Monday, May 21, 2012


In the last 6 months, every American I have met has used this word at least once.  Looks like ‘Awesome’ has replaced ‘Cool’ as the all-encompassing word to describe all things/people great.  I started hearing it in Mysore last year - everything and everyone good was ‘Awesome’.  When my New York cousins visited Singapore … they used it too.  One day, I heard my little nephew use it – he said, “Uncle Matt (my NY cousin) says this”.

This trend of course continued when I arrived in Hawaii.  Upon reflection, it is actually the perfect word to describe Hawaii … which is so totally Awesome!

I remember telling myself in the late 1990s that I wasn’t going to the USA for vacation anymore.  I had been fortunate to have travelled there a few times, mainly to the big cities.  The USA is a big country in many ways.  It is physically big (takes hours to travel from coast to coast, has multiple time-zones etc), there are big cars, big stores, big servings of food, big people etc.  I once saw a teenage whose arm was larger than my thigh.  Even though each city was unique, it was basically the same – American culture is distinct from the rest of the world. 
Hawaii is part of the USA, but it is different.  I am still amazed by the extent of the Asian influences (Japanese, Chinese, Filipino) due to the large number of Asians who came here to work on the plantations.  To me, it seems that Hawaii has the most number of Japanese people, outside of Japan.  There are big Japanese supermarkets and Japanese dishes are part of general everyday life – you can find musubi (glutinous rice balls wrapped in seaweed) in 7-11.  Singaporeans would definitely love them because they are usually topped with spam (ie our much-loved luncheon meat).

They also celebrate Girls and Boys day, as they would in Japan.  I was there just before Boys day.  Families raise carp-shaped flags – one for each boy in the family.  Carp because of the Chinese legend that a carp that swims upstream becomes a dragon, and the way the flags blow in the wind looks like they are swimming).

Small fish

Big fish
One thing that reminded me that I was in the US was prevalence of Starbucks outlets.  In that respect, Hawaii is no different from the rest of the United States.  In comparison to Australia, Americans drink their coffee with half&half or with low fat or fat-free milk.  In Australia, it’s mostly whole milk although you can get the ‘skinny’ option.

Here's a photo I took of 3 mugs of coffee, ranging from my very latte-ish milk-coffee to my friend's mum's.  I drank her coffee once (diluted with water), early in the morning.  I couldn't sleep that night! Never again, especially since her coffee has been referred to as ''hair of dog'' - meaning it'll put super-hairy hair on your chest! 

Singapore is very multi-racial but I find that there are more mixes (rojak) in Hawaii.  There’s ‘Houle’ (White / Ang Moh), Happa (what we would call Eurasian), the Asians, the Polynesians and the local Hawaiians.  In Singapore it’s common to see Asian women with Caucasian men, but Asian men with Caucasian women is a much rarer occurence.  Plus, mixes across the other races is not as common. One of my favourite past-times here is looking at extended families – because they are such an interesting mix (definitely ‘rojak’).  I have seen kids who look Ang Moh (blonde hair, blue eyes which are recessive genes) but with both parents who have dark hair and eyes.  You would never think they were related.  My good friends in Hawaii are an excellent example.  Here is a picture of what their daughter had pinned up on her bedroom wall, describing her ethnic make-up

The 3 kids look quite different, illustrating the contrasting make-up of their DNA.  I took close-up photos of their eyes.  Ideally I’d post photos of the kids too … but their dad is a bit protective.  I don’t want to incur his wrath since I want to go back and stay with them ;o)

People here are very relaxed.  Everyone wears flip-flops, shorts or beachwear  … everywhere.  Jeans are considered dressy.  When I go for a walk on the beach or around the neighbourhood, people always smile and say Hello.  Cars give way like crazy – I was taking a stroll the other day and a car waited for me to pass (even though I was miles away) before he turned into his driveway.

Hawaii has very beautiful scenary – mountains, gorgeous beaches and brilliantly clear waters.  This deserves a post on its own but here's a sample photo ... more awesome ones will follow soon.

You can see a kite-surfer in the distance .. this has become very popular especially on Kailua beach which is very windy

PS. I finally found a good muffin … the raisin bran muffin from Cosco (a hypermart which brought out my Chinese in me in terms of appreciation for free samples!)