Sunday, February 15, 2015

Two Months in Hawaiʻi

Two months in Hawaiʻi, and two months left in the life of this blog. I have decided to call it quits after the conclusion of this final research adventure.

Next month this blog will turn five years old. I started it in March 2010, two months after my first-ever visit to Hawaiʻi. I started the blog because there were stories from my Hawaiʻi trip in 2010 that were too long and too complex to fit into any quick social media post. I wanted to unpack my trip—as in, unpack my mind—and it seemed that writing a blog would be the perfect way to do it.

I called the blog "Pacific Dreams, New York Life" because, as a new graduate student in New York (in March 2010 I was still in the first year of my PhD program), I felt torn between my day-to-day life in New York City (which was new and exciting) and my research in Hawaiʻi (which was new and exciting). Now, five years later, I no longer live in New York! This is one reason why I feel like ending the blog, because the title doesn't even make sense anymore. Now it's more like Pacific Dreams, Migratory Life... at least for the next six months as I plan to live in multiple different states as well as hop all over the country (and beyond) for a while.

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 37-41

Last time I wrote here about Hawaiʻi was in October 2013 in a post called "Last Hawaiʻi Research Adventure." Well, thanks to some generous funding, I am back in Hawaiʻi for another research adventure. I do not believe in "lasts." How can one ever know what the future will hold? And now I am pretty sure that this trip, this Hawaiʻi Research Adventure, will not be my last. My research continues here, even as my life in New York does not.

As usual, photographs tell very interesting stories, so let's allow the pictures to do the talking from here on:

A lānai full of bikes, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

As in the past (January 2013 and August/September 2013), I am staying once again in a dormitory on the campus of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, thanks to the generosity of the East-West Center's low-cost housing program. One of the things I did on Day One here was to go purchase a clunky old bike (a single-speed beach cruiser) for $60. Bicycles are very popular here, as evidenced by this lānai (porch) full of bikes on the 9th floor of my dormitory. I imagine every floor's lānai has lots of bikes. It is such a problem that we all received notices this week that we had to register our bikes with the East-West Center management otherwise unmarked bikes would be rounded up and disposed of! Bikes, bikes, and more bikes!

Portrait of a clunky bike, Ala Moana Beach Park

When you say you ride a bike here, though, sometimes people think you mean a motorbike. These are very common, especially with the young students who refuse to even wear helmets. Coming from the mean streets of Manhattan, I cannot understand this helmetlessness! Anyway, on my first day with my new bike, I rode it down to Ala Moana (literally, the "path to the sea") and went for a dip in the ocean. Three miles each way—so six miles total—and the clunker held up fine! I also discovered that the City of Honolulu has put a lot of effort into building new bike lanes throughout the city lately. What is especially new is a dedicated bike lane on King Street (that unfortunately only goes East, but will soon be expanded to go West and East—the perfect way to commute between Mānoa and downtown!). In my five days of biking here so far, I have never found myself in a situation where I was uncomfortable riding on the streets. Drivers are much less aggressive here as compared to New York City drivers! And while I love The Bus (yes, the public transportation system here is called simply "The Bus"), I have yet to use it, finding my way to and fro by bicycle much more convenient (and cheaper).


Ala Moana, Path to the Sea

Besides a bicycle, I also rented a PO Box in Moʻiliʻili, a neighborhood just makai (seaward) of Mānoa. I also, as of just a few days ago, set up housing for the last two months of my stay here (March and April). This housing will be off-campus in an apartment shared with a few other folks. My landlord's family has a business that makes fresh ginger drinks, made with locally-grown ginger. So... of course I biked down to the farmers' market this morning to try some!
A fresh-made ginger drink, 8am at Kapiʻolani Community College Farmers' Market. (You may have noticed my green nails. Thanks to a special someone who got me Hawaiʻi-themed colors for my birthday! I've been getting a lot of compliments, and I feel, gender-wise, that Hawaiʻi is a great place to do whatever one wants.)

Of course, having biked all the way down to Diamond Head, I had to hike up to the summit, so that's what I did this morning. Here's what it looked like:

View from the gunnery (or observation deck) near the summit of Lēʻahi, Diamond Head. View is of Waikīkī in the distance.

The historian in me found it interesting that the Diamond Head landscape is so militarized. Apparently the volcanic crater was, in the first decade of the twentieth century, transformed into a fort. The U.S. government just couldn't resist seizing the sweeping harbor views from atop the crater and so they turned parts of it into gunneries and observation stations. No shots were ever fired from Diamond Head, so they say, but still, as if Oʻahu was not already militarized enough, even this "natural wonder" is impossible to experience without interfacing with the history of American colonialism here. I wonder if other visitors to the site feel the same way / think the same things as I did. (I noticed a "Designated First Amendment Area" at the bottom of the trail, and I am interested to know what kind of demonstrations have occurred historically and at present here.)

Anyway, the views were great.
View of Moʻiliʻili, University, and Mānoa (where I live), from the summit of Lēʻahi, Diamond Head.
 Storm clouds over Waikīkī, as seen from Lēʻahi, Diamond Head. The rain started about thirty minutes later.
Waikīkī, as seen from 760 feet above sea level. 

There are still lots more touristy things to do (in the vein of hiking up Diamond Head), which is just to say that despite this being my fourth research trip to Hawaiʻi in five years, I have yet to do everything that even the most common Waikīkī tourist does in one week. That's because I'm a bookworm, living in the libraries. And tourism always makes me a little uncomfortable.

Stay tuned for more updates over the next several months, including a trip to Maui and a trip to Sāmoa!

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