“The Only Way to Get Rid of My Fears is To Make Films About Them”

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The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them. -Alfred Hitchcock

Tonight we went to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” Here we are about three weeks from the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado and I haven’t forgotten about anything.

I’m a naturally paranoid person. Actually, when I’ve gone to see movies before with lots of shooting scenes the thought crossed my mind more than once that that could happen in real life, and why not a movie theater? So tonight, watching the movie that those folks in Colorado were watching, I sat very low in my seat, stayed still and turned my head every time I saw someone move.

I know it was crazy and most certainly paranoid, but I haven’t forgotten.

I think it’s true that we have to lose something in order to gain, but I also think that things can be lost without any positive effect. When there are massive disasters that seem far away from you, it’s easier to say, “Well, now we can be more grateful for what we’ve got.” Or “At least it brought our country closer together.”

Having also just watched “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” I’m reminded that every disaster like this affects individuals. It affects families. It does affect our country as a whole, that’s true, but it’s important not to forget what is happening on a more personal level. Because it would be personal if it were you.

I don’t want the Aurora shootings to be so distant from me that I can see some big generic positive coming out of them. But I also don’t want to be afraid. “The Dark Knight Rises” is particularly poignant because it addresses that so effectively.

Blind Prisoner: You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.
Bruce Wayne: Why?
Blind Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.
Bruce Wayne: I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there’s no one there to save it.
Blind Prisoner: Then make the climb.

The message that we can’t just let terrible things go on around us without taking a stand, that we can’t let our lives pass us by because of grief and loss…that’s something to live by. And they said it best in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,”

Linda Schell: It’s never gonna make sense because it doesn’t!

It doesn’t make sense why these things happen, but we have to move forward and address the problems in this great big world we live in. At the same time we can’t forget the individuals it impacts.

Oskar Schell: I started with a simple problem… a key with no lock… and I designed a system I thought fit the problem. I broke everything down in the smallest parts… and tried to think of each person as a number… in a gigantic equation.
Oskar Schell: But it wasn’t working… because people aren’t like numbers. They’re more like letters… and those letters want to become stories… and dad said that stories need to be shared.

Boarding the Ship and Sailing out of New York Harbor

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                We enter the terminal for the first time as platinum cruisers. This means that we will be in boarding group 1 (the first ones on the ship). We’ve been in boarding group 2 before, but not without some kicking and screaming on our part. Several instances of mistakes being made and the ball being dropped have resulted in our early boarding, but this time promises to go smoothly. Everyone will still be smiling by the time we board.

In the terminal is the most magical site I’ve ever seen. Keep in mind I have been to Disney World and on the Cruise more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. And THIS was, hands down, the most magical thing we’ve ever seen. Three families, large families, wearing Mickey Mouse Ears with Statue of Liberty Hats. Babies, children, and adults. Moms AND dads. And no one was complaining. The dad’s were the best. I couldn’t resist a picture.

 

Then suddenly we hear screaming kids. Some of them were in octaves so high only dogs could have heard them. Mickey was here. I don’t think I’ve seen girls act like that since Ricky Martin came out of the stage door at Evita.

When Boarding Group 1 was called we boarded proudly, stepping into the lobby as our names were announced to the ship. We ate up on deck, enjoying the view of New York just off the stern of the ship.

After our meet and greet, lifeboat drill, and sail-away party we were on the move out of the harbor. We ran to the rails on deck ten and watched as the Statue of Liberty passed us by on the starboard side. You could see towering buildings that seemed to be mere feet off the port side of the ship. What a beautiful way to see the city.

Throwing Biscuits

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Today was hot. Really hot. After breakfast we went to central central park (see The Penniless Traveler Monday for more details!) We had to evacuate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just for the air conditioning.

On the way to the museum I asked my dad how close we were. “Within throwing distance,” he said. I nodded and turned to Natalie, “What did he say?” to which Natalie replies, in all honesty, and with great seriousness, “He said, throwing biscuits.” I’ll leave it at that. That’s my little sister for you.

Since we were at the museum, we figured we would look at some of the art. Here’s a little sampling.

