Let’s start slowly, without jumping straight into the adventure – and into conclusions as well. Have I originally arrived to Hawai’i in search for the Aloha? Maybe, maybe not. But, in the end, even the very beginning of my journey, the train ride, has helped me to get closer to the true meaning of this word, not really translatable as plain “hello” or “bye”.
This post is, I guess, more like a chapter in a book. And because for most people it’s not really usual to read a book in one go, don’t be afraid to put a bookmark in if you don’t feel like reading anymore and come back later. 🙂
The alarm goes off and wakes me up from what can be called anything but sleep. I was up on and off basically the whole night, shivering in the cold room. I turn it off, gladly, and get up to have a hot shower – the last one for the next week. “Auntie” Thui-e and Huy are still sleeping and I wish there was something like a silencer for showers because I don’t want to wake them up.
After collecting “my five plums” (=almost nothing) consisting of my phone, charger, and a hair band from the room which was my home tonight and stuffing them in my backpack, Huy lends me a power bank and drives me to the nearest BART.
The train ride is… awkward. More, the first half of it is less than pleasant. People are on their way to work, the train is quite full and I can feel the suffocating feeling in my chest – is it social anxiety trying to burst out again? I stare on the floor, trying not to bother anyone with my sole existence. I know this probably sounds like exaggerating but believe me, it’s not. I feel like I can’t breathe. The woman who stands next to me sighs loudly, pushing my backpack with her leg, muttering so that I can hear her, showing me how much she hates the fact of me being on the train, how much it bothers her.
I try to ignore her and pretend I didn’t notice any of this, putting my earphones in and turning on some music. But I can still feel her stare and a heavy, miserable, hateful energy radiating from this poor human being. When a seat frees up, she pushes me aside, almost knocking me over together with all my stuff.
Trying to gain back my balance, I notice another woman, sitting nearby, slightly shaking her head in disagreement, looking in her direction. She then turns her eyes to me and smiles faintly but with such honesty that it saves my day (or at least the train ride). I cannot but notice how beautiful she is – thin golden eyeliner is emphasizing her deep brown eyes, contrasting and somehow highlighting the beauty of her smooth dark skin. But it’s not only within her face, no, not at all! Her beauty is within her. Encouraged only by the fact that she is on the train, I’m able to push back on the anxiety and start looking up again.
I can feel the usual mild smile creeping up on my face and when the woman who gave me her annoyed, if not mean looks is leaving the train and tries to send me one last message about how much better the world would be without me, I just smile at her, wishing her a good day in my head.
I arrive at the wrong terminal (I read “I” as number one, not as a letter) and, after searching for Hawaiian Airlines line for quite some time, ask the airport security for help. The man is very friendly and patiently explains that I need to go back on the shuttle train and get to the international terminal. I thank him and thank for him and soon enough, I find myself paying for my check-in luggage, getting rid of it for the next few hours and going to the bathroom before TSA. If you read The Trouble Begins Even Before It’s Time to Leave, you know why I need to visit a bathroom before going through TSA.
The TSA experience is as terrifying as always but I make my way through it, being the exemplary passenger who does everything right but almost cries because of the whole unbelievably stressful process.
“You’ve got a bubble gum here,” I smile nervously (and hope my smile looks like a smile and not like an attempt to bite off the officer’s head) when I’m standing in the x-ray thing with my arms over my head and my feet (almost, because of the bubble gum on one of these) on the yellow marks. The officer gives me one killer look and my blood and smile freeze.
Finally, I’m at the gates, wanting to read or do something productive but completely unable to even pretend to be a functional human being. Instead, I just stare into nothing and try to process the whole TSA thing and calm myself down before it’s time to board.
The aeroplane takes off, me clutching the armrests so tightly that my knuckles turn white. No, I probably won’t ever get over the fear I feel when taking off or landing, so you can stop asking. After watching the pure white clouds and deep blue ocean so far below for about an hour, I watch a movie on my laptop, read a bit of my book, and soon, we’re landing in Kahului, Maui, while I’m completely unable to even start processing how unbelievably blue (and so many different blues!) the ocean is here.
I can’t believe what I see (or sense). There’s heavy humid but fresh air flowing through the whole airport – and as I walk to find my next terminal, I can see why – the airport is open, there are huge “windows” where the walls just end and there’s just a railing preventing people from falling out from the halls. I can’t explain why but this simple fact just makes me overflow with joy.
I get myself a yoghurt and some smoothie and sit on the floor right next to one of these holes so that the mild wind coming from the island can play with my hair as I eat. Soon, I can feel small drops of water being carried here from the hills now covered in thick grey clouds. A storm is coming.
Taking off and landing in Kona only about 30 minutes later is a bit confusing for me to comprehend but here I am – and even more surprised by the airport than on Maui. Only a few days later, this is going to become my favourite airport I’ve ever been to – but I just simply love it today already.
We are let out of the aeroplane onto a ramp. I’ve never been so outside in any airport. The heavy humid wind is playing with my hair and I can’t have enough of the taste of the air – even though we are at the airport, it’s unbelievably fresh. We walk through the gate – and I mean literally a gate, constructed from some kind of dark wood or some other looks-like-wood material. We are in the airport but still outside. I love it. The pure blue sky above me, it is only the shop buildings and the bathroom that have a very… ummm… Hawaiian looking roofs with palm trees peeking above it all. It’s the paradise you’d imagine from travel magazines
It’s easier than easy to get my luggage and find the shuttle to the car rental. There’s almost no line and everybody smiles friendly. I know, it’s probably part of their job but… it’s still quite nice. I’m a bit surprise when asked for my social security number. Why do places like car rentals not like debit cards?
Soon I have everything in my car and about to start driving when a middle-aged man approaches with a wide smile. I open the door because it’s obvious he wants to talk to me. And, here we go, are you ready?
“Excuse me, I think you are in my car,” he says and looks at his rental information.
“Oh… really?” I ask, feeling a bit uneasy and check in with my own pile of papers. Everything fits, the car brand, the colour,…
“Mine is number 8,” says the man pointing on a number printed on the ground – number of the parking spot.
“Oh… mine in 9,” I notice, flipping the rental card. I get out of the car. On the ground, there’s printed white number 8. I’m in the wrong car.
I start apologizing immediately, feeling super awkward, getting all my stuff out of the car and moving it in the car on the right. Same brand. Same colour. Same type. God…
“No, no, it’s ok – they would just give me another one,” the man keeps smiling friendly and helps me get my suitcase from his car to mine. I apologize again and once more and then drive away in my car. At the gate, I’m really – and I mean really – glad he came when he did as they are checking if I took the right car.
The previous Searching-the-Aloha article is HERE.
The next one is waiting for you right HERE.
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And have a day full of kindness! 🙂
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