One Pacific morning in August 1972, I arrived at the East West Center (EWC) in Honolulu on the island of O'ahu with my University of Hawaii admission letter, an overstuffed suitcase and two dollars. I had spent the rest of eight dollars allowed for travel abroad at the Delhi Airport. O'ahu, the island I call home, means "gathering place" in Hawaiian. The EWC welcomed students and scholars from Asia and the Pacific for intercultural exchange. Hawaii was the ideal place for East meeting West. The girl at the front desk with ground-kissing hair could be Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Caucasian or Hawaiian or any combination thereof. She welcomed me with a warm 'Aloha'.
After unpacking and settling in I wondered towards the cafeteria in Jefferson Hall, the administration building. To get there, I walked through a Japanese garden with a stream emptying in a pond, where multi-hued koa fish frolicked. A gentle tropical breeze swayed the palm trees. The panorama was serene, almost spiritual calming my stresses from the last few days of facing the unknown. I walked a few steps up the stair to reach the main hall. It buzzed with activities: someone playing piano, groups huddled to talk eagerly, English permeating through a multitude of accents, people pouring over new papers from East and West that lined a wall. I sat down on a sofa and took in my surroundings - the mail room, a visitors' center, and a kiosk that read "Friends of East West Center." My eyes panned across to a life-size relief mural on the wall portraying great thinkers of the twentieth century. I recognized Tagore, the Indian Nobel laureate, poet and educationist. At that moment I realized that I was part of a united world and felt grateful to my host country USA.