Jie and I just spent ten days in Hawaii; we arrived home hours ago, not days. It is evident that I came home with a deeper tan. I'll let you be the judge of whether I came home with deeper wisdom...after you read my "do" and "don't" list for traveling to our southern-most state.
Don't forget that Hawaii is in a different time zone, four hours behind Mattoon time. On my 7th night there, the pharmacy in Mattoon called me (at four in the morning Hawaii time) to let me know my prescription was ready. I had just gotten back to sleep when I got a text from a friend who had mistakenly sent it to me instead of a relative. Then at 5 a.m. I got a group text from some clergy who were getting together for lunch. When in Hawaii it's best to turn your phone off at night or you will be very grouchy in a very beautiful place.
We got home late Friday, and I was supposed to be at the men's breakfast at 7 yesterday morning. But when 6:30 a.m. arrived, my body still thought it was 2:30 a.m. And as much as I like the guys in the men's group, I couldn't imagine that any of them had a single thing to say that was worth getting up at 2:30 a.m. for. I slept in.
Do walk barefoot on the ocean sands. And soak your joints in the geothermal hot ponds. And seek out some sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach. Snorkel a little. Surf the waves...or enjoy watching some agile and talented surfers from the shore...and flinch at the clumsy ones.
Don't get hit by a pontoon boat on Waikiki. I was neck deep in the ocean when one loaded with a touring group started to come ashore on the swimming beach. The kid operating it was busy joking with the customers and wasn't paying attention. No matter which way I turned to get out of the way, the boat followed me like a magnet. I tried to race to the shore and safety. At the last minute he swerved a different direction and I survived.
Making it to 50 states has been my lifelong goal. I never expected to die the day I arrived in the 50th...with no chance to brag! And I never expected to get killed in Hawaii, the gentlest and mildest of all our states. Maybe Alaska, where I could be attacked by a bear...or Illinois, where I could be shot...or Colorado, where I could fall in the gorge...or Utah, where I could be smothered by those green bugs I found in the Salt Lake...or Florida, where I could be run over by an old man who should have stopped driving a decade ago...or North Dakota, where I could freeze to death...or Nevada, where I could be bitten by a rattlesnake...or Mississippi, where I could simply be buried in concrete for driving around with northern license plates...but Hawaii? I never would have guessed. If you heard I died in Hawaii, you wouldn't believe it. You'd just think I staged it so I could escape.
Do hike around Volcano National Park...and Pearl Harbor National Park. Do learn all you can about the Polynesian cultures that intertwine with Hawaiian culture. Do take in an astronomy lecture atop Mauna Kea.
Do not try to play the license plate game while in Hawaii. I usually do this on vacation, to see how many states' license plates I can spot. On an average vacation, I pick up at least 25 states on the first day. During this whole trip I spotted one Alaska plate, one Texas plate, three California plates, and a jillion Hawaii plates. My total for the trip was four different states. It's the worst license plate vacation I've ever had.
Do sample the food and treats from the many farmers' markets and roadside stands. Enjoy the trees, especially the hibiscus, the cannonball tree, the banyan, and the Ohias. Experience the jungle...and an hour up the road the desert.
Don't bang your eyeball on the corner of the shelf when you are trying to find the bathroom in the middle of the night. I couldn't open my eye for half a day. Then it didn't stop watering every time the sun came out. And gosh, I'm in Hawaii...the sun is out...a lot! Save that accident for Alaska, in the winter.
And finally, do notice the diverse people in the place...and how gently and graciously they mingle together. It is a sign of hope in a world grown irritable in its various and sundry factions. Aloha. --Mike