We got lunch after the museum at a Greek restaurant. It was delicious, but the portions were crazy! We walked from The Met back to Times Square for a little bit of shopping and picture snapping. We visited the M&M store, sheet music store and FAO Shwartz. FAO Shwartz was a madhouse. Insanely crowded, you couldn’t move without bumping into children or a Peeta cardboard cut out. Luckily we did get to take a picture with our heroes. Iron Man and Captain America! So cool…

Back at the room we got ready for the show tonight, Evita! We got to the show and took our seats in the first row of the balcony, house right. Ricky Martin comes out, there are screams, I’m sure a few women have passed out. He’s great. But you know who’s even better? Elena Roger who plays Evita. I cried. I cried hard. Like a baby.

The show was incredible, music perfect and the lighting and set…holy canolli. They had fog on the stage that you could barely notice during the show, but it made all the scenes softer. The city streets descended back into the stage where you could see silhouettes of bodies moving back and forth. A really incredible show.

After the show we went to the stage door. Or maybe I should call it a circus? We stood behind the cones, as you are taught in Stage Door Etiquette 101. As we were all waiting, and when I say all, I mean people at the gate, people across the street, people standing on cars, on scaffolding, and people who went into the store next door to look out the windows… As we were waiting people would walk up to the restricted area and the security guard would repeatedly come down and kick them out telling them to move “back and over.”

One woman just moved over. Right in front of Natalie. Maybe she hadn’t taken Stage Door Etiquette 101. I told a few people off in my scary Boston accent at my intimidating height of 5′.5.

We got to meet some of the dancers and ensemble members and even Evita! And then, suddenly, the whole place erupted in screaming. People were on the ground, in the air, climbing over cars, jumping out windows (ok…maybe not that). We couldn’t see a dang thing and the gate got pulled closed so that people wouldn’t swarm. I don’t know what Ricky Martin was doing, and I guess I never will, but my best guess is that he stood on top of a taxi, took of his shirt, kissed some babies and danced down the street.

While this is all happening, one of Natalie and Dad’s favorite actors, who played Perun, is standing there being completely ignored. My mom grabbed our playbills and got autographs telling him that “my family loves you on Fringe!” “Where are they?” he asked. She pointed back at us as we all beamed and waved back, I’m sure we looked like we were hopped up on drugs.

After Ricky finished his shenanigans we got to take a picture with Michael. On our walk back to the hotel we saw the lead man from Porgy and Bess at his stage door, and Matthew Brodrick (doesn’t he look smiley?!) at his stage door.

What a wonderful day. That should be the end of our vacation. That would be the end of a normal vacation for people who are sane and reasonable. But we are neither of those things and tomorrow we board the Disney Cruise to Nova Scotia.

Keep it together Vinciguerras.

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Today was a lovely day. I’m going to start with the end here because it just happened, and it’s just THAT exciting. This evening we went to see “Harvey” starring the one, the only, Jim Parsons. Yes, it’s the play of the movie you all know and love about the invisible rabbit friend. The play came first though. Of course.

The show was brilliant. One of my favorite plays for sure, and written by a woman!! The actors were incredible and we sat in the front row, center. You heard me right. The best seats in the house. We were 2 feet away from the actors. We might have been spit on. We probably were spit on. Anyway, the play was great. I laughed for most of it and almost cried at the end. Jim Parsons played Elwood, Jessica Hecht played Veta Simmons (you know her as Susan on Friends), and Carol Kane played Mrs. Chumley.

At the end of the show we waited at the stage door. I have Jim Parson’s very distinct squiggle on my playbill. He passed by in a blur and was whisked away in a tinted car. The others hung around for a while and we got autographs and pictures.

Suddenly I look over by the stage door and see a man who looks a lot like Alan Rickman. “Is that Alan Rickman? That guy looks like Alan Rickman. Mom take pictures of that guy over there just in case it’s Alan Richman…” It was. He wasn’t signing autographs, but I can guarantee he was about to have a killer party somewhere. Where was Alan Rickman sitting, you ask? Front row center, you would think. But no, if you’ve been paying attention, we were sitting in Alan Rickman’s seats. What up?!

Ok, that’s enough Vinciguerra family bragging for one evening. Now I’ll tell you about the rest of the day.

This morning we got breakfast at a Greek breakfast joint and then went to Battery Park and Wall Street Ave to kill some time before our scheduled tickets for the 9/11 memorial. We took pictures, rubbed the bull’s nose, and hung around in a park while sweat dripped off us.

