Sunday, April 19, 2015

What I Did (and Didn't Do) in Hawaiʻi

I was in Hawaiʻi from February 9 to April 21 this year:

WHAT I DID: I was insanely productive.

-Within two weeks of arrival, I finished and submitted my doctoral dissertation!

I also wrote:
-an 800-word encyclopedia article about Hawaiʻi -- submitted and accepted
-a 4,000-word journal article about work, class, and environment -- submitted and under review
-an 8,000-word journal article about Sāmoa -- not submitted... I still need to do some revisions on this one!

I also wrote:
-a 2,000-word conference paper which I presented in March
-a 500-word autobiographical statement for a website

I also:
-continued to toy with an 8,000-word piece that will eventually become a 5,000-word book chapter... but still needs a lot of work!
-began to write a few pieces: essays, articles, et cetera, and then promptly gave up on them... that happens sometimes, too.

WHAT I DID: I got a job.

 It really wasn't anything I did in Hawaiʻi, although my first week here I did a few phone interviews for various positions, but the job came very shortly after my arrival in Honolulu. So while I was here all I had to do was call and email everyone I know and get their opinion and then make my decision. I, of course, accepted the job. What this meant was that, although I had brought folders of notes and c.v.s and even my best suit with me to Hawaiʻi—fully expecting that I would have to continue to go on job talks and fight for a job while I am here—, instead I was able to put all that in the closet and focus instead on my writing!

WHAT I DID: I went on two amazing trips.

I went to Maui for five days, and to Sāmoa & American Sāmoa for eight days. In Maui, I camped for four straight nights. It was fun! In Sāmoa and American Sāmoa I traveled around by bus and plane and stayed in hotels and did the tourist thing. On both trips I traveled alone. I did not feel lonely in Maui. But I did in Sāmoa. At least I talked to people and made a new friend in Sāmoa. In Maui I was a hermit, but I loved that aspect of camping.

On Oʻahu I took a few smaller trips: to Kaʻena Point one day with friends; to Mānoa Falls, and to Diamond Head, by myself. I bought a crappy old bicycle and used it to go to beaches at Waikīkī and Ala Moana. I wandered on foot a bit in Mānoa. But I really did not go out and explore this island as I have on past visits to Oʻahu.

WHAT I DID: I generally lived a healthy lifestyle.

A few weeks into my stay in Hawaiʻi, I started going to yoga once or twice a week. (About one month ago I stopped going, however.)  I ate poorly my first month here, but then after getting an apartment off-campus I started eating mostly local foods and preparing my own meals, mostly fruits and vegetables. I even went to a cooking class for some inspiration. Getting a bicycle was good, because I used that for exercise, although when I stopped going to yoga I became somewhat slothful. I barely drank at all here, and I tended to go to sleep around 9pm and wake at 6:30am. Lots of sleep!

WHAT I DIDN'T DO: I did a horrible job making friends.

In two previous visits to Hawaiʻi—in 2010 and 2013—I had only made one local friend here. Upon arrival this year I tried to reconnect with her—made multiple invitations to hang out—but it never worked out. In my first month I made another new friend on campus, but after a few times hanging out, that fell apart, too. Moving off campus was helpful in that I lived with a number of roommates, and they have all been really friendly! One in particular has become a good friend—someone I can confide in; someone I can talk about deep and complex life issues with. I am so grateful for this friend. But to live in a place for over two months with just one friend is not good enough. I was very lonely here in Hawaiʻi.

Part of my problem making friends was the very structure of my time here: I am on a fellowship funded out of New York City. I am using that fellowship money as I see fit, including renting this apartment and doing research on campus. But I am neither a student nor a faculty member on campus. I have attended a few talks and events on campus, but I do so as a strange interloper: an outsider who is neither a local resident, nor a member of the University community, nor even friends with anyone affiliated with the university! Most weekdays I have eaten meals on campus, hung out on campus... but when I do I feel almost worried that someone is going to find out about me and say that I'm not supposed to be there! I don't even have a university ID. Who's this trespasser? they'd say. I have read about people like me—people who hang out on university campuses, attend lectures, and seem to be part of the student body, when in actuality they are not paying tuition and have just sneaked their way into the fabric of the institution. That's sort of how I feel at the University of Hawaiʻi!

I could have made friends at yoga (except that they were all slightly, or even quite, older than me). I could have made friends at the grocery store or co-op. (I did, in fact, talk to a few folks there now and then, but acquaintances did not blossom into friendships.)

Then there's the matter of dating. One of my goals in Hawaiʻi was to go on a few dates in Honolulu, and in that regard I was nearly a complete failure. Finally, in the last few weeks of my stay here, I went on a few lovely dates with a local guy. And that, due to the fact that I am only a bird of passage here, was that. Perhaps the whole time in Hawaiʻi I knew in my mind that I was only here temporarily, and I did not allow myself to really engage with others because I knew I would have to leave them, just as I had so tearfully left my friends in New York City a few months ago.

