Tag Archives: Waikiki

Young Man Went West #42: Just One More State

As we made our way from the snack stand to the fake river’s edge to watch the “Rainbow of Paradise” canoe pageant, a thought crept into my head: “I’ve done this before.”

This exactly? No. I had never been to the Polynesian Cultural Center before. I had never filled up on a meal of chili rice and mac nut ice cream. I had never squeezed in among tourists to watch a river parade.

But I have done “this.” I’ve explored the most touristy attraction of a region with equal parts admiration and cynicism and my good friend Ian by my side. Sure, our summer roadtrip had ended eight months prior, but apparently he and I had one more state to explore: Hawaii.

Ian came to stay with me during the second week of May. He had been talking about visiting since I moved here almost three years ago, but it wasn’t until news of my impending move reached him did he make plans to come. That, and his savings account had to recuperate after our cross-country adventure. I was excited to have him come. Ian and I went to the same middle school, high school and college. We have a lot of the same friends, interests, and opinions. We spent three months together in a Honda Civic. It was weird to think that something as familiar to me as Hawaii was something he hadn’t truly experienced before. I couldn’t wait to fix that.

I had played tour guide to a number of friends before Ian, so I knew what I was doing. Jenn and I picked him up from the airport ready with a couple containers of poke. In the span of six days, he also tried traditional Hawaiian food, shave ice, Spam musubi from 7-Eleven, Storto’s sandwiches, Kahuku shrimp, and a Zip Pac from Zippy’s. We did the requisite trips up to North Shore, around Waikiki, and into Chinatown. And even though I couldn’t go because of work, he got to visit Pearl Harbor, too. I’ve not only eaten, seen, and done all of these things countless times before, but I’ve also made a point of introducing them all to my friends.

But this time, it was different.

I realized that these mini trips and food experiences were as much for my sake as they were for his; he was exploring these places for the first time, and I was exploring them for possibly the last. At least, the last time as a resident. A transplant local. Universities say you need to be living in state for a year before you can claim residency; on my one-year mark I got a tattoo in honor of my first “kama’ainiversary.” Since then, I’ve transitioned from wide-eyed newcomer to indifferent local. I don’t go to the beach anymore. I no longer walk around Waikiki for the hell of it. I barely leave my neighborhood except to go to work. I decided to use Ian’s visit as motivation to rediscover my island.

On Ian’s first full day here, I swallowed my pride and participated in a full day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. For the past three years, I’ve been told to avoid this tourist trap, but before our day at PCC  was even half over, I was legitimately enjoying the entire experience! Unlike Germaine’s Luau and Paradise Cove, PCC isn’t just a luau–which by today’s terms means a low-quality Hawaiian food buffet with a cheesy dancing and an even cheesier host–it’s a theme park as well as a stage show with high production value. I mean, it does have that aforementioned type of luau, but it’s sandwiched between two much better experiences.

Even though the layout of the 42-acre collection of “villages” looks as fake as Disneyland, it’s more of a living museum than a theme park. There are demonstrations at each of the six main villages every half hour. Each village represents a different major Polynesian culture (Samoa, Aotearoa a.k.a. New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, and Hawai’i), and each is run by natives from those places who are dressed in traditional garb, demonstrate dances and instruments, and drop some first-hand knowledge of their respective cultures. I learned a lot from the demonstrations, and not just about the characteristics of those six cultures, but also about the distinctions between them. This came in handy for the evening show, which was an awe-inspiring spectacle that told a legendary tale while exploring the six major cultures through song and dance.  Ian and I were equally impressed with our time at the PCC, especially since this was supposed to be our ironically touristy day in Hawaii.

