Saturday, March 31, 2012

Leaving Honolulu


We're on the plane towards Sydney, Australia. After waking up at the obscenely early hour of 4:30am, we ate, made our bags, and headed towards the airport. Pretty standard, really, and the only reason this is a rather silly post is because we will be traveling for ten hours, and be arriving thirty two hours later in Sydney.

How come?

Well, the date line, for one thing. We left Honolulu at 8:15am. The trip takes ten hours, and we land in Sydney at 2pm, April First.

This is bad because I'm behind on my reading: I have two books to read in March for the reading group. Adam's Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How Language Made Humans, and the first book of the Sherlock Holmes series.

I've finished Adam's Tongue, which I decided to read because it's about language, evolution, and it sounded interesting. In a nutshell, I understand a lot more about how language probably evolved, and I now know the human species is a bit like ants. It was very interesting, well-written, and explained a lot of things that might have done just as well with a short summary, at least for my own uses. 

The problem now comes down to Sherlock Holmes. I have to finish at least one of the books before the plane touches down (the theme was mysteries… and Holmes is a classic) in order for it to count as being read in March. If I finish it in April… well, it doesn't count and I don't get the points. I'd also like to know which is the first book in the series, as starting from the end and working my way backwards has never appealed to me.

Why haven't I read it up to now? Um… a combination of laziness, procrastination, and television. We've been watching Friends and commercials (these figure such a large part of viewing time that it might as well count!) for two weeks now, and not only do I have a healthier respect for less developed countries/ countries with language barriers, but I'm heartily sick of television. I'm ready to get back to figuring out my own entertainment.

I think I'll be reading The Hounds of the Baskervilles. I remember reading through a script version of this with the entire class in fifth grade (what this was supposed to teach us I'll never know… except perhaps 'reading aloud' and 'appreciation of classics'), and it seems as if there's no serious secret swapping (unlike The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, where the first paragraph refers to a certain character as 'late,' as in 'dead').

I'm looking forward to Australia. It will be warm, much less commercial, and full of mosquitoes and other such highly enjoyable biting insects. Also, we'll be living in a camper van again, accessing backpacker sites with proper book exchanges, and I'll be reading at full speed again.

As well as diving into Ulysses. Wish me luck!a

Friday, March 30, 2012

Missing the Stop


We now have a very good knowledge of what happens when you don't pay attention to which stop you're supposed to get off of on the bus.

We changed hotels today so that we would be closer to the airport— the flight takes off at some point before 8 am, which means we get to wake up at 4:30!

Some day this won't make me cringe. Hopefully soon. 

The point is, we have a really cool app on the iPad that allows us to figure out which stop we have to get off at (as long as we're in the US, I suppose, because it definitely didn't work in China). Dad told us which stop we had to get off at, and then lost himself in checking email and sending messages to people.

When he looked up next, we were at the airport instead of the hotel, and we had about ten seconds to get off the bus. Dad was exploding as we all galvanized into action, Mom was trying not to burst out laughing as Dad lit into her and everyone else for not seeing the stop.

Ioan was trying to comfort Mom, who looked very calm and not at all ready to burst out laughing. Ileana and I did not react in any way. I've become very antagonistic with my siblings, but with Dad it's very simple just to raise an eyebrow or wait patiently for him to blow himself out (he's really quite nice afterwards, and not antagonizing him makes him blow out faster).

We found a National… bus thing to take us to what I think was a car rental area, after which we walked about two miles with our heavy backpacks (three books and a laptop make a huge difference), trying to stop our food bags from ripping.

We walked on the shoulder, even when there wasn't one, with some directions which I think only Dad knew about (I was just going straight whenever I was in the lead). 

It was warm and we were all wearing our Scottevests.

My chest felt compressed as we walked and I'm pretty sure I got a stellar ab workout. Also, there's probably a blister on my left pinky toe, and my back is sore… but I think it was worth it. I love walking fast— that's exactly what we did. We walked fast for two miles, in heat, with backpacks that weighed at least 25 pounds (at least mine did— when we left it was 20, and now it has three books and more clothes than last time in it).

Wow. Twenty five pounds. Probably even thirty. 

