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Day 19+20+21: O’ahu, Big Island, and Out

Sorry this took so long to get out! One thing led to another and I just couldn’t get the last couple days done, but finally this is my last post.


Saturday morning, we headed over to the Byodo-In Temple on the grounds of The Valley of the Temples I headed from O’ahu to Big Island. Then we had to catch our 4:15 flight to Big Island, because my mom has a friend on the island named Andrea. So we stayed at this cool bed & breakfast called the Dragonfly Ranch which was owned by this guy named Phoenix, that had chihuahuas that were just everywhere. The next day (today), we headed to Hilo — the 4th rainiest city in the US at 126.7 inches/year on average from 1982-2010 — where we met with Andrea and her friends Lorraine, Teresa, Lynn, and Anne, and headed to the Hilo Women’s March. After that, we went to a restaurant for lunch, then the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and then went back to Andrea’s for a while before my mom and I got dinner. On monday, our last day, we went to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and then went snorkeling with manta rays before heading to the airport in Kona to go home, quite an epic day.

This is one of the last days that I’m here, and I’ve been reflecting on what my favorite things about being in Hawaii have been, and perhaps also the things that I don’t like so much. I really liked the times when I have seen the real Hawaiian culture (vs. the “Hawaiian culture” that most tourist attractions feed you). Like when I got to make poi and I got to talk to some of the people at the State Capitol about their efforts to communicate to the politicians. Talking with this lady at the Waimea Falls Botanical Garden about different instruments and tools used by the Hawaiians, and also when I talked to Punaohu on top of the mountain. Those have been my favorite moments of the trip. I prefer being outside of my comfort zone rather than in it, because the feeling of security makes me feel bad, like I am not actually gaining anything. Perhaps the exception is reading, but even that feels like a limited activity. I read about Hawaiian history, for instance, and I read about people making poi and the significance of the product, but I never would have known what it was like to make poi if I didn’t do it myself.

I also really like that there are coins from Denver here! I collect coins, and most of my collection is from Philadelphia. That is because I live in Philadelphia and that is one of the two national mints is, the other being Denver. So because Hawaii is closer to Denver, most of the coins are from Denver, which is really cool. Also, I really like how there are many different islands on Hawaii and they each have their own identity. Kaua’i is very nature-y and O’ahu is a metropolis and Big Island is sort of this big volcano island with active volcanoes like Mauna Loa, and all of the rock around is black basaltic rock. Pretty neat.

I don’t like as much that there is little ethnic diversity here. According to the Pew Center for Research, 37% of the population is Asian, 23% is white, 10% hispanic, 6% Hawaiian, 2% black, and 19% 2 or more races. It bothers me that only 6% is Hawaiian and 2% is black. It must be the case that the 19% of multiple race people includes a lot of people that are part Hawaiian and that identify themselves as Hawaiian, but were not identified as such by the Pew Research Center. The Hawaiians have a large presence here and other numbers that people around here cite for their % of the population are closer to 17%. Still, it’s a bit weird that native Hawaiians are a minority on Hawaii, isn’t it? Like you might hope that they would be at least closer than that to the majority. And I see next-to-no black people here. Most of the people that I see are white and asian. At least the Hawaiians seem to be having a revival of their culture. Hawaiian language is taught in schools now whereas it used to be prohibited to be spoken in public by the missionaries. Things like that are happening and that’s good.

Anyway, I better get to recounting my days.

We didn’t have much time to do anything yesterday because we had to be at the airport at about 2:45 for the plane. Also, I decided at 2:00 AM yesterday (1/20) that it was a good time to watch a movie. So I watched La La Land and it was absolutely sublime! It’s like Birdman and Singin’ in the Rain fused into a great movie. If this was a movie review blog, I would have a field day describing it, but I should stick to Hawaii. So I went to sleep that night at 4:15 or so and got up at 10:00 feeling miserable. Lack of sleep and me don’t go together well. After about a half an hour of rolling around moaning on the bed, I got up and we headed off to breakfast. We stopped at this small joint that served a very plain breakfast of eggs & bacon (my favorite kind of breakfast). The diner had sayings from the bible painted all around. My mom and I talked about plans for the day while listening to a news station talking about Trump’s inauguration. We decided to not watch any of the inauguration on tv, but I still saw the headlines reported by the New York Times on my phone through email.

Next was the temple. It was a Buddhist temple that was in the Valley of the Temples, a large, beautiful graveyard. The admission was $3. It was a very beautiful sight. The temple was large on a hill with a small river system going around it with bridges that people could cross on. There were hundreds of koi in the water of lots of different colors and you could buy food to feed them. There was this boy who had food and kept throwing it to them on either side of the bridge he was standing on and they just flocked to him. The fish were jumping on top of each other to try to get the food. We walked across the bridge to the temple and there was incense that you could light in front of the buddha. I took off my shoes and went towards the incense and smelled it, but didn’t light it (I figured I’m not buddhist, and I had no reason to light an incense). The smell was kind of nice. My mom said that incense was really popular in the 60’s, that everyone used it.

We walked around a bit and looked around. We saw this one tree that was exhibiting cauliflory, a phenomenon where flowers and fruits of a plant grow on the bark of the tree as opposed to the branches. Plants that do that can be pollinated by animals that climb rather than just birds, so rats or squirrels or whatever else. We saw that at the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden with the Cannonball Tree. There were also some orchids up near the waterfall of the temple. I started getting mosquito bites, so we decided not to stay a whole lot longer (we were there for maybe 45 minutes total). But before we left, we rang the big bell with this hammer.

The flight to Big Island was relatively uneventful. I slept in the airport, the plane, and the car ride to the hotel, and was feeling much better afterwards. At the hotel, we played a lot of the Boss Monster game and then went to bed.

The next day was the Woman’s March. We woke up at 6:45 and grabbed breakfast which was fruit and toast (not a very filling breakfast) and I got to try some star fruit! I had been looking to try some and unfortunately it does not live up to its name. I’d only give it a 5/10 on the Fruit-o-meter, but I would say it has potential to be an acquired taste. So we headed to Hilo after saying goodbye to the super cute Chihuahuas. It was a 2 hour drive, but I slept through the whole thing. We arrived in Hilo and there I got to meet Andrea, my mom’s friend from her gestalt training workshops, as well as Andrea’s boss Lorraine, and her friends Teresa, Lynn, and Anne. All were really nice people. Andrea works at Pacific Quest, a counseling center for supporting people. She works with 18-24 year olds who might be facing anxiety/depression, ASD (autism spectrum disorder), or recovering drug addicts and she says that they do things like grow their own food, different kinds of therapy (that’s stuff I learned later in the day in a conversation with her). So we headed to the Hilo march. There were a lot of people there. Perhaps over a thousand (and I heard that the march in DC got hundreds of thousands. Can’t imagine what that looks like.

This was my first protest. So we signed in, got stickers (mine fell of my shirt), and went to the bandstand where some speakers were giving motivational speeches. I tried to focus hard on what they were saying. I heard six speakers, two professors, a doctor, a director of a gender studies program, an environmental scientist, and a Hawaii native. I was a little struck by the fact that the speeches were not super punchy. They were kind of drawn out. One sociology professor talked about her life as a 72 year old and how we have come a long way but have a long way left to go. In her lifetime, she said that there were no black students at the school she taught at when she first got there. The doctor carried out his infant and said that he Is marching for his infant daughter. An environmental scientist discussed the future direction of the environment: how CO2 is rising globally and a lot of bad things are happening. Each of them had interesting messages, but half the people read their speechs off a page, and I think it would have been better if they said it a bit more spontaneously or if they memorized which points they wanted to make.

It was raining most of the time that they were speaking. I was behind these bleachers and only had partial view of the speakers, but I tried to make myself shorter by leaning forward on them so that others could see. There were a lot of people behind me who couldn’t see at all. At one point during the last speech, this guy came along shouting, “All lives matter,” and cursing too. The speaker was a bit phased and paused. The crowd was uncomfortable too. But the speaker finished a phrase, and the crowd cheered loudly to overpower this guy. There were a number of people like that. One guy was holding a sign saying, “All the protesters are going to hell.” This one lady started getting in an argument with him and called him a b**** before storming off. I think it’s important to not curse at people like that. Don’t go down to their level. The worst thing you can do is engage them negatively, because then no one gets anywhere. No real attempts at communication are being made, only stifling.

Eventually, all the speakers finished (it was only supposed to be 2 minutes each, but it ended up being more like 5 minutes each). One of the march organizers tried to teach us 3 different chants, but the crowd didn’t really pick up on them. “Hey hey ho ho Donald Trump has got to go,” “1-2-3-4 we can’t take it anymore, 5-6-7-8 no more violence no more hate.” And a third one I can’t remember. We marched along the sidewalk because apparently the organizers couldn’t get a permit to occupy the streets. A lot of people brought signs, some of them were funny, others were very serious. I think it’s a good effort to bring a sign, but you also have to be vocal. And as a group, we weren’t particularly vocal. Because the group was confined to the sidewalk, the group was very spread out over a long distance. And it was fragmented as traffic controllers allowed cars to go through. So by the time that I left the march, it was more like many different groups that had been split up and were not united by any means. Kind of unfortunate. There were a lot of good signs that people made though.

