Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An Unexpected Aloha :)

Landing in Hawaii
So the reason I had to skip out of San Diego faster than I was originally planning is that I was suddenly faced with an amazing opportunity for my journey back to Guam. All along I knew I'd have to fly through Hawaii, since that's the best place, geographically speaking, to catch a flight back to Guam from the States. Well, knowing what I now know about how Space-A works (super flaky!), I started poking around for the commercial options that would at least get me to Hawaii, which would cut out one huge leg of uncertainty, leaving me only the flight to Guam from there. I checked out flights and couldn't believe there was one in my time range that was about the same price as my flight from San Fran to San Diego (I know, right? to Hawaii!). And the super duper bonus of it all is that it would put me landing in Honolulu while Nick was there for a conference. Hello Hawaii rendezvous!

I got in on a Tuesday afternoon and hung out in the hotel room while Nick finished up his conference. We went out to eat in Waikiki that night and the next day, our only full day together, we packed in everything amazing Hawaii has to offer: golf and surfing! We started our day on the golf course. Nick had enough notice to bring some of my clubs out with him, so it was awesome to play the course with my own weapons. It wasn't my best score overall, but I did get a birdie that day! Had a perfect tee-off on a par 3 followed by a perfect putt. It was only my second birdie ever, so I was pretty excited :)

 Speaking of birdies, one thing I was very aware of throughout my entire trip back to the States was the presence of birds everywhere I went. You have probably heard the stories about the non-indigenous brown tree snake that wreaked havoc on Guam. Well, one of the reasons its effects were so terrifying is that it killed all of the native bird populations. It took going back to Coronado, Florida, and even suburban Houston to realize that pleasant chirping that accompanies our everyday lives just doesn't exist on Guam. (And now that I'm back here reflecting on this, I realize it is sooooo quiet yere). The birds in Hawaii seemed extra musical and were quite beautiful. I am sad for Guam that the stupid snakes ate all the pretty birds.

 After a painfully long (five hours!) round of golf, we packed up our clubs and headed to Waikiki Beach for some surfing. I was a bit hesitant, since I never really got the hang of surfing in San Diego despite trying it a few times (and taking a lesson in Costa Rica). So I was somewhat relieved to find out there was hardly any surf and it was completely flat the whole way paddling out (phew!). Of course, this also made for few opportunities to actually catch a wave, but considering the waves were breaking on a shallow reef (at low tide, mind you), I was okay with that. I gave it a go for about an hour and then paddled in while Nick kept surfing.
 After surfing, we hung out on the beach and watched the sun go down for about an hour. Even though we live a mile from several beautiful beaches on Guam, Nick and I aren't really beach people. As in, we never just go to the beach and lay there in the sand. Every time we do, though, I always catch myself wondering, why don't we do this more often?? It was so relaxing and since it's not nearly as humid as Guam, it was the perfect temperature. Hawaii seems to be the perfect blend of things we love about California (surfing & drier air) and things we love about Guam (beautiful island, gorgeous landscape, fewer people).

 Like Guam, Hawaii also had its share of Japanese tourists. Nick and I watched this group of Japanese girls take pictures of themselves for over an hour. They must have taken over a thousand pictures of various ways to incorporate the setting sun. In this one, they are lining up one girl who looks like the sun is resting in her palm, while the other girl is holding it up at eye level. They were remarkably entertaining, so much so I had to take a picture. And they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I'll have to admit, they had some pretty clever ideas. Here's my rendition of swallowing the sun:
(Someone later pointed out, it doesn't look like I'm eating the sun so much as it looks like I am breathing a fireball. Roar!)

View from Gary & Tina's patio @sunset = Awesome
We got together for dinner that night with our friends Gary & Tina. Tina holds the place of fame in my life for being the first navy wife I was ever friends with. As in, I met her at a function in San Diego when Nick had six weeks left of training. At that point we had orders to Virginia Beach (along with grad school acceptance and a job for me), so when the opportunity unexpectedly arose for us to stay in San Diego, I was really unsure of what to do. Tina was the natural person for me to call, and I still remember her words, "West Coast is the best coast!" She was so enthusiastic about San Diego and about how much better the teams were for family life (since many of the trainings are within a few hours' drive away whereas the East Coast guys have to travel farther to get to the same training sites). I don't know day for day if I actually saw Nick more because of our choice to stay West Coast, but it seemed like a good enough reason for me, especially combined with the fact that we really loved Coronado. I really wish I had taken a picture of them!
With only half a day left in Hawaii together before beginning the journey home, Nick and I got up the next morning and drove to the North Shore. The Volcom Pipe Pro surfing contest was going on at Bonsai Beach. We got to catch some of the surfing, which was absolutely amazing to watch. Not only were the waves absolutely perfect, the surfers were so fearless. Especially after being reminded the day before how hard surfing is, I was extra impressed getting to watch the pros. It was our first time to see an official contest like this and I'm pretty sure we could have stayed all day if we didn't have flights to catch.
Hard to tell, but there were consistently 20-foot waves!

We did a couple more essential stops on the North Shore. Behold Waimea Bay

And the North Shore shrimp trucks!!

Yum! Although it was hard to be too impressed about $13 for 12 shrimp when I just came from Pensacola where it was $3/pound. Yeah, sorry Hawaii, but Pensacola still wins in that department.

