There was quite a long flight (8 and a half hours) from Auckland to Honolulu, which took us from across the international date line. Justine was very excited about gaining back her lost day which meant an extra day in Hawaii, and I was excited about getting younger. Once we got into the Honolulu airport, I started noticing things were subtly different. First, it was the airport. It was a little bit more run down than any airport I’d seen on this adventure.
Then there were the checkpoints we had to go through (some of which are probably pretty necessary, such as the agriculture checkpoints.) The highlight for me was getting another comment about how full of stamps my passport was. Once we were through and had collected our luggage, we tried to get a ride to our hotel. Again, just a bit more difficult and a bit less pleasant than everywhere we’d been. A guy we called said he’d take us (he was at the airport), then he loaded us up on his van, we waited a few minutes before he came aboard and said someone else would have to. The second guy takes 10 minutes to show up, then stops two more times before heading to the hotel strip on Waikiki. Along the way, there were homeless people sleeping on the streets everywhere (which I’d not seen outside of Alice Springs.) When we check into our hotel, it was pretty crappy. Smallish room on the 15th floor, older with tacky Hawaiian themed decor, no ocean view, and somewhat run down.
This was when I got sad to be returning to America. Australia and New Zealand were clean, modern, and pleasant. I’ve often said that Australia seems like a sensible country. I’m not sure that extending tax cuts that largely benefit millionaires while our bridges crumble and we fight several trillion dollar wars is sensible. Arizona made change to their health care policy so that people needing organ donations won’t get them (meaning people die) while Paris Hilton can inherit billions tax free. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I don’t like the direction the country is going, but there isn’t much one man can do. I went for a walk, found a liquor store, and bought a bottle of vodka.
Actually, it wasn’t a liquor store. It was an ABC store, and they are everywhere in the Waikiki area. Between our hotel two blocks from the beach, and the beach, there were five of these stores. They sold booze, food, and a bunch of tourist crap. I don’t have any idea how there were so many of them, and no other stores in that space except for the purpose of catering to tourists, many of them Japanese in this area.
The next morning, our first full day, I needed to buy sunglasses as I’d left my newest pair on a tour bus in New Zealand. I hate buying sunglasses, but I especially hate buying them after I’d found a decent $80 pair that worked and looked good. We found a Sunglass Hut inside of a Macy’s, and a very soft spoken guy helped me. Half of the reason I bought them because he was very soft spoken (I hate loud and pushy sales people), and also because I really, really needed them and didn’t want to look around in any more stores. I’m still annoyed at losing my almost brand new pair, but Hawaii without sunglasses is not a happy place to be.
After spending maybe at bit too much time lying in the sun on Waikiki beach, we decided to find an AT&T store and get our phone numbers reactivated. We had to walk a pretty decent way to get to a mall (the very nice and impressive Ala Moana) that had an AT&T store. The walk was pleasant, as it followed the contours of the ocean, so you got the occasional peek of the water, the sun was shining, and the temperature was nice. Once we arrived and found the AT&T store in the basement of Sears, getting the phones reactivated was a bit of a pain – a long wait to get helped and a long wait while the woman helping us worked her magic with someone over the phone. In the end, it ended up taking me another 75 minutes on the phone before we were able to get voicemail working. The first call I got hung up on after 15 minutes, and she never called back. I’m pretty sure she had my number. The second call, I was on for another 15 minutes before the idiot on the other line suggested I reset my network settings. Really? 15 minutes to suggest I reset my network? Idiot. At that point I insisted on getting second tier tech support, and finally got some decent help. However, it took me another 45 minutes before he was able to get our voicemail working. This was a very frustrating return into the embrace of Ma Bell.
We also found a place to live when we get back to Seattle. We are renting an apartment near the University of Washington. The place is completely furnished, free wifi, parking, etc. It’s rather expensive, but it takes care of one big problem we had. We have no possessions at all at this point except for our one shared suitcase which has mostly summer clothes in it, and my camera gear. So having knives and forks, a bed, something to sit on, sheets and towels will be very nice.
