Life can be complicated no matter who you are–age, gender, race, culture, religion, geographical location, etc. In fact, you can’t expect to go through this world of ours without your fair share of challenges in amongst those moments of clarity and elation; the ones we all aspire to achieve, hopefully more than once or twice.
As we vacation here in Maui, I think it would be fair to say that we are living very uncomplicated lives at the moment, so much so that our biggest worries thus far have been when to take out the garbage to avoid invitations from pesky bugs as well as how much sunscreen to put on and/or which hours we need to avoid the sun. However, as we tootle around here and there taking in the sights and sounds of our favourite getaway spot, it is very apparent that there are two ways of life here, aside from the obvious vacationers like us and the locals. This being our sixth visit to the islands of Hawaii, we have noticed a very high population of homeless individuals as well as those who appear to be more than wealthy. I am sure that there is a middle-class that lies somewhere in between that we, tourists, don’t always see, but it leaves me to wonder what the percentages exactly are. Not that I live a life of statistics, but I will admit that I am curious.
I just read an article in the Maui News last week that up to 70% (I believe) of housing was in short-term vacation rentals bought up by foreigners, while 4000 native islanders remain short in housing, especially affordable housing. As with anything, there are two sides to the issue and the media will report what it wants. Regardless, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something isn’t working the way it should and homelessness is a recognized issue in Hawaii. While many populations face impoverished conditions, each relative, I think that it is more striking here in what is considered a first-world country simply because there is such a stark contrast between what appears to be the haves and the have-nots. Naturally, one could debate how the haves and have-nots have to come to be, etc., but at the end of the day, our personal observations stay with us in some manner, at times leaving us to feel guilty. Don’t get me wrong, we have both spent some very hard-earned money to be here, yet we also realize that we are privileged enough in our lives such that we can choose between a dream vacation and food on the table. Growing up, my dad always taught me the value of a hard-earned dollar as a farmer, gravel truck driver and snow removal guy, and to be appreciative of life’s circumstances, which could change at any one moment in time.
Two nights ago, we drove through a very well-to-do area in the hills on the west side of Maui with properties easily in the millions of dollars range, with guest houses, infinity pools, three-car garages, etc. Then, as we made our way back to the highway where many of the local beach pull-offs are, in between areas, we witnessed derelict vehicles set up clearly as homes. Little old me is not here to judge one person’s existence over the other and we all know that having money doesn’t necessarily equate with happiness, but I would venture to say that having to worry where one’s next meal is coming from is not an easy life. Thankfully, clean water and showers are available at the state park beaches.
The image, however, that remains Churning in my mind, is one of a mother and her young child, who arrived at one of the beach shower houses just after dinner. My husband and I were strolling along on our way back from a lovely sunset supper, when we saw the lady and her older four-door sedan pull into the parking lot. The mom immediately began rifling around in the backseat for something and a few minutes later, she popped open the trunk, which was impeccably organized with many things, as was the backseat where a paper towel holder neatly hung. Her daughter waited patiently in the shade of the nearby trees, and we assumed that they were there to take a shower. Immediately, I pondered, ‘What is their story?‘, not out of pity, but rather from the perspective of one human being feeling somehow connected to another. A part of me wanted to offer some money to them, but I also did not want to infringe on their privacy or their situation knowing nada about the two of them. I mean, would I want a perfect stranger to assume that I need or want help? Likely not, but I might also really appreciate a genuine show of concern and a few extra dollars, even if it was just enough to help pay for a bit of gas, for example. To further the story (though I willingly admit that I am making my fair share of inferences and then some), the little girl was very pale, without hair, and her eyes seemed quite sullen. My first thought was that she may have cancer. Knowing the cost of health care here in the States, it conjured up a possible narrative that I’ve heard about before wherein people have to sell their home, etc., simply to pay for medical costs. ‘What if this was their situation? Then again, what if it wasn’t? What to do?’. The truth of the matter is that now we will never know, as that instance has since come and gone, and as usual, life has moved on for them and for us over the past few days. Meanwhile, I am left to wonder, ‘What if I could have made a small difference in someone else’s life and chose not to?’. Hmmm…
One of the reasons that my husband and I chose to return to Maui so soon after our trip here last August was because of all of the buzz regarding the sighting of humpback whales in these protected waters from December through early April. In fact, the lady that helped manage our condo last year mentioned that where we were situated was ideal for whale season, and that right from our lanai, we would be able to whale watch. Well…say no more, as here we sit and she was EXACTLY right! Every day during our stay, we have been able to watch the fascinating mammals breach, blow water and tail flip. Truly an amazing sight in person, much like when we first witnessed the beauty of green sea turtles up close–initially on the Big Island, then here in Maui.
Last Saturday, on our catamaran tour we came across our first pod of whales–a mom, her baby and the male escort. The mom was putting on quite a show for us, so much so that the naturalist on board commented on how rare of a sighting we were privy to. A few times, the female humpback was enjoying the back stroke when I happened to snap a picture of her airborne flippers. Excusing the grainy nature of my cropped picture, I purposely zoomed in on the image so that you can see that on the bottom of her right flipper (a humpback’s fingerprint), there are two black spots and a partial circle that appear to make up a happy face. Now, if that doesn’t make you want to Smile, I am not sure what will:-) This mama appears to be one happy whale!
This sunrise picture was taken the other day just outside our condo here in Maui. The four hour time difference from home wakes us up early enough to take in the first few glimpses of muted pink tones in the sky just above the neighbouring island of Lanai. Now, add in a freshly brewed cup of Kona java to sip on and some melt-in-your mouth purple taro bread with peanut butter, and I personally cannot think of anything better in the morning to wake up to–other than my husband, who is here to share it all with, that is:-).
This 1956 Dodge Lancer is significant not because of its antiquity, rather it is because of the meaning behind it. After finding a near perfect replica of his very first car (the original being green and dark green), my dad jumped at the chance to purchase this gem of an automobile. A lover and collector of anything with an engine, running or not, my father finally had an opportunity to showcase a glimpse of his youth at an annual car show this past summer. The joy on his face as others admired and asked questions about his first love spoke volumes; there was no doubt that he was in his element sharing in his vast knowledge of vehicles (antiques especially) and of memories past. In that moment, my husband and I were grateful that we had time to take in the brief, but meaningful showing. It’s not often that we as children get a glimpse into what our parents would have been like as youngsters, but the sparkle in my dad’s eyes that day did just that–a once young fellow with friends, girlfriends, hopes, dreams, spunk, HAIR, and likely, a few innocent antics:-). A special memory of 2017 without a doubt!
One of the allures in Wai’anapanapa State Park in Maui is the natural beauty of the black sand beaches mixed in with age-old lava rock, whose stories I am sure stretch well beyond the depths of the South Pacific waters. As it turned out during our brief visit to the park, a group of twenty-something year olds decided to add to the ocean’s vast storybook by Ascending one of the jagged cliffs and free jumping into the sparkling pool of blue below. While I admired their relentless courage as they ascended, jumped, swam and ascended again and again, I was more than happy to partake as a bystander given that my idea of engaging in ANY body of water is wading in ankle-deep. Nonetheless, I could certainly appreciate the once-in-a-lifetime, thrill-seeking opportunity and we considered ourselves lucky to capture a few shots of their brave, yet enticing undertaking.
I wonder if she’s feeling a little Cheeky … I’m thinking maybe so?! After all, she’s standing in front of her own heated house, with her very own Christmas stocking sporting a picture of herself. If nothing else, I think it would be fair to say that she’s a little bit spoiled, BUT she’s worth it:-).
"Meowy Christmas, Everyone!"