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ala wai canal 1920 to 1928

Photographs by Kypo Karamas

 

The apartment where Rose lives is quite spacious, considering its prime Waikiki location amid a jungle of pricey high-rise hotels and expensive condominiums. The apartment has a kitchen and three adjoining rooms. Several teenagers lie on the floor with pillows, quietly watching college volleyball on television, while a small group of elderly people congregates in the corner, slicing breadfruit and cleaning several fish. Despite the fact that there are nearly fifteen people in the room, there is no sound but the television on low volume and the hushed, gentle voices of the elders.

On the kitchen table sits an elaborate arrangement of aluminum trays loaded with homemade baked goods, meats, and salads, which Rose proudly announces will be served at her nephew’s wedding party the next day. We both sit down on the sofa and marvel over the coincidence of meeting each other here in Honolulu. Yet strangely, although we are physically in the epicenter of Hawai'i’s tourist industry, it almost seems as if we have been transported back to Kosrae. "Yeah, just like Kosrae…" Rose sighs wistfully as she looks around the room.

An older woman, Rose’s aunt, sits in a wheelchair. She looks up from her sewing, nods to us, and raises her eyebrows, "Eke wo—good evening!" Rose explains that like many Micronesians who are eligible for medical treatment under the Compact of Free Association, her aunt has come from Kosrae for diabetes treatment at Tripler Army Medical Hospital. She has flown to Hawai'i with her two nieces, who accompany her twice a week as she rides The Bus to her appointments.