The hotel we got to is nice! We actually have room for five people on the mattresses, and I don't have to sleep on a couch-bed, which is always nice. The only downside is that we're right above the pool, and there seems to be a (loud) pool party going on.

Oh well! We only have to get up at 4:30am!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Three Hours in an Apple Store


Because our internet connections haven't been fast, widely available, and/or unlimited since Northern China (and even then, we had the censors to go through), my computer hasn't been updated in quite some time.

Today, instead of going to the aquarium in Honolulu, I elected to go to the Apple Store instead.

At first glance it's fantastic. Nice background music, a laptop, updates…

The first thing I realized was that updating both iPod and MacAir was a bad idea, as I couldn't use either of them during parts of the update, and I had nothing to do but look at the Genius Bar tips on the screens. I knew about a lot of these, and it would loop every so often. 

And still… the updates went on. I couldn't leave the table because thousands of dollars were on it, and I wasn't about to leave them there (after traveling in China, Nepal, India, and other countries abounding with pickpockets, you quickly learn to be highly suspicious of everything). I didn't drum my fingers, but I was close to it.

A Frenchwoman came with her iPad for a lesson and I had to give up the charger I was using from another computer. The teacher offered to find another cable, but by that time I thought I was done with charging. When I asked about a cable, she told me with that patient tone annoyed mothers get that she was conducting a private lesson. "Oh! I'm sorry." I said, probably blushing like a tomato, 

"No, it's okay, it's just— just ask someone over there."

"Sure thing. Really sorry about that." (Still blushing).

I went and asked one of the guys in blue shirts (and it's amazing how those blue shirts seem to bring in all of the blue-shirted tourists so that you're not sure if the person standing looking interested is a customer or an employee) if there was a cable anywhere, because I had an update I had to get and… etc. He opened up this invisible drawer, took out a charger, plugged it in for me into this really cool charging station installed underneath the table… and I was left there, updating Civilization V, of all things, for two hours as I waited for App Updates and iCloud downloading off my iPod.

By the end of it, I was heartily sick of loud music, loud people talking, and being practically in the middle of the room, where a great amount of people were walking behind me, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.

And a very interesting piece of information:

Though I checked and responded to my email, my GoodReads (to a point), and downloaded a limited-edition Holly Lisle Course (mugging the muse, free for her readers until next Tuesday), and uploaded my blog posts…

I did not even think to check Facebook. Or, I did think of it and then decided it wasn't worth the trouble. I knew I wasn't particularly interested by social networks,  but I didn't think I was that uninterested!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Things We Miss


Today, while slurping what I assume was beef ramen, Ioan said,

"I miss home."

"What parts?"

"I miss legos and my pillow and my bed and my room and my friends. Heroes 3, board games, Mom's cooking…"

Chuckles.

"Don't you miss cooking for us, Mommy?"

"No." Mom said, serenely.

"What do you miss, Ileana?"

"The couches." (We have lovely, comfy, leather couches which are not good for our backs). Ileana says. "And my piano and guitar, and voice lessons, and the internet and the library and the TV, and Netflix."

Mom turns to Dad. "Well? What do you miss?"

"Well," Dad says, looking up from his iPad, "if I really had to invent something, I would say my hard drives. But I don't really miss anything."

Mom missed her friends. And later, when she asked what she'd do if we went back home right now, and I suggested 'go to church,' she started crying. I was totally at a loss for what to do.

My list of things I missed was:

- TaeKwonDo (I had about thirty brothers. And I got to marshal them around or discuss things with them and have physical exercise. Walking just doesn't cut it after five months).

- Routine (I am big on routine. I have none of it here. I've gotten used to it, but increasingly I'm missing my productivity. Without routine, without the ability to plan my days ahead for the week, I lose motivation, incentive… you name it.)

- Disney movies (You never know how good you had it until you don't have it. Disney movies are one of those necessaries that you don't know you need until you don't have them.) Actually, good movies would top this.

You know what else I miss? Being told to sit down every morning, Monday to Friday, to do school. It just doesn't work that way any more. Now it's— let's see Honolulu. Let's go to the beach. Let's drive around in a camper van. 

