It’s been a while since an update. i’ll try to post a few times in the next 2 weeks, seeing as i am away from ‘home.’
i’m on the Summer Scholar grant from the University of Delaware. To get this stipend, you agree to 10 weeks of intense research. In my case, 2 of those weeks are field work.
So, here i am in Kona, Hawaii. There is a large Marshallese population here. I am researching human displacement (wherein governments force populations to leave their homes). The areas of focus for my work are Zimbabwe, Wilmington (DE) and The Marshall Islands. According to the census, there are 3000 Marshallese people residing here, but the actual number is much higher.
i had a few prospective ins and contacts when i stepped off the plane on Sunday. Some of my childhood friends live out here, and they are being very helpful with a place to stay and the like. They collected me and my smashed luggage from the thatch-roofed airport two days ago. Did you know that the Boston airport closes at night? It does. If you have a layover over night, they kick you out and say “good luck, kiddo,” but phrased much more gruffly. i walked and walked and found a baggage claim where the door would open. i slipped in and pushed one of those very arm-full hard couch-chairs into a corner and slept for a few hours. The lights were not comfortable, and “full service” apparently means that they try to sell you everything and then run over your luggage with a fork-life and say “screw you, please fly with us again.” But, how could i complain, i sat around for a day and ended up a quarter of the way around the world..
Anyhow, yesterday was the 4th of July. There’s no point in chasing people around, looking for interviews on a holiday. Since i had read a good deal on the plane, i had bought myself a free day to settle in and get my barrings. Josh, Andrew and Michael and i went down to the Kona Independence Day Parade. Town was packed. Both sides and all the lawns around Main Street were lined with fat, happy patriotic people. i took my guitar, which i have completely covered with sharpee artwork over the past two days. We were sitting near the beginning of the parade, when a whole bunch of environmentalists who were wearing tye-dyed unitards and a winged golf-cart float began to parade by. Green Power Girl came up and asked if i had any environmental songs. I sung her a little ditty (composed on the spot of course) about Green Power. They let me join them and play my cool lookin guitar on top of the float, between the lavish wings.
They were all very kind people. Photo-cynthia shared some home-made cookies with all of us after we had finished the long, festive parade down the sunsoaked Main Street. It was a surrealistic time. We excitedly talked. I got an environmental superhero name (which i am not yet cleared to share with commoners…). As it turns out, one of the Green Power Heroes works at a health clinic that treats primarily Marshallese people. She knows a lot about human displacement and knows people who have lived and worked in the Marshall Islands. We exchanged info and we’ll tentatively be meeting up later this week. That’s that.
A couple hours later, i met back up with my buddies. We watched the fireworks over the Pacific Ocean. It was beautiful, but i didn’t feel very patriotic. All the American explosions i have been reading about recently were dirty bombs detonated discretely on people far enough away from the public eye and with dark enough skin that nice old Uncle Sam hoped that no one would hear or care. Liberty for all….
Anyhow, on the way back to the apartment, i saw a lady sitting on a chair throwing those little things we always called “bang-snaps” when we were growing up (or when we were in the earlier phases of ‘growing up’). You know, they’re those little snappers, wrapped in white paper. When you throaw them, they explode upon impact. Anyhow, the parking lot where she was sitting was littered with them. Two kids were excitedly running about and snapping them by the hundreds.
I asked her if i could trow one–a ‘bang-snap,’ not one of her kids. She smiled and handed me a bang-snap. Bang. That was a good, little sound which echoes back through my past. She and i began talking. She was nonchalantly throwing snappers throughout our whole conversation. As it turns out, she just moved into the same apartment complex where Andrew lives. Se is here to work with Marshallese children!
Tomorrow morning, she has an appointment with someone who knows the chief elder of all the Marshallese on the island. She promises to take me to this meeting. And that’s that.
In a few minutes, i have a meeting with a man who is currently making a documentary about the displaced Marshallese people in Hawaii.
Afer that, i’m going to hitch hike to the airport and report my crushed bag and all the items that fell out due to the crushing.
This trip is shaping up to be quite productive. Fingers crossed for making more contacts in and around the Marshallese community…
[this is where i sit as i wait for my meeting and write this entry...]