13 Comments

  1. R Lee Smith October 24, 2018 @ 5:31 am

    Risa, Thank you for the moment of flying away to a place where I did not think about all that I don’t want to believe is real.

  2. Risa Aratyr October 24, 2018 @ 2:32 pm

    You’re so welcome. :)

  3. Declan Kenny October 24, 2018 @ 6:39 am

    Aye up, good to see you’re back blogging. Like your Cook joke. And as for Irish; all I’d say is, try Danish!

  4. Risa Aratyr October 24, 2018 @ 2:48 pm

    I knew you’d get my Cook joke :)
    Danishnet.com says reading the language ain’t that tough. They say speaking the language is tough, mostly because the Danes can’t (or flat-out won’t) understand you if your Danish contains even a tiny mispronunciation, or erroneously conjugated verb, or syntactical oddity, or if you speak it with even the slightest accent. Far easier for those polyglots to simply switch to English or French or German or whatever than endure foreigners butchering their mother tongue?

  5. Adrian Martinez October 24, 2018 @ 11:03 am

    Wonderful to read the “Adventures of Li & Ris”, I can’t wait for the next installment.
    Aloha, Adrian

  6. Risa Aratyr October 24, 2018 @ 2:50 pm

    Thanks, Adrian! I’m coping with the stress of the upcoming midterms by sending out last-ditch get-out-the-vote postcards, signing up for additional ACLU texting shifts, and reminiscing about that glorious week when I got away from it all…

  7. Jo de B October 24, 2018 @ 1:24 pm

    Oh, Risa, I do miss you…and your wonderful way with the written word! Since my sister lives on Kaua’i, I am picturing your journey clearly…as well as, physically, feeling your arrival in Lihue. So-o-o looking forward to your next chapter!

  8. Risa Aratyr October 24, 2018 @ 2:51 pm

    What?!? I must have known, but totally forgot that your sister lives on Kaua’i! Looks like we’ve got an absolutely brilliant reason to get together — tea and tales of Kaua’i, coming right up!

  9. Janet Guastavino October 25, 2018 @ 2:45 pm

    Ubiquitous chickens??? Who knew? I guess they are akin to the turkeys in Berkeley! I adore the photos of young Liane and you and especially love the one of the two sister-mothers.
    Your immersion in language, landscape, and culture—more to come, I’ve no doubt—is beyond engaging. Thank you so much for your thus-far rich descriptions of your journey to paradise.

  10. Janet Guastavino October 25, 2018 @ 2:46 pm

    And I forgot to mention, your journeys through sisterhood.

  11. Risa Aratyr October 25, 2018 @ 7:06 pm

    Thanks for the read, and for the encouraging words about the posts to come. (From your lips to my fingers…)
    Those pics got to me big time. Not surprising to see two sisters paired and matched that way, of course, but after looking at them a few times, I was struck by the two bonnets in the first, the two super-fancy dresses in the second, the two 60s-looks of the 3rd (Li’s junior-high graduation; she’s classic & I’m early-mod), and the two babes – just 5 days apart! – in the last.
    The chickens are WAY more prevalent on the Garden Island than are the turkeys of Berkeley, btw. They are everywhere, all the time … as you will soon see.

  12. Anne Petersen October 25, 2018 @ 10:01 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed this Risa! And learned a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Risa Aratyr October 26, 2018 @ 10:26 am

    Mahalo for the read, Anne!

Two Tickets to Paradise – part i: sfo to lih

Write-Minded Comments (13)

I wasn’t an ideal younger sibling – far from it.

Throughout our childhoods, my stable, amenable, tolerant sister Liane got shorter-shrift on maternal attention, indulgence, and patience.  Volatile, confrontational, and uncompromising, I got things how I wanted them way more than was fair.  As a toddler, I made a practice of bulldozing my way through whatever play-project Li was attempting to engage in at the moment.  During our elementary school days, she was tasked with looking out for me.  In high school I tagged along – uninvited – when she hung out with her girlfriends and even insisted on playing a ridiculous third-wheel on some of her dates.  I was a real pest.

