December 27, 2009

Things I've learned in Hawaii

One can't help but learn things about oneself upon traveling to distant lands. Today, I learned that I get freaked out by fish.

Just kidding - I already knew that. Yes, it's true. Fish freak me out. They're scaly and swishy and oh god what if one touched me!?!?!?!?? I attribute this phobia to an activity in kindergarten that I remember quite clearly. We were first given dead fish. (Real dead fish. They were large. And they had squishy eyes.) Then, we were instructed to brush paint onto the dead fish, and finally press butcher paper down onto the dead fish (yes, with our bare hands!) in order to come away with a delightful "painting" of a dead fish, perhaps to be put in one's living room.

Seriously, whoever thought that was a good idea for five year olds has issues. I'm pretty sure it's scarred me for life.

What I really wanted to say about Hawaii is that I'm certain I could never live here. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but the important one is that it's an island.

An island, by definition, is surrounded by water. And this water, I discovered, is just a little bit scary. Scratch that. It's a lot scary. Especially when you venture into it on the tiniest motorboat known to mankind, at night, without lights, in search of hot lava flowing into the ocean. I had never thought of myself as a person scared of the ocean, but that was freaking terrifying. What if I fell out? Pretend for a moment there is no boat - just one sad person a ways offshore in the pitch black night. Perhaps I would make it to shore - but to a friendly beach, or to the bottom of a cliff? Do you see how having a writerly overactive imagination is no help in these situations? (And what about tsunamis? Earthquakes? Smallpox? Where is the help going to come from? How do you evacuate independently? The answer: you can't! Unless you own your own commercial airplane.)

Holding onto the edges of my chair with white-knuckled hands helped. And by the time we had been out on the water for forty five minutes, I was mostly seasick (another surprise!) instead of terrified. And then the lava flowing into the ocean was amazing. But still, I've learned my lesson. My three story dream house will have to be built somewhere else. Hawaii, a chain of islands surrounded by water further than the eye can see, is not the place for me.

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