Nonetheless, it was a serious march. I felt nervous because it was very political and I imagined the police coming or someone bringing out a gun or it getting violent, which I heard happened at protests the previous day. I realized that I have a lot of fear, both of getting hurt, but worse than that, of the people around me. We walked around the block and there was a black guy yelling, “there’s only one black guy in Hilo and he’s for Trump. What does that say about you?” It’s kind of depressing that that appeared true. A big problem, really. Anyway, in these kinds of situations, there is a feeling of “who’s going to step up and lead us? who’s going to say what we all feel?” It’s like a kind of pressure, and I find it frightening. What exactly am I marching for and how much do I believe in what I’m marching for? I hope that I can get more bravery and be more socially active, because good leadership is extremely valuable and something that appears to be in rare quantity.

Eventually, my mom and her friends decided to branch off and get lunch. We went to this nice restaurant that had sort of “hippy” stuff according to Andrea. We all had kombucha (still have no idea what it is, but tasted funky), I had a chili bowl, and I also ate the leftovers of the other people at the table, mostly rice and beans. I can eat a lot.

Afterwards, we headed to the Tsunami Museum. As Hilo is right on the edge of Hawaii and Hawaii is on the border between two tectonic plates, there are a lot of earthquakes and consequently tsunamis that hit Hawaii, and particularly Hilo due to its location on the shore. The last major, major one was in 1956, the year after WWII ended. This tsunami was discussed by a documentary that I watched in the theater. This was probably the most interesting part of the museum for me because it related to what I learned at Pearl Harbor. After the Attack on O’ahu in 1941 (of which the attack on Pearl Harbor was a part), the US instituted very rigid policies in Hawaii such as curfews, blackouts — in which people had to keep their lights off at night time, and everyone had to carry around gas masks in case of a Japanese attack. After the war was over, these policies were lifted and there was a social and economic high on the islands. The 1946 tsunami hit multiple islands on Hawaii, killing around 170 people, around 100 of which were from Hilo on Big Island. The museum was founded by a tsunami survivor who wanted to document the damage so that people don’t forget it. The museum is in what was once a bank, so the theater that I watched the documentary in was inside the bank’s vault. Mostly I just wandered around, looking at the photographs on the walls. A picture of a bridge that lost all of its supports and was holding up, a caboose that crashed into a restaurant, a ship that washed ashore into a building, all were images of destruction. There was also a parking meter that was on display that was crooked at a very sharp angle.

Next we went to Andrea’s condo. She has a really nice place with a nice view. We headed down to the beach outside her building and went to some tide pools, one of which had 9 sea turtles in it, most of which had their heads in the ground. I got lots of little tatters in my super cheap raincoat and rain pants just by sitting on the rocks. Oh well.

We headed to the hotel which was very nearby and played a couple games of Boss Monster before heading to bed.

The next day was eventful. We started by going to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in Hilo. The garden is set on a mountain and so the trail descends the mountain toward the ocean and then comes back up to the start. It was particularly notable for the collection of orchids that were growing on so many of the trees. We didn’t get a lot of time to stop and look at things, but I got to take some good pictures.

We went to this Indian restaurant for lunch with Andrea. One of the servers had a really nice smile. He was a very nice guy. Afterwards, we went to this next door shop to get some snacks for the long plane ride home. Inside, Andrea introduced me to this guy named Bruce Miller who was one of the founders of the holiday Earth Day! He started it with some other people in 1969. Crazy how far it has gone. And he invited me to be a part of the big one in 2019, the 50th anniversary one. We’ll see, I might join in.

Then we said goodbye to Andrea and headed off to Kona, one of the other big cities on Big Island. We arrived at 4:00 or so and had time to kill before our 11:55pm flight to seattle en route to home. So we went snorkeling with manta rays. The experience was so incredible! With a group of other college students, my mom and I got our snorkeling gear on with little tubular lights that you crack in order to get the liquid inside to light up temporarily. That was so that the people in the company could see us. It was before sunset when we got to the site near the Sheraton hotel in a boat. I also put on a wetsuit which was good for keeping me warm and flippers for my feet to make it easier to swim around. The way that we swam with them was that there was a buoyant lamp that shone a light down onto the shallow ocean floor. The other snorkelers and I were able to hold onto the buoyant part of the lamp in a circle, looking down at the floor of the reef. The light encourages phytoplankton to come near so that they can photosynthesize and get energy, which attracts larger zooplankton which eat the phytoplankton, and then the manta rays eat the zooplankton. So the lamps indirectly attract the manta rays. Before sunset, they were only passing through briefly, but shortly after sunset they were all around us. There were maybe 5-10 that were hanging out, eating the plankton. We had to keep our legs still and away from the lamps so that the mantas would not be afraid. They were huge. According to Chad, one of the crew members, they could be 15 foot across at 10 pounds per square foot. So the adults could be above 1500 pounds. They would start low and do a barrel roll up towards the lamp, opening up their mouths very wide so that they could collect the most plankton. I was positioned on the end of the lamp whereas most of the people were on the side, so the mantas were doing this barrel roll behavior straight in my plane of sight; they were coming right towards me each time. It was incredible! I could have reached out and touched them! They each have spots on their undersides that are unique, allowing them to be told apart and named. Manta rays are unique as they have cephalic fins, fins that are near their mouth that they can use to feed. I only remember that Amanda was the one with an injured cephalic fin. It was really memorable.




(These images don’t belong to me, but look a lot like what we saw, except we were looking at them from the top of the water by snorkeling).

Then we went to the airport to catch our flight home. I basically slept through the whole thing all the way back to Philly.

That’s the end! No more Hawaii! I’m back in Philly (sadly) and have my first day of my second to last semester tomorrow. Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope you enjoyed my adventures and/or learned something new about Hawaii. Aloha, until we meet again!

Day 17 + 18: Lesson 6: Fig Newtons Are Made with Wasp Eggs, Yum!

“All figs have similar fruits as these ones,” David, the tour guide at the Botanical Garden, told us. “Each species of fig has coevolved to be pollinated by one and only one wasp species. In this one, the wasp tunnels up through the back-end of this weird fruiting structure called a synconium. This is basically a sphere that has flowers inside of it and is attached to a branch. So the wasp tunnels up into it, pollinates all the microscopic little flowers inside, lays its eggs, and dies. So you’re eating some wasp eggs whenever you eat anything with figs.” I always remember being fed fig newtons in lower school. That was just a staple snack food, yet my preschool teachers never told us that little tidbit of information. Then again, I can just imagine the horrified faces of little kids who realized that they’re eating wasps. They would never eat fig newtons again!

Yesterday wasn’t particularly eventful, so I decided to merge yesterday’s post with today. So starting with yesterday: I couldn’t decide what to do, so I decided to go to Downtown Honolulu where there is a lot of different things to do. That way, I could walk around a bit and see different things. I didn’t end up doing that much though. I spent my day at the Hawaii State Capitol building. There, there was a special event called “Kui’i at the Capitol.” January 18 (yesterday) is the first day of the year that Hawaiian legislators come together to pass bills. The Hawaii community organizes this event in order to remind the legislators that they exist and that bills should be passed with them in mind. So then my mom came because she wanted a vacation and we got dinner, checked into the hotel, and went to bed.

Today, I got up and for brunch, we went to this indoor food stand where we got this “traditional” Hawaiian dish called Loco Moco. It was really terrible. It’s hamburgers with eggs smothered with gravy and served with macaroni salad and rice. Eating McDonald’s is healthy compared to this slop. Really, if you value your taste buds, don’t do it. So then we went to the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden where I went earlier in this trip. After that, we returned to the hotel, played a card game, read some books, got dinner, and went to bed.

Yesterday morning was kind of sad. I had to say goodbye to the friends I made at the hostel. The hostel was really great. It was called the Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel if I didn’t say it before. The ammenities were all really nice, the staff were friendly and accommodating, and the people in my room were very respectful overall (and it was cheap and very conveniently located next to the beach). I will miss my roommates Alan and Leo, and Ray who left earlier, the hostel staff Madia and Khianna, and Vlad, Alma, Jonathan, and Brandon, all of whom seemed like interesting people that I would have liked to have gotten to spend more time with.

Good friends saying aloha! Aloha, Khianna!

So the first and main thing I did was the event at the state-house. I wasn’t intending to go there. I was walking on the road towards where a lot of the things that I had on the google map were, but then I saw a lot of people inside. I walked inside the giant, open building and saw a lot of people grinding a brown, slurry substance using a funny-shaped stone on these long, wooden boards. It was poi they were making. A lot of students from schools in uniform were there doing that. I sort of walked around awkwardly looking at everyone for a bit and then walked over to this guy who was at a table. He worked for some kind of farmer’s union. His name was Paul (though we never formally were acquainted). I asked him about the event and he told me that the purpose was to remind the legislators that the Hawaiian people should be who they are making decisions for, not tourists specifically. The Hawaiians are most concerned about water rights, according to this community-organizer Kamani whom I talked to.

The get-together surrounds making poi, the traditional food that Hawaiians ate. Poi is made from the Taro plant or Kalo in Hawaiian. The root is shaved to get the dirt and outer-layer off, then it is ground up into a paste that tastes really good. I got to make some and I documented the different steps! I was kind of nervous because I wasn’t sure I was allowed. But I saw other tourists doing it and so I followed this one person who was showing a tourist how to do it. She took some taro roots from this container and took a metal knife and shaved off the outside. “You don’t want any of those knobs in your poi or else it will taste bad. Nono.” I basically just followed them until it was time to get a board. Then I sat down and tried just smashing it with little success. “Do you need some help?” This kid said. I looked up. “Yes! Please help me I have no clue what I’m doing.” His name was something like Madikai. For names that aren’t really easy 1-syllable names or American ones, I tend to forget them if I don’t repeat them several times after they say them.

