Friday, March 23, 2018

23/31: Feeding Time

I rounded the corner and joined in with the gasps of the slew of elementary-aged children around me.

The fish was huge. I mean, massive. It totally warranted the gasps.

The sign indicated that this was a giant grouper (emphasis on the giant, apparently). He swam towards the front of the tank, slowly, methodically, as if he knew his heft was impressive. His deep blue scales contrasted with the muted colors of the coral reef behind him. He was majestic.

The children pressed their hands against the glass, eyes round with awe. The grouper swished his tail, the effort shooting bubbles off to the sides. Other fish circled behind him, background noise to his main overture. We were riveted.

Suddenly, the fish began to move quickly to the surface. Small splashes indicated it was feeding time. With all of the ferocity of a velociraptor, the fish nabbed their prey. The grouper went last, snagging his meal and swimming away. The head of the smaller fish hung out of one side of his mouth, blank eyes watching nothing. Maybe he was saving it for later.

The grouper swam towards his audience once more, this time with the fish dangling from his mouth like a stubby cigar, and with his prominent brow and menacing look, I suddenly saw him as a mob boss coming to collect...and we were the unfortunate saps who had dared to cross him.

Before he could confront us, the tank was filled with a blur of bubbles as another, slightly smaller fish darted to the side of Godfather Grouper and nabbed the rest of his lunch straight out of his mouth. No more stubby cigar.

We shrieked in delight at the impudence of this smaller fish, certain that the grouper would retaliate. But he just swam away with the sort of air that only comes along with being certain that you are big enough to get revenge...if you want to.

The tank calmed down again, and I moved on, but I still wonder if Godfather Grouper ever decided it was time for his food-stealing counterpart to...sleep with the fishes?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

22/31: Remembrance

The small ship approaches, rolling over the choppy waves. Gray skies contrast with the steel blue of the sea. "Tie it up tight. No slack." The command given by the Navy official is nearly swallowed up by a gust of wind. My hair whips across my face as I join the line to step off of the boat.

I feel myself tipping from side to side as I follow my fellow passengers up the ramp. I clutch my rain jacket close to myself, struggling to find purchase on the mist-soaked ground. I alternate my glance from my feet to the memorial we approach: the site of the USS Arizona's final resting place, one of the battleships destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The monument is pure, blinding white, the sort of color that takes on the light around you, forcing your eyes towards it. It is narrow, a sort of tube, with open-air windows that are concentrated wind tunnels in today's dismal conditions. I feel exposed to the elements. Unable to hide from the truth of what I am standing on. A grave.

The entire structure is curved, higher at both sides and lower in the middle. It's symbolic, of course, an intentional choice by the monument's designer to represent World War 2 for the US, the nadir being Pearl Harbor itself.  I walk forward, silent, listening to nothing but the wind and the hushed murmurs of my fellow visitors. The end of the monument opens up into a windowless room, quiet and somber. Granite walls stretch up to the ceiling, covered with names.

Two first initials. One last name. Repeat 1,102 times. Bodies interred here, soldiers caught unawares. Living life until the last moment: playing cards, smoking, writing a letter to a girl back home. Snatched in a second at 07:48 on December 7th, 1941.

I think I know the meaning of the word sacrifice, but not really. Standing here, watching the fish innocuously swim around the orange-red shell of the fallen ship, I realize something. Sacrifice doesn't always mean knowingly plunging into the breach, fighter guns blazing and American flag held aloft.

It means going about your day, living below decks, joking with your buddy and donning the dress whites. It means that, despite this semblance of regularity, every moment has that undertow of potential sacrifice. You have the knowledge that this normalcy is anything but, and it could all be gone in a moment. And when it is gone, you're a hero. You go down with the ship. You stay there, entombed in a rusting behemoth that represents the nadir but also the sacrifice.

Years pass. People walk above you, they read your name, they stay silent while they try desperately to understand what this all means. They use the word sacrifice, but do they understand it anymore? Can they?

I turn away from the endless list of names, troublingly unfamiliar. I watch the ocean crest over the remains of the USS Arizona. I think about time, and how it changes things but never erases. I imagine this memorial 50 years from now, 100. Who will stand here? What will they think?

I walk out of the monument. The gales are stronger now, as if to match my emotions. As the crewman unties our boat and we move away, I watch the American flag, raised above the white curvature, struggling against the wind.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

21/31: Hawaiian Alarm Clock

He starts around 3AM. A distant unfamiliar cry, overlaid with the sounds of the city beginning to wake up (tires whooshing, crosswalks counting down, engines rumbling). The incongruous mishmash of city sounds plus a noise I associate with rural countrysides: a rooster's cockle-doodle-doo.

He's consistent. One crow every minute, simultaneously triumphant and plaintive. I wonder what he's thinking of when he trumpets, whether he knows the sleep-rousing effects of his calls or if he simply likes the sound of his own voice.