While Ian’s first full day at the PCC was an experience most locals don’t partake in, his last full day was something we almost all do: spend a day on the North Shore. It was his first legitimate Hawaiian beach day. We jumped off the rock at Waimea, got shave ice in Haleiwa, and ate shrimp in Kahuku. To top it off, we spent that Friday night barhopping in Chinatown and Waikiki with Jenn and her friends. It was typical and it was perfect at the same time. I’d never seen Ian lament over leaving a place as he did the next morning. He did just enough of everything in six days to realize that six days wasn’t enough. While I think nearly three years was plenty of time for me, I can expect that my last day here, much like Ian’s, will still be filled with a similar sweet sorrow.

The week Ian came to explore one last state with me was not only a good epilogue to our summer road trip, but also a good ending to my time in Hawaii.

My hat: the past. My shirt: the future.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under YMWW Blog

Young Man Went West #25: Bucket List

First of all, like in the good ol’ days, I’m writing this entry directly on Facebook and then pasting it on Young Man Went West later.  I’ve found it easier to insert photos in a Facebook book than a WordPress blog.  And there will be plenty of photos.

Some of you may have noticed the Hawaii Bucket List I have on my profile page.  I don’t plan on “kicking the bucket” anytime soon, but I do plan on moving, and there are certain things I’d like to do before I leave.  The degree to which I actually want to do each of these things varies; the common thread here is the need–nay, the feeling of obligation I have to complete each task.  For example, lying in my deathbed many years from now, I’d be content having never swam with dolphins, but I feel obligated to do so because, well, I’m in freakin’ Hawaii and that’s what people do while they’re here.  Seize the opportunity when you can, right?  On the other hand, I want to hike Stairway to Heaven for the sake of hiking Stairway to Heaven.

Let’s get this party started (and by “party” I mean a thorough explanation of each item that helps comprise my Bucket List)!

Visit the Honolulu Zoo

Which one’s wilder?

Status: Completed

When: July 26, 2010

Reason: For nearly a year, I lived no more than a 15-minute walk from the Honolulu Zoo.  And for nearly a year, I never went in.  I had no desire to do so.  Nothing against animals: they’re interesting, entertaining, and usually delicious, but I can see pretty cool animals outside of the zoo.  For free!  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I lived so close I couldn’t not go in (and yes, the double negative was necessary).

One day, my good friend Amanda expressed an interest to go before she left the island.  If I only kinda wanted to visit the zoo, I might as well do it in great company.  So we went, and you know what I discovered?  It wasn’t that great.

The most interesting picture I took was of a lizard I found on a fence.

I definitely wasn’t the worse zoo I’ve been to (that award goes to the zoo in Morelia, Mexico), but it was nothing compared to the animal wonderlands I grew up with: Marine World Africa USA and the San Diego Zoo.  This one was, quite literally, just a stroll in a park.  Most of the animals were either sleeping or hiding, but the ones you could see were just standing there.  I know, what else are they going to do, right?  I made me put the whole idea of a zoo in perspective: sure, it was a great idea back in the day before mass media, back when people only heard stories of strange creatures from far away lands.  But now, what’s the point?

Despite my critique of the zoo, it was still a completely enjoyable day.  I got to hang out with one of my favorite coworkers before she abandoned us.  And, she was on a Bucket List mission of her own: see the endangered Nene Goose (the Hawaiian State Bird).  Status?  Completed.

Eureka!

Learn to Surf

With Amanda and Benj in Waikiki

Status: Completed

When: Sometime this summer

Reason: Hawaii is the surfing capital of the world!  My cousin Jon once told me of a time he ran into some Europeans who loved to surf, but obviously couldn’t do it often.  When they found out my cousin was from Hawaii, they asked if he surfed a lot.  They were appalled when he answered in the negative.  Therefore, I owed it to stranded surfers everywhere to learn the sport while I’m here.

I’ve only gone out maybe three or four times, but every time I went, it was flat and crowded.  I spent maybe 98% of that time just sitting on the board, waiting.  And burning.  Of course, they weren’t bad experiences.  Like the zoo trip, my surfing sessions were always in good company.  My friends and coworkers Amanda and Kylene were the first ones to take me out.  Harry took me out, too, and Benj joined once.  You know what all those people have in common?  They’ve all left the island!  I haven’t gone surfing since. . .

