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.
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.|
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?|