School is second place to the travel. And Dad is so antsy about moving and going and seeing and we're so overloaded that by the time we get to school our brains are exploding with all the information we've already taken in about the Hawaiian pantheon, or New Zealand scenery, or Angkor Wat, etc, that we can't make ourselves sit down and absorb more information.

And, hey! I get that we're going around the world and this is an unmissable opportunity—  that we're doing something no one else has ever done… but the world is not made up of life experiences!

 I want to be able to sit down for a long time, get all this ridiculous information out of my head, and then learn something that I can actually use in college!

Like math, or psychology, instead of super-packing, navigation, and geography! 

I miss cerebral work. I've gotten a frustration headache from 40 minutes of 9th grade math problems. This never happens.

Before I start a real rant, I'm going to stop, because I've written the end to this ten times.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

State Tests


School tests are given out every March or April, depending on the time we decide to take them. They're sent out to our house, and we take them mostly automatically, paying attention to the questions when they're very easy or very hard. We've become accustomed to these tests, wondering why Sample Questions are necessary when everyone already knows how to fill in bubbles. Especially when one has been doing these tests for twelve years.

We each set a timer on our iPods, taking our respective tests. I started with the Reading and Language section. In most respects, it's a bit like an ACT or SAT. Once I got that (about 18 questions in), the entire language section was easy, if a bit annoying.

You see, I'd done the exact same test last year? The same test, I bet, that was being given out before I was born— since the internet had just been invented, according to one of the sample questions.

There was a mountain lion story; a story about factories; I, Robot; and stuff about computers. And I bet that there will be a certain question, either on the Mathematics or the Math Computation section that is about cooking a turkey.

What do the photographical memory kids do when they take these tests? I'm not sure. Do they simply breeze through the test in twenty minutes? It took me just forty five minutes to go through what was supposed to be a 100 minute test. I didn't bother checking because I was already bored.

The hardest parts, actually, will be the social studies section (American for American History and American Geography) and the math. Social studies because memorizing presidents, states, and wars has never been my strong point or interest, and math because I tend to do the problems too quickly and thus get the wrong answer.

However, even with all that I'll get a 99th percentile. I've been in the 12.9 grade range since sixth grade. Sometimes I wonder if they're ever going to make these tests harder, just so that they're more interesting. 

I mean, I'm not trying to brag, but tests are boring because they're easy or repetitive. The SAT and ACT are some of the worst tests to study for because:

A) You don't learn anything to study for them.

B) Each test is the same, even if the questions are different.

C) The essay prompts are not pertinent to my high school life.

I'd love to get some test some day that's challenging, and that makes me think. I miss thinking on something! I miss having a routine or being marshalled around and being told what to do by someone other than my parents (whose orders at this point are: "Wake up," "Get ready to leave," "Set the table," "Wash the dishes," "Go to bed").

I miss my Tae Kwon Do family! Punching, kicking, joking around!

We've gotten so used to having so little and moving around all the time…

I've come to one very important realization:

I am not a nomad. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Honolulu


We are in Honolulu!

And the prices are staggering. It's still a bit of a shock to see that the cheapest thing at IHOP is $5.59.

As we were starving, we crossed the street to IHOP and started looking through the menu. I think we were craving pancakes, so we headed over. They'd run out of French Fries, but that wasn't what made us decide to find McDonald's— it was the prices.

We headed toward McDonald's passing through a chocolate shop trying to find it. We didn't find McDonald's at all, instead locating a food court.

We headed towards Arby's because it wasn't sandwiches and it was the only remotely McDonald's-like restaurant. The cheapest thing was 5 for $8.95 or so. Roast beef melt, curly fries, ham melt… and soda. We took three of those… meh. You'd think after spending $826 on a 45 minute helicopter ride, we'd be able to splurge on something besides ham and roast beef melts. The curly fries made up for it, but still.

The bright side of going to Arby's was the fact that on the way back from washing my hands, I encountered a cleaning lady who was getting ready to clean, and smiled at her.

AND I GOT A REAL SMILE BACK!

This was a reason for celebration. Ileana was just as excited as I was about it.

