As our trip to Maui draws to an end, I reflect on how good I’m feeling now, and how bad I felt when we first arrived. I’d recently purchased some good quality noise-blocking headphones. Since we were flying Southwest from Los Angeles to Maui, we did not have a TV screen on the plane, nor any food except a bag of mixed pretzels and chips and one of brittle chocolate pieces.
I think back to the first time we went to Maui. My husband, Norm, had just graduated from veterinary school at Ohio State, and my parents took us and my younger sister to Hawaii as a graduation gift. What a splendid trip it was! We visited four islands: Molokai, Oahu, the big island of Hawaii, and Maui. We fell in love with Maui, so much so that I communicated for a while, after the trip, with a CPA in Maui looking to hire an associate. Though this never panned out, we have returned to the island as often as possible in the years since. I believe this was the first time I flew anywhere, and I could not understand why people complained about airplane food. Back then, everything about the flight was fascinating and delicious.
On the current flight, I listened to my book throughout, which was over five hours. During most of that time I wore my noise-blocking headphones, even though I could feel the beginnings of a migraine creeping in. The headphones clamp snugly against the very spots in the sides of my head where pressure sometimes triggers a migraine. Nonetheless, they did a truly great job of blocking out the noise of the plane, so I kept them on.
Finally I switched to earbuds, but had to turn the volume on my phone all the way up and still had trouble hearing. On recent flights I’ve started having ear pain on the descent, with my right ear closing up and refusing to pop or open for a few days after the flight. So, I read up on all the tricks, short of having tubes surgically inserted. One is to take antihistamines the day before and every six hours the day of, and possibly the day following the flight. Another is to use a pediatric strength nose spray every five minutes for fifteen minutes (3 or 4 sprays) about an hour before arrival. A third is to purchase special earplugs and insert them about 45 minutes prior to descent. I try to do all three, and it has worked pretty well in the past. But this time we started the descent sooner than I expected. By the time I got my earplugs in and my nose sprayed, we were within thirty minutes of arrival.
My ears were aching, and my head pounding by the time we got to our condo, Outrigger, in Napili Shores. I suggested to Norm that next time we fly I should use the computer instead of my phone. He reacted negatively to this suggestion, and I exploded in turn in a way that exacerbated my headache and elevated my blood pressure. Then I felt guilty, which served only to add to the discomfort.
The following day—our first full day here—my head hurt all day long. We had a serious ant problem in the bathroom, and we complained to the check-in hostess. She was quite nice, and agreed to call the exterminator company to see how soon they could come out. In the meantime she sent maintenance to our condo to address another issue, a faucet that leaked around the base as soon as we turned it on.
I regretted mentioning the latter issue because the maintenance guy wore no mask (this was nearly two years ago, when many workers were still wearing masks), I didn’t know whether he was vaccinated, and he took a long time. Also, he was lying on the floor under the sink next to the toilet, which I needed to use. I also wanted to change into a swimsuit but worried he’d come into the bedroom. Finally, I decided to risk it, change into my swimsuit, and go the lobby bathroom. I took a number of headache remedies, and eventually, late that evening, my headache receded.
Nothing makes you appreciate the absence of pain quite so much as coming off a migraine, in my experience. From that point on, we had a great time. Well, one exception. The ocean was colder than I’d hope, and the waves much bigger. The first two times I tried to snorkel I had a panic attack and could barely manage to enter the water with my fins and snorkel. Once in, I was anxious to get out, fearful of crashing into reef or drowning, I’m not sure which. Norm was calm and reassuring, even though he often tells me of his fear of water and I worry as much, or more, about his drowning than about my own.
Okay, that’s way too much negativity. So let’s talk about all the positives. Hawaii is truly beautiful. The grounds here are spacious, with gorgeous blooming flowers—huge yellow hibiscus with deep red centers, little clusters of yellow blossoms, and white plumeria edged in pink lace; green and white striped and red-leafed plants; tall, lanky palm trees, everywhere you turn. There are two pools. One has a pair of whales painted on the bottom, the other Hawaiian flowers. Both are mildly heated this time of year. I prefer the one with the whales design, a hot tub, and plenty of umbrellas.
The other is next to the Gazebo Restaurant, open from 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM and known for their banana macadamia nut pancakes, topped with whipped cream and coconut syrup. The lines are almost always long, but we’ve learned you can call in your order, pick it up, and eat on your own patio looking out at the ocean.
We’ve done this almost every morning except the first, when we ate in the restaurant in the lobby. On the second or third day, we walked to the grocery, where we purchased yogurt, bagels, avocado, cheese, sparkling water, coconut bread, and papaya. We did not rent a car, but remembered from our last time here that, in addition to the Gazebo and the lobby restaurant, there’s a great upscale restaurant nearby. We went to the Sea House twice this time, once for Happy Hour small plates (ribs, ahi nachos, seared ahi, and tiramisu) and once, with reservations, for dinner.
