Table for One

Hawaii, the Big Island, the largest island, the youngest island, still in the process of creation. It is so awesome to think that humans have dared to build their homes and cities so close to Kiliawa, home of the fire godess Pele, a volcano still alive, slowly spilling its lava down its sides, lava that slides down and disappears into the ocean.  The most spectacular views of the big island can be seen only by helicopter, and David had the opportunity to do this.  We decided that he would go in this helicopter ride by himself, since we had already scheduled another helicopter ride in Kawaii.  So I had the opportunity to enjoy our nice hotel room and its balcony, having it all to myself for an afternoon.

 

There is nothing like listening to the ocean. No two waves sound the same.  I had a great afternoon sitting on the balcony having lunch and then slowly enjoying a bar of Lindt dark chocolate as I sat and listened to the ocean right beneath me.  And the birds, the ever present birds!  So many of them, so many lovely songs, they provided the perfect accompaniment to the crashing of the waves on the lava rocks.

The Crouching Lion and the Birds in Paradise

 There is an eating place in Awahu called The Crouching Lion.  I would not call it a restaurant, for it is not exactly what we think of when we hear the word.  The Crouching Lion is made of wood, built in a humble way, furnished just as humbly.  What it offers is good food, the warmth of its staff and proximity to the ocean.  So, when the tour group got there, I got to enjoy a tasty lunch, the sounds of the sea, and something more. 

 

When I finished my lunch, David said to me: “Come with me, there is something I want you to see.” 

We walked to the back of the place, which was clean and ample, until, to my surprise, we ended up in a courtyard.  And inside this courtyard were all these cages, big, big cages, housing quite a variety of parrots, lorries, parakeets, cocatoos, feathered in all the colors of the rainbow.  I was delighted by this surprise, as I was surrounded by all kinds of squawks, chirps, calls and songs.  David and I went around to look at each cage, and he described for me the birds that were in them.  In one cage there were two or three large parrots that were mostly red, with yellow and blue accents.  Another cage housed a good number of smaller lorries or parakeets that were either mostly blue, or yellow, or green.  There was a female sitting in her nest.  The sounds and display of colors was quite joyous, bright and lively.  When I thought we were finished enjoying the birds, David said: “There is still one more.”  We walked away from the courtyard until David brought me to the one he wanted me to see.

 

I found myself standing in the presence of this awesome macaw, who was very busy cracking peanut shells in order to get to the delicious food inside.  The macaw’s tail was long and red, his body blue, and his face speckled with black and white feathers.  The macaw was comfortably perched, but he was not inside a cage.  We stood for a moment watching and listening to him crack the shells and eat thepeanuts.  Then David felt tempted to pull on the bird’s very long, thin tail.  “I do not think so.” I said, thinking of the macaw’s formidable black beak.  Well, there had been no need for me to say anything after all.  As David slowly reached for the bird’s tail, the feathered one half turned and gave him a warning look.  Once the message was sent (and unequivocally received), the bird turned back to his peanuts.

 

I started to say hello to the bird, repeating the word a few times in a soft voice.  To our surprise and pleasure, the great macaw stopped eating, turned to face us and tried to repeat the word hello.  I said the word, and he tried again to repeat it.  It was obvious that someone was teaching him and he was a beginning student.  David said hello to the bird.  He looked at him for a secondas if to say: “What, you got some food for me or something?”  Then,having found David to be an uninteresting subject, he   turned his back to focus again on the peanuts.  David and I had a good laugh. 

We stood there for a little longer, as I said hello to the bird a few more times and was rewarded by his reply.  Then one of the ladies who cooks the food in this simple and wonderous place came over and gave the macaw a French fry.  The bird gently took the offering from the woman’s fingers with his powerful beak, then lifted one foot to grasp the treat and eat it, the same way he had done with the peanuts. 

 

And so I said good bye to this humble wood palace, with its open spaces that let in the sun and the sounds and smells of the ocean, its magical courtyard populated by gorgeous birds, and its presiding great macaw.  May The Crouching Lion continue to give its foods for body and soul for many years to come.

Pearl Harbor: From Sacred to Profaned

Included in our tours of the islands of Hawaii was a visit to Pearl Harbor, where the war began for America in 1941.  I did not know what to expect there and, oh, how I wish I had. 

