It was the summer of 2008 and my family and I were concluding a vacation in Maui. Being a somewhat venturesome trio, we decided we would excursion to the less visited eastern side of the island, the less developed side where groceries cost five times the normal expense, where no skyscrapers blight the breathtaking scenery, and where some locals cast disagreeable glares at tourists. I would start my freshman year of high school in two months and as our rental car meandered the turns of the ravishing, often treacherous Hana Highway, I contemplated the past week, recalling glorious swims in the Seven Sacred Pools of Haleakala National Park, astounding hikes at the verdant, rocky corners of the earth, refreshing mist that crept through the air near Wailua Falls.
A few days earlier we visited Waianapanapa State Park; en route, I struggled to pronounce the name. As my pronunciation battle ensued, a local radio station played the Rolling Stones’ song “Can’t You Hear me Knocking.” We were grooving in the car when my mother replaced the words “can’t you hear me knocking” with the single word “ Waianapanapa.” Hallelujah! Finally, we had discovered a way to pronounce the formidable word! I thanked the elocution gods for the perfect match of syllables and for preventing me from being an ignorant tourist unable to utter Hawaiian words without stuttering.
Looking out the window of the backseat, I thought of how free I had been, floating aimlessly in the water of the black sand beach. I was entering a period of my life where much more would be expected of me, where I would have to buckle down and accept a rigorous four years of academia; I discerned I would likely never feel that sense of insouciance again. The halcyon days of my early youth were gone. This was all pretty heavy to take in, especially at the age of thirteen while on vacation, so I quickly pushed it out of my mind as my dad stopped the car to indulge in some homemade banana bread from a roadside stand. Mom and I gobbled our banana bread, our last chance to consume authentic Hawaiian food.
Our car continued its relentless, twisting journey. I was growing increasingly sick and when my mother mentioned the knot in her stomach, I concluded the banana bread was at fault. When I disclosed that I genuinely thought I had soiled my pants, the car stopped abruptly. I went to the trunk, rummaged through my suitcase, grabbed new underwear. I executed a swift change and my suspicions were confirmed. Mortified by the time we reached the airplane, I was horrified to discover that I still felt ill. Midway through the flight, I realized I had not relieved myself sans bathroom– I had gotten my first period. After perceiving this, I found it quite funny and I still do.
I’m not exactly sure what that trip to Maui did to me. All I know is that it was an important epoch in which I grew up without being fully aware of it. This vacation, though I did not know it at the time, was monumental in forming my desire to study landscape architecture. Poignancy pricked me as I wrote this travelogue as a high school graduate and I realized how much progress I have made. Although some aspects of my youth have disappeared, I know that a college education is going to be one of the most satisfying achievements of my life, perhaps even more satisfying than my days of drifting in the warm Pacific waters of Hana.
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