Speaking of the helicopter, we arrived at Safari Helicopter Tours ten minutes early. The woman explained in a TV announcer sort of voice that they weren't sure if visibilty was going to be any good or not. They'd tell us at 10:20 whether or not visibility would be good enough to see the lava flows.

We waited around— Ioan made paper airplanes out of flyers. These actually flew better than the ones he made last night out of business cards. I haven't seen him making paper airplanes in ages, probably because there's not much paper to be had lying around everywhere.

Visibility was good, so we were taken in for a safety briefing. After a while all safety briefings sound the same— you have a seatbelt which closes the same way. You know where the life vest is, and oxygen, if you're going high up. The difference is in the exits.

Taking off with a helicopter is something like this:

Vibrations vibrations vibrations… vibrations-vibrations-vibrations. The quicker vibrations mean you're up in the air, and all of a sudden the earth is moving a way and you feel a bit more like a bird because you have a really big window and there's no wing anywhere.

We hovered about 500-1000 feet above the ground, flying over forest. When we reached the lava, it was a black wasteland. A town was destroyed in the 80s, and they're just rebuilding. Three houses— brand new houses— were destroyed by the lava just recently. If the current lava flow decides to head towards the town, all of those brand new houses will be destroyed as well.

It's mind-boggling why anyone would want to rebuild there!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bewilderment


One of the things about traveling during holy days is finding a church to worship in. As today is the Immaculate Conception (Buna Vestire), we wanted to find a church. The only one available was Catholic.

The last time I was in a Catholic service was in India for Christmas. This was a very frustrating experience because not only did we not understand the language, we didn't understand the significance of anything that was being done.

Now, the service was in English, but I still couldn't connect properly. Praying in English has never felt right to me. It seems a bit too harsh a language at times, or much too high-flown. I'm certain no one else feels this— once you grow up in it you don't mind anything about it— but for me it feels awkward, praying in English (This is unique— my mother's Romanian friend feels more comfortable praying in English).

That's number one. Number two is that the churches are different.

Eastern Orthodox churches generally have icons everywhere (the exception is new, poor ones). The altar is separated from the parish's view by an iconostas, which has specific doors. The middle entrance can only be used by the priest. The two side doors are used by the altar boys. The icons on the doors reflect the patron saints of the church, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and the middle two doors have specific icons on them as well.

The Holy Table is in the altar. The… mysteries, for lack of a better word, are performed here, away from the public eye. There is incense and singing throughout most of the service. The service is long, as well. About an hour and a half, not counting the sermon, which depending on the priest can take 15 to 45 minutes.

I miss the smell of incense, and the singing. There was singing in the service we were in today, but only the opening and closing hymns. Otherwise they read from the Gospel, or the priest said his sermon. There was no incense. There were no candles. People bowed without crossing themselves. (This is a bit mind-boggling to me, even though it might seem normal to the rest of you).

The Creed is different. The crosses we make are different. (Head, base of chest, right and left shoulder for Orthodox— thumb, forefinger, and middle finger touching, while the other two lie against the palm. Catholics reverse the shoulder order, and I think they use all four fingers?) 

It's hard to participate in a service when you don't know what is expected of you— even if the entire thing is practically explained step by step. I feel out-of-place, a bit stupid, a bit resentful— if I can't do it right, comfortably, then why try? Why am I the only member of my family that can't feel comfortable here? 

The easiest part of the service is the sermon. This is understandable. This is known territory. I breathe easily. When it's over, the bewildering part of the service begins again.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Relaxation


Today, thirteen years ago, Mom and Dad announced to the grandparents that Ioan was going to be born.

Just think, this November my little brother will be a teenager! And a month after that I'll be a legal major. Or whatever a minor isn't.

So happy day!

We woke up early and finished up last-minute packing, then headed off to Dinah's family's coffee farm, where we received an amazing tour from her brothers and sister. I'm not going to say much about it, except that we children got to pick coffee beans, pulp them, sweep them off of the roof, and watch basically the entire process with about a hundred beans which were still on the trees.

It was… fantastic. Mom will be writing in-depth about it later.

Afterwards we headed toward the volcano. Mom actually drove the car for the first time in nearly six months. She still drives more smoothly than Dad does.

