One year ago (as I write this) I was on a two week vacation with my daughter, wife, and my wife’s extended family. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, at the time I was also on a blogging sabbatical, journalling dry-spell, and all-round record-keeping leave-of-absense. It might go without saying, then, that I don’t have much written down from those two weeks of our frantic Hawaiian holiday. I’m hoping to rectify that with a few posts recalling the trip now that a year has passed, the dirty laundry has all been washed, and I’m kinda wishing I could go back…
On Destination Weddings
We had at least a year’s notice for our trip. Karin’s cousin, living and working overseas in Hong Kong, had got himself engaged to a girl who’s family was an ocean away from his Alberta-based clan. A year out we were all pretty sure that the plan was to meet in the middle: a destination wedding for both families at a tropical beach-front hotel on Waikiki beach.
Now, provided you don’t count the fact that no one I know seems to get married in Edmonton these days, but that when they do the wedding is usually a very short driving distance away from Edmonton (so it doesn’t really count as “far away”) I’d never — previously — really been to a true destination wedding. It’s an intersting phenomenon: some people you know very well essentially invite you to go on vacation with them. But, since they are kinda pre-occupied (and rightly so) with all the back-end work involved in hosting an event like a wedding in a foreign locale, you arrive on said vacation and find yourself virtually abandonned by your hosts, left to your own devices, and on a quasi-adventure, and week-long highly-scheduled holiday revolving around a pair of people you rarely see. You can’t just go off somewhere. You can’t stray too far. You can’t plan more than a few hours of anything without consulting a schedule and the plans of a bunch of other people in the same boat as you. It’s the nature of it, I suppose.
As a result of this effort you also tend to have experiences you normally wouldn’t on vacation; For example, wandering randomly down a beach and encountering random relatives who are also wandering randomly down a beach… and then not being entirely surprised at the experience until you are recounting it later in a story.
The wedding was nice. It was medium-sized, at least as far as my wedding experience goes. Sucker that I am, I got roped into — “volun-told”, I think is the coloquial term — doing some pro-bono photography (not the real bride-groom stuff, but some side stuff for the groom’s sister) as usual, causing me to miss the cocktail reception and some tasty-looking shrimp things. And, like any other wedding I’ve attended lately, we were forced to duck out early to tend to the bedtime needs our ‘fading-fast’ daughter, already chronologically confused thanks to the still-to-recent jet-lag.
I love cities. One of my ideal vacation styles involves setting up base at a hotel in some big city somewhere and just living there for a couple weeks. You play the tourist, of course, but you don’t hop in your car every day and travel around from hotel to hotel. You camp — hotel-style — in one place and get to know that place. You go for coffee to the same shop each morning. You get to know the guy running the convenience store on the corner. You try out a bunch of restaurants, wander around to shops, get into a routine, and all-round don’t feel too rushed.
We were in Waikiki for a little less than a week. In that time I discovered the shortest distance to the beach, located a Starbucks, dodged road construction in front of our hotel, made a helpful friend at the front desk, found a good spot to get a reasonably priced breakfast, learned when to avoid the main strip because of the crowds, located approximately eighteen ABC Stores, determined the closest transit stops, and did a lot of random, mindless shopping.Waikiki is a big American city on the beach. But, if you took away the beach, it would pretty much only be interesting because there would be a lot of people standing there where the beach used to be wondering where the beach went and what they should do now. I’ve had a year to reflect on Waikiki and, while I’m sure there are lots of people who love big American cities and a lot of people who love beaches, there is only a sub-set of people who love both simultaneously. Those people go to Waikiki beach on vacation.
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t dislike Waikiki. It’s just that the Waikiki I saw is not there for people like me. I, personally, would have preferred visiting a small coastal town. Or, I would have loved staying at a hotel in one of the more secluded mini-cities we encountered on Maui. And given the opportunity (which I’m sure will arise at some point) I’ll go back. It just was what it was: and apart from the middle-of-the-Pacific, snorkelling-in-a-tropical-climate part, it felt like a lot of other big American cities I’ve been to. Not bad. Just not an amazing paradise like my expectations had been constructed around.
On Sea Turtles
I spent as much time in the water as I could. It wasn’t nearly enough time. But those few precious hours were filled will all manner of interesting adventures, the details of which I’ll get into in a later post. Instead, I want to write a bit about the most memorable of those adventures: my turtle swim.
Karin is still just learning how to snorkel. Well, for that matter, so am I. But I have the distinct advantage that I come from a family of swimmers. I grew up in the water. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the ocean, but then also if it wasn’t a lake somewhere on the praries or near the mountains, we were definitely in the local pool. Swimming was one of those activities that, I suppose, I just took for granted. We just swam. And swam. And I figured most everyone swam as much as we did, never stopping to consider I might one day marry a woman who didn’t quite have the same relationship with the water as I do. So, her brand new snorkel in mouth, mask on her face, and flippers on feet, it’s not surprising that she didn’t last quite as long in the water as I did.
In Hawaii I did a lot of solo snorkeling, safe or not — who can say?
We had been in Waikiki for a couple days. We’d been to the beach a couple times, out in the water just as often. That morning I was out in the deeper water, the surf atop some sandy reefs about two hundred meters or so offshore. And I was taking pictures, of course. My timely acquisition of a “waterproof” digitial video camera a few months earlier had meant I got to take it along on two ocean-side vacations, this being the second. The little camera cannot go very deep, but for capturing short clips a few feet underwater it worked surprisingly well. Karin and Claire were back on the beach, playing in the sand.
Having been a boy scout for twelve-plus years in my youth I understood the issue with approaching wild animals. In the ocean, even just off the shore of Honolulu, there are countless fish and urchins. And apparently there are turtles. I discovered this, nearly colliding with the poor creature as I was bobbing about with my snorkel and camera way out there in the water. Wild animals — and I assume this little guy was one — are to be respected. I kept my distance, but camera in hand — flippers kicking as quick as my legs could go — I followed him for what seemed like twenty minutes, my arm and camera extended out towards him trying to capture as much footage as I could. When I reviewed that footage later, back at the hotel, it totalled about two minutes (and not quite the twenty I’d imagined.) But there it was: me chasing a sea turtle (no hope — or intention, for that matter — of catching him) and one of the coolest underwater adventures of my adult life.