Almost four weeks ago I arrived in Hawai’i. I’m now at the point where I’d say I settled down on the island and I got used to how things work over here. I’m still learning every day. Deciding to spend one semester abroad obviously means diving into a different culture and brings some difficulties or barriers with it. However, going to America seemed not to be a huge cultural difference to me. It definitely is! I recognize this especially in tiny things, for example when talking to someone; the attitude towards people, coping with situations, getting together with friends, interests or goals in life… and so much more. It’s hard to explain what I mean by different when you’re not actually experiencing the situation. I guess to understand and appreciate your own culture, you first need to get to know another one, and although I travelled to several countries over the past years, it’s quite unlike actually living somewhere. In your eyes you behave “normally”, act how you always do, and suddenly you realize that things don’t work that way over here. You struggle. But you learn a lot from it. I’m not judging or valuing cultures or behaviors in any way, I’m just saying there is a difference, and it’s probably part of my whole experience to accept this difference as a good thing happening. It’s about accepting differences: Somehow I like how toast bread is never toasted, I like how the bus takes 2 1/2 hours for 50 kilometers, and I like how you have to wait for 5 minutes until the traffic light turns green (seriously!).
I finally moved into my flat share with Stefon. He’s the best roommate I could wish for and he’s helping me to tick off some beaches from my “have-to-visit-beach-list“. In my first week in Makiki, that’s what the area where I live is called, Stefon and I went on a hike through the rainforest. It was my first hike and one of the best experiences in Hawai’i so far. We left the house around 6 p.m., it started to rain heavily but it was still warm outside. On our way back (it was dark already) the rain got even stronger and we were completely wet in a second. I couldn’t even see where I was going because so much water was running down my face, I could only hear and literally taste the rain. Such a beautiful experience in Hawai’is nature. Both our mobile phones died caused by the rain the same night. Stefon actually had to buy a new one, while mine dried out after three days and works again.
On the weekend we went on another hike. It’s called the “Lanikai Pillboxes” and is a very popular and easy hike. It took us about 40 minutes to go up and get a spectacular view.
By coincidence I got to know Allegra a few days later. She’s from California, lives in Paris and stayed in Hawai’i for a few months. I went to a pool party she threw with her friends and met her the next day again. The 29th of May is Memorial day, a public holiday in America for remembering soldiers who fell in war. We attended the official ceremony in Honolulu, where myriad of lanterns are put into the water. Thousands of people were standing next to each other at the beach, holding hands, watching the lights float into the sea. The moment was rare and very emotional. Definitely another day I won’t forget.
While collecting and enjoying all these rare and beautiful moments I almost forgot why I’m actually in Hawai’i: Studying! I really like going to University here, even though it’s pretty tough. My friends in Germany laugh at me, I was kind of expecting to have a relaxed life as a student in Honolulu, hanging out at the beach or something like that. Sometimes I feel like I’m a naive, unprepared, and uninformed little girl from Germany – who didn’t know that taking 3 different classes would be a bit too much. In my first week, talking to some classmates, I found out that no one would ever do that. All of them have one, maximum two classes. Guess who also missed the deadline to drop a class? Me! Well, having no other option than taking these 3 courses, my life during the week currently consist of going to school, spending the rest of my daytime in the library, studying and preparing for tests, exams, projects, essays and other things I have to cope with. Besides having a stressful time, my classes are actually way to interesting to skip them. I’m taking a Writing class, an Anthropology class (we talk about different cultures and behavior of humans), and a Marketing class, which probably fits the most to my major graphic design in Germany.
Another thing I want to tell you about: Partying in Hawai’i. As I mentioned, living in America (which obviously has a western society), has a different culture, and different habits in partying, too. Naturally I’m comparing my experiences to Germany and Europe, while I’m again not valuing or judging anything. Last Friday I went out for the first time; Stefon and a friend of him planned on going to Chinatown, an area of Honolulu. There is an event every first Friday in town and a lot of young people visit bars and clubs, which are all located in one street. The clubs close around 4 a.m., and it felt like everyone was ready to leave at 2 a.m. (Whereas my friends and I arrive at the club, almost always electronic music, around 1 to 2 a.m. in Germany). The music was mainly black, R&B, and Hip Hop. Alcohol is super expensive. To be honest I felt kinda out of place… until I met Brent and his friends. He grew up in Hawai’i and I had a nice conversation with him.
The next day Brent invited me to visit him in North Shore, apparently located at the north side of the island. After spending almost all of my time in the busy, touristic, and loud area around Honolulu, I was overwhelmed by the nature on the opposite side. Endless abandoned beaches, huge palm trees, flowers and colorful plants everywhere, and gardens of Mango- and Litchi trees. It actually looked exactly how I expected Hawai’i to be, a tropical and quiet paradise. I’m not saying the scenery around the city isn’t beautiful, it’s just not comparable to the northern island.
Anyways, Hawai’i seems to have some magical effect on me: I quit smoking almost 3 weeks ago, started to work out again and live off fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course I have these moments feeling lonely without my friends and my family, and at the same time I have these moments where I’m just unbelievably happy and grateful to be here and I realize how much I love life (I know that sounds poetic). After a month on this small isolated spot somewhere in the pacific, It feels like spending a lot of time on my own, living a healthy life, and exploring so many new things, I’m right now finding myself more than at any time in my past life. And that’s what it’s supposed to be like, right? Mahalo!