The sequestered isles of Hawaii radiate in bursts of sunshine and insouciance. Out of the vast and seemingly interminable Pacific waters, amid volcanic dormancy and tropical typhoon, Hawaii glistens like the delectable pineapple juice that it so graciously offers. From its small, celestial kingdom in the sea, Hawaii offers the ideal amalgam of native culture and tourism. Beaches beckon to visitors, who fall head over heels for the soft white sand and rise of the waves. The islands possess a tangible vitality, as though the combination of all their happy features, forms into a harmonious and cordial song. Paradise has never been more accessible.
My family visited the island of Oahu, with the big city vibe of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, the beauty of the surrounding mountains, the tranquility of the northern shore, and the somber history of Pearl Harbor. On the second day of our visit, my trip was nearly spoiled by my tragic surrender to sunburn. (Or my idiotic refusal to wear sunscreen, as my Mom said.) Indeed, the serenity of our balcony view from the Rainbow Tower of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the excitement in staying at the hotel closest to Waikiki beach, and the coo of the island song all served as formidable distractions. Sunscreen was the least of my concerns. So when we hit the beach, I felt sure of my invincibility – Hawaii herself would protect me, and nurture me with the gift of easy-going play. I was so enthralled with the scenery and the wholesome beauty, in fact, that I didn’t bother to retreat from the sun for nearly four hours that day.
The trip grew increasingly more difficult after that fit of blissful ignorance. Since most of the sunburn could be shielded with clothing, I figured that I was safe from all sunny threats. When we returned to our room after a second day at the pool, I again sat in defeat and shame when I saw a fresh layer of red claim the uncovered portions of my arms and legs. My face, by the lucky stroke of a miracle, had retained its characteristic whiteness.
Fortunately, a visit to Pearl Harbor, with the USS Bowfin, USS Arizona Memorial, and the USS Missouri Battleship, kept us out of the sun and engaged in the retelling of the largest loss of American lives on U.S. soil in an international war. I’d studied all of this in my history class, but being there, in same place that tragedy struck and took the lives of 3,000 Americans, gave the reality of the loss clarity and meaning. In addition to the physical pain of my sunburn, I relived the pain experienced by so many heroes and their loved ones that day.
After five days of the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and Honolulu, we headed north to Turtle Bay Resort, which felt like going home to native Hawaii. Here we visited the Polynesian Cultural Center and attended a very entertaining luau. Experiencing the culture of the Polynesian peoples, with its language, delightful food, amazing fire and hula dances, made our visit to Hawaii complete.
The day of my family’s departure arrived too soon, and I found myself sitting on an airplane examining my sunburn. Annoying as it was, it was a valuable lesson learned. My bright red skin showed the scars of tropical orientation. I’ll definitely wear sunscreen next time. Despite the sunburn, it reflected the origin of my friendship with the beauteous, poignant island of Oahu.
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