Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | August 10, 2013

Hawaiian Report part 7: Final Thoughts plus Hawaiian Spam Burger

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There are a few things I would like to write about Hawaii before I close this topic (at least for now),that originally left off during my six-part narrative about our trip – details I felt that kind of slowed down the story, which turned out to be quite long compared to my previous travel chronicles.

When we first left Waikiki to visit Pagoda Floating Restaurant, we were impressed how the neighborhoods changed as soon as we crossed the bridge separating the tourist-y area from the more residential area of Makiki – gone were the hotels, bars and souvenir stores. Instead, we saw a lot of apartment buildings, supermarkets and small delis – the kid we find in New York when you are looking for an inexpensive cup of coffee (there were two Starbucks stores within yards of each other in Waikiki, but none there). Also, there is a large population of homeless people (estimated to be about 17,000 in Honolulu alone) living on the streets who apparently made their way to Hawaii and just stayed there.

I spoke to a Chicago transplant who told me that during the 1984 Olympics, the city of Los Angeles put a lot of homeless people in a plane to Honolulu to get them out of sight, and later other cities followed suit whenever they had a big event in town. This seems to be an urban myth, because I haven’t found any evidence to corroborate that, but the fact is that many people do find their way into the islands because – let’s face it – it’s much easier to be without a home in tropical weather than, say, in New Jersey. Also, the state of Hawaii provides great services for lower-income folks than other states do – so it becomes a magnet of sorts for many. I recently read thatHawaii has a plan to send some of those homeless back into the mainland – wherever they might have come from – but nothing is set in stone as of this writing.

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I found folks around Honolulu to be very friendly – even though most of the people I spoke to had come from somewhere else – I had a conversation with a retiree originally from Montauk, NY who seemed happy to have a chance to chat with someone from her own coast, and I also had a chance to talk with people from Japan. Brazil and the Philippines. The only person Renata and I met that was seemingly local was the girl who gave us the lei greeting at the Kuhio Banyan Club, but unfortunately we didn’t have much of a chance to talk (Renata did have a brief conversation with an employee at the hotel, who told her that the key was to be friendly if you want to succeed there). But the Aloha spirit clearly seems to catch on, and within a few days it had captivated us. After our return, a friend commented that both of us seemed a lot mellower, but I guess the rat race has already caught up with us since then.

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Public transportation around the island of Oahu is great.Their very reliable bus system takes youpretty much everywhere, and thanks to the fact that all the buses are connectedvia GPS, you can easily manage your comings and goings online or using their iPhone and Android app,
which locates you and points the nearest bus stop and routes. You can also use Google maps to plan your trip, but be aware that the program often fails, and you might find yourself getting off at the wrong stop.

Hawaiian music reflects the nature of the islands – it’s a laid back, melodic and mostly positive. I was not a novice on the music when I went there – I was introduced to the music of the islands when I had a chance to interview singer, choreographer and educator Keali I Reichel for an article I wrote for the Phoenix New Times a while back, and I have been a longtime fan of ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. I recently began listening to Honolulu radio
station Hawaiian 105 KINE on my
TuneIn Radio app, and became more and more enthralled with the music of artists like the late Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole and others – it is usually what I listen to when I am cooking. Hawaiian music, though, goes beyond the familiar tunes with slide guitars and ukuleles – just remember that pop musicians Jack Johnson (who still lives on Oahu) and Bruno Mars were both born and raised in Hawaii, and there is also a bustling jazz scene there, as I was able to attest during a visit to downtown restaurant Adega Portuguesa.

I find the ukulele
to be a fascinating instrument because of its simplicity and captivating sound.My first contact with it came through songs recorded by former Beatle George Harrison and of course Shimabukuro, but I only got really interested in learning after having participated in the annual Beatles Complete on Ukulele in Brooklyn, a labor of love coordinated by multi-instrumentalist and producer Roger Greenawalt. The interest has become so intense that I have recently purchased one and am slowly learning how to play it.

Renata and I only got to visit one ‘traditional’ Hawaiian restaurant during our visit (though we did sample some street food whenever we got a chance), but almost everything we ate there tasted great – even when I bought the ingredients to prepare dishes in our hotel room. The key, I believe, is to buy locally grown foods and adapt your recipes to the ingredients you can find there (except, of course, SPAM, which is a local staple). Since our return I have learned and posted several Hawaiian recipes (the favorite so far: Hawaiian chicken, posted on the first part of this series) and have been impressed by how simple and delicious they can be.

It’s an understatement to say that Renata and I both fell in love with Hawaii – I can say that I felt at home there, because the climate and feel of Honolulu is very similar to that in Fortaleza, Brazil. It is a rather large city, but it has a much slower speed than we experience here in New York. I must admit that after a few days I felt at home there, and recalled a post from a fellow blogger that detailed her quest for her personal paradise, which for her was the city of Seattle, WA.

The burning question is: would we like to relocate to Hawaii? The first and most probable answer would be a loud “yes,” but I don’t see it happening in the immediate
future. Moving there would require lots of planning, and of course there is the question of finding work there. Also, there is the fact that Hawaii is far away from everything, and a flight to Brazil would take something like 18 hours, and a visit to Poland would take about 22 hours – which makes you think a bit. However, just the thought of never having to go through a New York winter again (and being able to wear Aloha shirts without being laughed at) make you think – why not?

Recipe: Hawaiian SPAM Burger


12-ounce can SPAM® Classic

1 (8-ounce) can pineapple slices in juice

1/4 cup creamy mustard blend

1 clove garlic, chopped

4 slices green bell pepper, if desired

4 hamburger buns, split

4 leaves lettuce

4 slices Swiss cheese, if desired


Prepare grill. Cut SPAM® Classic
into 4 slices. Grill SPAM®, pineapple and bell pepper, turning once, 5 to 7
minutes or until heated thoroughly. In bowl, stir together mustard blend and
garlic; spread on cut sides of buns. Fill each bun with lettuce, SPAM®,
pineapple, bell pepper and cheese.


  1. […] recipes, starting with the Hawaiian SPAM burger that I included with my final installment of the Hawaii report I wrote over the course of seven weeks (I am still amazed I was able to get so much out of a […]

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