Random Places

I’m posting photos of a few places I’ve been this weekend.

Champion Malasada is apparently the original malasada, or so I’ve been told. Look at the breakfast! Who says Hawaii is expensive? I can get eggs and rice with Portuguese sausage for a deal!

The sunset is the view from Lanikai on Saturday night. We drove there before our dinner where the woman paid for everyone’s meal.

A rainbow over Manoa, and the view from the industrial section near Honolulu Airport.

A Meal Like No Other

No one really noticed the woman sitting at the corner table. I glanced at her as I was seated at the table in front of her tonight. She wore a gray t-shirt and had a glass of wine on her table. I thought she was waiting for someone to join her.

Mark and I sat at our table and laughed about something that happened earlier this evening. The table of three women next to us were celebrating a birthday. A party of four was being seated on the other side of the birthday women.

We ordered our food. The woman left the restaurant, leaving unnoticed.

Noel, our waiter, came over to our table.

“The woman behind you just paid for your meals.”

We looked at him, stunned.

“She just paid for everyone’s dinner in my station and left me the best tip I’ve ever had.”

Neither Mark nor I have ever had something like that happen to us. Our waiter said it had never happened to him either. I asked him why she did it.

“She said she just lost someone important to her and wanted to put something positive out in the world.”

My first thought was, the person she lost must have been a generous soul in order for her to think of others while grieving his or her loss.

As Noel spread the news to the table of women, they too, were stunned. They tried to attain her name and number in order to thank her. Noel said he had her information but she expressed her wished to remain anonymous and he was honoring her wish. He did tell them this woman “lived on Base.” (Kaneohe Marine Corps Base is 5-10 minutes away from the restaurant.)

To the woman who paid for dinners at Zia’s Cafe in Kailua Town tonight, we feel your loss and we will pay your generosity forward.

Kids Day in Honolulu

The U.S. Army museum sits off Waikiki Beach, between a condo complex and Fort DeRussy, in a low-lying concrete building. The helicopter on the roof and the tank out front give clues to what’s inside.

Mark’s nephews spent the day with us yesterday. We walked along the beach to the Shorebird restaurant for lunch. We were told the waves along South Shore were supposed to be huge again yesterday like they were the day before. No such waves where we were. Instead of watching for surfers, we walked into the U.S. Army Museum.

The reinforced concrete building is so tough that when developers tried to knock it down, they were unable. They building remains and is a remarkable place to visit. We stepped inside and were greeted by veterans. One came to talk to the boys; a retired U.S. Special Forces Green Beret and recipient of six Purple Hearts. He served in Vietnam and ended his career after a tour in Afghanistan. He showed the boys where a bullet had been removed from his neck. (He still has five bullets remaining in his body.)

Mark made sure the boys shook his hand and thanked him for his service.

We entered the exhibit area next. I tend to get claustrophobic in small, dark places, but the low ceiling of this reinforced building made me feel safe. It was built to protect, and the cool air and thick walls inside instill that “safe” feeling. I couldn’t help wonder what would happen to this building if a major tsunami arrived. I think I’d run for this building, and hunker inside until danger passed. It seems much safer than trying to navigate Waikiki’s traffic jams.

The main hallway of the museum has displays lining the wall on the right and entrances on the left where displays of each era of Army artifacts are exhibited. I entered the first doorway. The history starts with the Hawaiian Army, not the U. S. Army. Each exhibit on the left winds around and ends up back at the main hallway, but further down from where I started.

The areas are segregated by time and conflict/war. The last doorway on the left shows Vietnam. Hawaii was a place for a quick escape for R&R for the soldiers in Vietnam. Families from the mainland could catch a flight to meet their loved one in Hawaii. I snapped a photo of a replica Tiki Bar from the era. The TV played videos from the original Hawaii Five-0 show. Photos of Elvis and other celebrities visiting Hawaii lined the walls of the Tiki Bar.

