Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Drive With Aloha

We're just back from five days in Hawai'i. We snorkeled in two different reefs, hiked a ridge above one of the wildest valleys on the Na Pali coast, eavesdropped on the nests of various pelagic birds at Kilauea Lighthouse, and celebrated the very excellent wedding of garybart and jaimesama, which was the first and best reason for the trip. We stayed in a remote part of Kaua'i, separated by seven tiny one-way bridges from the nearest tiny town, so we've been in a news, phone, and internet blackout all week. I've got a lot to catch up on.

Gareth handled air travel better than we could possibly have hoped, though he still hates car seats. He enjoyed riding out our hike from his vantage point in the baby backpack. Anini Beach's reef slows the waves down enough, we were able to introduce him to the Pacific Ocean. It looks like he's up for going anyplace Dan and I would want to go.

Poor kid, just when he's starting to talk, his mother gets fixated on pronouncing Hawai'ian words like humuhumunukunukuapua'a. (Use this word in a sentence: "Check out all the stripy humuhumunukunukuapua'a wriggling in the reef.") Hawai'ian trips me up. The vowels are pretty much the standard Latin vowels, so I keep putting the stress accents in place names where Latin would duration-accent them, and then I can't stop throwing in the tiny bit I remember of Greek pitch accent, and just when I start getting the hang of where the accents are supposed to go, my brain goes completely haywire. I try to say thank you (mahalo), and my synapses spit up the Korean equivalent (kamsa'hamnida). One of the other wedding guests, a friend from grad school, is now a high school French teacher by trade, so my high school French started coming back. Now that we're completely knackered from the 24 hours it took us to travel home, I can write okay (I think), but I can barely speak an intelligible English sentence.

Language shock aside, my only bout of culture shock was on the roads. The State of Hawai'i urges its people to "Drive with Aloha," and the locals seem to take that official exhortation seriously. I guess it makes sense to concentrate on love of your fellow beings while driving, since that's when you indisputably hold their lives in your hands. Driving with Aloha entails etiquette for handling all those narrow one-way bridges, and stopping to pick up any hitchhiking little old ladies who might be Pele in mortal disguise, and driving about ten miles an hour under the speed limit no matter what the road conditions. That last bit was the hardest to adapt to. After all, I'd done my homework on Pele. I knew to offer food to old women, and not ever ever to take a lava rock off the island, and besides, none of the hitchhikers we saw could have been a day over eighteen, so we never had to consider whether to offer Pele a lift. But driving ten miles an hour under the speed limit? That may be driving with Aloha, but here in New Jersey, we drive with Fuck You. It's not a principled position, just the custom of the country. Driving with Aloha around here would be a sure way to get ticketed. Too bad. I liked living a few days on island time, poky traffic and all.
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