Anyway, Madikai instructed me how to do it. Before trying, I thought grinding just meant grinding, but there is a process of making the poi. “First, use the edge of the stone to sort of smush it. There you go. Now spread it back and forth along the wood until its all spread out and keep doing that over and over. Add water whenever it starts to stick to the stone. You want your poi to look really smooth and pasty like that lady.” He pointed to this lady to us. “Maybe I should have shaved some more roots,” I said, because I had only done two thinking it was enough, but it was barely any. The lady next to us overheard and gave me one of her roots. How generous the people are to dumb tourists. Tourists to Philadelphia do not receive the same treatment. If you go to Pat’s or Gino’s steakhouses downtown, they say, “Whaddya want. Tell me quick or get out of line.” Philadelphia hospitality right there. So then the next stage of making the poi is to smash it. That I could understand. I am good at smashing things. Except perhaps I was too good, because I brought it down once and some of the poi just went flying off the table. After bringing the stone down hard on it, you use the scraper to get it back into a neat pile so you can smash it again. And after like 10 minutes of doing that, I had my final product! Check it out!

So I walked around a bit, trying to find more people to talk to, but I felt a bit too nervous. I should have just tried engaging someone, but most of the kids were either making poi or talking with their friends. I felt uncomfortable interrupting them, but I think I should have done it anyway and just seen what happened. Oh well.

So I left around 2 and walked around downtown honolulu for a bit looking for lunch. I kept getting sidetracked though. First, I stopped at this memorial commemorating the soldiers who fought for the US from Hawaii. Then I stopped at this place called the Missionary Memorial, a building from the early 1800s memorializing the protestant missionaries who came and changed Hawaii. Then I went to Aloha Tower, what is apparently the second-most well-known landmark after Diamond-head mountain on O’ahu. It has some history, but I was more interested in just seeing the view. Perhaps it was because I was hungry and feeling a little disinterested.

After lunch, my mom came. It was really bad traffic and she had trouble finding what street I was on, so it took her like 20 minutes to get me even though she was right next to the capitol building the whole time (it is a large capitol building though). So we headed to this hotel called Turtle Bay. It’s nice and all, but not nearly as fun as the hostel. It’s only white people and it’s in the middle of no where and there just aren’t that many interesting activities. There isn’t anything I can do without a car whereas in Waikiki I could get everywhere on the bus. But it’s ok, I’ve had a lot of fun up till this point and tomorrow we go to Big Island where I may have totally new adventures.

Today, we had a late breakfast at this bad restaurant and then headed over to Waimea Valley Botanical Garden. I didn’t get to spend much time looking at the plants as I would have liked the last time I was there, so I figured that this time would be different. Though I still didn’t have quite the experience I was looking for. We got there in the afternoon and it already felt late. We did get a tour from this really smart tour guide though. His name was David. I don’t think he recognized me, but I had talked with him the last time I was there. He just knew about so many of the plants in that arboretum it was crazy. And then we went to the waterfall again which I enjoyed, but I didn’t get to climb the waterfall this time. It was nice seeing so many diverse plants.

And that was really the entire day, really. Not much else. We played this card game in the room for a while called Boss Monster where players play as the bad guys in a video game-like scenario and are trying to kill the heroes by building deadly dungeons. Not much else. So thanks for reading, see you later!

Day 16: Goodbye Corals, Hello Trump

Today I went to the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology located on the state-owned Coconut Island in Kanehone off the Northeastern coast of O’ahu. There, I met with Chris Wall, a Ph.D student studying the effects of climate change on corals. It’s a shame that he’s wasting his time with this silly subject. After all, everyone knows that climate change is just a hoax propagated by the Chinese, right Trump? I met him earlier this trip when he presented for our group and I contacted him earlier this week asking for a tour of his lab. He very graciously showed me all the cool machines they use to do research. Afterwards, I came back to the hostel and managed to catch a Hula outside of the Hyatt Hotel at 6:30. There was a small band and two hula dancers — a guy and girl — who danced to different tunes. I really enjoyed the kind of dancing and also I appreciated that the songs showed homage to the beauty of nature around them.

Today was a relatively late morning. I got up at 9:00, got breakfast where I met Justin, a guy who really likes the $1 drink nights at Lulu’s (or perhaps I met him yesterday. I meet a lot of people who like drinking and intoxication here). I ate breakfast with Vlad and Alma which was very fun. Alma is from Bosnia & Herzegovina and she plays volleyball seriously. They are a funny couple (platonically that is (I think)). Getting to Kanehone took a long time. I was supposed to meet Chris at 2. I left the hostel at 11:50, arrived in Kanehone at 1:00, at which time Chris said that 3 would be better. So I got lunch, realized it was already 2:30, then I had to walk — which turned into a run — a mile through this rich neighborhood overlooking the sea. I then ran up to this guy who was in a boat and said, “Can you take me to the lighthouse?” and he said sure. There I met Chris. He was talking with this other colleague and he seemed like he was in work mode (I guess just because I’m on vacation doesn’t mean everyone else is), so he didn’t smile a whole lot and he seemed stressed, but he was very congenial and was open to questions.


(He did smile for the selfie)

The tour was fairly short, perhaps only 15-20 minutes, but it was the first time I had done something non-touristy on O’ahu which made me feel good. There were two main things he showed me: the containers where they keep them, and then the chambers where they do various breeding and research methods. I got to see all the different tanks outside which were cool. The ones inside were cool too.

I could go into his research and all, but he has his own research that you can look up, or better yet, you could look at HIS blog! Here is the link:

My day was ending earlier than it usually does, and I had only done one thing. So I looked in my little guide to O’ahu and found that there was the hula thing nearby at 6:30! Very convenient. So I hopped on over and saw some hula dancing. It was pretty dark and there was only torch light and the light from the overhead far-away street light, so my pictures didn’t come out great except for when everyone was still (this was the only one like that that I got).


Then after the hula, I came back to the hostel and got some free pizza from pizza night and talked with this guy Brandon from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He studied business. So I asked him if business is a profession that people are actually passionate about. He said that they are, that it is more than just making money. I’m pretty ignorant about economics and business. He said that economics is the study of how markets work and within business is the study of how and why people make the decisions that they do. The study of economics seems to me to be I suppose an important social science. So perhaps he did convince me of something.

So it was an interesting day, not the most eventful, but still fun. Come back tomorrow for more.

Day 15: ‘My Dream Was Actually About Dog Grooming, My Bad’ – MLK

At the MLK Parade, all the people marching were from different groups: there were churches, historically black fraternity and sorority groups, labor groups, political groups, you name it, it was there. Some of my personal favorites were the Hare Krishnas, the women dressed in really expensive-looking clothing acting like queens when they waved, and even a mom advertising her dog grooming business. I’m not an expert on Dr. King or his teachings, but I have a sense of what it was that he taught and what the celebration of his legacy is about. I think that MLK day is a very broadly-based holiday, as in it can be a celebration of a lot of different things and many things could potentially be related back to it. Different churches? Sure. People with posters protesting Trump & Pence? Why not. A family advertising their dog grooming business? I dunno… Did part of MLK’s dream really involve anything related to dog-grooming? “I have a dream, that one day black dogs and white dogs will be groomed together as sisters and brothers.” Hmm…


Today, I did two big things. As I already mentioned, I attended the Martin Luther King Day Parade on Oahu and then I went to Pearl Harbor to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Also of note was dinner which was at Marukame Udon, a Japanese restaurant specializing in its soups.

Today I was like the chicken with its head cut off; my body was constantly moving but my head was somewhere else. The MLK day celebration was at 9:00 at Magic Island, a man-made park that was about 50 minutes away by walking — and ended basically right next door to my hostel. So I figured that 8:00 would be a good time to wake up so that I could get ready, grab breakfast, and catch a taxi over to the start so that I could march in the parade. When I looked at my watch and it was suddenly 8:40 and I had not yet eaten breakfast, I realized I had made a gross miscalculation. I tried to get a taxi, but like 5 taxis I tried were full. So I decided to run. “Hah I run fast, it will probably take me only 15 minutes. I’m a fast runner.” It was a 25 minute fast run with my backpack which was not fun. I saw lots of people on the streets going there just sitting there, and I thought, “Why are they just sitting there on the curb? Don’t they want to march for Dr. King? Whatever,” I thought. So I get there right as the beginning of the group starts marching. Yes! But I made another miscalculation. I forgot what people in parades do. They march. And there was no one marching that was not in a group, so I should have just stayed at the hostel and I would have seen all of them. By the time I had realized all of this, the parade was already in full-swing. I wanted to see all the groups in action, though! So naturally I ran back to Waikiki in order to watch the groups again: a total of 6 miles…Yeah my out-of-shape body ain’t going to be happy tomorrow morning.

I really liked the different bands. There were three: the Royal Hawaiian Band that I saw yesterday (they were the only group that I completely missed, unfortunately, because by the time I got back to Waikiki, they had played their last number and were at the finish line). Then there was also the US Pacific Fleet Band which was very good, and then some other miscellaneous band at the end of the pack. I don’t know if I was really paying attention, I was just having a good time marching and dancing along the bands towards the start of the pack. It was very fun.

