Hawaiian Memories MAG

By Julie H., Overland Park, KS

     Half awake, I stiffly made my way down the plane's aisle. It was hard to believe we'd finally arrived, but the blast of tropical air brought me back to my senses. In the airport, five Hawaiians greeted us with sweet-scented leis and a warm welcome. Everywhere we turned was a friendly face asking if we needed any help. First I noticed the suntans. Then I heard the soothing music - the slow, beautiful ukulele captured my soul, and drained all worries. Hawaii is, of course, part of the United States, but, as I discovered, its culture is its own.

The landscape alone has its treasures, from world-famous beaches, mountains, breathtaking valleys and farmland to cascading waterfalls and luscious rainforest. An early-morning beach walk captures the island's beauty. The cool, soft white sand tickled my feet as the clear waters sparkled. Even the calm ocean seemed to send a warm welcome. Miles of sparkling water separate this special world from the hectic life of most of the mainland.

If any culture finds such bliss, why would they want to share it? That is why the hospitality of Hawaiians amazed me. They never mind the endless lines of tourists but rather seem to enjoy our company. Americans have a reputation for being rude, but Hawaii is definitely the exception. They treat us haoles (non-Hawaiians) with as much respect as they treat their own people.

Every shop I entered, I received a warm "Aloha! Can I help you with anything?" Genuine smiles would light up their beautiful faces. During our vacation, I received five puka-shell necklaces that random Hawaiians just gave me. In Hawaii, smiles or waves from complete strangers are not rare. It is almost difficult to adjust to the open friendliness of the people.

Smiles may be more frequent simply because of the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle. Nobody ever seems in a rush; speed limits rarely exceed 35 m.p.h. Days seem longer, and early-morning snorkels, jogs, and even naps on the beach are good ways to experience the outdoors before the sun bakes everything. Storm clouds rarely darken Hawaiian skies.

Nighttime activities are also popular. Surfers and boogie-boarders play in the ocean until the very last drop of daylight. From what I saw, Hawaiians seem to enjoy carefree lives. Their contagious happiness was part of the reason I had such a wonderful vacation.

The food in Hawaii was another part of the experience. Instead of apples and pears, I snacked on guava and pineapple. Macadamia nuts and coconut replace barbecue sauce. The fresh fish, such as Mahi-Mahi, is a delectable and different treat.

Under the clear Hawaiian waters exist a whole world in itself. Many different fish inhabit the colorful coral. Among them is one whose name tickles me every time: the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, Hawaii's state fish. Luckily, the fish we saw snorkeling were not the tasty food that ended up on our plates.

Memories flood my mind: sitting at a beachfront restaurant; watching the waves smash against the shore with surfers trying catch good rides; a glowing sun setting over the ocean; delicious food; live Hawaiian music. Photographs alone would not be sufficient to capture the true beauty of Hawaii.

"We want to thank you for flying Hawaiian Airlines. We hope you enjoyed your stay. Have a safe journey home. Mahalo!" My sister shook me awake. The flight attendants were waiting to bid us farewell. As always, they were smiling.

Stepping off the plane, I felt I had just awakened from a dream. I dragged my bags behind me, which were heavy with souvenirs. Along with my bags, I carried fond memories of an awesome vacation I will never forget.

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