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.

hawaii-january-2017-personal-054

“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!

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