[Updated to correct what I now realize was a grievous mistake on my part. It’s not Maloha. It’s Mahalo. SORRY HAWAII PEOPLE!]

[Note: I wrote this post onboard our ship when we did not have internet access, then forgot to post it once we were back in range. I’m posting it now, even though the date should read 11/24/2011.]

I’ve learned some more Hawaiian. Well, “learned” might be a strong word since I can’t remember any of it at the moment. Maybe “exposed” would be a better description: I’ve been exposed to some more of the Hawaiian language. Like how to say Good Morning versus Good Afternoon.

Today, I took an excursion to Volcano National Park (where I saw smoke from a real volcano!)


and the whole day, our tour bus driver kept trying to teach us the difference between Good Morning and Good Afternoon. But seriously, all these words have started to sound alike. Kilawhatever and malahawhathaveyou. There are a million variations on the same word.

Which is why when someone says Aloha to me (which is every five steps onboard the ship), I respond with a mumbled version of “hi” which may or may not sound a little like “alohi”. Because I’m just that rebellious.

No, these people on our cruise ship are SUPER nice and we’ve all been impressed with how upbeat and helpful they all are. Like they are on speed or something, really, which is the only way I can visualize being so nice all the time to random strangers.

Of course, they have more incentive than just doing a good job. They are all hoping for a big tip at the end of the week…along with every tour guide, taxi driver, concierge, bell captain and waiter we have met since arriving in Hawaii. I mean, let’s face it – Hawaiian industry is rooted in tourism, and tourists like to tip. But truthfully, I don’t mind tipping when someone carries my 50 lb. bag for me, or gives me a free Pepsi even though he should have charged me and brings us hamburgers when we aren’t supposed to order room service (oh Bhas, I’ll miss you so!). But when I go to the coffee bar and order – oh, I don’t know, let’s say A COFFEE – and then pay $6 for said cup of coffee, I don’t feel obligated to tip that particular barista. Just like I don’t feel obligated to tip at Starbucks unless the person goes out of their way to be helpful.

Here’s a picture of the John Adams Coffee Bar onboard our ship:


(I have to admit that I waffle a bit on the Sonic tipping issue – sometimes I tip and sometimes I don’t, but not based on the server’s speed or attitude – just based on my mood because I can’t quite decide whether it’s necessary or not. Is Sonic not a fast-food restaurant? And because of that, doesn’t that make them on par with McDonald’s? I would never think of tipping at McDonald’s, so why Sonic? But then, at McDonald’s, the servers don’t don skates and bring your order to your window. Nor do they smile or even pretend to be cheerful. But I digress.)

In the end, though, I don’t mind all the “Aloha’s” and “Mahalo’s” because it’s part of the added charm of being in Hawaii. Just like part of the charm of being on the campus of Texas A&M University is hearing all the students you pass say “Howdy!”.

Hmmm…Now there’s an idea! The next time someone says “Aloha!”, I’m going to respond with “Howdy!”. Except that then I would probably have to stop and explain that although I’m a full-blooded Texan, I’m not a cowboy (cowgirl) who wears spurs and boots everywhere. Which is the perception many of the people we meet have of Texans.

Images like this don’t help:

(Wall murals made out of tile inside the “Lazy J” Restaurant onboard the ship)



Or this one (notice the glass behind mom – there’s a cowboy on a bucking bronco):


However, this one is pretty accurate:


What? Doesn’t everyone have oil wells in their back yards?

Of course, I was shocked to arrive on Oahu and learn that over a million people live in Honolulu and that they have – among other things – THREE APPLE STORES and a mall with NORDSTROM and MACY’S and even (gasp) a VERA BRADLEY STORE!!!!

And with that, my image of a bunch of tan natives wearing grass skirts and leis was destroyed.

God bless the USA.