“Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free; man, I’m just livin’ my life, there’s nothing crazy ’bout me.” -Dizzee Rascal, Bonkers
I feel like ‘that college student.’ But after spending the last three years’ spring breaks in Michigan, Idaho, and Wisconsin, I figured it was about time for me to go somewhere with less snow than Nebraska. None, in fact.
I spent Spring Break 2015 on Oahu, splitting my time between Kapolei, Honolulu, and the mountains and highways and restaurants. Empress, my roommate from Italy, gave me the grand tour of her homeland, which included everything from beaches and shrimp on North Shore to karaoke and bonfires with her friends.
I’ve always found it interesting to see a person’s past life. A professor said recently, ‘When you shake hands with a person, you are meeting years and years of experiences and memories.’ Throughout the past four years I have done my best to visit many close friends’ hometowns with them to understand them on a deeper level. I am always amazed by the new side of them I see: how they act around their childhood friends and around their parents, where their high school hangouts were, how their landscape shaped their thoughts and activities.
We spent a day at Pearl Harbor, my one request as a history major. I didn’t know much about Hawaii, so I said, ‘take me wherever, I’ll follow,’ but Pearl Harbor was the one must-see item on my list. We toured the USS Missouri and took a shuttle boat out to the memorial over the sunken USS Arizona.
Over 30,000 men served on the USS Missouri throughout World War II; yet not one man was lost to combat in WWII, nor in Korea or Desert Storm, in which the ship was also used. Twenty-one ships sank in the first attack on Pearl Harbor, and 18 were put back into commission: the USS Arizona was one of the three that did not survive.
There is something beautiful and free about the island and its residents. Recently I have made it a goal to relax in the little things: to walk slower, to look at the sky sometimes, to dance when I feel like it, to leave parts of my day open and just see what adventures fill those moments. Hawaii was this to an extreme. I slept in, awoke in Kapolei every morning to the sun on my face, and laid in the park to read textbooks or took leisurely long runs through neighborhoods whenever Empress had to work.
One morning we awoke before dawn and hiked up to the old WWII pillboxes in Kailua to watch the sunrise. It was gorgeous, and we weren’t the only ones with this idea. It started to rain but it felt good and warm as we sat on the concrete roof of the graffiti-coated bunker. Later that day we drove around the entire island, stopping a few times to swim at a beach and to eat pineapple ice cream at the Dole Plantation. Somehow they knew I like the core because they stuck an entire pineapple core in my ice cream cone! I was ecstatic. Empress, Hector, and Erika just laughed.
In addition to pillboxes, Empress and I also hiked to the tidepools below Makapu’u, which she had never done before, so we explored together! We found two tidepools and swam in them both, watching the waves crash on the rocks near us in the growing storm. We also found a cave at the very end of the hike. It took almost four hours due to the jagged rocks and sea urchins.
Empress met up with different friends every night as we tried every kind of restaurant the island has to offer, I think. We ate Korean BBQ where you cook the meat yourself on a grill built into the table; I ate a lot of things I didn’t recognize when Empress took me to sushi (even eel, I found out later!); I sampled the famous honey toast at Shokudo; I split an acai bowl with Empress during a trip to Ko Olina, where we waded in the lagoons. And the coconut. Can’t forget drinking out of a coconut at the swap meet.
Sometimes I went to Empress’s work and bothered her while she was finishing up photo shoots of tourists in Waikiki or running festivals at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I ate Mediterranean food at the Jewish Film Festival and watched an Indian dance routine, a retelling of the story of Mehrunissa, an orphaned girl in 16th-century Mughal India who became the empress of India when she married Prince Khurrum.
The final day my Empress had to work all day so I took my homework to the beaches in Waikiki and allowed my tourist side to come out a little bit as I burned in the sun and talked to the random older couples relaxing in retirement on the beach.