Feeling The Heat

Five years ago, I spent summer in Hawaii. Here’s a look back …

I had been warned not to pack jeans. Oahu is hot and humid all the time, seriously, 24 hours a day, my friend Lisa told me over the phone. She had flown to Honolulu a month before and settled into her job at a nonprofit native Hawaiian law firm and into the studio cottage we’d share the rest of summer.

But I pack jeans anyway. My first full day in Hawaii, I pull them up my legs, zip the zipper, slip on a T-shirt and tie my hair in a ponytail. At the last second, I apply some makeup. People are attractive here.

This is a mistake. It’s so hot. I’m drenching sweat, trying to make my way to a convenience store for water. I hate Hawaii. Why do people even come here? Why do I insist on wearing such tight jeans? And why are there no convenience stores?! I’m so annoyed. The Converse All Stars would have to go, too. This is Daisy Dukes and flip-flops territory. The next day, I walk to the public library to grab maps for bus routes, with no choice but to quickly and desperately figure out the (air-conditioned) bus system. Later, I disembark outside Goodwill to purchase more shorts and tank tops.

Now, I’m ready to start.

This is Nainoa Thompson! (courtesy: PVS)

I traveled to Hawaii almost on a whim, when Lisa called to tell me about this Polynesian voyaging group she heard about from colleagues at her internship. Why don’t I write about this group for my final graduate school project, she suggested. Sure, sounds pretty good to me!

But this trip wouldn’t include pricey luaus or tanning on Waikiki beach all day — OK, maybe I engaged in little (a lot) of that.

Within a couple weeks, I’d visit the Hawaii State Art Museum, Bishop Museum and (now closed) Hawaii Maritime Center, and spend most afternoons walking around downtown Honolulu. I toured ‘Iolani Palance and St. Andrew’s Cathedral where a stained-glass window shows Jesus ascending Heaven on a surfboard. I quickly got over my hesitation of killing bugs — specifically, cockroaches and centipedes — and learned to ignore geckos squirming around the walls above my bed. I developed a fondess for Yellowman and memorized every lyric to a song about wanting to be free. It was great.

But, as time slipped away, my ultimate mission remained unfulfilled: A face-to-face meeting with Nainoa Thompson. And this had to happen.

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