Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pineapple Express

Our little one, Sarah, just returned from an eight day field and science trip in Maui, together with other Catharine Blaine 8th graders. The first thing she said was that Hawaii is so different from what the tourist brochures lead us to believe. Just like her sister who went on the school’s very first trip five years ago, these youngsters were shown life in the islands as it really is. Of course they got plenty of exposure to the fantastic nature with its unique plants and animals, but they were also taught to see life from a native Hawaiian’s point of view; not always a pretty picture.

Yes, we eventually turned Hawaii into the 50th State, but for a long time ran the territory with a plantation-owner mentality. Even at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the islands hardly were thought of as American soil, just a good place for a military base. A lot of native Hawaiians are unhappy with the way things turned out, and an independence movement still exists. My eldest daughter Silja Talvi just published an article on the unbelievable fact that Hawaii sends a lot of its prison inmates to the mainland, often all the way to the rural, privately run prisons in the Eastern states. Just because it is a cheaper alternative to building in-state facilities, it makes it impossible for families to visit their fathers and mothers, or children. Thanks to the prison system’s deal with the telecoms, calling at 60 cents per minute is not a great option for these impoverished people either. What happened to the laws we are supposed to have against cruel and inhumane punishment? You can check Silja's story on Utne online which also has a link to the original publication, In These Times.

The Honolulu Symphony, seemingly forever on the brink of folding, just got a sizeable matching grant of 4 million from the state. This is not to say they are out of the woods yet and supposedly the scene-behind-the-scene is not all happy. Perhaps they could use someone with great skills in fundraising, who could also double as a conductor on the side: I doubt the artistic standards in Oahu are quite as high as in musical centers on the mainland. I could think of a few candidates, and Hawaii would make a nice place to retire. Of course, the demographics might present a problem: the islanders' love for Spam, for instance, of which obviously no kosher form exists.

For those not familiar with the West Coast, Pineapple Express refers to weather phenomena, a jet stream which brings unseasonably warm and moist air to the area from the former Sandwich Islands. It often means bad news to ski resorts as precipitation is in the form of rain, but can be a nice reminder of summer temperatures at least in the Puget Sound region during chilly winter months. A different kind of Pineapple Express, in the form of Hawaiian Airlines, brought our daughter back from the islands in no time, but having to wait almost an hour for luggage to arrive was more reminiscent of a stalled depression. Yet our daughter loves to travel, especially by plane, and would have been willing to go back as soon as her three full loads of laundry were clean and dry. Staying in the rustic conditions at Camp Maluhia was easy for her, as numerous summers by a Finnish lake had prepared her for far more primitive living arrangements.

Talking about primitive and the Finns, check out the stories in Helsingin Sanomat and BBC about the Finnish heavy metal monster band Lordi winning the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest just yesterday.