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Archive for the 'Hawaii' Category

The Improbability of Spring

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

I have a deeply conflicted relationship with seasons. As a little girl, I loved a particular children’s book that existed for the sole purpose of teaching kids seasons. Living in a seasonless climate myself, it seemed like the book was describing a fantastic, made-up world. I memorized a seasonal calendar from that book. December through February was winter, and everything was blanketed in snow and fringed with icicles. March through May was spring, with blossom-covered trees and flowers that didn’t grow in Hawaii. June through August was summer, full of green grass, sunshine, and ice cream cones. And September through November was fall, with brightly colored leaves, apples, pumpkins, and, uh, plaid skirts. I was utterly taken. When we had to draw pictures of heaven for Sunday School, I drew a sprawling landscape where each quadrant of heaven boasted a different season: snow by the pearly gates, summer by the Tree of Life, autumn by the streets of gold, and spring with a lion and lamb. Yes, I was a dedicated seasonophile.

Then, I moved to the mainland and was forced to face the sad reality that seasons are not idyllic end-to-end. On some level, that children’s book month-by-month breakdown of seasons has remained with me, and I tend towards bitterness when the weather doesn’t follow the prescribed pattern.

Take today, for instance. It is March. My childhood education taught me that March is spring. There should be chicks and daffodils and baby rabbits. And yet, in reality, today looks like this:

snowfall map
On a rational level, I can accept that months are mere guides to the fluctuating whims of seasonal weather. And yet… it’s March, and that deeply ingrained belief in seasonal order rebels. Be spring, weather, be spring! How can I “spring forward” this Sunday if there is still snow on the ground, signifying winter? How can Banana Republic cruelly show me pictures of women traipsing about in cotton skirts when I cannot step foot outdoors without a coat?

Thankfully, this is one complaint that can be easily toppled through the aesthetic delight that made me a seasonophile in the first place. It’s cold, but at least it’s pretty:


snow 2




Sunday, November 25th, 2007

While growing up in Hawaii had distinct advantages, fresh and affordable Christmas trees were not numbered among those perks. When I was especially wee, my parents bought small, rather scrawny trees from the parking lot of Foodland; unfortunately, I was so young that they had to place the precious evergreen in the playpen for its own protection. By the time I was in grade school, however, my dad had decided that his allergies could no longer endure a month of expensive agony and we bought a surprisingly furry artificial tree. My parents told us that its shaggy appearance had to do with its attempt to approximate a Canadian Pine.


My mom, however, continued to harbor a deep and persistent love of the smell of evergreens. Every year, she and I would go on a special “smelling” date. After completing a grocery shopping excursion, we would detour into the temporary tents set up in the market parking lot. We would watch the men spray the foamy fake “snow” onto trees at customers’ requests, marvel at the amazing shrinkage which occurred during the tree-netting process, and, then, burrow our noses into the spicy, woodsy branches. Having secured our Christmas smelling fix, we could proceed with the rest of the holiday season.

So imagine my utter delight when, during our year of dating, I realized that Noel — who sometimes seems to be allergic to most airborne plant matter — was not allergic to Christmas trees. Sweet joy indeed. In anticipation of our third Christmas together, we brought our chosen conifer home today, lugged the Christmas boxes up from the basement, and sipped Noel’s amazing peppermint hot chocolate while we decked the tree, primarily with Noel’s extensive collection of childhood ornaments.

There is something about setting up our own little Christmas tree, tucked into the corner of our dining room, that asserts our family-ness. And there is something about being able to smell a Christmas tree every day, rather than just in the parking lot of Foodland, that is a strange but delightful perk to being an adult on the mainland.

In Which We Meet Some Sumo Wrestlers

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

So, some friends from Hawaii, Gavin and Hannah, recently moved to Ames, Iowa so that Gavin could attend vet school. To be perfectly frank, there’s not a whole lot going on in Ames, so the Ganzers took a Labor Day road trip to the Gateway City.

Koi Peek a boo

Now, if you have ever thought, “Self, why would I want to spend Labor Day weekend in St. Louis?” the answer is embarrassingly simple: Japanese Cultural Festival. And as if it wasn’t already a fabulous idea to get thousands of people together to celebrate my ancestral culture, the good folks at the Missouri Botanical Gardens decided to take things one step further.

