By Rich Figel
Program Alert: the new February episode of Career Changers TV premieres Sat., Feb. 2 on OC16 around 7PM -- time approximate because it's in between two high school soccer matches. If you want to DVR it, best to check our regular daytime slots by clicking here or checking the onscreen TV guide. Details about the show are also on the CCTV website.
This Sunday, if you're around Kapiolani Park before the Super Bowl parties, you might want to stop by the Tet Vietnam Honolulu festival (here's their link). It starts around 9-10 AM and continues until 5 PM. There will be authentic Vietnamese food, music, kung fu demonstrations and lion dances... plus informational exhibits, such as the 808HALT coalition booth to educate the public about human trafficking in Hawaii.
I've been part of that group for over a year, and produced videos that show the local impact. It has become the second largest international criminal activity -- after drug trafficking -- because people can be "reused" in the sex trade or for farm work and manual labor. While filming a segment about immigrant farm workers in Hawaii who were exploited, I learned that many were from Vietnam. So we've formed an alliance with members of the Vietnamese community to let them know that help is available to trafficking victims who may feel they have nowhere to go.
One of the best resources for immigrants in Hawaii is the Pacific Gateway Center, headed by Dr. Tin Myaing Thein. She just did a two-part interview on PBS Hawaii's Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox that was fascinating and inspiring... also, sad when she recounted how her older brother became one of Burma's "disappeared" dissidents. She talked about her friendship with Burmese activist Aung Sun Suu Kyi, dating back to when the two were in the same Girl Scouts troop. (Interesting to hear her explanation for why "Burma" is actually "Myanmar too!) You can catch it Sunday at 4 PM on PBS or watch it on the web by clicking here.
Although I've had the privilege of working with Dr. Myaing on the HALT project, and had interviewed her before about the PGC kitchen incubator in Kalihi (video link), I didn't really know her back story. All I can say is, wow... she is a remarkable person. And it's a great example of how immigrants add so much to America's culture. What she and the folks at PGC do is help other newcomers find their footing, and in many cases, start their own businesses. They foster and nurture the American Dream in ways a lot of U.S. citizens cannot appreciate because we take so much for granted. I find it ironic that many conservatives and Republicans like Mitt Romney want to eliminate things like PBS because they view it as "socialism" -- when in fact, TV programs like this one are testaments to the power of democracy and our free enterprise system.
Gosh, I meant to blog about my Big Island trip earlier this month and meeting Briar March, a filmmaker from New Zealand who was screening her documentary -- THERE ONCE WAS AN ISLAND -- at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai as part of the Waimea Ocean Film Festival, but I just haven't had time. So here's some quick thoughts and observations...
Like Oahu, tourism is up and most business owners I spoke to were optimistic. BTW, why did the Star-Advertiser and local TV news start calling it "Hawaii Island" instead of Big Island? To me, Big Island is more distinctive sounding. Were they worried they would offend the other smaller islands or insult people by insinuating those who live there are "big" as in fat?
It had been a couple of years since my wife and I last visited Kona, so we were sad to see that the Aloha Theater Angel Cafe had closed. That was one of our favorite lunch spots. Found a new place in that same area though that locals recommended: Anna's, which makes very good burgers. Speaking of which, when we went to the Four Seasons to see Briar's film, we had lunch there and I wound up ordering a pricey hamburger. Dumb move. I mean, it was good -- but why on earth did I order something that actually tastes better right off the grill at the beach or in someone's backyard? That Four Seasons was recently named top resort in some survey, and while everything about the place was first class, it just doesn't feel very local or Hawaiian to me. Nearly all of the workers we encountered were Mainland transplants -- very professional, very courteous, very young. But it's not like talking to the older shop owners in town or the aging hippie types up in Holualoa.
Anyhow, we spent some time hanging out with Briar and her boyfriend from Belgium. She told us a lot of interesting things related to her film project, which is about a small island in the South Pacific off Papua New Guinea that is in danger of being wiped out by rising sea levels. The native tribe of about 500 people face difficult choices for their future. Their arguments over whether to stay or go, rebuild close to the ocean or move inland, depend on God or the government for help, mirror the kind of debates we hear in our own country. One thing that is plainly evident though is the effect of sea walls hastening beach erosion -- something that property owners in Lanikai and Kahala Beach have been in denial about for a long time. Here's a link to Briar's movie website. Really well done documentary that is worth seeing if you get the chance!