Ford Island

Hawaii: Day 3

Thursday, I had a free day at the conference, so we packed in as much sight-seeing as we could. We left the hotel by 7am to pick up our rental car for the remainder of our stay. We made it to Pearl Harbor by 7:30 so that we could stand in line for tickets. Thankfully, we made it on the first cruise out to the USS Arizona Memorial.

To stand on the Memorial site was truly humbling, knowing that the bodies of those men who lost their lives on that fateful day were still entombed in the Arizona below us. The attack on Pearl Harbor holds the same weight for our grandparents’ generation as that of 9/11 for me and my generation.

Once we were aboard the Memorial, it was very quiet almost as if you were at a funeral. We were able to look below and see the rusted ship below us. Little droplets of oil still float to the surface and are referred to as “black tears.”

 

After visiting the Arizona Memorial, we took a tour aboard the USS Bowfin submarine that was launched on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Then we visited the USS Missouri battleship, which was commissioned in 1944 and served until its decommissioning in 1996.

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We then toured I’olani Palace but had trouble finding it. Even though we were following our GPS directions, we ended up in the pick-up line at a school! We got out of there as fast as we could before someone reported us as suspicious!

I’olani Palace was home to the Hawaiian royal family prior to the US occupation and takeover. It was very modern and had indoor running water and electricity before the White House!

After the tour, we drove up the coast to visit the Halona Blowhole, which was very cool.

We continued driving and stopped at practically every little pullout along way. There wasn’t a bad view to be had. On one stop, we were walking back to our car when a group of girls met us and were sort of watching us. We didn’t think anything about until we rounded their car and noticed a naked man, changing clothes in the parking lot! We were embarrassed, and they just thought it was hilarious.

We were getting hungry for supper, so we stopped at the little town of Kailua and stumbled upon this great restaurant Uahi Island Grill that had been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. We had to wait for about 20 minutes to be seated, because there were about 12 tables total. But it was absolutely worth it!4BC94167-1651-4B22-A52E-0794F456481F

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Hawaii: Day 2

Wednesday was the first day of the NAISA conference, so I headed to the University of Hawaii-Manoa for the day, while Kristin headed to the beach. The conference didn’t plan the logistics of getting everyone from the hotel to the university campus very well, so I didn’t get to campus until 30 minutes after the opening session began. The opening ceremony was held outside, but there weren’t anywhere near enough chairs for everyone to sit, so I stood for the remaining 45 minutes. The university campus was only about 10 minutes from the hotel, but it was closer to the mountains. The difference in the weather was dramatic. While we were standing outside for the opening, it began “raining” on us. The grass that I was standing in was so wet that by the time we finished, my shoes were drenched. Thankfully, they dried out in a couple of hours.

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The campus is beautiful, and had enormous trees everywhere, including a baobab tree! I’ve only ever seen these in pictures or movies!

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I attended some very interesting sessions and made some really good contacts. The conference ended at 5:45 and then I had to wait for 45 minutes (!) to catch the shuttle to go back to the hotel. Like I said, logistics were not thought through very well.

I finally got back to the hotel a little before 7, so I changed clothes and Kristin and I headed out to find supper. We didn’t have a rental car yet, so we rode the trolley down to Waikiki Beach. Neither one of us knew what we wanted to eat so we just walked around for a while window shopping and taking in the sights. Waikiki is a very expensive, touristy area so shops like Coach, Prada, and Ralph Lauren were not unusual to spot. We finally decided on Italian and had a delicious supper!

 

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In front of the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, a Native Hawaiian who popularized surfing

We caught the trolley back to Ala Moana Center and were the last two on the the trolley. We had originally thought the driver was unfriendly, but once we were the only ones riding, he became quite chatty. We made it back to our hotel a little after 9 and crashed. We still weren’t adjusted to the time difference, and we had to get up super early the next morning to pick up our rental car and make it to Pearl Harbor by 7:30am to make sure to get tickets.

Hawaii: Day 1/Travel

When I found out the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association annual conference was going to be held in Honolulu, I was ecstatic. Kristin and I immediately started planning to extend the conference travel for a vacation. Neither one of us had ever been, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go. I submitted a proposal on Native American musicians that was accepted, so we booked our trip.

It was a few hundred dollars cheaper to fly out of DFW, so we reserved a hotel for Monday night since our flight Tuesday morning was at 7:21am. We ate supper at the Cheesecake Factory with two of Kristin’s cousins, who were flying to San Diego the same day we were leaving. When we got back to the hotel, I discovered that I forgot my pjs, so we went to Walmart so I could buy some cheap ones to make it through the trip. I was so frustrated, because I had just bought new pjs for the trip and forgot to pack them.