Shortly after that, we got documents from our house sale that we needed to sign and get notarized. I’d expected getting something notarized would be somewhat easy, but when we asked people, most just gave us blank looks. We went to several UPS type places, hotels, etc., and all we ever got was bank looks. A USPS mail lady said we could use a bank, but they were only available for an hour a day. But as we were going to a Vietnamese restaurant recommended by the woman that painted Justine’s toes, we walked past a Mailbox, etc. type place that could notarize our paperwork and accept if for mailing, and we could do it that night.
Getting that taken care of was a HUGE relief. We’d gotten our phone numbers back, found a place to live, and did the last thing we needed to do for our house to sell. We had a nice dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant to celebrate, and well, that was all.
The next morning we went to the beach, as it was a beautiful day, and it was Hawaii. Afterwards, we had lunch at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue where I had Loco Moco. Essentially it is a hamburger patty with a fried egg on top, smothered in gravy and served along side very tasty macaroni salad and rice. Justine had Spam Sushi called musubi and kimchi. We then walked to the Honolulu Zoo, which ended up being a very nice place to be. It was a great day, and there were no people there. The animals were much closer than they are in Seattle, and quite a bit more active, except for the Lemurs, who looked like they were watching TV. They were exceedingly cute, if a bit lazy. We also walked by an ape that had captured a bird, and was using it as a toy. That was pretty disturbing to see, but it is the zoo, and you’re looking at wild animals, so it’s hard to complain about it. But still horrific. There were some Siamangs that were doing some crazy monkey calisthenics, some Giraffe’s, Zebras and a Hippo that was very, very close. All in all, I’d give the zoo a solid thumbs up.
For dinner we went to a nice Japanese restaurant, sat outside under Christmas lights and had a great dinner. I had the lobster dinner along with grilled butterfish and a sushi roll. We’ve eaten A TON of sushi on this trip and the food here did not disappoint. Our Japanese waiter was a student at the U of Hawaii, loved Ichiro, and had visited Seattle to see him.
The next day was a tour of Pearl Harbor. It was only open on the 7th for survivors, and I figured the day after would be too crowded, so we went two days after. The tour operator was less than optimal. When we first got on the bus, he was listening to hard core right wing talk radio, which I do think is inappropriate, especially given some of the things they said about Democrats. He also had an annoying habit of using the phrase “Cousin” in the way a used car salesman would use your name over and over again when trying to sell you a car. He’d use it twice in once sentence, and did so often. Otherwise he was fine, but only fine. Our first stop was Pearl Harbor, which was kind of interesting but not much in the way of history that I didn’t know. We then went to the Arizona Memorial, which was moving, but not overly so. Afterwards, we then went to the USS Missouri, which was interesting in it’s own way. First, it was where World War II ended, which was a nice bookend to the Arizona, where the war started. We saw where the Japanese surrender papers were signed, and got some details on the ship itself (such as each gun on this battleship weighs as much as the space shuttle.) It was neat to be able to walk around this ship – these things are HUGE, and kinda terrifying, if no longer needed. Afterwards, we were driven by something called the Punchbowl, which was a military graveyard, and then to downtown Hawaii to the palace of the last ruler of Hawaii.
I’d not slept well the night before, so after we returned, we went down to the beach and napped. But it wasn’t a long time at the beach, as the weather started getting bad. We went back to the room, showered, and headed out for dinner. We ended up at a place called Duke’s, sitting in a bar overlooking the beach, and had a Mai Tai and another frilly hawaiian drink. While this might sound nice (and it was in it’s way), it was freaking’ windy, as in the salt and pepper shakers were blown off the table.
The next morning was our last day in Hawaii and the last day of our vacation. It was raining quite hard out, which was a decent way to end our vacation. We have been gently introduced back into the weather of Seattle. We went from the 100+ degree days in the heart of Australia, to the cooler climate of Sydney, then Auckland, which was cooler still, and now, it’s raining and in the mid 60’s. Tonight we’ll be back in Seattle where it’s 45 degrees and raining. We don’t have jackets, which I intend to fix first thing on Saturday morning.