Our adventure started when we arrived and went to check in for our US Airways flight. There was a sign posted informing us that US Airways flights check in at the United counter and United flights check in at the US Airways counter. I'm thinking...huh? Whose brainstorm was this system?
The first step of our flight was uneventful. The connecting flight, from Denver, was dominated by a huge contingent of teenagers. They turned out to be part of a high school marching band. They were remarkably well behaved. Aside from once getting hit in the head from behind by a flying Frito, which might have been an accident, I didn't have any problems with them.
Speaking of Fritos... I totally don't understand airline food policy. I order the vegetarian meals because I am vegetarian (duh) and therefore don't eat meat. This means I can eat everything else the same as the other passengers as long as they just don't put the meat in it. The airlines, on the other hand, do not seem to believe this. The other passengers on this flight received Fritos with one of their meals, while I didn't. Excuse me? What part of a bag of Fritos has meat in it that would cause them to exclude it from the vegetarian meal?!
This is not an isolated incident. While other passengers get cake, vegetarians get a banana. Or raisins. Or, on one occasion, a slice of cheese. Hello! Cake--not just for carnivores anymore! ...I would complain, but I doubt it would do any good considering this has been a problem for me since I became vegetarian 17 years ago. The airlines aren't likely to change now.
One other thing--since when have airlines started boarding economy passengers from the front? When I returned from Japan three weeks ago, they boarded from the back as usual. Is it an individual airline thing? Is it a difference between domestic and international flights? Every time I fly, it seems like the rules have been changed in some respect, so it's hard to tell. In any case, it seems to me that loading from the front is less efficient, on top of sticking the people in the back with a bum deal: last off and last on. Sounds unfair to me.
We arrived safely in Honolulu. Our next adventure was picking up our rental car, which wasn't immediately obvious and involved taking a shuttle bus. We drove across the island, past some absolutely gorgeous scenery, to arrive at my uncle's house in Kailua. We spent the rest of the evening munching on fruit, meeting people and (for the guys) watching basketball, until we crashed at 9pm local time (3am Michigan time).
We had rented a beach house for the first four nights. This place had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a secluded backyard pool, and a prime location only two houses away from the ocean. Hibiscus flowers in the backyard and plumeria in the front. Fully furnished with TV, radio, and washer/dryer. We couldn't ask for more.
We woke up at 4:30am and got ready for our first activity, a trip to Pearl Harbor. By the time we got all 17 members of our group together and arrived around 8am, we were in time to get tickets to visit the memorial two hours later. It was a long morning of waiting and crowds, but it did give everyone a lot of information to ponder.
Afterward we headed out to lunch. Or at least we tried. We were a caravan of three cars trying to locate a Pizza Hut with only sketchy directions. We wound up driving around in circles three times before the lead car managed to phone someone who knew how to get there. We took the place by storm.
Our next stop was the swap meet at Aloha Stadium, where we spent about an hour. It was not nearly enough time. There were plenty of cheap, tacky items, but there were also beautiful dresses and other artsy pieces. I ended up buying two Hawaiian dresses--down from the five outfits I waffled over. I drooled over some of the bolts of cloth, but I don't sew often (or well) enough to justify buying any.
For supper we went to the Paradise Cove Luau. It certainly succeeded in its purpose of entertaining the tourists. There wasn't a great deal for vegetarians to eat, but I did fill up on heavily mayonnaised macaroni salad. The tanned, toned, and half-naked employees did an excellent job of keeping us all captivated. The view of the sunset over the ocean was a bonus.
The plan was to sleep late, hang loose, and have a barbeque around noon. Sleeping late, in this case, was 6am. Mom went for a walk on the beach in her pajamas with her sister to watch the sunrise. The two of them wound up walking across town and back to visit another sister. It happened to be the rainiest morning we had encountered so far, though they luckily had shelter during the heaviest rainfall.
The barbeque-slash-pool party was quite relaxing--perhaps due to the daiquiris passed around generously. After a few laps in the backyard pool, the whole party moved down to the beach for boogie boarding. I came back from that adventure with stockpiles of sand in unmentionable places.
That evening we ate at the same restaurant where the wedding party was having the rehearsal dinner. Imagine a group with six vegetarians at a seafood grill... Fortunately they had enough options to keep us satisfied, and the desserts were heavenly.
The restaurant was chosen for its garden. We took a walk down to look at the beautiful flowers and turtle pond. Surprises along the way included a pair of black chickens perched in a tree overhanging the path and a snail the size of a man's hand.
The side of the restaurant facing the garden was completely open so that patrons could enjoy the view. This resulted in an unexpected post-sundown show: Flying termites zoomed in, attracted by the lights, and small geckos scampered across the walls and ceiling attempting to catch them.
Once again we woke up early, this time so we could get to Hanauma Bay and find a parking spot. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, sat through the short introductory video, and staked out a prime spot on the beach.