Either way, he's effective. Inconsistent time zones plus unfamiliar beds means I'm up when he demands, rolling on my side and drifting in and out of the kind of sleep that comes when you're floating on the surface of slumber, the hazy in-between stage punctuated by a barnyard animal's brays.

I remove myself from bed eventually. It's now past seven, and I set off in search of food. As I cross the street, I see him. He struts around next to a scattering of picnic tables. No one seems to own him, but even if someone did, I have a feeling he'd answer to no one. We make eye contact. He lifts one clawed foot dramatically and sets it down as he parades across his domain. His tail feathers are a firework explosion behind him, quivering with his every step. I watch him, and I shake my head ruefully. The price of sleep seems irrelevant now in the face of this quirky, self-possessed bird.

As I walk away, I hear the Hawaiian alarm clock go off yet again. Island time indeed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

20/31: Dive Log 001

I went scuba diving yesterday at Waikiki Beach. In honor of my dad, a PADI certified diver, I'm going to try my hand at writing a dive log, something he always does after a dive. 

Dive #: 005
Date: 19 March 2018
Location: Waikiki Beach, HI (Turtle Cove)
Dive Company: Kaimana Divers, LLC

Bottom Time: 75 min. over 2 dives (30 & 45 min)
Max Depth: 45 ft


  • 1 wetsuit (a little too short in the arms, but hey. It worked.)
  • 1 air tank
  • 2 respirators 
  • 3 different buckle points (which my instructor snapped for me...I felt like a child getting buckled into a car seat)
  • 2 bright yellow fins
  • 1 set of weights 


  • 73 degrees air temperature. 
  • Water-chilly. Slightly shivery at the bottom. 
  • Visibility: awesome. Clear view of the bottom immediately upon entry. 

Nature Encounters:

  • 5 sea turtles (plus their fish friends that were cleaning algae off of their shells)
  • 1 majestic sea snake (white with black spots, undulating around looking for food)
  • 2 whitetip reef sharks (regarding me what I thought of as menacingly from underneath a reef, but my dive instructor described them as the puppies of the sea)
  • 1 long, skinny cornetfish 
  • Endless sea urchins
  • Countless parrotfish
  • Long fingers of coral with small fish nestled in between
Diver's Reflections:
When can I get certified, and when can I go again? 

Monday, March 19, 2018

19/31: Portrait of Waikiki

The weather: 80 degrees. Slight breeze. A few fluffy clouds drifting over Technicolor blue skies.

The people: chill. Aloha and mahalo. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. Drivers wave you across crosswalks with a smile. Wet footprints leading down the sidewalk to the beach. Worn surfboards held aloft like waiters hold heavy serving platters, offerings to the ocean.

The agenda: nonexistent. I abandon my "city walking" pace in favor of more of an amble. Wet sand, unstable footing, wet toes. I spread the beach towel, lie here for awhile and let the sun sweep its rays across my pale, pale body. No judgement here. The only requirement for a beach body is having a body.

The result: a sort of bliss that only a teacher knows, a teacher who is convinced January and February had approximately 124 days in them. Each.

I think I'm going to like it here.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

18/31: Transition

From 40 degrees to 81.
From MO to HI.
From “hi y’all” to “aloha.”
From barely budding trees to lush palms.
From industrial highways to winding, unpredictable roads.
From duty to relaxation.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

17/31: My Trusty Purple Backpack

Traveling is tiring. There's the hassle of packing, the rush of security, the boredom of waiting for your plane, the impatience of the flight, and, finally, you're spit unceremoniously out into the airport of your destination.

But I have a secret weapon, and that's my suitcase. Or, rather, my Un-Suitcase.

When I first traveled abroad, I purchased a travel backpack instead of a traditional suitcase with wheels. Since my husband and I were going to be "hardcore traveling," i.e. jumping from place to place quickly, the backpack made more sense when hoofing it from train station to hostel.

Little did I know that this bright purple bag with approximately 8 zillion pockets would turn out to be the best travel buddy ever.

Traveling for 2 days? 2 weeks? Doesn't matter. The backpack can fit all of your clothes with ease. Need a little more room? Unzip this zipper and presto: expansion.
Need to compress it down a little to fit into an overhead compartment? Four simple snaps, and everything's nicely bundled up.
Tired of waiting for your flight, but there's no seats available next to the gate? Sit on your backpack! It's actually quite comfortable.
Want to turn your backpack into a traditional suitcase? Tuck the straps in and grab the side's much easier to squeeze through narrow plane aisles that way.
Need to fight off a potential enemy? The backpack on your back becomes a powerful weapon when you plant your feet and swing it, perfect for knocking assailants off of their feet.

(Kidding about the last one...sort of. I've never had to try it, but I'm pretty sure it would work.)

I've had many trips with my purple backpack, and she looks as good as new. She's durable, practical and still maintains a slight modicum of stylishness.

I think I'll keep her.