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Branson, November 2009

Branson, November 2009

An unexpected highlight of travel was Branson, MO. We had a few time-share points that we didn’t want to expire, so we used them at a discount there. Branson was fun in many ways.
First, we needed to eat. The concierge pointed us browsers to the Bleu Olive restaurant. We had great meals there and the best baklava I’ve ever eaten: Each piece was individually baked before being served.

Downtown, people gather in front of the old 5-and-10 cent store, which has EVERYTHING in many long, narrow, crowded aisles, and, atop two rows of shelves near the front, a de facto museum of washing machines, including this old Maytag.

The 5 and dime store was our second choice, although the concierge at The Suites at Fall Creek was excited about it, “There’s even an old 5 and dime store, Dick’s 5 and dime, right next to the theater where a Mark Twain impersonator was supposed to be meeting people for breakfast. When we were in Williamsburg a couple of weeks before, we had been enchanted by the Martha Washington impersonator. We were hoping for more of the same with Mark Twain, so we got up early, drove to the downtown area, and eventually found the theater. Unlike most other theaters in Branson, this one was playing find-me-if-you-can. When we figured out where we were supposed to be, it was well past the time that breakfast with Twain was to have begun, but not to worry, bc the actor had closed the show for the season a few days before.
Branson is appealing in many ways, but THE highlight for me was the Christmas tree at Silver Dollar City.

We were there over Thanksgiving, that is, “Christmas-is-coming.” The tree was the best abstract visual presentation of grace as gift that I can remember. Grace is present in tiny imperceptible ways, like a single light on the tree; or in backgrounds like the tree that don’t call attention to themselves; or in unmistakable solid colors; or in unexpected, surprising, satisfying, and unimaginably varied patterns formed by thousands upon thousands of tiny lights: Colors alternating horizontally, vertically, or diagonally; sometimes whirling around the tree; sometimes pausing in place. Accompanied by classical music or Christmas carols.

Snorkeling from the Beach, Lydgate Park, Kauai

Snorkeling from the Beach, Lydgate Park, Kauai

In my last post about snorkeling, I said that rough waves had bounced me around when I was snorkeling from a boat along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. After that Dottie had said that we (that is, I) wouldn’t snorkel from a boat again. She noticed a beach close to our condo in Kapa’a that was supposed to be a good spot for beginning snorkelers like myself. It was Lydgate Beach, which was only a little over a mile from our condo.

Lydgate Beach is situated on the east coast of Kauai. When we went there, heavy waves pound the shore. Flags warned that entering the water was dangerous. A great feature of Lydgate Beach, however, is its pond, which was created several decades ago after a resident of Kauai went to Italy and saw such a lagoon protecting bathers there. The lagoon is about 50 yards by 40. It reaches a depth of 4 to 5 feet. With the breakers rolling in, I was glad for the large rock barrier between us and the ocean.

On Maui, I had learned that you back into the water, so I had that down pat. As soon as I had the fins, the vest, and the mask and tube on, I backed in, lost my balance in the slightly undulating waves, and splashed down. Hmm, even protected snorkeling pools can throw you. Up again. And down again. Like the Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times, get up eight.” Finally, taking very small little tiny teensy weensy steps, I made it into the deeper water. But even so, I struggled a number of times to keep my balance.

Inside the pond are many beautiful fish. I didn’t see any coral, but I imagine that it would have trouble growing there. One of the fish was about twelve to sixteen inches long, eight to ten inches high, and perhaps four inches from side to side. Its mouth was a big smile like a clown’s face. The fish was blue and yellow with some darker stripes (I don’t do colors much, because I’m color blind) running from tail to close to the mouth. It had tiny, almost transparent yellow fins that fluttered in the water. Another fish about the same size had dark vertical stripes running most of the length of its body. I didn’t see either of these fish on the chart of fish in the park or on the waterproof guide back at the resort.

Waves boomed on the outer rocks and gushed through the openings among the boulders. Snorkeling close to them was fun, but bouncy. Great clouds of tiny bubbles poured into the pond near the rocks, making it hard to see fish, but they were interesting to see just for themselves.

The next day we drove back, because I had not taken a photo of the plaque memorializing the creator of the lagoon. Or of the pond itself. The sky was overcast, the wind was up, the waves lined up to thunder against the shore. A couple strolled hand-in-hand in front of us. I could have had lagoon to myself.

© J. Russell Burck, 2010

Here’s the Deal on Hawaii

Here’s the Deal on Hawaii

OK, this is the deal on Hawaii: Pronunciation. I get pronunciation. My last name, Burck, gets pronounced as Burch, Buick, Buck, and when people try to be faithful to every letter, Bursick (never Burkick), When people hear that my name is pronounced like Burke from Ireland and see that it is spelled in a way they couldn’t possibly guess, they often spell it right. But many also fall back into Burk or Burke, even Bourque. And today, Monday, April 12, 2010, Burck.

