Monday, December 28, 2015

The Joys of Turning a Vacation into a Learning Experience!

As a United States History teacher, anywhere that I go, whether I am just passing through or I stop for a few days, business or pleasure, is an opportunity for learning something that can enhance my knowledge of history and make me a better teacher.  It is one thing to read about something (which don't get me wrong, I love to read, currently working on Vietname by Stanley Karnow), but it is something completely different to experience something firsthand and see it with your own eyes.  The best vacation of my lifetime thus far, Oahu, has turned into an amazing opportunity to learn for so many (obvious) historical reasons.

While planning my trip to Hawai'i, the first thing that I said was "I am not going all the way to Hawai'i and missing out on the Pearl Harbor memorial and exhibits."  On Saturday, December 26, my lifelong wish to see this amazing memorial was brought to fruition.  My father and I got up early and left our vacation home at 5:50 AM to drive 40 minutes to Pearl Harbor to stand in line in the pouring rain for the opportunity to get tickets to see the USS Arizona Memorial.  There was no guarantee that we would be able to go.  Luckily, we got there early enough to snag tickets for the trip over to the memorial where so many brave men are entombed in the hull of the Battleship Arizona.  There were so many people there, but amazingly, it was nearly dead silent, a fitting tribute to those men.  To top it off, the rain kept coming off and on, and at one point, a rainbow appeared to come out of the memorial.  And upon my return from the Memorial, I met a gentleman that survived the attack on December 7, 1941.  While confined to a wheelchair and in declining health, this gentleman is 98 and a half years old (!!!) and loves to meet people and talk of his experiences.  I couldn't thank him enough for his service to our country!

After the visit to the Arizona, we decided to check out some of the other museums at Pearl Harbor.  Our choices were to see the USS Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, or the Pacific Aviation Museum.  With the limited time available for that day, we decided the the Missour was the way to go.  If you are unaware, the USS Missouri was the ship that docked in Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.  Not only was there a display of the documents and the location of the surrender on the ship, but you could also tour nearly the entire ship to see what it was like as a sailor on a battleship.   While we could have spent the entire day there, unfortunately, the time was short.  However, we got to see a great deal of the ship.  Just another thing that makes me proud to be an American.

I will be going back before I leave in a few days to see the Pearl Harbor Memorial in more detail (probably won't go over the the Arizona again, just need to see the museum on site).  I definitely need to see the Aviation Museum, and if there is time, the Bowfin.  I also have seen the Dole Plantation (funny how they didn't say much about the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy that allowed for the establishment of the plantation) and will be going to the Polynesian Cultural Center.   I knew this trip would be more than just relaxing on the beach, I just wish I had more time to see more of what this amazing place has to offer.  Oh, and the food has been ridiculous!  I could get used to rice for breakfast!

Until next time... may your day be as relaxing as my new friend's day!

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