Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Tourists/visitors to Hawaii expect an enchanted environment 24/7 - hula girls wearing the coconut bras and skimpy bikinis - tall bronzed Polynesian men standing with spears to catch fish in the shallow ocean waters - roasted pigs on the spit over huge fire pits - eating pineapple and freshly-caught mahimahi and drinking pina-colattas on the beach every sunset - sleeping on grass mats in the sand as the ocean waves crash softly on the beach (although how anything can crash softly is beyond me).

Reality check here -the majority of the island population remains modestly dressed, comfortably plump, short, and as fond of pizza as everyone else in the world. And when tourists stumble across a Wal-Mart, with even more trashy stuff as the mainland Wal-Marts (tourists junk), they are either reassured (read 'blue-collar') or horrified (read 'Target customer'). Same way when they are appalled that there are Burger Kings and McDonald's - or they end up eating there for the majority of their stay.

Much of Oahu remains the same as when we lived here in the 1980's. Everything is designed for mini-compact cars (I'm driving my daughter's Expedition, which is roughly the size and prize-range of a Hummer), so the freeway lanes seem especially narrow and curvy. Parking, always at a premium in any city but especially on an island, ends up being tortured tiny spaces or double-parking on the side street.

And most kama'ainas (island residents) drive at or below the speed limit, which forces mainland drivers to hang on their bumper or dash madly through tiny openings in traffic... all to get caught up at the same traffic stop at the exact same time as everyone they passed.

The hills are a little more developed, but still green, tall and lush. The newer apartment complexes are higher, the housing areas are still squeezed tight, and planning of more or bigger highways to accommodate the ever-increasing population seems designed to remain in planning and construction stages until the year 2044 (a guarantee to keep the unemployment level down for all those years).

However, the sky is just as blue, and clouds as white, and the sky breeze just as refreshing. The humidity still forces me to take two or three showers a day in order to stay in the same room with my daughter (she has an extremely sensitive nose, and I sweat like a horse), but I am thoroughly enjoying my aloha time.