Hanauma Bay is reputed to be the best snorkeling spot on the island. It was my first time snorkeling. I was impressed to find out that they make masks with prescription lenses in them. That certainly made things more interesting than watching colored blobs would have been.
I enjoyed paddling around and seeing the fish. The drawbacks were that my jaw quickly got sore from clamping down on the mouthpiece (I eventually had to hold it in with one hand to give my jaw a break) and my mask was so tight that it gave me a headache. I stayed in the beginner area, though my brother and cousins went pretty far out and snapped some pictures of sea turtles.
By the time we were ready to leave, I was starving. The snack bar, as one might expect, was extremely pricey. An order of fries was $4, and I'm told the ham sandwiches were going for $11.
After lunch we went on a driving tour of Waikiki. We ended up in Honolulu to watch the start of festivities signaled by firemen putting 40-foot leis on the statue of Kamehameha I. As part of the ceremony, we also watched talented young boys and girls from a traditional hula school perform in front of the statue.
We finished off the afternoon with a stop at a bar in Chinatown. They had a wide selection of interesting vodka cocktails, though I mainly just tasted the ones my brother ordered. I did, however, enjoy the "chocolate mintini" that had chocolate chips in the bottom of the glass.
The morning was hectic because we were checking out of the beach house and moving to my uncle's place. This meant waking up at 4:30am to finish cleaning and packing. After checking out, we hung around at my uncle's until it was time for the wedding.
The wedding, held at a local church, was decorated with a theme of pink and white roses. The church was lovely, with high vaulted ceilings, but it grew rather hot by the end of the ceremony. Vacuuming up the rose petals afterward was also a challenge. The reception, held at a nearby golf club, offered a gorgeous view. Rather than a cake, they had tiered cardboard circles in the general shape of a cake which was eventually filled with an assortment of bite-sized cheesecakes.
I went for a walk shortly after sunrise on the path through the marsh behind my uncle's house. The objective was to videotape any birds I might see, to show to some birdwatcher friends. The view of the mountains all around was breathtakingly lovely. On the way back, I also caught a glimpse of a mongoose.
I made a discovery in my uncle's refrigerator. He had a carton of something called "nonfat half and half." Now, I had assumed that "half and half" was milk with 50% cream, hence the name, but the "nonfat" part didn't make much sense in that context. Curious, I read the ingredients. Apparently it is half nonfat milk and half milk. Why not just call it milk...?
The parents of the bride live on a nearby military base, so we went there for a barbeque in the afternoon. I had never been on a military base before, so that was an interesting experience. First of all, we couldn't get in without our names on a guest list. When we arrived, the drivers of all our cars had to check in with security, which took about twenty minutes or so. I suppose I imagined that military housing would resemble university housing, but there were some really nice houses there. One interesting part of the trip to the barbecue spot was that we had to cross an airstrip to get there. Afterward, we watched a slide show of wedding pictures.
We had planned to go to Waimea Falls today, but we procrastinated so long that it eventually seemed like a better idea to go on a different day. We went into Kailua for lunch at an excellent Thai restaurant. I had a dish (with a name I can't pronounce) consisting of potatoes, onions, and tofu in a coconut milk curry that was absolutely wonderful. Then we stopped in several of the shops in Kailua and rented out Lilo and Stitch, which I had never seen.
My impression: I kept waiting and waiting for it to be like the preview. It wasn't. While the scenes set on Hawaii were very familiar from all the things I had done, and the humans were interestingly well-rounded, the aliens were disappointingly two-dimensional caricatures...and since I spent pretty much the entire movie waiting for them to visit the other Disney universes, I felt rather cheated at the end. If I had known from the outset that the preview had absolutely nothing to do with the movie, I think I would have gotten into the plot more.
I started off with a leisurely morning of practicing my watercoloring. In the afternoon, a group of us went parasailing. I was only along for the ride to videotape the event. The parasailing itself only lasts about ten minutes, but since the boat only holds six people at a time, those ten minutes come after about two hours of waiting. There is also an option to pay an extra ten dollars for the "wet and wild" experience of being dragged through the water. (Those not wearing a one-piece bathing suit need to hold on to avoid losing their shorts...)
We went into Waikiki for the evening. There we listened to some friends of my uncle perform Hawaiian songs to the accompaniment of a professional hula dancer. The music and the atmosphere were beautiful. The only drawback was that the flying termites started swarming around us at sunset. While walking back to the car afterward, we noticed how much more crowded it was there than where we were staying. Waikiki reminded me a lot of Tokyo, with the crowds of people and the skyscrapers and the flowering trees and the sushi shops on every corner. If only there were more manga stores...
First on our agenda was returning to the swap meet. This time we allotted two hours for shopping, though it still wasn't long enough. The problem is selecting the right colors, because there are so many choices. I'm very picky about colors, so it takes me especially long. I wound up buying three more outfits by the end of the morning, one of them a set of scrubs.
