Neither Ben nor I are much into Teddy bears, but somehow Paloma has become obsessed with them. Try as we might, we can’t even distract her with a battery operated hula girl. Any time she spies a bear we hear her yelling ‘Teddy! Tedda! TEDDY!!!!!’ Luckily Honolulu they has a Teddy Museum where a child can see mechanical teddy displays acting out various moments in history. We thought the Elvis teddies and Cleopatra teddies would entertain her enough, but the most fun Paloma had was delivering near total destruction to the gift shop and its countless shelves of teddy bears.
Ben gets some time off work and we hire a car for a road trip round Oahu. Walls of monsteria climb up the sides of the highway, vines of Liana hang down from the majestic tropical trees that seem to grow everywhere in Honolulu. Bright hibiscus flower in abundance along side other exotic plants and the delicious fuchsia coloured ginger lily rocket flower. It’s the best place to take references for our planned home jungle! We stop at a cute little bay where Johnny Depp once stood while filming ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ and I wonder out loud if we will see a whale flipping out of the ocean. Seconds later, as if hearing my thoughts, an enormous whale does indeed rise gracefully out of the sea and crash back in! Spectacular!
Ben has put together an atmospheric hawaiian play list for us and it enhances our road trip experience listening to ukulele’s and the gentle Les Baxter exotica as we watch the ramshackle little wooden beach houses, roadside coconut stalls, shrimp stands and the sea shores of many pretty bays pass our window.
Stopping at Turtle Bay we arrive just in time to see a beautiful ancient sea turtle plod onto the shore and snuggle between two rocks on the beach, posing for photographs. Paloma goes ballistic yelling ‘Dut-dle! Dut-dlel!!!!’ part of her ever increasing and hilarious vocabulary. In the waves behind the creature we see many little heads and fins poking out of the water. We visit a fellow film producer friend Michelle who lives on the glorious Lanikai Beach. She babysits the sleeping Paloma while we sneak off for an hour of honeymoon bliss down at the beach and a burger at Buzz’s Steakhouse where tiki-tune legend Martin Denny used to play.
An Hawaiian holiday is best when one doesn’t know, and one doesn’t care, what day it is. Days and nights merge, you take the same photo of the same palm tree not remembering if it was here or there you sat yesterday and your hair becomes a matted mess of mermaid tresses. I never want it to end. We belong here!
Caught up in the bliss it is easy to think of Hawaii as totally removed from the world’s turmoil and danger. And then comes a tsunami. ‘Your mum and Karsten just texted saying a Tsunami headed for Hawaii darling.’ It’s two thirty in the morning and I turn over wondering if Ben is talking in his sleep again. But no, he’s serious. It not our first tsunami and in less than a minute we have a bag of nappies, passports and Paloma’s teddies packed and are heading out the door to the tallest Waikiki hotel nearby. An eerie wail, the tsunami siren, echoes like the sound of underwater whale song through the streets. In the lobby of the neighbouring hotel we are informed the tsunami is going to hit in under 20 minutes. Once he has made sure we are settled safely on the 15th floor, Ben races out into the night armed with his camera. Sitting there with Paloma on my lap I recal the tsunami wave we ran from on Koh Lanta beach in Thailand on Boxing Day 2004. That experience was scary enough without a child in my arms, and the thought of running from a wave carrying a baby isn’t one I want to have. By the time the waves reach Hawaii they are only 3 feet high and not dangerous at all. We sit glued to the television back in our hotel room in tears as the disaster, trauma and magnitude of the devastation in Japan becomes evident in all it’s horrific detail. Feeling almost guilty we return to our nice clean sheets, safe and sound, while millions of people are cold and homeless and experiencing the worst moment of their lives.
Some people are quick to make a buck out of disaster and tee shirts printed with ‘I survived the Tsunami 2011 Hawaii’ are selling quickly on the street corners of Waikiki the next day. We decline the offer to purchase one.
Fourteen month old Paloma has really taken the whole toddler thing to the next level. Finding self assurance in her walking skills she happily turns in the opposite direction from me any time I call her name. In seconds after her little feet touch the ground she is off and running, either in the direction of road traffic or into the alluring blue of the ocean or the hotel pool. Like Ben and I, Paloma runs toward danger, not from it. But her joyful screams of rebellion and independance make me proud, at least for now!