At 11:00 we went to wait in the line for the 9/11 memorial. I’m not gonna lie, the line was rough. Really long, sticky, hot, loud…but it moved fast and after walking about 5 miles around construction we were at the monument.

The memorial is very beautifully done. I won’t say too much because it’s coming up tomorrow on The Penniless Traveler, but here are some pictures to quench your thirst.

On the way to lunch I spotted a pretty park across the street, and after much kicking and screaming from Natalie I convinced everyone to stop on the way to lunch to see what it was. It turns out the park is called “Christopher Park” and it celebrates gay rights. It is right across the street from where the Stonewall Riots happened! History moment. Luckily Natalie is all about gay rights and did a project on the Stonewall Riots so I was able to redeem myself.

After the park we went to gluten-free heaven, otherwise known as Risotteria. If I were the Gluten-Free Traveler, and believe me, I am in my dreams, I would blog all about this restaurant in its own special post with pictures and flashing letters. There were gluten-free breadsticks, gluten-free beers, gluten-free pizzas, gluten-free risottos (obviously), gluten-free paninis, gluten-free desserts…I’m gonna quit while I’m ahead I’m making myself hungry.

After lunch we went to Queens. This is my fault. I’ll start by saying that. I really wanted to go to the Socrates Sculpture Park. It was not a good enough reason to get all the way to Queens. If you are already in Queens, however, I would highly recommend it. The views of Manhattan are wonderful! The sculptures are really interesting too. Keep in mind it’s modern art though, not Greek.

Luckily we had another target in Queens–The Moving Image Museum. I’m gonna leave you hanging here again, because that’s coming up on The Penniless Traveler too. Check it out on Sunday!

Dragging our feet and clutching our backs we managed to get back home via subway and more walking. Natalie and I split a gluten-free pie from earlier and got ready for the show, and well, you know the rest.

Modes of Transportation

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Today is the day of travel. Lots of different ways of traveling. Today’s the  day we head to the big apple before our cruise to Nova Scotia. Hooray, vacation!

This morning we wake up at the god awful hour of 6AM, pack up the final toiletries, set the DVR, set the DVR again, and head out with our rolling bags. Instead of hopping into the car on the way to the airport with our heavy suitcases in the trunk, we begin the 1.5 mile walk to the train station with suitcases in tow.

Look how happy we all are!!

Drenched in sweat and on the verge of collapse (just kidding) we reach the train station. After convincing a stranger in Swiss Bake to a buy a raspberry berliner, even though I haven’t eaten one myself in two years, we board the train into Boston.

We pick four seats facing each other and pile our suitcases between us. In about 30 minutes we reach Boston. Outside of the train station I snap a photo of Bobby Or. I’m still in tourist mode from Hawaii…even in my own city. We get to South Station via taxi and after some chips, popcorn, fruit, penut m&ms and bottles of water we get onto the Acela.

The train is sleek and the seats are comfortable with four seats facing each other and a table in the center. Natalie and I take the seats that ride backward and it feels like we’re being sucked into a vortex at 200 miles/hr. We pass through Massachusetts, Connecticut and finally New York.

We wait in a very long cue for taxis and finally get into a taxi with a driver who doesn’t really seem to know where our hotel is. Luckily we make it there ok, drop off our things and we’re off again!

This time we travel by subway. The station is hot and smelly. I remember this now. It’s not so bad on the train and after a short time we get to 14th street where we get out and walk to The High Line. The High Line is a park above the streets of the city. It’s a little over half a mile long with the original railroad tracks on either side among the grass and flowers. As we walk the stretch we take time to spot statues and other pieces of art in our path. There’s an audio art piece that reads words at you unexpectedly. “Skunk.” “Armadillo.” “Terra-dactyl.” Okay, I’m making things up now, but it did say really weird things.

One of my favorite stretches was the area where there were architectural chairs to lay on. It really wasn’t very crowded, and I could imagine sitting there are reading someday, watching the sun set. On the opposite side of the path there is water running over the walkway to cool your feet. I had to do that.

The views of the city are also really spectacular along the path. We see a psychedelic re-imagining of the soldier kissing the nurse on VJ Day painted onto the side of a building, an artistic zoo on the next rooftop over, and a 2-D man in the window of an apartment building.

