My Hawai’i experience


Liam Nee

Our group making the best of the rain at Diamond Head State Monument

Emma Santos

This past December, I was fortunate enough to go to Hawai’i as a member of the Everett Crimson Tide Marching Band to perform at the 80th Anniversary Commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  When I joined the marching band five years ago, I never imagined that one day we would do something that huge, but now that we have, I can honestly say that the experience has changed my life.  Not every aspect of our trip went according to plan, but Hawai’i was a truly magical place.

Day 1:

We began our first full day in Hawai’i with a quick driving tour around Honolulu before driving out to Ford Island to visit the U.S.S. Missouri.  I’ll admit, I don’t typically enjoy history museums, but when they come in the form of a battleship, I can be persuaded to take interest.  We actually got to stand on the deck where Japan officially surrendered to the United States, ending World War II.

Our next stop was Pearl Harbor, where our band laid a wreath at the memorial of the bombing there.  We then took the ferry out to the U.S.S Arizona Memorial, which sits directly on top of the sunken battleship and is the final resting place of the 1,177 soldiers killed on the Arizona in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  I can only describe it as haunting.  The waves still have a rainbow sheen where oil has been leaking from the ship since 1941.

That night, I went to my very first luau.  It was definitely more of a tourist trap than an authentic luau, but it was one of the best tourist traps I’ve ever been to.  I tried to hide when they asked for anyone celebrating a birthday to stand up, but my friends forced me to stand as the entire luau sang “Happy Birthday.”  I was mostly just embarrassed and felt like burying my head in the sand, but after spending my actual birthday on a twelve-hour flight the day before, it actually felt kind of nice to be sung to by all those strangers (and my band friends, who made sure to sing obnoxiously loud).

Senior David Gutierrez at Germaine’s Luau after competing in an onstage hula competition (Emma Santos)

We got our first taste of traditional Hawaiian food, including pork, barbecue chicken, fish, and rice.  We even got to try poi, a Hawaiian staple made of mashed taro root.  Reactions were…mixed.  Personally, I thought it tasted like a cold, mashed up glue stick, but I suppose I can’t judge based on one experience.  The food was followed by the main performance, which included lots of singing and dancing.  We nominated one of our drummers for the onstage hula contest.  He was beaten out by a ten-year-old, but it was a valiant effort.  The luau dancers performed a variety of traditional dances from different Polynesian Islands, like Hawaiian hula, Tahitian dancing, a Māori haka, and even fire dancing!  That one made me a little nervous to watch, but the dancing was great and no one got singed.

Overall it was a great start to our time on the island.  It was only our first day, but I knew that I was going to have a hard time leaving on our last.

Senior Adam Noguera enjoys the sunny weather by the pool at our hotel (Emma Santos)

Day 2:

On our second day, we were supposed to hike to the top of Diamond Head, a volcano.  But the Everett Crimson Tide Marching Band was not the only thing arriving in Hawai’i that weekend.  A record weather event also visited the islands.  By the time we arrived at the Diamond Head Visitor Center, rain was pouring down from the sky in buckets.  Our tour guide finally decided to just cancel the hike, but our bus had already left, so we were stuck there until it returned.  We huddled under the ticket booth overhang as rain streamed down the path in rivers.

All of a sudden, we looked out, and one of our drum majors was strolling along out in the pouring rain with no rain gear whatsoever.  We all looked at her like she was crazy.  But one by one, we got bored of standing under the overhang, braved the downpour, and started jumping in puddles like toddlers.  The rain quickly soaked our clothes, our shoes, us, but we didn’t care.  We probably looked crazy to any onlookers, and maybe the high volcanic altitude was getting to us, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had fun like that.  Life is always going to throw you crappy weather, but sometimes you have to learn how to dance in the rain.

I did not have that same attitude when I got back to the hotel and realized that I had made the mistake of packing only one pair of comfortable sneakers.  They did not dry until the day we boarded our plane home.

We ended our Sunday with a sunset cruise, which was more of an overcast evening cruise.  In one direction, the lights of Honolulu sparkled, but in the other, the clouds were so thick that the horizon had vanished and the sky and the ocean had morphed into a continuous veil of dark gray.  Not exactly tropical.

Our tour guide had the opportunity to cancel the cruise due to the weather but chose not to, which, in hindsight, was probably a mistake, but ultimately makes for a really good story.  The food was delicious again: Hawaiian barbecue chicken and steak, but not everyone’s stomach could enjoy it on account of sea sickness.  After dinner, we went up to the upper deck.  To paint a quick picture for you, the rain was streaming down in freezing drizzles, the boat was rocking back and forth on the waves, everything was unbearably slippery, and there were almost no handrails, unless you count the seats, which were also wet and slippery.  For those of us without sea legs (which was the majority) it was a bumpy ride.  That didn’t stop some of the younger members from attempting to do the “Cupid Shuffle,” though.  I knew my limits and spent the latter half of the night in the lower deck, shielded from the rain and in a dry and stable seat.  Those of us who stayed below deck had slightly less exciting, decidedly more comfortable, but equally fun time as we chatted about who knows what.  I was cold, I was wet, and I was probably a little bruised from taking a couple of spills on the slick upper deck, but any situation can be turned around when you have the right people with you.

