Last week my husband Bill and I spent eight days in Hawaii, where I turned 72 and learned to do the hula. (I won’t demonstrate here.) I also learned to speak Hawaiian; you only need three little words. Aloha means “hello, goodbye, love or yes, I will buy that.” Then there is mahalo, or “thank you.” And finally, ohana, “family.” With those three words you can do almost everything on the islands and be part of Ohana.
But first, the plane ride over there is a killer. American Airlines have wonderful pilots, nice attendants and lousy ground crew. Second, they did not fill up the food on their last stop and we went five hours on a can of pop. Third, you must buy your meals, but there was nothing for the back half of the plane to buy or eat. Three crying babies had not even a cracker. (I am a 24-year diabetic, so I take care of myself and tote food everywhere. I gave the babies crackers.) When we landed there was no place to park, so we circled the taxiway for an hour and fifteen minutes. All I could think was what a way to start a vacation.
But with that said, we rented a car, and it was like what heaven must be like to drive there. “I swear to God, these are the kindest, most courteous people in the country.” (A quote from my husband, Bill.) All you had to do was signal and they let you in. Amazing. They even threw you a very friendly “Shaka Sign.” I mean a thumb and little finger up, three middle fingers down. On O’ahu they had mostly two-lane roads with a very short segment of Interstate. The beach of Waikiki is packed with tourists from everywhere. Hawaii has gone from 100,000 visitors a year to 3 million. And they are nice to everyone, all the time. (Do you all remember Hot Air Balloon week? I do, and we could use the Aloha word.)
The first thing you notice is that the ocean really is aquamarine colored. Postcards from the 50s were real, showing that color with golden orange sunsets bordered with palm trees. Bingo, it really does look like that. The hotel room on the third floor gave us a view of the water and the main street in Waikiki. While we were there, they had an Easter parade with marching bands and the Bunny Boy himself, Peter Rabbit. Then two days later they closed the street for an Easter Street Fair. It was dreamy as the cool sea breezes kissed us each day.
There is a powerful exhibit in O’ahu, the shipyard and air field at Pearl Harbor. For those too young to know, on Sunday morning Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the base at Pearl Harbor and destroyed most of the American fleet. They totaled our airplanes on the field and killed 2,403 military members and 57 civilians. It started the United States’ involvement in World War II. One ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, was crushed, and 1,000 sailors died in their bunks. They have a monument to those who lost their lives along with a submarine museum, air museum and the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered in 1945. It is more than a tour; it is a moment to remember those who gave their all, so we have freedom today.
The most exciting thing we did was visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is very Disney in its scope. They represent six regions in the Pacific: Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Tahiti and Samoa. There is a village for each island and dancing and drumming shows, history lessons, crafts to learn, and lots of guys in skirts making faces and holding large sticks. We were there all day. There was an Alii luau and all those with birthdays got to dance. It was guys versus ladies. We won! (I am not including a photo of that. I don’t want to rub it in.)
Then there was an hour and a half professional show that could be on Broadway. The dancers, boys and girls, were incredible. The costumes were excellent and it was a hit. All the guides and students come from the islands. They receive free tuition, books, lodging and cafeteria privileges. All they need to do is give 19 hours of work back to the park each week. (As a former teacher I thought this was great.) Bill thought the actors and dancers were professional. I told him they were students. (I WON THAT BET TOO!) Some were majoring in math, science, or in the hospitality industry. Over 100 students were in the play “Ha: Breath of Life.” The school that is doing all this is Brigham Young University. We went all day Thursday and returned Saturday. It was graduation day, but the park was open to all. Whole families wearing beautiful leis and long flowing gowns were joyful for their graduates. We also found out that the only payment Brigham Young requires is for the students go back to their island after graduation and work for two years. After that they can pursue a career on their own. A security supervisor named Russell became friends with Bill as they spoke of police business, while I shopped for our grandchildren.
To end our terrific vacation, we had breakfast at McDonalds. The rich island food was getting to me. To our surprise, an island breakfast was two (!) scoops of white rice, scrambled eggs and Spam. But then they did not have green chile. Roaring Mouse, Mahalo friends and Aloha Ohana, out.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]