 

On our way to Pearl Harbor, our tour guide gave us the details of what we would find.  There would be a souvenir shop, ever present in every tourist trap around the world.  We were told that some of the survivors of the attack who were still living would be seated in a particular area wearing a cap with the word “Survivor” displayed in big letters on the front.  The idea was for the tourists to approach them and talk with them or ask questions. 

 

The more I listened, the less I liked it, but the kicker (literally for me) was that we would be stepping to and standing on the actual memorial, which is right above the remains of the sunken USS Arizona.  Obviously, the memorial was designed in such a way that people could get as close to the remains as possible and take a look. 

 

I was thoroughly disgusted and offended.  “Are you telling me that we are going to step on that tomb?” I asked David. 

“We are not going to step on the ship, we will be standing on the memorial above it.” he replied.

 

This did not make any difference to me.  It is true that I am a believer in the Lord God and I try to be as faithful to the Bible as possible.  So I do not believe that the souls of the dead can roam the Earth, or that the living can summon the soul of a dead person back in the world of the living.  Yet, from my cultural roots, I still have ingrained in me a deep respect for the dead, and a deep sense of their sacredness.  The dead are sacred because, in life, they loved and were the loved ones of other people.  Those who leave us forever inevitably wound our hearts with great pain and that terrible sense of loss.  Our loved ones’ remains, the graves and burial grounds they inhabit, are the symbols of the grief, pain and loss of the living.  Well, call me supersticious or old fashioned, but walking on someone’s grave is an insult to the living and desecration of the dead. 

 

Not only was I faced unexpectedly with this issue, but here the whole situation was a lot worse.  The USS Arizona became the tomb, the marine coffin of a large number of men that were killed in the attack that brought the United States into World War II.  Today, this undersea cemetery is a circus, a tourist trap for people to go see a documentary film about that day, board a Navy boat to be ferried to where the Arizona is, get out of the boat and in the memorial to walk around itt  to finally reach the guard rail that is the barrier between the people and the Arizona below.  All around me, I could hear the loud talking and laughing of the adults, and the running feet and yells of the children. 

 

A moment later, it was walking back through the memorial into the boat, being ferried away from the site, getting back to the main area, disembarking and moving on to the next thing.  As usual, there was some time left before the bus came for us in case anyone wanted to run to the souvenir shop and purchase some crappy trinket likely to bear the name “Pearl Harbor” and have the usual small sticker saying “Made in China.”

 

The whole experience left a really bad taste in my mouth.  I feel that what those entombed men deserve is a tasteful and beautiful memorial that people could see from a respectful distance.  No souvenir shop, no survivors parading themselves around like a freak show, no steping right above the ship and gawking.  How about giving those killed and sent to the bottom of the sea at Pearl Harbor on that terrible day some respect?

Daughters of Neptune

Morning at the beach in Waikiki.  The beach, the beach!  I was craving spending time at the beach with a tremendously forceful, burning intensity that impressed even me.  The morning was perfect in every way.  The sun was ruling in a clear blue sky and the temperature touching my skin was just right.  We walked the couple of blocks from the hotel to the beach, through the streets of this neat and interesting part of Awahu. 

The full glory of the beach embraced me completely.  My feet felt gently warm as I walked on the sand.  The air was full of the perfume of the sea, and I felt as if its singing waves  were just for me alone.  No way was I going to refuse the invitation to go into the water. 

The sun, the sky and the ocean took me in completely, and I was giddy with joy.  The beach and me were the entire universe that morning, there was nothing else.  I felt as if we were the whole of creation.  I was a child again, five years of age maybe, and I had entered the realm where there was no personal war, no fear or pain. 

As I sat in the water facing the great ocean and digging around for its treasures, I wondered if I could get up, start walking and keep walking until I became a permanent part of this universe.  I fancied that, if I did this, I would stay forever in this perfect world, where there was nothing but beauty and my greatly intense emotions of being alive and consumed with joy.  Of course, the wise old woman in me knew perfectly well that this was silly.  Then I thought with sadness about a Puerto Rican poet, Julia De Burgos, who walked into the ocean to end her life.  Funny, she walked to let the ocean swallow her because of her great agony, because life had lost its brightness for her, and she had nothing left in her soul but grief and despair.  And here I was, thinking about walking into the sea to perpetuate the emotions that my body could barely contain. 

