Posted in Commentary, Growing up/old, Lessons Learned, Memory Lane

Does anyone else wonder if Hawaiians say “aloha” and “mahalo” only to tourists and never to each other? Or, “My trip to Maui”

July 3, 2013

As I sit in the Kahului Airport on Maui, I am, against all odds and personal disposition, nearly five hours early for my flight back to the mainland. Theoretically, I had an abundance of time today, and probably could’ve made it to the top of Haleakala and back with time to spare, if the morning’s events hadn’t left me tired, more than a little banged up and sore, and ready to be still, in solitude, with a little air conditioning, and no more worries for the moment. The bags are packed, the rental car returned, and all I have to do now is sit.

I came to Maui to witness, and sing at, my best friends’ wedding, and this was my first trip to Hawaii. It is also likely to be my only trip to Hawaii, as Scott is not one for beach vacations anywhere. And while Maui was lovely, and beautiful, and interesting, I didn’t fall in love with it as many do. I fell in love with San Francisco, and was more than a little delighted with the charms of Vancouver, and was intrigued enough with Washington, D.C. that I’d like to go back and flirt a little more. But perhaps I’m just a little too Nordic in my bones to be fully enthralled by tropical islands; I felt the same way in Cozumel, as if there were something wrong with me that I didn’t breathe in the first sea breeze and declare myself ready to die because surely this was paradise.

But I’m a Great Lakes girl, and oceans scare me a little, filled with currents and critters one doesn’t encounter in freshwater life, and I was surprised to find myself musing, as I sat on the beach in Kihei, that I feel far more relaxed and content on a blustery, gray day on the beach of Lake Superior than I ever have on a sunny ocean beach. Who can explain such things? Not I.

That is not to say I didn’t have a nice time, because I absolutely did. I got to hang out with my girlfriends and their family and friends that joined us here. I talked to a lot of really nice Hawaiians, including a pair of dudes smoking on a curb who loved my Elvis Hawaiian shift and offered me a hug just for being “fabulous”; and the awesome Jen at Hertz who listened to my tale of driver’s license lost and miraculously found and put me in a Mustang convertible for not much more than the economy car I’d reserved; and the sweet girl cleaning the bathrooms at the Lahaina Courthouse; and Tim, our waiter at the luau, who, as such, is supposed to be nice professionally, but you know it doesn’t always work out that way; and the lady who sold me her handmade necklace of strung koa seeds and told me how her son and son-in-law carved the beautiful koa tikis she had on display. (The only reason one didn’t come home with me is I hadn’t the room; not if I wanted to do only carry-on luggage.)

I saw beautiful sunsets and mountains shrouded in fog and clouds, just like in the brochures. And they were breathtaking. But I probably had more fun watching and talking to the tiny, translucent crabs that burrow in the sand, carrying out the dirt and throwing it out of the way with a few of their legs. They were quick and skittish, though I never quite figured out what spooked them, as I sat stone still and they seemed to ignore the waves lapping at the sand.

I first noticed the crabs after the sun set the first night I was there. I never really saw them, though I tried to get closer; I only saw that something was moving. I forgot all about them the second night, when, upon returning to my hotel, I decided to walk out to the beach and see what the night sky looked like from the middle of the Pacific. There were more stars than I can usually see at home, as I expected, and the sound of the surf in the darkness was soothing enough that I thought I’d sit down in the sand for awhile and take it all in. Until I felt something moving under my kiester, only then remembering the ghostly critters from the night before, and getting up faster than I would’ve expected my middle-aged carcass to move. I strenuously and thoroughly dusted myself off and moved up to a chaise on the grass nearby, somewhat safer (I hoped) from impertinent crustaceans.

The wedding itself was held Monday night near sunset at Po’olenalena Beach in Wailea, and there were two more weddings visible down the beach. In what was a running theme this trip, I made it to a different section of that beach and had to be guided in to the right location by phone, because the Google GPS lady is a lying jerkturd when she doesn’t have a precise street address to work with. What a diva!