Learn to Surf Well

Obviously not me
Status: Not yet complete

Reason: Go big or go home, yeah?  I need at least one surf session of which I can be proud.

Skydive

This one IS me!

Status: Completed

When: February 13, 2010 (the day after my 23rd birthday)

Reason: Skydiving has been on my bucket list for life for a long time.  If I was going to do it, I’d at least want a nice view.  So, yes offense to Lodi, I held out for the North Shore.

I went with former roommates and friends Thomas, Young, Mose, and Amy.  It was a fun trip (all trips to North Shore are fun) and a beautiful day, but the activity itself was a little underwhelming.  Because I’ve been aware of the relative safeness of skydiving for many years, I wasn’t nervous at all.  Additionally, it seemed a bit unreal.  While straddling the crowded bench in the plane as it gained altitude, I was actually worrying about not worrying, because that probably meant I wasn’t “in the moment.”  Standing at the door, I saw the endless blue ocean, heard the wind rushing by my face, and felt. . . not much.  Impatience, at least, for the guy to count down to one.  I was getting bored standing there.

This was before the jump. I think I faked this smile, too, since I wasn’t “in the moment.”

Finally, we jumped.  I remember thinking it was kinda cool to see the underside of a flying plane.  I remember how quickly my mouth dried up when I stuck my tongue out at the photographer.  I remember thinking that, with nothing visually rushing past me, I really couldn’t grasp the fact that I was falling.  That’s relativity for you.  The most prominent memory of skydiving I have, though, was how uncomfortable that harness felt between my legs.  When I looked down, I didn’t for a second think, “Oh man, that’s a long fall.”  Instead, I thought, “Oh man, it’s gonna be a while before I can take this harness off.”  On the ground, my instructor and photographer were super psyched, asking me how amazing I thought my first time was.  I gave as convincing a smile as I could, and feigned an excitement that matched the kind they, I imagine, have to muster every time they jump with a new client.

Or maybe they just really, really like wearing those harnesses.

Party at Sandbar in Kaneohe Bay

Didn’t bring my camera with me, so I snatched this from the Internet.

Status: Completed

When: late August 2010

Reason: A sandbar is a trippy place to have a party.  Way out in the middle of a large bay, accessible by boat only, is a sandbar: a stretch of land that rises from the bottom of the bay.  Depending on the tide, the sand is either right below or right above the surface.  In accordance with centuries-old Hawaiian tradition, men and women find a friend with a boat to shuttle their asses out to the sandbar and down as much beer as they can before the sun sets.  Well, I’m only assuming it’s tradition.

Not too long ago, another coworker and good friend of mine, Katie, invited me to her friend’s birthday party at Sandbar.  From the minute I got there to the minute I left, everybody I met was warm and welcoming.  Maybe it was the phenomenally majestic setting of our meeting ground that put everybody in a good mood.  Or maybe it was just the alcohol.   Either way, I talked story with a lot of interesting people.  I didn’t even go back on the same boat I came on, which was a good thing, because that boat sank when it got back to the dock.

Hike Stairway to Heaven

Dangerous and forbidden. Can’t wait!

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: Hiking is one of the top activities to do in Hawaii, and while I don’t do it nearly as much as I’d like to, it’s always a good time.  It’s good physical activity with beautiful scenery and a sense of accomplishment.  Stairway to Heaven is, to me at least, the Holy Grail of hikes on O’ahu.  Nestled in the familiar steep green mountains, it is dangerous, high, and has recently been closed off.  Of course, the closing off of a hiking trail in Hawai’i is as seriously enforced as the prevention of jaywalking, so that’s not stopping me.  (And, by the way, I jaywalk ALL THE TIME!)

Hike Koko Head

I got this from the Internet, but I did take a similar photo. Everybody does.

Status: Completed

When: Today!

