Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Aloha and Mahalo

Our vacation was a blur, albeit a beautiful one. Hawaii, Oahu, and Maui in 11 days. Well, Minneapolis too, if you want to include all the stops. The guests on our trip were kind and spry, and downright hilarious at times. My favorite comment of the trip: "Excuse me. I have some support hose that need rearranging."

Our tour manager from Holiday Vacations was probably a drill sergeant in her former life, but she had a heart of gold. She kept all 44 of us in line, on time, and fed mighty fine. Five flights, five hotels, innumerable bus rides (15 maybe?), hundreds of photos and hours of video later, I have to admit the "most expensive free trip ever" (thanks to baggage handling fees, daily internet charges, and umbrella drinks) was downright pleasant and the accommodations were 5-star.
Ron Burgundy was the perfect host for the trip. He handled his duties like he'd used a microphone before. By the second day, he knew everyones name and where they lived. He wielded his camcorder like a ninja. I was just the trophy wife along for the trip (stop laughing), the unofficial trip photographer, and so blessed to have the opportunity to go along. I had a ball Tweeting my way across the islands, despite my unintended lack of discretion for certain hashtags. #gimmeabreak

The side trip to Pearl Harbor was emotional and a bit eerie as I watched the solemn veterans in our group toss the flowers from their leis into the water to be carried out to sea. It was a beautiful tribute to lost lives. You could literally feel the presence of the 1,100 bodies of American soldiers still entombed in the USS Arizona below us. About a quart of oil still leaks to the surface above the ship every day and serves as another sign that we should not forget.

Never forget.
The trip to the Volcanoes National Park was a testimony to the power and strength inside God's earth. Knowing a volcano could erupt at any given time did not unsettle me. I was too awestruck by the remnants of previous eruptions and the literal artistry that resulted from molten lava, black sand, and majestic mountains.
The orchid farm was truly God's paintbrush at its best. I could have stayed there on sensory overload for hours.
We had free time on Maui, the most beautiful of the three islands. The meals were gastronomical. I failed in my goal to sneak into a kitchen of a swanky restaurant, just to watch the chefs. But I succeeded in eating my weight in fresh papaya, pineapple, kiwi, and melon.
The banyan trees had me fascinated to the point that at any minute I expected to see The Captain from "Five People You Meet in Heaven."
The sunsets in Maui were surreal.

The last evening in Honolulu before our departure, Ron Burgundy and I walked hand-in-hand down Kalakaua Avenue, home of the up-scale shops of horror like Prada, Fendi, Coach, and Tiffany. Neither of us had much interest in shopping - he was in search of a hamburger and I wanted sushi. We found neither. Wolfgang Puck demanded $47 for a steak, "market price" for surf and turf (if you have to ask, you can't afford it) and even the gold-painted mime wouldn't perform without a donation.
And then I noticed him, sitting on a rock ledge across from Tiffany's, chin in hands. Hawaiian descent. Shoulders slumped. Tattered, filthy shirt. Matted hair. Plastic bags containing his only possessions were piled around him. He would be sleeping on the beach that night, providing the police didn't kick him off. His face was expressionless and his eyes were glazed. He was the classic image of homelessness.

I wanted to take his picture because he was a beautiful sight of sorts. The downtrodden in the middle of the glitz and glam. The poor among the rich. The empty among the full. The sad among the giddy. Such stark contrast to his surroundings, but I have no doubt he put his pants on one leg at a time, just like the fine Italian leather-shoed men who strutted past him as if he was invisible. But he was so very real.

He was an indelible image from a place known for extravagance. I will never forget him.

Nor will I ever forget the sight and sound of the sea.
Aloha, and Mahalo.
Tea tonight: Hawaiian Islands Pineapple Waikiki