Wednesday, March 17, 2010
March is the rainy season in Hawai'i, and sure enough, it's been cloudy and on-and-off rainy the last two days. Yesterday we used our bus passes to go to the Bishop Museum, a natural-history museum with nice science exhibits for kids and a fabulous hall devoted to the history and anthropology of Hawai'i. I was very moved by the description of indigenous Hawai'ian spirituality, in which all things are alive and interconnected. (As usual, it's taken Western folks many moons indeed to begin to develop any of the same ideas.) The exhibits included video clips; there were three of interviews with a Hawai'ian fisherman who described, with stunning eloquence, the spiritual aspect of fishing. He called it "a wonderment of grace," the idea that the living ocean gives pieces of itself to feed the world.
We also went to a planetarium show about how the ancient Polynesians navigated by the stars and waves. Until recently, anthropologists assumed that the people who migrated from Tahiti hit Hawai'i only by accident. In tbe 1970s, though, a group called the Polynesian Voyaging Society built a traditional Hawai'ian canoe from modern materials and, using ancient wayfinding techniques (reading stars by night and wave patterns by day, without compasses or sextants) successfully sailed the vessel from Hawai'i to Tahiti and back. There have been other voyages since then; the website makes fascinating reading, especially in the sections describing daily life on the canoe, where more than a dozen people live and work in 400 square feet of space for weeks at a time.
The planetarium demonstration of wayfinding convinced me that I'd never be able to manage it! Fortunately, the Honolulu bus system is wondrously simple by comparison; we got back to the hotel with no trouble at all, and then -- to our delight -- found a superb Thai restaurant right around the corner. Pricy, but worth it!
Today we took the bus to the Honlulu Academy of Arts, a lovely art museum with a small but impressive collection of art ranging from medieval stained glass to Hawai'ian modernism to the European masters. There's an emphasis on Asian art -- Japanese, Chinese, and Korean -- with a special gallery devoted to several Islamic pieces from the estate of Doris Duke. Gary and I love Islamic art, but we decided that $25/head for a tour of Duke's estate, Shangri La, was a bit much. Maybe next time, since I suspect we'll be saving our pennies, if we have any left, to come back here.
A block from the museum there's a yarn store! In Hawai'i! But alas, my dreams of Hawai'ian made bamboo-and-pineapple yarn were unrealized: there's no yarn made in Hswai'i, and all they had was stuff I can get at home. I'm glad we looked, though.
In the afternoon we trekked down to our local snorkeling beach. Conditions weren't as good as yesterday: it was high tide and overcast, so the water was murkier -- and the currents stronger -- than the first time we were there. We still saw lots of fish, though! Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll go to Hanauma Bay, where I devoutly hope to see turtles.
Tonight after dinner, again at the Thai restaurant, Gary came back to the hotel room to watch bad movies while I embarked on a shopping expedition to pick up various birthday and Christmas gifts. I did fairly well, although I nearly became lost in the maze of the International Marketplace. (When they say, "Get lost on a shopping safari," they aren't kidding!) It's a stressful setting where most of the vendors, almost all very energetic Asian women, expect you to bargain, and where they're always trying to get you to buy yet another item from their cart (where the wares are nearly identical to the next cart). I like what I bought, although I honestly can't say that the stuff isn't plastic instead of the bone or shell it's supposed to be. But I got quite a few gifts and only one item for myself (this trip; I got two things for myself there a few days ago). Gary said, "You're Christmas shopping in March?" But hey, no time like the present, and some of the pressure will be off come December.
So those are the latest updates. Wish us luck tomorrow, good weather and plentiful turtles!