Reason:  In addition to my affinity for hiking as described above, the allure of Koko Head comes from it’s tauntingly close vicinity: it can be seen from the route to Sandy Beach.  The first time I saw it from a car I thought, “Pssh!  I can do that!”  But we’d go to Sandy’s a lot, so eventually my thoughts turned from “I can do that,” to “I need to do that,” to “Why haven’t I done it yet?”  It teased me every time I rode past.

Finally, I got the opportunity to go today.  My friend, Ernie, the wedding photographer I mentioned in past blogs, brought me along.  Koko Head is a relatively short hike that gets pretty steep by the end.  Depending on your athletic ability, it takes anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour.  One follows an out-of-service railroad track straight up, practically using it as a ladder by the end.  At the top are abandoned military bunkers and, on a clear day, a view of some neighboring islands.  Luckily, we went on a clear day.  Stay tuned for the photo album to follow (it should be coming after my zoo album, my skydiving album, and my scuba diving album.  Speaking of which. . . )

Go Scuba Diving

Obviously, I’m not scuba diving, but this was another one of the water activities I did that day (the most fun, IMO).

Status: Completed

When: early September 2010

Reason: Scuba diving is an activity you can only do in select places, and Hawai’i is one of the best.  If you’re going to breathe a limited supply of air through a rented mouthpiece, you might as well do it in a freakin’ pretty ocean.

Thomas, Mose, and I joined Amy for a day of water activities for her birthday.  These kids have taken me to the highest heights and the lowest lows here and I love them for it.  Scuba diving was pretty relaxing, after I learned how to equalize the air pressure in my ears.  If you descend too quickly without “blowing” through your ears, they start to ache really quickly.  I got excited, descending too quickly, and learned the hard way.  It was pretty cool breathing while being completely submerged.  Because I wasn’t holding my breath, I had time to leisurely swim about and explore.  I didn’t realize it’d be a such a different experience.

After the dive, we (and by “we” I mean me and Mose.  Both Amy and Thomas got a little sick from the boat ride.  No, Amy got a little sick; Thomas was nearly dead) rode about Koko Marina on a bumper boat (pictured above) and a banana boat.  Though similar, the bumper boat was definitely the best.  Imagine an air mattress that was completely flat and round.  Now imagine lying on top of it while being pulled by a speeding boat and the only thing to stop you from staying on and crashing into the water at a high speed is the grip you have on a couple nylon handles.  It took some cocking coaxing from the two of us to get the boat driver to hit a high enough speed to throw us off.  Too much fun!  I may have been able to cross “scuba diving” off my list, but that bumper boat was the highlight of my day.

Swim with Dolphins

Took this when we sneaked into Kahala Resort to see the dolphin “lagoon”

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: As mentioned in the introduction, I really only want to do it because everybody else does.  It’s not a peer pressure thing, it’s a carpe diem thing.  Don’t I owe it to dolphin lovers stuck on the mainland to do this while I’m living here?  I think so.  Although, Mose led Thomas and me to the dolphin lagoon at Kahala Resort one day and we got the brochure.  I’m not sure dolphins, as smart and elegant as they are, are worth those crazy high prices.  Why, for a fraction of the lowest price, I could. . .

Swim with Sharks

Maybe I’ll try feeding them poke to make it more interesting.

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: My friend Leslie is visiting next November and she’s dead set on swimming with sharks.  Okay, we won’t be “swimming with” as much as we’ll be “standing in a cage surrounded by,” but still, it’ll be a cool experience.  Maybe.  Hopefully it won’t be as underwhelming as skydiving.  I mean, I could foresee my critical mind liking it to a slightly wetter version of the shark experience observation tanks at a zoo (and you know how excited I get a zoos. . . ).  Maybe I’ll watch the entire Jaws saga before diving in, just to set the mood.

Visit the 5 Other Main Islands

All I need is go! Airlines. . . and a lot more money.

