Kailua is a bedroom community on the windward side of Oahu. It’s not touristy (although nearby Lanikai Beach is considered to be among the world’s best), and the residents go about life well insulated from the attractions of Waikiki and the clutter of Downtown Honolulu, which are “over the hill” from the Windward communities — a 40-minuute drive at rush hour.
Kailua is where President-elect Barack Obama is staying during his family’s Christmas vacation. Although his accommodations can hardly be considered “modest” (It’s a $7 million estate on the ocean), his vacationing lifestyle is notably ordinary. He has, indeed, been spending the bulk of his time with his family and visiting with old friends. Throughout his stay, Obama has kept his profile low, although he has moved freely though the community — visiting with his family the Sea Life Park attraction and stopping at a local shopping center for a little shave ice . He spent an hour or so with Marines at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Christmas night but he hasn’t held any public rallies or spoken to any groups. No public events of any kind are scheduled.
Mornings (except Christmas) he has worked out at the Marine Corps Base and gone golfing with friends from Punahou School and visiting from Chicago. He golfs at local Windward courses, eschewing the exclusive and the famous courses on the island such as Waialae or Ko Olina.
Local officials are gushing. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said,
I’ve been very pleased and couldn’t be happier that the president-elect chose to spend so much time in the Islands. This is a significant part of his upbringing, and it reaffirms his affection and his ties to this place.
And Governor Linda Lingle said,
Hawaii residents are proud of President-elect Obama’s local roots and the higher profile his election has afforded our state. The president-elect faces many challenges in the coming weeks and months, and the people of Hawaii are proud that the Islands can provide him with an environment in which he feels comfortable and at home as he prepares to take office.
Military personnel are particularly pleased with the president-elect’s demeanor and approachability.
During two earlier visits to Oahu this year, he didn’t have any public appearances that involved greeting service members, but this time Obama is connecting with them. On December. 21, his very first morning here, he left the gym at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and offered a salute to a couple of Marines in uniform standing nearby. He has returned to the base to work out almost every day since. Word spread quickly around the base that Obama shows up almost every day between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. Secret Service agents in aloha shirts arrive early and start searching people in the area, then the crowd seems to grow with each passing minute. Inside the gym, people tend to respect Obama’s workouts, but they aren’t shy otherwise about asking for photos or trying to shake his hand.
On Christmas, Obama went to the hall where mostly single Marines and sailors had gathered for a meal of ham, turkey and mashed potatoes. I just wanted to say “Hi” he said, moving among the tables. A lot of the marines and sailors stood to greet him as he thanked them for their military service. He then returned to the rented beachside compound for a Christmas meal of turkey and ham.
For the record, here’s a typical vacation-day wardrobe for the president-elect: sunglasses, a white shirt, khaki shorts, white and brown golf shoes, and a red baseball cap emblazoned with the City and County of Honolulu’s Ocean Safety logo.
Ho-hum. Just another mainland vacationer. As we say, “Ain’ no beeg t’ing.”
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President-elect Obama made a point of stopping for some shave ice at a local shopping center near his vacation residence. Shave ice is a year-round treat all local residents grow up with in the islands, and a treat they dearly miss when they’re away for any length of time.
The summer months, wherever you live, often bring stands that offer snowcones, snowballs, icies or some other form of crushed ice over which flavored syrups are poured. In most cases, the syrups drain quickly to the bottom of the conical container where they can be slurped up through a straw before the ice itself is attacked with a plastic or wooden spoon.
Hawaiian shave ice is a little different, and we who live here think they’re a lot better. With special ice shaving machines, ice blocks are shaved to a very fine consistency that results in a light and fluffy product. The syrups — there are countless exotic tropical fruit flavors and even root beer and bubblegum — are formulated specifically for shave ice. When they’re combined with the finely shaved ice they don’t drain to the bottom of the cup; they remain suspended. A scoop of vanilla ice cream (and optional Azuki beans, a Hawaiian tradition) may be added to the bottom of the cup before the shaved ice. It all blends when the shaved ice and syrup melts! Children especially go for rainbow shave ice, which is usually a combination of strawberry, orange and vanilla (blue), or three other colorful flavors.