Saturday, February 26, 2011

Honolulu's Island--Oahu

A lovely view from up high. Hawaii is well known for both mountains and beaches.
I believe you are never to old to learn new things, and today I learned that I have been pronouncing Honolulu wrong. Like most people who live on the mainland, as the Hawaiians call the rest of the USA, I have been pronouncing the first syllable as Ha, but it is actually Ho with a long o sound. The second syllable also has a long o sound and is pronounced just like our word, no. Ho no lu lu. Another thing I learned is that the Hawaiian language has only 12 letters and that includes the five vowels. You probably are wondering what the 12 letters are. Every word in Hawaiian contains only these letters: a, e, i, o, u, l, k, m, w, p, h, and n. Today I saw the name of a building that had the letter "a" three times in a row. After each "a" was an accent mark. The letter "w" is pronounced like a "v" when in the middle of a word, so I've also been mispronouncing Hawaii. In reality, the correct pronunciation is Ha-Va-ii, and there is a diacritical mark that is common to see here on Oahu, but not evident in the continental USA. There are many native speakers here and most signs reflect the native culture though many are also written underneath in Japanese and Korean because so many tourists come here from those countries.   

The Hawaii state flower, the yellow hibiscus

Lush is a good word to describe Honolulu and the surrounding area. Tropical foliage abounds. Palm trees and beautiful flowers are everywhere. The state flower is the yellow hibiscus, and I saw a profusion of them today. Other tropical flowers that caught my eye are these:



Of course Honolulu is well known for its beaches, but it is also surrounded by  mountains. Formed from the eruptions of volcanoes, several Hawaiian islands continue to grow larger as there are many volcanoes that are still active. Surrounding Honolulu, though, there are seven or eight dormant volcanoes. These volcanoes are not extinct meaning they can erupt again. However, none of the volcanoes on Oahu has erupted in many thousands of years. The most famous volcanic crater on Oahu is Diamond Head named by early European explorers who mistook olivine and selenite crystals for diamonds. There is one lake on the entire island. A native Hawaiian told me it is the biggest lake they have and also the smallest. Because this is a relatively small island with a lot of people, garbage becomes an issue. The Hawaiians have solved this problem in an interesting way. All garbage is incinerated and the waste heat is utilized to make electricity. Oahu's excellent public transportation system is called "The Bus". For $30 one can purchase a year-long pass, which will give access to any point on the island. There are three main highways on Oahu--H1, H2, and H3, but if you drive too far it quickly becomes
H2O. It is a bit odd that Hawaii has an interstate system because there are no other states you can drive to from here. As the name implies, INTERstate means between states.

Lava is ubiquitous. Here is has been used to create a wall.
Some mountains have pointed tops.
Others have eroded into folds.
While there are no snakes native to Oahu, it was a bit surprising to find that chickens and pigs run around wild all over the island. It seemed they were everywhere. Humpback whales can readily be seen at Halona Blow Hole. I saw many water spouts from whales and a couple of tails as they thrashed about in the water. Huge turtles are often seen on Turtle Beach, but there weren't any out today. The black swan in the picture below is one of three I saw when I visited a Buddhist Temple. The main religion here is Catholicism with Buddhism and LDS tied for second place.

A pineapple growing. It is not yet big enough to be harvested.

The economy of Honolulu and the surrounding area is interesting. Tourism is the biggest money maker, but agriculture is also evident. Pineapples are a main crop. It is a labor intensive process because the pineapples must be planted and harvested by hand. There are no machines to do the work. Things are quite expensive here. In fact, Hawaii is one of the five most expensive places in the United States to live, yet the islands are in the lowest five when it comes to pay scale. The chief reason things in Hawaii are expensive is because 95% of everything on the island has been imported. Some Hawaiians work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. When cherries cost $12.00 a pound, one can readily see how difficult life can be.

At this time of the year the water is fairly calm with small waves. This little island is often seen in movies and television shows set in Hawaii. It is called the Chinaman's Hat.

Sports are important here. The Aloha Stadium holds 50,000 fans and is often home to the Pro Bowl. The Kahuku High School football team ranks in the top 25 nationally. That means of all the thousands of high schools in the United States, this small school on Oahu has one of the best teams in the country. Probably, though, Hawaii is best known for surfing, a sport that originated in the Pacific islands of Polynesia. (Hawaii is part of Polynesia.) An invitational surfing contest is held at Sunset Beach for the 25 best surfers in the world but only when the waves are at least 25 feet high. Not far from Sunset Beach are Wiamea Bay and Banzai Pipeline. Both are favorite surfing spots and also places where competitions are regularly held. The next time you see a surfing contest on TV, it probably is happening right here on Oahu.

At present the waves are not big enough for surfing competitions, but there are always surfers in the water trying the catch the next wave.


Jess said...

This was such an interesting post, I learned so many things about Hawaii that I didn't know. The photographs are really lovely!

Anonymous said...

Dr. M, so glad you are "on the road again". Hubby and I have been waiting to re-join you on your journey. I don't know what your final plan is for this journey but your beautiful pictures and interesting and informative blog would make a great book. Thanks again for taking us along.

Kelly said...

I am thrilled to know how to correctly pronounce Honolulu and Hawaii now!

What I wouldn't do to climb one of those gorgeous mountains...