China Series

A version of this story was published as part of monthly series that ran in the Warrensburg, MO The Daily Star Journal from Oct. 2000 through May 2001.

A Stop in Honolulu

When we left Missouri heading on our trek leading eventually to Beijing, we had two major concerns. First, our tickets were with United Airlines, which was canceling hundreds of flights due to disagreements with pilots. Second, our new computer would not connect to the Internet, our life line to the USA.

After reaching Alabama, our niece, a high school math and computer teacher, introduced us to the Bama version of Warrensburg's Stan Smith. He did what two authorized repair shops could not. He corrected the problem. That was the afternoon of the day before we had to leave for Nashville to catch our flight.

United got us safely and efficiently to Hawaii. Canceled flights were primarily coming out of Chicago.

We had a good stay in Honolulu. Our economy lodging was only a block from the beach. We felt we deserved the few days basking in the sun and playing in the tide. The sunsets created pictures of radiant colors against the soft blues of sea and sky. One evening the Artist painted a full rainbow that spanned the heavens ending at the foot of Diamond Head. Still, in the days we were at Wakiki Beach, we saw nothing to rival the sunsets at the old fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Bruce Swain had recommended that we see The Polynesian Culture Center while on the island. We planned to spend a day there. We knew that it was across the island. The literature we had told us we could take a bus. When we called for reservations, the agent advised us to take a tour bus, for an additional $20, but was unable to direct us to a boarding site near our location. He did inform us that the Center did not open until noon; so, we had all morning to get there.

The Culture Center was the highlight of our stay in Hawaii. It has seven areas, each dedicated to one of the seven island "nations." In each area, natives from the nation make presentations about key aspects of their unique culture. The presentations are 30 minutes each; but most start on the hour. Since the first show started at 12:30, and the luau started at 5:00, we only had time for three areas and the IMAX movie featuring the history of the Polynesians.

We also saw a boat pageant where each nation performed something of their oral tradition while floating on barges on parade. Its only procession started at 2:30 and lasted an hour, but it was time well spent; it may have compensated somewhat for the missed four areas.

If we had it to do again, we would pass on the luau, which wasn't much unlike dinner at the Elks lodge, and attend two more presentations.

In the evening, they put on a show consisting of dance, music and fire rituals from each nation. All of them was well performed. At one moment it became repetitive, but that helped me to understand that all these nations spread throughout the Pacific are indeed one people. And, the moment was brief because then the most spectacular performances began, including, but not limited to, walking on fire, juggling fire sticks and catching spears, aflame, in mid flight.

We had decided to take the "city" bus to the Center. We caught one bus at the corner and transferred at a shopping center that doubles as the hub for the line. The whole trip cost $1 each. The route took us across the foot of the island and up the windward coast. It was slow, taking two hours, but provided a leisurely way to see the island. The return was after dark; we could not see anything. However, at that time of day, the bus moved almost as rapidly as the tour buses.

We learned the next day that we could have booked the Cultural Center tickets through a discount service and received, free, transportation on the tour bus; but, we didn't have regrets in taking the more common carrier. We were free to make and enjoy our own way. Isn't that what life is all about, anyway?