The boys knew most of the types of guns, rocket launchers, etc. and searched for the descriptions and names of those they didn’t know. They told us later they knew the names from playing the video game, “Black Ops, Call of Duty.”

From the Museum, we walked to Lappert’s Ice Cream in the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I’m not an ice cream fan, but I love Lappert’s.

Next we took the younger nephew to Punahou School. It was raining, but after we walked around campus for awhile, the rainbows broke out everywhere.
Mark’s nephew exclaimed, “I want to go to school here!”

Who wouldn’t want to go to a school with lush green vegetation, rolling lawns, large athletic pools, gyms, fields and rainbows covering the entire campus?

Kamehameha and My First Hawaiian Kiss

Last Friday was Kamehameha Day, a state holiday commemorating King Kamehameha The Great’s birthday and celebrating the cultural traditions he defended.

We were warned of traffic gridlock in Waikiki due to parades, festivals, dances, concerts, etc, associated with Kamehameha Day. Recognizing we would miss a cultural event, Mark and I decided to stay away from the throngs of people and pass on the festivities.

Friday evening, we needed to show up somewhere on the outskirts of Waikiki. We consciously waited for the traffic to leave the area of Ali’iolani Hale, (the building behind the statue of Kamehameha) and for crowds to assemble further down in Waikiki for the next promoted event of the day. We figured we’d drive slowly past the statue to see the draped leis done earlier in the day, then continue to our destination.

The streets were nearly empty as we drove to the statue. A few dozen people stood, some taking photos of their family, in front of the newly lei’d King. With plenty of parking, we decided to stop. We saw Guy Hagi, the local weatherman, reporting from the scene. About thirty men and women dressed in Victorian era clothing stood in front of Ali’iolani Hale, the former seat of government for the Kingdom of Hawaii. We stood on the outskirts of the paved circle that surrounds the statue as Hawaiian men and women paraded on the circular pathway, chanting; a few carrying torches, one waving a smoking ti leaf and nodding to a few in the crowd.

The woman standing next to me touched her hand to her forehead and bowed when the ti leaf waved our direction. I assumed she was Hawaiian, although here everyone is such a mix of different races and nationalities, it’s difficult to tell.

Mark and I stood quietly trying to remain out of the way of the ceremony, but no one seemed to mind if we watched.

I whispered to Mark that I wish I spoke Hawaiian so I could understand the meaning of this ritual.

Near the end of the ceremony, the group around the statue sang a haunting, but beautiful, melody.

I quietly asked the woman next to me if she knew the name of the song.

“Kamehameha,” she answered. I didn’t ask her any more. Her eyes were fixed on the group. She started to whisper in English as the group sang. “I’m translating,” she said. I wish I could remember word for word what she translated, but it was about having respect for the king who unified the islands and how they will always revere and remember him.

Each in the group touched their first fingers to their foreheads and then pointed the finger at the statue. The woman next to me did the same. When the ceremony concluded, the woman turned to me and said, “That, what you just witnessed, was the spirit of Aloha. We are a peaceful people and we wish to remember our King who unified us. “

I asked about the finger pointing. “We touch our finger to the area just above our eyes, in the center (I thought of the Third eye) and send our highest respects to our King.”

I asked who the people were who performed the ceremony.

“They are Ali’i.” (Hawaiian royalty)

Astonished that Ali’I still existed, she sensed I wanted to know more. The Sons of Kamehameha were the men holding the torches and wearing cardinal red and black capes over their suits.

I wished to know more, but I didn’t know what to ask and I didn’t want to take up this woman’s time.

Just then, she faced me, leaned towards me to touch her forehead to mine. She touched her nose to mine. Quietly, she said, “Breathe in the essence of the other person.” We both inhaled, then separated.

“That is a Hawaiian kiss.” She continued, “Have you noticed everyone is smiling here, even in Waikiki with the cars and the buildings and the tourists?”
We nodded.

“We are a gentle people, docile, and we keep getting taken advantage of, yet we continue to smile because we live in aloha.”