After our trip to the High Line we walk, what seems like 4 miles to Bryant Park. My mother assures me it was only 1, but I’ll be the judge of that. We relax and re-hydrate for a bit in Bryant Park and then walk 1 mile back to the hotel. Natalie passes out. I upload photos. Maybe we’ll go on another adventure tonight and maybe we’ll just hit the hay.

But either way, our feet and backs hurt. A 1.5 mile walk to the train station with our suitcases, a speed train from Boston to New York, a taxi to the hotel, subway to the High Line, and a lot more walking. It’s been a big day for the Vinciguerras.

 

Tips for The High Line tomorrow at The Penniless Traveler!

My Last Day in Hawaii and Flight Home (July 24-25, 2012)

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            I wake up on my last morning in Oahu and gather my belongings I will take for the day. My first stop this morning will be the free hula class at the Waikiki Shopping Center. I walk down Kalakaua, the touristy street that runs along the ocean as I make my way to the center a little less than a mile away. I do a little browsing in the shops since I have arrived early and at 10AM I am ready for class, wearing my hula skirt and tank top. I see Dorothy, the older woman that I met at my class here last week. She told me then that she goes to these classes every day. She is very sweet and wears a flower in her hair and a different colored hula dress and slippers for every lesson. She invites me to come to a second class after this one across the street with her, but I have to say no thank you because that is my only slot of time to eat lunch in before my catamaran cruise later in the day.

            There is a new teacher in class today, she is a lot more picky about hand placements and hips than the other teacher was. It is kind of nice to know exactly what we’re doing wrong, but I also feel a little patronized. There is no warm up today, just a monotonous description of the basic moves: kaholo, kao, umi, uehei, and a step similar to the cha cha.

            Once we get into the dance for the day it really gets going. She teaches us considerably more complex arms than any I’ve been taught so far. We move very slowly through the first half of the dance, however, and she speeds through the ending. We only do the whole thing once all together (something that happened in the other class as well). They are so stringent about preventing picture taking, that I’m guessing they don’t really want the entire dance to stick in anyone’s memory.

            After class I change into my blue shirt dress for the boat later and eat at Arby’s. Since I spoiled myself last night with food, and I’m running a little low on money this will have to do for today. I walk back along Kalakaua to the Marriott where I will be picked up to go to the catamaran at Kewalo Basin…or so I think.

            I had called them yesterday so I figured I had pretty solid confirmation that they would be here today. No such luck. With about 20 minutes to go I’m instructed to catch a cab which I will be reimbursed for. They do reimburse me, and I make it just in time to step onto the boat.

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            The catamaran is as wide as our boat is long, and about 2 times longer. It was built in 2005 and is crewed by a captain, first mate, and bartender. We get a ticket to be used for one free drink when we board, with additional snacks and drinks for sale if we would like them. We go through the safety briefing, I put on some sunblock and we’re off.

            We motor down the coast of Waikiki, right outside of my hostel, so that we can spot some turtles in the water. Of the 40 or so people onboard, there are maybe 6 kids who are very excited to see the turtles. Most of the kids lay on the nets across the bow of the catamaran for most of the trip. I stand on the side looking out at Oahu. We sail down past Waikiki and towards Diamond Head where there are huge swells and beautiful views. A lot of the women have trouble getting a hang of their sea legs, and I cross my fingers that they won’t fall overboard.

            I talk to the first mate for a while and tell him about our boat. “I won’t worry about you having your sea legs then,” he says. He tells me that he is from Seattle and keeps his boat here. “It’s not as expensive as you might think,” he says. Soon we’re talking about cruising. He’s never been on one, but wants to do a cruise through the Alaskan passage. I tell him that I’ve done that cruise and he’s very envious, he says he just needs to convince some friends to go with him. He walks around chatting up everyone on the ship, I think they make a lot of their money in tips.

            I take lots of pictures and when we disembark I get the ride home I was promised. The first mate drives me and a honeymooning couple back to our hotels. The couple is from Bristol and this is only their second day of their vacation. I tell them some of the must-sees. They’ll be sky-diving tomorrow, something that I probably will not try in my life, but they are very nice and are very excited to be here for the next week or so.