Our two tour guides in Oahu put me on to the issue of pronunciation. Our Monday, Apr. 5th, tour guide, Loretta O’Hara, drove us up to the Polynesian Culture Center in Laie on the North Shore. Before she got to pronunciation, she brought us up to speed on Aloha, as in ah-LOW-HA. It’s a spiritual word, to be said from the heart and center of one’s being. All together now, ah-LOW-HA. As in, “Is everybody having fun?” “Yes.” “I can’t hear you.” “YES.” “Ha” means breath. Ha is the name of the big Polynesian show at the Polynesian Culture Center and it directs our attention to the unending breath of life. This show is quite stunning, with beautiful music, strong drumming, and powerful dancing.
Loretta said that lots of people pronounce Honolulu as if the first two syllables were the same as the town, Hana, that she hails from, which is at the end of a famous road on Maui. She just happened to have been born and raised in Hana, so she knows the difference between Hana and Honolulu. She has just built a home in Hana, from which she plans to commute to work in Oahu. She says that people who come to Hawaii say Hanalulu. Oh, no. The o’s are long, Hoe-know-lulu. As we progressed toward Laie, another nice practice round, Hoe-know-lulu.
Our Sunday tour guide was Kenoe, for short. I don’t think she pronounced her whole name, but she did write it out on the sticky label that we wore to identify us as part of her tour group. Both she and Loretta emphasized that one doesn’t say Hawaii, with a “w.” Speaking properly, one says Havaii, as if the “w” were like a German “w,” as Volkswagen.
We’re now in Kauai. All during our trip round-the-island of Oahu, I kept hearing our tour guide pronounce Kauai in some way I couldn’t quite replicate, except that the vowel, “i,” was pronounced as in Hawaii—a long “e.” I’ve been saying Kauai the way that I think is prettiest: kuh-WEYE. Yes, it’s not so pretty to see. This is the pronunciation that I used most with people in the know about speaking Hawaiian. Correct speakers quietly, unobtrusively, but always, repeated it back to me as I should have been saying it. Earlier I had tried COW-a-i and co-WOW-i. WRONG. Finally, I heard it correctly and could say it correctly. You say Kauai just like Hawaii, without the “v”: Ka-WA-e.
Next week we’re on to Molokai. As long as I can remember, this island has been named mow-low-KEYE. Uh-uh. Not at all. After a number of false starts and true corrections by Hawaiians, I finally heard it: mow-low-KAH-e.
© J. Russell Burck, 2010
3 Things to Do When You Want to see Mickey and Minnie, but Daddy Takes You to Epcot

3 Things to Do When You Want to see Mickey and Minnie, but Daddy Takes You to Epcot

By Russell Burck

I’m a retiree who helps people who are getting ready to retire get rid of money worries and do what they want to do when they stop working. One of the things I like to do now that I’ve stopped working is to travel. In my travels, I love to pay attention to children. My wife, Dorothy, our son, Peter, and our daughter-in-law, Susan Hoines, were at Epcot in early December. 2013. During that time, several stories came to me. Here’s the first one.

Once upon a time there were two children, Martin, who was almost 6, and Mabel, who was just over 4. Martin and Mabel wished for one thing more than anything else. They wanted to see Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. All their friends had seen them. But Martin and Mabel’s daddy, Peter, said they didn’t have the money.
One day Peter came home and said, “Martin and Mabel, come here and sit down.”
Mabel danced around and her daddy said, “Mabel, when you’re sitting down and listening, I have something to tell you.”
Mabel sat down, the children listened, and Peter said, “You know how you’ve wanted to go to one place more than any other?” At the same time, the children shouted, “To see Mickey and Minnie?” Their dad said, “Yes. Now,” he said,” I have the money for the trip and we’re going to Epcot Center at Disneyworld.”
The children’s mouths dropped open, they put their hands on their cheeks, their eyes opened wide, and they shouted, “Wow!” Martin jumped up and down, and up and down, and clapped his hands. A little dance spun out of Mabel and kept her spinning till she couldn’t spin any more. In Orlando, Peter drove under the sign welcoming them to the Disney parks. Mabel cried out, “Look, Martin, there’s Mickey!” Martin said, “Yea. We’re here.” But as their daddy turned the car into the parking lot and said, “Here we are,” Martin saw a huge golf ball looming over everything. This is what the golf ball looked like as the family was entering the park.

Epcot World Showcase

Alt text: Picture of Epcot World Showcase from entrance to the park. The Showcase rests on two supports that slant into the ball. In the middle at the front is an array of mirrors.
Epcot World Showcase

Martin sounded worried, “This doesn’t look like the Magic Kingdom.” Peter said, “Wait.” When they went through the gates, they were excited because a light whirled around Mickey’s face until the park had accepted each of their tickets. There was also a little slot where they put a finger and in instrument took their fingerprints. That was exciting, they had never done that before.
Then Martin looked up and saw the ball again. It loomed over him and felt heavy. That made him want to see Mickey Mouse even more. He was sure that when they got inside, Mickey and Minnie would be there to greet them, but all they saw was plants held up on sticks and shaped like Goofy and another Disney character. They walked a bit further and saw plants like Mickey and Minnie. Here’s a picture of my wife, our son, and our daughter-in-law in front of the Mickey and Minnie plants:

