Thursday, July 10, 2008

Man of War, Mu'umu'us, and Favor

Has anyone out there ever tried a mu’umu’u? (Commonly known as a mumu.) They’re delightfully comfortable. Fabric touches your shoulders and arms, but almost no other part of your body. I finally understand all the old ladies who sit in their mumus on the hot front porch, fanning themselves. It’s not that Hawaii is particularly hot (it’s not, comparatively), it’s that the only place with air conditioning is Dora’s car. So, I admit, I am wearing a 25-cent mu’umu’u that I picked up at the local Baptist church’s big garage sale a few weekends ago. (To be fair, you should know that Deanna bought 5, as they were 5 for $1.) It was more than just a garage sale. We came home one day to find a little door hanger on our knob announcing the upcoming event. Free Food! Games! Door Prizes! and Garage Sale! Pali View Baptist Church is about a block down the street, and since the picture that went along with “Free Food!” was clip-art of a hotdog, Dora (whom one must remember is pregnant and occasionally blurts out such things as, “You know what would be great right now? A sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuit!”) traipsed us all down there in two shifts and we partook.

The Baptists are very nice people. They give away free hot dogs and shave ice, and sell their mumus for only 25 cents. They also give away “prizes” and I, who view myself as one of those
people who never win the free stuff, just got a call from the pastor saying that I won the big prize! A child’s bike. This could be related to what was called last Sunday a “season of favor.” One of the prayer teams at church gave me that word, and I’m taking this bike as a confirmation. (I just never would have guessed I’d be favored with a fancy, new, yellow child’s bike. Now to figure out what to do with it… Dora, ever practical, suggests we Craigslist it and get enough money to buy several of the “lesser” prizes-the ones I’d really wanted-Starbucks cards.) Either way, it was fun news to kick off an afternoon that proved to be as beautiful as one could want.

After another tiring morning of teaching grammar to middle school students (it feels akin to

pushing an elephant into the back seat of your car) I headed home and we all piled in the car for a beach outing. Waimanalo was the target, as we'd never been there, but after we'd unloaded everything and carted it to the water we discovered this sign:

Yes, Portuguese Man-of-War. Their sting could kill a baby (one of which was happily toddling around with us, longing for the water). After double-checking with the lifeguard, who confirmed that at least once a year someone is stung, then dipping in and discovering that the water was pretty silty, we packed right back up and headed for the car. It's sort of silly, because it's not like going a mile down the road is going to save us from a Man-of-War. But off we headed to find a beach where the caution sign was at least not so disturbingly visible, and the water was clearer (in the hopes we could see this new danger coming). Bellows Air Force Base is between our house and Waimanalo, so we motored in. It's actually a vacation station for military. The public beach there was closed for military exercises, but Dora's ID got us right on in to the base beach, and what an amazing place it turned out to me. I cannot rave enough about it, and if I tried you would think I was crazy. This was the best beach I have ever swum at. (Yes, Lizzie, it even beats Lanikai!) Most of the beaches around here are bathtub temperature water, so that was not surprising. But this beach stayed shallow with perfectly creamy sand underfoot for yards and yards out into the ocean. Large swells appeared at random times, cresting near the beach. For the first time I stretched out on my back, closed my eyes, and drifted where the waves might take me. Do you know how delightful it is to see a clear hump of turquoise water rise up before you, cutting off all view of the horizon, meeting the light blue sky's white clouds, and then to ride up in it yourself, pushed almost into that very sky? We used Arden's floatie as a boogie board, and I also tried some body surfing (delightful and very wet fun when timed right). The water was as clear as crystal once we were beyond the cresting line. The beach itself is far from any town (we had to drive for a while on base to get to it) and is lined with tropical pine trees of some nature, and in the background is an unobstructed view of the green mountains that line this windward side of the island. Stunning. So while the military did their exercises (as Deanna and Dora exclaimed with disgust: "sweaty, hot, men" and I thought with pity of their predicament...driving around all day in amphibious vehicles, wearing camis and boots and never able to have a cool frolic in the water surrounding them...the few we saw looked very overheated indeed) we lounged in the water like private heiresses. This is they, poor souls:

And here were we:

All cameras were forgotten or left in the car, so we have no pictures of ourselves, but that made it all the more relaxing, as the back of my mind never had to consider all the perfect shots I was missing, or should be taking. I came away feeling calmed, soothed, and clean. Do you know that sleepy, tired contentment you have after a heavy exercise and a cool shower? Or after a perfect meal (at which you didn't eat too much) and a delightful night-time walk? I've never felt that way coming off a beach. Usually the sand and the sticky damp left over from salt water overpower the health that the sun intended to bestow.

Now, as a rule, military bases are not my favorite places. A traumatic experience with one in the past has left me with an unsettling fear of men in uniforms who follow the letter of the law and sometimes, consequently, misadminister justice. Or if there is no law, who may make one up arbitrarily (one which might be very inconvenient to others, as happened to Dora and me recently.) My stomach always braces up a little when I head onto base with Dora. I'm expecting to be turned away at the gate or told I don't belong, and that is never helpful for a girl's psyche. As it is, I have to get signed in at the grocery store as a guest, and am strictly forbidden from even touching the items on the shelves when I "help" Dora shop for food. (I stick to pushing the cart and caring for Arden.) However, today I was happy on a base. Unusual. It just so happens that all those rules keeping people out worked to our advantage for once, and the beach was delightfully calm and uncrowded. We never even thought twice about abandoning all our bags and accoutrements on the shore while we swam, for what soldier or sailor or marine would fish around in someone else's bag? (Perhaps I'm a little too trusting. Human nature is human nature, whether you're trained to follow orders or not.)

I could keep writing, but tomorrow is another day of explaining grammar to pre-teens and controlling a reading class of 25 varied children - eager, talkative, taciturn, and restless in their turn. I'm tackling poetry. Has anyone ever read Wordsworth to that many kids at once successfully? I'll find out!


Carolyn said...

Hi, Amy, I've enjoyed reading your blog and finding out about all your adventures! I am jealous of your time on the beach. There's no place I like better, and that sounded pretty fantastic! I'm glad things are going well. I started a blog, not sure why or what it will be... it's a little boring right now, but we'll see. Take care!

Masha said...

Ooh, what will you read? I think "we are seven" and "my heart leaps up when i behold" are good ones!