IMR: 1998: August: 17 -- Monday, 12:35 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
Have I mentioned lately how amazing Katie is?

Only yesterday I was gushing about how she's already standing up, and four hours later she floored Jen and I by babbling.

I know I've been saying she's been babbling for a long time now, but that's just for lack of a better word to describe the sounds she'd been making. But as of last night, she's really, truly babbling -- experimenting with consonants, manipulating her mouth and lips while making sounds.

Okay, so she only goes "ba," but still... Wow!

What's more, Nate and Jaimee called to wish Jen a belated Happy Birthday, so they were among the first people to hear Katie going to town with her new trick. "Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba bah," she'd say, "Ba bah!"

I can tell she loves doing it. No doubt in a few months we'll be going nuts trying to get her to stop. but for now while it's new, Jen and I just sigh and melt and kiss and nuzzle her every time.

In hindsight, I can see how she puzzled it out. (She's a genius, I tell you!) For a while now, Jen has been making "ba ba ba" noises at her, just to make her smile. But more recently, Katie started sticking her hand into Jen's mouth while she did it, as if to see how it's done. Indeed, she'd been grabbing my lower lip too when I would lean close and chatter at her.

And just this week, I started tapping my palm over her mouth whenever she started going "aaaaaaaaaaaaah, aaaaaaaaaaaaaah, aaaaaaaaaaah," causing her voice to make the sound little brats make when they play the indians in 'Cowboys & Indians.' She was intrigued, and would keep going "aaaaaaaah" just to her it turned into "wa ba va wa wa ba va."

I swear it was so cute I laughed myself right off the side of the bed.

So, putting all this together, she figured out that she can make the same sharp sounds all by herself, just by opening and closing her mouth.

Since she's starting with "ba," it's anyone's guess as to whether she'll find "ma" or "da" first. I suspect the former is easier, but of course I'm hoping for the latter. Even though she won't attach any sounds to actual people or objects for another three months or so, I know I'm still going to faint the first time I hear "dada."

After exhausting all the infant entertainment options here at home, Katie and I took another whirlwind stroller tour of Ala Moana yesterday afternoon. Digital camera in hand, I continued my neurotic pet project of documenting the progress of the mall's multi-million dollar expansion.

For the first time, I ventured over to the Preview Center, tucked in the corner of the third floor above centerstage. It housed various models, displays and maps outlining how "Hawaii's Center" would greet the new millenium. Nieman Marcus, said the well-groomed attendant, would open next month. The new third (and fourth?) floor of mall would be finished by December of 1999.

But despite the huge scale of the current expansion, it wasn't the centerpiece of the Preview Center. Their new pride and joy, slated for completion in 2001, is a huge, extravagant new complex next door.

And I mean huge. In addition to more stores and a "world class" selection of restaurants, this thing includes a 300-room hotel, dozens of ballrooms and conference rooms, and perhaps two dozen movie screens.

Now that's ambitious.

[ Future Site ]It's going to be built on Kapi`olani Boulevard, replacing a bus depot and a seedy retail complex that presently houses Taiyo Noodles and a handful of lounges and karaoke bars. It's going to stretch from the Ala Moana Building all the way down to the shiny blue Pacific Center, and tower at least thirty stories high.

Design wise, it looks like a cross between the nearby Nauru Tower and the shiny new Hawai`i Convention Center down the street. Lots of white paint, blue glass, and dramatic, sweeping curves. It's going to look pretty out of place... until, of course, all the neighboring parcels are inevitably razed and redeveloped.

Parking? No problem. They're going to add three more levels of parking to Ala Moana, mauka of Liberty House (making a grand total of six floors).

It's only so obvious they're banking on the convention center to bring in the warm bodies; people looking for a convenient place to stay that's an elevator ride away from fine dining and entertainment. But judging by the heavy emphasis on public input, no doubt they're also hoping to regain the good favor of local residents, who consider Ala Moana as a haven for rich tourists.

"Coming soon," cooed the attendant, smiling down at Katie. "You're going to love shopping there."


I had never bought a newspaper on impulse, based solely on the top-half of the front page -- the above-the-fold news hooks visible through the window of a sidewalk machine. Until last week.

The lead headline on the Tuesday edition of the Star-Bulletin declared, "UN Report: Annexation could be declared invalid"

Well if that ain't worth a couple of quarters, I don't know what is.

See, things all over the state had already been simmering, what with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Hawaii's annexation making national headlines. We had a march on Washington, a circle-island procession here in Honolulu, and all sorts of observances on every island.

And as if to top everything off perfectly, it seems a nine-year United Nations study just recently found reason to believe Hawaii's annexation was an illegal act, the aggressive colonization of indigenous people by a foreign power.

Of course, any island student knows it was illegal, but the U.S. government was certainly in no hurry to acknowledge that.

Until a quiet little resolution was issued by President Clinton five years ago, that is. In it, Clinton essentially apologized for the overthrow, which, to the U.N., is as close to an admission of wrongdoing as you can get.

"The 1897 treaty of annexation between the United States and Hawaii appears as an unequal treaty that could be declared invalid on those grounds, according to international law of the times," writes chairman Miguel Martinez.

So, the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Populations is recommending that Hawai`i be added to a select list of other modern-day colonies (aka "Non-Self Governing Territories"), which would open the door to decolonization efforts and a sweeping plebiscite.

(Hawaii was on the list before, but taken off in 1959 with statehood.)

Of course, the report has a long way to go before carrying any weight. It's got to pass through the U.N. Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, then the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, before finally reaching the U.N. General Assembly. And whether or not the report is finally endorsed is anyone's guess.

But I still think this is a very significant development. Unlike the "Aloha March" (which made for good art, with hula dancers performing in front of the White House), the report didn't register on the national mediameter. But I have a feeling they'll be looking it up a few years down the road, when Big Things start to happen.

I know the majority of people in the islands look at sovereignty activists and just shake their heads. They dismiss the activists as misguided extremists, snicker at their ceremonial dress, and lampoon their leaders. I know they do, because I used to be one of them.

But I know better now. I'm no fan of Haunani-Kay Trask, but now I'm very much in support of much of what sovereignty groups are fighting for. I'm enlightened enough to know there's some serious issues that have to be addressed -- that the debate won't just go away. And I know that I, specifically, have to keep informed, and perhaps even get involved one day, if it comes to that.

I know better in part because of friends like Nate. As a mainland-born haole, he's about as un-Hawaiian as you can get, but he still made a spiritual connection to the `aina and became a true kama`aina before I -- part Hawaiian, born and raised -- ever did. If he can take the Hawaiian way to heart, if he can come to tears when contemplating the decimation of the Hawaiian race, than I sure as hell should.

Now, unjust as it is, I seriously doubt native Hawaiians will regain total control of these islands. And I'm sure they wouldn't simply throw everyone else out even if they did. But I've catalogued my strand of DNA and taken the requisite Hawaiian classes, just in case.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 17 August 1998 · Last Modified: 20 August 1998