Partners in Crime Adventure

Lest you think my honeymoon was nothing but the drama surrounding the Epic SCUBA Fail described below, I will assure you now that Hawaii is every bit as awesome as everyone says. I kind of already figured, in fact, before we even set off, that it would be futile to try to describe such a well known travel destination, or even to photograph what’s been photographed so many, many times by professionals.

What was unique about our trip to Oahu, then, was something Dat-and-Gwen-centric: the additional evidence that we make a good team.


Part of the reason my boyfriend fiance husband and I get along is our shared ideas about adventure: 1) We like to have “adventures.” 2) We find adventure in little things.

Late one night, a couple of years back, the Houston freeway known as 290 was closed for repairs. That’s our normal route home. Our alternative was a long, parallel, four-lane road called Hempstead.

Hempstead is one of those industrial roads that’s mainly frequented by 18-wheelers. So it’s not only lined with giant metal buildings full of giant hunks of metal, but also the occasional pancake house and strip club.

When you drive down Hempstead in the wee hours of the night, you’ll see that a few of the buildings are lit up and full of moving machinery, and so presumably full of men who eat pancake specials and give parts of their paychecks to strippers. If you like, you can peer into the buildings, analyze the vehicles in their parking lots, and imagine all sorts of stories.

From the middle of Houston to the edge, it’s a long ride down Hempstead. We rode slow and silent for quite a few minutes before Dat pointed out, “We’re on an adventure.”

“I was just about to tell you that!” I said. Because I really was. Because we’re always on adventures, me and Dat.

So imagine us as those two people, but riding down a freeway under mimosas the size of mainland oaks and trees that dangle mangoes, in our rental car that was upgraded to a convertible for cheap. Imagine us walking down beaches full of tourists from all over the world, as well as locals of every flavor. Every other person there has a story – some that they told us and some that we had to construct on our own. And everyone has cameras, and you get to see what they think is important to capture with them. And then you trade cameras with strangers and hope for the best. Even when they can’t frame a shot for crap, it’s a memory preserved for you.

Memories preserved in me, all jumbled on a page:

Oahu = very beautiful plants, mountains and shoreline surrounding thousands of structures from the ‘70s and older, all peppered with tiny slivers of new-new expensive stores and rentals.

Every single person there is mixed or in a mixed couple, and it’s the only place I’ve ever been where absolutely no one gave us a second glance for being a Caucasian chick with an Asian guy. We were even mistaken for locals, once by an irate tourist seeking King’s Hawaiian bread and once by a snooty salesman in the Ala Moana shopping mall. I felt like I was in the idealized future of my fantasies, where everyone is mixed and no one can hate people based on ethnicity. And it really seemed that no one in Oahu did. But it was more than just that – all the locals were well versed in multiple cultures. And they were all obviously proud of their fellow peeps. It was beautiful.

Everyone asks how the sushi was, and we never even tried it. We didn’t get the chance. Mostly we ate in Chinatown, where the merchants were having a contest to see who could offer the cheapest dim sum. Everyone there spoke Cantonese (even the Vietnamese people) but told us they were learning Mandarin. They have “bubble tea” there, but it’s mostly bubble slushies. Our cha siu = their char siu. Our dried plums = their li hing. Chow fun = look fun. Red bean = “black sugar” or azuki bean. Yellow bean = non-existent. But everything was good and fresh – especially the plates including ginger. A lot of the restaurants used noodles from the one noodle factory that still made them by hand. And they were so, so good. I never appreciated chow fun until I ate it in Honolulu, y’all.

The way all signs in Houston are in both English and Spanish? Is the way all signs in Honolulu are in English and Japanese. All the employees at the mall spoke Japanese. All the Japanese people carried LeSportsac bags, and you could get the knock-offs of them in Chinatown.

Locals in Oahu seemed to come in two sizes: manapua-eating size, and surfing-all-day size. Guess which size I’d be if I lived there? Yeah. :) Hawaiian food is sweet and rich. I normally love sweet/rich food, but the Hawaiians had me beat with their sweet fried chicken and their two-starch plate lunches and the buttery, buttery fried sandwich bread. No, we didn’t try poi, because we didn’t go to any luaus. The McDonalds in Hawaii Kai advertised fried taro pie, but no, I didn’t try one. I was too stuffed with coconut manapuas (kinda like round kolaches or baked bao) and the hole-less Portuguese donuts called malasadas. No, we didn’t try the shrimp trucks. I feel like we disappointed everyone back home with the fact that we skipped the tour-book stuff and mostly ate Chinese food. But it was good, so I don’t care.

The groceries and gasoline weren’t much more expensive than in Houston. Only a few random things, like orange juice, were expensive. They sold hard liquor in the grocery stores. They sold Japanese candy at every drugstore. The Wal-Mart was a little more expensive and had less selection than Texas Wal-Marts. (Yes, we went to the Wal-Mart just to see if it was different from our Wal-Mart.) The Old Navy, however, was exactly the same. Stores with only Japanese stuff were 3,000 times more expensive than the other stores. The sales tax was, like, 0.0001%.

That’s all. I’ll stop here because it sounds like I’m obsessed with food and ethnicity and money, I know. But I don’t know how else to describe what we did there. I mean, we spent most of the time driving around the edges of the island in our rented convertible, saying “Oooooh!” and “What if we lived there? Or what if we lived there?” and “OMG, can you imagine if that was your elementary school?” and clicking zillions of pics of everything that’s been photographed a million times before.

And being on the beaches, beaches, beaches that, no matter how much better or worse they are in relation to each other, were all five gazillion times better than our Gulf of Mexico’s. Hours and hours just staring at the clarity of the water and wanting to cry over it. Marveling over the rocks and the vicious undertow. Holding up handfuls of sand to each other and picking out our favorite individual grains.

And, you know. Having adventures together. Incidentally being in love. I can’t describe it better than that. I can only say that I can’t wait until we do it again.

Because we will, some day.

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Posted in culture, gluttony, Hawaii, married life on 06/29/2009 11:08 pm

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