We were in Hawaii – Oahu to be specific – home to Jack Johnson, big wave surfing, the ukelele, and macadamia nuts, and we were driving around sourcing last minute bits and bobs for my sister in-law’s big day. “Come one, come all!” exclaimed the excited voice on the car radio, interrupting my mental focus on the potential shopping list, “to the forty-first annual ukulele festival! On the stage, Jake Shimabukuro …”. Hearing the name of the artist that first inspired me to pick up the guitar-like instrument, I decided come high tide or-a low tide, I would make time in our back-to-back schedule to be at Kapiolani Park in a few day’s time.
We were en-route to the retail heartland of Oahu in Waikiki, Kalakaua Avenue, a road named after the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, King David “Merrie Monarch” Kalakaua, also known as a patron as the arts. The wide, palm fringed road flanked with tall buildings with both sides reminded me of Miami. “Time check”, I called out to my wife. One in the afternoon? This trip was taking far too long, but no, I was definitely not putting the blame on the fine map reading skills of the designated navigator. I wouldn’t dare. Plans were made to be revised, so she quickly read out a synopsis of the potential places we could head for: Luxury Row with luxury boutiques? nah … DFS Galleria with duty free goods? We could skip that … International Marketplace? Worried it might be too touristy though it did sound like a fun place to stroll around when not under time pressure. Finally we settled on the Royal Hawaiian Center, convinced that we’d be able to find something within its 4 stories of shops and boutiques.
Royal Hawaiian Center
The mall had all the usual suspects – Hermès, bebe, Fendi, Ferragamo. We scoped out all floors, seeing what was available as additional presents for the couple. I suggested lingerie, but my missus thought that was tacky, and with time running down (I accept full responsibility for a pit stop at the food court to try Mahaloha Burger’s signature ‘Loco Moco Burger’ – amazing), we decided to go to the Apple shop on the street level. With their universal popularity, I didn’t feel like buying a present from there was necessarily a cop-out. Their products are sexy, and I have yet to come across anyone that would say no to a Mac anything. We had a video that we’d made with old photos that my wife rummaged out of storage, as well as various video clips and a few scanned letters and cards of sentimental value. Why not package up the hours put into making the video and load it onto an iPad? So we did. Then picking up a few colorful lei garlands from the kiosk outside, we head home.
The luau-themed reception was well under way by the time we arrived. A large table was set up outside next to the swimming pool, and the barbecue was sizing away in the corner, manned by a member of the catering team in charge of feeding 30 guests. We left our garlands near the door on a tray and went inside the villa to get changed. By the time we had freshened up, relatives and friends started arriving, just in time to catch the magic hour with a drink in hand. Weddings are already festive affairs, but holding the ceremony in Hawaii made it all the more fun. With hula dancers shimmying to ukulele and bongo drums and delicious traditional food such as ‘poi’ and ‘poke’ on offer, the party lasted well into the morning.
Volcanoes National Park
The day after, we left the new couple and took a day trip to Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park. The UNESCO protected site showcases one extreme of mother nature’s raw power, similar to the those witnessed on the North Shore’s epic pipelines. Right outside the national park, in Puna, there’s a Kalapana viewing site, where guests are treated to an amazing sight where two elements collide. Neon red lava streams flow for about 7 miles through underground tunnels from Kilauea Volcano’s Puu Oo vent, finally oozing and spurting out into the Pacific waters, leaving the area perpetually bathed in swirls of steam rising up from where the molten rock makes contact with the ocean. It’s one of those sights that remind you of Discovery Channel’s tagline: “The World is Just Awesome”.
Back on Oahu, we enrolled in a surf course and spent some time trying to conquer the waves. Unfortunately, not much success there, but we did get a good workout paddling back and forth. Then came the day I was waiting for. We parked at the nearby Kapiolani Community College and took the shuttle over to the festival. It was late morning by the time we arrived, and the park was already swarming with people, and I could hear the distinct plucking of the ukulele even before I set eyes on the stage. I checked the lineup schedule, and found out, unsurprisingly, Jake was to the closing act. As the morning turned into afternoon, the crowd increased to the thousands, the smell of picnic food wafting through the air and a bubbly vibe all around. What I learned about the festival was even more interesting – the founder Roy Sakuma, was actually a protégé of the famed ukulele master Ohta San, who was also performing on the day. Instead of taking the performance route, Sakuma turned to teaching, with 4 ukulele studios in Oahu spreading the joy of the instrument worldwide. One musician that has passed through the Roy Sakuma studios is none other than headliner Jake Shimabukuro. Throughout the day, artists from all corners of the globe, from as far as Italy and Thailand, took to the stage, proving that music is truly a universal form of communication that transcends language and culture.
Similar to the Greeks and the Romans, the Hawaiians worshipped gods and goddesses, each possessing certain human attributes. Amongst a host of demigods, these are the 4 main gods in Hawaiian mythology:
- Kāne: The other half of the god-pair Kāne/Kanaloa, Kāne is akin to the western Zeus; the God of nature, sun, and procreation.
- Kanaloa: Coupled with Kāne, Kanaloa is the sea god of death and magic, with powers to heal.
- Lono: God of fertility, peace, music, and agriculture.
- Kū: Along with the female/ wife counterpart of Hina, Kū is one of the ancestral gods of heaven and earth and the God of war.