Posts tagged ‘travel’

April 24, 2012

Reaching the Polestar

Harmonious chanting envelops the room during kirtan, a time for devotional music, every Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. at Polestar Gardens. Some people simply tap their fingers to the melody, while others become completely immersed in the music and sing along.

After the kirtan is finished, a few sit in silence in the temple, letting the remnants of the songs soak into their veins, absorbing the tranquil aura of the room. A few minutes pass and everybody moves out of the temple and into the main house for a community potluck.

Lined up on a table, buffet-style, are various vegetarian foods: two types of bean soup, polenta with or without cheese, fresh greens, pickled green papaya, and other more interesting dishes, such as a green paste that looks like guacamole but is actually a sweet banana pudding of sorts. Guests are encouraged to contribute a dish to the community potluck on Wednesdays.

It is not by chance that these people began a weekly kirtan. The teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda inspired Michael Gornik to launch the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation Polestar Gardens in 2000.

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February 25, 2012

From island to mainland (Part 3)

I traveled to D.C. this semester to fulfill an internship position at the Jazz Appreciation Month initiatives at the National Museum of American History. The short three-month period I had in Washington, D.C. seemed to fly by. As the date of my flight back to the Hawaiian islands draws closer, I find myself daydreaming and reflecting back on several of my experiences in D.C. and contrasting them to my previous experiences on Oahu and the Big Island.

One major difference in D.C. is that public events take place all the time. I’ve attended a few great ones; the events that really stick out in my mind are the National Book Festival, National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, and Taste of D.C. The greatest part of these events is that I didn’t have to spend a dime.

The National Book Festival was a fun way to spend a day, with author readings, book signings and various activities to promote reading in the community. The two-day event held on the National Mall drew more than 200,000 people, according to Library of Congress news.

This is actually the Christmas Tree at the National Harbor in Maryland. It was windy, cold and miserable, but one of the UH Alumni treated me to lunch at McCormick & Shmick's Seafood Restaurant. Yum!

The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony was a more exclusive event. Patrons of this festival had to enter a lottery weeks in advance. And, even if you signed up, an element of luck has to be on your side to be randomly chosen to receive tickets. After receiving the tickets, doors open one and a half hours prior to the start of the ceremony, so attendants had to be prepared to endure 40-some-odd degree weather. My advice if you attend this winter-time festival: Be sure to bundle up!

Enduring the weather was worth it, though, as I finally saw Barack Obama in person. I was determined to see him; dang it, I had better see him, I’ve spent this entire semester in D.C., after all! Other performers included Marsha Ambrosius, OneRepublic, and Kermit: there was a performer for every age group.

Another really memorable festival I attended when it was warmer out, over Columbus Day weekend in October, was Taste of D.C. More than 60 restaurants lined up along Pennsylvania Avenue, close to the National Mall, to satisfy hungry festival-goers. Appetizers, entrees and desserts were passed out in exchange for tickets, which could be bought in packets of 10 for $15. A special discount of $5 was given to those who purchased 20 tickets online prior to the event. With such large number of participating restaurants, it was tough to make a decision on where to spend my precious tickets. Chili, falafels, samosas, curry, fried Oreos, waffles… The choices were seemingly endless. I walked around for an hour pondering the choices before I finally settled on a few plates that caught my eye!

As my time in D.C. inches closer to the finishing point, I can say one thing for sure about this busy little city: free activities are always in abundance for the adventurous, energetic city folk.

Like this article? It’s the last installment of a 3 part series. To view the previous articles, log onto harleydiven.wordpress.com.

The Office of Community and Alumni Relations at Hawai’i Hall 311 is currently accepting applications for 2012 internships in Washington, D.C. The deadline for applications is March 9, 2012. For more information and application packet materials, visit http://www.artsci.hawaii.edu/alumni/students/scholarships_internships.htm.

February 25, 2012

From island to mainland (Part 2)

This semester, I have been off the University of Hawai‘iat Mānoa campus fulfilling an internship at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. I was matched up with the Jazz Appreciation Month initiatives in the National Museum of American History.

While I didn’t know much about jazz music, my supervisor reassured me that I would be a useful set of new eyes (or rather, ears) in the JAM offices.

I had a few main tasks to complete during my time at JAM. I conducted interviews with a museum curator, teachers and librarians to gather information about jazz legends and JAM public events. I also scoured the Internet for little-known facts about jazz musicians, which I used to write articles based on the information I compiled. Eventually, what I wrote will be posted on the Smithsonian Jazz website (smithsonianjazz.org).

Every Friday, I aided a high school intern in creating a short film using the film editing software Final Cut Pro – which proved to be a tedious program. Scenes had to be cut just right, down to the millisecond, to create fluidity in both the visual and audio components of the video.

Unfortunately, at times I encountered too many lulls in my internship duties and sometimes found myself trying to figure out ways to make the clock tick faster.