They added sumo.

Longtime readers will remember that I have a (necessarily large) warm spot in my heart for sumo. Having it at the cultural festival is seriously a stroke of genius.

And so, there we were. Three Hawaii kids and one supportive Oklahoman/Texan, sitting on the lawn at the botanical gardens, watching the Hawaii-born sumotori be introduced to the 800+ crowd. After the wrestlers cracked a few fat jokes, they asked for a brave volunteer from the audience. And, of course, Gavin offered. What followed was, quite possibly, one of the most magical things we’ve experienced since moving to St. Louis. Consider:

The wardrobe The pressTiming The growlThe lift The carry

Thankfully, there was a rematch.

The chase

So, pretty much it was awesome. Make your reservations now if you want to come with us next year. If you promise to wrestle the sumotori, we’ll pay for your entrance fee.
Train Hard, Eat Plenny

Raising Kids Without Race

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Towards the end of the semester, discussion in my 1930s class rabbit-trailed to more contemporary debates that left me uneasy and rather at odds with the practical outworkings of contemporary theories on race. At it’s pithiest incarnation, the question was such: should the white, adoptive parents of a Guatemalan child raise that child to know Spanish? The implications may run deeper than you think.

If you teach a dark-haired, almond-eyed child to speak Guatemalan even though she is living in a Caucasian community, what are you saying about race? Do we assume that, simply because of biology, the girl will have some sort of affinity for the language? If she will never live in Guatemala, is it inauthentic to teach her to like Chiles Rellenos when her adoptive parents just eat steak and potatoes? If you teach her Spanish and culture, are you simply caving to the folks who will profile her by appearance and assume that she must speak another tongue? Are you giving in to racism?
Currently, critical race theory is the defacto position of most academics. It posits that race is purely a social construction that people “perform.” In other words, there are no inherent character vices or strengths that accompany the DNA that makes someone’s skin yellow or hair curly. African Americans are not naturally energetic. Japanese Americans are not naturally conscientious. Caucasians are not naturally adventurous. Instead, any shared characteristics in groups of people who share biological race are the results of social conditioning. I mimic those around me. I act “white” — as I have seen it performed — when I want to be perceived as “white.” I act “Japanese-American” when I am expected to do so.

The attraction of this theory is, of course, that it firmly repudiates the dangerous xenophobic and racist logic of, say, the Third Reich. Where I get stuck, however, is in its actual practice.

We are all culture-bound image-bearers. At first consideration, I suppose that statement could fit nicely with critical race theory. Yet, I wonder if part of recognizing our tie to culture is to acknowledge and confront, rather than theoretically deny, the ways that race has shaped our current relationships. I think it’s worth it for a Guatemalan girl — even one raised in Missouri — to know how cultural, historical perceptions of race play into the ‘need’ for her to be adopted in the first place. It’s worth explaining to her why people might speak slowly and loudly to her and why some day she’ll have trouble finding makeup that matches her skin tone. Can you really raise kids without race?

Noel vs. Spam

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

By now, we should all know that, in Hawaii, Spam holds a place of honor in the local food pyramid. Noel, unfortunately, has yet to embrace the fabulousness of this food product. On this last trip out, Ian hatched a clever plan: challenge Noel to a Halo2 tournament, best of three. If Noel won, Ian would eat borscht. If Ian won, Noel would eat a slice of spam.

Ian won.

A complete lack of sincere excitement

A complete lack of sincere excitement.

It wiggles

It wiggles.

It bends

It bends.

Textural Issues

The first bite.

Ian Celebrates His Victory

Ian lives long and prospers in the wake of his victory.

He is not amused

Sadly, Noel remained unimpressed. Don’t worry; we’ll keep trying.

Drunken Cheers Upon Landing

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Calling Hawaii ‘home’ clearly has undeniable benefits. Still, you never quite get used to the unusual happenings that accompany the conflation of ‘childhood home’ and ‘dream vacation paradise.’ I may be wrong, but I think it highly unlikely that you, oh native resident of Montana, have ever had your fellow passengers perform the wave during the plane’s final descent.

