expectations

Who moves to Hawaii?
I've always wondered. People who move here seem to have devastatingly high expectations: leis, hula-girls, beaches. Like being on vacation every day!
Just googling "move to Hawaii" brings up a cascade of superlatives.
Just look at the copy from any of the resort home sales and you get glossy light-saturated beautiful young tanned families strolling in sarongs along the white sand beach, and big letters spelling "you're not visiting, you live here!" This could be your lean, glamorous life. See? No work worries, no nasty cold weather, everyone happy!
I suppose many people move here because it will be warm, they will be tanned all year, and in Hawaii it's supposed to be acceptable to wear loud clothes and drink Mai Tais at any time of day.


The Big Island is funny that way-- the malihini here are the white trash of the relocating-to-paradise crowd. One site based in Kona raved how Safeway and Walmart have finally made it a bearable place to live (not like those iffy roadside fruit stands or Japanese mom-and-pop groceries from before).

I sound disdainful and condescending-- so how did we end up here? What were our expectations if not to stroll on deserted beaches, get fit and live in tropical bliss the rest of our days?

My husband and I finished our degrees on the mainland, and he got a job offer to work for the state of Hawaii. He jumped at the opportunity to get to the islands. His family-- three and four generations back-- are from Maui and Oahu. They came over as Japanese picture brides and Okinawan whalers and worked for the plantations on one side and opened a slipper factory on the other. My mother-in-law fled from the country backwater that was Maui (not one stoplight) and went to college on the mainland and then stayed. So my husband grew up coming to the islands to see grandparents and family every summer but never living here. So when he was offered the chance to get to know Hawaii as more than a kid, more than a summer vacation, he took it. He wanted to understand his family better, to see if his roots were still here after a generation removed.

As for me? I was dubious of all the hype. Hawaii tourism has always seemed sort of cheap and cliched and exploitive to me, so I didn't move here for the Maitais. I came along curious about race in Hawaii, about class and assimilation and adaptation in a place that has changed o violently in a short few-hundred years. I was interested in the culture-- the real old local culture, hidden far behind thebeginner ukulele dvds and the $1 plastic plumaria leis.
I moved here with no expectations exactly, just a hope that we would be challenged and would grow into our new community.
And I was eager to get my hands in the soil and plant a garden.

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