In light of this, what really captured my interest during my internship at the National Museum of American History was the fact that it was the National Museum of American History. Not the city museum, not the state museum, but the national museum.

A diverse, multicultural crowd gathered every day at the museum to fulfill their internships; I met college students and graduates from various places in and outside of the United States. The museum provided a welcoming social environment while acting as a magnet, attracting curious museum-goers and knowledge-hungry interns from across the globe.

The interns ate lunch together, and we got to learn what each person was up to. Everyone worked in a different part of the museum, so we all had different tasks. Some worked directly with museum artifacts or filed information about each artifact into an electronic database. Other departments got to speak with museum visitors directly and address concerns and questions.

I was really surprised to find out such a large array of jobs were available in the museum. Prior to this internship, I thought the only staff that could possibly be in a museum were curators, administrative assistants and, perhaps, assistant curators. But there was a place in the museum for anyone, regardless of their field.

Connecting with the interns was a wonderful way for me to expand my network. Most of the interns were originally from cities other than D.C., so I think everyone tried their best to make sure the museum was a place for interns to feel comfortable and fit right in.


The Office of Community and Alumni Relations at Hawai’i Hall 311 is currently accepting applications for 2012 internships in Washington, D.C. The deadline for applications is March 9, 2012. For more information and application packet materials, visit www.artsci.hawaii.edu/alumni/students/scholarships_internships.htm.

February 22, 2012

From Island to Mainland: My time in Washington, D.C.

Since 1998, the College of Arts and Sciences has sent students to Washington D.C. to fulfill internships in various Smithsonian programs while receiving full-time college credit. Typically, three students are selected every year; the internships cover roundtrip airfare, room and board, and offer a monthly stipend.

This year, I was one of two UH Manoa students picked for Smithsonian internship positions. Within a matter of months, I found myself whisked away to the nation’s capitol.

Normally, my financial circumstances would be a huge obstacle if I wanted to travel outside of Hawai’i, but the financial support offered would make traveling to D.C. possible. As soon as I discovered the applications on the Office of Community and Alumni Relations website, I thought to myself, “I should give this a shot.”

The waiting game began as soon as I submitted all of my application materials. I tried to keep it out of my mind, but how I’d love to have the chance to travel to our nation’s capitol, a grand hub of news and media and haven for a Journalism student like myself.

Weeks after the deadline, I checked my e-mail inbox and lo and behold, an e-mail! Communication from the deciding powers said they were interested in interviewing me. I scheduled the interview and went in my best work dress: one that told them I meant serious business.

The waiting period began once more, but this time I could barely withhold my excitement. The possibility of an internship at the well-distinguished Smithsonian institution at the nation’s capitol seemed so real and so close.

After what seemed like an eternity later, but really was only about three days, I got a “Congratulations!” e-mail in my inbox. I had been one of three chosen for the internships. My jaw dropped as I thought to myself, “I’VE GOT TO SKYPE MY MOM!” who was on the Big Island; I was still living at the UH Manoa dorms at the time. Let me tell you: screaming and jumping ensued as soon as I called her via the internet phone and video program that is Skype.

Fast forward a few months later. After a long series of plane flights from Hawai’i to D.C., Jasmine Fernandez, the other chosen intern (the third chosen did not come for whatever reason), and myself, were picked up by President of the UH Alumni Association (UHAA) National Capitol Region Chapter President Byron Shorter, Vice President Ernie Takafuji and his wife Carol Takafuji at the airport. They were easy to spot, sporting various UH Warrior apparel and welcoming smiles.

My internship is actually supported by the UHAA National Capitol Region Chapter, one out of many chapters that unite UH Alumni around the globe. Periodic fundraisers are held by the chapter to replenish the scholarship fund for the students that come out to D.C. every fall. I had the opportunity to volunteer at a golf tournament and cookout in Virginia in September, an example of a fundraising activity for future students.

The Sarah and Francis Sogi Fellowship sponsors Jasmine, a sponsorship that requires that the student has at least one Ethnic Studies class under his or her belt. And, had the final student came, their internship would’ve been supported by the Hiram L. Fong Endowment in Arts and Sciences.

The trio drove us to our dorm rooms at Washington Trinity University campus, where we got the keys to rooms we’d call home for the next four months and dropped off our luggage.

The D.C. region chapter of the UHAA made us feel right at home and have welcomed us from the very beginning. They made sure we were stocked up on grocery necessities by driving us to CVS (known as Longs Drugs in Hawai‘i) the very first day we arrived. They supplied us with Cup O Noodles, a quick and delicious dinner staple of college students across the nation, and because both Jasmine and I are Hawai’i girls, we also got rice cookers and a supply of rice, spam and nori.