The drive to the volcano was about 100 miles, give or take 10, and took about two hours. We exchanged books beforehand and I spent time getting reacquainted with books— for the past four days I haven't been much in the mood for writing, reading, or anything besides staring comatose at the wall and whining about how bored I am, alternated with watching TV and checking Facebook near-obsessively.

It was very nice reading again. We reached a house built in 1912. The ceilings are high (I missed high ceilings), and it looks like a home. There are framed drawings or paintings of Hawaiian fruit, people, and birds. The bookcases reach floor to ceiling, but you can tell it's not a book exchange, because most of the books are old and about Peru, money, or exploration. Usually books in book exchanges are crimes, mysteries, or romance. There's not much to choose from.

I did find an old edition of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I first read this book when I was about twelve, and since the movie was good (probably because I didn't remember the book all that well), I never bothered reading it again.

But this time I opened up to Chapter 48 and read it all. And I decided that I need to read this book. Also, it was such a novelty reading Jane Austen in actual paper and ink. I've read all her books electronically, either on a Palm Pilot, a Kindle, or an iPod Touch. 

We decided against seeing the lava glow— it's best seen at night and it lights up the clouds. Since we're going to see the actual lava flow from a helicopter on Monday, and we were all tired, we decided against the lava glow, and instead spent a very relaxing evening finishing books, checking online, and watching movies and Dancing With the Stars on the television set in the bedroom.

All in all, a very, very nice day, full of wonderful people, lovely locations, and relaxing activities.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Most Informative Haircut


We headed off in the car to see a town famous for Hawaiian art galleries today, parked, and walked past a hair styling salon.

I jumped in (literally) and asked, "How much would a hair cut be?"

"$15."

Okay. So we decide who wants what and Ileana marches in and says, "Hi! We're here for a haircut. He wants one" (pointing to Ioan) "and she wants one" (pointing to me) "and she wants one." (Pointing to Mom).

The woman, who looks like a little elfish grandmother with crazy gray hair laughs. "Okay then."

Ioan sits down first. As we're all getting settled in the small salon, she says,

"I wrote a book. It's about my family. I wrote it for our family reunion three years ago."

"Oh." We say, and Mom takes the book. It's one of those books you can make on a computer and then send off to a company to print (think Blurb or Shutterfly or any of those). Inside are pictures of her family

"We have a coffee farm. One of my brothers runs it." She says as she takes out the strange tool that cuts men's hair. I want to say electric razor for some reason.

"Is today your first day on the Big Island?"

"It's actually our last." We say, somewhat sheepishly.

"That is too bad! I was going to invite you to our tours! We do free tours so people can learn about things they've never learned before. Do you drink coffee?" she asks Mom. Dad has gone walking.

"No."

"Why not?" she asks, giving Mom a bit of a look.

"It upsets my stomach?"

"You can't drink it?"

"I can drink it, it just hurts my stomach."

"Our coffee won't hurt your stomach. It's something in the processing."

"I'm sure." Mom says.

"Have you had any traditional Hawaiian food? Teriyaki beef, or pork, or poi?"

"I've heard of poi!" (It's already my hair being cut, and I can't see anything past my own nose properly).

"Have you ever had any?"

"Not yet." I say, grinning. 

We kind of couldn't stop grinning during this entire conversation, by the way. She was just so… personable! And funny! And very good at talking about herself, which, as Mom said, is very refreshing from the usual hair dressers, who merely ask you how your life is.

Since we didn't tell her anything about the actual trip (we realized we never would have gotten off the subject had we started), we were fielded with questions of the sort:

"What's your favorite part about the trip?"

Awkward silence, but I said,

"The warmth."

"Ah, yes, it's very cold in New York. I hear they had terrible snow storms! There was a snow storm in November, very big, very bad, right?"

Awkward smiles from all ends, which hopefully wasn't noticed from any end.

"I think so." I said, just to be on the safe side.

"You must take some coffee with you. I'll give you half a pound."

And we're going to visit the farm tomorrow, too!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Worst Masterpiece


If she had a desk, she would be beating her head against it now.

