Semester at Sea Fall 2006 Voyagebanner


The Hawaiian Tour Guide

By Wren Chan

           Unlike Eric J Haanstad who had been thinking about his research project on the flight to Thailand, I didn’t even put a thought into what to do in Hawaii the night before we arrived. It is still on U.S. soil even though it is 2,000 miles from the mainland. I had other things in mind but remarkably I was able to absorb much of the material/imagery like a sponge absorbs water.

           The ship unloaded its eager passengers on Saturday at around 9:15 in Honolulu, Hawaii, far off time. I was somewhat annoyed as we were 45 minutes behind time and chances were that they’re going to go through everything quickly and cut some part of the trip. A man by the name of Donald drove the bus for our group. He was a short and stubby man whose skin color was dark like most of the Hawaiians we had initially encountered as we got off the ship. My initial guess was that he was a native as in the native Polynesians that inhabited the area before Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii. Upon ensuring that everyone was on the bus, the bus pulled out of the parking lot. It seemed for a moment that Donald was unlikely to be involved in the larger part of the tour since he would have to focus on driving. I was left to wonder who would introduce us to Hawaii since there appeared to be no tour guide. Perhaps others were thinking about this as the bus moved out along an avenue in the first few minutes of silence.

           Then Donald’s voice went through the loudspeaker welcoming us to Hawaii and revealing his biographical information. Like Hawaii which is a melting pot of different ethnic groups, Donald’s bloodline was like a history of Hawaii itself having native Hawaiian, Chinese and Filipino blood. Realizing that he would possibly be the only Hawaiian I would be in contact with in the short time in Hawaii thus I decided to base my field work observation on him. From my observation during the trip, Donald acted like the typical American (American as in New Yorkers, since New York has been my home for as long as I remember) but with a more carefree attitude towards life. I noticed that throughout the trip Donald seems to hold a mixed feeling on the role of the missionaries in the history of Hawaii and some pride at having the blood of the native Hawaiians. Being a Catholic, Donald at some points along the journey seems to take pride at the act of the missionaries in the importation of some useful plants, but there is a hint of resentment whenever he explains certain misconceptions dealing with Hawaiian agriculture that may have served in the past to justify imperialism. Throughout the trip, Donald was very diligent in immersing everyone into Hawaii by pointing out every little thing and commenting on the topics he brought up to the best of his knowledge while we all acted as the receptive audience, taking pictures and looking around. These comments enriched our understanding of the culture of Hawaii by giving us an insider’s view of Hawaii transforming a 4 hours scenic tour into something resembling a 4 hours conversation (technically a ranting since it was largely one-sided). Along with the history lessons he gave during the trip which helped clear some misconceptions, it made a shortened trip that could have gone bad into an enriching experience.

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