I swear, I feel like I took a dozen trips to Hawaii. Each day I was there (it was only five!) was so completely packed and unique and filled up. It’s going to be impossible to write about all of it so I’ll just hit the highlights here. By the time I was on the plane home, I felt as if I’d been there a month.
The ID Debacle: First of all, getting there was no piece of cake. As I was standing on line at the Hawaiian Airlines ticket desk, I rummaged through my purse and realized I Had. NO. Picture. ID. Of course, I immediately thought my entire trip was doomed because there was only about half an hour to flight time. I started crying. I called my husband and said, “I’m so screwed!” I ALMOST took my bags and went forlornly home. But luckily I had the presence of mind to stay in line, so I could see if there were any later flights. To my shock, the ticket lady told me to go talk to the Security people and it might work out. So I went to security, explained my situation, and lo and behold there IS a process of ID-less people!! They asked me a bunch of questions, then went over to a computer terminal. Then they came back, asked more questions, went back to the computer. The thing that clinched it was that I knew my husband’s date of birth, my last three addresses, and the fact that I had once been registered in the state of California as a registered physical therapist. They waved me through, I raced to the gate and got onto the plane. Who knew?? It was a lot harder registering at my hotel without an ID! Flying from Honolulu to Maui was a piece of cake, they were like, um, OK, no questions, but my final security check from Maui to Honolulu was a NIGHTMARE. They had to look up “special cases” in this huge binder with laminated pages, called a special security employee who called a special other place to ask the questions (completely different ones; this one the trick one was, “how many years have you lived at your current address?”) and I REALLY almost missed this flight. As I huffed and panted down the aisle, all the other passengers glared at me. But the bottom line is, yes, it IS possible to fly intercontinentally without an ID!
KAHI Conference: I checked in to the hotel and went to the opening dinner for the first-ever Asian Adoptee Gathering, sponsored by KAHI (Korean Adoptees of America). As I said before, I was really moved that they opened this meeting up so that adoptees other than Koreans could participate and attend. Still, we were in the distinct minority, the subgrouplets within a subgroup. A few people I met seemed to be surprised that we were there. But the opening dinner was amazing, the food was delicious, the program was great and SO WELL ORGANIZED, I mean stunningly organized, and it was fantastic. Someone spoke from the Blood Marrow Donor campaign (and I registered and got my cheek swabbed), making a pitch for Asian and mixed-race adoptees especially, who have no access to blood relatives; the Korean consul general spoke, there was a beautiful poetry reading by the awesome Lee Herrick, and there were Korean drummers. All really great.
Pearl Harbor: I had signed up, cancelled and re-signed up for the Pearl Harbor tour over and over. I had very ambivalent feelings about this visit. I have often had a chip on my shoulder vis a vis PH because I felt like it was an excuse for a lot of very racist attitudes and actions. And I have always felt that sorry, but Hiroshima/Nagasaki was in no way equivalent. But, I am writing a novel that involves Pearl Harbor, and I thought for research sake I better bite the bullet (no pun) and go. We had to meet up with our tour bus at 5:45am and get the heck out there early.
Bottom line: it was very moving. I was glad I went. I learned some stuff. I also got to have a long talk with this amazing PH survivor who is now married to a Japanese (from Japan) woman, and who has annual dinners with veterans of the Japanese military, one of whom may have dropped the bomb on the USS Arizona! They are now good friends. That rather blew me away. Here is a pic of him. (his Japanese wife is also a tour guide at the site!)
Saturday afternoon was the first-ever Asian Adoptees Film Festival. It was mindblowing! Like, WHO KNEW you could even ever have such a thing? And that it would have to be held over two sessions because there were so many? It was almost overwhelming and there was so much incredible material to absorb. It was very moving, illuminating, heartbreaking (of course). My personal favorite was Annie Ong: Lost and Found, but I was also extremely moved by the very powerful showings of Resilience: Korean Birthmothers Break the Silence, Adopted (now my third viewing of this powerful documentary, and I like it more each time) and the short film Searching for Go-Hyang.
In between the afternoon and evening showings, I met up with a Japanese-American couple who are prospective adoptive parents.
They took me out to this amazing noodle place where I had an incredible dish of unagi hot pot. YUMMMMMMMM. These people reminded me so, so much of my own parents (when they were the same age) that it blew me away and made me almost cry, but I held it together. I really hope that things work out in a good way for them.
Sunday morning was our long-awaited (by me, anyway) panel about being mixed race, Asian and adopted. I was thrilled, and I do mean thrilled, to be in the company of these other people. We all told our stories briefly, while slide shows of our childhoods and families scrolled by on a big screen behind us. It wasn’t exactly a packed-house auditorium, but those in the audience were attentive and asked great questions.
I think I will have to write another post for Hawaii Part II.