We went to the cemetery to place some flowers at a grave site. In case I forgot I was living in a very different culture, I was reminded at the cemetery. Families were gathered across the grassy knolls, sitting in chairs around a loved one’s grave, telling stories, and having picnics. Almost every headstone had fresh flowers placed at it.
Family is a big part of the way of living here. Family can be extended relatives, it can also be friends and neighbors you consider family. You’ll hear the word “ohana” used frequently to express that feeling. As we placed our flowers and watered them, I noticed the stone of the grave site near us.
She lived to 107. Is a strong ohana the reason for longevity? She had no flowers on her grave and the stone next to hers seemed to be of her son who died in 1965. Was she the last of her lineage to pass? Did her ohana take care of her all those years? I cleaned off the stone as best I could and wished her a peaceful rest.
You know you live in the right place when you don’t want to leave.
That’s what I told myself as I slowed my pace while walking to my boarding gate at Honolulu airport.I stopped on the walkway overlooking the courtyard below and inhaled the smell of the plumeria. I took in the colors of the trees and the sound of the wind before I shut myself into the enclosed boarding area. I didn’t want to go to California.
I was heading to a writing conference at USC, my alma mater. I was going to a place I love, doing what I love, and I didn’t want to leave the place I have come to love more – Hawaii.
Before I moved here, people told me the ‘aina (land) would either take me in or spit me out. I worried, especially after my bumpy arrival here. Hawaii isn’t like anywhere else I’d been. I needed to adjust.
So I did.
I learned to slow down, to listen to the land, the weather, the animals, the people.
I think of the mountains and how they slope into valleys and stretch out to sea. It’s like relaxing in a comfy lounge chair. I settle into the slope and breathe in the green around me, then gaze into the blue stretched out before me. Living here is soothing.
There are three places I feel connected to on this planet: one calls me back to its magic every few years; the second grips me and tells me I can’t leave because I have roots there and need to explore them: the third, O’ahu, welcomes me to the space it has made for me, and invites me to rest and take in its beauty.
Upon my return, I exited the airport and sat in traffic overlooking the industrial part of town. Even there, I felt the land welcome me home.
I have finally returned to my blog. I’ve been writing a book and when I write, it means I don’t blog. When I blog, it means I’m not writing.
I’ll start with our journey to Punchbowl Crater for a funeral. We had wanted to attend Senator Inouye’s service, but President Obama’s appearance made that nearly impossible.
A few week’s later, we attended a service for our friend’s mother and decided to go early and pay our respects to Senator Inouye.
We drove the road up the hill and before we turned towards the crater we saw a spectacular rainbow over Nuuanu.
Approaching the entrance to Punchbowl Cemetary (officially the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific), we stopped to take another photo of a rainbow.
A soft rain started as we drove to Senator Inouye’s marker. It continued until the end of the service for our friend’s mother. The rainbow stayed until the end of the service as well. The minister presiding over the ceremony reminded us that in Hawaii a soft rain is a blessing.
Last month we were in Seattle for the USC-UW football game. I wrote about the food found in Seahawk stadium; the gluten-free stand, the coffee stands, the healthy popcorn stand.
When I attended a UH football game at Aloha Stadium a couple of weeks ago, I had a difficult time finding something to eat. I wanted something small to nibble on during the game. Popcorn sounded good. Or a pretzel. Yet, I wandered round the stadium and found “plate lunch”, which is a plate piled high with a full serving of meat, rice, and corn. (Usually it’s mac salad, but here it was corn.) My other choices included fish, which was cooked with shellfish, which I’m allergic to. Here’s a photo of a typical food stand at the stadium:
Mark had the saimin.
I ended up with an Ono Pop. It’s a Hawaiian version of a fruit bar.
The game was fun, only because we went with friends and the people around us were entertaining, but UH lost the game and there weren’t many students there.
In the parking lot after the game, we saw a rainbow over the highway next to the stadium. I was told, “There’s always a rainbow after Hawaii loses.” Maybe that’s to remind everyone that even though the team lost, we still get to live in Hawaii?
I’ve come across a few other things recently that I’ve found funny, strange or interesting.
I’ll never get used to seeing a whole fish at the grocery store.
Yes, it is cold on the mainland. Buy your scarf and hat at Whole Foods!
At the crafts fair, I found women lined up early to try on clothes from one specific Hawaiian dress designer. This wasn’t at the mall or a big box store. This was a local crafts fair held at Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.
A couple of weekends ago, we drove to I’olani Palace for their annual Mai Poina walking tour. Actors dressed in period costumes tell of events that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. In simple language and with passion in their voices, each actor told of what was happening in the legislature, with the military, on the palace grounds, and with the common man, during the days of the late 1800’s overthrow of the Queen.
While walking on the grass area in front of the palace, we wondered about a gated area. As we edged closer, we saw the “Kapu” sign. Yes, royalty is buried on palace grounds. Out of respect, we quietly walked away.
