rants, raves and randomness
Nope, I haven’t died. Just been away from the grand metropolis.
For the last month, I have been living in the small town of Hana on the island of Maui, Hawaii. (Population as of the 2010 census : 1,235)
Admittedly, I came here on a work-trade program for one big reason : to escape winter. My first choice was Peru, but I am too much of a chicken to go to South America by myself for two months so I settled for Hawaii which is only 5.5 hours from Tokyo. Before coming here, I didn’t really do much research about the place – I contacted one host on workaway and when they gave me the green light, I went for it. I won’t dwell on my (mis)adventures- that is for another blog . From my limited time here, here are some of my observations about the type of people living in Hana :
The true locals. They are the true Hawaiians – mostly part Filipino/Japanese/Portuguese. Their ancestors extend from over a hundred years. They were born and raised here. They have a huge family (pretty much like the Filipinos). In fact, everybody is related to everybody else. If you compare it to a tree, they are the roots that extend downward, deep into the soil. They are the community that will not fall, come strong winds and tsunamis.
I find some of the true locals a bit cold, standoffish and unwelcoming towards outsiders. Some resent both the whites who live here and the tourists alike.
On the other hand, some Hawaiians practice the true aloha spirit – like my host now who took me and a fellow workawayer under his wing, out of the pure goodness of his heart.
From Wikipedia :
Haole (/ˈhaʊliː/; Hawaiian [ˈhɔule]) is a term used in the U.S. state of Hawaii to refer to individuals of European ancestry, in contrast to those of native Hawaiian ancestry and the other ethnicities that were brought in to work the plantations. In the Hawaiian language, the term has been used historically and currently to refer to any foreigner or anything else introduced to the Hawaiian islands of foreign origin. The origins of the word predate the 1778 arrival of Captain James Cook, as recorded in several chants stemming from antiquity. Its use historically has ranged from descriptive to race invective
For the purpose of this blog entry, I will divide the Haole into two : Haole 1 and Haole 2.
Haole 1 : the first and second generation
From how I observed people use this word, they mostly refer to whites who come here (from the mainland and elsewhere). So yes, no one has ever used Haole to refer to me, even though I am foreign. They can be first or second generation, so some of them were even born and raised here. Some Haole have successfully integrated into the Hawaiian community. If you compare them to a tree, they form the trunk and the branches, depending on how solid their bond is with the locals.
The two guys I worked for, for over a month, have been here for years. One has been living in Hana for over half his life. But I wouldn’t say they are the trunk – more like they are the branches that will snap off come the strong winds. They don’t have any strong bonds with the community. As one Hawaiian man said : “What have they done for the community? They are the Me-and-I’s and we are the We-and-Our’s. They live in this community but they aren’t a part of this community.”
I may be wrong – again I have to be careful of my generalization. But I sense that there is some sort of resentment against Haole because they represent the country that invaded them. A man I talked to declared : “They took our land! They didn’t give us a choice!”
Haole 2 : The hippies and the new-agers
Hana seems to attract people who are fascinated by a different lifestyle and way of thinking. It’s easy to distinguish them now – they way they dress, the way they talk and interact with people. Hippies are harmless and welcoming. To their credit, some of them do try to understand the resentment coming their way. But they are also pretty predictable – they are vegans, they walk barefoot, they are all about spreading the love. You talk to one hippie, you’ve talked to all of them.
The New Agers
From Wikipedia :
The New Age is a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in Western nations during the 1970s. Precise scholarly definitions of the movement differ in their emphasis, largely as a result of its highly eclectic structure. Although analytically often considered to be religious, those involved in it typically prefer the designation of “spiritual” and rarely use the term “New Age” themselves. Many scholars of the subject refer to it as the New Age movement, although others contest this term, believing that it gives a false sense of homogeneity to the phenomenon.
I use the term new-agers very loosely : people who are into yoga and reiki, the flat-earthers (those who believe that the earth is flat. Google!!!) and the like. Some hippies are new-agers, some aren’t. I just lump them altogether because the hippies I’ve met are into this stuff anyway. To quote an old hippie when we were star-gazing : “If you zero-in your phone on the stars, you can see another dimension.” Yup, that’s how they talk.
Because of the nature of my coming here, I was largely with the haole. They don’t mix with the true locals. Whether it’s their choice or because the locals are standoffish towards the outsiders, I find it amazing how they manage to live here but not really here. It’s almost as if they live on another level of Hana. They are the leaves that flutter with the wind.
