An Oscar-Winning Performance in Hawaii- Adrian Choa
As I sit on the beach wearing my Hawaiian shirt, sipping a Hawaiian pineapple soda and taking a break from listening to the echo of the ukulele that drifts from a nearby hotel to ash my hula cigar, I gain a warm feeling of perceived authenticity.
But perceived is all it is.
I get the feeling that us tourists are actors. Actors in a film we have seen before and wish to reenact, with an on-set stills photographer ever ready to upload and share.
The workers of this tourism industry are extras. They don their tribal dress, slap their knees as they dig a simmering pig corpse from the dirt before returning home to Netflix. All workers in any shop, from the souvenir stand to KFC, have seemingly been ordered to greet with “aloha” and end with “mahalo” despite their otherwise total ignorance of the Polynesian language. Bus drivers wear plastic flower wreaths.
A vaguely sickening mutual exploitation.
But I guess this is a symbiosis we can all enjoy. Of course, in order to experience foreign cultures for a time-scale as fleeting as a week or two, activities will inevitably be shallow. This is a depth which of course varies from place to place. However, you may not have London Calling playing at London Heathrow as Hula music was playing at Honolulu Int., but the authenticity of experience remains as deep as the fish n’ chips bag you hold or the v on that union jack “punk” t -shirt you got for a steal at the Camden market. I guess it’s unavoidable. It may take years within a chosen community to wholly get at it its root (not weeks or months as condescending gap yearers may preach). By then the places you frequent, activities you undertake and people you spend time with will be markedly different from those the postcards portray.
Despite these misgivings I can truly say that I love Hawaii. Shopfront façades cannot touch the warmth of both the climate and the locals, the inviting energy of the Waikiki streets, or the teal of the ocean.
For now I must be content with the $15 dollar plume of vanilla smoke which rises into the humid air. Despite a widespread awareness of such touristic falsity, whether it is a beret, a sombrero or a pair of mickey mouse ears which sits on your head, it is the addictive escape; the sight of grass on the other side which keeps us jumping on those airplanes.