Hit The Road
Bargain hunt in London has a twist
My parents once took my sister and me to Disneyland and my mom insisted that we go on the "It's a Small World" ride. We thought it was totally lame. Even my mom was disappointed. But that song stayed in my head for days, and now, every once in a while, those lyrics will begin going round and round in my brain like a never-ending carousel, and for good reason: It really is a small world.
A few weeks ago, I went to London again, to do some Christmas shopping and to see my host parents and my friends Ruth and Steve Dawson, who are both professors at the University of Hawaii. The Dawsons have the most amazing lives. They've lived in China and Germany, and they've traveled practically everywhere; but like me, they are totally infatuated with London and spend summers and now their fall semester sabbatical there. I love spending time with them because they are totally down-to-earth and perpetually excited by their latest London discoveries. They took me to tea in the café at the National Portrait Gallery, which overlooks Trafalgar Square, and to dinner at their new favorite pub called The Rising Sun (which was not Japanese in the least).
That Sunday, I took them to my favorite London hangout, Spitalfields Market, for an afternoon of shopping. The market has undergone a major facelift since I began going there five years ago. What was once a crumbling, vacant street that you would think twice about walking down has turned into a manicured promenade with boutiques and cafes. I don't like the new look very much, but I do still love the stalls, with all their handmade clothes and crafts.
I GET TOTALLY swept up in finding just the right things. This is probably why I have absolutely no recollection of anything but standing in a very crowded booth, attempting to pay for a purple shirt, when in reality something very unusual happened; something deserving of the "It's a Small World" theme song.
I got an e-mail the next day from a woman named Keri Tochiki, with whom I had gone to preschool at Mililani Baptist. She said that she had been reading this column and that she had to write because she now lives in London and thought she might have seen me at Spitalfields Market on Sunday.
"I swear I saw someone that looked just like you ... and I later slapped myself for not asking!" she wrote. "I know the likelihood is slim, but in any case I just wanted to say hello and hope that you are not completely and utterly put off by this message!"
We've been writing back and forth ever since, and will see each other this Christmas when we are both home, for a much less random meeting.
So no matter where you spend your Christmas, you should know that no matter where you are, you're probably not very far from someone else from Hawaii; and in each person, a little bit of Hawaii exists.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.