The Wwoofers and the Workawayers
I definitely fall into this category, except that I seem to stand out too because I am brown-skinned (All wwoofers and workawayers I have met so far are whites. ALL.). “The problem with Wwoofers,” a Hawaiian guy told me, “is that they decide to stay here.” Business and farm-owners get free labor in exchange for nothing. Some farms don’t provide decent living conditions to their free laborers and as a consequence,(some of) these unpaid workers go to the local community centers to ask for food. In fairness to (some of ) the Hawaiians, they understand that the problem isn’t the penniless Wwoofers or Workawayers *ahem* but the business owners. To quote my host : “These farm and business owners don’t contribute anything to the community yet they are draining community resources.” In order to get some, you gotta give some. Wwoofers and workawayers stay for a couple of weeks to a year. We tend to hang out with the haole or with other wwoofers/workawayers. We hardly associate with the true Hawaiians – not because we don’t want to, but because it’s a group that is hard to penetrate. We are the bugs on the leaves, dependent on our hosts.
Tourism is one of the main industries here in Hana. Ove 80 percent of our customers are tourists – one time customers who had no other choice because everything else was closed. They come here for a day or two, see the sights and fuxk off. Sometimes they spend crap load of money (300$ a night at a hotel) and splurge for that great Hana Ranch shirt. They come from all over the mainland, Europe, Argentina and yes, China!! (Side note: I have seen only handful of Japanese but tons of Chinese!) Tourists “forgot to pack their brains,” my first host complained. They are generally disliked by both the locals and the haole because they do stupid things in the name of instagram. Some of them get injured or die, out of sheer ignorance. Not all tourists are disrespectful and ignorant of course- some come in peace and leave in peace. But many are unprepared for a small rural town like Hana where everyone goes home by sunset, where restaurants open and close whenever they want, where they are overcharged for coffee. They are the occasional drizzle of rain.
A pinay in Hana
I feel like being brown-skinned here works somewhat to my advantage : some Hawaiians I hitched a ride with were interested to find a “first generation” Filipino in Hana, since many first generations are working in the cities. (In fact, I haven’t met any true, pure blooded Filipino here, tourist or not.)Some, on learning I am from the Philippines, would invite me to their homes (I regret to say that I have never gone- I am paranoid like that). One Hawaiian man explained that I could pass for a local : I could be someone’s niece. I also noticed Hawaiians coming to our food truck when I started doing the window, proving a true local who declared : “Hawaiians never go to that place!” wrong.
If you pass by Hana as a tourist, you probably won’t note the difference. But a week of just living as a workawayer, I could already see the “segregation” of the people. Hawaiians hanging out with Hawaiians, whites with whites and the passing tourists who are in their neat convertibles and jeeps. (Locals drive pick-up trucks and their cars are almost always a mess). I find it a bit strange to think that people live on different “layers” and never have to do anything with anyone outside their circle considering
a) Hawaiians are Americans and many haole/wwoofers and workawayers are also Americans
b) there is no language barrier.
c) It’s such a small town!
In Japan, language and culture are the great barriers (the gaijin’s classic excuse!) to fully integrating into the community. And even then, gaijin are gaijin, Japanese are Japanese. We aren’t from the same country, unlike the people here. After all, Hana is still America… And sometimes, it’s not even for the lack of trying, to the credit of some non-Hawaiians.
Personally, there is only so much hanging out with fellow wwoofers/workawayers/haole I can do. Listening to their first world problems isn’t exactly my cup of tea. They are privileged people – and many of them don’t know it. And, since I am here, I might as well BE here. Why would I limit myself to the branches, the leaves or the other bugs when there’s a whole tree to explore and more? Thankfully, I did manage to make some amazing connections, local and not : Don, the kind man who welcomed me and my fellow workawayer into his home; his manager Goto, a former hippie, a former surf instructor, a former chef, a former martial artist, basically your all-around man; Heike, who invited me to her ceramics class; the community art center people (mostly, ladies in their late 50s to 60s) who tolerated my presence and let me do some artwork (for free!) and the homeless folks I share my food and cigarettes with. You might think it’s easier for me because I’m brown, but I’d like to think it’s not because of my color, but because I’m awesome. 😀