Cultural Immersion, Sunburned Feet and a Macadamia Nut Addiction:Just Another Day – or 10 – in Paradise

Sherri Mostaghni
Mar. 16, 2018

Rex Miller - Annual Drawing Winner“What surprised me most was that everything I’d ever heard about Maui was true,” said Rex Miller, B.S., R.T.(R)(MR), talking about his 2017 ASRT Foundation Annual Drawing grand prize trip. “It truly is an island paradise.”

Rex said there was never a doubt that he and his wife, Clarisa, would choose the five-night trip to Maui, or that they would extend their trip by five days to enjoy 10 days in paradise.

“The trip exceeded our expectations,” he said. “We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.”

Before going, the couple researched possible activities to fill that extended vacation, but when they arrived in Maui, they decided to “wing it.” Winging it included a drive around the coast, a whale-watching excursion and a luau that offered a tour of Polynesia through song, dance and food. They planned the trip for February to escape the cold Michigan weather, but also because it was peak whale-watching season.

“We saw quite a few whales,” Rex said. “The only sunburn I got was on my feet from being in the boat. And I sacrificed my favorite MSU hat to the whale gods,” said the radiology service manager for diagnostic imaging in the Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “The luau was one of the most amazing cultural experiences. There was a lot of fish.”

All the locals they interacted with were “so proud of being Hawaiian” and living the “we belong to Maui” vibe, but what surprised him, he said, was their eagerness to share their culture and their stories with anyone who was interested. “It was awesome. I got used to hearing everyone say aloha (greetings, either hello or goodbye) and mahalo (thanks or gratitude).”

When Rex and Clarisa left Maui, the hotel presented each of them a lei made of brown kukui nuts and told them that when they come back, to bring the lei and they’d exchange it for one with white nuts. “Walking around the hotel, we saw a lot of people with the white leis, but it wasn’t until we were leaving that we knew what that meant.”

Rex took more of Maui home with him than the lei, the sunburn and memories. He brought bags of Kona coffee — “It’s the smoothest coffee I’ve ever had!”— a few pieces of artwork from local artists and an addiction to macadamia nuts.

“It was our first trip to Hawaii, but not our last,” he said. “We’re excited to go back.”

Maui is again one of three grand-prize vacation destinations in the 2018 Annual Drawing, along with Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and New York City. Ticket sales started in February, about the time Rex and Clarisa were returning from paradise. It had him recalling the moment last year he found out he’d won.

“Someone from the Foundation called me at work. ‘You’re our grand prize winner,’ the guy said. I was in disbelief. I think I said, ‘no kidding.’ Once it sank in, it knocked me down.”

The real knock-me-down about Rex’s win is that it was the first time he’d ever bought an Annual Drawing ticket.

“I’ve given to the Foundation for years, but last year I thought I’d buy tickets instead. I bought the multiticket package for $125, not with the idea of winning, but that it was simply my contribution.”

After winning the grand prize trip? “I’ve been telling everyone to buy a ticket, because you never know.”

Mahalo, Rex, for supporting the Foundation and your fellow R.T.s!