Strolling Down Memory Lane in Honolulu

When I moved to DC the first time I was in my early 20s, had a degree in History and no real idea what I wanted to do with my life. I eventually decided that a graduate degree in Historic Preservation was what I wanted. Historic Preservation is an academic field that rarely stands alone–at least that was the case in 1994–some programs are in planning departments, some in architecture, some in history, econmics, geography, and American Studies. For reasons which are no longer clear to me, I decided I wanted an HP program within an American Studies department. Even more confusing to me now is why I chose to apply to the programs I did. I can, however, honestly say that I applied to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa based on what the HP program offered. I was not one of those people who fantasized about living in Hawai’i or other sunny clime so it wasn’t the allure of the islands that prompted me to move, sight unseen, to the remotest populated islands in the world.

Being someone who has a healthy appreciation for a cloudy day, cool weather, and seasons, it isn’t surprising that I found myself frustrated from time to time with life in Hawai’i. Being so far from all my friends and family and missing my East Coast lifestyle I never considered staying longer than the two years it took to get my degree. I also realized halfway through my American Studies degree that I really should have been getting a degree in planning (which I did about six years later at Cornell).

Depsite my many frustrations with living in Hawai’i (and all the twentysomething angst I experienced while I lived there) there is something wonderful about it that has stuck with me over the past 15 years. The thing I remember most fondly are the trade winds that are almost always blowing across the islands. They make for the most amazing evening breezes that give me such a groove I can’t really explain it.

Much of the built environment in Honolulu is actually quite ugly, lots of cinder block buildings and a hodge podge of ramshackle old cottages and not very attractive high rises all mixed together. Yet I look at that urban landscape now and I find myself really loving it. I think it has to do with the layers of history that haven’t been wiped away like they have in most other U.S. cities.

The food is interesting and diverse, and although it can feel isolated and provincial (sometimes very provincial) there really can be a wonderful sense of Aloha.  I hoped on this trip that John would see Honolulu through my slightly rose-colored glasses. In the past he has liked other, more picture-postcard parts of Hawai’i, but I wanted him to like Honolulu and the rest of O’ahu. Thankfully he did.

Day Two
We started the day early by heading off to Leonard’s to get the best damn malasadas in the world. A malasada is a Portuguese raised sugar donut with no hole and they are so, so, so delicious. They are slightly eggier and chewier than a typical raised sugar donut. They are pretty much made to order and most people like them when they are still warm, but I must say I like them on the cool side. John disagrees with me on this but that was okay because it meant that I got to finish them off later in the day without having to share. It also meant that we went back on Day Three for more.

I wish I had one (or six) of these right now.

From Leonard’s we drove through the University then deeper into the Manoa Valley to see Lyon Arboretum. I had a roommate when I lived in Honolulu who was always going there but I never went once in two years, my only interest then was the beach. But since John is a gardener I figured we should give it a go. We were really lucky because the Monoa Valley gets lots of rain (hence the lush plants) but it was perfectly sunny while were there.

After the arboretum we went downtown to have lunch with two of my former colleagues. Downtown Honolulu is not Waikiki, they are actually a mile or two apart. The former is workaday Honolulu and the latter is where a whole lot of tourists spend all of their time. Honolulu has the oldest Chinatown in the U.S. and has lots of great hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurants.

That is me with the bad posture.

Vietnamese Pho. Or what’s left of it.

Live abalone.

And finally, after our trip downtown we stopped off at Ala Moana Beach Park which is kind of halfway between downtown and Waikiki–and across the street from a huge shopping mall.

Would you believe there is a Neiman Marcus about 200 yards from this?

While all the tourists hang out on the crowded beaches of Waikiki there is all of this beach at Ala Moana.
Granted, Ala Moana has a reef that keeps the beach from getting any waves and keeps the water shallow,
but it is still a great place to plop on the sand and splash around in the water.
The buildings in the midground are in Waikiki with Diamond Head in the background.

Do you want to see 1,212 pictures of Hawai’i?

Probably not, but that is how many pictures we (well, John) took while we were in Hawai’i for 8 days. You can imagine that a pretty smallish precentage of those are keepers. Often when we I get around to posting vacation pictures I get a little overwhelmed by the vast quantity of photos to choose from. So much so that I usually end up dumping lots of pictures without much in the way of explanation. But this time I really want to slow myself down so I can take some time to write about our experience in Hawai’i. As I have mentioned before, the first of my Master’s degrees (American Studies/Historic Preservation) is from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. And because I lived in Honolulu from August 1995 to September 1997 I have a certain affinity for the place that visitors may not appreciate. I know that that is the case with John. This was our first trip to Hawai’i together, but he has been there about six other times, once on O’ahu (Honolulu) and the other trips on Maui, Lana’i, and the Big Island of Hawai’i. For many who visit O’ahu they see the crazy hustle bustle of Waikiki and all the traffic on the island and don’t appreciate all there is to see on the island.

