Lost at Sea
Laying on my back, the sun on my face, I sway up and down with the gentle ocean waves. In this state of complete relaxation, it seems as if my arms would drift away out to sea had they not been attached to my shoulders. With my eyes closed, and a slightly selfish grin on my face I tilt my head backwards. My ears, immersed under water fall silent. For the moment I’m alone. It is as though the clocks have been turned back, and as my mind drifts with the tide, I can almost feel my toes popping up out of the water. My smile grows wider, knowing the dream is but a dream, yet enjoying it while it lasts. I take a deep breath in, the salty air causing me to float higher. With amusement I picture myself a balloon, inhaling more and more until I lift off the water, and into the sky.
Such childish bliss I have not felt for some time, so it goes without saying that my Hawaiian vacation was a pleasant healing experience. Of course, coming back to my senses was still pretty awesome, for the island of Kauai is truly a remarkable place. My brothers and I stayed on the northern shore where the vegetation is thick with an unmatched diversity of plant life. With no shortage of coastline, each beach was somehow better than the previous one, and the air is often filled with the fragrance of flowers. What’s more are the locals. Each resident we met overflowed with a friendliness and hospitality that is rare in this world, yet the norm on Kauai. The air was in the upper 70s/ low 80′s, and the water hovered at the temperature of “perfect.” The island is close to a real-world paradise, and it comes complete with palm trees and fruity drinks. Tiny umbrellas included.
No, I don’t work for the Hawaiian Tourism Bureau, but I did have the vacation that I needed. So what exactly did I do there? Well… we were greeted at the airport by members of local veterans groups, and local government. One lei after another was draped around my neck, stacking up to my ears. Each Hawaiian lei was the real deal too. I’m talking about necklaces of vibrant fresh flowers that made the other airport travelers jealous. The mayor of Kauai was there to say hello, and a proclamation from the Governor was read. After some pictures, we were given some gifts and sent on our way. My brothers and I spent the next couple days swimming, snorkeling, and soaking in the sun. We stuffed ourselves with fresh sushi and pineapple, taking frequent breaks for Mai Tais.
One night, we met some friends for a luau where we feasted again, and enjoyed a tour of the gardens and watching the performers dance. One day, we met up with a group of volunteers from KORE (Kauai Ocean Recreation Experience), which aims to help people with disabilities enjoy the Hawaiian waters. They got me up on a surfboard (sitting, no prosthetics), and I think we all agreed I’m ready for the big waves. We learned how to paddle board and befriended a team of firefighters from Hanalei who pointed us where to go next, and yes… they cooked more awesome food for us.
My brothers and I drove around the eastern and southern coasts, eventually turning back at Waimea Canyon, which really does resemble a miniature Grand Canyon. The trip culminated with a 17-mile kayak tour of the Napali Coast. This scenic stretch of coastline covers the Northwest portion of the island and is completely inaccessible by car. There is one hiking trail covering 11 miles, but for obvious reasons, I wasn’t quite prepared to walk that far. So instead, we took the remote coast by sea. Hollywood has used this awesome spectacle of nature as the backdrop in many movies, including Jurassic Park, and King Kong. Our group of 2-person ocean kayaks paddled by pristine beaches and explored the caves along the steep, rocky cliffs. We took frequent swimming breaks and saw dolphins, sea turtles, colorful fish, and a large sting ray. No sharks.
The afternoon before flying home, we just relaxed at a nearby snorkeling spot where I experienced the scene I described at the beginning. If I could sum up my week in Hawaii with one word…I would label it, “refreshing.” The climate, terrain, and lifestyle were altogether a sharp contrast to the rigors of daily life in DC or New York. I returned last Sunday, and have been adjusting to my nightly college classes that began on Monday. My surgery was pushed back to September 9th, and it’s looking like I’ll be in the hospital for a day or two as the operation is estimated to take 6-8 hours. Good times. This will be surgery number 50 since getting injured. Yes, number 50. But until I go back under the knife, I will be continuing physical therapy and taking classes. I am so happy that I was able to get away before all of this. So with that I send out a big THANK-YOU to The Greenwood Community Church, Erika Betters, and all the supporters who made the trip possible, as well as the countless residents of Kauai who made it a trip to remember. Mahalo!