Sunday, July 21, 2019

Vacation in Hawaii

After a hectic semester teaching and grading papers, I took a nice break in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was so nice to get out of the freezing cold winter weather in Christchurch and into a tropical American zone. It ranged from 75-86 degrees Fahrenheit (24-30 Celsius) while I was there, which meant I could wear short sleeves and shorts pretty much any time of day or night. Thankfully it only sprinkled a little during the first part of the trip, and waited until the last two days to have a steady rain, so we were already preparing to have to head back when it turned gray.

A little bit of an ocean view from the condo in Waikiki

free tourist dancing show in one of the malls

Waikiki Beach at sunset

We met up with family and did a lot together: shopping, eating, playing games, snorkeling, kayaking, hanging out at the beach. Pretty much just enjoying the time and planning as we went along, which isn't usually my style, but you can kind of get away with doing that there. The only thing we had to plan for was a Pearl Harbor visit, since tickets can sell out. I will say I was surprised at how non-eco-friendly Hawaii was. Restaurants gave out styrofoam containers, plastic water bottles were common, and recycling was hit and miss. I was also surprised at how cash-heavy it was. Where elsewhere in the world no one carries cash and cards or mobile phone swiping is ubiquitous, in Honolulu not only were there some places that only took cash, but you had to have exact fare (in cash) for the bus, and that meant getting a roll of quarters and putting bills and coins into an automatic counting machine after getting on the bus. It felt so antiquated, and was a real pain as a tourist having to carry around cash and coins and ensuring I had the right amount for how many trips I was going to take. It is quite behind other tourist destinations, and I suppose it's still there because there's enough demand regardless of the inconvenience.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial - closed for repairs but you could still take a ferry by it
Also went to the Army Museum
One highlight was shopping at Costco -- there were all kinds of tasty new food options and I got a new underwater camera that I took with me on the water adventures. We got some cool photos of fish in the coral reef at Hanauma Bay, one of the top spots for snorkeling. We were all really vigilant about sunscreen during the trip overall, and I avoided getting burned, which was a win.
Too nice a shot to miss - at Hanauma Bay on the beach

Something I always notice is how comfortable it is to be in the U.S. compared to NZ. People will strike up a conversation with you and chat for a long time if you want to keep it going, and it doesn't matter that that will be your only encounter -- it can add something to your day. That is so different than here in NZ (or at least in Christchurch), where New Zealanders are mostly timid/reserved and avoid eye contact, let alone talking to strangers. It makes for a not very welcoming place, and the problem is the new people coming in pick up the vibe and end up replicating it even if they don't want to, so after a while you find yourself doing the same thing. On our hike to Diamond Head Mountain, the first time we got into a long conversation with a couple from the mainland after they asked us to take their picture and then another couple on our walk back down and they were so nice and interested in what we were up to and encouraging. On my second hike, I ended up meeting a family from the Midwest who were happy to have a chat. Obviously things aren't always like this and everyone is pretty much on vacation so in a decent mood, but this kind of ease of communicating is not universal. I miss it and it was nice to have.

Many steps to hike to the top of Diamond Head Mountain
Nice views at the top though

We ate out a lot and tried a cool Japanese restaurant and got the full multi-course meal which was quite an experience. I didn't try the octopus on the meat platter, but I did try the fried ball with octopus inside which came later. The food was very flavorful and tasty, and we were glad we tried something new.

first stop: Denny's and cinnamon pancakes

deconstructed burger with yummy gravy

shrimp and lobster pasta dish
the Japanese meat platter - great marinade
stop at IHOP for sprinkle pancakes
peanut butter fudge and Oreo cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory (so rich it hurts!)

malasadas (donuts) at famous Leonard's Bakery
Blue Hawaiian poolside
variation on a mai tai
good old frozen margarita (pineapple flavored) and chips and salsa
I miss Mexican food so much - this enchilada platter was exactly what I wanted
food court pretzel - delicious
finally found a shave ice place - this was so much sugar - banana flavor was yum
it's still surprising how we bleach our eggs - not necessary!
I stocked up (by eating) lots of berries, which are so expensive in NZ
Someone also discovered this little food stall where a guy makes rolled ice cream by pouring a cream mixture on a frozen slab and then cutting up toppings and scraping it around until it makes real ice cream. It was good and we went back a second time. Partly it is cool as an experience to watch him make it. It doesn't look like it will amount to much, but then suddenly it is a cup full.

Kayaking in Kane'ohe Bay was fun. There is a sandbar out aways where you can get out of the kayak and walk around. The water was warm enough for me and it was a beautiful day for it. Elsewhere the reef was very close the bottom of the boat, so it made for a more interesting experience than usual.

We ended up buying too much stuff, as usual, for our luggage allowances, and for some reason on the way back, Air New Zealand actually checks your carry-on weight at the check-in desk. Fortunately, we encountered a sympathetic staff member who let us shift weight around to make our checked luggage overweight and have more than the peasly 15 pounds you're allowed for carry-ons.

I didn't buy these Junior Mints bubbles or the "cereal" (cough, dessert), but I took photos for this blog as an example of what I both like and dislike about the U.S. -- you can literally get anything there...but it's probably not good for you, not necessary, and harming the planet.

Mint scented bubbles - really?
this is getting a bit ridiculous calling these cereal...
Also, I had a conference while I was over there, which went well. Again, it was so nice to be among mostly North Americans who could strike up conversations and sustain them easily. The more Canadians I meet, the more I discover how they even beat the U.S. at friendliness. They are lovely people to chat to. I also made acquaintances with a group of Australians who were also very cool and easy to talk to. I took a ton of notes and my presentation went well and I made some good contacts for the future, even though I'm not planning on fighting for a spot in the academic world.
view from the conference at the university (Diamond Head on left)

We checked out the zoo, which is very close to the main Waikiki area, and got to hear the elephants making a ruckus in response to some antelope-type animals making some calls. That was fun.

alligator ready for a bite

other alligator being more stealthy

we all tried to feed them, but they weren't very interested

such cute foxes

these Green Wood Hoopoe (see below) sounded just like a kookaburra

wild dog, relative of hyena

don't think I've seen a peacock nest like this before - cute

the actual kookaburra was silent but had its mouth open

banyan trees - common around here
I missed Hawaii even as I was leaving, and I would definitely like to go back again, although Australia is closer and there are other islands in the Pacific I'd like to visit. We'll have to see.