Image            When I’m dropped off I go to get the lei I was given yesterday from the hula teacher. It’s starting to go bad, so I plan to return it to the earth (like you’re supposed to do with lei). They’re very important to Hawaiian culture, so it’s not acceptable to just throw them into a trash can. I take mine down to the Duke statue along the beach and lay it at his feet. While I’m standing there some Japanese girls ask me for the answers to their trivia game/scavenger hunt. I’m surprised that I know all the answers. I had no idea I had learned so much while I was here.

            As I walk along Kalakaua I try to absorb the scenery one last time. I look out over the ocean as the sun is already starting to set on the horizon. I look at the trees and pick up a plumeria flower to tuck behind my ear as I walk back to the hostel. I say goodbye to the manager and wait outside with my luggage.

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            The shuttle is late, and after a short time a tall, tan boy approaches towing a dark green suitcase. He asks me if I’m going to the airport, and if I think he could have a ride too. I tell him I don’t see why not. He is from Brazil and is visiting America to practice his English. He says he tried to get on a bus with his suitcase earlier today and they wouldn’t allow him to board (I could’ve told you that).

            We talk a little and finally the shuttle arrives half an hour late. Good thing I left lots of extra time to get to the airport. In the car I realize I don’t know the boys name. “Marzio,” he says. The rest of the ride we sit and listen to the radio, Marzio decides to sing along to “You don’t know you’re Beautiful” and I try not to laugh a little. We arrive at the United terminal and go through the agriculture check. I’m a little nervous they will take my lei, but it gets through fine.

            Marzio gets stuck at the weighing station, with 4 pounds over in his suitcase. I continue through to check my bag and go through security. I buy a fresh lei to give my sister when I land in Boston and buy myself lunch to eat quickly at the gate. After I’m finished I see the sign that says, “Please no eating in the waiting area.” Oops.

            The 9 hour flight goes by incredibly quickly. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much sleep, but when I think about the places on the map that I saw us pass on the TV screen I figure I slept half of the way across the Pacific, and from Utah to Michigan, which is pretty significant. There is a baby in front of me who is quiet the entire flight–very impressive. Next to me, there is an empty seat. I really lucked out for this red eye.

            When we land I get an email that my gate has changed for my next flight, so I only have to walk one gate over to get ready to board for Boston in a couple of hours. I eat lunch at a Sam Adams bar, and wait on the floor while my iPod charges. The second flight is only 40 minutes. I fall asleep before we take off and wake up when they announce that we are going to land.

            When I get off the plane my mom meets me and I give her the shell lei that I bought for my family. We wait for my blue suitcase to show up (which, luckily, it does) and I’m homeward bound. 

LOST Hummer Tour, Private Hula Lesson and Final Sunset (July 23, 2012)

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Today I’m back up at 6AM and I wait outside for the hummer to arrive. I see the hummer turn the corner and slow down as the driver tries to find the hostel. Finally he sees me waiting and pulls up next to the gate. I get in the hummer as he introduces himself. He is from Ethiopia and says he has never picked anyone up at this hostel before. We will now go to pick up three others, a family from the Czech Republic. They don’t speak very much English, but they are huge lost fans. When I tell them I am from Boston, I hear them say Czech words with “Boston” scattered between them. I tell them my sister will visit Prague next summer.

At our first stop we see Locke’s father’s house. It is a gated house along a rainforest road, and the security tower is no longer there, but it is very recognizable…especially since we’ve been re-watching the series so recently. We continue on down the road with the windows down to smell the forest around us. We pull off at a few other locations as the guide pulls out a binder of screen shots and shows us what these areas looked like on the show.

He tells us that when the LOST actors moved to Hawaii most of them stayed in Kailua, where I spent the last week. He says many of them ended up buying real estate there and you can still run into them all the time. I wish I had, but that just means I’ll have to come back. He also says that a lot of them went out to party while they were shooting and most of them were given DUIs while driving back to Kailua on the Pali Highway. He says Anna Lucia and Libby were given jail sentences to be served in CA and that is why they were killed off the show. He also says that Mr. Echo hated living in Hawaii and actually left the show because he couldn’t stand to live here. I’m not really sure what problems he had with sunshine, aloha and rainbows, but whatever floats your boat.

