"If you try, you'll find me where the sky meets the sea. Here am I, your special island, come to me, come to me."
I'm pretty close to being able to come up for air.
It's been that busy.
Monday and Tuesday mornings I made beads for the first time in more than two weeks and it felt really good to be melting glass again.
Of course, I can't expect much sympathy for having spent the prior 10 days cruising between Oahu and Maui and Kauai and the Big Island. Or the five days before that when our kids and grandson celebrated an early Thanksgiving with us
Thanksgiving morning found us in an airplane for 8 hours, flying west.
I'm funny when it comes to travel. I dread it until I'm on my way and then I enjoy it.
The dread comes for several reasons. I love being home. I love sleeping in my own bed. I love getting up in the morning and having my coffee with my cats.
Packing is a drag. Men have it relatively easy. Women have to think about earrings and hair accessories and cosmetics and shoes. I have to think about medication and my night guard and my arm brace. Then there are electronics and chargers.
I have anxiety when I think about laundry accumulating in my suitcase. I have an inability to pack realistically and I often wear only one-third of the clothes I bring on any given trip.
At least I gave up the idea of bringing beads and stringing materials and wire and tools for making jewelry along the route. It was a good decision. I brought three books and finished one. I might have read more if I didn't get sucked in to United Airlines' in-flight wifi. I watched movies on both out outbound and return flights.
But mostly it's about the cats. I have separation anxiety about my cats, and since two cats didn't tug on my heartstrings sufficiently, I had to get a third cat.
I won't become a crazy cat lady. Shoveling two litter boxes is plenty. Vet bills have been astronomical this year (in a relative sense) because of what Neil calls the "Sugar Land factor." We live in an upscale community, services automatically cost more. And who wants to drive 180 miles with a cat to save $600 in neutering fees (because I could have taken Biscotti back to the rescue group for the surgery that was included in his adoption fee).
Anyway. The night before we had to wake up in the wee hours (5 is a small number right?) to catch our flight to Honolulu, I went to bed at 9. I'm grateful that I don't easily rattle Neil, because tears rolled down my cheeks when he came in.
As soon as we get on our way, I'm all right again. Something about being past the point of no return. Heck, I'm in Hawaii, so I might as well make the best of it. Or maybe it's just that leaving starts the countdown to coming home.
By the last night or two of our trips, I may or may not even wish we had an extra day or two.
Hawaii really was grand. On arrival we explored Waikiki Beach. Our hotel was much like a Disneyland Park minus the rides, with multiple eateries and shops and water features and fireworks. For dinner we had the Hawaiian specialty, Loco Moco. Burger served over scoops of rice, with brown gravy and topped with an egg.
We rented a car on Oahu on Black Friday and went to the Dole plantation, which is no longer owned or operated by Dole, but they still have amazing Pineapple Whip. We hiked in Waimea Valley and enjoyed Shave Ice at Matsumoto. Well, Neil enjoyed his and most of mine, they looked better than they tasted.
On Saturday we boarded the Pride of America and chowed down on a big buffet lunch. One thing I really loved about our itinerary is that we sailed almost exclusively at night and were in port during the day.
Kahului, Maui, was our first stop. On our first day we took a waterfall and rainforest excursion. We trudged through mud and waded through streams and clambered down slippery slopes holding onto ropes. I swam in two waterfall pools.
Seriously. I stripped to my swimsuit and took the plunge. I'm practically Hawaiian now.
The water was icy and exhilarating. Neil took photos and worried about me breaking something. Like a leg or my iPhone.
It was great.
Tuesday we didn't have a formal plan, so we took a shuttle to Hilo Hattie's in Kihei to buy some "Aloha wear" as the ship's cruise consultant promoted it. Neil got a shirt with a pink plumeria pattern, I got a blue Hawaiian print sundress and we got Ry the most darling little pair of shorts and matching shirt. A 2T Hawaiian shirt. I want to frame it.
