Posted on: Sunday, May 23, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser

(example of intolerance, misunderstanding, conflicting diversity, changing daily life on a small Pacific island)

Parallel universe

Living on Kauai, but not seeing the same place

By Joan Conrow

Fascinated by people's stories and voices, I often jot down snippets of conversation that I overhear and poignant things that are said to me, which is how I came to collect these particular real life comments from people on Kaua'i over the course of about a year.

One day, after reading an article about the quantum physics concept of parallel universes, I was sorting through some of these "dialogue notes" and was struck by how differently people on one small section of one small island look at and live in the same physical world.

I thought, wow, it's almost like they're living in parallel universes. So I arranged the quotes in a way that showed the contrasts, thinking it would perhaps help explain some of the attitudes behind the social conflicts we experience in Hawai'i.




"We bought our house two years ago, and we come over fairly often, every couple of months, but it's still the same, everywhere we go. Whenever we go out to eat, or into a store, it's always 'And where are you from?' and we say, 'We live here.' It's really aggravating. I don't know why we keep getting mistaken for tourists."




"These new guys, they come into my neighborhood and act like they own the place. Then I come by and they give me stink eye and make like who is me and I'm getting pissed off because I the one is from here. This is my hometown."




"What's it to you if I cut down the trees? They weren't your trees. I bought this land. I paid for it. I own it and that means I can do what I please. I own it all the way down to the high water mark, the end of the vegetation. That means you're standing on my land right now. So get off before I call the police. Because you're trespassing. And your dogs aren't on a leash. I've got a right to improve my own property. Don't I keep my lawn mowed, my yard looking nice? So what's your problem? Get the f--- out of here, and if I ever see you on my beach again, I'll shoot you and your dogs."




"You'll be out at Pine Trees or Kalihiwai and some haole guy'll say, 'I been surfing here 20 years,' and so I'm like, 'OK, that's long enough already. Go somewhere else.'"




"I'm not into that humble haole s---. I got just as much right to be here as they do. This is America, and you can live wherever you want. Usually it's no problem if you're dealing with a local one-on-one, but when they're in a group, it's a different story. If I pull up and see a group of them, I usually won't get out unless I know one of them. Or if the surf is really good, then I'll just grab my board and head straight for the water, and hope my truck is OK when I come back."




"I was listening to KKCR, one of the call-in shows, and this tourist phones in and she's going on and on about how nice everybody is and how the people here are so friendly and she and her husband are ready to quit their jobs and move here, and the DJ is just kinda going along with her, but you know everybody listening is going 'F---!,' except the Realtors, and then the next caller is this local guy and he was saying when he was growing up, when tourism was just getting started on Kaua'i, his parents used to tell him, 'Don't get friendly with the tourists because then they'll want to stay, and don't show them anything, because they might buy it.' And he was saying he'd done what his parents told him, but obviously, other people hadn't."




"We love Kaua'i. It's our favorite island. It's so scenic. All it needs is a few more roads. Then it would be perfect. And a good French restaurant. At least now it's got a Costco."




"I've got the kids and we're down at Lumaha'i, you know, where we always go, on the beach road, and we can't get out because the tourists have parked on both sides and this Jeep blocked us in so I send the kids to go ask every tourist on the beach whose car is it but nobody's admitting nothing and I'm getting mad and the kids got a pet chicken, you know, and they take it around and stuff and this tourist lady was kinda yelling at them, saying it was on too short a leash, and I'm like, 'Lady, give it a rest,' and then this other tourist starts in, she's some kind of animal expert or something, and she's saying they shouldn't take the chicken around on a leash and I'm saying to the kids like, 'Let's go already, get in the truck,' then the first lady said, 'What are you gonna do with that chicken?' And the kids said, 'Eat it!' and she said, 'That's it, I'm calling the police,' and by then I'm just boiling and I put the truck in four-wheel-drive and push the Jeep out of the way and the kids are in the back and one of the boys starts yelling, 'F------ haoles!' as we drive away."




"They talk about how tolerant people are in the Islands, the whole cultural melting pot. Well, that might be true if you're from here, but if you're from the Mainland, forget it. There's a lot of prejudice. Some of the people are nice, but others have a real attitude, like they'd just as soon you weren't there. But they'll take your money quick enough. We're the ones supporting the economy, but don't expect any gratitude. So much for the aloha spirit."




"I finally get a chance for go fishing and I'm coming down to the water at Kē'ē and there's this skinny haole guy on the beach and he says, 'Don't scare the seal,' and it pisses me off because I know that seal, it's been hanging around there since it was born, I feed it sometimes. So just to show the guy, I dive in and spear a fish and feed it to the seal and then I go back in for a little while and catch a couple more fish and when I come up outta the water, the guy's put all these sticks in the sand, you know, like one fence around the seal, and he's all like, 'you're not gonna walk through my sticks are you?' and I'm like, 'I'm gonna pull up your f------ sticks and break them on your head.' It just kinda ruined the whole mood for fishing."




"As soon as I landed on Kaua'i, it felt like home. I went back to California, sold my house, packed up everything and moved here. I was lucky to get in just before the land prices started going up. I couldn't afford to buy my land for what it's worth now. So I'm just happy living here in paradise. It truly is the Garden Isle. If it ever gets too crowded, well, then maybe I'll move to Fiji. 'Cause I've already doubled my investment. I could get something amazing in Fiji if I sold my land right now. And it's just going to keep going up. But I love Kaua'i. So for the time being, anyway, I'm not going anywhere."




"I hear a lot of things on that bridge when we're out there pulling taro. People screaming at each other, swearing, fights. One time it sounded like a guy was banging one other guy's car on purpose. There isn't a time we work in that field we don't hear something like that going on. You'd be surprised how much road rage get at that bridge."




"I've never seen it so bad. All everybody talks about is the price of real estate. Nobody talks about anything else. And people are so angry. My cousin, he's a Mormon, works for the county, got grown kids. And I'm at my class reunion and I hear he's been arrested for assaulting somebody, some haole guy. He's not the kind of person to assault people. But he's just so angry now. I wonder where it's all going to stop. I was born on Kaua'i and always wanted to come back, but you know what? O'ahu feels more like Hawai'i to me than Kaua'i. Kaua'i is starting to feel like Southern California. And if you don't have the money, you're nothing, and the local people feel that, and it's not good, it's not good at all. I worry about how it's all going to end, I really do."




"I'm glad I'm old 'cause I'll be dead when Kaua'i gets really f----- up and I won't have to see it."


Joan Conrow is a freelance writer based on Kaua'i and a former reporter for The Advertiser. This piece is excerpted from Bamboo Ridge, Journal of Hawai'i Literature and Arts, Issue 94. She writes a blog at