We set out for Waipahu, a company town built by the Oahu Sugar Company at the turn of the century. Sugar processing was a lucrative and labor intensive industry and immigrants from Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, Portugal, and Puerto Rico made it happen here. The Asians came here to make money and hoped to return home again, but those who came from farther away were here to stay. The Puerto Ricans arrived after an especially fierce hurricane decimated their island. In 1995 sugar became too expensive to raise due to high labor and shipping costs so the company closed. To commemorate the sugar workers, buildings connected to the ethnic labor groups and the times have been gathered on the factory site. Many of them were quite plain and simple as befits a farming community. The crude implements in the health clinic reminded us how lucky we are to be living in these times. Interspersed between the buildings we got a chance to sample the favorite foods of these folks for free. Some items were not all that tasty; the Korean dumplings stuck in the throat half way down, but it all was very interesting. We had so many samples, lunch was no longer on the agenda. Ken was especially happy to spot the Spam sushi. We have heard that Spam is a favorite Hawaiian food, but it hasn't been on any restaurant menus that we've seen. I really liked the exotic plants these folks brought with them which were growing in great abundance. After the slick presentations we saw at the Polynesian Culture Center yesterday, the earnest efforts of volunteers to educate us about plantation life were rather charming.
Ken needed a computer gizzmo, which gave him an excuse to stop at the Apple Computer store located in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. This mall is Woodfield sized and buzzed with customers on this Saturday. It felt like December 24th. The Apple Store was so busy roving clerks with portable scanners processed our purchase anywhere we stood rather than having us stand in line. We have read that half the tourists that come here are from Japan and they come to shop. The yen must still have a lot of buying power relative to the dollar. The Ala Moana boasted a Chanel boutique, Godiva chocolates, Nieman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Fendi, Gucci, Hermes, Ferragamo's, and stores with Japanese names we did not recognize that also looked very lah-di-dah. Other branches of these famous names are also located along Waikiki.
The feeding frenzy of shoppers motivated us to leave the Ala Moana quickly and head to the beach. As we watched the sunset, young men blew on conch shells, lit the tiki torches that border the beachwalk and young wahines came out to perform the hula.