Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rest, Rash, and Relaxation

Today we had three activities planned.  Quinn and I were both scheduled at 9:00 AM.  Me for a massage, Quinn for a surfing lesson.  Tom was to bring Quinn to the lesson, and when I was out, I'd go relieve him and he would take The Bus to the Bishop Museum or Iolani Palace.

I woke up from a dream of an intense chase scene in what seemed to me to be an excellent story.  In my sleep, I conjured paper and pen to take notes.  When Tom actually woke me up, I dashed to the computer to capture what little I could remember.  It wasn't much, but worth exploring.

My massage was lovely.  I tried lomi lomi, which is a massage style I had not experienced before.  It was relaxing, and I used the time to ponder the story notes I'd made from my dream.  Added more things.  Came up with a protagonist and a conflict.  All in all, not a bad use of a morning.

Quinn had a good time learning to surf on itty-bitty waves in a group lesson.  I didn't see much of it, because by the time I got there they were so far out I couldn't really tell who was who, but Tom told me Quinn had been doing a pretty good job.  His Tae Kwon Do balance skills held him in good stead.  While he had a lot of fun, he also had a nice case of board rash when he got back in.

The child had already requested a day of non-scheduled-ness, so I was planning to spend the afternoon hanging out at the hotel pool.  Tom, however, decided that it was too late, and he was too hot and had been standing up too much, so he abandoned his afternoon activity.

My kidlet is a person who must have his quota of solitude or he is unhappy.  This was clear even when Tom and I were married and we went on the cruise to Alaska with him and he required the balcony to walk in circles in privacy.  That has not changed.  He's take over our balcony and is walking in circles.  Has been for hours.  From down at the pool he looks a bit like a big cat in a zoo, back and forth, back and forth.  It has to look odd to anybody who looks up and sees him, but it's what he wants to do, so that's what he's doing.

Our big adventure for the afternoon was going to a fancy cheeseburger place where Tom and Quinn had fancy (huge) cheeseburgers, and I had less fancy (but still pretty big) hamburger.  Quinn gave up on biting the thing and used a knife and fork on it.  Overall report is that the burgers were quite tasty.  A detail I have noticed about eating in a tropical location--many eateries are open air and there are birds all over the place.  They'll come perch on chairs and tables, and wander all over the floor.  Not something I would have really thought about before.

Tomorrow, we head to Pearl Harbor, me for the first time.  Tom and Quinn and I will attempt to go to the Arizona Memorial, although apparently they now take reservations online and we didn't know this, so might not be able to get tickets.  After that, the boys will go explore the Missouri while I take the bus back towards Waikiki and explore the Iolani Palace.

Thinking about it, perhaps my son gets his penchant for desiring solitude honestly.  I have known for a long time that I don't travel well in groups, and often prefer to branch out by myself.

For now, I enjoy the breeze and ponder going wading at Waikiki Beach once the sun is mostly down.  We've managed to remain sunburn free!

The torches at the pool have been lit.  The sun has vanished from the pool, although it is still up outside of this little shadow space.  Temperatures are cooling, and most people are out of the water.  Don't they realize it's only just now time to get in?  Less sunscreen!

A Day of Solitude--Hanauma Bay

On Wednesday, Tom and Quinn went off to see Pearl Harbor and explore the military boats and the Pacific Aviation Museum.  Since neither of them had the least interest in going snorkeling, I decided to take the day for myself and took The Bus to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve which is on the southeast side of Oahu, quite a good distance from Waikiki.

What I learned from this experience: look up where to catch your ride before leaving the hotel.  I knew what time the bus was coming (9:38 AM), and I thought I had noted what street it ran on.  Turns out, that was incorrect.  The good news was that I left lots of time to get to the bus stop.  The bad news was that I needed all of it, in order to account for going the wrong direction, then walking too far, talking to a bus driver to learn I needed to backtrack two blocks, then finding the actual stop once I was finally on the right road.

The number 22 only runs once an hour, and Hanauma Bay is a very popular destination.  I got the excitement of standing up for the entire 45-ish minutes of the journey, in the very back of the bus.  Very glad that I wore my Relief Band, because that made it so that I survived the trip.  It was hot and my feet hurt, but when we arrived at our destination I was pleased.  Very beautiful vista!  Which I did not get to see for very long, because I then had to stand in an impressively long line in order to pay my entrance fee and watch an orientation film on the bay and protecting the corals and fish living therein.

When I finally got down to the beach, I realized I had another difficulty.  I was by myself, and I was going to be in a bathing suit.  How on earth to sunscreen my back?  I ended up asking a stranger in the line to rent snorkel gear.  She was very kind and assisted with sunscreen application, saving me from a potentially lobster-baked back.

As a person who needs her glasses to find her glasses, I was pleased to discover that there are such things as prescription snorkeling masks.  I tried a few, picked the closest match, turned in all my belonging, including my glasses, to the locker people, and squinted my way to the water.

