Monday, November 24, 2008

Aloha from Hawaii!

Overall, my year in the world has been the greatest learning experience of my life and I can only hope that my next adventure overseas into the unknown will prove to be just as enlightening. Among the many things that I came to learn in this past year- is that you have to take things one day at a time or you`ll wind up going crazy. I`ve learned that the flights we want aren`t always the ones we get, that hindrances like expired passports and required country visas sometimes stand in our way, and that as much as you research and think that your trip plans may be finalized- there`s always the chance that you`ll come across something that makes all the more sense- and you grab it! Just like that- any number of a million different factors can drastically alter your adventure`s course... and so they have!
While I should be writing this entry from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam- I write it from the island of Oahu in Hawaii. For months I had researched and planned a November stint in an orphanage in Vietnam, but in the end it did not work out the way that I wanted it to. The position I was offered dealt with children suffering from abnormalities, & physical and mental disabilities, and though it seemed like a good opportunity to lend a helping hand- I knew it wasn`t "my thing." Someday I hope to work along the lines of international adoptions, and so I would like to work in your typical developing country orphanage. In addition to the initial blow that the assignment wasn`t what I had in mind, I was living in Quindanning (45 minutes away from internet access) and I couldn`t get the necessary paperwork (visa for Vietnam entrance & passport renewed) in time for my trip`s start date.
I was starting to stress abit at the time about what I was going to do and where I would go for the month of November with Vietnam no longer a feasible option. I wouldn`t have been stressing if not for the simple fact that I just didn`t have the access to internet needed to fully research other possible routes. In the end, I trekked into the nearest down with Hayden, one of the Quinny locals who works in town, and spent a full day on the internet looking up flights, etc. In the end, I decided to extend my work at the pub by an extra 2 weeks & booked a flight for home with a stopover in Hawaii (Why not?). Stopping in Hawaii was my cheapest option and I decided that I would make it a 6-day beach holiday before heading home. I decided I may as well just head home as opposed to traveling anywhere else until December because I knew I just didn`t have the time to do the research I would need to do, anyways.
Probably the dumbest idea of my entire trip was that of spending three nights alone in a hotel in Perth before flying out to Honolulu on the Tuesday. I spent 16 weeks literally surrounded 24/7 by people. We lived three girls practically on top of one another, when we weren`t chatting it up with hundreds of different people from behind the bar, we were doing so from the other side of the bar, or we were hanging out in groups around the fire outside, or talking with the women in the kitchen. There was always someone banging some kind of a tool or shouting outside my bedroom window, always someone to talk to, and always someone to hang around with. And all of a sudden my world had turned upside down and I was standing on a busy city street all by myself or sitting in my hotel room - all by myself. It probably wasn`t as depressing as I make it out to be, but it was just a little bit too much time to think things over. I may have only been in Quindanning for 16 weeks, but because I spent every waking hour surrounded by the same people- it felt as if I had known them my entire life. Without a doubt- of all the places I`ve had to leave- I would say that Quindanning was the hardest to say good-bye to. It`s always hard to look people in the eye and know that you are more or less saying good- bye forever. I know that with the passing of time I`ll often find myself wondering what all of the locals are up to & how the pub has changed (or whether it has at all). I used to joke to the others that I felt as though Red was my cranky uncle from down the street & as I say this- I wonder what he is doing right now... haha.
Anyways, after a 9 hr flight to Honolulu, I took a shuttle to the "Waikiki Gateway Hotel" about a 5 minute walk to the world famous beach. Of course my room wasn`t yet ready because it was still before 8am, so I went and grabbed some breakfast at the restaurant across the street (a veggie omelette...mmmm!) At noon, my room was still not ready and I was honestly too jetlagged to wander the streets any longer, so I quickly accepted a $5 upgrade to a room with a kitchenette and a balcony- and was on my way. I was tired to the point where I was near tears that my room was still not ready! haha. And so the next 6 days were spent lounging by the pool trying desperately to add some color to my now white skin (after an Aussie winter in Quindanning), exploring the shops (where I spent the majority of my time), walking around the streets, and shopping at the nearby Ala Moana outdoor shopping centre. I really didn`t do anything very touristy and didn`t take in any of the culture, but sometimes we just need a bit of space and time to unwind. Afterall, I had been gone a year and was on the last leg of my adventure- I didn`t want to have to do the hostel thing--- I wanted to be alone with ample of time to reflect on my year abroad... and that`s exactly what I did... and still am doing! (haha)

My thoughts on Hawaii: I can`t say that I would ever necessarily want to go there again. After being on some of the beaches I was on in Southeast Asia, I didn`t find Waikiki beach to be anything very special at all. I found the shops to be full of REALLY tacky souvenirs (aka. junk). The feel of the city was that of being caught between an American influence & a Japanese one. The beach boasted brown sand. The shops that weren`t tacky were too high end to even consider walking into. Then again- I didn`t go to any of the shows or a Lu`au- so maybe had I taken in some of the culture my thoughts on Hawaii may have been a little bit more positive. Overall, I enjoyed my time in Hawaii, but I won`t be going out of my way to plan another stopover there in the near future. There are just too many other places to discover and explore.

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