Category Archives: Life on Oahu

The “Tripod” of the Public Education System

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teaching

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week 🙂 Thank a teacher who supported you!

Now on to a less happy topic…

There’s this lovely “tripod” that’s supposed to be a thing in the teaching field: the students, the parents, and the teachers/administration. I remember sitting in grad school, listening to this tripod explanation, and thinking Yup, I got it, that makes sense, if we all just work together, we’ll have the perfect system!

I was teaching 7th grade English at the time, in Aiea, Hawaii, and I was struggling. The added stress of my masters program, my Teach For America responsibilities, and the craziness of uprooting from Texas was definitely weighing on me. I kept thinking Well, my end of the tripod is steady, for sure. I figured my kids’ third of the creation was probably sturdy as well. So I mostly blamed parents. Why don’t they check grades online? Why don’t they check their kids’ backpacks, planners, folders? Why don’t they show up to meetings or buy their kids supplies or make their kids read at night? Why aren’t they like MY parents, or like ME? It’s easy to blame.

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But as the years went on, and I moved back to Texas, I realized a much bigger problem: WHY is the teacher end of the tripod combined with admin? Shouldn’t they be on their own, a fourth leg? There’s a disconnect between educators and their bosses–a gap that’s growing and growing. To casually throw a backslash in between teachers and admin is ridiculous. Teachers/admin. As if we’re the same, as if we have the same job, make the same salary, deal with the same daily ups and downs…HA!

I’ve tried hopelessly to get to the bottom of why this disconnect exists and how it started. The only conclusion that really makes sense is lack of respect. We don’t feel trusted by our principals or assistant principals or curriculum specialists or whoever we’re “reporting to” on any given day…and I don’t think they feel trusted by us either. Respect, open communication, team building…all of those buzzwords that are major duhs in well-run companies are merely pipe dreams in the public education system.

We are told that it’s our fault if kids fail–by people who, five years ago, were (shockingly) teachers themselves, dealing with failure rates themselves. It’s kind of insane.

We ask for behavior help, classroom resources, parent or community relationship assistance–until eventually we stop asking. Because that’s usually what people do after so long of asking and not receiving–they stop asking entirely.

We fill out all the required busy work and attend all the unhelpful, mandatory trainings and simultaneously sew our lips together.

I’m only in my fourth year of teaching and I’m guilty of this. I start off the year strong, passionate. I begin fizzling and fading fast. So much time and effort…for what seems like nothing most of the time. I care about my students as if they are my own flesh and blood–I pour my heart into this job–and the “tripod” still topples. Every year.

Admin seem to blame teachers, teachers blame parents and admin, students blame no one because usually they don’t even see the real problem…

I think it’s pretty clear that this “tripod” is wobbly on EVERY end. There’s no 100% strong, healthy leg of the public education system. It’s not one group’s fault. I don’t even think one group is a little more to blame than another. Everyone knows we have a flawed system. Large strides are needed–from everyone.

But I do think that the first step in solving this massive nationwide issue is to close that disconnect between teachers and admin, so that maybe we CAN one day be teachers/admin.

I mean, if we can’t receive the support that we deserve from our superiors…how are we supposed to function effectively in the trickle-down of disrespect?

Uncomplicate

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This past weekend was one of those happy-exhausting blurs of laughter that you don’t want to end yet simultaneously can’t wait for it to be over so you can sleep!

It was a much-needed celebration—officially off of work for 2 weeks YAASSSSS. But also…and more importantly believe it or not, it was a celebration of living in the present.

Let me explain: I feel like I’ve lived my whole life living in the future—planning and plotting and manipulating every situation to best fit the needs of my impending blueprint. I will definitely shy away from some of the blame and say that my parents have always been quite…pressuring. However, I’ve placed a lot of that pressure on myself and as a result, there have really only been small windows in which I’ve let myself enjoy the moment—without thinking about the next 5 minutes, 5 weeks, or 5 years.

When I travel, I live for the present—I eat without thinking about carbs and I breathe in the sunsets without thinking about writing my next novel. When I graduated from UH, I lived for the present—I decided to skip commencement entirely and drink beer on the beach without thinking about the sand on my borrowed robe or getting my PhD. These are the happiest moments of my life and yet…it takes extreme effort to be able to shut my mind off and live that way. To think about what I want NOW instead of what my family/friends/future-self want down the road… It sounds absurd.

