Monday, June 13, 2011

Orientation in Hawaii!

As a high school teacher from DeLand, Florida, I was thrilled to learn that I had been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study the culture, politics, and economy of Southeast Asia during the summer of 2011.  This blog will document my travels as I explore Hawaii, Thailand and Vietnam.  The blog begins as I attended a five day orientation at the University of Hawai'i. 


Oahu, Hawaii
      Having never been to Hawaii, I decided to head out a day early so I could explore Oahu on my own before the Fulbright seminar began.  I flew from Orlando to Phoenix (and was able to see the wildfires burning in Arizona from the plane), then from Phoenix to Honolulu, landing at around 2:30 p.m.  Picked up my rental car and had a fantastic drive up the Windward Coast, stopping at Diamond Head Beach Park where I saw a lot of surfers (the surfer-girl that's still in me from my youth made this a highlight of my trip!).  Then I continued on, checking out Nuuanu Pali Lookout (which Mark Twain reportedly called “the most beautiful view in the world”,  Halona Blow Hole, Waiahole Beach, and about every other lookout view on my way north up the windward coast.  The scenery is spectacular - rugged cliffs with vividly blue water crashing up against them, sending columns of spray and seafoam into the air.  Three hours later, I was still driving the coast, rounding Kahuku, the northern tip of Oahu, passing Turtle Bay Resort and finding my B&B, Kalani Hawaii, just south of Sunset Beach.  Appropriately, I watched the sun set on Sunset Beach, then drove to Banzai Pipeline Beach and ordered some shrimp satay from a roadside food wagon.  The North Shore is dotted with quaint little roadside stands selling fresh pineapple, shave ice (I call them snow cones), Hawaiian barbecue, surfboards, shells, and about anything else you can think of.  This stand had an array of seafood and it was a delicious and cheap meal which I ate looking at Banzai beach which was still glowing from the sun that just set. 

      My B&B is wonderful.  I think I’m the only one staying there and it’s built out of beautiful teakwood with sliding wooden doors, multi-levels, and charmingly furnished.  The landscaping is also beautiful and lush - the only drawback of Kalani Hawaii is that it’s not on the beach side of King Kamehameha Highway so there’s a limited view and I have to walk across the highway or drive to the beach.  In the morning the early rain showers stopped in time for me to be at the beach by 8 a.m.  A friendly lifeguard (actually he was a little too friendly) showed me where it would be safe to swim and I spent a glorious three hours at Sunset Beach watching the dozens of surfers ride the 5-7 foot waves (which of course were nowhere nearly as large as they get in the winter, when they have the professional surfing contests on 20 foot waves).  Back to Kalani Hawaii for a shower and checkout, then I drove through historic Haleiwa Town with its old shops and surf culture.  King Kamehameha Highway then turned east to cut through the center of the island, taking me to the Dole Plantation.  I took the train tour, supplementing my knowledge of the history of Hawaii and how the pineapple industry transformed the islands (of course I received Dole’s sunshiny version of the story which left out the negatives). 

      Continuing back to Honolulu, I found the Diamond Head crater, where I made the strenuous climb to the top.  The trail is in poor shape, but at least it’s made of rock (when Jeff and I took the kids to Mount Vesuvius in Italy the trail to the top of the crater was all volcanic ash which made for very difficult climbing as our feet sank with every step).  Diamond Head trail consists of about 200 steep stair steps and dark tunnels in addition to the rocky pathway, but the view at the top is worth it!  It’s quite hot climbing up because you’re on the mainland side of the mountain, but when you emerge from the last stairwell at the top the wind is coming from all sides and you look up the spectacular Windward Coast with its cliffs, back  at Waikiki Beach with its towering hotels, and then below you to the extinct crater (which is actually now the parking lot and ranger station).  I never realized the historic aspect of Diamond Head until I saw the century-old gun fortifications and read the accompanying literature.  Who knew it used to be a fort, capable of firing long-ranged weapons and triangulating targets all along the coast in case of attack? 

      Exhausted and hot when I reached the bottom of the crater, I had a pineapple shave ice and then drove to the airport to return my rental car. Took a cab to the University of Hawaii Manoa campus,  checked in at Hale Aloha (part of the East-West Cultural Center), and spent a night in my dorm room.  I still haven’t met any of my fellow Fulbrighters, but will be spending the day with them starting at 10:00 a.m. when we meet for seminars on U.S/Asia relations, the Vietnam War, Southeast Asian Culture and Immigration in Hawaii, and King Kalakaua’s Voyage Around the World.  Can't wait!