Well... enough whining. I was lonely here, and homesick. It could have been different, but it wasn't. I focused so hard on my work—I threw myself into 'insane productivity' like never before—that I sacrificed my personal goals and social needs for the sake of my work.


I have mixed feelings about my two months in Hawaiʻi. I feel proud of all that I accomplished. As a writer and a thinker, my pen truly flowed! It is a wonderful feeling to be productive! On the other hand, I feel like I lost track of the bigger picture in my life: that of health and happiness. I may have kept physically healthy but my cloistered academic life was certainly not emotionally or psychologically good. It's a strange twist in the arc of life. I spent basically all of 2014 putting emotional and social goals on the front burner, putting my academic work, on the other hand, on hold. If I am now doing the opposite, I hate how it feels, and I miss those days when I cared more about just 'feeling good' than feeling satisfied with my writing.

That said, I was on a prestigious research fellowship this past year, and so 'what I was supposed to be doing' was exactly what I, in actuality, did. I was supposed to spend my time here doing research and writing. That's what I did, and I did a damned good job of it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Three Weeks Left

6am, Honolulu

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 71-88

Where I last left off, I had just moved into a new apartment a few blocks away from the university. (The photograph above is the view from my street.) I was enjoying having a kitchen and cooking and getting to know my new roommates.

A few days after writing that post, I got on a plane and flew to Washington, D.C. It was my first time back to the Mainland since coming to Hawaiʻi on February 9. It was a long flight, but thankfully I slept through most of it and also read an entire novel(!) before landing.

I had a good time. I went to the National Archives. It snowed a bit! And I attended the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History, which is always a blast because I have so many "ASEH friends" who I only see once a year at this conference!

The National Archives, Washington, D.C.

7am, snow in Arlington, Virginia

I stayed in Arlington, Virginia. It was kind of weird to be in Virginia knowing that I will be moving there to become a full-time resident of the state in just four months!

From D.C. I then flew to Amherst, Massachusetts, to attend a symposium at Amherst College.

The Lord Jeffery Inn, Amherst, Massachusetts

 In sum it was a seven-day trip to the East Coast. I really loved being back on the East Coast—a reminder that "home" is a powerful concept in my head and heart. As fun as Hawaiʻi (sometimes) can be, my heart is really back along Atlantic shores.

 Today marks exactly one week since I have been back in Honolulu. I have been trying to focus on my research but this week has seemed to be an all-absorbing exercise in thinking way too much about both the past and the future: talking to old friends and lovers and also making new ones (went on my first Honolulu date this weekend!); wondering what it is I have accomplished here in two months in Hawaiʻi and planning and scheming and wondering what I will do this summer when I live in Boston and do research in Massachusetts and in Connecticut.

Now it is April, and I have only three weeks left in these islands. One of my goals is just to really enjoy living in my apartment and spending time with my roommates. Because of course I will have to leave this place and say many goodbyes, and I should enjoy myself as much as I can while I am here!
Graffiti art around the block from my apartment, Honolulu

 One of the fun things I did last weekend was go on a walk in the rain to the Mānoa Chinese cemetery with my roommate.
Mānoa Chinese Cemetery, Honolulu

Qin Shihuangdi, first emperor of China, third century BCE. Mānoa Chinese Cemetery, Honolulu
Mānoa Chinese Cemetery, Honolulu

 In reality, I only have ten more days in Honolulu, not three weeks. That is because early Friday morning I am flying to Sāmoa for an eight-day adventure on the islands of Upolu and Tutuila. Upolu is in Sāmoa, and Tutuila is in American Sāmoa. I am going to both places, connected by a once-a-week eight-hour-long maritime cruise. That should be fun! I am flying into Apia, capital of Sāmoa. I am flying out of Pago Pago, capital of the U.S. territory of American Sāmoa. It will be interesting to see the comparative colonial legacies of both sides of this fractured archipelago: Germany and New Zealand controlled the western half from 1899 to 1962; the United States has controlled the eastern half since 1899 and is not giving up, even though the United Nations declares U.S. rule in American Sāmoa to be a violation of the United Nations mandate on decolonization!

 So that's where I'm headed. Upon return from Sāmoa, I will hopefully write a few blog posts about my trip there. As for what else I will do in those last ten days in Hawaiʻi after Sāmoa? I really don't know. I think prioritizing my relationships with people here is the most important thing. I've done a heck of a lot of research. I'll always have that. I won't always have these people, though.

 And that will conclude my Pacific Ocean adventures for 2015. The next time I will be back in these waters is likely May 2016 when I hope to make trips to Aotearoa (New Zealand), maybe to Guam, maybe back to Sāmoa, and definitely spending some more time here in Hawaiʻi nei.