I doubt that I’ve ever been in a place with “Resort” in the name. My husband and I have lived a bit more roughly on travels and moves around the world. But all that changed a month ago on our first trip to Hawaii. His conference on satellite imaging of hydrologic data was to be at Waikaloa Beach Resort on the Big Island and I went with him. I went under-prepared but not without preconception. So, the drive from the Kona Airport to Waikaloa was the first surprise – no lush, tropical land but instead, a barren lava flow, the land hardened black rock. While I intended to see afresh, to see what it is itself, the little comparison brain started ticking right away. It looked so much like the Desert Road, the road that goes across the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu just south of where we live in New Zealand.
I’m older. I’ve travelled a fair amount, and without a doubt more than I expected when twenty-two and afraid I would never get beyond Kansas where I grew up. So my challenge is to see afresh, not through eyes dulled by familiarity or eve comparisons of “this is like that.” I want to see with the eyes of a child, a whole world that is new to me. When headed to a tourist destination, all well-traveled and brochure, how does one see it without a frame constructed by others, carefully surrounding it?
I found it pleasant, but was uncomfortable with too much service and also with the way I saw some of the guests treating those who worked there, sometimes rudely, sometimes not seeing them at all.
But there were interesting stories among the waiters, the cleaners, the man who fixed the malfunctioning lock on our door. How had they ended up here? What part of any American dream were they aiming for – many were from other countries. I like to collect stories from people as I travel. The stories remind me that my take on things is not the only one – like when listening to a woman from the Philippines tell me how much she loves Imelda Marcos, one of the more reviled women in history.
So, while my husband went to conferences, I walked along the lava-roughened shore, littered with white dead coral. I found sea turtles, watched humpback whales breaching, and snapped my tourist pictures of sunsets among the palms. I live a calm life in a relaxed town in New Zealand; Waikaloa Beach was an echo of that. I felt the Polynesian kinship between New Zealand and Hawaii. They both have the same word for Women – Wahine – and I thought yes, this is where my neighbor’s ancestors may have come from. The world could learn from both places.
The ukulele plays on and the good voices echo into the night.