Hello everyone. It’s been a while since my last post, since I decided that this would primarily be a travel blog and I haven’t done a LOT of travelling lately (except for the requisite trips back and forth from Spokane, which are fun for me but dull for you. I aim to please!). So really, my time has been spent mostly in Seattle and the surrounding area…except last month when I went to HAWAII!!!
Rewind a bit: I was unemployed this summer (an issue which mercifully is no more), so I spent a looot of time lazing about. One bright afternoon I was lying on the grass at Green Lake in Seattle with my buddy Yelena, and she mentioned her upcoming trip to Hawaii and said something about how I should come. “Haha,” I thought, and went back to reading my magazine. Which may or may not have been Cosmopolitan. Anyway, I kept thinking about Yelena’s offer and wondering if such a thing were possible until the next time we were at Green Lake. This time, she reiterated her offer: “You should really come, I have an extra bed in my room.” Interesting. I mentioned this to my dad during a phone call and he seized the opportunity to buy my plane tickets as a birthday present. Thank heaven for birthdays! The trip was officially on!
After saying a quick hellogoodbye to my lovely Spokanite friends (and attending the wedding of my beautiful friend Colleen), I rode the Greyhound to Seattle, packed haphazardly for my trip, signed paperwork for a new apartment with my roommate Hillary, then got to the airport in the nick of time–err, an hour and a half early. I am a paranoid flyer, having missed a flight from Utah and burst into tears at the airport at the impressionable age of 15. That’s another tale for another day.
Anyway, my flight was fine and I got into Oahu at about 8 pm on August 13. I was greeted by lusciously humid night air and spent the next hour trying to find The Bus, which would take me to Waikiki. Finally I arrived at Yelena’s time share (she sent me the wrong address at first so we were a block apart, each wondering where the heck the other was!) and we went on a night stroll on Waikiki Beach. The next day, after planning activities for the week through the time share’s managers, we went to the beach and relaxed, alternately swimming and (in Yelena’s case) tanning. That night we went to Zanzabar, a hilariously tacky nightclub that had SALSA! I hadn’t danced for a while but it was a ton of fun! If you didn’t know (and I assume you didn’t), Oahu is apparently a great island for dancing! Most of the locals I danced with were really skilled. We met a group of Marines who were not so skilled, but they were super nice! At about 2 am we were danced out and headed home with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. Or something.
The next day: POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER! We drove up to Laie with Yelena’s parents (which was a gorgeous drive!) and bought tickets once we got to the PCC. The place was incredible! They set up exhibits for several Polynesian islands and at each one there were presentations and activities which gave us a glimpse into the culture of each one. We saw Maori men and women performing the Haka, a Hawaiian man who played the ukulele as two girls demonstrated the hula, an a Samoan presentation that included how to start fire, harvest coconuts (hint: climb up the tree and grab them), and squeeze coconuts for milk. The presenter was hilarious! In the afternoon there was a boat parade which featured catamarans with dancers doing the dance of their particular island (most mind-blowing was Tahiti, with dancers shaking their hips with lightning speed). We also got to see the Laie Temple, which is called ‘the Taj Mahal of the Pacific’ and was lovely, and go to a luau! I tried poi. I was not a fan. After a quick look at the gift shop we proceeded to our seats for the show, “Ha: Breath of Life.” It was pretty cool! The dancers were incredibly talented, especially the ones who twirled and threw flaming batons. It was a long but fantastic day.
The next day, we went to the beach in the morning and swam, and then made Yelena’s mom incredibly nervous by going parasailing! Yelena and I were picked up at the time share by a really chatty Hawaiian man and then driven to the harbor area, where our boat was loading. We slathered on sunscreen and headed out onto the water with ten other parasailers-to-be and two guides. Yelena and I were the second group to go so we got to watch an adorable Japanese family go up first. Then it was our turn! We harnessed up and got one of the guys on the boat to take some pictures for us:
It was much less intense than I thought it would be, even with the 600-foot tether, but it was really fun to feel like I was floating above the Pacific! When they brought us back down to the boat, they dunked us in the FREEZING water, which seemed unnecessary.
