Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Seven (or Eight) Stages of Aloha




From the pages of the "No Worries Hawaii" guidebook:

People really do say “aloha” in everyday speech in Hawaii. Aloha means good-bye, hello, compassion, love—all  that. The word derives from the Hawaiian words “alo,” meaning front or face, and “ha” meaning the essence or the breath of life. As in ancient times, some Hawaiians today will touch foreheads saying, “alo,” and then breathe out saying “ha,” thus exchanging life’s breath. Don’t worry, this isn’t something expected of you at the car rental counter. But you may well feel the aloha by the end of your stay in Hawaii, so don’t be afraid to say it. Aloha is Hawaii’s gift to the world.


Stage One:  BEFUDDLEMENT
Months and perhaps years of expectation have just endured the daylong whirlwind-and-doldrums of airports, baggage claims, and lines. Your underwear is ill-fitting and you are dehydrated. You have arrived. Small quirks in your room’s appointments loom as major setbacks. Have a cocktail immediately and put your bare feet in the warm Pacific. 

Stage Two:  ENACTMENT
The day rises and you’re in Hawaii. Equip your day pack and get the car organized. Next come trips to the stores to stock up on all the stuff and beach gear. This is a preparation day, as your mind catches up to your body. Find a quiet place for afternoon and sunset. Repeat the end of Stage One.
Stage Three:  EXPERIENCE
Now come the Oh Wows. A half-day on the trail or sightseeing, and a half-day at the beach. Your head fills with new images of the islands. You’re looking forward now, and see no end. Stages One and Two are jettisoned.

Stage Four:  IMMERSION
Repeat Stage Three. Different sides of the island, the gardens, waterfalls, reefs and beaches, the museums, restaurants, and historical sites. You keep taking them in. It’s a bit overwhelming. Was that just yesterday?
Stage Five:  REACTION
After days of immersion, you begin to shed your skin. Your body has cycled through, literally taking in the molecules of Hawaii with each breath and swallow and footstep. You have nicks, bites, and sunburn. This bodily reaction naturally follows immersion.

Stage Six:  CONNECTION
Somewhere, it happens. You’re not thinking about it. At this moment you feel all the forces of nature working dynamically, harmoniously, infinitely. It’s always this way, but you have just noticed. You hear the rustle above and look up to see light on the banana leaves. You always knew it would be like this, but you could not have anticipated the feeling. Stage Six, in some cases, will be accompanied by Going Native, i.e., tying a sarong around your head and having a gin fizz with breakfast because why not? Or taking a dip in the moonlight for the same reason. 
Stage Seven:  ALOOOOOOOOOOO-HA!
You get it. You have come to know these remarkable people, the Hawaiians, and how they lived for centuries with respect for the aina, the land, and with a sense of sharing for all eternity. You know this is a Pollyannaish historical view, but it seems now like a beacon for the future, for your future. This realization of aloha, in some cases, will be followed by the corollary, Let’s Buy Real Estate. 



THE EIGHTH STAGE… 
As any Hollywood screenwriter will tell you, the trick to creating high drama is to build a “ticking clock” into the plot. In many cases this is a literal clock, a time bomb, but more often it’s the upcoming date of the big game, the waning days before the disease is fatal, the deadline set by a mobster, the day that the parents get home, and so on. On the movie of your vacation, the ticking clock that creates high drama is the hour of your departure. The feeling of aloha—let’s get away and live here forever, what’s life for anyway? —is heightened by the fact that you have to leave.

Before you sell the ranch and move, consider renting for a while. The eighth stage of aloha, with no time limit to create dramatic tension, is wide-ranging and can include island fever, personal fulfillment, dread of mosquitoes, mildew and termites,  and longing for the mainland. Hawaii has seen ‘em all.