It has obviously been a while. I’ve been home for almost two months now and while I have always intended on finishing this, there was just a lot to do in that time. As soon as I got back I had to see people I hadn’t seen in months, find a job, and just get back into my little bubble of the world. But now that I have some time to sit down and write, I’ll finish the job.
Hawaii was wonderful for so many reasons. First, everyone speaks English! It’s amazing how much of a difference that actually makes, how easy everything seems. I hadn’t realized how much not knowing the language of a country made everything more exhausting and difficult because it had been such a long time since we’d been in a primarily English speaking country. The last one was South Africa! The currency was familiar, the stores and restaurants were familiar, even the familiar bathrooms were a relief! Also, my phone worked so I was able to talk to people I hadn’t spoken to in months. It did make me glad, though, that I hadn’t been able to use my phone the whole semester. It was such a time suck and distracted me from experiencing Hawaii at times. That being said, however, Hawaii was mostly just a nice vacation from all of my schoolwork and I didn’t feel so much pressure to “soak in the culture” because 1) it’s the United States, 2) I’ve been to Hawaii once before, and 3) I know I’ll be back again someday. As a result, I ate as much pizza as I could hold and felt no guilt from filling up on Starbucks. I did drink some local, Hawaiian grown coffee though. Did you know that Hawaii is the only place in the United States where coffee is grown? Fun fact.
When we reached Honolulu on Oahu, a friend and I were going to find a church we had heard about that does services in Hawaiian, but we were too late so instead we wandered around the shopping center by the Aloha Tower. We went to a convenient store and bought Doritos, Snapple, Mentos, and some other snack foods we’d been craving. Shopping was a bit of a wakeup call—we were definitely back to US prices! When we got tired of that, we caught The Bus (that’s what it’s called in Hawaii. Original, isn’t it?) to the Ala Moana beach. We ate lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen before heading down to the beach to relax and catch up on phone calls. It was so nice to lie on a beach for once! I had only done that in Mauritius, despite the fact that there were nice beaches in nearly every country we visited. On the way back to the ship we stopped at a shopping center and bee-lined it to the food court. I got an almond glazed pretzel from Wetzel’s Pretzels and a smoothie. It is true though, US portions are bigger. The smallest smoothie I could get was a 16 oz and I had to share the pretzel with my friend. Nonetheless, it was delicious! Back at the ship we showered and got dressed up to go out for a late dinner. I tried to look for Opah, the fish I had the last time I was in Hawaii and the best fish I’d ever eaten, but I couldn’t find it so I settled for salmon. It was still amazing. After walking around Honolulu for a while and meeting a few locals, we headed back to the ship for a short night’s sleep before getting up early to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.
After coaxing a few people out of bed, picking up a Starbuck’s latte, and navigating unfamiliar public transportation on way too little sleep, we finally made it to Pearl Harbor. We got our tickets for the ferry that would take us to the USS Arizona Memorial and looked around the gift shop while we waited for our time to go. The gift shop had reprinted newspapers from December 7, 1941, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I bought a couple, one from the local Honolulu paper and one from a St. Louis newspaper. There were veteran survivors of the attack sitting outside the shop. I wish I could have talked to them, but they were mostly just there to sign souvenirs for people. When our group was called, we watched a movie explaining the events leading up the attack and a play-by-play of the day. One of the more interesting things I learned is that only one Japanese bomb strayed from its target and hit civilians. One. And we retaliated by killing thousands of people with the atomic bomb. Anyway, after the video we boarded the ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial. The Memorial is built right on top of the actual USS Arizona where is sank. You can actually see the rusted, deteriorating ship below the water and shifting rainbows on the surface where the fuel is still leaking from its tank. Over 1,500 men sank with the ship that day and the Memorial serves as their collective gravestone. There is a large marble wall with all the names of the men who died printed on it. It was actually pretty moving; most everyone was silent. We took the ferry back to the visitor’s center and after a very frustrating string of phone calls trying to fix a class registration problem, (it really wasn’t that bad, I had just not had enough sleep to deal with it that day), we headed back to the beach. We didn’t even make it to the sand! We just spread out on the grass under some palm trees and took a nap. Exhaustion had definitely set in. Luckily we woke up in time to make it back to the ship before our dock time. Vacation was over. Time for finals.