Birthday week so far

Pro: Am in Hawaiʻi.

Con: My suitcase didn't arrive on my flight, and the airline person wasn't even a little bit apologetic about that fact.

Pro: The suitcase did arrive at my hotel eventually.

Con: There was a farce-like comedy of errors in the middle of the night around obtaining it.

Pro: But I did eventually obtain it.

Con: This trip is a work offsite, which included two days of meetings and presentations.

Pro: Still, Hawaiʻi! Also, the meetings and presentations were fairly interesting, and there was a fair bit of productive discussion in between sessions.

Con: After each day's meetings and presentations, I've spent all afternoon and evening and late into the night doing work stuff—stuff that can't wait, because other people are waiting for me to do various things.

Pro: Pretty scenery, nice sunsets.

Con: Restaurants on the Big Island seem to barely be aware of vegetarianism. For example, at a Sheraton Kona-catered lunch on Tuesday (that's where we're staying), there was innocuous-looking potato salad. Someone asked the guy in charge of the food if there was meat hidden in it. He said no. We ate the potato salad. There seemed to be lumps of something chewy in it. I asked him again. He looked at his official food list and said nope, only herbs. I said that wasn't an herb. He said he would ask about it; he walked away and never came back. The next day, someone else associated with the hotel suddenly appeared at my shoulder, introduced herself, and very concernedly asked, Are you okay? I said, Huh? She said, Are you okay, after the bacon in the potato salad yesterday? It turned out there'd been a miscommunication somewhere. Meanwhile, the hotel's dinner restaurant barely has any non-meat entrees, and the Four Seasons (fanciest hotel on the island) offered us a choice of a big fancy steak and fish plate or a “pad thai” that was essentially plain noodles with some vegetables mixed in. I've certainly seen restaurants elsewhere that still treat vegetarianism as an anomaly, but somehow I'm surprised that a major tourist destination doesn't really seem to be aware of it.

Pro: More pretty scenery at the Four Seasons, and I got to wade in the water on a small beach, and I startled a bunch of black crabs sitting on the black lava rock; if they hadn't moved, I never would've seen them. (Yo, Nature! Camouflage works well, as does scuttling away, but combining those may not have the desired effect!) Also, the chocolate lava cake at the Four Seasons was superb. Extraordinarily tasty.

Con: Haven't had enough sleep in a couple weeks.

Pro: The weather is steadily nice. And my hotel room is quiet. And the hotel makes it easy for me to explicitly indicate that I don't want housekeeping to clean up my room while I'm here—even rewards me for that.

Con: Haven't seen much of anything outside the hotel.

Pro: I signed up for what sounds like an impressive all-day event for Saturday (which will be my birthday): A two-hour helicopter tour of the Big Island, followed by a series of eight zip-lines.

Con: That event may be canceled if enough people don't sign up. And they won't know until Friday afternoon whether they have enough people or not.

Pro: I could've gone on that event today with colleagues, but instead I picked the other option, which was SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS. Many years ago, seeing a pod of dolphins gamboling around a whale-watching boat that I was on was one of the high points of my life. So for this trip, I figured that no matter how impressive-sounding the other option was, swimming with dolphins trumped pretty much anything.

Con: It wasn't until we were well underway that I learned that not only would there be no swimming with dolphins, but that in fact we likely wouldn't even see dolphins. It was actually a snorkeling trip. I'm not clear on who billed it as swimming with dolphins—one of my colleagues who set up the trip, I think. (I should note that they have otherwise done a remarkably good job of setting things up.) The one time I snorkeled previously, with Kam in Hawaiʻi during another offsite maybe a dozen years ago, I turned my head to see where the breathing tube was and thereby put it into the water and then tried to breathe in and started coughing and choking and I was in shallow water near coral and I went the wrong way and ended up thrashing around in two-foot-deep water over coral, and bashing my leg on it, and it was altogether not a lot of fun.

Pro: We did in fact see a couple of dolphins en route to the snorkeling site.

Con: I didn't get a very good look at them.