The aftermath of the storm the next morning. Lounge chairs had been blown into the pool by the wind. (Emma Santos)

Day 3:

The third day of our trip felt a little bit more close to home: rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.  Ordinarily, it would have felt like a total waste of a day to be stuck rehearsing in a stuffy hotel ballroom while the beautiful Hawaiian air was outside waiting for us.  However, Mother Nature had unleashed yet another downpour of epic proportions for most of the day, so being inside wasn’t all that bad.

School policy prevented us from going swimming at all on our trip, but the Hawaiian weather forecast seemed determined to break the rules for us.  On the bus ride back from dinner, all of our phones went off at once indicating that there was a flash flood warning in the area.  The streets looked like rivers.  The big question that hung over everyone’s heads was whether or not we would even be able to have a performance the next day if the weather didn’t let up.

Day 4:

The fourth day was it: our performance.  Five thousand miles and years of anticipation all leading to today.  Just as we pulled into the parking lot at the U.S.S Missouri, something weird happened.  The sky started to look different and the temperature started to get warmer.  Oh, right, I remembered, That’s sunlight.  I’d almost forgotten what it looked like. As if we were given a miracle from the skies, the rain let up just in time for our performance.

A few of us got interviewed by Channel 7 News on a video chat in front of the U.S.S. Missouri.  We were so nervous that my friend of six years introduced me as a clarinet player (I play the trumpet).  I said something that I guess was considered good enough to be used as a clip on the broadcast.  I think it’s hilarious that I’ve gotten the compliment “well said.”  I had no clue what I was saying.

I don’t remember much about the actual performance.  It flew by and I hardly even realized it.  We received our applause, took our pictures, and then we were packing up and getting kicked off of the pier before I even realized it was over.  I don’t think I fully processed the magnitude of that performance until now, back here in Boston.  Our band directors have told us that our performance was known to people all around the country, but I haven’t even really been able to fathom that yet.

To be honest, the thing I remember most from that day had nothing to do with the performance at all.  The moment that’s still with me here in Boston is the moment I finally got to see a Hawaiian sunset.  It was all I wanted to do, the second we got off the plane.  I didn’t care what we did in Hawai’i as long as I got to see one beautiful Hawaiian sunset.  And up until that moment, it seemed like the weather on the trip was going to prevent that entirely.  But that night, the skies cleared, and I saw it.  The sky was painted with brilliant streaks of orange and gold.  I don’t care what anyone says, Hawaiian sunsets aren’t the same as New England sunsets.  It felt more profound somehow.  I’m a senior, and at the time I thought that was the last time I would ever perform with the marching band.  That sunset was a symbolic end, an end to our performance, an end to our last full day in Hawai’i, and an end to my time with the marching band.

The sunset over Waikiki Beach (Emma Santos)

Of course, it wasn’t the end of my time with the marching band, because something new always pops up, but allow me to indulge in my poetic fancy.

Honolulu at night (Emma Santos)

Day 5:

Our last day on the island was bittersweet.  The sun had finally come out, the temperature was warm and summery, and I couldn’t bear the thought of stepping off of the plane in Boston to be greeted by the bitter cold and the sun setting by four o’clock.  I also had a week’s worth of homework waiting for me to make up when I got back.  Alas, all good things must come to an end, but until the moment that plane took off, I was determined to soak in every last minute on the island.

The Halona Blowhole (Emma Santos)

We took a scenic driving tour around the rest of Oahu before returning to the airport.  We had spent the last five days by Waikiki beach in the middle of Honolulu, totally ignorant of the beautiful mountains and stunning volcanic coastlines that made up the other parts of the island.  We made two stops on our tour: the Hālona Blowhole and the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.  The Hālona Blowhole is caused by waves being forced through a small hole in the rocks, which creates pressure and causes the water to shoot out of the top like a geyser.  The Nuuanu Pali Lookout is on a cliff over a thousand feet tall, and compared to the rest of the island, it was very windy and very cold, but also one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life.  Everything below us seemed so small, and I felt so big.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout (Ryan Medeiros)

This trip was full of firsts for me.  My first time off of the continent.  My first time seeing the Pacific Ocean.  My first time on the west coast, even if it was only for an hour layover.  It’s so strange how one trip has made my world feel so much bigger.  There were many, many things that did not go as planned, but I wouldn’t trade the extraordinary experiences or the unforgettable memories made on this trip for anything, and I will be forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to travel to such an amazing place.