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ala wai canal 1920 to 1928

Photographs by Kypo Karamas

 

"And anyway, Waikiki’s just kinda’ like home," Isaac explains. Our conversation rambles from how Kosraeans gather together in a Micronesian congregation for church on Sundays to how, between jobs, most of their Waikiki community practices choral singing and plays volleyball at Fort de Russy Beach on weekdays. The community also reaches out to other communities throughout the island: Kosraeans in Waikiki, who can’t harvest coconuts or breadfruit from the bare trees that line the streets, enlist the support of friends on the leeward side of the island to gather local materials for feasts.

As if on cue, Rose walks toward the bench, carrying a tray with three mugs of coffee. In Kosrae, it is common on cool evenings to carry chairs from the house down to the ocean’s edge to sit under the trees while drinking coffee and talking long into the night. Suddenly I realize that I have completely forgotten that we are in Waikiki, surrounded by tourists from all over the world, traffic, ambulance sirens, executives attending conventions, homeless people, and the Ala Wai Canal. We all sit quietly on the bench in this soothing, Kosraean space, watching the distant twinkling lights on the hillside.

"Let’s go eat," says Rose after we have emptied our cups—and we walk back to the bustling world of Kuhio Avenue. As we enter Jack-in-the-Box, Rose asks me what I want to eat. Knowing that she probably has very little money, I decline, but she persists. Confidently whipping out an employee discount card, she says proudly, "I work at the store down by the zoo!" She proceeds to order a large meal of several burgers, drinks, and even apple pies. She places the order entirely in Kosraean: The two men behind the counter are her cousins. "We eat here almost every night," she smiles, as she confidently passes her money—with her discount, only a few dollars—to one of the men.

From "McRonesia: The islands between fast food and tourists" by Greg Dvorak, 2003