Great Pacific Adventure

Can you blame them, really?

Usually I enjoy the cabin-wide excitement. I can almost pretend that everyone is thrilled for the same reasons I am: the imminent consumption of manapua, fresh ahi poke, and go lo mein. (They’re not).

This last trip, however, I had trouble perpetuating this suspension of disbelief. The thorn in my alternate reality bubble was the group of thirty-somethings — some guy, his fiance, and a buddy — sitting next to us. Before we had even taken off, the engaged guy (hitherto referred to as Bacardi Bro) and his friend (hitherto referred to as Ginormous) had begun salivating over the imminent full beverage service. “Bro, I can’t wait to get ass drunk!” “Yeah, bro, when are they going to give us drinks?”

Once the beverage cart came around, Barcardi Bro procured two little bottles of Bacardi a can of coke, and a cup of ice. Ginormous (after explaining to us that he was, in fact, the founder and owner of “ginormous dot com” the newest search engine on the block which apparently is now a children’s book publisher…hmm) preferred two little bottles of Jack with his coke. Doubly strong drinks rendered Bacardi Bro and Ginormous incapable of remaining seated. Perhaps they believed that they could absorb alcohol more easily while standing. In any case, Ginormous and Bacardi Bro started a small but cheerful party by the lavatories which, should you be wondering, were also right next to our seats.

Before long, Ginormous and Bacardi Bro had been joined by a small but tightly clad coterie of almost-single women who were also enjoying tiny bubbles at 30,000 feet. More little bottles, more cokes, a few beers, and a few hours later, Bacardi Bro and Ginormous were still going strong. “Bro,” Bacardi announced loudly to the cabin in general, “I cannot WAIT to get drunk in Hawaii!”

So, to no one’s surprise but his own, Bacardi Bro was soon told that he and Ginormous were being “cut off” from any more alcohol. Ginormous handled this news relatively well — after all, he had already stashed an extra Jack in his shorts’ pocket — but Bacardi Bro was crushed. He simply could not fathom the inhumanity of being forced to spend the final hour and twenty minutes of the flight without another beer. This, too, could not be handled sitting down. Bacardi Bro swore, volubly, that he was far from intoxicated. He tried to get someone — anyone — else on the flight to order him another beer. After a quick smoke break in the lavatory, he resumed his pleas undiminished.

It was a long hour and a half for all of us.

After enduring Bacardi Bro’s incessant patter and very vocal longing for more alcohol, it was difficult to tell if the communal cheer upon landing was in celebration of Hawaii or in rejoicing over our imminent separation from Bacardi Bro. Of this I am sure: if Bacardi Bro and Ginormous have their wish, they may not remember much of their Hawaii vacation. As for me, things could only get better from there. And they did.

A Fortnight’s Preparation for a Pacific Journey

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Back when my predilection for historical fiction was deep and true, I used to revel in the unending descriptions of “preparations” for heading west. I can’t entirely explain this fascination, but I adored the lists of supplies and the painstaking details of curing meat and finishing quilts. I had no idea what 10 yards of blue calico looked like but, by golly, I knew you needed it out west.

And why should the farthest west be any different? Packing to go home to Hawaii can be something of an endeavor. About two or three weeks out, my mom approaches me with a list of goods she needs me to transport to her island home. Most of her requests are for gifts, but they’re all items you can’t get in Hawaii: Bath and Body soaps, Trader Joe’s bottled bruschetta, packages of dried cherries, and canned boysenberries. Oh, and really cheap Gap t-shirts. While the list’s content generally remains steady, quantities fluctuate — or generally trend upwards — for the remaining time until my departure.

Though the time allowance may seem generous, you have to allow for the unexpected. Trader Joe’s might only have six bottles when I need twelve. I need to locate bubble wrap. Canned boysenberries can be hard to find and require grocery store hopping. Suitcases need to be weighed, but we don’t have a scale. How, exactly, does one pack a dozen bottles of antibacterial soap in assorted scents to prevent leakage? And, by golly, someone needs to get those 10 yards of blue calico.