Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Challenge of Being Upgraded

We've been back home for three days now. Was Hawaii a dream?

In a way. Now, I can say I've seen a sea turtle, two of them. I've been to forty-nine states and only need to visit Louisiana to round out all fifty. Will I need to go to Puerty Rico too? Do colonies count?

I can say now that I've kayaked in Hawaii, though three hours noodling around in waves and looking at turtles in a bay barely counts. At this point, I've paddled in Indiana, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Maine, Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, Alaska, Washington, and now Hawaii. Some of it has been in a kayak, some in whitewater rafts, and most of it was in a canoe. I would have liked to paddle a traditional Hawaiian canoe, but the kayaks were fun. I really liked getting the thing into the surf, but I could see coral near the surface and seriously didn't want to fall out of the boat and get pounded up against it. It may be like riding a motorcycle. A good suit of armor would help in case of an accident. Still, the guides weren't exactly ready for us to spend more than a few minutes in the waves. I was headed to the next point, thinking that was our next destination, when one of them gathered me up like a wayward duckling to go back into the bay where we started. Oops!

It was also a dream to pretend we could afford the room where we stayed. See, they upgraded us to a nicer place and Mike said we were ruined forever. I liked the place, but I felt as though my clothes weren't quite up to par. I carefully painted my own nails instead of getting a mani/pedi. I wore dresses, hoping no one would know that I'd gotten one of them at Fred Meyer. Then, part way through the week, I realized I'd never be anyone but who I was and I stopped worrying about looking the part. Who was there to see anyway? It's not like the staff was visible unless you wanted to exchange your beach towels. I'm not really comfortable with that invisible staff thing either. Housekeeping barely showed their faces, though if I stowed a mug right-side up, they dutifully turned it back down every day. Yes, I admit, I was messing with them, just a little bit. I learned why they so carefully washed a pan I left in the sink, why they ran the dishwasher with just to things in it. There were ants, even in this carefully coiffed room. I found myself working harder at picking things up because housekeeping was going to move it if I didn't.

Plus, there were locked gates you needed the code to get through. Was that supposed to make me feel cool? It made me feel like an imposter. I didn't belong inside that gate any more than the people wandering around the bungalos. I kept wondering if the kids Nick played with in the private pool were upgraded like us or really paid twice as much as we had for their rooms. Oh, the mind games that they played with us. Even the beach chairs with umbrellas were for registered guests only, though it was a public beach.

So, now you know about the underbelly of going to a resort. It was lovely, but when I stopped worrying about being cool, I played harder in the pool, didn't worry much about how my hair looked, and I had a lot more fun. I cooked ordinary food in our room because we had kitchen enough to do it. Saved us some money too.

The one time we splurged on dinner, I ordered the 'Hawaiian butterfish,' thinking I'd try something I'd never had before. Near the end of the meal, the waiter admitted that it was actually black cod. I'd practically eaten fish sticks! What the hell? Mike had ordered Hawaiian orange chicken. He said that except for a hint of orange in the skin, it was ordinary roasted chicken, and a bit on the dry side at that. Sometimes I forget that there are whole industries created around the person who needs to be the great pretender.

In the end, I wore my Fred Meyer dress with pride. I walked on my hands in the private pool. I let Nick use the TV remote to turn on the televisions in the rooms across the way. And we ate spam!

Oh, here's a good one. The older Hawaiian cashier in the gift shop grinned when I told her we'd made spam, egg, and cheese sandwiches on Hawaiian bread. She was a down-to-earth type who translated the Hawaiian words on the grocery bag that I bought. Yes, I really liked this grocery bag, so I bought it. She nodded quietly when I said that 'ohana,' or 'family' was my favorite Hawaiian word.

And as for the rest, I won't forget the Austrailian man who told me about a local hero, Eddie Aikau with a glow in his eyes. He must have been a surfer. And there was the guy who told us he intended to roll in the mud on his day off when it was supposed to rain. He had looked so sophisticated when we started talking to him. I could tell he had a story to tell. Then, there was the guy in the drug store who's neck was the size of a tree trunk, actually thicker around than his head. This guy looked amazing - short, quite broad through the shoulders, skinny legs, and that neck! I wanted to run after him and ask him something just to hear him talk. And toward the end of the week, we'd gone to the big pool and in the hot tub, a great big Hawaiian guy started talking to me. He wanted to know what it was like living in the Pacific Northwest. He was the classic big Hawaiian guy, like Hawaiian royalty.

I think they even had a different culture regarding fat there. I could feel a subtle difference in the way people accepted differences in people's shapes, the Hawaiians anyway. The resort had its share of skinny tanned women with perfectly manicured toenails. Those women didn't talk to me much. No matter. I enjoyed talking to the people who would.

I really do like hanging out in the water, in the ocean, in a pool, I don't care which. But my favorite thing is to go places to look at people and talk to them. You know, Hawaii felt like a different country. There was a culture there that it would take a while to settle into, to understand, one that I was curious about. The food was different. The plants and animals were different, so very different. It turns out that the plumeria (also known as frangipani) and the hibiscus, flowers that Hawaii is so known for, were both brought there from somewhere else. Well, even the people were brought there from somewhere else. I'll bet the ants are native. And the little lizards that sunned themselves on the flagstones. Even the Polynesians have only been there for about sixteen hundred years.They came in canoes! And they brought dogs! I really like these people. Did you know that they also invented surfing? It was what royalty did.

But if I'd stayed in Hawaii, if I'd have found a life there, I would have needed to stay quite a while to understand the culture and I'd have to have moved out of the upgraded rooms to really understand the true nature of Hawaii. Maybe I'd have gotten a bungalo, learned more Hawaiian words. Maybe I'd have gotten a job as a cashier. Maybe I'd learn to surf on my days off.

I guess I'm glad I'm back home. It's not upgraded here.


Well, maybe a little bit of upgrading would be nice.

Thank you for listening, jb

No comments:

Post a Comment