If you haven’t caught the drift, I’ve been living in Hawaii now for the past 13 months. It has been glorious as well as really fucking difficult. Being nearly 6,000 miles from your friends and family is no joke. Island fever is a real thing and well I’m sorry to break it to you but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (even though I see both at least twice a day).
My partner, Andrew, and I moved out here after a terrible winter in Ithaca, NY. We were ready for a change and applied for jobs. I got one and BAM we were here 2 weeks later. It was a pretty rough transition. It’s wildly expensive, finding affordable housing was a challenge and Andrew was still looking for work.
Hawaii is fueled by the tourism industry like most tropical islands – that’s pretty much all there is. Opportunities are limited and I got to see it first hand in Kauai, the western most Hawaiian island. When we first moved out here I worked in family outreach. I was everything to the families I served. I was responsible for connecting them to food pantries, clothing donations, temporary shelters, permanent housing, rehab – whatever they needed. I was exposed to the devastating side of colonialism and the toll it takes on the people who were here before it. The people who grew up or leave their country to live a better life out here work an average of two jobs. The wages are incredibly low and 92% of the food is imported. We’re talking $6.00 for your average box of cornflakes and $8.00 for a gallon of milk.
Just like anywhere Hawaii has its issues. On top of the ones I mentioned homelessness is rampant. Whether it’s addiction, mental health issues or financial crisis that have people living in their tents by the beach – it’s extremely real. There are whole families with children struggling to get by day to day. I’m not saying you couldn’t make it work out here, plenty of people have and I am, but for the people who are from here working regular jobs it’s getting harder and harder for them to afford to stay on their islands.
I worked with a 23 year old dad of three, desperately trying to get housing for his family. He was one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. The people of Hawaii are what bring and keep people on the islands. There is nothing like the genuine aloha of a local. The pace is much slower which leaves much time for “talk story” or chit-chat/gossip. It’s custom to start a management meeting at my job with checking in on how everyone’s weekend was, how the waves were and which beach they went to. The people of Hawaii are warm and so is the weather.
It is absolutely beautiful. There is an abundance of outdoor goodness in Hawaii. I currently live on the island of Oahu, known for the city of Honolulu, the tourist attraction called Waikiki and the epic surf waves of the North Shore. On this island you can experience the chaotic event that is Honolulu traffic and 30 minutes later you can be at the most serene removed shore. As a lover of all things health, nature, exercise and beach related I have thrived in Hawaii. I have learned what makes me feel good, challenged and healthy on this tiny island while confronting similar issues that I experienced back home in East Harlem. I’ll be sharing it all with you.
Stay tuned. Any questions?
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P.S. I took that picture of Diamond Head Crater while #onaboat in my #flippyfloppies but locals call them #slippas