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'Aloha and mahalo': Hawaiian culture and dances, along with soldiers' sacrifice, leave lasting impression

HONOLULU, Hawaii - The opportunity of a lifetime: a trip to Hawaii, 4,400 miles from the mundane life of Thomson. I should've been excited, right? No. I was completely terrified, with tears in my eyes as I sadly waved goodbye to my fiance from the bus.

I was leaving everything I'd ever known, with my family, my best friends and the love of my life back in Georgia. No one I was close to was going to be there to catch me, and I was scared. Not to mention the fact that I'm horrified of planes, oceans and ships. It was going to be an interesting trip.

Boarding the plane, I knew we would have to fly over water for a very long time. Two of my fears in one very long plane ride were not something to look forward to, but I sucked it up and tried to be as positive as possible.

I refused to look out the window or to even acknowledge that we were in the air until we were very near Hawaii. I peeked out of the window nervously, and that was when I saw the islands. They took my breath away. To experience one of the most gorgeous creations on earth from the sky is a memory that will never leave my mind.

My first step on Hawaiian soil was all it took to know that I was in a very different place. Everything was beautiful and inviting. And most importantly, everything was so warm, which was a very nice change from the December weather of Georgia.

We received our first taste of culture on the bus ride to our hotel. Every piece of architecture, every road sign, every plant that decorated the Hawaiian streets was tied into the culture. It seemed as if nothing was placed anywhere by mistake. Everyone and everything in Hawaii is interconnected, and as soon as we came to Hawaii, we began to feel included in that same mindset.

On our second day on the island, we were able to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. I suspected that this would prove to be the most memorable experience of the trip, and it did come very close. The Thomson auxiliary was given the opportunity to learn the hula. Of course, I thought it would be easy, and that I might even be a little bored learning something like this after marching such a difficult show this past year. I was very wrong.

The hula was a lot more challenging than I think a lot of us were ready for. Just as everything else in Hawaii, this dance was all connected to the culture. Every movement helped to tell a story. It was beautiful, and something I have performed four times since I've been home because I am so eager to share this experience with those close to me.

The final day of the trip will be the part of Hawaii that I will hold in my heart and take with me until the day I die. Bulldog Brigade Director Jessie Morlan attempted to prepare us, to make us understand all that we would be playing for and who we were honoring during this performance. He tried, but nothing could have prepared us for what we all experienced.

From the youngest to the oldest, a somber mood fell on us all as we entered the USS Arizona Memorial. Not a word was uttered, and the only sounds made by those from Thomson were the sobs of understanding and clarification of our purpose on that very important day.

Along with everyone else who played that day, I grew a little. Suddenly, it didn't matter that I was on a ship; there were things much more important to be dealt with.

During this trip, I suffered from the flu, an ankle injury, and the worst homesickness I've ever experienced, but because of that last day and all of the honor that the Thomson High School Band can bring back to our sleepy little town, every moment was worth it.

Because of Hawaii, I have new friends, a new pride for my country, and a new respect for nature. While we were in Hawaii, the natives all called us cousins because we are all related.

So to all of my cousins in Thomson, aloha and mahalo for allowing me to share my experiences with you.

Web posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007

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