I recently recapped my trip to Hawaii In a previous blog post. However, there is a huge chunk of the trip that I left out on purpose. It had to do with Oregon State football, basketball, getting lost, and meeting the first family. It’s all connected and way too much to put all into one.
Let me start off by saying, my blog post before was true and sincere, and this one is too. I was in Hawaii for ten days, and a lot can happen in ten days. A lot can happen in one day. Imagine having nine more…
Where do I begin…? Towards the middle of the trip, specifically around Christmas, I found out that the Oregon State football and basketball team were in Hawaii for a pro-bowl. As much as I’m obsessed with football, I’m also a huge Oregon State fan. You’re probably wondering why, since I don’t live in Oregon nor have I ever been there. But I am into college football and they’re a team to beat. My dad and I met some of the players at the Royal Hawaiian hotel. When I found out that they were playing against Boise State at Aloha stadium on Christmas Eve I knew I had to go. My father could care less about sports but I knew I had to get tickets and I did, sideline tickets, to my first ever college football game. And just so you know, the Oregon State football team members are complete gentlemen.
Getting to Aloha Stadium was a struggle. I knew what it looked like from watching reruns of Hawaii Five-O but it was 2-hours away from my hotel and I had to take a bus. Fortunately, on the day of the game, sitting at the bus stop, was a lovely couple that I befriended. They were going to see the game. The woman was a teacher and her husband was a former marine who served 20 years in the corps. They were going to the Beaver game because their son was on the Basketball team. They were in town for their leg of the pro-bowl, too.
We got in a crowded bus filled with Boise state and Oregon fans all going to the same place obviously. The last thing I imagined was being in Hawaii on a crowded bus with people from Idaho and Oregon. What a small world in a way, I guess. I took a seat and casually discussed football with two elderly men whose daughters went to the schools to pass the time.
The conversation I had with one of these men was really eye-opening. Remember when I said traveling makes you educated and more open- minded, it definitely did that for him, I hope. He had asked what my ethnicity was and when I told him I was Indian, I was bombarded with a lot of the questions. They were very nosy.
They were wondering about my family values and whether I was going to have an arranged marriage or not. No, I’m not having an arranged marriage and just because I am Indian doesn’t mean that at all. Not all Indians have an arranged marriage…especially those like me who’ve been really Americanized. I had to remember this guy was born and raised in the same town his whole life so he hadn’t been exposed much. He asked it in a good-hearted way so I couldn’t get mad either, instead just educate.
Now, Oregon State went on to win the game 38-23. Going home after the game was a struggle. I had exchanged numbers with the mother I met, the one who was a teacher, and she told me to text her son for a ticket to the basketball game the next morning. I told her I was into sports and she was nice enough to hook up tickets to the Basketball game. Anyway, I had trouble finding the bus stop to go back in Waikiki. In theory, if the bus drops you off on one side to get somewhere, the opposite side will have the bus stop to go back, right? Wrong. I couldn’t find the exact bus to go back to the hotel, but there was a bus stop on the opposite side for the 21. I needed the 20 or 45. I waited for a few minutes to try out my luck and then that ran out quickly.
I was by myself, which was a really bad idea. An old man, most likely homeless by the looks of it, came up to me and asked me kindly if I could spare a dollar. I wanted him to go away so I gave him $5, thinking he’d move along. Well he didn’t. He took a seat on the other bench next to me and stayed quiet for a few moments. I didn’t know what to do. Should I run? Should I get up or move further away? I just held on to my bag and put my phone in my front pocket because I really needed a bus to come along and take me home. The man seemed harmless. He was tiny so I knew if he tried anything, I was definitely strong enough to push him away, or kick him in the balls at least.
He then thanked me for the money and said “God Bless You.”
“What’s your name?” he asked. “Angela,” I replied. Which my name really isn’t but you can probably see why I did that. My heart started racing a little and then I noticed he was drinking out of a brown lunch bag. Then it started racing a lot. Luckily, a boy who seemed to be 12 years old came over on his bike—my knight-in-shining-armor.
The man asked the boy what he was doing and why he never went home. “I’m chillen,” he said. I chuckled.
“Do you know where I can get the 20 or 45 bus from or any bus that goes into Waikiki?” I asked the boy.
The old man interrupted and said, “you can take this bus and transfer at the depot.” That seemed like an awful lot of traveling.
“There’s another bus stop ahead, I think. I could take you there.”
So I was left with the dilemma of whether to stay with the old man or go with the younger man. Obviously, I chose the boy who was half my size and younger, with an innocent face, and wasn’t drinking. I started walking in the direction he pointed and he rode alongside with me.
“You shouldn’t talk to that man,” he said. I knew that, and that I was about to get preached on by a twelve-year-old.
“I was stuck, I’m not from here and I didn’t know there was another bus stop to go into Waikiki. I need to get back to my hotel.”
“I see,” he answered. “Where are you from?”
“New York,” I replied. The boys face dropped to astonishment. He continued to tell me how he wanted to live there when he gets older and how he’s never seen snow. Well, isn’t he the lucky one! I absolutely hate snow.
The bus stop was about a block ahead, up a hill. I asked the boy what he was doing all by himself on Christmas-Eve morning, and he smartly replied that he could ask me the same thing. He waited with me for the bus to come for about an hour. It was a sweet gesture and if he kept his manners up, he would be getting all the ladies when he’s older, I mused to myself. He innocently asked if he could have a hug, which I guess any pre-teen boy would try their luck at, and I did but he wouldn’t let go.
‘It was great knowing you Ms. Angela,” he said tightly holding on to me.
One thing I forgot was to ask was the boy’s name. You know when you’re on a plane and you have a completely full-blown discussion about your life with the passenger next you, but come arrival you realize you never asked their name? Well, that happens to me a lot.
“Thank you for rescuing me,” I replied.
“It was my pleasure to be your knight-in-shining armor!” he waved at me while I got on the bus.
I didn’t want to wait or take another bus in Hawaii after that drunken encounter, so the next day I met up with the same parents I met before and walked with them to their son’s basketball game. I had texted their son the night before and he put my name in to have tickets for me at will call. I kind of felt like a VIP. We walked from Waikiki to the University of Hawaii. They have a huge, beautiful campus, which I contemplated on transferring to for the remainder of my stay there. We got seats three rows away from the court and next to all the Oregon State mothers, fathers, and coaches’ wives who were there for the game. The rest of the seats in front of us were reserved.
This is the good part—five minutes later, out came the people for whom the seats were reserved, the first family. Yes, the first family, Malia, Sasha, their uncle, everyone. It turns out, Michelle Obama’s brother is the coach for Oregon State basketball team. I should’ve put two and two together because he resembles her tremendously. So there I was in Hawaii at an Oregon State basketball game, spending Christmas with the Obamas and their secret service, of course. I don’t think I’ve ever felt safer at a basketball game or in general for that matter. Where was secret service when I needed them to save me from the bus stop earlier? I texted my mother the news and she obviously didn’t believe me until I sent her a picture. It was quite an experience and one I didn’t expect.
So there I was, surviving drunk men and running into the first family on Christmas. That’s the thing about traveling—you never know what you’re going to get into…
© Meral Kathwari January 6, 2014