Writing is hell, especially in Hawaii, where it tends to turn paradise into purgatory. So on the sunniest days I try to finish writing before lunch, then load my kayak into the trunk of my car, rush to India Bazaar for a veggie curry, and then paddle out of Ala Way Harbor (easy parking) , looking for green sea turtles and listening to NPR on my waterproof Walkman. I return to the shore at sunset, shower nearby at Ala Beach Park, and on the way home stop for a beer at Manoa Market and talk skiing and swimming with my carpenter friend on his way to Vail.
A perfect day
I’ve written something, I’ve exercised, I’ve seen maybe three green sea turtles, and probably a few dolphins, and always a brown booby perched on the marker buoy a mile from the harbor. All of this has happened near Waikiki, but I haven’t seen any tourists.
The fact that I have forgotten about tourists all day, none in the restaurant, none in the port, none in that particular beach, nor in that bar, is not that remarkable, even in a place that receives 6 million visitors per year. Tourists always work under time constraints and are unwitting victims of profitability; so they stick together, travel within a narrow range, and tend to stay where they are once they arrive. This is the result of both accident and design; it is a favor and it is also a conspiracy. The tourists are contained, partly for their own benefit, partly for the benefit of the locals. By staying in one place, there is no risk of them disrupting the flow of local life.
So there is a kind of voluntary apartheid that keeps tourists and locals apart. I find it strange that this is so, because the locals know where it is best to party and how to avoid being overcharged. Perhaps the strangest aspect of being a resident of a tourist haven is the way they seem to lead parallel lives.
All my life I have lived in places considered first class tourist destinations, in Africa, in Southeast Asia, in England and now in Hawaii; however, during all that time I never had much to do with tourists; I barely saw these birds of passage. They never visited my school in the jungle in Malawi: they were bitten by insects and burned by the sun 200 miles away, on the pebbly beaches of Lake Malawi. (In Africa, only tourists bask in the sun; everyone else, nationals and Peace Corps volunteers, stay in the shade.) In Uganda, while I was teaching at university, tourists were driving around game parks in Land Rovers, fruitlessly searching for endangered species. . Tourists in Singapore shopped, while we residents enjoyed the fun club life of the island state. I lived in South London for eighteen years, but tourists rarely filtered south of the Thames, favoring its seedy charm and glorious parks. They were excited about The Phantom of the Opera or the Crown Jewels; I never saw them, never felt the need to.
island of oahu
For my last four years on the island of Oahu, the story has been the same, visitors and locals enjoying separate pleasures. They are not hated; if anything, they are patronized and pitied by the locals, because they seem so innocent, inhabiting a small corner of the island in a timid foothold. Hawaii is a culture of great mockery, but nobody makes fun of tourists; there are local Filipino jokes and Samoan jokes, but rarely do you hear someone say Did you hear the one about the tourist? Most of the local residents are quietly grateful for the revenue. Tourists stay in Waikiki quite a bit, and to them Oahu is the glitter of that mile-long street, its wall-to-wall hotels, T-shirt shops, and (with a few notable exceptions) nonchalant restaurants, slapstick entertainment, and lovable Polynesian food. kitsch