Monday, April 13, 2015

From One Tropical Paradise to Another: the Hawaii Overview

I am back from a long journey--faithful readers may not have realized that I was gone, since I left posts scheduled to go up.  Or perhaps faithful readers said, "Hey, she's not writing every day like she usually does."

My family tries to go on a big trip every few years (while we're all alive and able to travel and able to make our schedules sync), and this year, we headed to Hawaii.  It was a wonderful trip, although the plane trip feels ever more arduous.

Today, let me post some highlights, an overview of sorts:

--I was pleased that we didn't try to get to every possible outing on Oahu.  We decided not to try to do any Pearl Harbor activities.  My 8 year old nephew does his best not to watch the news, and we worried that the war memorial sites might be too intense.

--But we didn't just sit around soaking up the sun, although there was plenty of that.  We had some wonderful science outings.  We went on a snorkel tour where we saw dolphins (Bottlenose and Hawaiian Spinner dolphins), sea turtles, and even a whale.  The last time we were in Hawaii on the island of Kauai in January 2007, we heard them but never saw them--and they should have been more plentiful at that time of year.

--The snorkel tour let us see parts of the island, albeit from a distance, that we wouldn't have seen if we headed out by car.  Fascinating!

--We also had an astronomy tour.  A NASA ambassador set up some very powerful telescopes and showed us some wonderful objects, up a bit closer.

--Part of me still expects to see Hubble-type images when I look through those telescopes.  I am surprised to look through powerful telescopes to see stars that look like specks--larger specks than I can see with my naked eyes, but tiny still.

--Several days, I got up just before dawn to try to see the Southern Cross, but it was always too overcast.

--I mostly disconnected from electronics, which was wonderful.  But I had no trouble getting an Internet connection halfway across the planet, which seemed wondrous and strange.

--The life that I'm creating, and the alternate life that I might want/need to have, means that I will never completely disconnect.  I need to check on my online classes, and my writing career means I can't disconnect for weeks at a time.

--I dread all the e-mails waiting for me at the office today.  Sigh.

--I read a lot of books--I may write a full post later.  But here's the overview version.  I got all 3 books of the Southern Reach trilogy from my public library, and I read them all--a marvelous trilogy.  Thanks to Hannah Stephenson, who wrote this post and this one, which led me to this interview with the author, which made me want to read the whole trilogy.  Wonderful stuff!  Jane Smiley also wrote an interesting book, Some Luck, which was experimental in a different way:  each chapter covers one year in the life of family members.  Some years are broad in scope, and others aren't.  She, too, is writing a trilogy, but alas, the books aren't all written yet.  Book #2 is released later this month--will I just buy a copy for myself or will I wait?

--I was surprised by how many people were on the island.  I think of Hawaii as being almost inaccessible, but it's really not, especially for people on the west coast of the U.S.

--It's also a hot spot for Asian tourists.  I was surprised by how many signs were both in English and Japanese.  My surprise made me feel provincial.

--I was also surprised by how many people are travelling with children.  To me, Hawaii is an exotic location that I would expect most people to visit once or twice in a lifetime--that statement probably says more about my provincial-ness than my surprise at Japanese on signs.

--I keep thinking that I'm done with body image issues, that I'm accepting of my body, with its extra weight and exuberant good health.  But a trip to a resort awakens my inner adolescent who looks around and sees everyone as thinner and thus happier.

--An example:  the first day we were at a pool that had mostly small children and their parents.  If I was a visitor from a different planet and didn't understand human reproduction except that it puts weight on the one who carries the child in a womb, I'd assume that the male of the species carried the children for 9 months.  Almost every man was carrying 20-50 extra pounds.  Every female looked lean and super-fit, despite the 2-4 children that were hers.

--Later in the week we moved to quieter pools, where a wider variety of ages and body types relaxed beside.

--My nephew so enjoyed playing volleyball in the pool.  I was surprised by how evenly matched we all seemed to be:  water as the great equalizer.

--I had forgotten how many military bases we have in Hawaii.  Several times a day, fighter planes zoomed overhead.  At times, it did occur to me to wonder if anything major might be happening.  But even in Hawaii, we weren't that isolated.  We'd have known.

In short, it was a wonderful trip.  It's good to travel, to make that effort, to see how other parts of the world live (and even in a resort, we see glimpses).  It helps renew my appreciation of both my home and the wider world.

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