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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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