Friday, December 18, 2009

Honolulu and Hilo, Hawaii

And finally...

Day 1:

We came in to Honolulu early and got woken up at 5:45am to do the face-to-face immigration inspection (since we're officially a foreign ship). As soon as practical, I got off the ship to meet my parents, who were kind enough to fly to Hawaii just to show me all the cool stuff on Oahu. It was nice to see them again and hear them try to pronounce "mahalo", meaning "thank you". ("Maloha"? "Melanoma"?)

The day included a trip to a beach that usually had turtles and sand but now lacked both (but had a great view of the surfers), a visit to a macadamia nut plantation, and a mini-train tour of the Dole pineapple plantation (which also incidentally has the world's largest hedge maze). The macadamia nut plantation was the coolest, despite having nothing to do with macadamia nuts. We got a tour on the premises by a Samoan named Chief Sielu. He's legit. He and some others, all dressed up in what I assume is traditional Samoan garb, showed us all the flora, did some drumming, showed how to open a coconut, showed how to start a fire with sticks, and did some crazy fire juggling stuff. And throughout it all, they were pretty much doing a comedy show. The joke density was ridiculous (in a good way).

I also ate incredibly well, with my first real steak in 3 months, a darn good burger, and some excellent shave ice. Shave ice (not "shaved") is delectable, and I need to find some back home, or alternatively buy an ice shaving machine and some flavoring.

Day 2:

I went skydiving. I had made plans for this weeks in advance, but I guess I forgot to tell my parents about it. Whoops! We booked a 14000ft drop with a company called Pacific Skydiving Center that advertised directly to the S@S kids who go through Hawaii every few months. It was a longer drop for less money than I'd have to pay in New England!

We got picked up from the port in a group of about a dozen; I went with Colin, my roommate. Once we got there we had to sit through an instructional video narrated by a skydiving grandmaster with a long beard who looked like a rabbi. Then we signed our death waivers or whatever and waited for our turn. We got to watch a few flights land before we got harnessed up and assigned our tandem partner. Mine was a guy named John who had shaggy blond hair and a laid-back attitude. I felt safe because he seemed like a stereotype of a skydiving instructor, so I assumed he knew what he was doing. He made a lot of jokes and messed with me a lot, which I appreciated and thought was funny, but evidently made everyone else in our group feel unsafe. I was easy to tease since I was prepared to follow any instruction he gave me at that point.

We crammed about 15 people into a tiny plane and took off. While we were in the air the tandem guys strapped us in. Eventually the plane leveled out and people started jumping; John and I were near the back and got to watch them all go. I was expecting to feel really nervous by now, but oddly enough, I felt pretty good about it. Even with my feet dangling out of the plane, I was pretty calm. And then I felt John push us off. I signed off and closed my eyes. Then I was falling through the skies. Oddly, it wasn't as thrilling as, say, a roller coaster. After a few seconds, it just felt like floating, except with a strong wind. Pretty soon, John pulled the parachute and I got violently jerked back, which was a mite bit painful but a much-appreciated feeling since it meant I wasn't going to die. We cruised in for a landing in the drop zone and landed standing up within a few steps. Very smooth.

When we got back to the ship, it was already afternoon, and most of my friends were gone. I killed the rest of the day walking around the port area and getting a nice lunch before going in for the trip to Hilo.

Day 3:

Hilo is a much smaller city than Honolulu, but it's on a much bigger island. I spent all of the first day there on an S@S trip about volcanoes, which was required for my Natural Disasters class.

We had a bunch of stops, including two museums, a few places to view some mighty big calderas (volcanic craters), an area full of active steam vents (pleasantly warm), and a black sand beach that was backed up by a wide field of cooled lava that still looked like it was flowing to the sea. This last stop was also in view of a giant steam plume from actual lava meeting the sea. We would have tried to go see the glow of the lava itself, but the only viewing area was closed off due to poisonous gases. A shame.

Day 4:

For my free half-day in Hilo, Colin and I and another friend Eric rented bikes and cruised around the island. We got to see a little bit more of Hilo and some scenic routes around the coast. We stopped for lunch at a tiny mom & pop bakery stand at the side of the road and had malasadas, which are essentially doughnut-like pastries that can be filled with just about anything (peanut butter and jelly, pepperoni and cheese, whatever).

Our last stop was a little unpaved path leading down to the ocean. It was part of a donkey trail, and since we regrettably had no donkeys, we couldn't get past the water crossing unless we wanted to get very very wet. Instead, we hung around near the coast and found a coconut. After much rock bashing and improvised chiseling, we got the husk off and used Chief Sielu's teachings to open the coconut. We then drank the juice and rode around on imaginary horses making clopping sounds with the two coconut halves. Good times.

On the way back, we got more shave ice, since it was just that good.

Day 5:

We were told late at night that due to a storm, there was to be a schedule change. Since Hilo had no berth and the open ocean wasn't looking good, we were going back to Honolulu, and they were even going to let us off the ship! The bad news was that exams were still going to be taking place on the following day. Essentially, we were getting the chance to spend our study day in Hawaii.

I lacked plans, so I went out with friends and walked with them to Dave & Buster's for lunch and fun. It was my first time to one, and I get why they're so popular. It's like an adult Chuck E. Cheese's. After that, we picked up study supplies on the ship and holed up in a nearby restaurant with free refills and free internet for the rest of the day.

And now, I'm speeding back to the mainland! I arrive on the 14th.

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