The fiftieth state

17 May 1990 Air New Zealand 15 Los Angeles to Honolulu, Business

After our brief stay on the West Coast it was nearly time to travel on. A late evening flight would take us to Honolulu, where we were due to arrive in the middle of the night. Before that, we had an exciting day in Los Angeles. It's always exciting to be in a city and find you can't track down your passport, and this is what happened to my wife. A thorough search of the hotel room revealed nothing, and careful thought also drew a blank. A taxi was therefore summoned to take us to the British Consulate. They were sympathetic, asking us when we would be leaving Los Angeles. The answer was not too well- received, as there is no consulate in Honolulu. Never mind, continued the representative, where would we be going after that? The news that we would be travelling to Fiji and on to Vanuatu for a new job was greeted with a something along the lines that we really weren't making things easy for her. My wife started to fill in the forms for a passport for her and for our son, and had some photographs taken. Filling in forms with a ten-month old son is not easy at the best of times, but we managed. In the absence of the necessary certificates, it was not going to be easy. Our helper disappeared into a back office, and came back with something in her hand, mumbling that it would certainly be difficult to provide a new passport, but what would be possible would be a passport looking very like the old one. As she flicked through the pages more and more obviously, we saw that it was, in fact, the missing passport, which had been handed in just a couple of hours earlier by the man who had found it. Of course, we were very grateful that it had been found, and I expect the lady at the consulate was too. It would save her a fair amount of work too.

Soon after that, we set off to the airport to look around. I took a couple of minutes to telephone the man who had found the passport. It seems he found it by a bench outside Mann's Chinese Theater. While looking at it, some Hispanics had snatched it from him, saying they could use it to make copies for profit. He snatched it back, saying that was illegal, and it belonged to somebody. Just as they were wondering what to do next, his bus came so he got on it...I thanked him very much for his kindness, explaining how stuck we would have been without it.

Los Angeles International Airport is undoubtedly a large one, and we had plenty to observe. Many carriers not often seen in Europe were there, making it well worth seeing.

Travelling with Air New Zealand in their Business Class, we were able to take advantage of the Club Pacific lounge, a quiet place with quantities of soft and hard drinks, snack food and newspapers. Air New Zealand obviously look after the lounges they own better than they can look after the ones they share.

Incidentally, it is most unusual to be able to fly a United States domestic sector with a non-United States airline. We were allowed to do so because we were travelling to Los Angeles from a point outside the United States, or travelling from Honolulu to a point outside the United States with the same carrier. Actually, we were doing both, which made it even better. Many people must do this, because there were a large number of passengers on the flight.

I couldn't really comment on the in-flight service on this flight, because I didn't take much advantage of it. It was very late in the evening that we took off, after eleven if I recall, and we landed at Honolulu at 03:00, seven hours later.

The bright lights of Honolulu and the heat of the tropical night assailed us as we tried to find a courtesy bus to take us to the hotel. We couldn't find one. The buses wanted USD 5 to take us downtown, and were not interested when they saw how much baggage we had. For USD 15 we took a cab, and not long afterwards we were checking in at the hotel, the Miramar at Waikiki. I have no complaint here, except to say that I felt USD 15 per night for the hire of a cot, or rather a crib, seemed excessive.

Two nations separated by a common language suffer one again. A camp-bed becomes a cot, and a cot becomes a crib as one travels west. Crisps become chips and chips become French fries. Jam becomes jelly, jelly becomes jello. An American who is mad about his flat is more likely to be angry about a puncture than elated by an apartment. I could carry on, but will not. Enough books exist on this subject.

We didn't rise particularly early the next morning, but spent a leisurely day just looking around. Waikiki beach is certainly over-rated, but a trip on one of the many catamarans is worthwhile. The trips last about an hour, and food and drink are included in the price paid. Other features of the Polynesian lifestyle which we shared were mostly thanks to the tours. Polynesian Adventure Tours was the company we used most, taking us among other places to Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center. The latter was certainly worth a longer visit than we were able to give it. This place recreates the customs of seven different Polynesian countries, attempting to keep their dying heritage alive. I must admit that I enjoyed Hawaii more than I expected. I write this too soon, however, because we have two more flights before we leave Hawaii.

