Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pecha Kucha for travellers

Along with Las Vegas, Hawai’i currently has some of the deepest discounts in the country on hotels and rental accommodations, if you can find airline tickets to get here for a good price. Occupancy is lower and discounts even deeper on the outer islands than on O’ahu, but that can be cancelled out by higher airfares. So I’m in Honolulu this week, nursing a bad cold that got worse as soon as I got on the plane.

Not that I’m complaining. The humid warmth is just what a doctor would have ordered. If I’m going to lie around resting and reading, what more could I want than a view from the bed, or the chaise lounge on the lanai, of the waves and the swimmers and the surfers and the traffic in and out of Honolulu airport and harbor: kayaks, outrigger canoes, yachts, cargo barges, trancoceanic container ships, military transport aircraft, insterisland shuttle flights, 747’s. And then there’s the food, with hot noodle soups of every Asian variety from inexpensive lunch-counters a short walk or bus ride away. (Honolulu has an outstanding bus system.)

One of the few things we’ve gotten out to was the Pecha Kucha night yesterday. I’ve written before about what a great format a Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slides shown for 20 seconds each) can provide for telling travel stories, and how I’d like to see a travel-themed PK night sometime. But last night’s event was the flip side of the potential value of PK for travellers: a conceptual, visual, narrative (and often musical and culinary) smorgasbord of a local community scene, in a format that’s exceptionally accessible to newcomers and visitors. Pecha Kucha is in more and more cities around the world. Wherever you’regoing, if your visit coincides with a Pecha Kucha night I’d highly recommend it.

Walk in off the street (this being Honolulu, last night’s event was held outdoors in the courtyard of one of the older and more attractive buildings of the Academy of Arts), and even if you’re no good at cocktail-party conversation-starting, a succession of a dozen or so people will get up and give their best shot at showing and telling you — and everyone else — who they are, how they see the world, and what’s currently on their mind in terms of work, ideas, or whatever.

Last night we got everything from a policy-wonk Powerpoint critique of the proposed elevated Honolulu heavy-rail transit scheme (“the right rail is light rail” at street level — much cheaper and less disruptive to the quality of street life), to candid backstage snapshots of downtown and Chinatown nightlife, to the transvestite host of of a talk show on the local public-access television station (including snippets from a segment featuring a guest origami expert). And there was “A Scotsman in Hawai’i” (yes, in a kilt and a lei, the latter presented by a woman in a tradiitonal Japanese summer-festival “yukata”) telling us how he came to be living and working as an architect in Honolului, and the ways he thinks Scotland is similar to Hawai’i.

They don’t talk about this stuff in most guidebooks, and we might have been the only tourists in the audience. I’ve been to lectures on history and politics on previous visits to Hawai’i — one of which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the imposition of U.S. sovereignty — and I’ve always been impressed, both in this and in other ways, that’s it’s so easy to get outside the tourist ghetto in Hawai’i, but that so few visitors do — even those who profess a love for Hawai’i’s distinctive culture, community, and sense of itself as part of the reason for their visit.

I’m also suprised to see so little attention being paid, either by vistors or by locals, to President Obama’s Hawaiian roots. Hawaians are proud of Obama as a native son, but I haven’t seen a single Obama aloha shirt or advertised tour to sites associated with the President’s youth. We went past his high school, and the apartment building where his grandparents lived, on the bus to the Manoa Falls trailhead yesterday, but we wouldn’t have noticed except that a friendly local sitting in front of us pointed them out.

Much has been made of how different Obama’s ideas about race are from those of most of the USA, but much of that is characteristic of how diffferent Hawaian racial demographics ansd attitudes are from those of the rest of the country (except, perhaps, a few parts of California). It’s not just that Hawai’i is a white minority state but that it’s the only mixed-race majority state. Race relations in Hawai’i are far from utopian, but they are a distinctive case study that the rest of the country shouldn’t ignore — whether to understand where other parts of the country (again, notably California) might be going, or to understand where our President is coming from.

I’m heading back to the mainland next week, en route to the court hearing August 6th in New York in the class action lawsuit over currency conversion fees for credit and ATM charges. If you’ve used an ATM card issued in the USA to get cash in foreign currency any time since 1997, the deadline to get your letter to the judge objecting to the unfair proposed settlement is next Thursday, July 30th.

Link | Posted by Edward on Saturday, 25 July 2009, 11:23 (11:23 AM)

pecha kucha is a great way of explaining the history to the travelers. it is a list of 20 slides with each slide being presented for 20 seconds each. i really feel that this is a very good method of explaining history.

Posted by: Maureen Lopez, 28 July 2009, 04:38 ( 4:38 AM)

I think Obama's Hawai'i upbringing has a lot to do with his views on race & society. I (courtesy of my father's military deployment) spent a good part of my childhood in Hawai'i. We were all quite different, but no one was on top. Sounds a bit naive to adult ears, I'm sure, but these ideals firm up when you're a kid. Obama has disappointed me in many ways, but his willingness and ability to navigate questions of race have only made me proud.

Posted by: MB, 6 August 2009, 21:58 ( 9:58 PM)
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