Of Life and Love

Bicycles covered that art studio – old, rusty bicycles propped up against walls, bright bicycles hanging from the ceiling, watercolor paintings of bikes and pictures of them, too – shining in a setting sun underneath a grinning group of teenagers. Professor Sharma, Mimi, Maya and I were exploring the streets of a bustling Chinatown for First Friday, an event that showcased local art and music. We could hear rock music as we had walked into the studio and Mimi and I were instantly drawn to it, so I found myself following Mimi around to another room, where an older band was jamming out a dance-able rock tune. I found myself clapping and stepping to the beat and when I looked behind me, I saw Professor Sharma with Maya in her arms, moving to the music as well. She put Maya down and told her, “Go dance with Zoe!” I smiled and bent down to try and get her to dance with me, but she was looking up at the dancing crowd of mostly women with gigantic, soulful, brown eyes – clearly starstruck. One of the women noticed this adorable-to-the-core little girl and gave her a black egg-shaped shaker to shake to the beat. Perhaps because her father is an incredibly talented professional drummer, at two years of age, Maya already has the ability to move and clap to rhythms, so she soon got the hang of it, eyes still wide, taking it all in. I let myself fall to the drum beats as she shook, appreciating the bubble of joy that surrounded the stage of people dancing, some with eyes closed and big smiles. I would look down from time to time to whisper to Maya to show off her dance moves. We had been having dance sessions in my room the past couple days, where she and I face each other across a low table and she tries to copy how I move to the music. Afterwards she always would say, “More music! More music!” I remembered this and bent down to dance with her. She started to shake and a big grin overtook her face, brightening her eyes and evoking warmth in my heart. I grinned, too, when Mimi came down from watching in the seats behind us to shake and move to the beat, as well. Love expanded within me as I watched this dynamic duo – a sweet two-year-old in ribboned pigtails and an energetic, white-haired, beautiful woman – dance side by side, full of joy.

The band ended their set too soon for all of us and Mimi pointed out “Honolulu fashion” as we walked out. Women were all dressed up – in full-length gowns and what looked like prom dresses. Maya became infatuated with these bright, sparkly dresses and would go right up to someone to touch the fabric. She did so to three different women and they all found her to be especially cute. I am constantly amazed at how confident and outgoing Maya is – at her age, I would have hid from these women, instead of going up to them fearlessly.

But to be fearless and innocent is a beautiful combination, and in Hawai’i I have been working on the former. I have been exposing myself to new experiences and forcing myself to go up to strangers to ask them if they were interested in being interviewed. I have been filling my days here with work, play and spontaneous adventures. This last week, I have taken to carrying my laptop to the University of Hawai’i library, or to a local coffee shop to transcribe interviews, looking up titles of books and articles about Blacks in Hawai’i and writing up field notes of events. During my time here so far, Professor Sharma and I have conducted nine long interviews, and although because of confidentiality, I cannot write about the content of the long discussions we’ve had with local Black Hawaiians and Black musicians in Hawai’i, I can certainly say every single one was fascinating to both Professor Sharma and I. These stories need to be told, to be analyzed and thought about, and I come away from each interview feeling so thankful that these wonderful people opened up their lives and experiences to us, even though race and racism is a difficult topic of conversation, especially in the context of Hawai’i, where race is not seriously discussed.

Back at the art studio, we passed by a bicycle display that had a little figurine of a hula dancer on it, and a man told Mimi to press a black button on the bike. It emitted a loud beep, which caused us all to laugh. People in Hawai’i, I’ve found, are incredibly kind. When we were searching for a parking spot a bit earlier, for example, two local men offered their parking spot to us so that we could park for free, and later, when we made our way to a barbershop that a Black man that we were interested in interviewing owned, Professor Sharma talked to him about our project and he said he would love to help. The barbershop was having a cut-off event, where the barbers made shaved or cut designs into a man’s hair and would later be judged by the owner. We observed the scene for a bit before heading out again into the darkening streets.

Mimi, like me, is drawn to new experiences, so she spotted a Capoeira circle next to a street. When I saw it, I started running in excitement, and found myself to be part of the circle, clapping in rhythm and later joining into the tribal-sounding chants, watching the two men in the middle. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art dance that was created mainly by African slaves in Brazil and has Native Brazilian influences, according to Wikipedia. A row of percussion players were lined to one side of the circle. Three players were hitting berimbaus, which looked like combinations of stringed instruments and a drums. The other men were holding bigger drums. The men inside the circle were moving slowly and gracefully, bodies low to the ground, playing off of each other and sweeping their legs over each others’ heads. I loved that they were laughing and smiling to each other as they did so – this was not a martial art like karate that evoked sharp, hard movements, but rather a playful, beautiful, flowing dance that required two people to connect their movements and therefore their hearts. We could not stay long, but I vowed to one day learn that art, to be part of that world of gentle, graceful movements.

After seeing more art and walking around a bit, we headed back to the car to go home. Mimi fell asleep in the front seat while I showed Maya how to make bows out of the ribbon in her hair. As I watched Maya fiddle with the shiny strips, I remembered how we had all traveled, all in the same seats as we were then, to the North Shore on Labor Day. We passed by gigantic fields of pineapple and a Dole plantation. The soil was a sandy red unfamiliar to me and we passed by many small farms, towering, sharply cut mountains and street vendors. I fell in love with the tranquil ocean that glistened in the sun and for the first time in Hawai’i, I felt completely safe and free to swim in those salty waters. I watched little, tan local boys giggle over and over and the waves crashed over their heads, washing them to the sandy shore, and smiled to myself as I fell asleep underneath a perfect blue sky.

As I remembered this in the car next to Maya in the car seat, I was filled with a feeling of homesickness. There was something about being so full of joy here and experiencing everything that made me want to have my family here, as well, looking out at the gorgeous ocean or eating chicken katsu with me. When I observed the simple love of my professor’s family, the haven of protection that surrounded Maya everywhere she went, I felt a pang of lonliness for the familial love of my Central Illinois home and the haven of our farm. I love this family, these kind souls who took time to show me every part of this island and accepted me into their home. Professor Sharma is an incredible role model for me and Mimi reminds me of my own grandmothers, with her hilarious quirks and strong spirit, and I will miss Maya with all my heart, this beautiful, angelic girl full of kisses, hugs and love. It pained me that I would be leaving in a few days, back to Chicago and then back to the farm, but I could already feel the strong bonds of the farm pulling me back home.

This has been an experience of a lifetime – I have learned so much about research, life and love. Mimi suggested that I should come back to Hawai’i for graduate school in Japan Studies, which is a possibility I am considering. Instead of cementing my future plans in journalism and writing, my experiences here have shaken everything up, like the contents of that egg shaker Maya shook to the music in the art studio. A whole new world of possibilities have arisen in my life. I have too many dreams, too much I want to do and too many places I feel compelled to visit. But I am incredibly thankful for the kindness and open love of Professor Sharma’s family and feel incredibly lucky to have met them, and to be given this opportunity for life-changing adventure.




Wisdom from Old, Bright Eyes

I stared at the fifty-person and steadily increasing line for fried green tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market near Diamond Head Saturday morning in complete disbelief. I had never seen so many people – mostly Japanese tourists – in a farmers’ market, let alone waiting patiently before the stands officially opened for commerce before. And for fried green tomatoes?! At our farm, green tomatoes were sold when one accidentally fell off the vine or at the end of the season when it was necessary to harvest all of the remaining fruits before the frost came. So to me, green, unripe tomatoes were certainly not a delicacy,  so I found it odd that these Japanese tourists thought they were.

Orchids at the Farmers’ Market

I had woken up at 5:30 in the morning to take a quick shower and get in the car with Mimi, Professor Sharma’s mother, to drive down to the Farmer’s Market. Mimi wanted to buy some orchid plants before they were sold out, so though the market officially opened at 7:30, we got there an hour early. I took off on my own to walk around and found the market to be taking up abour the same size area as our Evanston one back home, but with two times as many vendors selling specialty goods like local honey, coffee and macadamia nuts, and prepared foods such as pizza, strawberry mochi and  organic natto. To my dismay, I could only find one vendor that was selling organic, local vegetables and fruits, but they had only a limited variety. I also was saddened by the fact that most of these farms seemed to be owned by local Japanese, not Native Hawaiians or other local groups that are towards the bottom of the social and economic ladder. The vendors were obviously making a significant profit by hiking up their prices for these Japanese tourists who flooded the place. As the sun rose, I found it more and more difficult to navigate through the growing crowds and when I spotted little Japanese children unpacking boxes, I felt nostalgic of the days when Asa, Kazami and I used to help Daddy sell veggies at the Market. I realized that as much as the seafood was fresh and the cuisine tasty here in Hawai’i, I missed the rich taste of Daddy’s veggies immensely. I wished that someday, more of the produce grown in Hawaii would be local and organic…

Exhausted to the point of feeling dizzy, I took a short nap when we returned home. A few hours later, Professor Sharma and I headed down to a local coffee shop to meet and interview a beautiful mixed-Black woman who was studying the correlations between Trinidad and Hawai’i, as well as the connections between the popularity of reggae in Hawai’i and the acceptance of Black people. Our hour-long conversation fascinated me and I loved how open she was about her experiences here. Then we drove to another coffee shop further away from home to interview a mixed-Black young man. I found there to be correlations between these two individuals and when we said our goodbyes and thank yous, I felt a surge of happiness rise within me. These interviews – these life histories and thoughts and interesting takes on life – were so important to relay to the rest of the world. I loved that doing this research made me feel like my professor and I were uncovering secrets of life that no one else had thought before to do.

With this feeling of contentment, I got dropped off at Kapiolani Park to explore the Okinawan Festival being held there. It was gigantic, filled with people, games for children, food and culture stands, and a big stage where Okinawan singers were strumming the sanshin and singing folk songs. After filling my empty stomach with a plate of chumpuru, I gravitated toward the sound of music and found myself by the stage, moving, smiling and closing my eyes to the singer’s voice. It was a voice full of love, purity and protection, but there was a growing sadness and loneliness there, too. I enveloped myself in those emotions and swayed, in a conflicted state of feeling content in family love but missing something – something that I could not pinpoint exactly, a sort of amplified want to just be everything to someone.


Since I was young, I have always had a fascination for Okinawan music, culture, dance and food, and it made me so happy that I was listening to live Okinawan music with an audience full of captivated people, sitting in rows and rows of benches and filling the grass behind them. The woman sitting beside me was clapping her hands, her eyes closed, lips smiling. I looked past her to the stage and beyond that to see a few people dancing, doing the traditional Okinawan dance of waving your hands gracefully above your head. I smiled while moving my way towards them and joined into their group, copying their movements in the empty area in front of the stage. At first I felt self-conscious that the 500 or so people watching were thinking to themselves, this girl obviously does not know how to Okinawan dance, but when I sat down after a few dances, a Japanese local woman who had been filming came up to me, complimented my dancing and asked me if I was Okinawan. I shook my head no, but felt incredibly joyous and accepted into a group that I have always wanted to be part of. When the last song came on, a greater group of people came out from the benches and danced with us. A Japanese, local, middle-aged man in a yukata laughed and made eye contact with me as he threw his hands up into the air to the strums of the sanshin, and all of the dancing people around me were smiling with so much joy. I wanted to capture all of this love and feeling of acceptance inside of me, to feed on it at times of darkness.

As the sun started to set, I explored other parts of the festival. I went to the cultural tent and met a few very nice and helpful University of Hawaii professors that knew Mimi, who also taught there. As I discussed with them my interest in Okinawa and Hawaii, I started to realize that I really loved researching with Professor Sharma and the lifestyle that she leads. She can go after what interests her and interview very interesting people, while also balancing being a wonderful mother to her 2 year old daughter. During my stay in Hawaii, I have been contemplating a future in becoming a professor. I would still be able to write books, but I would also be able to travel and go searching for answers across the world. I always thought that I would need to travel the world alone, before I got married and had children, but observing Professor Sharma has made me realize that it is possible travel the world with my children while still being a great mother. My love and interest in Okinawa is steadily growing, so perhaps the future holds a research project or oral history project on the Okinawan islands.

After exiting the cultural tent, I danced around the yagura and followed the bon dancing to the beat of the taiko drums. By this point, I was exhausted from walking, talking and experiencing and my purse weighed me down as I tried to follow along. The dancing was similar to that of when I went Bon dancing in Tokyo a two years ago and I loved that this crowd of people was so diverse – there were mixed Japanese kids running around, White (haole) adults showing off their dancing skill and even a few Blacks there, who I observed closely for the research project.

Dancing around the yagura

I then went on a search for a bathroom and finally found an open public restroom near the beach. On my way back, I came across a gigantic, ancient-looking tree. It was nearing dusk and the sun was setting, a fiery red sky floating on rippling ocean water. I was captivated by this tree that reminded me of the trees I saw on Japanese television that were said to have ancient spirits living within them. As I neared it, I noticed that a grey bird was perched by the base of it. I crept up quietly as to not disturb him and he peered back at me, eyes black and bright. I got so close that if I wanted to, I could reach out and touch his disheveled wings. He looked tired and I could see that his little head was trembling. I wondered if he was hurt and whispered softly that I would not hurt him. Still, he continued to look back at me with eyes full of wisdom. I wondered if he was the spirit of the tree disguised as a bird, and as we looked at each other, I felt as if his eyes held the secrets of the world. I listened, but I could not hear. We sat for a while, in silence, pensive, but then I moved slightly and he squawked and flew away. I was thankful that he had trusted me for so long and thought perhaps that was the lesson – to have more trust in others, and in myself.

As I walked back, I passed a tent full of taiko dancers from Okinawa and Hawai’i. A middle-aged Japanese local man approached me as I looked at the poster and told me that they would be performing the next day with Suguru Ikeda, a well-known singer and songwriter from the islands off the coast of Japan. I had observed them earlier, practicing, and was blown away by the power of his voice and the beauty of the taiko dancing. I learned from the man that he had become involved in learning this art through his daughter. I thought it was very interesting and important that local Japanese who perhaps are not as exposed to Japanese culture were now learning these cultural practices and are performing them in the community. He was an incredibly kind man and told me that I should come out to learn as well. Unfortunately, the next practice would not be until after I left Hawaii, so I cannot, but I vowed to come back and learn someday. As we were talking, a middle-school aged boy came up to us and offered us andagi, an Okinawan donut, and as I thanked him profusely and enjoyed the fried, sugary goodness of this delicious dessert, I was filled with love for the open and accepting people of Hawai’i.

Exhausted, I waited for Professor Sharma, Mimi and Maya to pick me up in the car to go to a restaurant by a pond behind the large stage building where I had danced before a few hours ago. I lay down and watched the ducks pass through the reflected light coming from the back of the stage building – silent and peaceful forms.

Then I got picked up by the road and we went to watch one of the men that we interviewed perform blues. Mimi and I instantly loved the music. He had been a street musician for a long while and had once played with John Hooker, and his voice was deep and full of play, not a voice of perfection, but one that was beautiful because of its imperfections. I thought of Daddy as he turned “No Woman, No Cry” into a blues song, strumming his electric guitar with expertise, hitting the bass with his foot and a tambourine with the other. I turned around in my seat to watch and tapped my feet on the ground, wanting to get up and dance. The fact that I was in a crowded restaurant was the only deterrent to this wish of mine.

Maya was dancing happily too, until she slipped and hit her chin on the table. She started to cry so Professor Sharma took her out of the restaurant for a bit. When she came back, she was in Professor Sharma’s arms, asleep. I felt the exhaustion fill me then, from this busy but very fun day and I looked up at the blues-playing musician, with his guitar that was chipping paint and graying dreads, and I remembered that old, disheveled looking gray bird I saw in that ancient tree. Their eyes were both so full of wisdom and I knew then that I had found what I wanted to do with my life: I wished to collect the secrets of the world through old, worn down but still bright, wise eyes.



Risks and Hula

When I woke up this morning and attempted to stand up, my body felt like it had sustained a full-on collision with a semi-truck. My hips ached from shaking them over and over at my first real hula class, the muscles in my legs cried out in pain from all of the walking and dancing I have been doing lately, and my arm and shoulder muscles hurt from swimming at Cockroach Cove. I have been having too much fun…

On Tuesday we had driven through a twisting, terrifying highway to the other side of the island to a small, secluded beach called Cockroach Cove. This gorgeous beach is surrounded on three sides by towering walls of black rock and the deep blue water crashes with great force against the shore without so much as a break. Arun, Professor Sharma’s brother, showed me a lava formation that caused there to be a hole in the rock that went all the way down to the water, so when the waves crashed, the water would go up through the hole and blow out into the air. I watched as the white water rose about two feet above the hole, and Arun explained that during the winter, when the waves were stronger, the water would spurt high into the sky.

The blow hole

I loved watching the waves slam against the rocks and reach up, up, up into the sky. Then the white water droplets would fall slowly, as if suspended, back into the blue, tumultuous waters below. It reminded me of a picture on the front of a cereal box  that showed milk suspended in air. Then I would close my eyes and listen to the churning, rushing sound of the ocean.

Observing the ocean

When I first got into the water, I was terrified because the waves were huge. I started to panic when I couldn’t touch the bottom anymore, but felt a little stupid for feeling this way, since Maya, Professor Sharma’s two-year-old, was laughing at the waves. She had no fear of them at all. Soon I learned to jump up when the waves came, so that my head would always be above the water.

Still later, after observing a couple of local boys dive into the water from the rocks, Arun somehow convinced me to jump into the water with him. We waited for a perfect wave to come for what seemed like forever, during which time I held my head in my hands and contemplated what would happen if I drowned. Finally, though, we counted to three and took the plunge. It was a thrilling moment in the air before hitting the water, but I forgot to hold my breath, so I swallowed a mouthful of sea water. I was coughing and sputtering, totally disoriented, and I honestly thought I was drowning because I was desperately treading water and not going anywhere. But Arun just pushed me towards the shore and told me I could touch the bottom. I stood up in the water and was fine for a few seconds, but then a big wave crashed over my head and I was sputtering again. I vowed never to do that again.

Life is all about taking risks

But Arun was insistent that we try again and I knew that I needed to conquer my fear of drowning, so I followed him out. This time, I held my nose, but I still swallowed water – swimming just does not come naturally to me. Arun tried to get me to go out to deeper waters, but I steadfastly refused. I wished I could just relax in the ocean and just let the water soothe me, but this gnawing nervousness in the pit of my stomach kept me on the lookout for dangerous waves and the constant worry of drowning exhausted me. When I looked at Maya and how she giggled as the waves crashed, I wished that someday I could harness that joy of swimming in the ocean. But I was glad that I had at least taken two risks, and I walked up the rocks out of the beach with a seed of confidence.

The next morning, I got up relatively early to take two buses to the Waikiki Community Center to take a beginners’ hula lesson. As I walked into the large gym-like auditorium, I observed that most of the woman there were speaking Japanese and wearing all different kinds of flowy hula skirts. I looked down at my blue, tighter dress and wished that I had chosen to wear a different outfit, instead. I was not sure who or how to pay for the class, so I went up to two older Japanese woman and started to ask in English. I soon realized that they could not understand me, so I switched to Japanese mid-conversation, and they both looked at me as if I had sprouted green alien ears. As I waited for the class to start, I could see them still peering confusedly at me from across the room.

Soon enough, a middle-aged, Native Hawaiian looking man with a big, round belly told the about sixty or so women in the gym to line up in four lines, two on each side, facing each other. Except for about one or two white women, all of the women were Japanese and could not speak English. Yet what was interesting to me was that when signing up at the front, we had to put if we were residents of Hawai’i or not, and most of the women had marked that they lived here. I wondered if there was an influx of Japanese people immigrating to Hawai’i recently.

Our teacher, a very happy man who laughed a lot, told us to put our hands on our hips and taught us the basic way to move them. “Hip up! Move! Heel up!” He would call out. Sometimes he would say, “Migi (right)!” and use Japanese words so that the Japanese women would understand better. I tried to follow along in the front, but moving my hips was more difficult and tiring than I had previously imagined. I felt embarrassed when the teacher would signal me out and tell me that my steps were too big, or that I was stomping the ground rather than being gentle. It seemed as if I was the most inexperienced of the group and I wondered if the other women had taken other classes already. When we would demonstrate how not to do moves, he looked so ridiculous that all of the women would giggle all at once, filling the room with laughter.

I felt my legs start to turn to jelly as he made us keep moving our hips and bending our knees low to the ground. We learned about five moves and he would come out with his ukelele and strum while singing. He would call out the different moves and we would follow suit. I loved dancing to the music – it made me forget the pain in my hips and I just concentrated on moving to the sound of the ukelele.

When the hour long class was over, I was completely drained, thirsty and hungry. I wanted to learn more and vowed to come back to Hawai’i someday to learn this gentle, rhythmic dance in its entirety.

I cannot believe that my time here is already almost half-done. I feel like I have done a lot of play and not much work…but I have learned so much about the local culture here, and Hawai’i is starting to feel so familiar to me. But I hope to fill the next week and a half with much research, interviewing and observing!


Real Joy

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…

The healing waters

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.

The sashimi Tom treated me to at Duke’s!

Waikiki from above – the view from the top of Diamond Head.

Back in Waikiki, I ate a little of Tom’s burger and fries after thanking him and saying goodbye. Then I explored the International Marketplace right across from the restaurant, a marketplace covered with tents selling souvenirs of every kind. I bought a dress, souvenirs, postcards and another smoothie, this time mango and banana. I was exhausted from all of the walking and dancing I had done in the past 24 hours, so I passed out on the beach for a little while before discovering a traditional hula show at sunset. The girls who danced to the live chanting and drumming looked young and I observed them in depth, awed by their graceful movements.

Lots of tourists milling about in the International Marketplace

Later I met up with Professor Sharma, her husband and brother and their friends at an expensive restaurant called Mai Tai, located in a gigantic, pink-colored, exquisite hotel called the Royal Hawaiian. There, we watched and conversed with a Black Hawaiian falsetto singer who was performing. We asked to see if he would be available for an interview. They had a professional, Japanese-looking hula dancer performing in front of the singers, as well, and I was so excited to learn hula that when they asked for volunteers to come up on stage and learn a dance, I got over my embarrassment of being the only non-toddler on the stage and learned to hula.

When we exited the restaurant, I noticed that the hotel helpers drove the car up for us. It blew my mind how expensive it would be to spend a night at this pink, palace of a hotel. I had noticed that Waikiki is full of Japanese tourists, mostly young couples and young families and realized that Hawai’i for them was a made up paradise quite like Disneyland. I wondered if working day in and day out at a stressful workplace in Japan to make enough money to stay at a place such as the Royal Hawaiian was worth it, and if they were really happy. The mixed black local drummer we had interviewed probably would never stay at such an expensive hotel and did not make as much money as these tourists, but when I watched him close his eyes and drum on stage, I felt this wave of joy. That was all he needed to laugh his gigantic laugh, to be utterly content. I realized that real paradise is finding joy in work, not escaping work for joy.

Sunset at the beach