Deb and I arrived on O'ahu on the evening of the 22nd to begin a major new phase of our life together. Earlier in the year I was accepted to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa to pursue a graduate degree in Nutrition. My research emphasis will most certainly be Pacific islanders' nutrition- and lifestyle-related health issues. You might be wondering whether we'll remain permanently in the islands. The answer to that depends largely on what job offers come at the end of my program--something that we just cannot foresee at this time. We will go wherever we feel that the Lord wants us to go.
As you may have suspected, Hawaii is beautiful. By the light of our first Hawaiian sunrise I was able to identify for Deb a number of species of tropical flora: bananas, coconut palm, papaya, etc., plants that I was familiar with during my mission to Samoa and American Samoa. The tradewinds keep the warm, humid air from being stifling. I didn't miss the winter while in Samoa, I don't think I'll miss it here, either.
Honolulu, at 370,000+ people, is the largest city that I have ever lived in. The same is true for Deb, though she grew up near Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it is about as populous as Honolulu. Of course there are drawbacks to urban life, but we are hoping that we can quickly adjust.
Until we sign an apartment contract, our dear friends, Josh and Julie K, are generously hosting us. Josh is local and he and Julie have been here together for the last three years, so they are seasoned veterans on how to get by in Hawaii. So far we've applied to four apartments and have been accepted at two of them. We're going to take the one that puts us in the same complex as Josh and Julie.
Since our focus is on settling in, we haven't done much by way of tourism, though we did visit the National Cemetery of the Pacific, which is a "memorial to those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces." The cemetery grounds were both solemn and beautiful, filled as they were with many different tropical flowers and trees. The cemetery is huge, making it a humbling experience to think that so many have sacrificed so much to ensure the continuance of our precious liberties as established and vouchsafed in the United States Constitution.
On Sunday we went with Josh and Julie to the Lanakila Ward (congregation) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We felt instantly welcome, though we were little more than complete strangers. The powerful sense of community amongst fellow Mormons is one of the reasons I am grateful to be a member of the Church. In addition to making us feel welcome at their Sabbath services, some of the ward members offered leads to apartments and jobs.
On Monday, we met again with some of the young couples and their children from the ward for a group family night and potluck dinner. Again, as on Sunday, Deb and I were made to feel very welcome as possible new additions to the Lanakila Ward. The ward members are so very diverse: there are many different cultural backgrounds represented, yet the unity in Christ is remarkable.