Again, chicken with the head cut off: I went back to the room and thought, “Wow, I’m tired. Good thing its 11:15. I’ve got 1.75 hours till I need to be at Pearl Harbor.” Had I used my non-present brain, I would have looked online to find that it takes 1.5 hours to get there via bus. I only realized that at 11:30, and I also remembered that I had to get there 10 minutes early. My goose was cooked. So I dashed to the bus station but went to the one going the wrong way, so I dashed around different streets looking for the right one and consequently missed the bus. So I ran back to the hotel to try to get a cab: 2 called, neither available. So I ran back to the bus stop and caught the next bus. This all took place in the span of 20 minutes. I found myself cursing the people who got off at obscure stops, “Come on! Don’t you know I have to be at Pearl Harbor at 1:50? Help me out and just stay on the bus!”

Misssed my 1:00 tour, but luckily they had plenty of tickets available for the 1:30. Apparently they often run out. They are available on a limited basis and I had to wake up at 7:00 am the previous day to get one online. I also bought an audio tour with Pearl Harbor survivors and Jamie Lee Curtis narrating for $7.50. Very worth it.

First part of the tour was a documentary about it. I took a lot of notes, it was a very, very interesting experience. I have never been particularly interested in military histories — like what guns they used, how different military strategies were carried out, etc.– but this was a good place to start. I got a good sense of the main points. Pearl Harbor was most important because it initiated the US into WWII. The Japanese planes launched at 6:30 from aircraft carriers that had made a 12 day trip across the Pacific from Japan and they arrived at 7:55. The attack lasted 2 hours and resulted in a crippling of both the US navy and air force fleets in the Pacific. The tour wasn’t great in that it kept giving different numbers for how many died, but the highest number was over 2400 members of the military in addition to noncombatants were killed, and 1200 were wounded, the greatest disaster on American soil in history. The attack brought to the surface many issues (only one of which I really understood): the military was not making good use of technology, as a commander was informed that there were many planes that had been detected using radar coming to Hawaii, and said, “Don’t worry about it. We are expecting new B-17 planes from California.” He should have treated the information with more care, but then again, there was no protocol for detection of things using radar, so it was left up to one person’s discretion. So it’s not totally his fault. Not very smart organization. I could go on and on about the military history because I did actually enjoy it, but alas I must push on.

Getting to the memorial involved taking a boat out. They didn’t want us taking pictures of the entrance when we first got there, but it was ok when we came out (I didn’t totally understand why). The memorial is located directly above the sunken ship. The ship burned for three days and by the time it was done, much of what was left of the bodies of the people was ashes. The government tried to salvage the bodies, but they were in most cases not recognizable and in others there were only ashes left or they may have even washed to sea. So while 5 of the huge battleships were salvaged, repaired, and put back into battle (or 6? Again, conflicting numbers they gave), the ship was left in the water as a final resting place for the men who died there. You can see from the sides of the memorial out the windows the remains of the ship. There are a couple things jutting out of the water, the remains of the massive gun turrets that were blown to smitherines. The USS Arizona, a battleship made of 8000 tons of iron plating and hosting 1500 men from the military, was completely wrecked. A Japanese armor-piercing bomb tore through the deck and exploded in the ammunitions room, destroying the bow (front) of the boat. It was so explosive that one of the 1900-pound anchors flew 200 feet away from the site of the explosion. It was crazy because you would never guess that they were gun turrets by looking at them. They were just holes. Two gaping holes within cylinders that stuck out of the water. Then in the back of the room was a wall that had the names of all the people aboard the ship that had died. There were a lot of names. You sort of look at a list of names like that, of people that you never knew and that lived long before you did, and you just think, what is the value of a human life? How would the world have been different had they lived? How, even, would my family or my friend’s families been different had they lived? Interesting questions.

Then I left the memorial on the boat again to go back to the visitor’s center. I spent some time going through the various exhibits. They were good, though it seemed to me that this whole thing was a bit repetitive. Perhaps it was speaking to a different audience than me. There were many, many accounts of the event and it was sort of overwhelming and tiresome. Again, perhaps it was for people that lived through this. They would appreciate this more. Though going forward, I think that they will have to rethink their approach of presentation for future generations to make it more philosophical around what the meaning of life was. Perhaps I’m off on this, but it was just a feeling I had.

So then I got back on the bus and traveled home, where I met my new roommates Jesus and Randy. Both were headed to Lulu’s for Industrial Night. Why they named a night when the bar gives away beer for cheap “Industrial Night” is beyond me. Dinner was at Marukame Udon, this great — but cheap — Japanese restaurant. It took me 20-25 minutes to get through the line outside, but it was worth it. I got a Curry Udon (thick noodles), with a fried asparagus and sweet potato on the side. Very very good.

That’s all folks. Come back tomorrow for more!


Day 14: Death by Pigeon Sh*t

There I sat, on a bird poop-covered bench because it was in the shade and most of the other shady benches were taken or were not as good seats in my opinion. The concert featuring the Royal Hawaiian Band was about to start. Perhaps picking that bench was a mistake, because I was distracted by the pigeons flying through the trees, worried that they would poop on my head. That happened to me once when I was in Cuba. I was just walking out of a church, minding my own business when WHAM! I had white shit in my hair and on my pants. I guess Jesus didn’t like that a Jew was walking on his turf so he wanted payback. And I was just talking about pigeons over breakfast with Jon, this guy from Brazil who has traveled to over 40 countries and is only 25. He seems very interesting. He told me that pigeons are more disgusting than rats, that they carry 11 different diseases while rats carry only 9. Also, if bird poop lands on you and gets into any of your orifices, it could kill you. Also seriously make you sick if it lands on you and you smell it. So I kept a particular eye on the pigeon on the branch directly over my head, muttering to it, “Don’t you do it, or I’ll throw the tuba at you.”

Besides that, what a day it was. It started with the usual breakfast and talking with the bunch of beach-dwelling bums at the hostel, then I went to the Waikiki Aquarium against Tom from Perth “the horrible city,” (according to him) Australia, and it was phenomenal. Then I figured I’d get lunch because it was already 1:45 and I hadn’t had lunch yet. But instead I listened to a free concert of the Royal Hawaiian Band. By the time it was over, it was 3:00, and I needed to find a quick place to eat. I needed to eat fast because I was planning something else, so I sat down at this Mexican restaurant that served me an expensive plate of a burrito with rice and beans that was wholly unsatisfactory and so I won’t even write the name of the stupid place in this blog. No extra publicity for you! Then I took a bus to the Waikiki Shell, a complex of theaters and large spaces (sort of like a convention center, but there is another building called the Honlulu Convention Center, so idk what to call this) where I saw the New Shanghai Circus. They were just amazing. If you have been wondering how to fit ~10 kids on a bicycle, look no further. So then I caught a bus back, got a second dinner of 3 empanadas at the little food stand on my street that has good Latin-American food (I will have to remember to find out what it’s called), and then came to write my blog at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel, where I am again mooching off their computers. If you see this, don’t talk to me while I’m here, I kind of freak out every time someone talks to me because I am afraid someone will catch me in the act.


“It sucks,” Tom from Perth told me. “Have you ever been to a really big aquarium with nice music and lots of fish? Yeah this isn’t that one. I only spent an hour there and that includes going through all the exhibits and reading my book because I was bored. It’s a waste of $12.”

“Aww really? I had been looking forward to going there. That’s too bad,” I said. So then I was trying to figure out what to do instead and then it hit me. “Wait a minute, what if Tom is wrong?” It takes a lot of money to run an aquarium of any size, and this one was rated highly by tourists in general. So I decided to check it out. And it was great! True, not that small, but so many different ocean things! And it was made even better because the girl at the desk gave me a discount: she let me in for $8 instead of $12, SCORE. I spent two hours there and if I had time to go back to look at some of the rooms I breezed through, I would. My favorite thing was Hō’ailona, the Hawaiian Monk Seal. They had a separate enclosure outside for him. I was lucky to catch the presentation at 12:00 or so where a trainer talked about him and showed us some of the tricks he could do. Hawaiian Monk Seals are critically endangered and are only found around Hawaii. There are only 1200 or so left in the wild, a consequence of human activities. Accidentally catching them in nets during fishing, encroachment of beaches where they lay and nurse their young, commercial hunting for their skins, and other crappy things have significantly reduced their numbers, what a shame.

This particular Monk Seal had been taken from the wild to be what his trainer referred to as “an ambassador of his species to humans.” Later, the aquarium decided to let him go to try to get him to breed, but he didn’t interact well with humans. Supposedly, he wanted to play with humans which is not normal behavior (he was supposed to catch the humans in nets accidentally while fishing). So after monitoring him, they took him back to try to get him prepared to go to the wild, when they realized he was developing cataracts and so decided to leave him in the aquarium. He knew lots of tricks that he would do in exchange for food. He could lie down, play dead, stay, roll over in the water…The trainer even tried to get him to bark and sniff another dog’s — I mean monk seal’s — butt, but the seal said, “Go fish” (ok, I’m retiring my terrible humor now). But he could also salute by bringing his fin to his head and swimming backwards in a circle which was a cool trick.

So I got kind of tired at looking at fish, so I left and decided to walk down the road seeking a good restaurant. It was 1:45 and I was hungry. But then, I saw a stage with musicians on it! So I sprinted over there! And it turned out to be the Royal Hawaiian Band, a national (as in Hawaii monarchy national) band started in 1836 by King Kamehameha III. They play sunday concerts at 2 and I was lucky as I arrived there just as they were warming up! How sick!