Saturday morning, I treated my best friend’s little brother to brunch for his 21st and around mimosa #3, he said something so funny and wise that I had to write it down before the champagne made me forget: “Alysha, you remind me of the rabbit fwhiterabbitrom Alice in Wonderland. Never has anywhere to go but always in a hurry.” I laughed my ass off—he’s right! I am on constant GO-GO-GO! mode and there’s just no reason for it…

It would be foolish to say, “So I’m done with that way of thinking. I’m going to live in the present from now on.” No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m Type A. I’m an ENTJ. I know that I can’t change the way I am—I love planning! I love list-making! I love bossing people around and making decisions and getting things to go my way. BUT. I also love when someone or something slows all of that down and just, simply: Makes. Me. Happy.

Sometimes you have to take a breath and choose to uncomplicate your life—choose the path that makes you feel free. Light-hearted. Giddy. Happy—the most basic form of happy—not “Oh my goodness this will fit so well into my 5-year plan” kind of happy. NOT the “My parents will love this” kind of happy. NOT the “WWFAS: What would future Alysha say?” kind of happy. I’m talkin’ the right here, right now, I’m smiling and all I want to do is keep smiling kind of happy…I want to be this kind of happy always.

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So yes, “live in the present” and “do what makes you happy” and blah blah blah. But also…realize that you can’t change who you are, but you can change how you think about your happiness… I caught myself choosing what my future thought it wanted. If that makes any sense. I caught myself and I turned it around. I feel like I can breathe. I feel like I’m traveling. I feel like I’m drinking beer in Kailua, wearing my sandy, borrowed robe. I feel so simple-happy.

 

Love Letter

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Dear Hawaii,

I will miss your sand and everything attached to it.

I will miss the way the GPS says “Kah-may-ha-may-ha”.

I will miss warm malasadas and crunchy chicken katsu at potlucks.

I will miss those few and far between hapa hotties and North Shore board short-ed booties and tantalizing tribal tatted triceps.

I will miss driving through the mountains of H3, spotting Stairway and doing an inner I CONQUERED THAT happy dance.

I will miss the pineapple and pupus and Pidgin and the Pee-peh-lee-neh joke and Papailoa, where I go to read and bask alone.

I will miss my ohana (those staying on the island and those leaving) and so many moments in their lives, big and small. The birth of Cassie’s little man, the next time Kelly dyes her hair, the day Phil cooks a meal that doesn’t involve any frozen food and Annalise gets engaged and Leslie decides to stay a third year…

I will miss my keiki, who take up so much of my heart. I don’t ever need to have kids because I already have 200 it seems!

I will miss so much I could write a novel about the things I’ll miss. I could write a novel about the extreme anxiety I felt when I said goodbye to my favorite beaches and restaurants. I could write a novel about how the birds here are royal, expecting you to drive around them…yet, I’ll miss them.

I will miss every aspect of life here, all things, good and bad, because that’s how you miss wholly. Therefore I will miss the radio stations and lack of Mexican food right along with the rainbows, leis, honu, and mai tais.

I will miss calling this rock home. But I left home once so that I could return, maybe I’ll do the same again.

Oahu, I will miss your skies and smiles and waters, your colors and kindness. Mahalo for your patience and your always warm embrace. I will love you always, I will carry you everywhere- your sand and everything attached to it.

With aloha,
Alysha

The Keiki

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Gangstas v. Surfers

I have officially accepted a teaching job in Texas. You’d think I’d be ecstatic, right? A solid job to move back home to, back to the land of delicious Mexican food, sweet tea, and floating the river. I’ll finally get to be roommates with my best friend, I’ll finally keep a job for longer than two years…

But honestly, there’s something bothering me that I can’t quite shake. It’s not the fact that I’m leaving paradise—perfect weather, perfect tan (see I Heard This Place is Hard to Leave). It’s the keiki, man.

The kids.

I’ve been pampered for the last two years. My students might drive me crazy, but they freakin’ adore me. The biggest issue I’ve ever had is their lack of motivation…and I don’t blame them. I’d rather go to the beach than do homework too.