Pro: Today's trip offered something called SNUBA, which was entertaining enough just from the name. It's a cross between snorkeling and SCUBA, and it requires no prior experience or training or certification. It's much like SCUBA except that the air tank, instead of being strapped to your back, is in a little raft that stays on the surface, and you put on a mask and a regulator and a weight belt and flippers and you attach your regulator to the air hose (well, the professional guide does it for you), and then you descend the air hose hand-over-hand to a depth of twenty feet, and you see coral and fish and stuff. And I was feeling just adventurous enough to try it. And they had a prescription mask I could use.

Con: Everything went fine until I was two feet underwater, at which point some water somehow got into my mouth as I was breathing in, and I choked and coughed and surfaced and nearly threw up, and gagged and spat and held onto the air-tank raft, and almost decided to give up and go back on the boat.

Pro: The young man who was our professional guide, although he and I had not previously been communicating entirely on the same wavelength, surfaced with me and gently calmed me down and indicated that it wasn't a big deal, and told me a little story about the first time he went diving, with his father, when he threw up underwater. And (most importantly) he told me to make a firm seal between the regulator and my mouth. Which he hadn't mentioned before, but whatever. He told me I could take it slow, and I put the regulator back in, and slowed my breathing, and ducked underwater again.

Con: I was still a little scared and freaked out.

Pro: But that gradually went away as I descended. And it turned out to be awesome. The coral was nice, the multitude of tropical fish were lovely, and there was a small moray eel. The air hose made it unnecessary to worry about how deep we were. The minor cramps in my toes and legs disappeared quickly. (Next time, I'll try to remember to stretch before going in the water.) We got to stay down much longer than usual because half of the original group who'd signed up for SNUBA had backed out at the last minute, so each of the three remaining SNUBAers had our own 45-minute air tank. It was a little difficult to remember to breathe exclusively through my mouth, but I got used to it. Clearing my mask wasn't too difficult. The flippers weren't as chafey/uncomfortable as they'd been on the boat. I started to be able to feel when my regulator was slipping out of position and to be able to put it back and keep a firm seal. The whole thing (after the initial panic) was lovely and wonderful, and by far the high point of my week so far.

Con: After we surfaced, I got back on the boat, dried off a bit, and started chatting with colleagues. One of the boat staff offered me a cup of water, which I gladly accepted. I took about two sips and suddenly started to feel stomach-upset queasy. I tried having some food, which others in my group said had helped them stop feeling queasy, but that didn't help me. I also tried a Sprite with some ginger root grated (?) into it, but that also didn't help much. I tried going back in the water (without equipment), but that didn't help. Looking at the horizon didn't help. I spent the rest of the trip with my head down and eyes closed, grimly holding onto the contents of my stomach. As with the last time I was on a boat, for whale-watching a while back, part of my distress was annoyance at myself: I used to be the kind of person who never got seasick, and I love being on boats, and I'll be very sad if this happens every time I get on a boat from now on.

Pro: After we got off the boat, I gradually returned to normal, and now I've had a little food and am feeling better. Now that I know I really can get seasick, I can try to take it more seriously. I bought some Dramamine, for example, for the first time in my life. I'm aware of other remedies, but (for example) what I've read suggests that there's no scientific evidence that acupressure bands have any effect beyond the placebo effect. (I'm not knocking the placebo effect, I just don't want to rely on it.) So I'm not looking for advice about what to do about seasickness; next time I'll try the Dramamine and see how that goes.

Con: Instead of writing up this entry, I ought to be getting back to the various urgent work tasks that other people are waiting on me for.

Pro: Maybe tomorrow I'll go out on a glass-bottomed boat and see manta rays! If I get my act together, and if I can stand the thought of being on a boat again by then. (Possibly even snorkeling with manta rays. We'll see.) And maybe it'll turn out that Saturday's trip is happening after all. And even if it doesn't, there may be other things I can sign up for on Saturday. And even if there aren't, I suppose having a quiet day at a hotel in Hawaiʻi on my birthday is not the worst possible fate.

One Response to “Birthday week so far”

  1. jimmosk

    I can’t stop parsing this as a transcript of dialogue between a professional SF writer and a convention at which they’re a GoH. A rather optimistic writer with a rather pessimistic interviewer…


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