The concert was great. It started with this ritual called the Pu Kani, similar to the Luau where three guys came and blew conch shells in 4 directions. Then they played the Hawaiian State Anthem followed by the US National Anthem. I was pretty shocked by how this unfolded. Let me give you some of the lyrics of the Hawaiian song so you understand why:

Hawaiʻi ponoʻī, Hawaiʻi’s own true son,
Nānā i kou mōʻī, Be loyal to your king,
Kalani ali’i, Your country’s liege and lord
Ke ali’i. The chief.

(the 1st verse from Wikipedia)

I didn’t even know the lyrics when I heard the song, but I could imagine what they said. “Be loyal to your king.” Those are some pretty controversial lyrics in today’s time. That the band performed this made me curious as to how the band has reflected the culture of the Hawaiian people through the years. I just thought about it for a little bit, and it seems to me that playing the American National Anthem after the Hawaiian reflects how this particular group has been defanged. I read the sequence of songs as a message in of itself. The Hawaiian people have their own music and culture, but America is boss now. Perhaps the band is under pressure from tourists who would be less interested if there was less rep that they recognized. Perhaps its the US government that puts pressure on the Hawaiian government which forces them to play it. I don’t know, but I didn’t need to hear the US national anthem again, or at least not after the Hawaii state anthem. The rest of the program was great. My favorite was the Kapi’olani Bandstand March. It was very fun and had a nice flow to it. Also of note, a musical number from The Man from La Mancha and Come Sunday, a song by Duke Ellington, performed in honor of MLK Day tomorrow.

So next I got on a bus and headed to the Waikiki Shell to see the New Shanghai Circus. I got a ticket for $16, but the theater was far from full, and at the intermission, I moved up to the front of the theater (a smart move, but it requires paying attention to where people are sitting and finding an empty seat). I only went to it because I was looking around online earlier today and saw that they were performing. What luck! There were only 19 people in the show I think, which was very impressive considering it was 2 hours long. Most of them were kids as well! There were all sorts of acts, but all were about acrobatics. It started with a large group act where a man dressed as a red dragon wheeled around the stage on a hoverboard, waving his arms, and all the acrobats formed these different structures. There was also a really cool one where a guy balanced on top of a pole with a small platform at the top, and another where girls balanced poles with birdcages on their chins. There were just too many to go really far into detail with, but it was so great a day.

Man, these posts really take it out of you. Hope that you and future me enjoys them. I’m going to bed, and tomorrow going to see Pearl Harbor. Peace out!

Day 13: “Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, where they Hug Ya Before they Mug Ya”

Some of the most interesting people seem to be on top of mountains. Earlier this trip, I met Punaohu, the native Hawaiian blowing his conch atop a mountain on Kaua’i, and today I met Chris on top of the Diamond Head Trail, this guy with a bunch of scars under his chin, short brown hair, and was an extremely smooth talker selling certificates.

“Where are you from?” He asked.

“Philadelphia,” I said.

“Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, where they hug ya before they mug ya.” He was stamping people’s tickets with a stamp that said “Summit Reached”. He must have been working for the state because he said that he was accepting $5 donations for the support of the trail and was in return giving people certificates that said they completed the hike. It’s funny because he used the same speech each time someone came up and he was just a master salesman that way. I listened to him give the same speech for about half an hour. I remember exactly what he said to people and how he said it. “Do you hike much?…Over there is Koko crater. You should go there next. There’s train tracks going straight up the steep mountain. My friend actually went there recently, said it was so hard going up he had to CRAWL down. They say it’s the stairway to HELL.” He just continued on even if the other person talked, but they would stop talking and listen because he was giving information. “Then again President Obama just hiked up it. But the SECRET SERVICE guys basically CARRIED him up the hill. People were sending drones up there to take pictures and the secret service was SHOOTING them out of the air.” While his speech remained largely the same, he was able to incorporate new material into it based on what people said, and he did it very quickly too! Like he made some smart-alec comment or anecdote about Chicago and Minnesota, too. He had such an emphatic way of talking, and people just kept buying his certificates. It was very impressive. And then I got a picture with him which was pretty cool.


Today’s adventures consisted in a long, long walk with some pondering of plants in between. I started this morning with breakfast, then walked down Monsarrat Avenue, one of the two main streets bordering the ocean and Waikiki. Along the way, I arrived at the Queen Kapi’olani Garden where I spent way more time than I anticipated spending there. I got lunch, then I decided to go to Diamond Head State Park, what I was told was a moderate hike within walking distance of the hostel. Then I went to the beach for an hour and half where I snorkeled a bit (pretty unsuccessfully) and talked with Ray and his friend Ralph from Switzerland about books and Trump, two things that couldn’t be any more different. Dinner at the hostel was free Chinese food where I sat with Ray and some other people like Taylor and Ralph from Switzerland, and then Alan and Leo and their German friends Amina and …Jenna? I’ve forgotten this person’s name twice today now, it’s not good. Overall, great day.

Breakfast was fine, PB&J as is each morning. Ate with Vlad and the two German girls I met later that night at dinner, though in the morning we were less chatty with one another. I love being in Waikiki because you honestly don’t need a car. You probably don’t need a car in most of honolulu, but it’s especially true in Waikiki, as there are many places around that are interesting to go to and that can be walked to, and there are also many public buses which are cheap and go farther than walking distance. I walked to the Queen Kapi’olani Garden where I saw a lot of cool indigenous and endemic plants, a good number of which I had already seen on Kaua’i. Akoka, naupaka, hina hina, and the Pritchardia (palm) were all one I had seen before, but I also saw some new ones. One that I saw was the Koki’o ke’oke’o, one of the 7 native Hawaiian hibiscus species. I also saw this large tree that had these weird white oval fruits that could be moo she’d easily and had eyes. It looked like a potato and smelled inside like blue cheese. I thought it smelled pretty good, actually, as far as blue cheese smells good. I just looked it up and its called the Cheesefruit Tree from Papua New Guinea. It’s other common names include the Rotten Cheesefruit Tree and Vomit Fruit  Tree. Eww. It doesn’t sound as appetizing anymore.

I decided to keep going down that street. I have wanted to go to the aquarium, but have not found the time. I stopped at the Pioneer Saloon, a Japanese restaurant, where I got the Ahi Mahi Mahi. It was out of this world good. Raw fish served with wasabi (a PLANT used by the Japanese as an anti-bacterial spice to prevent raw fish from going bad), white rice, potatoes, lettuce, and soy sauce. The fish was just amazing, I have never had anything like it.

Along the way to Diamond Head, I encountered some weight lifting equipment outside on the sidewalk. It was donated by some person who wanted to commemorate an olympic athlete. The weight lifting equipment used your own weight for the lifting! It was really cool, I had never seen anything like that before. I tried it out, but then realized that I’m pretty heavy and my biceps were not happy after one rep. So I continued on. The Diamond Head trail was fun overall. The trail was actually constructed in 1908 as part of an initiative to protect Honolulu from sea invaders (what sea invaders they were protecting against is a bit of a mystery to me. Japan? The Kraken? My dead hamster Striker who is back from the grave? who knows). The bunkers on the peak of the mountains served a lookout points. Americans could look out to sea, see a ship, calculate its position using triangulation (a process that I learned in 9th grade geometry that is now over my head, something about knowing the distance from one point to another and using that to determine the distance from one of the points to another point), and then would tell the artillery on the coast what coordinates the ship was at. The base was refurbished in 1943 during WWII, but not once was any of the equipment used, and they retired it and made it into a trail. Though there are still some military buildings there. So I got to go into this cave and up a bunch of stairs — both straight up and in a spiral staircase — then I got to go in the bunker and climb out. At the top was Chris, the Certificate Salesman. (That is just such a hilarious title. I’m going to drop out of school and go be a Certificate Salesman. God, my parents are going to be so proud). The view was terrific, see for yourself.

Then I tried hitchiking back to Waikiki. After asking one guy awkwardly if he had a car and him saying no, I decided to walk back anyway. But THEN I was reminded of the public transportation! How great! So I caught a bus all the way back for just $2.50. I was so tired and that was so nice to not have to walk back. So then I got my stuff from the hostel and went to the beach to try to snorkel. But I forgot my snorkel shoes AGAIN. So I sat with Ray and Ralph from Switzerland for a little while watching people play beach volleyball and this other weird game that is catching that involves a fist-sized ball and a small trampoline that you bounce the ball against. Ray told me to try breathing at the places where the reef was deep, not kicking, and only paddling sideways with my hands so that my body didn’t touch the ground. Except I kept getting knocked by the waves and I panicked a bit and gave up on the snorkeling after seeing one stupid brown-looking fish. Oh well. I got to watch the sun set which was beautiful.

Dinner was average, but I liked that there was a lot of food. No particularly notable conversations, people liked to talk about drinking, pop culture, and hiking, none of which are particularly interesting extended dinner conversations if you ask me (hiking seems like it would be good, but who would want to hear about someone’s hike? Wouldn’t you want to hike it yourself?) So that was my day, come back tomorrow for more!