Living in New York for so many years has turned me into an autum bird, feeling at my best when temperatures are cool or gently warm and the air is crisp and clear.  But I was not always this way.  I was born in Puerto Rico, into the perfection of nature, and I became a child of the trees, the plants and the flowers, no matter where they were.  My mother, however, was a child of the ocean through and through.  That was the place where she felt at home, and she was, of course, being a true daughter of Neptune.  Her wishes always were to be cremated and taken to her beloved ocean, where she could become a part of it, and it a part of her, forever. 

I know now that I have become a daughter of Neptune as well.  I almost never visit the sea, and I guess that, deep in my soul, I miss it terribly because, if and when I have a chance to go there,  the fire of my emotions burns me as it did that morning, at Neptune’s home in Waikiki.

arrival

The flight is over.  Yeah!  David and I stampeded out of the plane as fast as we could, along with the rest of the herd.  Warm, very warm, and I was starting to sweat.  I thought to myself, foolishly, of course: “I hope the temperatures here are not excessive!  Looking back, I now know that feeling super warm was the shock of being cool in New York City for so long, and that we were walking fast.  We were inside Honolulu International, but it felt open to the outside world.  Open spaces!  Yes, open areas through which the Pacific trade winds could flow unimpeded.  And birds!  Birds, birds, birds everywhere, filling the air with their wonderful songs, the lovely feathered ones that would be our constant companions through our stay in paradise. 

After grabbing our suitcases, we went to find the greeting person from our tour company, who presented us with beautiful lei.  Yay, Hawaii at last! 

One of the airport’s porters, in charge of taking our suitcases to the bus that would take us to our hotel was talking with me and raving about the dining area of the hotel we were staying, the Pacific Beach.  He mentioned this aquarium which was “really nice,” as he put it.  He also said that the food there was so delicious that many locals, including himself, went there for lunch regularly.  I was very glad to hear such a good recommendation from someone who sounded like he knew what he was talking about. 

And boy, did he ever!  The aquarium he said was “very nice” was three stories high, about a hundred feet in length, and heaven knows how large in diameter.  It was filled with 280,000 gallons of water, and it starred three magnificent manta or sting rays, who commanded awe and respect as they gently and unhurriedly moved their “wings” while going about their underwater flight.  The choreography of this spectacular aquarium was complete with abundant plant life and fish of various colors, all framing the presence of the riveting manta rays. 

The food!  The food!  The food!  Papaya to die for, served with skin and all, so I got to eat it as I did growing up in Puerto Rico, living in the house with the big beautiful backyard.  We had a papaya tree, but it was not in the big beautiful backyard, it was actually in the side garden of the house.  My father would watch the growth of the fruit and he would know exactly when to take it down from the tree, no easy task.  He would cut the fruit and all we needed to do was to gently scrape off the seeds and chow down.  Here at the Pacific Beach in Waikiki, Honolulu, I did not have to scrape the seeds, but I got to enjoy the skin.  I will tell you, I would not have minded a bit if I had to scrape the seeds!  Okay, so there were the papaya, the pineapple and other fruits.  There were eggs deliciously prepared with vegetables, Portugese sausages, freshly  squeezed fruit juices.  I just wish they had not strained the juices, especially the guava.  Lunch and dinner were no less delicious.  There was the famous kalua pork, kalua chicken, salmon, mahi mahi, rice, vegetables.  No wonder the residents and working people in the area went there to eat, as the porter told me back at the airport!  It was heaven!

Journey to Paradise on Earth

Allow me to share with you my wonderful experiences in the midst of the grand beauty of the islands of Hawaii.

 

 

Traveling is certainly not for sissies!  It takes ten hours to fly direct from Newark International, New Jersey, to Honolulu International.  Now, let us think about this for a moment.  Just imagine yourself traveling on cattle class, I mean, coach, wedged in one of those little seats with a deeply concave back, so you look (and probably feel) just like the hunchback of Notre Dame.  (Did I mention that I am a small woman?)  What did President Obama say about torture?  Anyway, all I want to say here is that you better be prepared for this arduous flight by dressing and packing to please and satisfy Homeland Security, and by taking plenty of food and drink if you do not want to starve in the skies.  Of course, the priviledged ones out there who can afford business or first class do not have to worry about most of these things most of us mortals do (more on this later).  Still, torturous as the flight is, is it ever worth it!  Stay tuned, so that you may read all about it and enjoy.

Good night.

Blessings from the Most High,

Rosa Del Fuego

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