We continue on to Kualoa Ranch where a ton of LOST scenes were shot. This ranch was bought by a family from Kamehameha I when he sold land after conquering the islands. They’ve owned it ever since. It’s hundreds of acres of fields and forests where they raise cattle and rent out the land to production studios. They give their own tours too, but the Hummer Tour Company has special permission to go to some of the private areas of the ranch as well. I can’t count how many places we stop at and how many scenes we see. We see Hurley’s Golf Course, Richard’s hut, one of the Dharma spots, Godzilla’s footprint, the log from Jurassic Park, the log where Anna Lucia kills Goodwin…the list goes on.

As we stop at each site our guide offers to take pictures and occasionally pulls small props out of his bag to take some campy photos of us as if we’re on the island. Some of them come out pretty good! He also shows us clips from the movies that we visit sites for as we drive on a portable DVD player. It’s really great context for the movies we haven’t seen before, and very cool to be watching the clips of the ones we have, from where they were shot.

After about 4 hours we head back to Waikiki. He tells us about the 8 hour tour, which they also offer, that goes to the survivor’s beach, the waterfall where Sawyer and Kate find the guns, Sun and Jin’s temple and even more places. I can’t imagine that there are more, but I guess we’ll have to do that one when I convince my family to come back…

            I slip him a $20 as a tip. I’m getting pretty smooth at tipping. And I eat quickly before my private hula lesson at 1. I meet Kuai at the entrance to the zoo. She is incredibly friendly and comes up carrying a plumeria lei for me. Her sister is there to take a picture of us for her and then she leaves as we go to find a shady spot to learn in the park across the street. She will also be a junior in college next year. There’s a very cool parallel with her teaching dance in Hawaii like I teach it back in Ohio. She says that she loves ballet, but could never do it.

We start off with the basics, most of which I know already from my other lessons, but the refresher is nice. Then we do a warm-up, she talks about the history a little bit and begins to teach me the song “My Yellow Ginger Lei.” It’s all pretty simple, but a lot of fun. I really enjoy myself and she is very encouraging and enthusiastic. At the end of the lesson her sister tapes our dance on my phone for me and she says she will email me the music and names of the steps so I can practice. She thanks me for the lesson and says that she had a lot of fun. I’m so glad I did that!

I have most of the afternoon ahead of me, so I head to the beach. I take a nap, swim in the water, and lay out on the beach mat that I will probably have to throw away tomorrow. At around 5:30 I go back to the room to shower before dinner.

I walk down the block and spot a hotel restaurant along the waterfront. I go inside and ask the woman what they have that is gluten-free at the buffet. “I can go get the chef for you and he will take you down the line and show you what you can eat. He’ll probably also be able to make you something special,” she says with a smile. I’m game. It looks pricey, but hey, it’s my last night.

The chef comes out and tells me what’s okay for me to eat, starting with the desserts. Then he tells me he will additionally make me a special island fish with asparagus, tomatoes and some other grilled vegetables. On top of that, he says, when I’m finished with dinner he will make a sorbet. I am so incredibly stuffed with good food when I am finished eating. I’m not sure what they will charge me since I got the buffet and an entre, but at this point I’m willing to splurge with my own money if I have to. One of the girls staying in the hostel last night told us that her mother always says, “Money comes and goes, but time only goes.” I keep that in mind as I wait for the check. The only charge me for the buffet, so I leave a generous tip.

I will miss the food in Hawaii for sure, and it has been nice watching the sunset almost every night in Waikiki, but I think about going home tomorrow for one of the first times.

I cannot believe I have been here on my own for over two weeks now. I had no idea I was capable of that, and I’m actually quite proud of myself. Like I said, I’ll miss a lot of things about Hawaii, but I am excited to go back home and see my family. I’m looking forward to watching LOST again, now that I’ve been to many of the places, and going on a trip with them in about a week and a half.

It’s incredibly different traveling on your own. There are lots of pluses and minuses. For one, you never have to consult with anyone about what to do for the day. If you decide you want to stay somewhere longer or not as long, there is no discussion about it. You can just spend the afternoon wandering if that’s what you want to do. I also think other people find you mysterious when you travel alone. People have guessed that I am from Venezuela, a part of the military, a local in Hawaii, a student at Hawaii University among other things. It’s kind of nice to hear what people’s gut instinct is about you, and when you’re with other people it changes their perceptions. Also, on this trip I’ve had the opportunity to travel with people who live here who want to show me things and offer me rides and dinner. That’s not something you often get when traveling with others. It also offers you a lot of contemplative, internal moments to really soak in the beauty of the island.

