Now, My Final Reflections

Now that the shock of returning to normal life after two weeks in Hawaii has subsided, the time has come for a list of final observations made during my trip:

Diamond Head

  1. Good luck enjoying dinner as a vegetarian in Waikiki. My nightly menu consisted of either a $10 Gardenburger or a $14 cobb salad. I am like the world’s least-annoying vegetarian but I still want options, people!
  2. Birds are highly evolved in Waikiki. White pigeons saunter through the front door of a restaurant, eat crumbs off the floor, then exit the way they came in and enter the dining establishment next door for another meal. This is all done in a calm and orderly manner.
  3. Oahu, particularly Waikiki, is a true tossed salad of international diversity. As such, I developed stereotypes for travelers based on perceived nationality — Japanese, American, western European, Chinese, Russians. But to share any of those stereotypes would get me in trouble.
  4. There must be so much trash in the ocean. I could not believe how much litter I saw floating around — and that I tried to retrieve. Are people actually that irresponsible and uncaring? Or are they just oblivious? Either way, it makes me mad.
  5. If I lived in my hotel for a few months, I would be so popular and have so many friends. In two weeks, I became a homegirl with the hotel bartender, hotel bellhop and the Vietnam vet in the wheelchair on the street corner.
  6. I, with the help of a traveling buddy, am capable of spending $300 during two weeks at the ABC stores. For that accomplishment, I received two free hula girl mugs and a pictorial calendar of Hawaii, thank you very much.
  7. I don’t like the idea of someone being lonely. On several occasions during the first week of my trip, as my sister and I lounged on the beach, a middle aged man sat down near us. He carried a large, stuffed black backpack and black jacket, which he stacked so the items were visible from the ocean. He looked Native American, and wore a pair of faded maroon pants into the water as he floated over the waves. “I hope he has friends,” I told my sister, as we watched him one  afternoon. “It makes me sad to think of people being lonely.” She paused, eyeing the man and contemplating my concern. “He might have a really killer nightlife,” she said.
  8. I observed that my sister is a total weirdo.
  9. Despite the availability of high-priced rental cars and hotel shuttles to various tourist destinations, I found that the public bus system was, in fact, the most convenient and reliable mode of transportation.
  10. The culture of Hawaii is so rich. It’s crazy (in a great way). I just cannot imagine white mainlanders possessing such a deep respect of, commitment to and knowledge of traditions and historical people and places and culturally significant entities. This, of course, does not apply to Americans and professional sports.
  11. As Cole and I hung out at dry dock for Hokule’a with members of kapu na keiki, a group of young voyagers, Cole made an observation. He remarked on how impressive it is that these young people choose to spend their time performing this manual labor — sanding fiberglass, drilling holes and so on. They don’t get paid. They don’t get school credit. It won’t look flashy on their college-entrance essays (most have already graduated college). They do it, as they say, out of pure “aloha.” It was a beautiful thing to see.
(Just because this post is called “final reflections,” that doesn’t mean this blog is done yet! More to come!)

Me In Waikiki

Here I am, in Waikiki, staying in a modest hotel across from Kapiolani Park, a block from the beach. Waikiki is, of course, overrun with tourists from all over the world who’ve come to explore the most isolated archipelago on Earth.

Surfboards, just cause

They’re — we’re — always out walking around. Seriously, always. Heavy pedestrian traffic had started, or never ceased, by the time we went for a run at 8:30 a.m. It was happening at 5 a.m. when we awoke, still on West Coast time. Returning from dinner, I remarked that Waikiki’s sidewalks appeared more crowded than New York City’s. My sister (my week No. 1 traveling companion) said, no, New York is busier. I told her it’s exactly the same.

We’ve been here two days and already had enough sun exposure, and burns, to personally insult a dermatologist. Today, we swam with fishes, an experience I thoroughly enjoyed when I managed to stop freaking out about the possibility of stepping on corral and killing a precious living creature long enough to watch as tang and butterfly fish passed by, or stopped for a nibble.

It’s fitting I’m based in Waikiki for this little 15-day adventure — the tourist trap where culture comes to die. Or live? I’m not quite sure. There are, after all, plenty of free hula performances, ukulele playing and “mahalo” floating around. We must surely take something away from this cultural exposure, right? Oh, yes, traditionally speaking, Native Hawaiians pass down stories through hula song and dance. Ah, “mahalo” means thank you in their native language.

But there’s also the Gucci, Cheesecake Factory, Victoria Secret, Forever 21, street performers, club-goers, teenager runaways, honeymooners, tweakers, Japanese women in high heels. As a 20-year resident described Waikiki this afternoon: “It’s like driving through a mall.” Just with more interesting, and diverse, characters.

I get the impression Waikiki isn’t exactly a place locals appreciate. But many of them work here, behind the counters of ABC shops, as waitresses in perpetually busy restaurants, as instructors giving surf lessons on the beach.

In a few days, I finally get to meet with some of my interviewees for the article. I expect about seven of them. But that’s all I’ll say for now. I don’t want to show my whole hand! (or whatever that saying is. I’m bad idioms.)