Sunday, September 28, 2008

Political Chatter

In general, Hawaii doesn't seem to be a place that's particularly into politics.  Maybe it just seems that way because I came here from Portland, where constant chatter about politics is the norm.  I mean, there are, of course, the requisite political signs in yards here, and supporters waving along the side of the road.  And I have to admit that the debate between the candidates running for mayor of Honolulu that I accidentally caught on TV was one of the most heated and least polite I've ever seen.

But political chat around the water cooler is non-existent.  And people just don't really seem to talk about it in their day-to-day lives.  Maybe it's because I don't really have any friends yet.  I'm used to talking about politics all the time.  At work, with friends, at my volunteer jobs.  So maybe once I make some friends, it will come up in conversation more.  Or maybe not.  Maybe in Portland I was just in a hyper-charged political environment, and now I'm not.

It's not that I mind so much.  It's just weird.  It's different, like everything here.

Although, I suppose that Hawaii has been a liberal, Democratic state for so long that the outcomes of elections don't seem to be in much question.  The Republicans are starting to get a foothold.  I think that's largely due to the fact that they're new and different, after some 50-odd years of Democrats.  But it's not a strong foothold.  There is no question, for example, that Obama will win here.  So really, what is there to talk about?

Last night we went to the movies.  Hubby was wearing his "Mario Luigi '08" t-shirt.  The young lady who sold us our tickets looked at his shirt and said, "I'd vote for them."  We chuckled and she added, "Anybody would be better than McCain."  We chuckled again and moved on.

When I thought about it later, I found it interesting that she felt comfortable enough to share her opinion openly like that.    I wonder how much of it was due to Hawaii's inherent liberalness.  Or maybe we just don't look like McCain voters.  Whatever it was, it was nice to hear someone's opinion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Big Island

I went to the Big Island for one day this past weekend to visit a friend.  It's a fascinating place, very different from Maui - or at least, very different from where I live on Maui.

I was outside of Hilo, in an area that was very jungle-like.  It was fascinating, this completely foreign world.  It reminded me of Vietnam War movies.  The plants grow huge there.  I thought of my small, potted hibiscus plants on the balcony at home and tried to reconcile that vision with the fist-sized hibiscus I saw growing outside of the place where we stopped for smoothies.

On our walk out to Akaka Falls, I saw many flowers that looked like they were from some alien planet.  Honestly, I just couldn't get over it.  I'm Michigan born and bred, and have never lived in any other climate that's much different from that until now.  While I have often been chided by my friends for a lack of love for the outdoors, it's not that I don't appreciate them.  I just like my creature comforts.  I am awed by the beauty of this earth, though.  I don't know how anyone could not be moved by the wonders of Hawaii.

When I went to bed, there was a gecko on the wall.  Now, I've seen geckos outside of houses on Maui.  I've even heard them in my office.  But I've never seen them inside.  I have to admit that I was pretty freaked out by it.  I hate creepy crawlies, mostly for two reasons:  I can't stand the way they "scuttle" and I hate the thought that they might be crawling on me while I'm sleeping.  I realize that geckos aren't creepy crawlies, but it did scuttle when it realized I saw it, and that's what freaked me out.  I'm sure it found a safe place to hide as soon as I turned out the light.  Later, in the morning, I was ashamed, and wished that I had taken a picture of it.

As I left, the air on the Big Island was hazy from the vog of an erupting volcano ("vog" is the local term for fog-like conditions created by volcanic ash).  It was clear when I landed on Maui, but the vog rolled in later in the afternoon, the thickest I've seen it yet.  Our view of the valley below and the mountain beyond it was completely obliterated.  The vog stayed through this morning, when I took an eerie, blurry picture of the sun.

I really liked the Big Island and hope that I can go back some time for more exploration.  So far, though, I'm glad that we ended up on Maui.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Murder on Lanai

Last week there was a murder-suicide over on Lanai.  A man killed the wife who was divorcing him and then turned the gun on himself, leaving their 5 children orphaned.  It's a story I've read about all too often lately, over and over again.  I'll never understand what makes a person think it's okay to kill someone just because they dare to break off a relationship with them.  I'll never understand why they think it's okay to desert their children, to leave them to grow up with the knowledge of what one of their parents did, to leave them to always wonder why.

Violent crime is relatively rare in Hawaii.  We live in Paradise, after all.  Everything here is filled with "aloha."  Drivers are more polite.  People are friendly.  Things move at a slower pace.  I don't hear shouting from the streets every night like I did when I lived in Portland.  It's always sunny, always warm.  It's hard to imagine that in the midst of this, there was a family in turmoil.

They say that Maui is a small island - everybody knows everybody sooner or later.  I experienced this myself when my husband and I went to a bar this weekend and I ran into one of the approximately 5 people that I know on the island so far.  Lanai is even smaller.  So I wonder, did people know?  The other family members, the neighbors, teachers, friends?  Did they know that this family was in turmoil?  Or were there no warning signs that things were about to tragically explode?

Details in the Maui News were scant.  Neighbors said that the family was nice, that they knew of no problems, that they were shocked.  I wonder, how well do we know each other, even in a small community such as this?  How can you really ever know another person or what they are capable of?

Tragedy is, of course, sad, no matter who or when or where it strikes.  But it seems particularly sad in this beautiful place, especially when there was so much left behind.  I hope that someone good and kindhearted gets to keep those poor orphaned children.  I hope that they don't grow up haunted by this terrible act of violence.  And I hope that they can grow up still knowing love and aloha.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Observations

I have to admit, moving to Hawaii hasn't been easy for me.  I think I'm a Portlander at heart, and leaving the city that I have loved so well for 10 years was hard.  Ultimately, I think that it was a good move.  It's only been two months, and we're both already doing much better both financially and professionally.

But Hawaii will never be Portland, and that is something that will take some getting used to.  By far, all of my favorite Hawaii moments to date have come from something out in nature.  This is an amusing irony.  As one of my friends put it (although she tried to take it back), it's "a shame" that moving to such an outdoorsy place was "wasted" on someone like me.

So I'm not known for my love of the outdoors.  But I'm digging them here.  Here are a few of my favorite places thus far:

1.  Iao Valley.  Cute parks, a river, a little waterfall, swimming pools, a fabulous view of the landscape below.  Absolutely stunning.  I love this place.

2.  Our favorite beach.  I have seen so many amazing things at this place.  Three weeks ago I watched tiny sand crabs get buried in their holes by waves, climb back out, and continue their searches for food.  Last week we found a blue lobster shell and a large light bulb with barnacles growing on it.  Today I saw a school of tiny fish jump from wave to wave, and we watched a sea turtle search the reef.  I am in love with this place as well.

3.  Mt. Haleakala.  Watching the sun set at 10,000 feet was an incredible feeling.

4.  Paia.  Adorable little town.  Cute shops and the loveliest little beaches I think I've ever seen.  We would like to live here.

The jury's still out as far as I'm concerned.  But this is where we are now, and I feel dedicated to learning to at least like it here.  I like to find these little things to love.  If I find enough, I think that a love for the whole island will begin to grow.