I remember what the kids were like in school back home. Also, I’m allowed to talk shit about the ghetto Mexicans and the white trash since I am both Mexican and white. Boom. Please remember that for the rest of this blog…

Those two types of people make up a LARGE percent of the population. Rednecks and gang members, knife fights at lunch, “pinche” being every other word out of most of their mouths, and a huge teen pregnancy problem. Ah, Tejas.

While this is an exaggeration, it’s only a slight exaggeration. So basically, I’m scared.

I spent 22 years in Texas, surrounded by a large Hispanic population, most of whom I was probably related to. But as for teaching experience? I’ve taught approximately two Hispanic kids in the past two years. Here in Central Oahu, the student population is comprised of SO many different ethnicities—Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Samoan, Micronesian, Chuukese, Tongan, Korean, Chinese, and more. They’re so mixed that most of them don’t even know what to check for race on surveys. They think it’s weird that I’m “only two things” and they don’t tease each other about being “too much” of something or “not enough” of something else.

Duh, there’s still racism and homophobia and bullying and drug abuse and all those other terrible things that happen everywhere.

But I swear, Hawaii’s kids are probably the most tolerant human beings in the U.S. It’s all aloha and shaka and howzit and bruddah and sistah and auntie… it’s kind of crazy how happy people are here. Oh wait, the sun shines every day. There are rainbows every day.

The kids I went to school with would beat these kids to a pulp and then tattoo something about it on their necks. Or they’d tie my kids to cows and pour Lonestar all over them. The white kids I went to school with would call my kids Mexicans and when my kids would try to explain that they’re actually a Hawaiian-Japanese-Filipino, they’d say, “Whatever, you’re brown, so you’re Mexican.” The Mexicans I went to school with would call my kids wannabe Mexicans.

I could go on and on, trashing and exaggerating about the kind of kids I went to school with (reminder: I’m allowed), but what I’m getting at is I DON’T WANT TO TEACH TEXAS KIDS, I WANT TO TEACH HAWAII KIDS…BUT IN TEXAS.

Sigh.

Will I be facing a major culture shock? It’s kind of ironic, I realize. I was born and raised in the area, I’m obviously super familiar with the Hispanic culture. But teaching is a different story. I’ve finally reached a point where I feel qualified to teach Hawaiian mythology and “local, Pidgin kine poetry”. I feel comfortable discussing and analyzing the differences and similarities of Asian cultures. I’ve finally mastered the stereotypes, resentments, and unspoken bonds between these groups here—it’s been incredibly hard.

So will my teaching suffer?

Will it be like my first year all over again?

What about my ELL kids? Will I know how to accommodate them? Is it the same?

I know that this entire blog is probably a huge freak-out, completely uncalled for and unnecessary. I’ll adapt, I’ll be fine, and my memory about how horrible all the kids were is probably extremely blurry and skewed. Let’s be real, I only remember one knife fight in my 13 years of schooling.

Every culture is unique, and I know how important it is to learn about my students’ cultures and incorporate them into my work, but does every culture require some sort of special, secret teaching skill? No, of course not. Teaching with love, passion, and curiosity is across the board—that’s all I need…which is good, because sometimes I feel like that’s all I have to offer as a teacher.

Hopefully, my Mexican kids will love me just as much as my little mixed plate loco mocos do here. Hopefully they won’t judge me based on the fact that my Spanish is only at an intermediate level (only when I’m drunk). At least I know all the bad words, that’ll be helpful.

I will adapt and I will do it FAST, just like I did here. I still remember the first time I tried poke and spam musubi, thinking they looked like the most disgusting things I’d ever seen. Look at me now—using chop sticks like a pro and giving directions like a local.

I still say flip-flops, not slippahs. Not budging on that one.

I’ll miss this place and I’ll miss these people so much. I don’t think I’ll ever love my students more than I love these, my Hawaii babies, my keiki. But you never know. All I can do is try.

Ok Stupid

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My roommates think I should write a book about online dating. There’s no way that’s ever happening because I’d have to go back into the danger zone; I’d have to turn around and walk straight back into the fiery Hell that is Bokay Poopid. I’ve only tried it out for about 5 months in total—over the course of the last year and a half. I disabled it multiple times—either right after deciding to date/semi-date someone or right after receiving a disgusting “last straw” message (see Dating on an Island). To write an actual novel, I’d have to go on MANY more dates and I think I’d also have to try it out in other cities and on other websites for that matter. Ha!