The Long Way Home
"Aloha" is a funny word, in that it means both hello and goodbye at the same time. It's quite a fitting description of what happened on my Space-A journey home (foreshadowing, check!). With our short but awesome Hawaii vacation at an end, Nick dropped me off at the Hickam Air Force Base terminal. Amazingly enough, there was a flight with 56 empty seats leaving Hawaii for Guam at 3pm that afternoon, which aligned perfectly with the fact that Nick's commercial flight back was at 3pm too. We could conceivably arrive in Guam at the same time! I got my boarding pass, checked my bag, and waited as they called us through security to the holding area. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. And finally we got the news. The C5 we were going out on had a door malfunction, and the door wasn't closing properly in the area where all the seats were located. So of the 22 people trying to get to Guam, only 8 were able to go, since they could sit with the crew. I did not make the cut. You know what they say about things that are too good to be true... yup, it was.

So, Tina and Gary scooped me up and I spent the night at their place and would catch the flight going out the next day. The next day came and that flight got pushed to... the next day. So I used my bonus day in Hawaii wisely, going for a run in Waikiki, reading a book in the park, and getting together with a friend of mine from Annapolis that I had not seen in over five years. Melissa was in my Bible study there and though we'd only loosely kept in touch through Facebook, I was reminded of why I love my Bible study friendships so much.

While I have been so lucky to find amazing girlfriends everywhere, the thing about Bible study friendships is that you get to know someone faster and on a deeper level because we share so much about our lives in our attempt to understand the Bible and our purpose here. Since I'd last seen Melissa, we had both gotten married and moved to tropical islands, and she now had an adorable baby boy, Siah, who was six months and two weeks old. And even though so much had changed, we were able to pick up right where we left off. We had lunch together and seeing her made me so grateful for all the friends in my life.

The next day Gary and Tina dropped me off at the terminal again and things were looking very promising. There were three flights out to Guam before noon. Score! The first opportunity passed me by. There were 8 other people with higher priority levels than me. The second flight ended up not taking anyone. Hmmm.... So the third flight had 15 seats and I was #5 on the list. At that point, it seemed like a sure thing! So we went through the whole process again. Got boarding passes, checked bags, this time we got on a bus, drove out to the KC-135, got on and took off. At this point, I texted Nick, "See you tonight!"

And after ten minutes in the air, just as I was envisioning laying my head down on my own pillow in my own bed for the first time in three weeks, there was a horrible loud noise. Now, I am not a leery traveler. I know too many pilot friends who have assured me that turbulence is "just wind" and military flights are so safe and blah blah blah. So I tend to not worry on planes. Can't do anything anyway, right? Next thing you know, we've stopped ascending and are descending, several people are scampering around the plane, and the rumors start. Turns out the landing gear wouldn't go up properly (the loud noise), so we would need to make an emergency landing back at Hickam. An hour of circling later, we finally landed (we had to dump enough fuel so we weren't too heavy to land safely). And just like that, after an entire day trying to get out, I was right back where I started.

Fire trucks bracing for our emergency landing - scary!
Got my bags and called Melissa, who came to get me. (Okay, so I left out the part where I had a bit of a meltdown and called Nick nearly begging to fly home commercial despite the $700 or 40,000 miles it would cost... the whole emergency landing thing definitely freaked me out). After confirming I had a guaranteed seat on this plane once it did fly out, I decided to stick to my original plan. I mean, I had a comfy place to stay with friends, didn't need to be back for a few more days, and I was in Hawaii for goodness sakes. Poor me, right?

The extra 36 hours in Hawaii hanging out with Melissa and Siah were so much fun! We mostly hung out at her place, which was a quarter mile up the road from the stadium where the Pro Bowl was going on (coincidence as to why the flight was delayed???). I went on a run and saw all the tailgating starting. She took me to Target for a last fix before my Guam time would begin again. The flight got bumped back from 4pm to 3am, but we found out just in time to grab stuff to make pizza and cupcakes and we spent the evening watching a chick flick together and catching up even more. As far as I'm concerned, looking back, I am so glad I got to stay a little longer. Her husband is deployed, so I wasn't crowding them, and I think she enjoyed my company too. So, even with all the craziness, it all worked out just fine. It usually does :)

Melissa dropped me off at the terminal at 3a.m. to try this Space-A thing a third time. Third time was a charm! Had no issues getting out, the plane took off no problem. In fact, the one issue we did have (the pilot overshot the runway) was on the Guam side. So, just like I took off in Hawaii twice, we also landed in Guam twice. AWESOME. So it will probably be a while before I try my luck at Space-A again, but it did the job, getting me safely to and from America for the bargain price of $4.25 (the price of a box lunch).

Reflecting on the trip, I am so, so grateful to have been able to make new memories with so many friends and family. And while I was sad to leave everyone, it has also made me appreciate my life on Guam now that I am back. We hit our 6-month Guammiversary while I was gone, which means potentially only 18 months left here. I fully intend to get the most out of it, and can't wait to pick up writing about Peyt's Island again soon!


  1. Love this! So glad (and jealous!) you two got to hang out. I'm voting for a Hawaiian Super Girls reunion for my 30th bday...who's in?? :)

  2. Hey Laura! I would SO meet you girls in Hawaii!!! Count me in!

  3. I'm jealous too!!!!! I'm in for the SG reunion in Hawaii!!!!! Tell me when! :)


Hey there! This blog is no longer active. If you write a comment, I will receive it, but may not respond right away. Thanks for stopping by!