I eagerly stepped onto land I had never been on before, but to my surprise, it felt like home. In July of last summer, our nine day adventure began in the beautiful island of Oahu. Happiness comes in many shapes and forms. For my family, it was the conveyor belt that moved our shopping cart between the different floors at Walmart. From this first glimpse of Hawaii, I knew I would love my time there.
The Hawaiian phrase for happiness is “hau’oli.” Our first full day of hau’oli in Oahu, we experienced a taste of history at Pearl Harbor as well as a taste of sweetness at the Dole Plantation. At Pearl Harbor, happiness was my little sister engaging in a traditional Hawaiian custom to obtain a pearl from an oyster: gently hit the oyster three times and say “Aloha!” It was also my sister giving her pearl to our mom. At the Dole Plantation happiness was our ride on the Pineapple Express, our venture through the Pineapple Garden Maze, and our sample of their Dole Whip. Visiting two of Oahu’s most famous attractions was an incredible kickstart to our trip.
The next two days were spent at Kualoa Ranch, where on our first visit, happiness was at the Secret Island Beach learning to paddleboard by myself and sitting in a kayak while my dad rowed for me. That night, we attended Mass at Saint Augustine Church where I was overjoyed with happiness to witness the priest, altar servers, and locals, barefoot, making the community feel more familial, like the Hawaiian term “ohana.”
99 steep stairsteps and a 225 foot tunnel later, happiness was at the top of Diamond Head State Monument, a tiring hike with a worthwhile view. Back at Kualoa, we went on the famous Jurassic Jungle Tour, where our humorous guide Janet drove through movie sets Chris Pratt filmed in. That night we went to the Diamond Head Luau where happiness was learning how to make leis and weave headbands before enjoying dinner and a traditional dance show.
During our last day on Oahu, happiness was snorkeling at Hanauma Bay and learning at the Polynesian Cultural Center. At the Cultural Center, we watched a show consisting of ethnic dances and weaving practices. Towards the end, a woven headband was to be given to someone in the audience and, of all the people that could have been picked, it was given to me. Before leaving, we ordered loco moco plates and as we started eating, heavy rain began to pour. We picked up our food and ran to the nearest awning and after a few minutes, the storm passed. Although we were soaked, the car ride home was filled with laughter, and of course, happiness.
A quick plane trip later, we landed in Maui. Our first full day, happiness was on the Road to Hana, where we made stops at a banana bread stand, a black sand beach, and a waterfall. Contrary to our busy Oahu schedule, we spent most of our time in Maui relaxing until our flight back to Los Angeles.
When I was younger I frequently visited my parents’ home country, the Philippines, so to me, that was home. Visiting Hawaii gave me that same sensation because its friendliness, food, and sceneries reminded me so much of the Philippines. In another sense, Hawaii felt like home because of the happiness it brought me. Although I am now back in my Southern California home, the Hawaiian hau’oli I was immersed in there, continues to radiate within me here.
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