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: The state of Hawai’i is comprised of eight main islands, two of which (Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe) no one can really visit.  I’d feel like a poser Hawaiian if I left before seeing what else this state has to offer.  O’ahu is definitely the most touristy, the most city-like.  Every time someone makes a comparison between O’ahu and another island, they describe that island as “more laid-back,” “greener,” “prettier,” and in some cases “so boring.”  Having a love for the urban environment, I can see how that last statement might be true, but that won’t stop me.  Sure, I could never live on those other islands, but I can’t wait to visit them.  For those who are familiar with some of the other five (Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaua’i, and Big Island), where do you suggest I go?

PS: While researching the other two, I’ve learned that Ni’ihau, while privately owned and usually off-limits, has allowed supervised touring activities for over twenty years.  I’ll see if I can add that to the list.

***

Before I begin writing my last item, I’d like to direct your attention to part of an entry I wrote almost a year ago:

(From YMWW #6: THE PHOTO ISSUE! October 8, 2009)

I saw this stencil on the wall across the room of the sports bar where I watched the last Cal game (no comment on the game). If you can’t tell, the tree leaves resemble the shapes of the Hawaiian islands. I saw it and was immediately mesmerized. It was like one of those cliche love-at-first-sight moments where our eyes met across a crowded room, but instead of it being the woman of my dreams, it was this. Whatever. Baby steps. Anyway, it gave me a great idea for a tattoo: this design, but with the shape of California as the tree trunk. Maybe I’ll try to fashion roots to resemble my family name, or the shape of the Philippines. Maybe that’s too much. More on that later.

Get a Tattoo

Status: Completed

When: September 20, 2010

Reason: Since late high school or early college, I’ve known that I wanted a tattoo, and quickly decided that it should be a tree.  Not only is a tree representative of family, which I hold as the most important thing in my life, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing, being symmetrically asymmetrical, sometimes left to right, sometimes top to bottom (when roots are included).  Very early sketches I did were chalk-full of hidden symbols representing everything from the letters of my family names to Golden Poppies.  They looked like an amateur version of those hidden picture puzzles from Highlights magazines.  When I discovered that HiLife logo almost a year ago, I knew exactly what my tattoo should be.  I decided that if I made at full year on the island, I would get the tattoo to commemorate that.  Besides, a tattoo isn’t something I’d rush into.

The HiLife Tree cleverly and subtly represents the Hawaiian islands using the symbol (a tree) that I love.  Plus, it’s design easily lent itself to the inclusion of another thing I hold dearly: California.  So, not only did this idea represent the two states I’ve lived in, but also the decision I made to “branch out” to Hawaii (excuse the pun).  It therefore represents this adventure I took and my reasons behind it.  In a broader sense, it represents my attitude about life and how to live it.

Sorry, mom and dad. I know you don’t like tattoos, but I know you trust my motives.

PS: See that star?  It marks the Bay Area, the best place on earth!

PPS: I’ll be the model ending this entry, thank you very much.

1 Comment

Filed under YMWW Blog

YMWW #6: THE PHOTO ISSUE!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

(Originally posted on Facebook)

First of all, let me start off by quoting my good friend Josh Cella (as written on my Wall): go west young man / haven’t you been told / Hawai’i’s full of whiskey, women, and gold

(We’ll soon find out. . . )

Now, welcome to the Photo Issue of YMWW! Following is a collection of photos I took with my Samsung Propel (an affordable slide-open smart phone great for web browsing, messaging, and—obviously—photos) as I explored my new town.  Some photos I took just to send to my friend and make her jealous, while others I took because some things in life need to be photographed.  All, however, were taken with the intention of sharing with you (This blog is constantly in the back of my mind; I now mentally narrate my life as it happens.).

And here. . . we. . . go!

Waikiki Beach

I was aiming to take the most cliche, postcard-worthy photo of Waikiki Beach. I probably should have pointed my Samsung Propel slightly more to the left, but it’s still a nice representation of my ‘hood.

