By Nancy Van Veen
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
- Hawaiian Proverb
Sometimes the best plan is to have none at all. So it was when we arrived at Honolulu’s famous Waikiki Beach. It’s gorgeous but pricey and touristy. So after a walk through the powdery sands and a dip in the ocean, my companion Maria and I thought, “What now?”
We were on a cruise and had endured five isolated days at sea, so we were in no hurry to return to the floating hotel. Serendipity struck when we bumped into a character from La-La Land we’d met on the ship, who had vacationed often on the Islands. “Hey James, what do you suggest we do with our day on Oahu?” we inquired.
“You can hop on a city bus for two dollars and travel around the entire island,” he offered. Pretty thrifty sightseeing — or as I called it, ‘The Scottish Tour.’
“Sounds perfect! Wanna come with?”
It was a comical milk run, and with no other tourists on board it offered a unique glimpse into the lives of everyday Hawaiians. We passed through many coastal communities, chatting up locals as they came and went — from students to workers, to beach bums.
James recommended we stop at a village on the north shore called Haleiwa. It’s a scenic gem with a bohemian vibe. It was there he introduced us to Hawaiian shaved ice. Yum! After browsing the retro-cool gift shops we headed back to the bus stop.
We were keeping our eye on the time, as the ship would sail at 8 p.m. sharp. But to our chagrin, the bus failed to appear. An off-duty driver pulled up to inform us that the scheduled bus had broken down, but another would arrive shortly. Being a horrifically humid day, we had wisely consumed plenty of water, but unwisely had neglected to visit the washroom. Now we were afraid to leave, in case the bus came.
Abruptly, a rather inebriated ‘moke’ (hawaiian pidgin for a local tough-guy) plunked down and offered James a humungous tin of beer. Just then the bus arrived. “Bottoms up!” our new friend bellowed. James downed the can in one miraculous guzzle!
Grateful to be moving, but concerned about the hour, we settled back, soaking in the scenery as the sunset glowed. Despite its idyllic tropical beauty, Hawaii has a decidedly dark underbelly of homelessness, addiction and fundamentalism — sad legacies of colonialism and religious indoctrination.
The evening riders were definitely a more colourful bunch. A new passenger boarded. She smiled at us like she had secret she was dying to share — and share she did! Here we thought the bus driver was in control, but it turns out Jesus was at the wheel! She entertained us with amusing anecdotes and passed out cards depicting the Virgin Mary, all the while embracing a large tote bag. Our endearing friend asked if we’d like to see what was inside. Why not? She produced an obese stuffed green frog sporting a hula skirt and proceeded to perform a ventriloquist act with said frog. By then we were howling with laughter, legs crossed, bladders protesting!
As our stop approached, Our Lady of Perpetual Hilarity assured us the ship was a mere block away. We ended up racing against the clock eight agonizing blocks to the dock. I was still in hysterics, but Maria’s cackles had subsided into panic stricken silence — unless we made it to the ship lickety-split, the tears would be running down her legs instead of her face. We barely made it to the gangplank…and the bathroom!