Four hours into the red-eye flight from Hawaii, I stared incredulously at the grandiose claim on the seat phone: “Up to 5 more inches of legroom! Welcome to Economy Plus.” I must have been getting the short end of the 0 to 5 more inches. But like any good liberal arts Yalie, I was amused by the oxymoron of “Economy Plus.”
It was just the first leg of my three-flight, 15-hour marathon back to New Haven. Please excuse my cynicism of well-intentioned propaganda, but leaving “80 and sunny” for “20, maybe 10, and possibly rainy, snowy or windy” just didn’t excite my optimism.
Once back at Berkeley College, I noticed that our common room’s wooden floors had been redone. Couldn’t we have used the money for more practical purposes? Like building another woodshop or stuffing more forest animals for the dining hall?
But I did not have much time to reflect on the misallocation of funds because I was already being homesick. Winter break is a chance for exhausted college students to be pampered by their parents and party with friends without the burden of classes or summer jobs. With my brother also home, my thrilled empty-nest parents spoiled us silly. As a result, we both regressed 10 years. When I wouldn’t do what he wanted, my brother would tattle on me to my mother.
Though not as abundant, my mom’s homemade food trumped any creation of the dining halls (OK, except maybe for Yale’s scrumptious Moroccan bean stew). I got all the free food I wanted without the pressure of eating 21 meals a week in inconvenient time slots. My only responsibility was deciding what type of food or restaurant I fancied.
Although throwing clothes accurately into the hamper does take some effort, my mom did my laundry and saved me from lugging three loads down and up five flights of stairs. As much as my parents loved having their two kids home again, I don’t think they would continue their hospitality if I decided to quit school and become a “professional daughter.”
Though I will always be the spoiled, finicky baby of the family, Christmas just wasn’t what it used to be. For the first time in 19 years, I didn’t leave my letter to Santa with stale cookies and a can of guava nectar juice. My high school friends and I didn’t exchange presents on the grounds that our friendships transcended materialism (and because we were too lazy and poor). My parents gave me a boring but much appreciated check in an easy-to-unwrap envelope. I was so eager for presents to unwrap that I opened my parents’ gifts from work, which were an exhilarating smorgasbord of wine and golf balls.
New Year’s Eve was much better. Some friends and I got a hotel room in Waikiki, partied, and watched the fireworks on the beach. Waikiki is one of the most interesting places to be: a weird mixture of locals, mainland and Japanese tourists, and members of the military — all drunk and loving the beauty of Hawaii in their own ways. The tourists snap pictures, military men down beers, and locals sneer at both of them.
Inspired by cheesy tourism advertisements, I rediscovered paradise. You have to go away to some place like New Haven (which has its own “unique” beauty) to really appreciate your home. Like any mass generalization, life in Hawaii is not identical to its stereotype. I’m sure Midwesterners don’t go tipping cows all day while tornados ravage their cornfields.
Likewise, not everyone in Hawaii surfs and dances hula. The only time I went to the beach this break was to watch the upward of 20-foot waves on the North Shore. Although we were required to take a quarter of hula in intermediate school, I avoid dancing now lest I offend anyone.
But I don’t disagree that Hawaii simply has the greatest people, food and weather, not to mention colors. Colors like the green brush that covers the wind-eroded cliffs, the turbulent blue waves, the brilliant red hibiscus flowers, and my pink seared mainland skin. I tried hard to tan and even withstood three hours lying outside at noon during peak skin cancer time. Unfortunately, under winter coats, my efforts will lie wasted for the two weeks before it fades to my usual New Haven white.
Winter vacation is a break from reality: no homework and no responsibilities. Now that I’m suffering in the cold again, my only consolation is that spring break’s only two months away.
Nicole Lim is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Her columns regularly appear on alternate Fridays.