A less-saintly sib would have happily put more distance between us as time went on.  Not Li, not ever. The fact that I absolutely adore her and always have long ago melted her marshmallow heart and won her eternal and unconditional love and forgiveness.  Which is why, I suppose, she often daydreamed me along on her occasional Hawai’ian vacays.

While a fantasy companion may be merely a symptom of our urge to share the things we love with the people we love (“Having a great time – wish you were here!”), Liane’s daydreams reflected her intimate knowledge of her younger sis.

Sitting down to a typical island meal, she’d peruse the menu and think to herself, “Fresh ono and ahi every day – Risa would be in heaven!”

Visiting a botanical preserve, she’d remember how I always opted for the arboretum when it was my turn to pick the place for a family outing and think to herself, “Risa would love these gardens!”

Relaxing on a tranquil beach, she’d think to herself, “If Risa were here, I’d never be able to get her out of the water!”

If not now, when? is a question that becomes more meaningful as we age.  Realizing that “not now” could well mean “not ever”, we started planning a sisters-only trip to Liane’s personal heaven-on-earth – Kaua’i.

Well, she did the planning.  She’d been there before; she knew the ropes.  I awaited instructions.

Plan A was a bust anyway.  An unseasonal storm hit Hawai’i early April, triggering intense rainfall, flash floods, and water incursion that wiped out part of Kaua’i’s one and only highway, washed away roads and small bridges, demolished four houses, and swept the island into a state of disaster.  No injuries, btw, but restoration and disaster relief require time.

We postponed our May trip to September.

Five months later, things were much better, but not entirely back to normal.  The road that runs west from Hanalei was still closed, meaning no car-access to the most dramatically gorgeous part of the island, the Nā Pali Coast.  Most everything else was open for biz, though.  And we could brook no more delays.

On the day of departure, we got up around 4:00am and were on-board the airport bus well before the crack of dawn.  Bags checked, through security, Li and I promptly manifested our sisterly bond by simultaneously suggesting noodle soup for breakfast.  Airport food in ‘Murica seems to have upped its game, at least at San Francisco International.  The udon was yummy.

It’s 5½-hours to Lihu’e (and a ½-hour less on the way back).  Endless clouds in an endless sky, endless ocean below . . . Hawai’i is quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

photo credit: Quora, June 25, 2015

Catching sight of a snippet of land after all that not-land is a remarkable experience that immediately inspires one to imagine what it must have been like for the intrepid Polynesians to spy these shores after traversing 2,000 salt miles of sea in canoes or for the infamous Captain Cook to stumble upon them whilst endeavoring (bit of tongue-in-cheek there, for you Cook aficionados) to make England the ruler of all he surveyed (he was a surveyor in the Royal Navy, after all) and find a northwest sea-passage between the Pacific and Atlantic.  Wee specks of rock only just poking out of the largest geographical feature on the planet . . . what were the odds?  Why couldn’t he have sailed by, oblivious?

We were headed for the island that bears the brunt of Cook history – small, round-ish, very-old Kaua’i.  Kaua’i may not fit everyone’s definition of “tropical paradise”, but no worries.  With several islands to choose from, each with its own topography, personality, and micro-climate, it’s a safe bet that everyone’s notion of vacation perfection lies somewhere along the Hawai’ian chain.

In the pic above, right to left, youngest to oldest, we have:

  • Hawai’i – the largest island, where Millennials surf and settle, famed for its green-sand and black-sand beaches and for its 2 active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa
  • Maui – second-largest island, the New Age crowd’s fave, boasts 30 miles of exquisite sandy beaches and the amazing pools and waterfalls of Ohe’o Gulch
  • teeny-tiny Kaho’olawe – smallest island, no fresh water, paradise for lizards, maybe?
  • slightly-less tiny Lana’i – ideal for nature-lovers, with its vistas of neighboring Maui and Moloka’i, green turtles and humpback whales at secluded Polihua Beach, and lunar-landscape rock formations at the inland Garden of the Gods
  • long-and-lean Moloka’i – more about business (pineapple production) than pleasure, once a leper colony
  • mighty O’ahu – the most tourist-y and rico-friendly island, with attractions like Pearl Harbor, glitzy Honolulu nightlife, and the quintessential Hawai’ian skyline (high-rise hotels looming over the sparkling beaches of Waikīkī)
  • cozy Kaua’i – the aging-hippies’ delight
  • and finally Ni’ihau – a barren rock, but with the proud distinction of being an island for native Hawai’ians only; no haoles (non-natives) allowed

Also, just FYI, Hawai’ians almost never call the youngest and oldest islands “Hawai’i” and “Kaua’i”.  Not in conversation, not on the TV news, not in print.  They are referred to as The Big Island and The Garden Island, respectively.

A quick word on the Hawai’ian language before we land in Lihu’e . . .

‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi is one of the oldest living languages in the world.  It belongs to the Oceanic group of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, a group demarcated by a large Pacific Ocean triangle that reaches from Hawai’i to New Zealand to Easter Island.

Like all Austronesian languages, Hawai’ian has a lot of vowels, few consonants, and no consonant clusters. Every syllable ends in a vowel or diphthong; consequently every word ends in a vowel or diphthong (except for a few words borrowed from other languages).  Single-vowel syllables can sport any of the language’s complement of 10 vowels.  Two-vowel syllables can use any of its 9 diphthongs.

In its written form, ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi uses an alphabet of just 13 letters:  five vowels (a-e-i-o-u) and eight consonants (h-k-l-m-n-p-w).  It also has the ‘okina – a mini-glottal stop that’s the equivalent of the vocal break in “oh-oh”.  When the ‘okina is omitted (as in Hawai’i / Hawaii), it alters the meaning of the word.  Likewise, the kahako – the line over a vowel – is important to pronunciation and meaning; it indicates a stressed and elongated sound.

I’m sharing this because there will be a liberal sprinkling of Hawai’ian places names in the posts to come – and I don’t want my dear readers pulling that, “Oh, it’s so confusing, it’s so hard to read, it’s so hard to pronounce!” stuff on me.  The language is too beautiful and too evocative of the place for such nonsense.  Besides, ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi is super easy.  Give every letter its standard English pronunciation.  Pronounce every letter.  Take a tiny pause when you see an apostrophe.  Linger on the vowel if it has a line over it.

That’s it.  It’s not bloody Irish, fer gosh sakes.  Buíochas le Dia.

We touched down at Lihu’e, stepped off the plane, and stepped into another world.  A familiar world to Liane.  All new to me.  I’d never been that far west.  I’d never been to the tropics.

Birds were singing.  It was hot, but there was a breeze.  There was a breeze because everything was open.  Baggage claim was a giant room with no walls.  Immediately outside the claim area, I caught my first real glimpse of Hawai’i.

I was way impressed, but then, I hadn’t seen enough of the place to realize how entirely commonplace greenery like this and blue skies like that were on the island.  No great shakes . . . but still, a nice aloha.

I took off my socks and stuffed all unnecessary clothing layers into my carry-on while we waited for our bags.  Without exception, everyone went directly from the baggage claim to the shuttles.  There is public transportation (bus service) on the Garden Island, but to get around with any semblance of comfort and convenience, you need wheels.  Ours were waiting for us at Thrifty Car Rental.

That one item – the car – was my single contribution to the planning side of our holiday.  Perfectly appropriate, too, as I was the designated driver.  (Li doesn’t really like to drive, I rather do.  Works out just fine.)

The very nice folks at Thrifty gave me the keys to a spiffy, red Hyundai Sonata and two more small bottles of water (guess they don’t care to have un-acclimated tourists fainting at their counter).  Out the door, past the ubiquitous island chickens, and we were off – down Kapule Highway/HI-51 and on our way to our digs for the week, the Aston Islander on the Beach.

Risa Aratyr @ October 23, 2018

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