Picture of Peter Burck, his mother, Dorothy, and his wife, Susan Hoines in front of topiaries of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse at Epcot. Behind them is the Christmas tree, cut off at the top. The Monorail appears behind them at the level of their heads.
This picture shows Mickey Mouse; our son, Peter; Minnie Mouse; Dottie; and Susan Hoines


Their mother, Maria, told them to sit on the curb in front of the plants and she took their picture. Mabel smiled, but Martin looked grumpy.
Mabel ran off and then called, “Martin, Martin, come look.” Maria said, “Martin, wait a minute.” Maria knelt down, sat down on the curb, put her arm around Martin, pulled him as close to herself as she could, and said, “You know how I tell you that it’s good to be grumpy when we’re grumpy and that we don’t have to pretend that we’re not grumpy?”
Martin said, “Yes, and I’m grumpy.” Maria smiled and said, “Yes, I can see. That’s just fine. And remember how I said, ‘Happiness comes from inside us, it doesn’t . . .”
Before she could finish her sentence, Martin said, “. . . come from outside. But right now, Mommy, I don’t feel happy inside.”
Maria said, “Yes, I know, and that’s all right, too. We feel the way we feel and we’re not nice to ourselves when we try to make ourselves feel different. I know that you thought Mickey and Minnie would come say hello to you. I promise you that you will get to see them while we’re here in Orlando.”

Martin grumbled, “But I want to see them now.” His mother said, “I know that, too, and I understand. But it won’t be today but it will be while we’re here on this trip to Orlando. In the meantime, there are a lot of fun things to do here. You’ll see. So today you have a choice: You can act grumpy or you can tell yourself, ‘I’m grumpy, but my happiness is inside, so I’m going to get less grumpy, and when I find the happiness inside, I’m going to have fun.’ Can you do that?”
Martin said, “Yes.” “Which choice are you going to make, Martin?” his mother asked.
“Feel grumpy and let the happiness come out when it’s ready and then have fun.”
His mother said, “See those water fountains that Mabel is playing in?”

“Mabel is asking you to join her in those fountains. Would it help you with your grumps if you went over there and stomped on some of those fountains till you got the grumps out?”
Martin said, “I don’t know but I’ll go stomp around.” Mabel was dancing over tiny spouts of water, splashing, putting her hands in the small fountains, holding her hand at the top of water spouts. She seemed happy.

Children playing in the water fountain for children
Alt text: Picture of children playing in a water fountain designed for children. The fountain has many spouts of water inside a ring of fountains spaced 8 inches to a foot apart. The water flows onto a multi-colored mosaic.
Caption: Children playing in the water fountain for children
Other children swung their legs over the tallest water spouts, which went up to their thighs, or held their hands out at the top of the spout.

Children checking the height of water spouts in the fountain for children
Alt text: Picture of three children, two girls and apparently a boy, putting their hands in taller spouts of water in the water fountain designed for children. Picture shows that multi-colored mosaic the water flows onto.
Caption: Children playing in the water fountain for children

Martin didn’t dance. He stomped on some of the spouts. He jumped on them with both feet. He pounded his left foot on one tiny fountain and his right foot on another. He stomped and stomped. He tried to see how many little fountains he could shut down at one time. He covered as many as he could with his feet and his hands at the same time. He put his head down to try to stop another one, but his neck wasn’t long enough to reach it. He jumped from one group of fountains to another, and then he started to laugh. He said to Maria, “There’s just too many for me to stop them all. Even if I lied down, I couldn’t stop them all.” Maria smiled. So the first thing that Martin did at Epcot when he started out feeling unhappy was to let himself grump. He was even happy that he could be grumpy. When he saw something funny, he laughed and noticed the happiness inside coming back. He noticed that he liked to feel the happiness again, but he also noticed that he wasn’t unhappy about being grumpy.

Stomping in the water and trying to stop it all himself was the second thing he did when they were at Epcot but wanted to be at the Magic Kingdom.
The third thing he did happened while they were going to the Marrakech Restaurant. Going over a bridge, Martin saw a bird swimming below. He said, “Mabel, come look, a duck.” They climbed up on the railing so they could look over and see the “duck,” which their mom, who knew a lot about birds, said, “Oh, that’s a coot.”
The coot swam left and picked at the water, then right and picked at the water, then left and right again, picking at things. Suddenly there was a big plop and the children gasped. They shouted and laughed, “Oh, it dived!” They looked for it to come up, but they couldn’t see it because it came up under the bridge. They jumped down from the railing and ran on to other adventures. I’ll tell you about them later.

Here’s a short video of the coot:
Alt text: The video shows a coot swimming in the water close a bridge at Epcot. The coot is picking at the water, left and right. Then it dives and doesn’t reappear in the video. It apparently surfaced under the bridge.
Caption: Coot swimming in canal at Epcot

© Russell Burck, 2013
Categories: Travel, Epcot, children
Tags: being unhappy, being grumpy, fountains for children, retirement, retirees’ money worries, Dottie Burck, Peter Burck, Susan Hoines, Russell Burck, coot, happiness