Our second week in Hawaii has been far more active, and we have enjoyed exploring a few more of the local tourist attractions.
Now we have found our 'holiday groove' our days involve some sort of activity in the morning, and the afternoons are spent playing in the pool while Marco and I enjoy a few cheeky 'Big Wave Lagers'. The ultimate in multi tasking.
One afternoon just for something different Isabel was tearing around the pool and suddenly out of sight. Found at the bar a few moments later, perched up on a stool trying to order a drink the very amused bar tender asked her with great seriousness "and how are you young lady?" to which a very loud and confident Isabel answered 'I'm 3!' (she is 2...but tells everyone she is 3). Perhaps a sign of things to come.
Over the last few days the beach has had 'jellyfish warning' signs displayed, so based on the fact Isabel has a high allergic reaction to bites of even mosquitos we are sticking to the pool! Besides that, in a location famous for its surfing nothing signals losing one's credibility like carrying a $2.99 orange lilo on to the beach. The pool it is.
In searching for a slightly quirky list of experiences in the unlikeliest of places I need look no further than the Hilton's breakfast restaurant which is our only mandatory event of every day. On each visit we have had some unusual experiences which keeps us guessing as to 'what will happen today'. To sight a few examples;
*The very pretty and bubbly blonde waitress who greets us every morning we have nicknamed 'Dory'. We are up to day ten here and she is the same person who seats us every morning, and with a blank look enquires, as if she has never seen us before; 'how many of you folks today?' - 'do you need a high chair?' - 'Where are you from?' - 'Oh what cute kids!'.
I am starting to feel like Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day.' Not that I would assume we are memorable, but by virtue of the fact our own 'Cyclone Isabel' tears around the restaurant everyday throwing bacon and pastries at Henry, Oscar and random guests makes us unfortunately noticeable. Plus I am sure the other guests would prefer soft Hawaiian music to accompany their breakfast other than the sound of Marco screaming "Isabel! Isabel! Isabel" 100 x times in a ten minute period.
*One morning when surveying the fruit platter, Oscar (who has a keen eye for all the good fruit) spotted the one lonely grape on the 50kg table of cut fruit. Loudly exclaiming "a grape! a grape!" like he had struck gold, no sooner had I reached for the tongs than a Japanese guest swooped in and while staring at me straight in the eye, picked up the grape and popped it on his own plate with a smirk. I can only assume he knew Isabel too and this was his revenge for an interrupted breakfast. Oscar was not amused.
*Usually surrounded by other families or conference guests in matching T-Shirts, this morning I was struck by the 50+ yo gentleman and his much much younger, very beautiful breakfast companion wearing head to toe Louis Vuitton, 50 inches of makeup and carefully groomed hair. Was I eavesdropping? Absolutely, and it was very apparent she didn't know him very well and sat stirring uncomfortably as he was telling her all about his 'business partner' and how much money he had. Just when I thought she was going to complete her 'walk of shame' and make a quick exit he enquired if she was keen on a spot of shopping where they had met the evening before so he could buy her some more of those 'great shoes and bags'. And just like that her mood improved.
Surely there must be easier ways to make a living...
Back to our outside hotel tourist endeavours and learning even more about Hawaii, as we were beginning to understand, despite being a Polynesian island (i.e. Samoa and Tahiti), Japanese mass migration to Hawaii gained momentum in the 1900s when cheap labour was required for the Hawaiian sugar cane industry being exported to mainland USA. One morning we visited the Hawaiian Army Museum which is only a five minute walk from our hotel and details the American, Hawaiian and the smaller Japanese Hawaiian involvement in many of the US conflicts, which made for interesting reading - especially when it came to WWII. The Japanese Hawaiian troops were only allowed to fight in Europe against the Germans.
Tuesday we booked a half day tour to Pearl Harbour which Marco and I found fascinating - but alas the kids were a little overwhelmed and apart from the short boat ride out to the USS ARIZONA monument and reward of a hot dog afterwards for good behaviour, it was a bit of a stretch for them. Oscar did however enjoy looking at the brilliant replica of the - 'Akagi' Japanese Aircraft Carrier and managed to sit through a movie on the history of the Pearl Harbour Attack in 1941 which signaled the beginning of America's involvement in WWII.
Interesting to note, the attack on Pearl Harbour on 07 December 1941 was the start of WWII against the Japanese Imperial Forces by a US-led coalition, and in 1945, the USS MISSOURI was where the Japanese surrender was signed in Japan. The USS MISSOURI also sits in Pearl Harbour, so in many ways Pearl Harbour is the historical 'bookend' for the start and finish of WWII against the Japanese Imperial Forces.
The geography alone of Pearl Harbour is simply beautiful. The signature blue waters of Hawaii are encompassed into a large harbour and surrounded by mountains and low lying cloud cover viewed from afar. I can only imagine how lucky the soldiers posted here prior to the WWII attack must have felt when America decided to move its entire Western Naval fleet from West Coast USA to Hawaii. Contrary to some versions of history, extensive US Army, Navy and Marine fortifications and training occurred in Hawaii, alas they prepared for the wrong battle. The US were very well prepared for an invasion or terrorist attack on Hawaii, not a raid, which is exactly what the Japanese Imperial Forces executed.