Even though Jasmine and I are thousands of miles away from the islands we call home, UHAA has made sure that we don’t get too lonely out here. We’ve eaten dinner at Karen Uemoto’s house (mmm, Middle Eastern couscous with dried cranberries and pine nuts. I’ve got to get that recipe!) Other days, we’ve been invited to lunch outings with Alumni members (if you ever find yourself at a Busboys and Poets, please get the steak salad. It won’t disappoint.) A newer member of the UHAA took us shopping at an outlet mall before she had to leave to fulfill education-related business in Switzerland and Peru. When my sister visited me all the way from the Big Island during the end of October, Byron drove us to Busch Gardens, an amusement park in Virginia, where we rode roller coasters until it was too dark and freezing cold outside to ride any more.

Prior to this, I had never visited the East Coast and don’t have any relatives on the East Coast, either. I missed my family sometimes, sure, but I never felt completely homesick. The UHAA felt like a support system, a family on the East Coast, that I could feel free to call if I ever needed anything.

As the date draws closer to my return flight home, I often reflect upon what a unique experience this trip has been. I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Like this article? It’s part 1 of a 3 part series. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

The Office of Community and Alumni Relations at Hawai’i Hall 311 is currently accepting applications for 2012 internships. The deadline for applications is March 9, 2012. For more information and application packet materials, visit www.artsci.hawaii.edu/alumni/students/scholarships_internships.htm.

August 8, 2011

Pahoa digs series: Naturally-heated swimming (no, not from pee)

Ahalanui Park, home to a volcanically-heated brackish hot pond, is the perfect place to relieve stress without having to pay the costly fee of a spa or sauna.

Most people are attracted to the Ahalanui Park pond for the stress-alleviating properties of the warm water that is much akin to a hot tub. However, there are also many picnicking families who enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere of the park.

Benches provided for picnicking families.

Fish share the pool with waders, let in through a small inlet that connects the pond to the ocean. Usually there are one or two snorkelers, though there are mixed reviews on the quality of snorkeling at the park. Some days it is too dark to see much.

Inexperienced swimmers should be cautious and watch out for the lava rock at the bottom, which can be mossy and slippery.

The temperature of the pond, locally referred to as simply “the warm ponds” or “hot ponds”, can reach 90 degrees, according to Hawaiiweb.com.

Restrooms, picnic tables, and barbecue grills are among the amenities offered at this little beach park.

Quiet waters to rejuvenate the soul.

The park is open to the public and a lifeguard is on duty almost daily.

July 18, 2011

Pahoa digs series: Exploring the unexplored, or adventures in my hometown

School has ended and I find myself escaping the hubbub of Honolulu living and into the quiet throws of tiny Pahoa town. I happen to be one of the thousands of college students heading home for summer vacation, back to all of the old places I loved to hang out at during my high school days.

Most people have never even heard of Pahoa. Hawaii’s income relies heavily on the tourist industry, yet Hilo and Kona are so much more visited than other areas of the island.

Drive forty minutes out of the popular tourist destination Hilo and enter a whole new realm. Pahoa town, population size a meager 962 according to the 2000 government census, is a quirky little place filled with bizarre characters and home to beautiful, tropical hot spots.

As with all small towns, most places of interest are obvious to locals, but totally unheard of to others, like the good surf at Pohoiki or relaxing at the volcanically-heated Ahalanui hot pond.

Travelers going further past Pahoa may find themselves in tiny rural neighborhoods, like Kalapana, which has been attracting more visitors since the opening of the Lava Viewing Site in 2009.

While many families have lived in Pahoa for generations, handfuls of newcomers also come to Pahoa to live untouched by big corporations and business men in business suits stuffed in big high-rise buildings.

Then, with the old-timers and newbies, there lies an eccentric crowd in Pahoa: those who don earthy-colored bohemian wear, perhaps with a bit of Rastafarian red, green, and yellow here and there, and full heads of dreadlocks. Some smell like incense, particularly patchouli.

This crowd, lovingly referred to as “hippies” by the local high-schoolers, are also interested in getting back to a more natural way of life.
Interestingly enough, Wikipedia notes that “there is a significantly large vegetarian or vegan community” in the district of Puna. True, the validity of Wikipedia can be debated (as our professors always caution), but that had to have been written by somebody. And, indeed, it is not hard to find vegetarian options, and even vegetarians, in Pahoa.

Living at home again this summer makes me think: sure, I know Pahoa and what it has to offer, but visitors are sorely missing out on some great digs.

Pahoa has it’s own distinctive charm, marked by a relatively unstirred way of life. Whether you’re an adventurous island explorer or a vacationer trying to kick back, Pahoa has a little bit of something for everyone.

I’ve decided to delve deeper into my roots this summer and uncover what hidden treasures lie in the place I call my hometown. Check up on my blog weekly to stay updated on my future expeditions: wading in the hot pond, slurping down local curry, and trying not to fall and scrape myself on the rough a’a lava rock as I trek across my little hometown Pahoa.

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