For the afternoon, we drove to the North Shore. I went to the Waimea Valley Audubon Center. It was a lovely walk to the waterfall, filled with flowers of all colors and amazing trees, not to mention flowers on trees. Visitors are greeted at the door by a peacock family, and the view just keeps getting more and more spectacular from there. To top it all off, on the drive home we got to see a double rainbow.
We devoted our last day on Hawaii to shopping. After making sure everyone was packed, we drove into Waikiki. On the way, we stopped at the Pali Lookout for a spectacular view of the north side of the island. In Waikiki, we went to the International Marketplace for about an hour and a half of shopping. I bought one Hawaiian shirt with colors that really appealed to me; it was the only one of its kind that I had seen anywhere. I found one other dress that I liked, but it was rather more expensive than I would have liked, so I restrained myself.
As we were driving back, we passed a Borders bookstore with a big sign in the window proclaiming that they sold anime and manga. <sigh> Too bad I hadn't noticed that earlier. Oh, well, it would have just been more weight to carry, and it probably would have been in English anyway.
Grand totals for the trip
Number of books read: 1
Number of mosquito bites: 6
Number of outfits purchased: 5 1/2
Number of days I woke up after 5:30am: 1
Number of different kinds of birds caught on film: 14
Number of days I wore the swimsuit I bought for the occasion: 2
After Hawaii, I continued on to visit friends in California. In short, I watched a bunch of movies and tried even more new drinks and played with two cats and two dogs.
My flight out of Honolulu left on time, Thursday night at midnight, and arrived in San Francisco without incident. I checked the monitors, which said that my next flight to Sacramento was on time. By the time I got to the appropriate gate, however, the monitor said that the flight was canceled. Panic time...
I asked the lady at the nearest counter, and she said yes, the flight was canceled, and there would be no more flights that day. She thought perhaps they might put the passengers on a bus to Sacramento instead and advised me to take a shuttle bus to the appropriate terminal to find out more information. I did so...and when I arrived a couple minutes later, my flight was again listed as being on time. Huh?
The next crisis was that, apparently, the flight had more passengers than they had anticipated, and they had to move some of the carryon luggage to the cargo compartment under the plane. This made the plane unbalanced, however, and so we were delayed while they adjusted the balance with some ballast. Luckily, once that was taken care of, the rest of the flight went fine. My friend Jennifer picked me up in Sacramento, and I spent most of the rest of the day relaxing and watching movies and playing with her two cats.
In the morning, we picked up some other friends for a picnic in Golden Gate Park. We hadn't anticipated the amount of traffic that we encountered, which confused my hosts until they realized it must be Gay Pride weekend. I was just glad I didn't have to drive. We ate our picnic lunch and went to look at the Conservatory of Flowers, which was very interesting.
By the time we got back, it was evening. We played some games, and then I watched the second Odoru Daisousasen movie (known in English as Bayside Shakedown 2). The movie doesn't show women in the best light, but it's certainly excellent fodder for slash fans.
We spent the morning going wine-tasting in Amador County. A couple of my friends were interested in the red wines and ports, but I can't drink anything that isn't sweet. For those who are like me and think wine should taste as sweet and smooth as fruit juice, I highly recommend the Charles Spinetta Winery. My favorite is the Orange Muscat, though the Chenin Blanc, Zinetta, and Black Muscat are wonderful as well.
That night we had a wine and cheese party. At the party we played Harry Potter Clue (I lost) and watched Bend It Like Beckham, which made me desperately want to go out and buy Indian clothes.
I spent most of the day reading and watching movies. In particular, I saw the final episode of Xena for the first time, which I had missed while I was in Japan. I was interested to see that the episode itself was set in Japan. Historical accuracy was mixed with bizarre anachronism...as expected. I found it especially odd that the cast couldn't agree on how to pronounce the name of the town "Higuchi," and it alternated between correct ("Hee-guchi") and incorrect ("High-guchi") through the whole show. I also thought it was an unusual choice to have Gabrielle, who was working under a time limit of one day to bring Xena back to life, spend what must have been hours upon hours getting a detailed tattoo covering her entire back. (The tattoo was pretty, though. Mmm...dragon...)
My other friend Jennifer took me on some errands with her, during which I met her two extremely energetic dogs, and then we went back to her place to brainstorm for a Harry Potter fanfic she wants to write. We spent quite a long time at it and came up with an impressively detailed plot. Then we met the first Jennifer and all went out to see The Terminal together. The movie was amusing in places, but it left us feeling bad for a number of the characters at the end.
We went home to have a takoyaki party, though we used cheese in place of octopus. The two Jennifers introduced me to a drink called a buttery nipple, which was quite nummy. A bowl of nectarine slices drenched in Chenin Blanc wasn't bad either.
I hung out, read some more, and after supper got taken out to have some delicious apple pie. We concluded the evening by watching the second Hunter X Hunter musical.