The attack on Pearl Harbour on 07 December 1941 came as a complete surprise and despite advanced radar techniques that uncovered an attack was imminent, the defence of Hawaii was caught off guard at 7am on a Sunday morning in the build up to Xmas. A one off raid by Japanese Imperial Forces was never envisaged hence the success for the Japanese. However, in a brilliant display of American ingenuity, with the exception of USS ARIZONA and USS OKLAHOMA, all US Navy ships sunk at Pearl Harbour were re-floated and re-built and then used against the Japanese later in the war. Four of the six Japanese Aircraft carriers that attacked Pearl Harbour would be later sunk at the Battle of Midway in 1943 by US Navy ships that were dragged from the sea-bottom of Pearl Harbour in 1941. If there is any doubt on the capability of American engineering, the USS MISSOURI that was built in 1916, re-fitted several times for WWII, then mothballed in the 1970s, was the first US Navy ship to launch Tomahawk Cruise missiles in the first Gulf war against Iraq in 1993, nearly 80 years after originally being built during WWI!
Its no wonder this important piece of history is so revered by Americans and has become quite the pilgrimage of serving and past serving servicemen and women, and the enormous pride of the people who work at the monument is clear. We were interested to note that Japanese visitors made up almost half of the visitors we saw on our visit and the Japanese gentleman in his forty's sitting next to Marco during the WWII movie about the period showed visible emotion as he watched the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour unfold.
With the military history component of the holiday over (much to Marco's disappointment), Wednesday was dedicated to all things fun and a promise of 'no more statues with writing'.
Going to a zoo with the kids is one of our favourite pass times wherever we are living or visiting, so the Honolulu Zoo was a key ticket item. The zoo is quite small but conveniently located a short walk from the Waikiki beach tourist hub. Very green and spacious there was lots of area for the kids to run and play, yet try as we may we were disappointed but the lack of animals which you would generally hope to find at...a zoo.
On countless occasions we played 'spot the sign' and look for the aardvark/rhino/lion that was supposed to be behind the magical cage only to find nothing there on most occasions. Oscar did manage to see some lemur's (his favourite animal) who were housed on a very small island in the middle of a man made pond, lacking any reasonable shade from the hot sun. Poor Oscar was very concerned and loudly cried in dismay; 'But their world is so small!'
We finally found something that perhaps does not enjoy being in Hawaii.
The big winner of the day was Marco who fulfilled his dream of buying Oscar his first 'Safari Suit' and Oscar is now the very proud owner of a Honolulu Zoo Safari Suit with matching hat. Yes, and so it begins.
Oscar, who will wear a costume anywhere if allowed, cuts a striking pose as a 'mini-Sir David Attenborough' and armed with his favourite toy - a Lemur, the fun of the zoo continues on the streets of Waikiki.
As the zoo was so close to the beach we spent the rest of the day taking in the sights, even more shopping, and finally stumbled across the famous 'Cheesecake Factory' recommended to us by our lovely friend Lynda. Marco had been looking for a good Creole inspired meal since we arrived and was not disappointed by the delicious Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo, and in keeping with my penchant for a good chicken wing and cocktail I had the Margarita (skinny) and Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce (not skinny). We went back this evening for our second meal at this institution, and unfortunately the burger beat me and I am officially retiring from this culinary sport once more.
However we did bring home a nice piece of 'Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake' to enjoy when watching the hotel fireworks from our balcony later this evening.
We felt we couldn't leave Hawaii without taking the kids to a traditional Hawaiian 'Luau', and the hotel offered one which was set up on the lawns as the sunset, where guests were not only treated to traditional Hawaiian dancing, music and folklore by local performers but also by Oscar and Isabel who decided our own table deserved an impromptu performance of their own. For the record Oscar is an excellent Hula dancer :-)
I also used this as an opportunity to dress the boys in Hawaiian shirts purchased from the local convenience store, but alas Oscar drew the line at matching attire and insisted he wear a green shorts and shirt combination and that 'Dad needs to wear the Finding Nemo shirt'. See my photos for more information, Marco was less than thrilled but Oscar thought he looked very cool indeed. The things we do for our kids!
I consider myself the Mai Tai expert now (!) however was disappointed the cocktails on offer contained only a token amount of rum made from a pre-mix, tasting more like a slightly odd sweet fruit punch. But the food was sensational. In particular we loved the traditional Kalua Pork. My first experience with this local dish was when it was served to me at the 'one bite away from a heart attack' cheeseburger restaurant in town and it didn't impress me at all. This was something quite else indeed.
The word kālua describes a traditional Hawaiian cooking method where the food is cooked in an underground oven, similar to the Maori 'hungi'. The pit is dug usually to about 1.8m long and rocks are placed in it to retain heat.
The meat to be cooked is salted, rubbed with herbs, and under goes quite a process of wrapping in banana leaves and covering with soil before being cooked for six to seven hours. The result is a beautifully tasty and moist meat which would tempt even the most hardened vegetarian!
So as our last few days in Hawaii wind up, Marco has confiscated my credit card and we have started packing our newly purchased suitcases which were required to contain our new wardrobes.
Discussion has already begun over when we can come back to Hawaii, next time with the kids a little older we hope to visit another Island and explore more this great state has to offer as we were adventure limited with three children under 5 years old. But we made it.
My next blog will come from East Timor, we are due to arrive in January after spending Christmas in Melbourne. No doubt lots of exciting adventures await, and now the batteries have been recharged we are so looking forward to it and feel very privileged we have the opportunity to learn more about this tiny nation we are about to call home.