Days 10, 11, and 12: Sorrow, Taro, and Pharoah

What do the three words in the title have in common (other than that they have the same phonetic ending)? They all describe a different day! Wednesday was “Sorrow” because I left all my buds from my class and traveled to O’ahu from Kaua’i, “Taro” was yesterday because I saw taro at the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens with my new friends and roommates Alan and Leo, and Friday was “Pharoah”. Ok this is a bit of a stretch but follow my flawless logic closely: pharoahs rule over Egypt, which has lots of sand, and today I went to a beach that threw me head-first against the beach and turned me into a sand castle. These two kids were just watching me and laughing and taking pictures. I realized that it’s probably a fun pastime for Hawaiian kids, going to the beach just to watch and take pictures of dumb tourists wiping out in the ocean…Oh well.


3 days, 1 blog post. I know what you’re thinking. “What’s this kid doing? It has taken him up to around 2000 words in the past for just one post. How will he ever complete 3 days in 1 post without making me wish I hadn’t ever known this kid?” Well I’ll tell you why. I couldn’t upload my pictures, and now, I have found a way to: I’m currently using the computer of the hotel next door to my hostel. They don’t like that because they only want guests using them, and if they knew, they would surely kick my butt out, but as long as YOU don’t tell them, I’m good. Mahalo! (Thank you!) So now, I’m catching up on the days I missed. The past days have not been as educational or eventful as the first 10 days, so it should be fine to smooth them together, but I better not dawdle anymore or you’ll get bored.

UPDATE LIKE 30 MINS LATER: This post seems like it might go on for a bit, so perhaps just scan it and look at the pretty pictures if it feels it’s getting too long.

Wednesday was the last day of the trip. The morning was spent doing the final exam which was basically the exact same as the previous tests we took. After the test, Mr Huddleston told me, “I just wanted to tell you that it has been a real pleasure having you in the class.” “Thanks,” I said, “You’ve been great too. But I’ll be seeing you more later, right?” I felt kind of uncomfortable, I wasn’t feeling myself and I didn’t really want to hear the praise. But I wish I had said, “Thanks, I really appreciate that. It means a lot coming from you.” That would have been better.

After that, I packed my bags, ate a hamburger lunch that Mr. Huddleston and his wife Leimomi prepared for us (they were so fantastic with food this trip, they didn’t have to prepare us anything but they made us so much food and man was it always good), and said good bye to a couple of people. And then I left to go to the Lihue airport. I’m particularly going to miss Jeff who was this middle-aged guy taking the class who I was in several groups with. He was smart and he was very congenial with everyone, something that I emulate. Also Shelsey, this girl who works at a hospital in a scribe-like position where she is really excelling, because she came and was friendly with me when I wasn’t feeling super great and we hung out and had fun together at the Luau and after. And my roommates Karson and Jose were great too, I appreciated being in the same room with them. There were other people that I really liked on the trip too and I hope that I see them again some day.

The plane ride was really short, like REALLY short, only 30 minutes or so, and it only costed $63 to go from Kaua’i to Honolulu International Airport in O’ahu. I felt very nervous because this was only the second time that I had traveled alone on an airplane (the first one being earlier this trip going to Kaua’i) and this time, I was not going to have anyone waiting for me in O’ahu.

I would be living in the hostel on my own. So I got a shuttle to go from the airport to my hostel at Waikiki which is called the Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel, not to be confused with the Beachside Waikiki Hostel which is on the same block. I met this guy in the taxi named Andrew who runs two marijuana farms in Oregon. He was charismatic. And he was only 32 I think, so he was doing well for himself business-wise. I might be interested in that industry, so I got his contact info and said we should meet up since we’re staying at neighboring hostels, but I don’t think we actually will.

The hostel looks small from the outside. There was this metal gate that lets you into this sort of open room which is too small too be a legit lobby but works for the purposes of the hostel.

There was this nice-looking girl from New Jersey at the front desk who I see every now and again. The staff is all kids! I should have asked at least one of them by now why they were working there, but my guess is that they work there because they wanted to come to Hawaii — the paradise islands of the US — and live cheaply, and this place probably gives them a place to live for free. If they can bare the pittance wages, they probably have a nice time. I also met this other girl from Syracuse University named Kiana who said she wanted to take a year off before finishing her final year there. Perhaps I’ll do that before grad school.

The hostel room is nice. I decided not to go out that night because I felt kind of nervous about staying there, and I had to do the laundry, eat dinner, and write a blog post which would take time. No one was there when I first got in around 4:30ish, but then I met the first guy named Elijah. He was studying finance and business (yawn) at some college in Mississippi as part of a study abroad program. He was from Australia and had a super strong ‘G’day mate’ accent. Then later, Ray, this 32-year old realtor from Canada, came in. He is I think of Japanese descent because he is Asian and keeps talking about going to Japanese markets for food here. Ray and I talked a while and that was interesting. He told me that there is a difference between traveling and vacationing: traveling is going out and experiencing the culture of a place while vacationing is related to leisure, and a person is either doing one thing or another on a trip to another place, but is not doing both at the same time. I’m not sure I agree. He would say that if you go to another country to drink in a pub, you’re not traveling but rather vacationing. You’re not experiencing the other culture. But different countries have different ways of drinking that is part of the culture itself. Interesting discussions that I have with Ray, though, and I hope to talk with him a bit more before he leaves

And that was the end of that day! I went to bed.

The next day, I woke up and met my two other roommates (there were only 5 people in the room): Alan and Leo. They’re both from Brazil and moved to Boston where Alan is a computer technician and Leo is an air conditioning repairman. They like it in the US a lot more than in Brazil. They invited me to travel with them. I wasn’t sure where we were going, but I said yes anyway. After like an hour and a half to two hours, we arrived at the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden! How absolutely sick is that?! There were all sorts of cool plants there. I saw the traveler’s tree, a Madagascar tree often mistaken for a palm because of its leaf shape, but it is actually related to something different. It derives its name from its common usage by traveler’s who, needing water, break open the gigantic leaf stems where water is stored inside for consumption.

(Bottom right: African garlic. Top right: Moorhen or Mud hen)

We walked the length of the park and I didn’t learn a whole lot of new stuff unfortunately because Alan and Leo were more interested in seeing everything instead of focusing on some plants, a fair agenda for non-plant lovers. I still really enjoyed the garden, and at the back of the garden there was a waterfall and there we got to swim! It was absolutely awesome. It’s probably the only state-sponsored arboretum in the world where you get to swim.


The water was a little cooler than air temperature and getting in with the life jackets was a bit difficult off the slippery rocks, but it was just fantastic. I swam around a bit to get warm, then I headed over to the waterfall. I saw a boy earlier who had climbed the waterfall up to a ledge and the water was pounding his head: I had to try that. Two other people, a couple, were having trouble getting up it, so I tried. There were rocks at the bottom of the falls and the water just pounded against my face, suffocating me as I tried to climb it. I would turn my head away and try to find a ledge for my hand to pull myself up, but I couldn’t see or breath very well. Eventually, I found the ledge I was looking for and pulled myself up to it and then I was truly the king of the waterfall. Everyone on the shore took pictures me and it was cool. And I tried to show the couple how to do it, but they couldn’t get it, but I successfully showed Alan how to do it.

So then Alan wanted to stay a little longer so I started back when I met this lady at a stand who had a number of different Hawaiian-looking objects. We had a conversation and she told me about them. The first was a coconut. Coconuts were seen as a very valuable item by the hawaiians. The rope that can be made from coconut hair is the strongest organic hair in the world. The fruit and water can be eaten and drank, and the shell can be used as a container. Those are just the most basic applications, but it was used for many others. She also showed me 3 different stone pucks that the Hawaiians apparently used for bowling! Did you know that the Hawaiians bowled? I didn’t. One was an artifact that was found on the site of the botanical garden, and that area was consequently turned into a game area dedicated to showcasing Hawaiian games. I wish I had had time to go there. There were also a lot of different instruments that I had seen at the Luau several days prior like this gourd that the women used as a drum while dancing and a couple shakers.


So then we ate lunch next to the peacocks who wanted our food and then we left. My rice was leftover rice and beans from two days prior which were just starting to go bad and so they had a really pungent smell, but tasted fine.

Next, we went to Turtle Beach, a place where some people were walking around on the beach. It was named because you were supposed to see turtles I guess, and we saw one, though it was sort of far away and not a very good sighting overall. Then we went to this Brazilian stand that served this food called Acai. Alan was telling me that it is an amazing Brazilian snack that is like a red bull or monster, but it’s actually good for you. He kind of described it like it was better than all other energy substances because no crash and it makes you feel great. It was really great, actually, but the energy boost is not supernatural, its just sugar (albeit the good sugar, sucrose, rather than the bad sugar, fructose). It’s made out of lots of fruit put into a bowl, like blueberries and raspberries, and ground up with granola, honey, and bananas added into it. I should try making that at home and I highly recommend it. He bought it for me which I really appreciated. Perhaps he liked my jabbering about plants? No it was probably to get me to shut up about the plants for some time while I was eating.

Then we came back to the room and I was feeling awesome. I think we hanged in the room for a bit while I talked to Ray and Elijah, and then I headed to dinner with Alan and Leo. We were planning on going to a restaurant, but they couldn’t wait, so they decided to go to McDonald’s. I didn’t want that so I went to the little shop on our street that serves sandwiches. I got a Cubano sandwich which was fantastic for $10 which was a pretty good deal. Then I walked around a bit, called my mom, and then wrote the blog yesterday and hit the hay!