On the other hand, I don’t think there is much that beats traveling with people you love. Getting to experience things together, and trying things that you might not have put on your personal itinerary. Having experiences and making memories, rather than witnessing, and having good conversation along the way. There is a lot more laughter when you travel in groups, and you can still find those contemplative moments, but they are more rare, and maybe you appreciate them more for it.

I honestly and learning to love both. I can’t wait to travel even more and learn from people everywhere I go. Those were my contemplations at dinner…I thought I’d put them down or risk forgetting them.

Haleiwa Arts Festival (July 22, 2012)

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This morning I am the first one up, yet again. I’m noticing a pattern here. I catch the 7AM bus towards the North Shore. I will make two transfers total to get to Haleiwa in time for the Arts Festival. The first stop is in Honolulu where I am very accustomed to my surroundings. The second stop is in a much less familiar area with the word “Heights” in the name. It’s slightly sketchy, but soon I’m on route to Haleiwa. Thankfully the festival is easy to spot and I get off at the right time.

I sign in at the Volunteer booth and wolf down a gluten-free peanut butter sandwich before spending two hours with small children. The woman who leads me over to the area asks me first, if I’m military (um…kind of flattered, but no), and then where I’m from on Oahu (that would be Boston, Oahu).

From 10-12 I work at the kid’s station helping the littlest ones with their arts and crafts. They can make mosaics, watercolors or small puzzles to take home. I stand outside the tent with a pinwheel to give to kids who are interested. They are so happy about their new pinwheels. I spend quite a while with a little girl named Abby. Later her mother tells me that they came back to the festival today just because Abby did not have time to do the crafts yesterday. She must be about 3 and she is adorable. Not only that, but I get to hang out with her for a while as she does each craft multiple times.

When my time is up the woman running the station hugs me and I receive a blue ticket which gives me half-off the price of one t-shirt from this weekend’s festival. Totally worth it, I would have done it for nothing. Now I start to browse the festival. I look for artists who do not have any customers in their tent to interview because I don’t want to take away from any of their sales. I also look for painters mainly who are doing images of Hawaiian landscapes, architecture, etc.

I fall in love with the first interviewee’s work and decide to interview him first. He started out as an architect and has been doing art for about five years. The colors in his paintings are incredibly vivid and he paints a lot of sailboats and islands that I recognize from my trip here. Later, I won’t be able to stop myself from buying one. My only souvenir for today (aside from the shirt). He is flattered to be interviewed, saying he never has been in his life. I only take about 4 minutes of his time and then I go off to another booth. I talk with a woman who paints palm trees and fruits and talks about instilling the aloha spirit into her art. I talk with a woman who has just moved to Hawaii after college and is trying to figure out how to be respectful when portraying Hawaiian culture. And I talk to just about the greatest lady I’ve ever met.

I had read about this artist online, Lynn Boyer. She does almost all open-air paintings, meaning that she usually doesn’t paint from a picture, but out in nature with her easel. Her work is stunning. She answers all of my questions enthusiastically and she exudes the same effervescence as her art. As I walk around looking at the different pieces I am stopped in my tracks. There’s our boat, the Blue Angel, sitting in a harbor in Hawaii. I look over at Lynn, “That’s my boat,” I say, “You painted my boat. You couldn’t have, but you did.” She laughs and says she saw the boat in a Hawaiian harbor. I tell her it couldn’t have possibly been ours, but it was a Pierson Vanguard with a blue hull and looked to be about the length of our boat.

After my interviews I get some food at one of the booths. They have thai food, so I’m in heaven. I eat pad thai, delicious. I explore the festival a little more, and around 2:30 I get on a school bus for the Haleiwa tour downtown. The tour is kind of dry, although I’m also very tired. The guide does a fine job, and it’s really impressive that a group of them did all this research and offer these tours for free, but he doesn’t really tell any stories or incorporate important figures, or common people into the fabric of the history. Additionally, I can’t get used to things from the 1930s being considered “old.” There are houses from the late 1700s down the street from me at home. Still, it was nice to have the tour and get to drive around a bit.

