner and husband Ken, who live just a couple miles from where we were, joined us for the festivities.
We had a good time, cake/ice cream, etc.
My gift to Judy was a ukulele. I had actually decided on that as my present about six months ago. I'd heard her talk about how she learned how to play one long ago when she and Becky were living in Hawaii with another cousin, Taylor MacDonald and his family during his teaching stint at BYU-Ha. Anyway, I actually purchased it in Mid-November. She was pretty surprised. Apparently she'd planned on buying one while over there.
I don't know if she's been practicing much.
Monday for me marked that sinking feeling one gets when an amazing vacation is drawing to a close. End in sight and all that. Tuesday some of us attempted a snorkeling excursion to Shark's Cove. No dice. Mainly due to the 30+ foot waves crashing over the rocky barrier-wall into the cove.
The water was churning. So, back to our beach to snorkel there. Judy, Mom and others went back to PCC to do a little more shopping and to catch some stuff we missed the first time. I went myself that afternoon to buy some on sale lava-lavas. That was also when I met and had my interesting conversation with Mana the Maori.
That night? Packing.
Next morning? Drag our stuff grudgingly back to the house for the final muster.
Airport, flight, back in AZ by about 1am thurs morning.
My knees bore many reef coral scrapes. I was not tan at all, having been pretty serious in my 50spf sunblock usage.
I felt like we had used up our time well while out there. We were active all day and went to bed each night exhausted. I succeeded in eating pineapple every day. I even tried coconut milk. Judy mentioned a thing called a balony-rito in her blog. Becky tipped me onto them. They are just what they sound like. 2-3 baloney slices, american cheese, and maybe a little mayo & mustard. Their virtue lies in the fact that one could dash in from the beach, slap one together, eat it, and then dash back to the water all in an eyeblink. 30 minute meal? Hah. Try 30 seconds.
When a vacation has been highly anticipated for weeks and months, it is inevitable that you think and daydream about what will happen. You have certain expectations and images of how it will be and how it will turn out. Most times the actual events fail to live up. In this case, I can say that this vacation and the many things we did and experienced were every bit as awesome and fun as I imagined they would be.
Meaning amazingly awesome and incredibly fun.
Thanks Oili, from Ka'a