Knowing that John was less than excited to spend four of our eight days in Hawai’i on the island of O’ahu I told him ahead of time to think of it not as going to Hawai’i, but rather as going to see my old stomping grounds. Somewhere I spent two years of my life. And it worked. Thankfully the stars aligned and I was able to show him the full beauty and variety of O’ahu and we had a wonderful time there. (We also had a great time on Kaua’i which was a new island for him, but that is another story.)

Day One
On our first full day on O’ahu we had a very full schedule. We started with a morning drive across the pali (cliff) on the old Pali Highway stopping at the Pali Lookout on the way to the windward side of the island.

Our first stop was Lanikai, my favorite beach on O’ahu. We didn’t stay too long but we did come back later in the week (will have more pictures later). One of the great things about Hawai’i is that there is no such thing as a private beach. Every inch of shore line in Hawai’i is public up to the high tide mark and regular public access to the beach is required in even the toniest of neighborhoods.

Then we headed past Kailua and Kaneohe on our way to the North Shore.

The Byodo-in Temple built in 1968 using no nails.
A lovely place nestled up against the pali.

Leaf graffiti at the temple.

Chinaman’s Hat seen through the trees.

A fruit stand near Kuhuku.

The legendary Sunset Beach on the North Shore which has winter swells that keep all but the most experienced surfers out of the water. Otherwise broken bones and death await the idiots.

Surf was definitely up that day.

Waiting for a lull to paddle out to the distant surf.

Surfer, Ron Paul…it must have to do with pot laws.

This gives some idea of how inviting the water looked that day.
Doesn’t the color of that water remind you of a wonderful, giant jacuzzi?

Double click on this one to make it bigger. Those are two young boys
and their boogie boards being launched in the air.
If the angry surf doesn’t keep you from going in the red flag should.

And then back to Waikiki for drinks and pupus.

The evening view from our hotel room lanai.

Also the view from our hotel room. Waikiki is a very dense, urban place.
Definitely hard to find peace and quiet, but it has other charms.

I was going to say this was our first sunset from our hotel room, but it was actually our second.

40 by 40: The 38th Birthday Update

I turn 38 this week which means that I only have 2 years to finish my 40 by 40 list. It isn’t that big of a list so it seems like that is more than enough time to get it all done. But some of the goals are more difficult than others. In fact, most of what I have completed so far you could probably consider to be the proverbial low hanging fruit.

So, without further ado here is the update:

3. Go to my 20 year high school reunion (completed 7/28/07)
You can read about this one on an earlier post.

4. Pass the TAP Exam (completed 8/10/07)
Not only did I pass the Travel Agent Proficiency Exam, I got 98% on it. Yes, that’s right, I am going into the highly lucrative field of travel planning.

I must say that this decision hasn’t been made lightly. In addition to walking away from the golden handcuffs at my current job, I am setting aside two graduate degrees that I still haven’t finished paying for. I don’t regret going into debt for either of those degrees, they both have provided me with training and experiences that will be useful no matter what I end up doing. Plus, I loved all of the time I spent in college and grad school. I loved my four years at the University of Minnesota. Although I had real mixed feelings about my time at the University of Hawaii, it gave me the opportunity to spend two years living in a sometimes frustrating but ultimately wonderful paradise. And my two years at Cornell University were two of the best years of my life. I loved studying urban planning, I loved my classmates, I loved the campus, I loved living in a small town, and I loved being a four-hour drive from Manhattan.

Now my most recent academic credential, knocking Cornell out of the top spot, will be the Penn Foster Career School. My online travel school alma mater in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

6. Write a blog tribute to the Womenfolk (completed 6/9/07)
Not only did I manage to write this blog tribute, but as a result I’ve had the chance to talk to three of the four remaining Womenfolk. It was wonderful to be able to talk to each of them and satisfy 20 years worth of curiosity.

16. Get a letter published in the New York Times (completed 7/18/07)
Not an easy thing to do, but my strategy of being quick, concise, and on point seems to have worked.

19. Release 25 books into the wild through BookCrossing (ABANDONED 7/29/07)
If I could figure out how to do a strikethrough on this blog I would cross this one out. I thought I would love this particular challenge. The idea is that you tag books you have read with a Bookcrossing label, register them online, and then leave them somewhere for someone to find in hopes that they will pick them up, see the tag, go online to note where they found it and what they thought about the book and then release it back into “the wild” for someone else to find.

I loved the idea of people connecting through books, but the process of leaving them out in the wild gave me more stress than joy. Maybe because you don’t really get to connect with people this way, and maybe because the kinds of books I read aren’t going to find a broad audience, or maybe it is because I am sure that most if not all of the books I have left out in the wild were probably thrown away. In any case, I didn’t find anything edifying about the process and it was stressing me out. So I am abandoning this one which means at least $10 for charity when I hit 40.

20. Make pudding from scratch (completed 7/7/7)
Brown sugar pudding with a tangy whip cream. Delicious and pretty easy to do.

For the full list click here.