Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oahu notes from a broad

The first time I ventured to Hawaii (to the island of Oahu), I was lucky enough to stay with an old friend who'd just moved there from The Mainland, as locals call that big continental bit of the United States, just over yonder across the Pacific. Since that first visit over 10 years ago, I've been back many times and have also explored a couple other islands in the chain. But my first is still my favorite, despite its also being the most populated and touristed. Thankfully, I know how and where to escape the droves. In order to do that, wheels are essential. Which reminds me again of my first trip (to Oahu) and of the instant illiteracy I felt as I tried to navigate streets with names like:

Kapukawai Street (Waipahu): Handsome
Kupu'eu Place (Waipahu): Hero, wondrous one
Lakimau Street (Diamond Head): Always lucky
Lakoloa Place (Kalihi): Very rich, prosperous
Lalawai Drive ('Aiea): Successful, well-to-do
Pahukula Place (Kuli'ou'ou): Chest of gold
'Apake'e Street (Wai'anae): Deceitful
Kahekili Highway (Kane'ohe): Thunder
Kaie'e Street ('Ewa Beach): Tidal wave
Kalapu Street ('Ewa Beach): Ghost
Ka'onawai Place (Manoa): The liquid intoxicant
Nakiu Place (McCully): The spies
Na'opala Lane (Kalihi): Rubbish
'Aikanaka Place/Road ('Ewa Beach): To eat human flesh
'Ilipilo Street (Kailua): Smelly skin
Kauhako Street/Place (Hawai'i Kai): The dragged large intestines
Mo'omuku Place (Kuli'ou'ou): Mutilated lizard
Lumi'au'au Street (Waipahu): Bathroom
Helekula Way/Place (Wai'anae): To go to school
Ki'ona'ole Road (Kane'ohe): Without dung heaps
Komai'a Drive (Manoa): Dragging bananas
Ki'i'oni'oni Loop/Place (Wai'alae): Motion pictures, movies
Wai'aka Place (McCully): Laughing water
'Ano'ilei Place (Hau'ula): Cherished, sweetheart
Hanakealoha Place (Palolo Valley): Love-making
Ho'oha'i Street/Place (Pearl City): To flirt
Pa'ale'a Street (Palolo Valley): Pleasure-loving
Poli'ala Street (Waimanalo): Fragrant breast
'Eu Lane (Kalihi): Rascal
Lukini Place ('Ewa Beach): Perfume
Kani'ahe Street/Place (Wahiawa): To giggle or laugh softly
Wela Street/Lane (Kaimuki): Lust, passion
Kuewa Drive (Waialua): Wanderer, homeless
Nalulu Place (Wai'alae 'Iki): A dull headache
Meahala Street (Waipahu): Sinner
Hepa Street (Waipahu): Idiot, imbecile, moron
Kahalewai Place (Hale'iwa): Prison, jail
Pokapahu Place (Diamond Head): Bursting bullet
'Onaha Street (Kahala): Bow-legged
Kalena Street (Wahiawa): The lazy one
Ma'ipalaoa Road (Wai'anae): Whale genitals
'Iole Street/Place (Kane'ohe): Hawaiian rat
Ka'uku Place (Hawai'i Kai): Louse
Kaluamo'o Street (Kailua): Lizard pit
Ke Ala Mano Street (Kalihi Valley): Shark's road
Miula Street ('Ewa Beach): Mule
Popoi'a Road (Kailua): Fish rot


Granted, of course, I didn't know the meanings of such street names. Not that it would have helped me find my way any better. I don't know what I was expecting on that first trip, other than for Hawaii to be an even more Americanized, Disney version of its former or true self. So though confused, I was pleasantly surprised by something so simple as the plethora of Hawaiian street names, in Hawaiian. Hawaii, at present, can still be a very watered down take on its authentic past, but there are pockets of authenticity (both things modern and things throwback). An attempt is being made to reclaim what was lost and remake history into something relevant for today. Reclaiming the language is a first step. And I'm happy to report that my friend's children are learning the mother tongue of their island home. Very cool. It's such a beautiful language. Both written and spoken. Once you get the basics down, even a mainlander like me can learn to read the street signs at a good clip and get from point A to point B without any difficulty!

But enough about street names and navigation. Let's talk beaches. They're all different and unique and for me anyway, they do not blend into a single strip of sun and sand. I've surveyed strips from Kauai, Oahu, and Maui and have a list of clearly defined favorites. But at the top of my list is Lanikai, the chain's most honored beach; it's won Best Beach awards for years (and years).

On this last trip, I was out one postcard-perfect afternoon, snapping photos of the twin Mokulua Islands. A woman came up and stood next to me. "Beautiful day, isn't it? Perfect day." I agreed with her and we struck up a little conversation. She was from Germany, on vacation with her husband who was back at their hotel taking a nap. Typical of Germans, she and her husband were exceptionally well traveled. She rattled off for me, as proof, all of the beach-ladened countries that they'd visited over the years. So, when she told me that Lanikai was "by far" the most beautiful and "perfect" beach in the world, I didn't question her. Though I hadn't seen nearly as many beaches with which to compare it, I agreed wholeheartedly. "Some beaches have nice scenery to look out on, but the sand is too big. Other beaches have powder fine sand and nothing to gaze at. Others have both perfect sand and scenery, but the water isn't clear or the waves are too rough or it's too cold. Lanikai has everything. Everything about it is perfect. The sand, the scenery, crystal clear water that is as calm as a lake. Perfect. Don't bother traveling the world in search of the perfect beach. Trust me. You've already found it."

Lucky me. (And lucky you! Now you know where to find the world's best beach, too.)

Questions? Ask away! Please use the comments feature to ask questions rather than contacting Marisa directly. That way everyone can learn a thing or two, too.

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