Saturday, June 18, 2011

Aloha, Hawaii

One of our professors from the University of Hawaii, our docent from the Iolani Palace, and Fulbrighter Joe Wright

      Tomorrow I say "aloha" to Hawai'i after having spent a lot of time in class at the University of Hawai'i learning about the cross-cultural connections which link our 50th state to Southeast Asia.  After spending all day Monday in a classroom at the East-West Learning Center at the University of Hawai'i, Tuesday was spent touring places of interest in Honolulu.  First stop was the Iolani Palace in downtown, where we saw the iconic King Kamehameha statue before entering the Victorian-era palace.  King Kalekaua built the palace in 1882 and, though not all that impressive outside, the interior is fabulous.  Beautiful wood floors (which are protected by having all visitors wear booties on the tour), lovely furnishings, and plumbing which was state-of-the-art for its day make the palace a must-see.  Our wonderful docent gave us a theatrical and at times emotional tour of the palace, pointing out that it was wired for electricity four years before the White House or Buckingham Palace were, the beautiful jewels worn by Queen Liliokalani, and the medals and momentos given to Kalekaua by monarchs of other nations on his trip around the world.  She also showed us the quilt made by the Hawaiian people for Liliokalani when she was imprisoned in the palace after her overthrow.  We were also told that before the palace was restored it had been used as government offices and scenes from the old Jack Lord Hawaii 5-0 were actually filmed there!  Book 'em Danno.
My dorm at University of Hawai'i Manoa

View of Diamond Head from my dorm room window

Iolani Palace in Honolulu

Our fascinating docent at the Iolani Palace

     After lunch we went to Pearl Harbor where we were given a VIP tour of the new interactive museum by its curator, Daniel Martinez.  There is an excellent and moving video narrated by Stockard Channing which is shown right before going out to the monument.  It has footage in it I (who have taught history for 20 years) have never seen before and, besides moving many to tears, set the tone for the visit to the Arizona.  The short ferry ride to the Arizona monument took us past the USS Missouri, where the WWII surrender of Japan took place in 1945.  There are no words to describe the emotion of visiting the USS Arizona so I won't even try. Let the words inscribed on the memorial suffice:  "Dedicated to the eternal memory of our gallant shipmates in the USS Arizona who gave their lives in action 7 December 1941....."  
USS Arizona

USS Missouri

      After seeing the ghostly shell of the ship through the clear waters of the harbor and noting the oil which is still leaking from the ship on the surface of the water, we returned to the visitor center.  In our tour of the museum, which has added reconciliation to its theme of remembrance, I was thrilled to see an original copy of FDR's "A day which will live in infamy" speech.  And I discovered something I'd always wondered - the significance of the shape of the monument.  The monument's architect explains, "Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, it expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory in WWII."  I'm so grateful I was able to visit this place.
Curator of the Pearl Harbor Museum

FDR's "day of infamy" speech

      The last day in Honolulu was spent in seminars about redeveloping the city's arts district, the architectural history of theaters in Hawaii, ruins in southeast Asia, and cross-cultural tips for Thailand and Vietnam.  Tomorrow I'll fly to Korea - a 9 1/2 hour trip - then change planes and continue another 5 1/2 hours to Bangkok!
Sunrise at Waikiki Beach

Outrigger at Waikiki Beach