Da Punahou Carnival
In all the years I lived in Hawaii, nearly ten, I never attended the Punahou Carnival. This time, I got to go twice. Our young niece was eager to meet her friends there, so we took the opportunity to try something new to us.
Punahou (pronounced poona-ho) is perhaps the preeminent private school in Hawaii - many of its movers and shakers have Punahou in their background, including President Obama. The carnival is always run by the junior class (and their willing parents) but volunteers come back even after their kids graduate - it's just a lot of fun and a good way to make connections in Hawaii. The proceeds from this annual event go to support scholarships for the school. Likely young Barack Obama benefited from one of those scholarships.
The carnival has rides and junk food, like any Mainland carnival, but some of the attractions and eats have a uniquely Hawaiian feel. Where else would you find a booth selling haku leis? What other carnival has a huge book sale? There were long lines at the malasada booths and the chicken "plate lunch" was the most popular meal, beating out even the pizza, teriyaki burger and funnel cake stands. Not to mention the Portuguese bean soup, a staple.
Both times that we sat down to enjoy some food and people watching, the other people at the table engaged us in conversation. Both were Chinese American families, very proud of the children they had sent to Punahou, then on to Mainland colleges. They were interested in us and our lives, as well as open about their own. The whole fair has this cheerful, laid back Hawaiian style. Although it was incredibly crowded and I don't usually do well in big crowds, the tenor of the evening was so relaxed and friendly that I never felt uncomfortable.
A small example occurred when My Beloved and I were walking past a family where the Dad was taking a picture of his wife and their two very small children. We offered to photograph them all together and there was an instant smile and, "Yes, please!" and not even a moment's hesitation at handing over their expensive smart phone to take the photo. Now, these folks were dressed, even the little baby who had only two teeth on the bottom of his big grin, like thugs complete with lots of black, threatening logos, yards of chains and, for the parents, some serious tattooing - all that was missing was the pitbull. But they all clearly had the aloha spirit of relaxed, easy, friendly attitude. They couldn't have been nicer. I won't soon forget the wide smiles and the cheerful "Mahalo" they all gave us, including that adorable snaggle-toothed baby as he waved bye-bye.