20 May 1990 Aloha Airlines 88 Honolulu to Kona
20 May 1990 Aloha Airlines 289 Kona to Honolulu

The fiftieth of the United States is strictly called Hawaiian Islands and consists of around seven major islands. Honolulu, including Waikiki is to be found on the island of Oahu, while Kona is on the island of Hawaii, often referred to as the Big Island, to distinguish it from the state as a whole.

One feature of the Pacific lifestyle which takes getting used to is the fact that the day starts much earlier than it does in Europe. The people at the tour desk scarcely batted an eyelid when they told us what time the flight to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii left, and what time that meant our pickup would be. We were surprised, however, and realised that a full-day excursion means just that. I wonder what would have happened if just before I had signed the contract for the job in Vanuatu, somebody had tapped me on the shoulder and asked me whether I realised that the working day started at 07:30. Would I still have signed on the dotted line? In fact, we all get used to changes like that very quickly. But I have digressed again.

We went to the inter-island terminal, stopping outside the lei stalls on the way. For those who do not know, a lei is a traditional, ceremonial Polynesian necklace, usually made out of flowers. Sometimes these days, the flowers are fabric, but fresh leis are obviously more desirable. While in Hawaii, each member of the family bought one. Mine was made of dark-coloured nuts, the name of which escapes me. These were used in the old days only by chiefs and kings. Be that as it may, I think they are much more appropriate for male wear. Some leis are made of shells, but that is another story.

For those of you who do not know, Aloha, from which the airline takes its name, is the greeting used almost universally within Hawaii. It is apparently a word formed from two Hawaiian words, alo, meaning the constant spiritual companion who is with you, and ha meaning the spirit which a dying man will pass to you by breathing into your mouth, magically giving you all his wisdom.

Anyhow, we checked in for the flight. Aloha runs a great many flights, but they all seem to be inter-island flights, nearly all carrying tourists only. This flight was on a 737, which had a couple of rows of comfortable seats at the front, referred to as First Class. Our seats were not in this part of the aircraft. Even so, we did receive complimentary fruit juice on the flight. Judging by the inclusive price of the tour, the flight itself was reasonably priced, too.

After arrival at the small airport at Kona, we were quickly collected by the tour bus, which was to take us around the Big Island. Everywhere in Hawaii, and especially on the Big Island, you will encounter macadamia nuts. Australians are quick to point out that macadamia nuts are not native to Hawaii. These large nuts are delicious, and often sold covered in chocolate, coffee, honey or whatever. These are certainly good things to eat. Mauna Loa is the brand I would choose. The Volcano National Park on Big Island is surely also worth a visit, though the area was lacking in current volcanic activity the day we were there.

Even so, the day was an interesting one, certainly, and it was almost dark before we were brought back to the airport for the return flight.

The airport is best described as tiny and open air, and the most incongruous thing there was a wide-bodied United Airlines jet which would be stopping at Honolulu on its way back to the West Coast. It is a daily flight, which presumably has sufficient demand to make it pay its way. This comes as quite a surprise to me.

However, we were to make our way back on an Aloha flight. This one was much more crowded than the morning flight had been; indeed I think nearly every seat was taken. Tourism is big business in Hawaii. The flight, the return to the hotel and the evening were much as expected. Life in Hawaii seemed strange in some ways. It is a very pleasant place to visit, but more so than anywhere else I have ever been, it seems very transient in its outlook. Everybody seemed to be either a tourist or employed directly or indirectly by the tourist machine. No permanence was to be found there. Also, it was the first place I had ever visited where the main languages did not all use the Latin script with which I grew up. Japanese is undoubtedly the real second language, even if officially they claim it to be Hawaiian.

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