Michelle Tsai,Living in the Paradise,C9
There’s a paradise in the North Pacific Ocean. Beach and sunshine are what you can expect. Hula dance, lei and ukulele are representative. Surfing also originates from this place. What comes to your mind must be Hawaii! Last semester, I went to University of Hawaii for an exchange program. It was the best period in my life, full of marvelous moments, and with too many stories to tell. I will share some of the best parts of my adventure to give you a clearer look of Hawaii.
First, let’s start with some geography class. Hawaii is the 50th state of the U.S., consists of a chain of volcanic islands. Oahu is the one where the capital Honolulu is, with the most residents and tourists. Pearl Harbor is one of the famous attractions here. I lived in Manoa Valley, a peaceful neighborhood surrounded by lush mountains. Beautiful rainbows often appear after some refreshing drizzly rain, making me feel like living in paradise. The climate is perfect for a hot-weather person like me. It’s not too humid in summer, and only gets a little bit cooler during winter.
I also visited three other islands with my friends. On Maui Island, I’ve watched breathtaking sunrise on the 3,000-meter summit of Haleakalā volcano. On Big Island, I’ve seen dramatic landscapes created by active volcanoes in Volcano National Park. I’ve gone to the world’s largest astronomical observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea, which is even higher than Jade Mountain. Kaua’i is the island that attracts me the most, famous for its untouched natural wonders. I’ve stood in awe before Waimea canyon, also known as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It’s really a masterpiece of nature. And I love the wild chickens that appear everywhere on Kaua’i!
There are so many outdoor activities to do in Hawaii. Camping, hiking, snorkeling, swimming, surfing and kayaking. I never get tired of them. Getting immersed in the nature makes me feel free and happy. In Hawaii, I truly learned how to appreciate and embrace the nature. To me, every island, every beach, every mountain is unique, and there’s always more to discover and enjoy.
Due to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many Eastern and Western influences along with its own vibrant indigenous culture, creating a distinct cultural look different from the mainland U.S. Hawaii has the highest percentage of Asian Americans and multi-racial Americans, as well as the lowest percentage of White Americans of any state.
Hawaii’s local culture is fascinating. Many of you may have heard of the term “Aloha.” Aloha stands for more than just “hello" or “goodbye". Its deeper meaning is “the joyful sharing of life energy.” If you see a gesture like this, don’t make it wrong, it doesn’t mean phone call or six. People in Hawaii use the gesture shaka to convey the “Aloha Spirit", to show love, friendship, greetings, and gratitude. Aloha shirts and Aloha dresses are not just for tourists. Local people also wear them on special or formal occasions. Some terms from native Hawaiian language are commonly used. For example, look at this sign outside a restroom. Kane refers to men, Wahine refers to women, and ohana means family.
Speaking of ohana, these are my housemates and neighbors from diverse backgrounds. Yes, including the cats. No matter our age, ethnicity, nationality or occupation, we all feel a sense of belonging here! The appeal of Hawaii brought us together and taught us to enjoy life with Aloha spirit. Multi-culture is what makes Hawaii so attractive. I was really impressed by its harmony of different ethnicities and the successful renaissance of its indigenous culture.
Living in a new environment makes me more independent and open-minded. I started to view Taiwan in a new perspective after coming back. Taiwan also consists of islands with diverse ethnic groups. But our identification is still being debated, and the indigenous culture is fading away. We can definitely learn something from Hawaii.
Hawaii is like my second hometown. Sometimes when I think of those days, I still feel homesick. It is a unique place with magical power. Both the nature and culture there attracts me deeply. I have already left part of myself in Hawaii, but I still need to move on. I will always keep Aloha spirit in my mind because that’s what one need to live in paradise!