Saturday, October 31, 2015

Home (almost)

The Fiji airport is always an interesting experience. No air conditioning, just metal fans strategically placed around to rotate the dense muggy air. With the majority of the airport under construction there is no waiting at the gate, just milling around gift shops hoping a bench will open up as the kids relentlessly beg for that wooden dolphin they just can't live without. Our flight is finally called and we are ushered up the escalator, through a lax security screening (that is much more interested in confiscating your bottled water than any real threat) and out to the tarmac to board the plane. Then just like that Fiji becomes a small speck in the vast ocean, keeping a small part of our heart with her. Once again, the only way to soften the blow of saying good bye was knowing we had one last adventure awaiting. Hawaii.

Welcome to the United States of America. As I read that sign posted at the international arrivals terminal I couldn't help but feel a surge of excitement, an overwhelming sense of pride, and a comforting feeling of being home. Even at 2:00 AM. We stumbled our way across the airport until we could find a place to settle in for a few hours until the rental car company opened. I was envious that the kids could sleep. I was beyond exhausted and no matter how I positioned myself I could not get comfortable in those chairs. Even with my legs falling asleep I didn't dare move for fear of waking the sleeping bodies draped across me. At 4:00 AM a cheerful employee walked around offering everyone cupcakes piled high with rich red, white and blue buttercream frosting. And that's when I knew we really were in America.

We crashed hard at the hotel, waking up around lunch time. And in typical Young family fashion we bypassed all the amazing local eateries and straight up hit Taco Bell. And if that's not embarrassing enough we went back for lunch again the next day. But really, the novelty of Mexican food (if, let's be honest, you can really call it that) and being able to feed an entire family of 6 for like $15 was just too much to resist. I can't really remember what else we did after that, it's all a jet lagged refried bean burrito haze by now, but I do know we found our way to Hanauma Bay early that evening. We got there shortly before closing so we decided against renting snorkles (which was probably for the best since the water was murky after a recent storm). Instead we just sat on the shores of this ancient volcanic crater and soaked in the incredible beauty.

We pulled over at the Halona Blow Hole, she wasn't putting on a very impressive display, but the rock formations made up for it. I'm a sucker for roads that hug along the shore line like this.

Once again we opted for the ever exotic dinner cuisine- pizza. But pizza on the shores of Waikiki as the sun sets is more than just pizza. The kids swung on vines hanging from trees until it was too dark to see, then we headed back to the luxury of a climate controlled room, crisp white sheets, black out shades, cable tv and travel sized toiletries. Vowing to myself to never take a clean hotel room for granted ever again.

The next day was Father's Day. Which just reminded me what else we did the day before. Walmart. It was Walmart. As if having Taco Bell as our first meal in Hawaii wasn't bad enough, Walmart had to be our first Hawaiian destination. But our whole first year in NZ I would wake up to dreams of running around Walmart all supermarket sweep style, giddy with excitement over the endless selection of cold cereal and the price of frozen pizza. So in a way it was quite fitting that Walmart was our first stop. Back to the point. We took advantage of our shopping trip to put together a candy gram for Jason's father's day present. Which, he really doesn't care for candy, but it was either that or a hang loose t-shirt. It was the thought that counted. Honestly, there isn't enough candy grams or souvenir t-shirts anywhere that could express our love and gratitude for this man. So grateful we could have a day to celebrate him in such a beautiful setting. And then the kids ate all his candy.

Another lazy morning. Waffles and fruit loops at the roof top continental breakfast, Disney channel a constant hum in the background as we figured out the plans for the day. I had very methodically planned out every single day in Australia, but by this point I was all planned out and we had a fly by the seat of your pants situation going on.

We settled for Diamond Head, we couldn't resist all the rave reviews. It was kind of like when there is all this hype for a movie and so you set your expectations really high, then walk out of the theater thinking, least I got to eat popcorn. It was a scorching hot day in the middle of a drought, so the odds were against us. The scenery on the way up was rather brown and blah and we thought we were going to kill over from the heat and the 176 stairs. The boys stripped their shirts off and clung to the side of the mountain that offered a few inches of shade. But we couldn't argue with the views from the top.

There's the center of the crater where we hiked from. Definitely not the lush green vegetation you think of when you picture Hawaii, it could easily pass for Arizona. But it was a good way to burn off the calories from the extra cream cheese I smeared on my continental breakfast bagel.

Pearl Harbor was a must see on our list. I love allowing history to come to life for the kids, give them a hands on experience so when they learn about it in school they will have their own knowledge and experience bank to draw from. It was a sombering experience to learn about the events that took place that dark day in December when they came under attack, and to take a morning to remember those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedoms. Especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I really am proud to be an American.

The USS Arizona in it's watery grave. I didn't realize that the bodies of those service men and women still lay entombed in the ship that you see right below. I won't lie, it gave me the momentary shivers.

We drove up the Pali Highway and were awed by the grandeur of the lush towering cliffs and the views from the Pali Lookout dubbed, "The Window to the World".

And this view was pretty nice too.

Lanikai Beach boasted that it was one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. After being in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji our views of beaches are a little tainted and we took that claim with a grain of salt. It really was beautiful with it's palm tree fringed golden sand, turquoise water and pastel skies (can I insert, "if you've seen one beach you've seen them all" with out sounding like too much of a beach snob??), but the most beautiful thing to me was seeing the pure joy on their faces as Jason and the kids played. I know, I know how cheezy that sounds. I'm cringing as I'm typing it. But really, spending this much time exploring the most beautiful corners of the earth with the people you love most will turn anyone into a pile of sentimental mush. Right at this moment, that is exactly what I am.