January 17, 2017
On January 12, after spending a week on board the World Odyssey, it was a pleasant surprise to be awakened at 4:00 a.m. when my phone started vibrating due to incoming notifications. Though I was confused for a second, as my phone had not received any messages for a week, I quickly realized the cause to the sudden influx of notifications – I had finally ported in Honolulu, Hawaii.
When my cabin-mate and I got up that morning, we quickly made our way up to Deck 9 to ensure that we got a seat outside to enjoy our breakfast while overlooking the port of Honolulu. I had never been to Hawaii before, and I hadn’t seen land in a week, so the whole experience was even more exciting as we took in the beauty of Oahu and its landscape from the ship.
Honolulu was a fueling port for the voyage, so the shipboard community was required to participate in either a field class or field program in order to leave the ship.
A field class is a day-trip organized by a course professor and Semester at Sea (SAS) to expand a student’s classroom learning by allowing voyagers to become immersed in the cultures or history of the location in which the field class takes place. SAS requires that each student participate in one field class for each registered course. On the other hand, field programs are optional day and overnight trips that are organized and planned by SAS for the shipboard community to participate in-port. For example, in Hawaii, there were opportunities for students to sign up to go scuba diving, ziplining, hiking, or to many of the beaches of Oahu.
I attended a field class in Honolulu for Critical Studies of Popular Texts, an English course focusing on crime novels, many of which written by foreign authors. The novel we are currently reading takes place in Honolulu, and the many aspects of our field class incorporated various parts of the novel.
My Hawaiian day began in a perfect way – a hula and chant lesson. While I knew that it would be fun, I had no idea how incredible the hula lesson would be. The woman leading our lesson was a native Hawaiian, and she grew up learning about the history and meaning of the hula dance. Rather than showing us the variation of hula that is popular among tourists, she quickly clarified that we would be learning hula in a traditional way.
As she taught my class four verses of a hula – the Fish Dance – she explained each move, its meaning, and its importance to the dance. Through each of the parts of the dance, we began to tell a story, using our arms to represent waves, our hands to portray swimming fish, and our words to express simple Hawaiian phrases.
Throughout the hour that we spent with the native Hawaiian woman – dressed in a loose-fitting purple floral dress, a long shell necklace, and wearing three large flowers in her hair – she kept the lesson upbeat and fun, all while sharing her culture and history with my class.
Culture and history became a theme throughout the rest of my Honolulu adventure, as the natives we spoke to during the day continued to express and teach the traditional Hawaiian culture. Though I was only there for a short time, I was able to understand and experience many parts of the elaborate past of Hawaii and its native people rather than the stereotypes of the island culture.
While I think about my tremendous experience in Hawaii, I realize that I was only there for a single day, and my experience had such an impact on me. Looking forward at the rest of my voyage, I will have four, five, or even six days in my upcoming ports. Hawaii gave me a taste of how amazing the rest of my voyage is going to be, how much I am going to learn, how many cultures I will experience, and how many memories I will make over the course of my spring semester. Semester at Sea is truly the trip of a lifetime.