The ocean was cool, but not excruciating.  I stuffed my feet into the flippers (with some added sand--ouch!), and set off to explore.  Good news, the mask didn't leak, the waves were very slight, so I didn't get any water in my breathing tube, and I was able to float nicely on the surface without too much effort.  The bad news, I saw not a single fish.  I did see some coral, and I enjoyed the cooling-off provided by being in the water.  It was unnerving, however, to think you were swimming in one direction only to lift your head out of the water to check and find that you were actually heading 90 degrees, or even 180 degrees, from where you thought you were going.

Because I was swimming by myself, and not with the recommended buddy, I did not venture any deeper than where I could have stood up.  After acknowledging that fish just really weren't going to happen, I spent my time puttering around lazily, and finally decided it was time to go home.

I had intentionally not checked the times for the return bus, because I didn't have a timepiece on my while swimming and I didn't want to stress myself out, so I simply got dressed and made my way to the top of the hill with the assumption that if the bus was coming soon, I'd take it back and eat lunch in Waikiki, or if not, I'd go the the snack bar.  In an act of timing that I couldn't have duplicated had I been trying, the bus pulled up about thirty seconds after I arrived at the stop.  Also, because I didn't stay very long, I was able to get a seat for the return trip.

My only real wildlife sightings for the day were the large centipede that fell off the women's changing room ceiling then scuttled away, and a very sweet-looking mongoose bouncing around near the visitor center.  The local ticket-taker told me what it was, and mentioned that they kept the snake population down.  I remember Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from my youth, so this didn't surprise me too much.

All in all, I had a nice day of being by myself, and the boys enjoyed themselves in the USS Bowfin and the Pacific Aviation Museum.  Quinn took many pictures, and a video of Tom trying to get through one of the tiny hatches.

More later!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bula Vinaka!

Yesterday, we were up and about at a quite reasonable hour (for me!).  Our day was fully scheduled with a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center, departing from Waikiki on a tour bus at 10:15 AM.  The drive to the northeast corner of the island took about an hour and a fifteen minutes, and we were entertained thoroughly along the way by our bus guide/narrator.  We saw some interesting things like the place where they filmed the TV show Lost, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Karate Kid Part 2, and the Jurassic Park movies.  They were actually filming Jurassic Park 4 when we drove by.  We saw lots of vehicles and trailers.

Arriving at the Cultural Center, there was a bit of confusion regarding getting our tickets, and a lot of people trying to sell us into tours and the buffet lunch.  We did manage to get our tickets and not buy the tours or the buffet.  We were grateful for this later when we came across a snack bar with much cheaper, basic food.  Between us we had an egg salad sandwich, a tuna sandwich, a hot dog, and a meat pie.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is set up as a series of small man-made islands representing different cultures.  These included Samoa, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga, and Fiji, with a nod to Rapa Nui (Easter Island).  Each island contains reproductions of tribal buildings, along with cultural activities and demonstrations.  Each island is staffed by a group of performers who are from the culture that they represent.  What Quinn learned was "If you're Polynesian and you're a guy, you must not wear a shirt."

I did have two very cynical men-folk with me on the journey.  Much mention of 'tourist trap' and questioning of 'cultural-ness' was cast in my general direction.  I went in with my optimistic pants on and had a perfectly enjoyable time when I wasn't being negative-d at.  Mostly they handled the islands and the on-island shows well.  The Luau was a totally different bird.  I almost had a mutiny on my hands.  The food, at least, was tasty, and we had some friendly folks at our table that we chatted with for most of the event, while trying not to be overwhelmed by the cheeseball, cruise ship vibe of the MC.

In Samoa, I enjoyed learning about food preparation.  The men do it!  Unfortunately, this was the first place we hit and we sort of rushed ahead before getting a chance to understand how much time we would need to spend in a given place, and we didn't want to completely miss something.

Next up was Aotearoa.  This was probably my favorite 'island.'  I am fascinated by Maori culture.  We went into a small museum and saw some impressive art pieces and weaponry, which were explained well by one of the performers.  Having actually spoken to him made seeing him later in the shows feel neater and somehow more personal.  Quinn and I also partook in a game of tossing sticks designed to improve hand-eye coordination.  Good news, we're both fairly coordinated! At least with sticks.  The spinning poi balls were a disaster for me, which  is not surprising given how terrible I am with nunchucks.  Quinn, on the other hand, fared much better.

From here we moved on to Fiji.  I also enjoyed Fiji a great deal.  We attended the on-island show, our first of the day.  Everyone was handed a bamboo stick to pound the rhythm along with the songs.  We also learned about Polynesia in general, where it is in the Pacific, and how it relates to Micronesia and Melanesia.  Fiji is pretty much on the dividing line between those three subdivisions.  Here we learned to say "Bula Vinaka!" which is basically "hello" in Fijian.  A very informative show, and since we were sitting in the front row in front of a narrow performing area we got a very up-close look at the dancers, including three men performing an energetic dance full of leaps and spins and aggressive forward motions, which took the nearest dancer about eight inches away from Quinn. Impressive!  My little black belt was shocked at how aerobic the dancing was.