Today, Elijah was gone when I woke up 😦 So sad, I just met him and he didn’t even say good bye…First thing I did today was get the free breakfast on the top of the building which consisted of PB&J and good orange juice, talked with Ray, and then headed over to the Honolulu Zoo which is right across the street from the hostel! Several people in my bunk complain about not being able to do anything if you don’t have a car, but what a joke that is. The zoo, aquarium, beach, Diamondhead State Park and many other things are within walking distance. I’m not going to be able to do all of the things that are even within a 1 mile radius of this place!

The zoo was fun. I took a lot of time at each stop. I dislike taking photos because I think it detracts from the experience, but I’m writing this blog, so I needed to figure out some way to take photos. So I decided to try taking the photos after I’ve appreciated something and then move on. That way, I’m not missing out on something from being distracted by the photo or from seeing the thing only through the screen of the camera. That strategy worked ok, but I’ll need to be better at doing it. Anyway, I saw lots of cool animals.

(From top left to bottom right: Black Rhino, can’t remember, orchid, African Serval, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Golden Lion Tamarin, Asian Elephant, Gharial, Aladabra Tortoise, Siamang Gibbon, Ring-Tailed Lemurs, White-Handed Gibbon, cool-looking tree)

My favorites were the Hawaiian ones, because why would you go to the Honlulu Zoo, go see the lions and tigers and elephants, and then leave without seeing the things that actually CAME from Hawaii? The feature of the exhibit was the Ne’ne, Hawaii’s state bird that I saw at the bird conservation center at the lighthouse towards the beginning of my trip. Interesting things about the Nene: it is endangered with only about 1300 existing in the wild currently. It is also the only goose that cannot fly! Though I’m not sure how many gooses there are, perhaps that doesn’t mean much. This is because there are so many predators humans have introduced that eat the young like mongooses, pigs, cats, dogs, and rats. It tells you something when in the exhibit, they had a sign saying under recommendations for helping the nene, “Don’t release your pets in the wild because they will hurt other things.” How ridiculous is it that people release their pets into the wild? “I’m sorry Spot, but momma won’t let me keep you in the house any longer, so you’re free! Go be a real dog!” Problem is, kid, dogs don’t belong in the wild. You do, twerp.


Then I also saw the Hawaiian Hawk, the ‘Io! My instructor from my trip never mentioned that animals on Hawaii had any natural predators like hawks! He said that they didn’t, but apparently there once existed 4 species of long-legged owls, a sea eagle, and a harriet (whatever the heck that is). Anyway, this hawk suffers from poaching, habitat destruction, rats and other crap killing their eggs, etc. all the usual stuff that humans have done wrong to the environment.


I must say, seeing this place made me realize that this is not how animals should live! “Oh, it’s ok that they go extinct in the wild, we still have them in zoos.” No! They are not happy in zoos, they live in small cages and just lie around all the time like these two African dogs that I saw. They just lay there all the time each time I came back in the same place. It’s very, very sad. Zoos have wonderful things about them, but that is a serious downside to it all.


So I spent the vast majority of the day there and didn’t even see everything sadly because Alan invited me to go to a beach at Makapu’u, this mountain with a hiking trail. When we returned to the hostel so that I could get my swim trunks, we met Vlad, this 25-year old pharmacy guy from Romania. He is awesome. Funny and interesting. The beach itself was kind of ehh. The waves were too hard and they would hammer you. I tried going out where everyone else was in the water, and I was doing well and I thought, “Wow I can keep up with these people.” I was getting through the big waves. Then, a wave crashed right in front of me and threw me against the ground hard. And there was a period of time where I was like, “That’s it, I’m going to drown, goodbye world,” before I surfaced in a panic. Then I started going out when I was hammered by ANOTHER wave which sent me headfirst into the sand again. I was done at that point. There were plenty of signs warning about the current and big waves, but I thought I would approach it conservatively. Not conservatively enough. Two kids loved watching me get tossed like a feather by the waves. They sat on the rocks smiling and taking pictures of me. Alan and Vlad wanted to try going out anyway, so Alan tried and got thrown, and then Vlad actually did pretty well, though he got thrown a bit and retired shortly after. The result: we were all covered in sand. I had sand everywhere: my crotch, my hair, even my eyeballs which I spent half an hour getting out tonight and it still is in there.

So we hopped back into the silver car and headed to this restaurant that I can’t remember the name of now. It was pretty good, I had the Mahi Mahi, a plate with rice, lettuce, cold mac and cheese, and fish with tartar sauce. The fish was really well prepared, but perhaps the portion could have been larger, more rice at least considering it was dinner. So then we came back and hanged out. This girl on the second floor said that there were fireworks that could be seen from our beach at 7:45 that come on every friday. That was at 6:45. At 7:43, Alan was taking a shower and I was like, “I’m booking it,” so I sprinted towards the beach and caught all 5 minutes of the fireworks which were pretty cool. Then I came back.

And that’s the end of the story! Whew that was a long post. I doubt anyone actually made it through all this, but if you did, props, hopefully you learned something new about Hawaii or about me. Come back tomorrow for more!

Day 9: Cave + Fire & Smoke…Who Thought That Was a Good Idea?

Today, we went to Mahaulepu Beach, the site of a restored coastal plains. Unless you know the significance of coastal plains habitats and their destruction over time in Hawaii, this place may seem insignificant. However it really is pretty amazing. There, we went to the top of this mountain where we had a great view and then we went into this sinkhole cave in the same place. This is where one of the Pirates of the Carribean movies was shot! (At least part of it that is) Then after that I went snorkeling which was pretty rad. Finally, I took a test on Hawaiian Natural history as part of this course which went ok. I didn’t really study for these tests because I wasn’t taking them for credit, but I did go through all of the material once while taking notes so that I would learn some things.

Oh, and sorry but all my photos are on my camera and I haven’t found a way to upload them to a computer, so I just used photos from google that looked similar to ones that I saw. Hopefully I’ll come back and add my own photos later.

My notes progressively got worse and worse over the course of this trip, it’s not good! At the beginning I was writing down all the key points, and then by the end I was just trying to write down some of the things I heard which may or may have not been important at all (something is better than nothing I figured). So I’m going off of less than I did for earlier posts, but luckily I’m writing this while the experiences are still fresh since it just happened!

Mahaulepu is located past an old sugar mill that was retired recently. Hawaii only a couple of years ago in 2014, I believe, shut down the last sugar mill. It was no longer possible to make a profit off the crop. Some of the main exports of Hawaii are pineapples, coffee, and probably also other important agricultural crops like oranges. Here are a couple cool facts: 1/3 of all pineapples are from Hawaii and the biggest coffee plantation in the US is located on Kaua’i (and it’s the one I visited earlier on this trip too!).

The place looks very sketchy because there are a lot of gates that you have to go through that are locked and we had to be led in by this guy named Chris. He gave us a tour of the plains. He was an archaeologist, and so he knew a fair amount about geology and rock-formation in the area, as well as what kinds of different fossils existed in the area. Mahaulepu is special because it has a large amount of limestone in a quarry that came from calcareous sand dunes: sand dunes that broke down over time into limestone. I feel a bit uneasy about the science he presented, but that’s ok. Limestone is the best preservative of fossils and conseqeuently, any animals that died in the layer would have been very well preserved. It just so happens that the limestone did collect many fossils that have been scavenged out through the years. Of the things scavenged out, there was a 4 foot bird and an owl species with really long legs! Pretty neat.

So we hiked to the top of this mountain and talked about the biology and geology and that was fun. This place is significant as a restored lower plainlands. All of the plains in Hawaii has at some point or another been mowed down by domestic animals or humans for either food (for the animals) or food production of crops (for the humans). A lot of the plainlands species either went extinct or only exist close to mountains or were lucky and survived the human-caused onslaught. An interesting fact: 98% of all biomass are things introduced by humans (I think that that only includes plant biomass, but it might also be animals). So that means that the vast majority of plants in the coastal plainlands are human-introduced. This coastal plainlands has been restored to look more like what a Hawaiian coast would have looked like, including native plants and animals. In one area, the restoration project includes using turtles to eat the herbaceous layer on the ground. I don’t really remember how it works, but somehow that helps the trees in the canopy and other native plants to grow. The turtles come from families who thought that having a turtle was a good idea and then 5 years and 50 pounds later they realized it was a bad idea. So they donate them to this place.

So we walked around a bit, got a nice tour, then we went down to the sinkhole! The sinkhole formed about 100,000 years ago, which is relatively recent in evolutionary time considering the cave itself would have formed probably around 4-5 million years ago. Getting into the cave was wack. We had to go through this tiny tunnel on our hands and knees, and Chris warned us not to stand up too quickly or else we would hit our heads on the cave rock that we could not see. Despite that, one person hit their head and they bled a lot from their head. It looked really bad, but luckily, one girl named Nadia came to the rescue with another girl named Ivette and together they bandaged her up and she continued on the trip with us! The sinkhole was full of plants including several large trees like palm trees and Willi Willi trees (totally forget why they’re called that or why they’re important, I know, what a let down sorry). That’s because 100,000 years is enough time for sediment to come down, form soil, and for plants to grow. There are still caves, however, and there are apparently a lot of fossils in the caves.

There are several species of endemic animals that live only in this cave and no where else in the world. All of these creatures have no eyes, for they migrated into the cave with eyes, and then did not need them, and so they lost them. One of them, the most notable, is this spider. All of the islands have a different kind of Big-eyed Wolf Spider, or perhaps multiple species. One spider went into this cave millions of years ago where it then lost its eyes. So guess what they named it? The No-eyed Big-Eyed Wolf Spider. Pretty zany how these things work, yeah? Another one was an isopod, a bug like a pill bug, and a third was a marine shrimp that came into the cave, became terrestrial, lost its eyes, and now feeds on root tendrils from roots that went through the wall of the cave.

