Hawaiian Air flight 456 to Honolulu was thankfully uneventful: no wacko joking about bombs, or temperatures registering more than 37.5 degrees Centigrade, not even a possibility of a barf anywhere in the cabin. The 10-hour and 17-minute flight ended in Honolulu’s expansive Jetway, on Hawai’i’ s most populous island of O’ahu.
I was surprised I did not have to show a lot of documents to the Immigration Officer who only asked me what I came to Hawai’i for. On board the plane, I had worried because, except for CAPE’s invitation and my permit to travel, most of my papers, the papers I had waited a long time for because PLM was not processing them as efficiently as I would have liked, were all inside my big luggage, and there was no way I could get to them until after baggage claim. I didn’t want a repeat of what had happened in a Korean airport a long time ago: I was made to wait interminably inside an Immigration Office until my papers were sorted out. I had felt hugely mortified then, for simply being Filipino. I was happy nothing of that sort happened this time; in fact, I breezed prettily out of Immigration after a few minutes.
I arrived at the Pagoda Hotel at noon, on a hot and sunny Monday, August 3, via airport taxi (fare: $33!). I had wanted to be checked in immediately but found that my room had not been vacated yet, and another three hours is needed by hotel housekeeping to clean the room. With registration for the CAPE conference out of the way–which only meant getting one’s packet from a Korean woman stationed conspicuously enough in a corner of the hotel lobby!–and the program orientation not set to begin until 4 that afternoon, I found myself with over three hours of slack time. Not wanting to spend any more money on ridiculous taxi fare, and the rush of knowing my time is my own (at least for two weeks!) starting to dawn on me, I wandered bravely along Rycroft and Ke’eaumoku streets, looking for an internet cafe. The Pagoda did not have wireless connection, and even if it had, what good would that do to someone who did not have a laptop?
At Kapi’olani Boulevard, I started to panic. My gender had not come equipped with free GPS and so I had to make do with brute force remembering where I had come from, and how many turns I had made so far. Luckily, a kind soul who looked Filipina to me, directed me to Ala Moana Shopping Centre, with a disclaimer that she wasn’t very sure whether they had an internet cafe there, but what the heck, I was ready to explore the ocean waves if she had directed me there! Standing in front of the Ala Moana Pacific Business Center, I was told to go up to the 7th floor, out to the open air parking lot and cross towards Macy’s. I didn’t think I had done that much walking since my UP days!
The Ala Moana Shopping Centre, then the biggest open air mall in the world, is, after all, only a 10-minute walk from the Pagoda. This, I would find out the next day, to my embarrassment, as Ala Moana is reached easily if one goes round the back of the Pacific Business Centre and enter through the Kap’iolani Blvd!
A shopping haven housing signature boutiques like Chanel, Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Michael Kors, Bottega Venetta, as well as big name American department stores Sears, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and a few paces outside the complex, Nordstrom, Ala Moana Mall is a sprawling feast for my eyes for stuff I would probably never own, or have any occasion in which to use them, did not have money for, or if I did, would soon tire of, anyway. I spent the next few hours ogling at shoes and bags, especially at one Burberry bag that was on sale. I had a lunch of tofu at the Shirokoya, and went back to negotiating the pavilions packed with the tourist crowd, killing time and trying not to let panic overwhelm me, being in a place 5,000 miles away from home. Tired, I finally settled in a Starbucks outlet on the ground floor–cafe mocha is truly superb, here as in the Philippines!–and decided to head back to the hotel for the orientation, internet cafe forgotten.