Friday, April 4, 2008
Hawaiian cruise leads to 'Hula Brain'
4/2/08 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser Thanks to a little known condition called “Hula Brain,” I am going through an out-of-body experience. My body is in Oregon but my brain is still in Hawaii. Fifteen days on a cruise ship zipping around exotic islands will do that to you A kind of a tropical vacation state of mind sets in: Hula Brain. My husband and I are not devoted cruise ship cruisers. Land cruising is more our style but occasionally we feel the urge to go to sea. In the last 25 years, we have been on about seven cruises and every time I come home slightly disoriented, wondering what happened to warm weather and my personal wait staff. That respectful and gracious gang of room stewards, cooks, waiters maitre’ds, florists and spa personnel never seem to catch the same flight that we do. Some folks really become addicted to cruise pampering. In fact, cruising is more than a vacation, its a way of life to many. Every meal on this trip (and there were many) we sat with a different group of travelers from all over the U.S. and Canada.. The meal ritual began with three questions: Where are you from? How many cruises have you taken and where are you going next? Our paltry seven cruises paled in comparison to the dozens of cruises that others have taken. The hot topic of discussion was where they were going in 2009. Amazing. I barely know where I’m going next week! We had booked this cruise eight weeks in advance and called it planning in advance. Silly us. Two couples received platinum medals for having sailed over 700 days with this cruise line! That’s two years of sailing, my friends. I’d have seaweed between my teeth by the time I reached shore! Many first time cruiser singles and couples were also aboard. One widowed lady from the Midwest had never seen the ocean, been on an airplane or (obviously) a cruise ship. For her, this was the trip of a lifetime and she wanted to do it all. I think she did. One day, she bravely went down on a submarine because she has grandsons in both the Navy and the Coast Guard. She rhapsodized over the colors and variety of fish and pronounced the experience “wonderful.” I said, “You go, girl!” A Florida couple was on their honeymoon. He was 91 and she was 86! They had been friends when previously married to others when both lost their spouses. They decided to tie the knot and head for Hawaii. They were happy as clams, dressed in tuxedo and sparkling gown, holding hands while deciding on dessert. Dr. Dan and his wife Jane (a former commodities trader) were more fun than a barrel of monkeys. She and I met in the laundry room. I had one load of clothes and she had six. There weren’t many washer or dryers and we noticed that people weren’t returning for their clothes, leaving the machines full but idle. We decided that the delinquent launderers were probably having a cappuccino or coffee with a deck officer. Maybe they were playing sudoku, bridge or bingo. Who knew? They weren’t there. It was nearly lunchtime and not wanting to miss another meal, we became “The Laundry Ladies.” One of us whipped a perfect stranger’s clothes out of the dryer and folded them while the other took someone else’s wet clothes and put them in the dryer. Not everyone appreciated our efficiency. One lady complained that her socks were still damp but we assured her that a quick swipe of the iron would cure that! In a vain effort to offset our calorie consumption, Chuck and I took daily walks around the upper deck and attempted to play tennis in gale force winds. Depleted by all that exercise, we would scoot down to the Lido deck and have a double scoop of whatever ice cream was the special of the day topped with hot fudge. Honestly, it was sacrifice after sacrifice. Everything seemed to involve food, especially the popular beach party and luau at Paradise Cove. Wearing orchid leis and sipping exotic drinks we enjoyed hula lessons, a symbolic Imu ceremony and then learned the hukilau at sunset. At dinner, I passed on the native Hawaiian famous “poi,” having previously gagged on it. Ugh. Each island offers its own special treat but the two most impressive experiences for us were complete opposites. Our time at Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial was sobering and thought provoking as we contemplated a horrifying act of war, inspiring acts of heroism and the aftermath of both. The pounding of hearts and silence at sea was deafening. The following week at midnight, as we sailed out of Kona, we were confronted with the glowing majesty of the volcano Kilauea. This splendor of creation was awe-inspiring as steam rose and lava splashed into the sea and red flames fanned the shoreline. All too soon fantasyland receded and reality intruded. Here in Oregon, there is no one to cook my breakfast, make up my bed, offer me a cup of tea, tempt me with rich food, strike up the band after dinner or leave a chocolate on my pillow. But to tell the truth, I’m pretty happy to be on solid land petting my dogs, watching the snow come down, cooking our meals and washing the dishes. Still, my Hula Brain hasn’t completely cleared. Some days I feel an overwhelming desire to return to those warm Hawaiian days, awe-inspiring sunsets and just a little more pampering… Aloha! Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel: cgsentinel.com