August 29, 2007

A Hodge-Podge of cultures

08. 24.2007 continued

You would think that, after Senegal, the Congo, Australia and Madagascar, I was an adventurous person. But actually, I'm not adventurous at all. I'm just impulsive and make rash decisions. So in the evening of the 24th, instead of roaming the streets of Waikiki in search of a cool dinner place, I stay on the premises of the hotel.

I enter a Japanese restaurant, because it is moderately priced and I ache for proper Japanese food (I live in Nagoya for a year, teaching as my students would say "Engurishu"). Sure, you can get nice bastardized Japanese food in Washington D.C., but it's sometimes hard to find the real thing. The awning is oh-so Japanese, and the waitresses greet me with an "irashaimase!" in their best high-pitched Hello-Kitty voices. It's a great sign already. They sit me at the sushi bar, overlooking raw pieces of fish and thick, curled and suckered octopus. I know a lot of people eat in restaurants alone, but I find it really awkward. I am not sure where to look and whether I should occupy myself by reading a book. Ultimately, I feel very rude to be reading while eating, and just focus on enjoying my sushi. And "oishi" it is! This is the real thing: Japanese staff and sushi chef, who cater to the sophisticated palates of Japanese tourists.

Perhaps feeling sorry for me, a single lady looking uncomfortable yet enjoying her meal, one of the sushi chefs engages me in conversation. He lived in California for 19 years (but speaks English like he only was there for one) where he owned a restaurant. Now, in order to relax, he is in Hawaii, working in this resort restaurant. He has been here for 6 years but professes that he will never be able to own a place, as one bedrooms sometimes go for $1,000,000 in this part of town. For dessert, I head to the cookies place, and sample the best macadamia nut, chocolate-dipped cookie in the shape of a pineapple, I've ever tasted.

On the way back to my room, I see Hawaiian dancers sway their hips and move their hands in wave-like patterns. They wear neon-colored sparkly dresses and assorted bras well-matched to their long long hair, and the men are dressed in Hawaiian shirts. Though the dance has become a cliché, it is really an experience to see it in person, accompanied by a live music arrangement. The bottom parts of their bodies mark the music's beat, the faces are fixed in a seductive smile, and the arms mimic the ocean, the pulling of a neat, the sunshine, and schools of fish. It is so enchanting that I don't see time pass. I now understand why sailors flocked to the Hawaii after long and lonely journeys (Ok Ok, other than food and fresh water)!

August 27, 2007

First Impressions of Hawaii: Waikiki


Work seemed to have sucked all the life out of me lately. A positive thing though, is that my bosses have sent me to Hawaii for a “work” conference. Snicker. "Work", "Hawaii", in the same sentence. That’s kind of funny. No but seriously, I am here for work.

The taxi trip from the airport to the resort was blessedly refreshing after nearly 18 hours of plane travel and airport waits. My taxi driver is a pleasant old guy, with a white, linen shirt and old 1940s-newspaper-boy cap to match the shirt. He has almond shaped eyes that reveal pupils that stare at opposite directions. He is a hodge-podge of ethnicities, perhaps half native Hawaiian, with a hint of Pilipino and Japanese— the essence of Hawaii. He senses my need for peace and quiet, and drives in total silence, except for the Beyonce blaring on the radio (“to the left, to the left; everything in a box to the left”).

I quickly arrive to the resort, set my bags down and fall asleep by 8 pm. The Hilton Hawaiian Village has graciously given me a decent rate, that falls within my per-diem allowance. This is a monstrous complex of hotel rooms, expensive stores, smiling hosts with their ubiquitous flowered shirts and beach drinks. I swear, I almost got lost there.

The trouble with jet lag is that you are up and about by 3 am, starving from last night’s lack of dinner. I wait for 5:30 am, get dressed, and go to the cheapest restaurant in the resort for breakfast. I end up spending $8.32 for a ham and cheese pastry and a cup of Earl Grey tea. This is absolutely outrageous!

Around 6:30 am, I go for a quick run to explore the streets of Waikiki. The sands near the resort have been neatly combed so that the beach looks perfect and pristine. Two people are combing the beach and the swallow waves with metal detectors to find the various gold, and diamond rings wealthy tourists have lost the day before. The day has barely started, and to beach and streets are cool and nearly empty.

The streets are packed with high end stores like Fenti, Louis Vuitton, LeSport Sac, and Bulgari. Interspersed are street cleaners, beach bums sleeping on the sand with their plastic bags and flowered shorts, old Hawaii men parading billboards from water sports, and hotel staff in head-to-toe Hawaiian cloth uniforms. All streets are lined with hibiscus flowers, ponds with potted water lilies, and orchids. Everything is man-made and everything is for sale. The majority of signs are in English and Japanese. A few jet-lagged tourists and joggers are walking in the streets as well, in ill-fitting and neon beachwear.

I stop at the local convenience store, ABC store, that is located every two or three blocks (I swear, in one hour, I saw six or seven different ABC stores). I buy 2 fuji apples, 2 onigiri squares, 2 bananas, 3 instant noodles, for the same price of my breakfast. I'm starting to realize that ABC is much more reasonable option that eating at the resort.

Don't erase my blog!

I just signed on to my blog, when I encountered this message:

Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What's a spam blog?) Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.

We received your unlock request on August 27, 2007. On behalf of the robots, we apologize for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

Find out more about how Blogger is fighting spam blogs.


The message also notified me that if I didn't respond within two days, my blog would be erased! Yikes! That's completely crazy, what if I was on vacation and unable to use the internet for a few days?

Wow, loosing my blog would really, REALLY piss me off.

August 17, 2007

Another one of those emails...

So I just received another one of those scamming emails:

Greeting to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Thanks for your reply and i am very glad you are ready to recieve my donation and also use it as directed by me and also i thank you very much for your prayers. i want my contributions to be used for the development of churches in your country.I had to deposit the funds in a private overseas credit commission in Europe because my late Husband's brothers are moslems and since i converted to be a christian.They have been very angry with me and they try their best to seize all my late husband's property and assests,i will forward the transfer security code numbers and the contact details of the overseas credit commission which will include the name of the Director but you will have to assure me that you will go to Europe to claim my donation and let me know if you can go to Europe to recieve my donation or not.i want to be sure that i am dealing with the Right person which is you because i dont want anybody to take advantage of my illness. I want to forward to you my photo with my doctor in the hosiptal two days ago.I await your reply
God bless
Mary Collins Jones

This one is particularly good because it exploits:
-the religion angle,
-the I'm-converting-to-Christianity-from-Islam angle,
-the sweet Mary Collins Jones angle,
-the illness angle,
-the taking-property-of-a-women angle.

Again, my main concern with this email, is the grammar and the flow. If this scammer took a little bit longer to draft this email, it would have been so much more convincing. I'll give him/her an C- minus for effort though.

One Man's Amazing Journey

I know I haven't been blogging for forever, but my job's been sucking me dry. I've been preparing various briefing books for a U.S. Government official travelling to Africa, working 60 to 80 hour weeks for the past 3 weeks. Definitely not what I have in mind when I decided to leave the Congo, and come back to the United States.

I just finished my work and the stress is slowly melting off my shoulders. I just came upon this photo-story of a man from Cameroon and his exhausting journey to come to Europe, in search of a better life:

I have to say, it puts everything in perspective.