Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I just love that word. Honolulu. It's fun to say. And not a bad place to have to go on a business trip, which is where and how I spent my week last week.

I've been to Honolulu exactly twice. In fact, I've been to Hawaii exactly twice. And neither time for pleasure. Weird, isn't it? The first time I arrived in Honolulu, sight unseen, was in January of 1991. I arrived by myself at the self-important age of 22, with all of my belongings, which admittedly were few.

After collecting my big bad bag, I set off for the local YWCA, as I didn't yet have a place to call home. I was registered to start my MA/PhD program in cultural anthropology at The University of Hawaii at Manoa, but had no housing. I looked at the housing boards on campus and soon found myself living in a cool, old wooden house on a steep hill in Kaimuki. It had a great view of Honolulu from the living room, especially at night, as well as a big stone fireplace, a giant white dog named Zepher, and big white male cat, whose name I cannot recall, but who adopted me straight away.

With just my local bus pass and mountain bike for transportation it wasn't long before I was questioning my decision to live a top that hill; but I made my way around okay, and soon had two jobs, one more than I could really handle while going to school. I ditched the health food store job in favor of the restaurant job, and continued to pedal my way to both school and work.

I was busy, and loved the weather, but was kind-of depressed. I was a long, long way from my family and friends and boyfriend, and was completely unused to being a minority. I felt tall, and white, and not so welcome much of the time.  I got sick of being called a haole, and tired of having to add 6 hours on to my local time to figure out when to call my mom.

I got along well with my roommates and made some friends, but it all seemed so far away, and small, and isolated, and expensive. There was no real music scene. I did not like the plate lunches. I am not a karaoke fan. I was lonely.

I had island fever.

I ended up leaving after that first semester, and although I do sometimes wonder what life would be like if I did stick it out, I can't say I have ever actually regretted leaving, and well honestly, there's just not enough time for all the what-ifs and if-I'd-onlys in life.

Which, finally, leads me back to last week. A mere 20 years later (I really did have island fever to stay away so long, yeah?), I once again landed in Honolulu with a big bag. This time packed with a business suit, dress slacks and black pumps.

It was strange. Although I'm middle aged now, with a home, family, and secure job, I did not escape those decade's old feelings. The air, the sporadic rain, the smells, all the still the same, and all took me right back to my baby self, just out of college, solo, working so hard at being brave.

Don't get me wrong, I had a good time last week. The first four days my husband was with me, without any of our kids, so we were able to eat well and drink well, and sleep in late. We worked out, laid by the pool, walked the beach, shopped, and attended the very fun, very free, very cool Kokua for Japan concert one afternoon. We went out on a triple date of sorts with my boss, co-worker, and their spouses. We spent time on the hotel balcony looking across the yacht harbor, filled our room fridge with all manner of Kona Brewery beer, and generally relaxed.

But he too was wrestling with some old Honolulu flashbacks. He'd had an extended stay in one of the high-rise buildings directly in front of our hotel while in boarding school in the mid 1980s. He had stayed with his close friend Yusef for 5 weeks one January. Yusef was Kuwaiti and rich and the pair was unsupervised -- they managed to have a good time. But sadly, Yusef was never heard from again following the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990. The friendship never had closure; and Honolulu brought a lot of that back.

So there we were, in a topical paradise, both pondering our younger selves. Both remembering past experiences, and marveling at the passage of time.

Not what you thought you were going to read about Honolulu, is it? Lol.

Well, anyway, it's still a great name. And the next time I go? I may just skip Honolulu, and Oahu for that matter. I think I'll head straight to Maui or Kauai or the Big Island and make me some brand new memories. Aloha!


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Beth, this is brilliant. You're such a good writer, and I was right there with you, and T, and the earlier versions of your selves, too. How interesting and compelling that you *both* left parts of your selves on Honononlululululu.

You're right! It *is* fun to say.

Love it. Thanks for sharing.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Ah, that's just tragic. Well written, but trajic nonetheless. Hawaii is such a place of joy for me. I hope you do go back and start to create some new and improved memories.



Pat said...

What a wonderful blog, well put.

You know I want to do a BIG trip with the whole family for my 70th birthday (can it be just 3 and a half years away??) and maybe Hawaii is just the place--no work, no Oahu just fun in the sun.

Love Mom

Beth said...

Hawaii sounds like an excellent idea, mom. I'm in! (And 3.5 years will be here before we know it - whether we like it or not!)

And although I may have a different slant on Hawaii than many vacationers, I'm actually glad for my U of H experience; I'm one of those people who tends to think that the grass is always greener(though less as the years go by). I'm one of those people who would leave everything and move to a remote tropical island (obviously), and I'm glad I did it when I was young. It taught me a lot.