On Sunday morning, I could hardly lift my head off of my pillow after dancing for three hours to electro-jazz the night before. But I was meeting my good friend Val’s brother for lunch in Waikiki, so I forced my exhausted body out of bed and made sure to shower and write in my journal before rushing out to catch the bus. In a sleepy daze, I walked around, confused, before I found the bus stop and then did not have enough change to get on. But contrary to the bus drivers in Evanston, the older man in glasses driving the bus let me on with no trouble.
I was supposed to change buses, but I just decided to walk about an hour from the University of Hawaii campus, all the way down to the beaches of Waikiki. I put on my shades and walked purposefully and quickly, chin up, an independent woman. I had never been good with directions or following maps, but I was able to follow a path on my handy pull-out map of Honolulu to find my way there. On the way I saw a homeless black man laying outside a restaurant, a bakery with a huge line of tourists lined up outside of it, a Starbucks where I stopped to grab a bottle of water and a cute little clothing store that I wished to explore later. My iPod was not working for some odd reason, so instead of focusing on music, I took in the scenery and thought about dancing to live music the night before.
The steady beats of the electro-jazz music had pulled me out of my seat to dance alone in front of the band that night. The music was unlike anything I had heard ever before – there was an electronic house beat that the drummer we had interviewed some nights before was fiddling with while also playing percussion, a steady bass drum beat made by Makaya, my professor’s husband, a saxophone player, and a bongo drummer. It was a fusion of improvisational jazz, electronic music and African drumming, and when I danced I felt the earthy beats resonate within me. We had come to observe how the mixed-Black drummer performed, and also to see how the crowd responded. We were doing anthropological research on how locals and military or tourists engaged together, as well.
As I kept on walking toward Waikiki, I remembered how at first I had been self-conscious and stiff as I danced and felt the eyes of strangers peering at me as I tried to feel the beats. But by the time the third hour-long set had started, my body was completely loose and I was smiling, hitting the ground with my feet to the beat of the drums. Now others were dancing, as well, and I felt a happiness swell within me. I loved when the drumming quickened and my feet made swifter stomps, twirling and waving my hands, faster and faster. I could feel my heartbeat speed up with the drumming and I would close my eyes and smile, lost in my own world.
I could see the beach now as I neared the expensive shops, towering skyscrapers and palace-looking hotels. I had come to swim at the Waikiki beach some days before with Professor Sharma, Makaya and Maya. The sand was white and fine, the salty, Pacific water crystal clear and the waves strong, rushing against my body as I attempted to wade out. I watched as local – probably Samoan – children dived into the water from the cement block above the ocean, laughing and chattering. I wondered what it would be like to grow up so close to this paradise of water, these healing waves and sand that takes all worries away with the tide…
It was starting to sprinkle rain as I walked toward the Outrigger hotel, where perhaps the most famous restaurant in Honolulu, Duke’s, is located. Val’s younger brother, Tom, works as a waiter there, and had invited me to have lunch with him. I had fresh sashimi (raw fish) and a delicious smoothie, with Tom did not let me pay for. He is an incredibly nice 27 year old and we hiked up a gigantic crater called Diamond Head together. It was not the right time to do it, since the place was crowded with – mostly Japanese – tourists and the sun was high in the sky, but we well hydrated with water bottles, and the hike was not bad. The view at the very top of the high rises of Waikiki and the deep blue water of the Pacific Ocean were breathtaking. I learned from Tom that Diamond Head had been used as a military look out spot during World War II.