Afterwards, we moved on to Hawaii.  We saw taro growing and learned about the process of preparing it to become poi.  Poi has been much maligned whenever I've heard about it.  I tried a little bit of freshly-made poi.  It was purple and highly . . . neutral.  Perhaps a little bit sweet?  Otherwise, it was one of the most singularly non-flavorful foods I have experienced.  Quinn and I also tried out ukuleles.  Only four strings, which makes them easier than guitars, but I still have the same problem with ukuleles that guitars have always given me.  I have wimpy fingers.  They want to surrender after very little time.

Now it was time for the canoe pageant.  Groups of performers from each island went past on pole-pushed, flat-topped double canoes.  More dancing.  More singing.  Haka from Aotearoa!  I can't say how much I adore haka.  Mesmerizing hips from Tahiti.  Some very large men moving very fast and seriously rocking the boat from Tonga.  While the men dancing were great, I was distracted by watching the man pushing the pole.  He was twig-like, pushing a whole lot of weight, and doing it in a way that had him almost horizontal out across the water while spinning the boat around in very tight spaces.  He was hugely talented and, for me at least, managed to completely upstage his performers.

Once the pageant finished it was time for Tahiti.  We didn't spend much time here, mostly because the performers hadn't returned yet from the pageant, and there was drumming that sounded like it was coming from Tonga, so off we went.  We were there in time for the big Tonga show, but didn't watch it all.  Quinn was eager to track down a rumored coconut tree to try to climb it.

On the way back, we stopped again in Aotearoa to see the show there.  Still my favorite place.  I enjoyed the ritual welcoming into the performance space, and the show itself.  Lots of energy on this particular 'island.'

We never did find the coconut tree.  Apparently there had been too many injuries so the climbing of it wasn't happening any more.

On the educational front, we saw a huge double-hulled canoe and learned about theories of how the Polynesian islands were peopled.  Then it was time to catch a canoe ride back to the entrance for the luau.  Imagine my joy to discover that our boat-poler was none other than the impressive young man from the Tonga boat!  He was clever and amusing throughout the short journey.

The luau was mentioned above, and I think that's enough on that subject.  Afterwards was an evening show--a full production show with complex lighting, set changes, a story of a man from his birth to the birth of his own son, and FIRE DANCERS!  Husband and son tolerated the show.  Husband was most interested in the stagecraft.  Son was pretty much done with music and dancing and was ready to go home, which we did directly after.  Climbing back onto the tour bus was a relief at the end of the day, the beds back in the hotel even more so.

I enjoyed myself greatly and learned several snippets of things I am interested in exploring in future fiction.  In all, a rewarding day for me.  More tomorrow!

Monday, April 21, 2014


Aloha, and greetings from Oahu!

This Easter, my husband, my son, and I boarded a plane in Seattle bound for Hawaii.  Aside from the fact that it was so hot on the plane I had to keep dousing myself with ice-cube water, the flight went relatively well.  A bit of turbulence when we got close to the islands, but take-off and landing were smooth and I didn't panic, even though I managed to accidentally pack my anti-anxiety medication in my checked baggage where it was not very useful.

Arriving in our hotel, we found ourselves in comfortable but cozy quarters, with two full-size beds between us.  Everyone was too tired to do more than collapse, so we bundled onto the beds, pumped up the air conditioning, and slept like the proverbial logs.

For our first day's activities, we aimed for the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium.  Before departing, we slathered sunscreen, as directed, and prepared ourselves with water bottles.  The sky was overcast all day, with occasional rain squalls that blew through.  A local woman on The Bus introduced us to the concept, "If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes."  This did appear to be fairly accurate.

After walking part of the way to the zoo, we hopped onto a trolley and made it the rest of the way.  The Honolulu zoo had a whole bunch of birds I'd never seen before, lots of tortoises and turtles, some orangutan, chimpanzees, spider monkeys, baboons and other primates, as well as many other animals.  Quinn's favorites were the meerkats.

After outdoor lunch, during which we got rained on, we headed for the aquarium.  All of us were feeling the heat, but it appears that I took the worst of it.  I've never been good with hot temperatures, and the humidity added in pretty much wiped me out.  Partway through the aquarium, I was just plain done.  We found The Bus, hopped on, and headed back to the hotel for a brief siesta.

The waitress at the Denny's where we ate dinner was the single-most friendly waitress I have ever encountered.  She plied us with food, copious amounts of lemonade (more hydration!) and welcoming service.

The sun has now gone down and I am typing this post from a reclining pool chair.  Our balcony looks down over the pool and I wouldn't be surprised if the kidlet is watching me.  He's claimed the balcony as his domain.  He is not happy if he doesn't have a place where he can be solitary.

I am very much hoping that I'll fare better with the weather tomorrow.  We're heading to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is the single things I've been most looking forward to, and I'll be sad if the heat turns me too melty to appreciate it.

My pedometer tells me I've walked 7.24 miles today.  Wonder how tomorrow will compare?

Crossing my fingers and preparing my sunscreen for imminent re-application!

More tomorrow.