I thought Scott and I had pretty good vows at our very secular wedding, but I liked the Hawaiian ones even better, as they included a vow to “never want you to be other than yourself.” If only that were standard, and people really thought about it, what a good thing that would be for relationships in general. If you want someone you supposedly love to be someone else, then they’re not the one for you. I wish more people understood that when they’re dating. People are who they are. You get to vote “yes” or “no” with your feet and your time, not “yes, if….”

I cried because the ceremony and the brides were beautiful, but not so much that I ruined my carefully applied makeup I was desperately willing not to melt off my face in the heat and humidity. And then there was cake! Which is, truth be told, my favorite part of any wedding, because I am three.

I interrupt this travelogue to tell you that there is a tiny, sparrow-like bird hopping around the carpet under the row of chairs opposite me looking for food, suffering for the bored USDA inspector’s diligence with the carpet sweeper. He has just been joined by another, more vocal bird friend. I am not sure how they got in here; dumb luck, I guess, as while most of Kahalui Airport is an indoor/outdoor affair, the gate area is pretty well airlocked from the outside. I fear they will starve, these little birdies; there are no food vendors here, only soda machines and a last-minute jeweler. How will they ever escape?

Tuesday night, the whole Hee-Haw gang went to the Old Lahaina Luau, with its beautiful setting among thatched roofs at the edge of the water. The drinks were fruity and plentiful (I ordered mine alcohol-free, but there were conflicting reports from those who ordered the traditional version as to whether theirs, too, were virtually alcohol-free or quite strong), the food good (though I can report that the description of poi as akin to wallpaper paste in texture and flavor was spot-on), but the dancers…oh, the dancers. They were beautiful. (And I saw far more bare male tush than I expected to, which was an added bonus!) The dancing was interesting and impressive, and the music wonderful. I took a potty break during the “missionaries arrive in the islands to make us fear the Lord and wear pants” portion of the program, because I’ve had it up to here with prudish uninvited Christian evangelicals in this or any other century.

Other than attending the wedding, I had only two personal goals for my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii: to walk on lava (which, though I didn’t make it up the volcano, I walked on at the beach), and to swim under a waterfall. I wasn’t sure I would have time to make it up to the rim of the Haleakala Crater and peer in, but I scoped out the waterfall situation and found a likely option about 16 miles up the Hana Road at the Twin Falls Farm Stand.

All the tourist websites, and even signage at the site, warned of car break-ins, adding that even locked trunks were no real obstacle. Paranoid as I’d been the whole trip after losing my driver’s license, I put everything I absolutely couldn’t live without–car key, ID, credit cards, cash, phone, camera–in a small purse to carry with me down the trail, and hoped for the best on the stuff I left in my car. I would be very sad if someone stole it, but at least I’d have everything I needed to get home.

The northern part of the island was more tropical and less breezy than Kihei had been, and I wasn’t very far down the trail when I started looking forward to the refreshing waterfall swim at the end of it. But I took my time, taking pictures of whatever caught my eye. It’s a good thing I did, too, for reasons that will soon become clear.

When I finally got to the waterfall, having to cross a narrow concrete “bridge” (which gives the balance-challenged like me fits), quite a crowd was gathered. I pulled off to the side and stripped off my t-shirt and shorts to the swimsuit underneath (I came prepared!), tucked my clothes and bag under my arm (forgetting for a moment who I was and imagining that this would be all the protection required), and stepped into the water, treading carefully on the rocky bottom with my sport sandals.

Not carefully, enough, however, because within a few steps I teetered and fell onto a fairly substantial and unforgiving rock, earning myself a 6-inch scrape and what promises to become a pretty spectacular bruise in the next day or two, wrenching my back and ankle in the process. Not to mention dunking my clothes and my purse in the cold creek water.

The purse that held my phone, camera, and my high-tech rental car key with all the buttons on it.