Lifeguard Tower Silhouette

This photo was one of the first I took to make my friend jealous. It turned out better and more postcard-worthy than I thought. Can’t you imagine “Aloha from Waikiki!” scrawled across the upper right portion?

My Workplace

Here is an exterior shot of my workplace: Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall. Damn, I’ve been meaning to get a picture of me in my uniform. Next time.
Sidenote: Hot women who workout love shopping at Whole Foods.
Addendum: They also love bringing their boyfriends.

Sunrise

I have to wake up so early for work, I am able to watch the sunrise. Here is the morning sun peaking through some trees at Kaimuki Middle School on 18th Ave (from the spot at which I’m getting ready for a little more uphill trekking).

Sunset

Interesting fact: this photo was taken on the same day as the previous photo. I’ve always been up to see the sunset, but now I get to see it settle behind the Pacific Ocean at Waikiki! Those silhouettes in the distance are cruise ships.

The Ocean. . . At Last!

At the time these photos were taken, I had been on the island for about two weeks. This was the first time I actually got around to touching the ocean! I was so determined to find a job (check) and a place to live (check) that I just put off the first thing every visitor does when the arrive. I hadn’t realized how much I loved the ocean until I walked in it again.

Paparazzi

Walking down the main drag of Waikiki around sunset, it looked as though all the Aloha-shirt-wearing tourists became freelance tabloid photographers following around Kate Gosselin. I thought I’d be ironic and take a picture of people taking pictures. Here are two of the more professional photographers who actually had decent cameras and the balls to venture out from the sidewalk.

Matching Couple

This is one of those things you can’t help but take a photo of: a matching Japanese couple. His Aloha shirt and her dress seemed to have been made from the same fabric. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they were tourists.

Tour Boat

I have to admit, I love tourists. It’s refreshing seeing people whose only aim for that day is to have fun. They also serve as a reminder to how awesome your city is. This is an hour-long tour boat docking on the beach. I should get me that job!

Tourist Market

Here is the entrance to the tourists’ natural habitat: rows of knickknack kiosks and cheap food. I love it! I had to go in!

Coconut Bras and Grass Skirts

These have to be the second most popular Hawaiian tourist purchase behind Aloha shirts. Wouldn’t it be great if the women here wore these all the time? Oh well, I’m fine with the workout outfits is see all the time.

Swami

I have no idea.

Dole Whip

Even though I was nowhere near the Dole Plantation, I still came across my most favorite frozen treat of all time: Dole Whip! You have no idea how happy I was to find this. It is better than heaven in your mouth. It is like heaven died and went up to its own heaven. It’s heaven’s heaven in your mouth.

Now Hiring

As you may know, Zippy’s is everywhere in Hawai’i. Everywhere. It’s a Hawaiian fast food restaurant more widespread here than McDonald’s (but a little less than Starbucks). . . and they’re hiring! I would have grabbed one of those tickets if I didn’t already have a job. But hey, if you’re jobless in California, come join me and become a member of the Zippy’s team! Do it.

HI-Life

I saw this stencil on the wall across the room of the sports bar where I watched the last Cal game (no comment on the game). If you can’t tell, the tree leaves resemble the shapes of the Hawaiian islands. I saw it and was immediately mesmerized. It was like one of those cliche love-at-first-sight moments where our eyes met across a crowded room, but instead of it being the woman of my dreams, it was this. Whatever. Baby steps. Anyway, it gave me a great idea for a tattoo: this design, but with the shape of California as the tree trunk. Maybe I’ll try to fashion roots to resemble my family name, or the shape of the Philippines. Maybe that’s too much. More on that later.

Anyway, I thought I could get away with letting the photos speak for themselves, but I ramble on too much for that to happen. Tell me if I need to edit down these blogs at all. Brevity is key, or so I’m told. In an effort to be ironic, I will NOT end the Photo Issue of YMWW with a Roxy model.

Just kidding. Screw irony.

This may be the same model from last time.

Leave a comment

Filed under YMWW Blog