We set our alarms for 3:30am and prayed that we would wake up on time. The hotel let us park our cars for free, so we needed a way to get to the airport. The hotel shuttle didn’t start running until 7, so we decided to call Lyft. Neither one of us had ever used this service, so we were a little nervous that they wouldn’t come on time. Thankfully, the car arrived on time and took us to the airport with no problems other than a driver who complained about customers who don’t tip.

Our flight from DFW to LAX was uneventful. When we landed at LAX, we had only about an hour to get to a bathroom, grab a quick lunch, and find our gate. We grabbed a sandwich at a cute little French market and ate while we waited to board.

IMG_0466The six hour flight to HNL went by pretty quickly and the views coming into Oahu were incredible!

 

We landed about 1:30pm and took a shuttle to the hotel. After we got checked into the Ala Moana Hotel, we walked to the Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest open-air shopping mall to find some lunch. It was surreal ordering Mexican food from a menu written in English and Japanese. Interestingly enough, they didn’t have cheese dip. Who’s heard of Mexican with no queso?!

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Hawaii is 5 hours behind Central time, so even though it was early afternoon, our bodies were telling us it should be supper time and soon bedtime. We knew that we needed to power through, or else, we would be messed up for the rest of our time in Hawaii. So we changed into our swimsuits and walked down to Ala Moana Beach Park and laid on the beach for a couple hours napping. We saw our first of many Hawaiian rainbows, a super cool Indian banyan tree, and rowers in front of Diamond Head. It proved to be a nice, relaxing afternoon.

 

We were so tired by 7pm that we decided we would just order in pizza. It was all we could do to stay awake until 9pm (2am our time!). Our adventure had just begun.

Morocco – Day Three: Assilah

I was privileged to experience daylight savings time twice. (Going back to Spain, I also lost an hour since it’s in a different time zone than Morocco.)

We checked out of our hotel Sunday morning and headed to Assilah, a very small, coastal town on the Atlantic only about an hour away. Our route took us along the Atlantic Ocean, and the day started out very clear. Only a couple hours later fog rolled in and you could see very little. 

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Our pace in Assilah was very laid back, and we just strolled along. It was a refreshing counterpart to the two previous days of fast-paced mountainous walks. 

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We got to do some shopping and passed by another bakery.

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The city was established 550 years ago as a Portuguese city and also had the medina where the shops were located. In Tangier and Chefchaouen, citizens learn Arabic, French and English, while Assilah is a Spanish-influenced city with no French. The city is very artistic and hosts an art festival each August, where artists come in and paint murals on the walls. At the end of the year, they paint over the previous year’s murals so that artists can paint new ones. 

We saw an old, abandoned Jewish synagogue. I’m not entirely sure how long it’s been vacant. 

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Elizabeth and I really wanted to get henna tattoos, so our guide found a couple women who could draw the henna. The only problem was timing. Once you get it, it has to dry for a while, and we didn’t think that through. We went to eat lunch right afterwards, so it was quite difficult eating while trying not to use our hands and mess it up. We both ordered shrimp not even realizing we would have to peel them. That was not the smartest move on our part. 

We made it back to the ferry around 4:30, and proceeded to go through Morocco customs before boarding the ferry for Tarifa. The ferry ride was so much better this time because we were able to sit down for the crossing instead of wait in line like our previous ferry ride. 

 We made it back to Tarifa a little after 8 and got loaded back into the car with all of our souvenirs piled in our laps and at our feet. We stopped for McDonald’s along the way, and it was the best McDonald’s cheeseburger I’ve ever had! It tasted nothing like what we have in the US. Delicious!

We got back to Elizabeth’s apartment in Málaga about 11, and I still had to pack. Elizabeth also wanted to send some things back with me so we stayed up to pack and decided there was no point in going to bed since I had to leave for the airport at 4:45

The trip to Spain and Morocco was an awesome one full of new foods, friends, and memories for a lifetime.

Morocco-Day two: Chefchaouen 

We left the hotel about 9 in the morning and headed east to Chefchaouen, a smaller city in the mountains two hours away. The drive was beautiful and rural. We passed lots of livestock: sheep, goats, cows and chickens. The road was only two lane most of the way so we did encounter various scary situations, including lots of passing on curves with very little clearance between vehicles. Another popular mode of transportation in this area is donkeys. They would either be pulling a cart or have metal baskets on each side to carry the load.

    

Chefchaouen is perched on the side of three mountains that were renamed Chef Chauo En in 1955–chef, meaning look, and chauo en, meaning horns.

The city was built in 1431 by the Moors coming from Spain and is surrounded by the old city wall as protection from invaders. The gate would close at 6pm, so if they were not inside the wall, they could no longer enter until they reopened the next morning.

