“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust
So it’s not some big secret that our family loves to travel. Or, to put it more accurately, we are compelled to travel, and then we get there and discover ourselves terrorized by the simplest transitions and the most straightforward decisions. We are neither intrepid nor particularly careful when we set out, but instead an odd combination of both. Things get weird when we leave the routine and plop ourselves into the big world. Yet we do it, again and again, thinking we’ll find something out here that we can’t back there.
This time it is Hawaii. Which is in fact warm, and beautiful, and totally chilled out, despite being packed with tourists. For the chill vibe, I could credit the Hawaiians, but they are actually few and far between. Instead I am going to credit the fact that most of the tourists here are from California, man. To be the place where chilled-out Californians go to get away from it all, you’ve got to have hot and cold running calm vibes flowing out from everyplace.
Our vacay itinerary has been pretty much to follow Matt King, the emotionally frozen patriarch of the Hawaiian colonist family portrayed in The Descendants. Of course, he was not on vacation, or chilled out, or even next door to happy, but our locales have been the same. Our hotel in Waikiki was next to his beach club, and our rental in Kauai is on the golf course he drives along while heading for his hotel (no St. Regis for us.) Bill and Grace surfed yesterday on Hanalei beach, exactly where he was running when he found that rotten realtor. All four of us have ridden horses, hiked, and rock-climbed on a ranch that looks pretty much exactly like the enormous land holding at the center of the plot.
Still, since we didn’t watch the movie until we got here, we’ve seen it all with our new eyes. In the case of the Proust quotation, “new eyes” implies that the seer will react with ecstatic wonder, deep contemplation, and childlike appreciation of the beauty of the world. In our case, it’s that same old combination of crazed high hopes (DH), longing for luxury (Abigail), desperation for bikinis and smoothies (Grace) panicked reining-in (oui, c’est moi.)
But while Hawaii is plenty old, it’s all new to us. Here are a few of the things we have learned on our voyage of discovery:
Language. Hawaii has only 13 letters with which to express all the things that the Hawaiians might wish to say, including “More mango smoothie, please.” and “This weird plant crumples up when you touch it!” and “In our culture, women are expected to wear a long yellow dress and a flower behind one ear.” Because Hawaii is America, everything is also in English, which makes it easier to translate the Hawaiian signs everywhere. The Hawaiian language is characterized by an overabundance of vowels, repeated words (Likelike, or wikiwiki, which is the Hawaiian way of saying “very”) and a paucity of consonants. You have to say everything without using b, d, f, g, j, q, r, s, t, v, or z. I wouldn’t miss J that much, or Q, but much of my life has been built around the letters R, S, and T.
Surf’s Up. Everywhere. On the beach of Waikiki directly across from the big hotels is a long strand of sand completely covered in tourists, miserable-looking homeless people, local families and hot middle-aged guys on surfboards. Real surfers! Seriously: like 50-plus years old, and super fit. They carry their boards on their heads, or under their arms, as men would carry briefcases in some less tropical place.
And here in Hanalei everybody surfs. (OK, we’re up the hill in overly-manicured Princeville, but let’s just pretend for the sake of argument that we were not staying on a golf course, but instead in a super-surfer beach shack closer to the waves.) The old dudes are at it, with their long grey ponytails for sure, but so are moms, kids, people on their honeymoons, and one enormous clan of southeast Asians here on vacation (either from Mumbai or Santa Monica — I couldn’t easily tell.) DH took Grace one morning for a few hours. They both came back exhilarated, but covered by a gross angry red rash on their scraped-up thighs. Silly me, I had thought a rash guard only protected you from the sun.
Here is DH, making the “Shaka” sign, which used to mean “hang loose” but now means “welcome”, “Aloha”, “That’s fine; go ahead and cut me off in traffic,” and “I am a silly tourist man.” He looks as though he is on a dwarf horse, but that’s just because he is enormous, not his trusty steed Mikey.
You can go horseback riding in Kauai, then swim in a waterfall and hike through the ranch. It looks like this when you are riding:
I’m sure we will learn more things on our trip. That’s all for now, aside from a few gratuitous surfing photos. Don’t look too closely at the bottom of the pictures.