I was sitting on the balcony of our hotel , and three Rose-ringed Parakeets and two White Terns just flew by. The parakeets, like so many of the birds in Hawai, weren’t native. Like the Zebra Dove and the Red-vented Bulbul I was seeing around Honolulu, they're originally from Southeast Asia or Africa. On Oahu, they seemed as common as the House Sparrows,
I wasn’t sitting on the balcony on the fourteenth floor expecting to see many birds. It was just as interesting to people-watch. While we had a decent view of the water and a sliver of the flanks of Diamond Head, most of the frame was taken up by other high-rise hotels. On Saturday, I could see another person across the way, enjoying their coffee from their balcony perch. One afternoon, I sat outside to play through some songs (we brought the boat guitar with us) and noticed a lone woman making her way through a pizza as she gazed out at the view. Earlier, three children on the sixth floor played a game of yelling down to the street below, getting people to wave up at them.
As I sat there, I thought how we hotel-dwellers weren’t so different from the pigeons and parakeets, all having flown in from points across the globe, perching for a bit and often taking over the place.
On our last morning before heading to the airport, we ran down to the beach for one last swim. It was early but the sand was already filling up with chaise lounges. We put our towel down in a clear patch of sand next to another couple who were set up with chairs and an umbrella.
"We saved that spot for you," they said, and we laughed. We told them we were just going in for one last dip before our flight, and immediately began discussing how long we'd been there. How it always seemed by the time one was really getting into the relaxed, aloha spirit, it was time to go home. The other couple was from Canada, and said they were at the beginning of their third week on the island. We mused aloud about what it would take for us to stay longer next time.
“In the Hawaiian language, “aloha“ may mean love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness or grace… Living Aloha is the coordination of mind and heart within each person.” — University of Hawaii Community College
For the past couple of years, I’ve been working through a “Being Mindful of Race” study group with a few friends that’s help crack open my understanding of my privilege and internalized racism. There was a whole session on Decolonizing our Minds which was especially enlightening. So it was sobering, after all that study, to notice how my own colonial mindset just kicked right in when I found myself in a lovely, comfortable place. What a privilege it was just to be there, in the moment! Why did I automatically start thinking about taking even more?
“How White allies can dismantle White supremacy is probably the crucial social issue of our current time. White people have the power and the privilege, and nothing will change until we change it.” — from Yes magazine’s Decolonize Issue
If I took anything with me, it would hopefully be the aloha spirit I was just beginning to find, and gracefully go home.