The city is unique and known for its white and blue motif. The blue is used to keep the mosquitoes and flies away and to make it cooler.

minaret of a mosque

 

Most photographed door in Morocco

We were able to visit a Berner rug shop and see the weaver weaving a rug. They invited us to sit while he explained that the Berbers work in a co-op and the different weavers bring their rugs and blankets to be sold at the shop. There they men do the weaving on a loom, while the women embroider by hand. I bought a beautiful tapestry that was made from cactus silk and sheep’s wool. All of the dyes are natural dyes found in the various plants and flowers in the region. The interesting thing about the cactus silk is that it is fire-resistant and doesn’t burn. He actually held a lighter to the silk and showed no burn marks or discoloration.

We enjoyed a Moroccan meal for lunch, where I enjoyed a carrot salad with honey, tagine with kefta (a slow-cooked dish of ground lamb made into meatballs with a roasted tomato sauce and boiled egg) with crepes with chocolate for dessert.

 

Afterwards we had a little free time to shop in the market, where I bought some souvenirs for my family and myself. We left Chefchaouen about 4:15 and about 30 minutes after we left we ran into a mob blocking the road. They were holding Moroccan flags, but we never understood for what reason they were “rioting”.

Because they weren’t letting any vehicles through, we had to turn around and find a different route. We ended up driving through the Atlas Mountains, which were absolutely beautiful! We even got to drive along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Even though the route took an additional two hours, it was so worth it to see more of the Moroccan countryside.
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We didn’t get back until around 8pm. We had not had supper, so we walked to a small restaurant and ate chwarma, a shaved meat wrap very similar to a gyro. It was delicious!
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Morocco- Day one: Tangier

[Note: They always say better late than never. It only took a year.]

Friday morning, Elizabeth and I along with five of her co-workers traveled to Morocco for the weekend. We drove from Málaga to Tarifa, where we boarded the ferry to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Tangier, Morocco. We had to go through customs twice: first to leave Spain and then to enter Morocco. The Moroccan officials checked our passports while we were on the ferry, so once we boarded we had to get in line. The line was so long we spent 45 minutes of the one-hour trip in line. It was quite windy, so we had to hang on so that we wouldn’t fall.   

Leaving Tarifa, Spain
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The bellhop was more than happy to pose for a picture.

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Once we settled in, we departed on our tour bus with an English couple from Cornwall. Our guide drove us all around Tangier past several palaces, including those owned by King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s current king, and the Saudi Arabian prince.
We drove along the coast and got our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean and even stopped at Cap Spartel, the lighthouse where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean.
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We then had a chance to ride camels while looking out over the Atlantic.
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Tangier is a very historic town with different sections of the city that highlight its history–French, Spanish and Jewish. There is a new section of Syrians that have immigrated recently due to the political turmoil. There are multiple mosques, synagogues and churches scattered throughout. In the heart of Old Town is the medina surrounded by a centuries-old stone wall that was once meant to protect its inhabitants. There are many Muslim neighborhoods within the medina each having five things in common: mosque, Khoranic school, community bakery, public fountain and public bath. The community bakery is wood-burning and all the women make their breads and pastries at home then bring them to the bakery. There the baker bakes each woman’s goods where she will pick them up later. The baker has to remember who each baker is.
The doors through the medina were painted in bright colors with mosaic tiles on many.
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On the tour we visited the spice market, where a medically-trained pharmacist explained to our group several of the most popular spices and their benefits. It was very enjoyable and interesting. He spoke very good English. As we were leaving a group came in that spoke Spanish, and he immediately switched languages.
Next we passed by the thread shop, where thread is woven in all colors. The seamstress will bring her fabric to the thread shop to match the colors.
To end our day, we enjoyed a four-course Moroccan meal consisting of
harrifa soup, pastilla, couscous with chicken kebabs and dessert.
On our way back to our hotel we passed by the cafe that was shown in the movie Bourne Supremacy, which was shot in Tangier.
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Málaga-Day three

Thursday, Elizabeth had to work, which ended up being later than planned, so we didn’t get to go anywhere until 6 pm. We decided to visit Alcazaba, a palatial fortress built in the 11th century that is the best preserved of its kind. On our way we walked by the port of Málaga through the beautiful Palm tree-lined walkways full of monk parakeets (Quaker parrots).  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good picture. 

We decided to walk up the hill/mountain to see the views from the Castillo de Gibralfaro. It was a taxing hike to say the least–the trail was very steep in parts, which made frequent resting a necessity. However, the views from the top were spectacular! 

  

Málaga bullring
     

We walked back through downtown Málaga, where we ate gelato, listened to a Spanish guitar ensemble and saw the Málaga Cathedral. The Cathedral was built beginning in 1528 and wasn’t  completed until 1782. However, the cathedral is missing one of its towers.  The story goes that Málaga used the money to support the American colonies when they gained independence from England. Locals call it La Manquita, meaning the “One-armed Lady.”