That night we went dancing again to a club called Vice, which was about a mile from our apartment. Yelena walked in her salsa shoes like a champ! We met up with one of her salsa friends, I successfully imitated being a 21-year-old, and we were in! Again, the dancers were fantastic. This club actually had a less-sketchy vibe, thanks in part to the older couples present, and pretty great music! One man who asked me to dance the bachata asked me, laughingly, “Where’d you learn to dance?” and, meekly, I answered, “Washington state…” I’m not a great dancer by any means, but I think he just assumed that Washingtonians aren’t generally great dancers. Comparatively, I bet this is true.
The next morning we went dolphin watching and snorkeling on the west side of the island. It was good fun! Dolphins are inquisitive and came up to our boat, occasionally jumping for our pleasure. For lunch we had tasty burgers on delicious taro buns, and then, bellies full, we were ready to snorkel (?). We went to what is called Electric Beach, apparently because it is near an electrical station that makes the water nearby warmer and thus attractive to fish. There were tons of different fish, including those fancy yellow ones you often see at Petco. I missed him, but other snorkelers saw a sea turtle! I had a great time, even though I managed–in Hawaii–to get REALLY cold.
That night there were fireworks put on by the Hilton, and we went down to Waikiki beach to watch the sunset and the show. It was a really relaxing, fun evening with a festive vibe–tourists from all over the world (I heard some Argentinian ladies talking nearby!) were there to see the spectacle. After such a fantastic sunset, the fireworks seemed almost redundant, but still fun and pretty as ever.
Finally, Saturday came, and with it, my first time surfing! Yelena and I rented boards and she gave me a quick lesson (namely, try to balance and take cues from other surfers) before we paddled out. I LOVED the feeling of gliding over the water as I paddled–it was like flying almost! Once we were out I kind of sort of caught waves, though I never managed to stand up, and looked desperately for Yelena because I decided I needed some pointers. And I found her, right as she caught a massive wave and rode it alllll the way back to the shore. She is good at EVERYTHING! So for the rest of our surf time I kind of mirrored what the people around me were doing, every once in a while falling off my surf board for variety. I really enjoyed the attempt and I wish I lived closer to the sea so I could get better! It’s a great work-out.
Later that night we went to Zanzabar once more–this time it was club dancing and less my speed, so I ended up sitting and chatting with a guy I met while Yelena danced.
Sunday morning, I woke up and realized that I needed to find a church! Since there is a church school on Oahu, I figured there would be lots of different wards for me to go to. I used the handiest of tools, the Meetinghouse Locator on lds.org, to help me find a church meeting I could attend. Since I was in Waikiki my options were a little limited, and the two meetings within walking distance were either a YSA ward about two miles away or a Tongan-language ward a mile away. I put my desperate desire to meet a nice Mormon Tongan man aside and decided to go to a meeting in my own language, so I got dressed in the weirdest church ensemble ever (since mostly I’d brought beach wear to Hawaii) and trekked over to the Institute Building near the University of Hawaii. I’m SO glad I did. I am always amazed when I go to church in a new place that I can walk through the doors and be surrounded by the familiarity of the Spirit. I took the Sacrament and listened to several talks from church members, one of whom was originally from Utah and had decided, on graduating college, “Why not go to Hawaii for law school?” And there she was. The congregation was a fantastic mix of transplants: several main landers, some native Hawaiians, and many different people from (I assume) the Polynesian islands. I loved the visual reminder that people, from all around the world, can be united in their love of Christ. Traveling is always an unexpected affirmation for me that the Gospel is for everyone and that Heavenly Father loves all of his sons and daughters. At the end of the meeting, in true Hawaiian tradition, the congregation rose and sang “Aloha ‘Oe” with such a beautiful reverence. I wanted to cry. I didn’t, in that moment, want to ever leave.
But leave I did, for another afternoon on the beach with Yelena and her family. Since it was Yelena’s last night, we wandered around the International Market and Waikiki Strip, eventually heading to the Shorebird, which was having a karaoke night. We listened to some good singers, some not-so-good singers, and a man who first sang a duet with his daughter and then, as she ran off with some friends for a night out, commenced to sing a heartfelt ballad about love that was lost. We decided he was a divorcee.
Monday came and off went my lovely friend and her family for a fun week on Maui. I walked just a few blocks to my hostel, Hostelling International–Waikiki, where I was greeted by the most apathetic hostel worker everrr! But I will write about my solo adventures later. Suffice it to say, for now: GO TO HAWAII! It’s awesome, truly.