Wednesday we woke up in Hilo, on the Big Island. When we ranked our excursions - because that's how we roll - Neil and I agreed that our 4-mile hike in Volcanoes National Park, home to the world's most active volcano, Kilauea, was the highlight. We din't see lava - for that you have to take a helicopter tour - but we felt steam rising from vents, which was very cool, or rather very warm, speaking literally.
Our guide talked us into an unplanned stop for ice cream at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory. Yeah, he really had to twist our arms for that. We wound up the party at Akaka Falls with another mile-long hike.
Another good day. Cats? What cats?
(We did see four domestic cats at Akaka falls. One even let me pet him.)
Thursday (could a week possibly already have passed?) landed us in Kailua Kona, the sunny side of the Big Island (Hilo is the rainy side). Ironically our excursion in Kona took us north back into the rainforest, and you can't have a rainforest without some rain. Right. This was our second waterfall hike and Neil swore he would swim on this one, but between steady precipitation and the resulting churn in the waterfall basins, we didn't have a second chance to strip down, and Neil's new swim trunks had to settle for only hot tub action back on board.
Friday's excursion was one I had pushed for and most anticipated - horseback riding. We awoke in Nawiliwili (I love saying that) on the Island of Kauai, and spent the morning riding in the Mahaulepu area. My noble steed was Cash, while Neil rode Nick, and it was worth bypassing the zip-lining, tubing, kayaking, whale watching and choppering over Waimea Canyon, although I wish we could have done all of them. OK, maybe not the zip-line.
We also passed on the Luau. It's a cruise, folks. All you can eat. And I've been to the Polynesian resort at Disneyland twice. Not to mention that I don't eat pork. It was nice that the ship was noticeably less crowded that afternoon. We even had the hot tub to ourselves for a short time.
The beach at Nawiliwili was nice too.
Friday morning we took a "behind-the-scenes" tour in the belly of the beast, visiting the backstage area of the theater, the kitchen area, the laundry area and - this was really cool - the bridge.
We left Kauai early on Friday afternoon, so we could sail by the Nā Pali Coast in daylight. The rugged coastline is reachable only by air or sea, and it was beautiful.
On Saturday, back in Honolulu, we took one last excursion, to Pearl Harbor. We rode a boat out to the site where the USS Arizona lies sunk. It was quite surprisingly emotional and I added my tears to the salty Pacific water.
And then we spent our last afternoon in Hawaii in Honolulu International, waiting for the seven-hour red-eye flight home. God bless Apple for personal hotspots and God bless HIA for having a Starbucks and a sushi restaurant.
Other highlights of our week were being selected by lottery to have a dinner with Chief Engineer, Lindsay, and Chief IT Officer, David, (and another lucky couple, Edie and Frank) in the ship's specialty Italian restaurant, La Cuchina.
And somehow, this also qualified us for a private "setting-sail" party as we left Kauai, complete with mimosas and the Pride's second officer. And the couple who were our dinner companions.
Oh yes, and getting home, somewhat bleary-eyed, and taking a snooze on the sofa, covered in cats. Nothing like a little absence to make the feline heart grow fonder. Even the aloof Biscotti napped on my knees.
I woke up in time to do two weeks worth of homework for my final Monday 2D Design class.
And oh what a relief it is to have that one in the can.
So now I'm back in the groove, which is to say, life on Facebook.
And by the way, despite limited Internet access for the 10 days of our travels, I still managed to buy both beads and glass online.
Mahalo Pele. Thank you Goddess of goddess of Volcanoes. And a hui hou. Until we meet again.
"Most people live on a lonely island,
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea
Most people long for another island,
One where they know they will like to be
Bali Ha'i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you'll hear it call you,
Come away, come away
Bali Ha'i will whisper
On the wind of the sea,
Here am I, your special island,
Come to me, come to me
Your own special hopes,
Your own special dreams,
Bloom on the hillside
And shine in the streams.
If you try, you'll find me
Where the sky meets the sea
Here am I your special island,
Come to me, come to me
(Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein)