We started out our year of travel adventure with a bang, heading to Hawaii. Tera and I had both been to Hawaii a few times in our teens, and Tera had spent a semester at BYU-Hawaii when she was in college. It was a "tough" semester for her, way back in 1994. She took one class, American Heritage, had a part time job at the Polynesian Cultural Center, and learned to surf, and scuba dive, and play the ukulele. Such is the Hawaiian life!
Our trip has started in Oahu. . . . . READ MORE . . click right
We’re staying in an airbnb in Laie, which is directly adjacent to all the LDS influenced things on the island, the Hawaii temple, BYU-Hawaii, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. We’ve stayed in a few dozen airbnb’s over the past few years, and we’ll continue to do so. The convenience and comfort of having a multi-bedroom apartment or entire house, with cooking facilities, for a family of 8 cannot be overstated (when compared to a connecting-or non-connecting set of hotel rooms). I’m surprised recently though how expensive airbnb has become. It used to be much less expensive than hotel rooms, as well as being more convenient. But nowadays, the cost seems to be more equal. I suppose with increased popularity and acceptance, the cost of airbnb stays will continue to rise.
Our place was excellently located, walking distance to morning sunrises on the Hukilau beach. Our first night, the can opener was missing, and I walked next to door to ask to borrow one. There appeared to be a huge party going on. I asked about the occasion, and it turned out that the great-grandmother had died, and family was gathering from all over the island to pay respects and participate in the multi-day mourning event. In true Polynesian generous style, they let us borrow the can opener, and sent us home with two big plates of Tongan BBQ. We feasted that night, on luckily more than just those green beans that we managed to open.
Highlights of our Oahu Trip:
#1 - Polynesian Cultural Center
#2 - USS Arizona Memorial
#3 - Waimea Bay and Northshore Surf-watching
#4 - BYU-Hawaii and LDS Temple Tour
#5 - Laie Ward and Church Attendance
#6 - Lack of shoes on childrens’ feet
#1 - Polynesian Cultural Center - I remember loving the Polynesian Cultural Center back when I visited twenty-five years ago, and it was just as charming and fun this time. The PCC serves three worthy purposes - 1) It keeps alive the traditions of the various Polynesian Island groups by training new generations of islanders in the songs, dances, weavings, etc. 2) It serves as a way for BYU-Hawaii students to work and earn money for their education 3) It is a wonderful tourist attraction to spread Polynesian culture to the millions of tourists who visit every year. We didn’t make it to all the themed villages, but we spent plenty of time in Aotaroa (New Zealand) and Samoa where we learned to spin fire-sticks, start fire with bamboo (I did get smoke to appear), stick dance, and spin Poi balls. The Luau was delicious, though I’m not sure if it was worth the extra money to see the “luau performance” since we had been seeing the dancing all afternoon anyway. The “HA” theatre performance was powerful, and the fire dancing was astonishing. If we ever come back, we would definitely visit again, lots to do and see, and very fun for the kids.
#2 - USS Arizona Memorial - War museums are always sobering visits. The actual ferry ride to the Arizona was appreciated, but all the information and movies to educate about the lead up to the Pearl Harbor attack was what I liked the most. There are lots of things there to spend extra money on (USS Missouri battleship, Navy Submarine) but all the free exhibits were enough to keep us occupied for a full two hours. When the kids eventually did get a little bored, they found a fallen coconut and attempted to husk it by hand, which kept them busy for a good 45 minutes. (we finished it that evening, and with our newly learned PCC skills, opened it and feasted on coconut water and coconut meat that evening)
#3 - Waimea Bay and Northshore Surf-watching - We made the requisite beach afternoon at Waimea Bay. The surf was pounding, and the waves broke almost directly on the beach, which made it very dangerous. We had one instance of the lifeguard coming to pull Anna out of the way of the oncoming breaking wave. The lifeguards kept reminding everyone in the water of the dangerous conditions, and the neck and back injuries that occur nearly every day there at the beach. We had an excellent view of surfers, and the incredible conditions, nearly perfect waves for them, one after another after another. I’ve never really surfed, but I could fully understand the allure of the northshore for those who do.
#4 - BYU-Hawaii and LDS Temple Tour - We took a tour of the campus, and I was surprised at how small it was. I guess I knew, with less than 3000 students, but to walk the full-campus in about 30 minutes made it real. I was a little surprised how old a lot of the buildings felt. I’m used to the much newer shiny buildings of BYU-Provo. But it was fun to hear about some of Tera’s memories of the place. The Temple was beautiful, and unfortunately closed for two weeks of cleaning and maintenance, so we couldn’t do any ordinances. But we spent some time in the visitors center, and spent some time with the always friendly missionaries.
#5 - Laie Ward and Church Attendance - On Sunday, we attended one of the many Laie LDS wards. It was a cultural mix like you get in few other places in America, with all colors of skin, and all shapes and sizes. The bishop had cerebral palsy, and spoke with a slurred speech and walked with difficulty and a limp, and it was incredibly inspiring to hear him conduct the meeting, in spite of his challenges. We happened to be there on the Sunday after President Monson passed way, and his biographer, Heidi Swinton was attending the ward that day. During Sunday School, she shared about 30 minutes of personal experiences and stories about the prophet which were touching and inspiring. Nathan attended Priests quorum, and happened upon the youth planning meeting for the few months. He was able to share many of his favorite activities from the youth group in the Netherlands, which they were super excited to implement right away.
#6 - Lack of shoes on childrens’ feet - Oh for children who remember to bring shoes with them when we leave the house. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem for our 8 year old, but also for our 17 year old. When we got to our first stop on Saturday morning, we hopped out, and both Jacob and Nathan walked away from the car with bare feet.
Dad - “Guys, where are your shoes?”
Forgetful children - “We left them at home, will we need them today?”
Dad – “Yes . . we are going to be hiking over reefs and rocks and sharp things”
Forgetful children – “Oh . . . whoops”
So we had to turn around and drive back 20 minutes to the Airbnb to get their shoes or sandals. Eventually they’ll remember . . .eventually.
Plan? What plan?
Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!