Although I’ve decided that another blog is the only attention I will ever give this subject, I have to let you in on the possible book titles that were thrown around:

Ok Stupid

Online Dating: The Weird, The Ugly, and The Weird AND Ugly

My Online Dating Experience: A Story of Humor and Disgust

I have to copyright these because you never know—maybe I’ll fall back into the dark, deep pit again one day. But for now, let me just fill you in on a few memorable events that have occurred between the blog I wrote a year ago and now.

  1. Harmless lunch at my favorite Thai place? Yes, until my date tells me that he couldn’t decide whether to put straight or bi on his profile. “But I decided I do prefer girls. For example, I’m very attracted to you.” Oh, cool. When I said no thanks to that bedazzling gentleman caller, he offered his roommate’s online username. I passed on that as well.
  2. Received a message that said, “You seem like you have brains, which is great because I’m somewhat of a zombie when it comes to women. Brainssss nom nom nom!” Could’ve been cute and acceptable, especially since I dig The Walking Dead, a lot. But the thing was, he looked like a zombie. One of those rotting, half-eaten, reallllllmessedup zombies. I think he actually wanted to eat me—nonsexual; straight-up Hannibal Lecter style.
  3. “Dated” a guy for a bit who literally lived off of chicken fingers. He hated all vegetables, ALL ethnic foods of any kind, and he had a very serious ginger allergy. I fucking LIVE for vegetables, ethnic foods, and ginger. We could never go anywhere but Chili’s and I realized we’d never last long. Relationships are built on dinners, duh. We were food enemies. I also thought on multiple occasions that I was going to kill him. He’d told me that his ex kissed him once, after she’d just eaten ginger pork. He broke out into hives and had to epi-pen the hell out of himself. I grate ginger into a lot of meals that I cook. He’d come over, I’d forget, start kissing him, realize that I might be killing him, and start freaking out. Like I said, this was a solid failure of a fling. If you can’t take me to a sushi joint OR kiss me after I’VE been to a sushi joint, you don’t deserve to be in my life. He also once told me that we had a lot of charisma. He meant chemistry. He was real pretty. Plus, he accidentally took my roommate’s DVD and now, months later, keeps saying he’ll bring it by but never does. I did, however, get a text the other day that simply said, “Shower :)”… I replied, “Ok, cool. So about that DVD…” and then, a day later, he said his phone was “being weird”… Like I said, he was real pretty.
  4. One guy had real promise. He took me to a fantastic seafood restaurant on the water, he was educated, funny, AND beautiful. Something has to be wrong, right? Well, he kept dropping hints/making jokes that he was a stripper. When pressed, he said he had no job—that he’d saved enough money from bartending to now just live in the richest part of town and finish school. Right. On closer examination, he did look an awful lot like the guys in Magic Mike.
  5. After I’d deleted my profile, one guy googled me and found this blog, commenting on a few posts and asking me out. Hi Randy!
  6. Last, but certainly not least, I met up with a guy named Tidus. I knew this name sounded a little too much like The Little Mermaid’s dad. Turns out, it was his “stage name.” He was working extra hard to be discharged from the Navy so he could go make it big in L.A. First of all, do you think it’s admirable to lie to your employer about your mental state just so you can be a captain’s golf caddy for a few months before you’re quietly let go, years before your signed contract? There’s only one word for that: pathetic. Secondly, yes, he can sing (of course he brought his guitar), but there is no way he will ever “make it big” with an attitude/ridiculous name like that. Plus, he was about 5 feet tall, with shoes, on a slight incline. Even if you reach Beiber status, I will never buy your CD, ALBERT! Oh man, what if he does make it big…and sues me for this blog? Changing the real name now. Is that enough? I can’t change Tidus, because of the whole Little Mermaid joke, that was classic. This is tough.

If you’re ever bored out of your mind, desperate and lonely, live on a manless land (Iceland or Hawaii, everywhere else has men, go find them!) and even just a creepy, erotic message would make you feel better, go online.

If you ever want to take this book idea and run with it (although I’m sure there are a ton just like it…let me check Amazon real quick…yup, a ton), go online.