The highlight of the dinner for me was the starry walk to and from the restaurant. I haven’t seen such bright stars since we were on the south island of New Zealand. The sky was ablaze. Norm had crab-breaded monchong with lobster sauce, and I had a trio of lobster, scallops, and fish with furikake. Coconut bread pudding for dessert with vanilla ice cream, yummy. The restaurants are asking for vaccination cards, and we wore masks entering and exiting though not everyone does. It’s hard to imagine that this brief period of masking accomplishes much since you have to remove them to eat or drink.
I did much better today with the snorkeling. We walked farther, to the south side of the bay, where the water was calmer. We went in around 3 PM, about a half hour after low tide. Visibility was not great initially, but improved. We saw a few needle-nose fish, red and black sea urchins, yellow banner fish, schools of fish with a single yellow stripe, lots of black fish with cute yellow or orange bowties near the tail, and many more. No turtles on this trip.
Sitting on the shore, we spotted lots of humpback whales breaching, blowing, jumping, and generally frolicking. A couple of times we glimpsed the black tail clearly as they dove. Orange and yellow butterflies fluttered near us, and Brazilian cardinals, sparrows, doves, and white cattle egrets darted about and called to one another.
I spoke with an attractive sixty-year-old woman in the hot tub, Lorraine, who recommended a whale watching dinner cruise. I couldn’t tell whether her unusually long eyelashes were real or fake. I hated to think what I must look like, having just come from snorkeling with my hair plastered down my face and head. I felt we were kindred spirits, to use L.M. Montgomery’s words. She said her husband was content to idle, but she wanted to be busy. She is authoring a textbook on education while she’s here, and contemplating retirement. She works as an education consultant, and plans to move toward 50% this year, 30% the next, and so on. Seems a good plan to me. Going from 100% to zero, as I did at Vanderbilt, can be a tough adjustment, especially if you’re a person who thrives on a full schedule.
As we sat there chatting in the deliciously warm water, a teenage girl approached. “I need to get the key,” she said.
Lorraine found it for her and returned to the hot tub. I must have looked surprised, for she told me, “There are actually nine of us staying in a one-bedroom condo.”
I had supposed she and her husband were there alone, given to vacationing in places like Maui. I have often chosen budget stays over the years, so as to maximize my travel ventures rather than opting for more extravagant but fewer trips. I remember staying in hotel rooms with two double beds when my kids were young, somehow accommodating the four of us plus my parents.
Another day at the hot tub, a group of teenage Hawaiian boys turned up to play ball in the adjacent swimming pool. A deeply tanned, gray-haired man seated near me remarked, “Must be pool hopping day.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“They are locals. When I was their age, we used to go from one resort to another…until we’d get thrown out. You didn’t think they were staying here, did you?”
“I guess I did.”
I am not entirely innocent of this vice myself, though I never knew what it was called. For instance, we often stay in a small hotel in Fort Lauderdale, next door to a larger hotel with a lazy river. I’ve been known to slip into their lazy river, and was once asked to leave.
Lorraine had gone on the Hula Girl cruise, so I called them. Unfortunately, they had canceled the cruise for Saturday, our last and only available evening. My note to myself is to plan ahead better next time.
Our ants have returned off and on; but, apart from one dream, they are no longer worrying me. In fact, I feel sorry for them. They seem so directionless, staggering around, with no clear purpose, rather like a new retiree. I wish they’d find another place to hang out.
Tonight we ate at the lobby restaurant. Not long before the trip, I went shopping for the first time in a while. Quite by accident, I found a rack of bargain dresses in the Soma shop, when I was looking for a new nightgown to replace the two I wear all the time. One of them is a Hawaiian-looking black sundress with white flowers. I wore it to dinner tonight. I had the ahi poke bowl, and Norm had mahi mahi with a lovely lemon caper butter sauce. We walked to the beach afterward to look at the sky around sunset. The clouds partially covered Molokai, and the stars and planets were just beginning to come out.
Yesterday, though it didn’t rain, we had a lovely rainbow around the time we left the pool.
After watching some basketball on TV (3rd ranked UCLA vs. Arizona State, three overtimes, victory to Arizona State), we went back outside to look at the stars. Amazing! Norm has an app called Sky View on his phone, telling us we were both confused about the Big Dipper. And we thought that was the most obvious one…so much for our knowledge of stars. That does not hinder my enjoyment of them.
As a final point, I think that stopping off for a few nights in Los Angeles helps me adjust quickly to the time difference. We have always made a habit of this, because one or both of our kids has lived in LA for many years. But, even if you don't have family there, I think a night or two in LA is worth doing. There’s a two-hour difference between Tennessee and Los Angeles, and another two hours between Los Angeles and Hawaii.