This weekend we hopped on a plane and went to visit Kauai for a couple of days. Yes, the airfare was outrageous--I bought a roundtrip from SF to NYC for less a couple of years ago-- but it was an adventure. And besides, it was the patriotic thing to do-- spending a bit of our economic stimulus money on a mini vacation (which doubled as a chance for a job interview).
And after four days on the Garden Isle, I went home with this profound impression:
All of the Islands are different from each other.
The Big Island is big. Kauai, Oahu, and Maui are small.
We have vog, they have clear blue skies.
They are green and verdant jungles, we are yellow rangeland plains.
They have a lot of good food, we have a little bit of good food, spread few and far across the island.
And maybe I'm nuts, but everyone was very friendly on Kauai. I kept nudging my husband and saying, "am I nuts or is everybody friendly on Kauai?" The museum lady let us in for free, the shopkeeper pinched baby's cheeks, the rental car lady called everybody "sweetheart."
There seemed to be lots more plantation influence-- more Japanese culture, with the Native Hawaiian culture segregated away onto seperate (but, um, equal?) Hawaiian Homelands.They are developed with paved sidewalks, parkbenches, bike paths, and nice restrooms at the beach. You have to hack your way through a thorny jungle to get to the state beach park on the Big Island.
Not that one is better than the other-- just different. The way that Boston is different from Charleston which is different from San Diego-- as if the islands are seperated by vast open spaces and disparate histories. Which, thanks to high airfare and a long native legacy, they are.
I like the Big Islands stubbornness-- its closed-circuit, one-road-on-the-island feel. It's sort of tantalizing and mysterious to think there's all this open space, all this coast, all these mountains and jungles-- and none of it open to you. The allure of the forbidden I suppose. But I also loved being able to go for a hike every day we were on Kauai, and finding easy, beautiful, plentiful beaches everywhere we went.