But if you have the slightest chance of meeting someone halfway decent—without the aid of awkward multiple choice question tests, analyzing photos, checking for grammar/spelling mistakes before you even know their middle name—just don’t go online.

Ok, Stupid?

I Heard This Place is Hard to Leave

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I’ve officially applied for three different school districts in the Austin area. I doubt I’ll get a job offer since I currently do not have my license, masters, nor have I taken the Texas required tests (yay for being from a state that has to create its own EVERYTHING).

But maybe that’s ok, to stay in Hawaii a little longer? Where I have a for sure job, a for sure house…ok that’s all that I have for sure. And a gym membership, I have that. And lots of shit, including my car, which I don’t want to even think about boxing or shipping or selling or throwing away…

What the hell is wrong with me?

I have these moments where I want nothing more than to stay here, in the sunshine. My skin is smiling, constantly tan. I buy random fruits just because you can’t get them on the mainland. My car is filled with sand. I drive past those trees on Kam that are bursting with the yellowest of yellow flowers and I think, “Jesus there’s nowhere more beautiful.” I appreciate never being cold. I cherish the fact that I can jump in the ocean or climb a mountain at any moment if I so choose.

But then I remember how far away I am from my family, from my best friend, from decent Mexican food, and from date-worthy men (at least, I’m guessing they’re all in Austin). I remember what it feels like in the fall, the first time you can bring the boots out from the back corner of your closet. I remember floating the river and 6th Street and The Square and Sonic Happy Hour and the baby cousin I haven’t met yet. I remember my dog, Mardi, and the deer and the quiet, country sound that is so different than the quiet sea.

But then I remember the scorpions, spiders, mosquitoes, humidity, and belt-buckled rednecks who call people fags and give our entire state a bad rep.

I realize that I’ll be surrounded by not just good memories, but all the bad ones too. You never know who you’ll see at HEB, right? The guy who completely pulverized your heart, the old friend who helped him do it, the creep who you filed sexual harassment charges against at your first real job, the boss who cared more about protecting the company’s name than protecting you, the father who you might not even recognize, but you do because he looks like you.

Here I’m safe from those people, or those kind of people. There are no extremes here, which is of course a con as well because that means there are no greats—family, friends, loves. But at least there are no extreme enemies? There are a few people who I’d prefer not to see downtown, but maybe one day I will and I’ll either run away or have an awkward, fake conversation. There’s a guy who I kind of, sort of fell for and then he promptly exchanged his boyfriend ticket for a cleaner, larger font acquaintance ticket. There are a lot of grab-bag pals, lots of pebbles, no rocks. Hawaii’s not a hideaway though, or a refuge—if anything, it’s a time capsule that forces you to dwell and make decisions and move on or hold on. But it also feels like a giant pause button of a rock.

Anyway.

I flip-flop pretty regularly. I love it here—I love the keiki, I love the beach, I love that I can get authentic Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Indian food on any part of the island. I love the aloha and the rainbows and the bright birds and I can’t stand the thought of seeing the Gulf again after I’ve seen the blueness of these waters.

But nothing beats home, brown waves and all. I forget what it’s like for people to not think it’s weird when I say “y’all” or “fixin’ to” or “coke” when I mean soda. I don’t like being so far away from my mom’s embrace, my dad’s wisdom, or my best friend’s dance moves. I don’t like being isolated in the middle of the Pacific, thousands of miles and dollars away from anyone or anything. I don’t like that no one ever stays here. You’re either here for the military, college, or the experience—all transient, all temporary. Half my fellow teachers or more will be packing their bags in May. Slowly, the numbers will dwindle and, most likely, I’ll have zero friends on Oahu by 2015.

I miss the comfort, the familiarity. But can I move back without a job? Surely, no. I’d go crazy without a teaching job, I’d go crazy if I had to resort to subbing or retail or living with my parents or taking another cubicle life-sucking 9 to 5.

So what to do? Besides wait. And dream about bringing everything and everyone that I love here, spreading them all over the islands. I heard this place is hard to leave. It’s true. I’d rather stay and create my own utopia. Some family on Maui, some friends on Kauai, or a new addition to the chain, a mini Texas island popping up above Oahu, holding everything I miss, just a ferry ride away. I crawl in bed mapping it all out.

