Engaged on Oahu by Saul Schwartz

Photography by Saul Schwartz

On the evening of our first night in Hawaii, after a brief struggle, I found a secluded spot on Waikiki beach to propose to Fern.  This took place while we were forcing ourselves to adjust to the six hour time difference from our Washington, DC area home.  Writing out my ten line proposal in advance proved to be good foresight.  I didn’t fumble though carefully chosen words even though my foggy brain was suffering from jet lag.

Our trip began with a lovely dinner at a beachfront restaurant facing the wide white sand beach looking toward Diamond Head.  We shared our first fruity mai tais in the Hawaiian Village.  Starving since there was no food on our flight from Arizona, we hungrily feasted on grilled mahi mahi sandwiches while dining al fresco.  The fish was substantial, meaty and did not taste oily or fishy.  During the meal, watching throngs of tourists and locals walking along the beach on a pleasantly warm night, I scanned the adjoining high-rise hotels to find a private place for a memorable moment.

Underneath gently swaying palms, we then strolled out to the Pacific Ocean to watch the force of the waves and feel the seventy degree ocean temperature with our feet and hands.  I then scouted an artificially lit pole where I was able to retrieve my written proposal and read it with passion to Fern.  After she said yes, I took the sparkling ring we had picked out together and placed it on her finger.  After one year of dating, we were fiancées.


Shortly after Fern and I met at a widow/widowers group she told me that Hawaii was on her bucket list of places to see. Our trip was planned to overlap with the anniversary of our first date in April of 2014.

This was my third trip to Oahu; it was Fern’s first.  Since it had been ten years since my last trip, I really did not remember how much Oahu is an island of contrasts.  After verifying that Tokyo was one thousand miles closer to Honolulu than Washington, we then realized why Waikiki streamed with at least as many Japanese tourists as from the American mainland.

In the mornings, I jogged by the large high-rise, high-end resort hotels and the wide streets lined with glitzy retail stores.  The paved path aligned with Waikiki beach for about half of my jog, and the rest of the time I ran by  designer brand retailers, surf clothing stores and restaurants along the very commercial Kuhio Avenue, the main street.

Our excursions on the north shore of Oahu were eye-opening.  One evening we ate on picnic benches eating shrimp and scoops of rice from one of the food trucks.  The shrimp was tasty but unpeeled and very messy to eat.   As I wandered to the rest room behind the truck, I walked by a large group of feral cats and run down shacks that stood less than one mile from stunning ocean front houses.


On the north shore we made our way to the Polynesian Cultural Center and spent several hours wandering among the six villages featuring the island nations of the South Pacific and Hawaii. The highlights included a canoe tour through the lagoon and the canoe pageant.  In the pageant, each island featured music with colorful, traditional costumes worn by the dancers who performed atop the canoes.  Ironically we learned that the performers were actually students from nearby Brigham Young’s Hawaii campus.  In many situations, students live on one of the islands and working at the cultural center was part of their student experience.

In reflecting on Oahu, I think of one of my favorite Yogi Berra quotes.  “Nobody goes there anymore.  It’s too crowded.”  Certainly at times, we were delayed in Honolulu traffic and annoyed by the big city aspect of Oahu.  Indeed, our Honolulu airport experience was tense and we had to rush to make our flight out when we left the island.  But there were many more magical moments when as an engaged couple we could be alone, listening to the waves rolling and enjoying the serene beauty of the beach.   We may have been the only adult couple riding the Pineapple Express through the Dole Plantation, but the experience was surprisingly romantic as we kept ourselves warm and dry by huddling together during a tropical rainstorm.

Five nights on Oahu provided us with an overview of the islands’ highlights.

Our trip to Pearl Harbor gave us another study in contrasts, as we watched tourists from Japan and the American mainland stand side-by-side in somber reflection on the terrifying destruction inflicted. While touring the Arizona memorial, we learned that servicemen and women who survived the sinking of the battleship were entombed with their fallen comrades when they died years later.  Clearly that was the defining moment of their lives.

We flew from Honolulu to the Big Island, where we spent another five days.  The highlight there was the fiery orange lava flow in Volcano National Park.  The black rock prevalent throughout the Big Island reminded me of the lunar landings I had seen back when men landed on the moon!

Fern and I plan to travel to the other populated islands of Hawaii.  We’ll never forget the excitement of getting engaged on Oahu.