Breaking Through: The old man on Waikiki Beach

Breaking Through: The old man on Waikiki Beach

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Chapter 2

By the time, Journalist Keith Zhu is 18 years old, he decides to write a short serialized novel, Breaking Through, reflecting on his life experience. Zhu wants to show his background and his dream through this novel, the unique points of his life and also the depression he had on the road to achieving his goal. For Keith’s first chapter, read Chapter One: Road Trace .

Cayla Rivas | The Feather Online

Journalist Keith Zhu, ’18.

It was an ordinary miserable and magical dusk in Hawaii, as the sunset glow stretching the crevice between the distant cumulonimbus and the Pacific Ocean, tinting the hazy horizon fuchsia. Twilight spilled out, illuminating the rest cirrostratus to whitish gold. Fuchsia was the sky fire; gold was the hazy dusk, which backgrounded the atmosphere. The sky remained arctic blue mixed with light orchid purple, extending up to the endless cosmos.

Roaming the Waikiki Beach under the spreading sunshine, I sat down by a dugout canoe with my Swiss friend Brian, facing to the ocean. Brian was talented at music, he grabbed the Ukulele from his back, then strummed the chords of Rihanna’s Four Five Seconds. I sang along with the chords in that night of the faint sea breeze gentling my face and the waves lapping on the shoreline, orchestrated and embellished my singing melodiously.

Our play ended, I cheered for the beauty of life that I immersed. We both laughed to appreciate this gorgeous memory that we shared, maybe years later we would look back at this very moment, this ocean, this beach and this night.

“My mom died,” a man’s voice caught my attention, as I was gazing the clustered seagulls soaring and musing over a sense of happiness, I then turned my head to where the voice was from. An old man stood pine-straight with his arms folded, he did not look at us but gazed into the ocean. Bronze and aged skin indicated that he was Hawaiian descent.

“Oh, I am sorry for you,” I responded subconsciously as my brain was overwhelmed, wondering what he wanted to do, and why he told us that. “My mom died, I wanna sing a song,” the man said one more time, then turned his head and looked down to us. I gave him the Ukulele, he grabbed it without a “thanks,” then walked to the front of us.

Zhu Yunxi | The Feather Online

While visiting Waikiki, journalist Keith Zhu climbed the Diamond Head Volcano.

“Sir, have a seat,” I said. The old man went “Oh, thank you,” then sat down and faced to us, “just imagine if your mom dead…” “I am a musician here in Hawaii… I am gonna sing a famous song,” the old man looked at the guitar instead of us, as he started tuning the instrument. I didn’t quite remember the name of the song, just knew the name was composed of four words and the last word was “tears,” but the old man did not cry while singing like I expected.

I could not hear the old man’s voice since it was hoarse and only a whisper of sound escaped his lips. However, I could feel the sturdy spreading to me from his breath, it made me realized this old man was mature enough to control his emotions, and look forward. I remained silent and listened to his Ukulele play, along with the waves lapping on the shoreline.

Brian knew this song, so he sang along with the old man. I then moved closer to the old man, wondering if a sorrowful person would not be lonely if someone were beside him. I remember a couple of lines of lyrics that he sang when his voice was loud enough to be heard: “I will lie for you, I will die for you… I love you.” His eyes never wavered from the instrument, except for an occasional glance to the sea. A red wreath of hibiscus adorned around his neck, that seemed to be a dirge for his mother’s passing.

His eyes never wavered from the instrument, except for an occasional glance to the sea. I remember a couple lines of lyrics that he sang when his voice was loud enough to be heard: “I will lie for you, I will die for you… I love you.”

I gave him a hug after the old man finished his singing, Brian came up and shook his hand. I let Brian talked about Hawaiian music with the old man, they both revealed the homely smile of contentment on their faces, showing a degree of felicity. The old man then stood up and strummed the Ukulele again, sang another song for his daughter, a traditional Hawaiian song called Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

“Blue birds fly, and the dreams that you dreamed of, dreams really do come true ooh oh… I hear babies cry and I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than we’ll know and I think to myself. What a wonderful world.” – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Zhu Yunxi | The Feather Online

Zhu attended an English class for foreign exchange students while visiting Hawaii.

We watched the old man leave, I turned to my friend and said “We gave him a good night right?” We then headed homeward. I did not say a single word, wondering if I could linger a gossamer of mildness on the old man’s heart that could keep silent in the bustle of Waikiki.

The next day, conceitedly, I roamed with my other friends around Waikiki once again. I checked out the place where I met the old man as I was walking the same way as before. I liked walking on the beach with the waves lapping on the sands and making the melodious and sonorous sound. Along with the reflection of the starry sky on the shallow water, it supposed to be the time for me to mull over the miracle encounter that just happened yesterday.

I ruminate the last sentence the old man told us over and over again. On the Waikiki Beach, an old stranger feverishly told me “everybody could be all amazing one day.” That was an ordinary old man’s ordinary belief. This belief was secular as it reminded me of a wish that I made four months ago in my article Road Trace, in which I wrote “Not so, I am meant to be amazing” at the end.