  

Cathedral of Málaga
 
Cathedral of Málaga
  

    

downtown Málaga
     
entrance to Alcazaba and the Roman theater ruins
  
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Málaga Universidad

Málaga: Day two –Trip to Ronda

On Wednesday, Elizabeth and I took a bus from Málaga to Ronda, about 105 km (65 miles) away. The drive was beautiful as we passed orange, lemon and olive tree groves.

orange tree grove

Ronda is a more tourist-y destination so many restaurants had menus in Spanish, English, German, and French. We were starving by the time we arrived and chose the Bodega La Verdad for lunch, where we had the best tapas!

Queso y Langostinos a la Prancha
Croquetas de la Verdad
Albódigas Caseras

 As we were leaving the Bodega, we ran into an American couple outside looking over the menu. They stopped us to ask if we spoke English, so we were able to recommend the restaurant. We felt like such pros after that. 😉

Ronda is an old town with beginnings in the 6th century BC when the Celts settled the region. Today, it is a lovely town nestled in the mountains with picture-perfect sights.

  

 

    

    

Church of our Lady of the Incarnation, Santa Maria

 

We visited Plaza de Toros, the oldest modern bullring, completed in 1784.  

Plaza de Toros
   

Ronda is considered the birthplace of modern bullfighting and began the tradition of wearing red silks and flashy costumes in the ring. 

  

Next, we visited Puente Neuvo (the new bridge). It was built in 1793, having taken 42 years to complete. The bridge spans a huge gorge and is 98 meters (322 feet) tall!  

  

  

While we were there, we ran into another American couple from California and took their family’s picture in front of the bridge. It’s funny how in a foreign country, you become instant friends with fellow Americans. We also met a lady from Pennsylvania in one of the souvenir shops. 

On our way back to the bus station, we stopped for a quick snack of Churros y Chocolate, and by chocolate, I mean a cup of melted chocolate not hot chocolate like I thought. It was rich but delicious!

 

Wednesday was an incredible day. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to travel to Ronda. I would love to go back, because there were several things we didn’t get to do in the short amount of time we were there. 

Málaga: Day one

I began my journey to Málaga in Little Rock at 10:28 am Monday morning, had a three-and-a-half- hour layover in Atlanta, and arrived in Paris at 6:10 am Tuesday morning. I had hoped that I would be able to sleep on the plane but that wasn’t the case. After going through security for a second time at Paris and making it through customs, I had another 4 1/2 hours of free time before my final leg to Málaga. The Charles de Gaulle Airport is a huge airport with lots of shops, so I had plenty to keep me busy–makeup, handbags, clothing, perfume, tea, and duty-free. You could tell it was an older airport, but they had modernized parts of it, including the women’s restroom. I think my favorite part was the Yamaha piano that was available for anyone to play. It was tempting, but I didn’t play it. I finally boarded my flight in Paris and was able to sleep the whole two hour flight to Málaga, a much needed rest. Once I landed, I went to international baggage claim, which was probably the most unorganized mess. There were four carousels and only one had any signage letting passengers know which flight was being unloaded. After 45 minutes of waiting with no bag in sight I finally spoke to the border policeman and asked what I could do. I  ended up having to file a claim with the airline, but when I did, the agent told me that my bag was the only one that they had been able to locate, and it was already on the next plane. I was so thankful that a nightmare was averted. They delivered my bag by 8 this evening. It was so good to see Elizabeth!  Once I got to Elizabeth’s apartment and freshened up, we walked to get lunch and had delicious kebabs. Elizabeth was able to order for us in Spanish. 🙂 After lunch we took the bus downtown and did some shopping and sightseeing. The wooden chairs in the street are part of set-up for next week’s Holy Week activities that include parades, processionals and costumes. Unfortunately, when we got to the beautiful square, it was full of bleachers. Now I’m off to bed to catch up on my sleep.

Countdown to Spain

I cannot believe that I am finally getting to travel to Europe in 3 days! Ever since I can remember I have wanted to visit Europe, specifically Germany, but that will have to be another trip. It worked out for me to visit since my sister Elizabeth is interning in Spain for a couple of months so she can complete her BA in photography. (I’m a proud big sister!) I just needed a good excuse to buy a plane ticket and pack my bags. 🙂

Elizabeth is living in Málaga, which is located on the Mediterranean coast in southern Spain. I will stay a few days there, and then we are getting to visit Morocco for three days. I can’t wait to take in all the sights, tastes, and sounds of Malagueña. Now, I’m off to pack.

Enjoy a recording of Malagueña by Ernesto Lecuona, one of my favorite pieces that I’ve played, until my next post. (The video is terrible, but the sound is great.)