“Hawaiians,” she said, “are about aloha, appreciation and an attitude of gratitude.”

“Say ‘mahalo’ 10-12 times a day. We don’t just say it here, we mean it.”

She pointed to Mark, “Tell him ‘mahalo’ every day. Be grateful for him.”

“I am,” I said. “I’m here because he’s such a kind and caring person.” I hugged Mark and told him how grateful I was he brought me to Hawaii.

She told me of a queen, about May Day and the meaning of its celebration here, of the spirit of the Hawaiian people. I tried to remember it all and soon realized I’m not supposed to remember the facts, I’m supposed to live in Aloha, the way this woman was describing it to me.

Then, I turned to the woman, leaned in, touched my forehead and nose to hers, and breathed deep.

I stepped back, looked her in the eyes, nodded slightly to her and in sincerity said, “Aloha”.

With a light in her eyes, she smiled. “Yes, that’s it.”

I must have blinked taking in the moment, because after that, she disappeared.

Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono
“The life of the land is preserved in righteousness.”

Thunderstorm Witnesses

My mom and step-dad came to visit. We drove them all over the island and stayed at the Outrigger Reef in Waikiki. It’s a great hotel, with friendly staff and all the necessities for a beach vacation.

My parents stayed with us before we checked in to the Outrigger. They experienced the same kind of thunderstorm I wrote about a few weeks ago. This time the lights flickered, but we didn’t lose power. The weather service said four inches of rain were coming down per hour. The clouds parked over our building for a solid hour and shot huge lightning flashes in front of our living room window. At one point, I jumped out of my chair.

This storm was more severe than the thunderstorms I witnessed when I lived in Washington, D.C.

Oh, and I took my mom to the Bishop Museum where I snapped a photo of the Fishing God statue.

Peace, War and Nature

I’m not sure how to explain the past two days.

Monday evening we went to the Hawaiian Lantern Festival, a festival promoting peace and harmony and organized by the Shinnyo-en Buddhists, whereby lanterns are set to sea by people wishing to commemorate lost loved ones. The priest (a woman, but they called her a priest) spoke.

“Lights of the lanterns are lights of hope which extend our gratitude to our ancestors.”

She also spoke of the lanterns as a communication vessel “between souls seen and unseen”. She shared how the kindness of America in helping Japan after the tsunami and earthquake wouldn’t be forgotten.

I saw lanterns decorated with the Japanese flag bearing the words, “Remember Japan”. Others said, “To Auntie” and “My Beloved Son”. Many wrote to grandparents describing how the family thinks of them everyday, and one with, “PFC (first and last name), Persian Gulf War”. On the other side, his date of death and a photo of the soldier.

Forty thousand people stood on the edge of Ala Moana Beach Park. It was quiet enough to hear the conch shell being blown at the festival stand on the other end of the beach. We watched as over 3,000 lanterns bobbed in the gentle waves and floated to the edge of the bay. All those lanterns represented lost loved ones. It was reverent, solemn, peaceful.

At the end of the ceremony, everyone sang a song in Hawaiian. (I believe it was “Aloha Oe”, but I’m not sure). An elderly, petite Asian woman stood in the sand holding her cane in one hand and her daughter’s arm in the other. She sang as loud as she could in her frail condition and held a smile large enough to light up her face and expose the tears in her eyes.

Today, I found myself at Hickam Air Force Base staring at the walls of buildings riddled with bullet holes from the Japanese attack in 1941.

The Doomsday plane was parked on the field. I don’t know why it was here, but the thought of the plane being developed for use in case of nuclear attack left me somber.

After Hickam AFB, I stood on the grounds of Pearl Harbor Naval Base, peering through a chain link fence, across the bay, to the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri.

Reflecting back to the Lantern Festival last night and then to the images before me at Pearl Harbor and Hickam, I wondered about human nature.

As we drove out Pearl Harbor’s gates onto the freeway, a rainbow appeared covering one end of the land to another, reminding me there is more at work than human nature.