Mom and Dad can have a house in Kailua, Johanna can live with me, Kristian would be in Kapolei, Ari and Anthony would live in a Chinatown apartment, Anne’s place would be in Haleiwa, Grandma and Aunt Debbie would live in Aiea, Tara in Lanikai, Rachel would have a studio in Waikiki, Laura and Kyle will share some North Shore shack…

…and then I fall asleep.

Acceptable Tourist Traps

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5 Oahu Tourist Spots that are Worth a Visit

Living in Hawaii has its ups and downs, just like any other area. One major con? The tourists. They crowd beaches, cause traffic, and definitely overdo the floral print. Honeymooners are easy to spot and hard to avoid during peak season. These bright-eyed people snapping photos of every plant and sign flock to a few standard “tourist spots” on Oahu and I have to admit, I completely understand why. These are the spots that locals would love to stay away from, but most can’t—they’re just too beautiful or amazing or fun or all of the above.

When friends or family or strangers on the plane visit Hawaii, I always recommend hitting up the lesser-known locations on the island. The beaches  are less crowded and more beautiful, the restaurants are less expensive and more authentic, and the bars are filled with great people and great drinks instead of coconut bras and grass skirts. However, these five major tourist spots are irresistible—for anyone! My friends and I, and other locals as well, gladly surf through waves of sunburnt travelers for another experience at one of these attractions.

Turtle Beach: One of the first stops along North Shore, Laniakea Beach is extremely unique because multiple Hawaiian green turtles can usually be seen casually basking on the shore or swimming in the calm waves. The huge turtles, or honu, aren’t shy at all here. However, this became a problem when some people didn’t treat the creatures with respect, causing a group to band together to protect the turtles all day, every day. The Honu Guardians place red rope around the turtles so that people won’t disturb them. They also know everything about the honu, and happily dole out interesting facts and pamphlets to visitors. I was blown away to learn that the green turtles swim 500 miles to lay their eggs on another island—and then the newborns find their way to Laniakea Beach and the process starts all over. It’s an amazing spot on Oahu that offers an incredible up-close interaction with an animal that is absolutely fascinating.

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Diamond Head: To call Diamond Head a hike is a bit of a stretch. There are plenty of real hikes on the island, and this one is more of a “trail” in comparison. But that’s one reason why so many people love it—it’s easy and the view is an exceptional pay-off for the little amount of physical exertion applied. The entire path is paved, some of which consists of actual staircases. You’ll definitely break a sweat, but more so because of the sun beating down upon you. The breathtaking view is hidden until you reach the very top (which only takes about 45 minutes at a normal pace). It’s been bustling with all kinds of people every time I’ve been, but it’s worth it—nice work out, fantastic weather, and a gorgeous view of downtown Honolulu wrapping around the ocean.

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Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: You haven’t had shrimp until you’ve had this $13 plate of pure heaven. And yes, it’s out of a truck. Tucked in Haleiwa, a small town in North Shore, this truck attracts an eclectic mix of people every day. I’ve never been and not had to stand in a line. But the buttery, garlic-filled platter of a dozen shrimp and two scoops of rice is well, well worth the wait.

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Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice: Open since 1951, Matsumoto’s sells one hell of a shaved ice. You can opt for something common, like coconut or strawberry, or you can explore some local flavors like lilikoi or li hing mui. Even the small size is huge, but you won’t have a problem finishing your frozen treat. Like everything on this list, be prepared to wait in a crazy line. But again—worth it. Make sure to pay an extra 25 cents for a plastic holder, which catches any drips or spills—you won’t want to waste one drop!

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Hanauma Bay: The best snorkeling that I’ve found on the island yet. Unfortunately, you do have to pay to get in to this nature reserve area, and again with the lines and crowds, but the wildlife in the bay is a sight you can’t miss. The reef offers some of the most beautiful fish species, turtles, and coral on the island. Plus, the bay is calm and safe, and a great beach area to just relax on after you snorkel.

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So there you go—five spots on Oahu that are super touristy, but also can’t help but attract locals like myself as well. It’s hard to avoid any parts of the island, honestly, because it is just as beautiful as the postcards. I still say that you’ll have a much better trip if you experience the lesser-known spots, like Stairway to Heaven, but these five sites have to be crossed off of your list as well.