Monday, February 18, 2008

Educational Experience

So I pulled my kid out of school for ten days so she and I could escape to Hawaii for some sun and surf, and the occasional mojito for mom. I felt a twinge of guilt at the "out of school" part, or rather I didn't want the daughter to get the idea I didn't really feel guilty at all, but she should, because you just can't go cutting school all your life whenever somebody says "Hey, let's go to Hawaii." Even though you really, really want to.

But I figured out a way around the moral dilemma. "We'll make it an educational experience," I said. "We'll learn about volcanoes and rain forests and indigenous peoples. You'll go home a regular Al Gore."

Well. we've given it "educational experience" the old school try. Time to share our knowledge.

The Rain Forest.

Half of the Big Isalnd of Hawaii, where we are staying, is a rain forest. In a rain forest, it rains. All the time. And it's cold. Wet. Gloomy. If you are a plant you will probably be very happy in a rain forest. If you are a human being you are more likely to say "I want to go home" or "I thought we were going to the beach." We suggest you follow your human instincts and head for the sunny part of Hawaii. Leave the rain forest to the frogs.

Volcanoes.
Hawaii is a volcanic island. There are volcanoes everywhere. If you are lucky the one in your backyard will be of the extinct variety. If you are not, we can only wonder what kind of an idiot builds his house where it could get buried by a lava flow? Lava flows are quite spectacular, especially at night. We know because we have seen the pictures. When an active volcano is not sending forth fiery glowing lava it is probably sending up a lot of sulphurous gas. We decided to come back another time when it's more lava flow than sulphur. And watch the flow from someplace safe, like the sea.
Another thing: the volcano is on the rain forest side of the island, This means a three hour drive in the rain to get there and a three hour drive back. You might not think this is worth the time and the aggravation. We decided it probably wasn't. Sue me, I'm on vacation.

Indigenous Peoples.
We have done much research and conclude the following: absolutely no one knows where the Hawaiian people came from. We know they left a lot of charming stick figures carved in the rocks. They are called "petroglyphs": men with spears, animals. But no one knows what they mean, unless they're just primitve photo albums. Any essay by a scholar on the the origins of the Hawaiian people is really just an excercise in finding new ways to day "I dunno." Kind of like TV pundits doing election commentary.

People from Other Cultures.
You meet a lot of Japanese people in Hawaii. Most of them are tourists like you. When they ask you to pass the salt or is this seat taken, they do it with a little bow. Then you have to suppress the urge to shout, "Howdy, pardner! Shore thang!" when you oblige them. This is harder than it sounds. I don't know what it is about being bowed to by a Japanese guy that brings out one's inner John Wayne, but there it is. Be prepared.

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