young men positioned in a naturally-occurring frame between a rack of
surfboards and a small clutter of palm trees on the beach at Waikiki, Hawaii.
Their spatial chemistry is what initially draws me to watch them; while
Asian-looking boy leans lazily against a palm, two brown skinned boys
by side with their knees up, a black guy and a white guy stand behind
in the front, one with long light hair down his back straddles a surf
facing the group. It’s approaching seven in the evening and they’re all
colorful swim trunks, apparent that they’re ending a long day of
moments of chitchat (not all of which I entirely understand, involving
amount off surfer and coastline jargon) the two boys standing leave
with a small wave to the group and semi-awkward “mahalo,” pronounced
“muh-hello.” It’s a give-away that they are visitors to Hawaii and its
idioms, and just recent
acquaintances to the remaining group of boys. The four pass around what
like a common-shared inside joke about the surfing abilities of their
acquaintances and they all snigger, but not cruelly. It’s decidedly
appreciative. One of the boys sitting in the middle notices me, and
welcome wave which I return. The boy next to him could be his brother,
bend their heads in a quiet discussion before shouting over, “What are
smile and say,
“Watching.” They laugh.
“Hawaii,” I answer. Two
people come in the frame to return rented boards, and the Asian guy
put them back on the rack. He must be the one working the stand, while
friends (or perhaps fellow employees) visit. Reluctant to answer
regarding my surveillance of attractive young islanders, I take the
to wave a shy goodbye and make my way down the beach, feeling very
whole beach full of foreigners, travelers, locals (a mix of native
and foreigners even in that), and I feel indistinctly singled out as
Everyone around, I notice, is in some respect studying and absorbing
culture of Hawaii.
But here I feel very discomfited documenting it. Like Eric Haanstad
in his article The Other City of Angels:
Ethnography with the Bangkok
Police, I feel like I'm unprepared- too
shy, too obvious- and most
of all, unqualified.
No language barrier or loneliness, but who am I to specimenize these
while I myself am too timid to even talk to them? Especially since,
after all I
chose to watch them primarily because they were so, so pretty.