Writer's block, or the inner editor— that niggling voice that tells you you have nothing of importance to write— is talking in her head. It's telling her that that sentence she just wrote isn't making sense and that it's not interesting.

Interest, it seems, is very important in this day and age.

Her mother had once told her to write about her feelings. Feelings are alright… but how does one write about feelings?

She doesn't feel much when she looks at the things she's been exposed to over the past five months. Awe, happiness, a slight interest at the beautiful scenery, a mental note to remember something for future stories or worlds…

It's happening again. She's gotten this far, but all of a sudden she has the terrible feeling that what she's writing isn't any good— that it's too private, that it makes no sense… it's a terrible feeling. 

There's always been the vague sensation that perhaps what she's writing isn't her best work, but there's a difference between a mild annoyance and a full-blown 'panic attack' about whether or not what she's writing is good enough.

Sometimes she thinks she just needs a looong break from everything and anything. Including writing. Or perhaps she just needs to get back in practice. Or perhaps she needs to set a timer.

The only problem is that the only writing she does regularly is the public sort. The sort that everyone is going to read and, perhaps, judge. Make that definitely judge.

She has the Friends TV Show Theme Song stuck in her head.

And now she can't remember a word of it.

If she had a desk to bang her head against, she would. Perhaps that might jog her brain cells back into place. It might even make her write something worth reading! Instead of just being fun to plug into Google Translate for laughs.

Perhaps this might actually be funny, this terrible suffering she's going through!

It's a heartening thought. Perhaps all this pain will be funny some day! Perhaps she'll be able to look back on it in a year or two (possibly even tomorrow) and laugh at how terrified she sounds of not writing anything worth reading.

Perhaps this will be in a book she might write in a year or two about going around the world. It will be a part of the 'blogging' chapter and it will be the best chapter in the entire book!

She realizes what she's just written and decides that no one will understand a word of this entire post. That it will not make sense, and that this day, the 101st day of this blog, will forever go down in history as being one of the strangest posts ever made.

She decides it's not worth crying about, and decides simply to post it. Tomorrow, as Disney so nicely put it, is another day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

100 Days


This will be the 100th post on this blog. 

When I first started it, it was going to be easy. I was going to churn out 500 words a day, about the interesting culture bits I had encountered, the strangest occurence that had happened that day, the newest cuisine we'd tried… after all, going around the world, one will encounter something wildly exciting every day. And when one doesn't, there's so much stuff from days before that you never have an uninteresting post!

Right?

Wrong.

I had a few off-days. And then in Thailand I was forced to think. Often. And hard. And in New Zealand, I'd frequently forget until about 11 pm that I had to write anything at all— generally right after thinking "I'll go to bed and read that lovely book I've been wanting to finish," or "And then I can snuggle in and sleep."

But no. A promise is a promise is a promise, and for some reason this is one of the ones I'm keeping.

At times I think it's one of the stupidest promises I've ever made. It's like decided to sketch one thing a day, only the sketches fall apart after three days. This has gone on for a hundred, and if I get used enough to it, it will probably go on for a thousand, detailing for my grandparents exactly what I've been up to at college. If I somehow carry it on through the years, it will tell my grandchildren how nutsy I was at seventeen!

Dad once wanted me to write a short post about 'why I wanted to go around the world.'

I didn't, actually, so I sat down and spewed off something based on the fact that one of the one things I was looking forward to was living in a camper van in Australia.

To be honest, looking back on it… I think to myself I sound like an idiot. It's not true. And there's nothing on it about looking back when I'm 26. (The post is here: http://noi6.blogspot.com/2010/07/slice-of-world.html )

Now, perhaps, if I could go back in time and tell myself some things, it would be:

1) You will not want to share that slice with people when all that is in that 'slice of the world' is watching TV all day. 

2) You will tear your hair out.

3) None of the things on that list will be as interesting as they were when you wrote them down. A camper van is crowded and Christchurch is almost like any other city.

4) The most important thing you will learn will be after five months or so— a) You don't need to worry about what happens next. You still will, but you don't have to.

5) You'll plod through sharing with everyone because, let's face it. You are one of the luckiest kids you know. And not sharing would just be plain selfish.