I pulled the bag and myself out of the creek (in that order), shook the water off, and kept going, because there was nothing else I could do at the moment, as I had not one square inch of anything that was remotely dry to make checking my stuff in the middle of the creek anything but a futile effort, and the worst (barring subsequent drowning) had already happened. Turning back wouldn’t save my gadgets; the damage was done, and I was almost there. I stepped extra-carefully, and a little wincingly, the rest of the way, negotiating two more rocky banks before I got to the pool. This is the last picture I got of the waterfall, before I killed my camera:

Fortunately, I managed to get the photos off my SD cards.  The camera is definitely dead.  The phone, which didn't work at all despite my efforts at drying it in Maui, came back to life after a night in some rice at home.
Fortunately, I managed to get the photos off my SD cards. The camera is definitely dead.
The phone, which didn’t work at all despite my efforts at drying it in Maui, came back to life after a night in some rice at home, although after I’d made an insurance claim for its replacement.

I found a place off to the side to put my wet clothes on some leaves in the laughably unreasonable hope they’d dry a bit, hid my bag under them with my glasses after trying both phone and camera to ill effect (though the leather purse offered them some protection and they didn’t seem all that wet), and counted on the aloha spirit to keep them safe until I got back to them. And then I stepped into the pool, first walking and then paddling my way over to the two waterfalls spilling over the edge of a cave that surrounded the pool like an amphitheatre. It was surreal to be under and above ground at the same time, and the water was colder than I anticipated. I swam through the waterfall and it beat on my skin like hail, making a racket that drowned out all else. Sheltered behind it, I looked up at the ferns growing out of the cave’s ceiling, and the long, stubborn tree roots that had decided long ago that they would not be dissuaded from that spot by the mere absence of earth. They snaked from topside along the cave ceiling, down the walls and all the way down to the pool. Nature always finds a way.

I might’ve stayed longer, but there were more people coming for their turn, and I had several hundred dollars of electrical equipment to see to (and possibly mourn). Plus, I was starting to field complaints from the left side of my body already. I knew I was going to feel every step of my walk back to the car, and wasn’t even sure I’d be able to start it once I got there.

I was pleased to find my stuff as I’d left it, and put on my wet clothes to keep my hands more free for the walk back, which I had no illusions I’d stay entirely upright for. (In fact, I slipped once, but didn’t fall in again.) I stopped by the farm stand for some banana bread and a pineapple-banana popsicle on a sugar cane stick by way of breakfast and supporting the private farm that keeps access to the waterfalls free and public, and made my way back to the car, slurping on my popsicle the whole way, pretty pleased to be alive, despite everything.

Injured and bruised

-Killed my phone

-Killed my camera

Doesn’t matter. Swam under a waterfall!  Totally worth it.

If you’re the type who likes to look at other people’s vacation photos, you may click here to see mine.  Click on the first picture and it will give you navigation arrows on either side of it to click through the set.



I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “Does anyone else wonder if Hawaiians say “aloha” and “mahalo” only to tourists and never to each other? Or, “My trip to Maui”

  1. The pictures are beautiful, Kristie, and make me yearn to return soon (we’re thinking of going to Oahu next year). And while Hawaii may not exactly be your thing, I’m so glad you still enjoyed it. *I* didn’t even stop on the road to Hana to swim in the waterfalls, so kudos to you. And while I mourn the loss of your camera, I am glad you were able to retrieve the photos you took. I was happy to see photos of the wedding, too. Maui weddings are wonderful.

    Oh, and I love all of the dresses you wore (what I could see of them). You looked stunning for the wedding. Just lovely.

    If you ever decide to come to NYC for whatever reason (maybe if you ever make a trip back to DC and want to take the train up), let me know. I will totally take the train in and meet you for lunch. Just throwing that out there:)

    1. Thank you. I did have fun, and even though I’m still bruised and orthopedically dodgy a week later, it was totally worth it.

      Scott and I are considering a 20th wedding anniversary trip NYC way next year, so I will take you up on that!

    1. Your kids will always need you, and beach property is crazy expensive, but there are all kinds of beaches…it doesn’t have to be the ocean. 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. 🙂

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