After the tour I get myself “shave ice,” which no one can stop talking about. It’s ok, but I don’t really understand what the big deal is. I eat the ice on the beach though, and it’s nice to be on yet another beach on this beautiful island. I’m glad I’ve turned my trip here into a day trip, I think that is the perfect amount of time if you’re not into surfing.

The North Shore is a big surfing area, and on the busride home I sit next to a surfer dude and his surfer dude son who both talk like Jeff Bridges when he’s stoned. The bus ride back is over 2 hours on the first bus and another 40 minutes on the second. I still don’t read or listen to music on the bus because I’m afraid I’ll miss my stop, and somehow I manage to stay awake the whole time.

Prince Lot Hula Festival (July 21, 2012)

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Luckily when I board the new bus there are lots of people already onboard with their beach mats and towels. This means they’re going to the hula festival, where it’s seat yourself on the grass. I get off at the stop that everyone else does and follow the group to a shady, grassy area, a park. As we go underneath a canopy of trees a group of white tents come into view. As we near the area I can see hula dancers getting ready to perform. I cross around to the audience side of the performing area and lay down my beach mat and wrap on top of it to sit down on in the center of the “beach mat area.”

I’ve arrived just in time to hear the Kamehameha Men’s Alumni Glee Club. They’re very good and many of them have composed the songs they sing today. At 9:00 the program begins with the announcement of special guests. There are three, very important, very old Kumu Hula who will sit under a white tent during the performances and receive an incredible number of lei as the day goes on. There is some chanting and processing done in their honor and then the opening ceremonies begin.

The opening ceremony features dancers from each of the halau that are present. Most are from Oahu, but there are some that are from Molokai, Kaui, and Maui as well. I recognized three Kumu Hula from the public ceremony I attended almost a week ago today.

Taking in my surroundings I see the hula mound in front of me, where everyone will perform and a covering of trees above me. The trees form an almost perfect sphere across the sky, although there is a circle opening in the middle. As the sun gets closer to the opening I put on some sunblock. As I am wiping the sunblock on my face my hand runs across something…a big bug. I wipe to push it off and it digs in. When I manage to swipe it off my face I can see it’s a big black ant with a red abdomen. I have no idea what it just injected into my brain, but boy does it hurt. After some frantic texts home, I decide I will live to see another day. I watch as each halau presents their specialty dances, usually showcasing several of their classes from the older kahiko classes to the keiki (children). About one hour before the scheduled break at 1, I go over to the vendors to buy my lunch. I buy kailua pork and cabbage…one of my newfound favorite meals and bring it back to my mat to eat it.

Not long after I get it the weather takes a turn for the worse. It starts pouring. It really hasn’t poured in Hawaii since I arrived. Usually it just sprinkles for a few minutes and then we’re back to sunshine and rainbows (literally). Luckily, with my mat and cover I am able to successfully keep the important things in my bag dry and myself (for the most part).

After the rain clears, I finish my meal and during the break I go over to the vendors again and buy way too much. I need more self control. When I return to my blanket the sun is peaking through the opening. It is sweltering. I buy myself a pineapple rhubarb popsicle and slather on another layer of sunscreen. Most people move out of the area and I am able to slide my mat up closer to the mound. I can stand the heat.

            There are still five or six more halau to go. They are each wonderful in their own way. The older woman who’s now sitting next to me offers me some of her food (which I don’t take for fear of gluten) and tells me how she likes the male hula dancers. When the dancers from Maui come onstage in their loin clothes she nudges me and says, “this is what we’ve been waiting for.” I assume she thinks I’m a local because she asks if it’s my first time at the festival, rather than my first time in Hawaii. I’m guessing almost all of the people here are locals. It wasn’t advertised very well at all and I don’t think most tourists could make it out here on the bus.

At the end of the day we sing the Hawaii state song…and by “we” I mean all the people who actually know it. We stand and hold hands like the Whos. It’s actually a really beautiful moment. It makes me want to stay here forever. Everyone is just so welcoming.

I follow the groups of people back to the bus and manage to make it back to Waikiki. I eat two hot dogs in the room and book it to the beach for a free hula show provided by the Hilton. The show is nothing compared to what I’ve just seen, but it’s really quite nice. Several older women hula while a small band plays and the sun sets behind us. I leave a little early to catch a bus to Merchant St. to the Kumu Kahua Theater.