So this sinkhole collapsed 100,000 years ago, the Hawaiians came what I think was nearly 2000 years ago in 300 CE. This cave was largely unknown what its purpose was by archaeologists, but they thought that it must have been colonized by humans for they found partially-burned firewood in the cave. So they did not know the history or even what the Hawaiians called the cave. Sometime in the 20th century (I think), this woman came to researchers and told them about the cave, except she did not know what it was called either. She only remembered stories about this man named Kiahikuni, a seer. The seer would burn firewood, she said, and would look at the smoke to tell people’s futures. Fast forward some time, some anthropologist was reading some letter that a kid from a local high school was writing to his parents about this cool cave that he went to and the boy called it “Makauwahi Cave”. What did that mean, researchers wondered. They brought this to the woman who spoke Hawaiian and told the stories of the seer, and she said that it translated as “Eye of the Smoke” Wow, that makes so much sense, doesn’t it! And that’s how the cave’s name was recovered.

Next, we did this cool activity where we parsed through a bunch of cave slop in order to find fossils. And we found so many fossils! We were allowed to do this because the slop held no scientific value. When scientists dig for fossils from sediments, they try to preserve what layer it came from, but when the sediments fall from the layers onto the ground or into water, they get mixed with other layers and it is not possible to tell what time they are from. So they can be used for educational purposes, but little else as far as I understand. We found so much: fossilized wood that looked like it came off a tree yesterday but was actually thousands of years old, fossilized vertebrae from fish, sea urchin spines, tiny black seeds from plants, stones, fish scales, bones, and lots more. I wish I took more pictures, alas I was so distracted getting my hands mushy in the stuff that I couldn’t take pictures.

So that was pretty much the end of the sinkhole/cave expedition. So we went back to the hotel and then chilled for a while. Except I didn’t, I wanted to do stuff. So I went out to see if I could go swimming on the beach. I didn’t expect to find a place to snorkel, so I didn’t bring my snorkel (big mistake, it would have helped). But I did bring goggles. So I went for a walk along the beach, very cool stuff. I saw a sign that featured Hawaiian hyroglyphics and said that archaeologists had uncovered ingravings in the rock along the beach, but unfortunately I couldn’t find them because they were submerged and others had algae growing on them. I did try hard though, I climbed on the slippery rocks while this Hawaiian guy was like, “Hey [dumb tourist], be careful those rocks are slippery.” I think he was thinking dumb tourist even though he didn’t say it because it was probably pretty not smart to do that when I had no one else around to cover me. But life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Sometimes there is someone, sometimes there isn’t.

So I walked the beach and there was cool stuff. I went across this beach and at one point there was a shallow river that divided the beach. So I put my backpack on my head and waded through the river! That felt pretty cool. Though I felt uneasy about swimming because no one else was swimming and I didn’t want to go alone. “When in doubt, don’t go out”, as they say here. But I did find a small reef to go snorkeling!

(Lydgate State Park)

And there were beautiful fish there. Ones with blue and yellow and traveled in colonies along this small pond contained by rocks. And other fish that were pale brown and very thin. Others that were black with a spot of yellow. There was not super high diversity, but it was still really fun. I didn’t have snorkeling gear, so I used my goggles alone and that worked because the water was shallow enough that I could put my feet down in the water. That worked out great. But moral of the story is always bring swimsuit, goggles, AND snorkeling gear, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.

Wooo so that was a long post, but it was an eventful day! Hope you enjoyed, come back for more tomorrow!

Day 8: The Day I Got Leid

Yeah, you read that title right. I got leid! It was a pretty magical experience. Check it out.

(The necklace I’m wearing is called a “lei” and a person put it on me)

The main research thing we did today was observing the plants, geology, and topography in a dry/arid coastal environment. Then we made a walmart stop, and went back to the hotel very early around 1 to get to leave for a Luau at 4:30.

Today was overall a really nice day. It was really hot, probably in the 80’s, but it was a bit windy which cooled it down. We spent most of the morning at this dry coastal area bordering the ocean (Not sure what it’s called). It was mostly full of very short-lying plants, especially this one Hawaiians called Naupaka. That one was everywhere.

The purpose of going here was to see how plants have adapted to a very arid, hot climate where the sun shines brightly and there is less than 20 inches of water per year (so its considered sub-tropical). The first exercise we did was pretty basic. It just involved brainstorming different adaptations to the arid environment. Because there is little water, Naupaka and Sesuvium, a different small herbaceous plant, store water in their leaves. This is a characteristic of many arid plants such as cactuses and a plant that has these kinds of leaves is called a succulent. The plants are also relatively low to the ground to keep the plant relatively close to itself to prevent water loss. One of the things that Mr. Huddleston pointed out is that the leaves are often light green, yellowish, or sometimes on the Hina hina, silver and they are also often shiny. These different colors and shininess are attempts to reflect or mitigate light off the leaves to prevent further water loss. The second exercise was about population ecology. In groups of 6, we were supposed to count all of the number of plants of each species within a 50×2 foot plot (so basically a long swath) up a hill of the arid environment. This exercise wasn’t as effective, I don’t think, because we didn’t end up completing it. After we counted them all, we just got on the bus and left for Walmart without discussing the data. People were hot and antsy and didn’t really have energy anymore, it seemed like. We’re planning on doing that tomorrow morning instead, but by that time I’m not sure anyone will care. But it was still kind of fun doing ecology-related studies.


Next, we went back to the hotel and I slept for 2 whole hours and I had a dream of discovering a new species of plant and being heralded as the greatest botanist ever. Not bad!

So the luau was next! You know the kinds of luaus that you see on Tv and depicted in pop culture? Well this wasn’t exactly that. Firstly, there were a huge number of people there, maybe 300, and most of the people here were white tourists, and secondly, we didn’t actually get a real chance to dance! There was one part during the dinner when the MC invited people up to learn the dance to “The Hukilau,” a traditional Hawaii song that I learned in 4th grade, but that doesn’t really count because it was too small a stage.

It was a short bus ride to the Luau and as we got off, this pretty girl put a lei around my neck! And she smiled at me too. She smiled at everyone else too as she put necklaces on them, but I know it was a different smile for me. So I got my necklace and then we went onto one of those golf car-trains that has a bunch of cars behind it and is often used for tours and stuff. So the driver took us all around the land. It was a really big place with very diverse and robust plants from all over the world and some natives. We saw some cool plants along the way. We saw the candlebush, a shrub that has fruits that are yellow and look like candles, as well as the candlenut tree, the nuts of which were cracked open by native Hawaiians and the oil inside used for candles. The Hong Kong Orchid or Orchid Tree was interesting because most orchids are small herbs, but this one was a freaking tree! Pretty sick. We also saw taro, the older brother to the Hawaiian people (as described in the mythological story I described in an earlier post). That was pretty neat because we later ate poi, the dish that is made out of the roots of the taro. Though it wasn’t very good, but Mr. Huddleston and Brian said that the poi wasn’t prepared correctly. I look forward to trying some more in the future. A couple other plants we saw: star fruit tree, breadfruit tree, christmas fruit tree. We also saw Moore Hens which are endangered birds found on Hawaii. It is said in Hawaiian mythology that the bird held the secret to making fire and Maui, the demi-god like in the movie Moana, strangled the bird until the bird showed him how to make fire so he could show it to the Hawaiian people. Then, because Maui was a jerk (just my own explanation), he rubbed the top of the bird’s head against a log in order to get a spark, and that’s why the bird has a red spot on its head. There were also beautiful peacocks and chickens there.

So after the bus ride, we had some time to walk around, and so I walked around with this nice girl named Shelsey from Mexico. It was nice having someone to walk around the place with.


After taking some photos of the cool things on the grounds, we saw this fun ceremony where a pig was removed out of the ground where it had been cooking in an underground stove. It is the Hawaiian way of cooking stuff: add a bunch of food to a hole, then heat very porous rocks and put them into the hole in and around the food, then cover the hole and let it cook for the day.


(This particular moment was the excavation of the pig before dinner)

Then a couple guys called using conch shells and we went to dinner!


(No, we didn’t eat peacock, I just felt like putting this photo here. Peacocks were everywhere, and they make very weird noises, google it if you’re interested!)

Dinner was good. I had 2 full plates with all your basic stuff: 4 different salads, 3 meats, 3 breads 4 veggies, and fruit, jello, and some weird but good white stuff for dessert. And taro which was ok. It was good overall.

I had just gotten back to the table with my plate of jello when everyone left for the ampitheater. So I ate quickly and Shelsey and I went over and we got good seats in the middle where we could see the whole stage. The show was very fancy. They had like 5 different stages which was pretty impressive and it was all outside. To start the show, Pele, god of fire (and also in Moana), emerged from a volcano in flames (special effects) and shot a fire bolt across the stage and lit up a torch on the other side. Then we walked through lots of different traditional Hawaiian dances as well as ones from other cultures like Tahiti, the Philippines, and New Zealand. My favorite was this war dance that was done by the men (one of the only dances that they did actually, there were a lot more female dances). There was a lot of stomping and slapping their chests and drums and shouting. It’s basically me when I wake up in the morning.

And then we got back to the hotel and I sat down and wrote this blog! the end, come back tomorrow!