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Love Stories of Hawaii

Special Occasion

Studying in Hawaii
Dedicated to Hawaii

Submitted by Renee

I was 22 years old, a native New Yorker, who on a whim decided to go to graduate school at University of Hawaii for a Masters degree in social work. I had never been there before and with blind eagerness got on a plane with my U.H. acceptance letter in my carry-on and dreams and anticipation running through my brain. I arrived at the airport that August day in 1972 and faced rows of lei stands and free dispensers of pineapple juice. People really were dressed in colorful floral shirts and dresses and I was greeted by a chorus of swaying palm trees. This place in the guidebook I held to actually existed. I made a call to a hotel in Waikiki to stay for the 2 weeks before classes began while I looked for housing for me and my one suitcase. I remember the awe of seeing coconut trees instead of Manhattan sky scrapers. The turquoise blue ocean brushing over white sand beaches recalled calendars with scenes I had only browsed at in Greenwich Village bookstores. I felt like I had been sent to another planet. My life was never the same again. My Masters in social work was so much more than book learning. It was a journey into the hearts and lives of the multitude of cultures I lived with and studied -Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Samoans, Fijiians, Fillipinos, and then some. I learned how it felt to be a minority. Pidgin language became more familiar each day as my vocabulary increased with words like "wiki wiki" (quick), "Pau" (done), "ono" (delicious) and others that I stil have to repress. The aloha spirit that penetrated the islands taught me so much about humanity, love of the land, caring for others and different ways of being that I could not have ever learned in any school. Hawaii was my education- the university helped. I am still a social worker today, hopefully spreading the aloha spirit in my work and life.


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