There it was: bold and black. A brilliant word to see on my schedule: OGG. What is OGG, you ask? OGG is the three-letter airport code for Maui, Kahului International Airport. I was elated, overjoyed, and surprised that I was able to hold a line that included an OGG layover. (A "line" simply means a flight attendant’s schedule, or line-up of trips for the month. "Hold" means the best possible schedule that you are rewarded based on your seniority.)
So in Maui, we lay over in Lahaina, which boasts one of the best and most authentic luaus on the island: the Old Lahaina Luau. When we entered the venue, we were greeted with fresh flower leis and shown to our table, where Mai Tais were waiting for us. Although I am not a fan of the Mai Tai cocktail (I think they are a bit too sweet), I do enjoy the Maui Brewing Company’s "Big Swell IPA."
There were several highlights of the evening. First was the Laulima & Imu Presentation, which is when the pig is unearthed from the "imu," the Hawaiian underground oven. As the sun began to set, there were several different hula presentations, showing the evolution of the Hawaiian islands, from the early migration of the Polynesians to the influences of modern-day tourism. Always the food lover, the shining star of the luau, for me, was the feast!
Of course there is the Kalua Puaʻa, which is the pork that was roasted in the imu; dinner rolls served with guava butter; marinated ahi poke (tuna); taro leaf salad with coconut dressing; lomi lomi salmon (salmon prepared with tomatoes and onions); island crab salad; and last but not least: poi. I still haven’t figured out if I like poi or not. It is made from boiling and mashing the root of a taro plant. It is slightly bland, and a pale purple color, the consistency of a thin, pasty dough. Perhaps it is an acquired taste? I have been to Hawaii six times now. Every time I say I will try it and like it, but every single time, I am disappointed. Good thing, there are so many other delicious, palatable alternatives, here.
My favorite dessert was the macadamia nut torte. I love macadamia nuts so much that I ate all of the souvenir boxes (that were intended for my friends!) while I was in my hotel room and on the plane. And I absolutely love Hawaiian pineapple. The pineapple in Hawaii tastes different from anywhere else; much fresher, more organic, juicier, and more flavorful. I also immensely enjoy Kona coffee. I didn’t get to try any on this visit, but perhaps I’ll need to return to the Big Island where Kona is located.
Hawaii is a unique culture and I hope I will be able to return for work, or for pleasure. Perhaps it will be easier to do so this summer, as flying increases exponentially. It is sometimes necessary to pinch myself, when I realize I am being paid to lie on a beautiful beach, framed by crystal clear blue water, and a brilliant rainbow looming in the mountains beyond. But this luxury does come with a price. Working the red-eye flight from Maui to San Francisco was brutally long, tiring, and difficult. Tourists fly home, wilted flowers in their hair, the taste of island guava on their tongues, and sunburns on their arms. My crew and I bustle around the cabin, accommodating them with blankets, seat belt extenders for their full bellies, and water to keep them hydrated. And we keep ourselves entertained (and awake) for the five-hour flight with box upon box of souvenir macadamia nuts.