Hawaii - Obama's backyard (Part 2)
LEI IT ON ME, OAHU
Waikiki beach is where “theDuke” invented modern day surfing. It manages to mix the chilled surfer attitude with the crack and sway of Honolulu city. It’s where all the hotels have pitched up so the competition creates good deals on the internet, all the usual names are there. After splurging on the Big Island I didn’t have the readies to stay anywhere very flash but if I could have I would have gone for the Surfrider. We did the next best thing and hung out there! Sitting on a veranda in a cushioned hardwood deckchair that is big enough to swallow you whole, watching the waves crash as the sun sets, drinking Kona coffee (I knew I’d come around to the coffee sooner or later)...devine.
Oahu is also home to Pearl Harbour. This was a definite highlight of the trip. You watch a video which relives, through newsreels and footage, the Japanese attack on US forces in Pearl Harbour during World War II. We’re all (hopefully) aware of what happened in Pearl Harbour, or at the very least have seen the Hollywood movie, but I hadn't absorbed the immense impact this had on the American psyche, and the solemnity and respect the area evokes. This is a war memorial that will put you in your place.
The attack was by surprise, imagine Glenn Millers Moonlight Serenade being played somewhere on the US base that Sunday, floating out across the morning air. KABOOM–RAT-TAT-TAT! Over 2,000 Americans dead. The country went into a state of shock and entered the war the very next day. One of the sunken battleships, the USS Arizona lies in its resting place in the sea, you take a ferry out to it and gaze into its ocean grave and wonder about the thousand crewmen who were killed on that day. Some of whom are still down there, their bodies never recovered.
When you haul yourself out of your war reverie and notice all the Japanese tourists and remember everyone’s bezzie mates again, there are lots of cool things to check out. Oh, one thing, in terms of war fronts, the yanks talk about the European ‘theatre’ and the Pacific ‘theatre’. I had never heard the word theatre used in war terms before, it fascinated me.
On to the submarine...
I have always wanted to check out a submarine, and it didn’t let me down (wah-wah-wah). I think I like it because the space in a sub is SO restricted you just have to get rid of all your extra baggage and KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart). Part of me (probably the unemployed part) really loves the idea of minimizing my life and existing on nothing more than what I need to survive. Also, it seems submarines are very procedural places, on every wall there was a list of instructions on how to operate the various contraptions. I love a good step-by-step. I don’t have much truck with lateral thinkers, partly cos of jealously and partly cos I like to keep my thinking linear and my sleeping horizontal. You start flipping that around we’ll all be flying off on tangents and snoozing on coat hangers ;o)
No trip to Oahu is complete without a visit to the PolynesianCultural Centre. Oh, before we even entered the center (centre?? Nah, I’ll go with center, when in yankeeland) there is a line of people under the sign “Will Call” (and yes, I said ‘line of people’ not ‘queue of people’, the transformation is underway). I had to ask Stacey what “Will Call” meant, ‘will call who?’, ‘their mum?’, was there a line specifically for good Jewish boys? Apparently not, Stacey patiently explained to me that “Will Call” is where you go when you have pre-booked your tickets. I’m thinking a sign that said “Pre-booked tickets” might work, tends to be what you’d see back home. “Will Call”, is it a way of saying , ‘you see these people, they picked up the Goddamn phone, we applaude their resourcefulness’. Oi vey, you win you lose.
The center is great craic (after the ‘Will Call’ people have eaten the best food and nabbed the best seats, obviously). Seriously though, it’s good fun, it’s kind of like Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride but with real people, only Polynesian countries, and less scary. It’s a park with all these islands set up to represent different Polynesian countries. You visit each ‘country’ and they walk you through their traditions and put on demonstrations e.g. in Samoa they climb to the top of a 50 foot high coconut tree unaided, in Tahiti they make fire, in Hawaii they dance in grass skirts, in Fiji they demonstrate traditional cooking, in Tonga they play traditional instruments, in Aotearoa (aka New Zealand) they do the Haka, and so on. It culminates in a (vvvery Disney) canoe pageant where native Polynesians in traditional costumes perform traditional dances atop traditional canoes. It’s good fun and somewhat...what's the word...traditional.
|Sheilagh and Stacey at a luau|
I wanted to finish my time in Hawaii with a visit to a luau. All I knew about a luau was that American kids (certainly the ones on TV) seemed to throw luau themed parties at the drop of a hat. It seemed to revolve around alcohol, grass skirts, the geek getting the popular girl, the mean girl falling into the pool, and what have you. I can now report back and tell you, a luau, <drumroll>, is a party. They lay on entertainment in the form of a woman throwing her hips around the place with a grass skirt on. The drinks are inclusive and the food is plentiful. Not sure how you’d get on if you were a vegetarian, if I remember there was lots of pig, fish, and an unattractive root veg called poi.
My lasting impression is that Hawaiian people are a very relaxed welcoming folk. How can you be anything else when the most common hand gesture is not to flip the bird but to send a ‘HangLoose’ shaka.