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!