The Big Island, 2009 ~ I stood outside the Kona International Airport, squinting in the sunlight.
Just a few days earlier, I had been walking around Kathmandu, in the shadow of the biggest mountains on earth. Now I was on an island in the middle of the Pacific.
Talk about culture shock.
This was my first trip to Hawaii. I had come to the Big Island to sing at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, but my heart was still in Nepal. Here I was in a tropical paradise, but I could barely take it in. It felt like I was dreaming.
I rented a small convertible and started driving north along Queen Kaahumanu Highway. The ocean sparkled in the sunlight. When I glanced up the lush green hills, I caught sight of the biggest and brightest rainbow I had ever seen! Everything seemed so surreal.
The road twisted up a steep hill, away from the ocean. Suddenly, I found myself in a new sub-climate with cattle ranches and pine trees. The air smelled like wet grass and eucalyptus. I parked my car outside a little chapel and checked my wristwatch. It was 6:29 PM. I was on time for the concert!
The legendary Wagnerian singer Jeannine Altmeyer was about to sing an excerpt from Die Walküre, right here in this church on the Big Island of Hawaii. And I was going to hear it live. Just for a second, I leaned back on the headrest and closed my eyes. “This is the most amazing life,” I thought to myself. Then I rushed inside to hear some opera.
Over the next two weeks, I got to perform all over the Big Island with my new friends from HPAF. We sang Mozart under the fir trees. We sang Puccini on the beach. We sang Kurt Weill at a little theater in Hilo.
We also met the famous American composer, Ricky Ian Gordon, and performed one of his operas, The Grapes of Wrath. And I even got to sing some Wagner arias for Ms. Altmeyer! The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival was a truly amazing experience.
But by the end of July, I needed a vacation! Singing is a dream job, but it’s also a lot of hard work. As soon as the festival was over, I decided it was time for a little rest and recreation. First, I took my convertible all over the Big Island. And then I hit Oahu with my friend Karina. It was the trip of a lifetime.
So here are my tips for the Ultimate Hawaiian Vacation:
#1. Meet a Volcano
Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It’s a pretty exciting day trip.
#2. Stand in A Waterfall
I loved exploring Akaka Falls State Park.
#3. Surf the Waves in an Outrigger Canoe in Waikiki
Yes, it’s a tourist trap. But this is more fun than you can possibly imagine. If you want to to experience the rush of surfing, but you can’t control your own surfboard, this is your sport:
#4. Go Snorkeling
I met a gorgeous yellow butterfly fish just under the surface of Hanauma Bay.
#5. Go Horseback Riding in the Jungle
My horse really just wanted to eat the rainforest. He kept munching on the scenery. But what a beautiful ride!
Oh, and here I am on the “set” of LOST.
Needless to say, I had a pretty good time in Hawaii. I made my Facebook friends so jealous that some of them started boycotting my status updates. 😉 It was an amazing adventure. I will never forget the summer of 2009.
My one regret is that I did not get to see a production at the Hawaii Opera Theatre in Honolulu. I guess I’ll save that for my next trip. Aloha!