Saturday 6th August 2016

Aloha!

Here I am in Hawaii, sitting in one of the palm-tree-edged Waikiki Beach bars to be precise. It’s around 26°C even in the evening and I am very relaxed, sipping a classic Mai Tai, watching the surfers in their boardshorts carving the waves while I await the beautiful sunset.

US President

Various celebrities were born here, including Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Bruno Mars, Nicole Scherzinger and the current US President Barack Obama. 

None of them live here now, though Barack Obama did grow up here, excepting a couple of years in Indonesia. At 18 he left the island to study at Columbia University and Harvard Law School. I wonder if he ever sat on this beach dreaming of becoming president and living in the White House?

Speaking of the White House, things are getting ever more heated between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the run-up to the November 8th presidential election, with some very controversial and personal accusations flying around. Hillary has the lead for now according to the polls, but whichever way the votes fall one of them will be inaugurated in January 2017 and Hawaii, the 50th state of America, will fall under their rule along with the rest of the USA. 

Hawaii 50 and Pearl Harbor

There are several Hawaiian Islands sitting in the centre of the Pacific Ocean. I am staying on Oahu, home to capital Honolulu (where Magnum, P.I. was filmed), Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach (which means ‘spouting fresh water’). The other main islands are Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, Maui, the ‘Big Island’ Hawaii, Kauai and Kahoolawe. Known for volcanic activity, natural crystal-clear waterfalls, and sandy beaches (some with green and black sand due to lava infiltration washing ashore from the Pacific), this chain of islands is also renowned for its tropical plants, fruit and climate.

Whilst I have heard reference to Pearl Harbor many times, I was not very clued into the events until I took a tour yesterday. During WW2, on Sunday 7th December 1941, Japanese planes launched an unexpected morning attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu Island, killing around 2,400 and injuring many more, causing massive destruction to US naval ships and aircraft. This horrific event is what sparked America’s participation and ultimate success in the war. 

The attack was in part preventative – avoid US involvement in the war by destroying their navy, in turn making Japan the number 1 worldwide naval power – but it was also in response to then-US President Franklin D Roosevelt’s ban on trades and exports to Japan, which had negatively impacted the Japanese economy.

In honour of the American soldiers, the USS Arizona Memorial was built at Pearl Harbor (acknowledging the name of the first ship to be destroyed), while the end of WW2 is commemorated by the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the vessel upon which the Japanese finally surrendered and ended the war. The Arizona Memorial actually sits above the remains of its namesake where it sank in the sea – yes, the fated battleship is still there which really brings home what happened that day, and there are bodies resting down there too. The whole Pearl Harbor experience is well thought out and very moving, and I am glad I went to learn more and pay my respects.

                                                                                                                                                                     Lily


Wednesday 10th August 2016

It is amazing how quickly time has passed here in the ‘Aloha State’. My only new fashion statement thus far had been the lei – a fresh floral garland worn around the shoulders. A lei symbolises friendship or a celebration, and I have been presented with a few over the past week which have made me feel wonderfully welcome.

Fashion and living

Today, however, I decided it was time to explore the shops. Kalakaua Avenue is Waikiki’s answer to Bond Street, with the upmarket promenade boasting stores such as Chanel, Dior and Tiffany. Named after King David Kalakaua, the ‘Merrie Monarch’ who lived 1836-1891, the avenue is also home to a few surf stores, a farmer’s market, and for the items I had on my shopping list No Ka Oe (translate: for you) Muumuu Shop and Nani (translate: pretty) Aloha Shirt Outlet. I opted for a ladies-fit Hawaiian shirt for $42 - it’s flamingo pink, covered in tropical birds, flowers and trees – while I chose a plainer design for my muumuu so that I can style it up with appropriate accessories for different occasions. Made locally in Oahu, they are perfect for the festival vibe as I am off to Reading in a couple of weeks. 

Food and drink is generally more expensive here, which has hit me hard as I am self-catering. Some items, like a loaf of bread, are almost 3 times more expensive than at home! Clothing prices are comparable whilst transport and house prices are far cheaper in Hawaii. 

It’s my last night tonight so I am off to a luau. Live music, a barbeque feast and traditional hula dancing - it sounds like a lovely way to end this holiday in paradise.

                                                                                                                      Lily


Monday 15th August 2016

I got home very late on Friday and unfortunately succumbed to jet lag, so I have been a bit disorientated all weekend. Finally feeling like myself again today, I am ready to accept whatever the week throws at me.

Post Office currency – don’t do it

Like I said before, I decided to try the Post Office for my currency this trip. The reviews weren’t great but I ran out of time to look elsewhere. I know what exchange rate I received on the 1st August but now I have compared it with the historic Bank of England exchange rate for that same day. The Post Office gave me almost 2% less – horrendous.

According to their website, the Post Office was voted second place “Best Foreign Exchange/Travel Money Retailer” at the British Travel Awards 2015, based on the number of votes received from the UK public. Why? Especially when the same British public have given the Post Office a complete slating on the Trustpilot and Review Centre sites. Overall it appears that the Post Office are best left selling stamps, delivering parcels and concentrating on government services such as driving licenses and passports.

Olympics

How well are Great Britain doing in the Olympics? Unbelievably well! @TeamGB are 2nd to America on the medal table at the moment after an outstanding few days. 15 gold, 16 silver and 7 bronze. 

I didn’t see much of the Olympics while I was on holiday, but watching the highlights programme I can see that Mo Farah won his 10,000 metre race even after falling over, divers Jack Laugher and Chris Mears won the synchronised 3-metre springboard competition despite the pool being a very off-putting shade of green, and Andy Murray gave another crowd-pleasing performance to retain his Olympic title. 

Joe Clarke (canoeing), Justin Rose (golf), Max Whitlock (gymnastics) and Adam Peaty (swimming) are among the other British gold medalists, while nation’s favourites Jessica Ennis-Hill and Louis Smith scored silver in their respective heptathlon and pommel horse endeavours. With 7 days of Games remaining how will we compare with our 2012 medal stash of 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze? 

I am going to follow them closely, and concur with one tweeter who wrote “If these #Olympics2016 athletes don’t inspire you to do more with your life each day, then I don’t know what will”.

                     Lily



(To see Lily’s previous diary entries simply enter ‘lily currency solutions’ on your search engine or visit the Currency Solutions  page)