Check out the link to Hawai’i Pono’i’s website. (Same as above.) Even though we knew some of the history, we learned more. I wished I had my former 8th grade U.S. History students with me. Of course, they are all grown and in their 30’s now, but I still think of them as my students.
The day after our Pearl Harbor excursion, I visited a nursery in Waimanalo. Even on a cloudy day, Waimanalo is a view of lushness with the Ko’olau Mountains as a striking backdrop.
I filled up the car. Gas is going up again.
A few days later we had dinner in Waikiki, where Mark bought me a lei. Could someone please develop a widget for smell? I’d add it to my blog so you all could smell the plumeria.
Saturday was game day. My now hometown team was playing my alma mater. What to do? Cheer for which team? The politically correct answer was to attend the Spellbinders conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village instead.
Here’s a panel talking about taking a book and turning it into a movie.
First, we had a tour of Pearl Harbor from our friend Uncle Herb. He’s half Hawaiian, in his 90’s and a Pearl Harbor and Battle of the Bulge survivor. It was my first time to the memorial and Uncle Herb greeted us in his electric scooter at the main gate.
We had no idea our neighbor and friend was a celebrity. Tourists brought their children up to him to hear his story. Everyone wanted a photo with a real life hero. We took photos for tourists and waited until it was time to board the ship to the Arizona. Uncle Herb had procured tickets for us on the 9:00 tour.
The line for the 9:00 tour snaked around the building that housed the theater. As we followed Uncle Herb, he steered his scooter along the side of the line, telling us, “Stick to me like glue.” We did and Uncle led us to the front of the line, where the National Park rangers unhooked the rope and let us through.
We sat in the front row while waiting to watch a short video that helped explain the history of that infamous day. When finished, we opened the door and followed Uncle to the boarding area for the boat that would take us to the Arizona. The military members working the ship kept everyone standing in line behind the rope while Uncle Herb headed towards the ramp. We stopped when the men at the ramp flanked each side and saluted Uncle as he rode up the ramp to the ferry.
When he was on board, we followed him and waited for the line of people to embark. Once en route to the Arizona, one of the men who had saluted announced on the loudspeaker that there was a Pearl Harbor survivor onboard, that he would be let off ship first and that their tradition was to salute the living survivors.
Again we followed Uncle off the boat onto the Arizona. When the line of people standing to the left waiting to leave the Arizona saw Uncle in his Pearl Harbor hat come towards them, the entire line clapped as he rode by. We didn’t hear much of Uncle’s stories while on the memorial because everyone again wanted to meet him, shake his hand, tell him “thank you” and have a photo with him.
I leaned over to Uncle and whispered in his ear, “You’re a rock star here.”
He smiled and said, “And I don’t have to have a guitar or shake my hips.”
We then asked one of the tourists to take our photo with Uncle Herb.
Here on Oahu, when I’m invited to a party at a house I’ve never been to before, how do I know I’m at the correct house? When I see I pile of slippahs (AKA flip-flops) outside the front door.
While driving, if I let the bus come into my lane, the driver flashes a digitally lighted sign on the rear of the bus that shows a hand giving the shaka and the word “mahalo” after it.
I love the variety of flowers here. When entering an office building, I often see flowers on the lobby table or the receptionist’s desk. I’m not talking about a typical vase of gerbera daisies or roses. Tropical flowers of all shapes and colors are everywhere here. This pink flower is one I saw the other day on a receptionist’s desk. I have no idea what type of flower this is, but I love it.
In many sections of Oahu I see groups of Japanese tourists with cameras and guidebooks in hand, waiting outside restaurants, walking to sights, or standing en masse in front of shops. They come here with tour groups and given guidebooks that tell them exactly where to go and what to see. And they follow it. If a clothing store is in their guidebook, they will come into that store and point to the photo of a specific article of clothing. They want that exact item shown in their guidebook. They’ll wait an hour or more to eat at a specific restaurant because that restaurant was in their guidebook. They’ll chance getting hit in traffic because they are directed to rent kayaks from a specific kayak company; one that requires crossing a busy road. Ironically, the road is busy with tour buses, not commuter traffic.
Most mornings I work on my computer at a coffee shop. Well, my coffee shop is soon-to-be added to a Japanese guidebook. I watched Japanese women stage photos of the inside of the coffee shop and of plates of food. This place is about to be invaded by groups of Japanese tourists.
At least they are quiet and respectful of others, even in a large group.
While writing this at the coffee shop, there’s one guy who is obviously NOT from here and not a Japanese tourist. How is he so obvious? He’s talking on his cell phone so loudly that everyone can hear his conversation. I guess he’s so important, he can prevent others from having a quiet conversation with a friend or co-worker over a cup of coffee, or keep the rest of us who are on computers distracted from our work. Yes, mister businessman from Denver, I feel like asking you, “Who is the loudest person in here?”
But I won’t.
I’ll just remember for myself, “When in Rome, I mean, Oahu…..”