I suddenly turned to my friends and told them the story of my miraculous encounter, and I muttered one more time: “We gave him a good night right?” The old man on the Waikiki Beach never told me his name or his age, but the wonder of the story was that we had a night enjoying each other’s music, and this stranger’s words reminding me of own myself: I have left a lot on the road I have trodden, more than just a gossamer-like trace. An epiphany suddenly flashed through my mind, the wish I wrote in Road Trace four months ago had already come true.

Now I wished the old man would make his dream come true one day, and I too wished his mother who was in the heaven would see how amazing her son is. I then looked around, I got beautiful friends with me walking on the great Waikiki, I was not alone, under the firmament.

I thought it should be the time to jump to the next step, to the dream, which is treated by the earthlings as a boorish topic. I then looked up to the firmament, asked my friend to turn on his speaker. I looked up to the sky not just the floor of the beach, as a line of the song Airplanes played, “Airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, I could really use a wish right now.” I muttered to myself, making a simple wish to one of those shooting airplanes which were shining like crystals: “I hope for a day in the future, where one of those airplanes is mine.”

Zhu Yunxi | The Feather Online

Zhu also skydived, scuba dived, swam with sharks and surfed during his two week trip to the state.

“I had this wildest dream which I had since I was 11,” I told my friends, then suddenly I realized that I am a very fortunate expresser. People have given me the confidence to express my wildest dream, and more is that people believe I could make it happen. As I remembered distinctly, when I first told her what I want to do in the future, the coordinator of my Spanish study-abroad programme extolled:

“If somebody else tells me that he wants to start an airline company in the future, I would tell him to stop daydreaming, be realistic. But seriously, for you, I just fell like you can definitely do it.”

What else could be better than “everybody believes in you?” I wondered “has my life been too good? How many peers could travel to 22 countries within three years? How many of my peers have experienced an encounter like mine of the Waikiki Beach? How many peers have friends from 19 countries all around the world?”

I wondered if I have been through too much for my age: How many high-school students could travel to 23 countries within three years? How many teens could ever experience a jeremiad that wreathed my feeling on Waikiki Beach? How many people have friends from 19 different countries?

However, just like what I acknowledged in my article, Road Trace. Besides appreciating my destiny, I more appreciated that I could guide myself to attain the untrammeled and cosmopolitan life I wanted, and I was having it. I lived with a sense of pride and my heart wide opened. 

This author can be reached via email and Twitter.

For more articles, read Campus soccer teams place in annual tournament. For more columns, read View from the outside: Nick LeBlanc.


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By |2018-02-07T08:30:18+00:00January 10th, 2018|Arts & Entertainment, Books|7 Comments

About the Author:

Zhu Yunxi
Keith Zhu Yunxi, `18, a world traveler from China, plans on developing a new brand of international airline service. Zhu has explored 24 countries since he first traveled aboard by himself in 2015. by using his world wide travel experiences, Zhu brings foreign cultures and his travel stories through publishing on The Feather. “My goal is to have experienced cultures and photographed beautiful sceneries in the total of 80 countries before turning 25,” Zhu says. Writing stories at The Feather inspires Zhu to pick up a camera; he became a photographer in Oct. 2016. With his unique aesthetic standard, Zhu grows his photography skill through a routine of capturing images from around the world. “Yes, I am a world traveler, and I think I have already fallen in love with photography. However, the thing I really want to do in the future is to be an entrepreneur at aviation industrial.” Zhu attended summer course learning entrepreneurship in the summer of 2017 at Wharton Business School (a world’s top business school at the University of Pennsylvania which Donald John Trump graduates.) And will start a pre-MBA program at Harvard Business School in February 2018. Zhu also practices financial manage skill through drawing money to high-spending trips from his flat pocket. His dream schools are Wharton Business School and Harvard Kennedy School.


  1. Kilian Engelhardt January 10, 2018 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    I got to know Keith during his stay in Hawaii and he has one of the most outstanding personalities in our very diverse society, this is not only my opinion but what everyone who actually met him in person is thinking. Moreover, Keith Zhu is very passionate about every single one of his plans and will do anything to achieve his goals. Those traits comibined with his ability to motivate others to do things they would normally not even consider doing is what differentiates him from regular High-School students. It is always a pleasure listening to another one of his amazing stories. Despite his young age of 18 years Zhu is smarter and has, due to his immense traveling, probably more life experience than most adults. This boy has a bright future ahead!

  2. Blake D January 10, 2018 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    What a cool story! Nice job Keith!

  3. Samantha Poplin January 10, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Great article Keith! Glad you could show kindness to the man on the beach.😊

  4. Victor January 11, 2018 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Very good essay and Keith is so young and lucky to travel around the world. I wish he can write something about China,where is his mother country.By the way, he should appreciate the love and concern from his mother who sometimes worry about his whereabouts.

  5. Logan Lewis
    Logan Lewis January 12, 2018 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Keith these are some of my favorite articles on the Feather! Your work is outstanding!

  6. Victor January 14, 2018 at 6:38 am - Reply

    Very good and interesting essay yet Keith should appreciate the care and support from his mother and don’t let her worry too much about his whereabouts.

  7. Carston Saelzler
    Carston Saelzler January 14, 2018 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    Awesome article Keith, so cool how you got to have an experience like that one.

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