Catherine Cruz is host of Hawai‘i Public Radio’s “The Conversation.” Before taking part in a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event panel discussion titled “What Can Hawai‘i Teach the World About Climate Change?” she spoke in the green room about long-distance swimming, living through typhoons, and overcoming her natural shyness.
What’s hanging on your living room walls?
A lot of my husband’s relatives—oil paintings from folks that live in Philadelphia, where his family came from. It’s a great way to know that my kids have a connection to American history, because we have a lot of furniture from Philadelphia and the paintings of people who lived out there.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
My parents raised us to be resilient, because I grew up in Guam, “Typhoon Alley,” so we get hit by typhoons a lot. And I’ve lived through several super typhoons, with winds in excess of 200 miles an hour. Once I was in a concrete house and the walls started to crack because the winds were so strong, and we were without water for a month and without power for like three months. So I think that the community that I grew up in is pretty resilient. Like my parents always said, “You’ve just got to be able to take care of yourself.”
Was there a teacher or professor who really helped influence your career?
Not really, because I kind of got into [this line of work] by accident. I went home after a couple years of college, and I applied to a TV station, just to actually work cameras and edit. And they said, “Gosh, we don’t have any openings, but can you help out in the news department?” And then I kind of got hooked on news.
This was at a TV station here?
No, in Guam. But there was a marine biology teacher—because I originally thought maybe I’d go into marine science—and I took lots of classes when I was back there at home. I didn’t go into marine biology, but I use all of that because I kind of have this interest in the ocean.
Do you have a particular water-related activity?
I’m a swimmer, I do long-distance swimming.
What’s the longest you’ve ever done?
I go out on the weekends with my swim group, we’re a pod, and we usually do about two miles. We go all over the island [Oahu]. I’ve done the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, where you go from one end of Waikiki to the next. I thought that was really cool stuff. Then I found out there was a double Roughwater, so you go four and a half miles. We go all over.
Who taught you to swim?
Actually, I never imagined I would be doing long-distance swimming, because I kept flunking my beginner’s swimming lessons because I could just not get myself to dive in the water. And so they would just keep flunking me. This was in Guam, growing up at the USO [United Service Organizations].
How’d you overcome that?
I usually try to work on the things I’m weakest at. So I figured I needed to work on this swimming part. And I’ve always thought that writing was hard for me, and being in front of people—because I was always very shy—and so I had to work on those things. And so this job—and [before that] I was a TV reporter for about 35 years—and so it forced me to just kind of forget myself and just kind of go after the story.
I wouldn’t have guessed about the shyness.
When I was a little kid my teacher used to say, “You know that you know the answer, but you just don’t want to raise your hand. So your homework assignment is to go into the boonies and stand under banana trees, and scream at the top of your lungs. Because you have to get over being so quiet.”
And did you?
Yeah! I was a good little girl.