I had the complete and utter pleasure of being at the ocean when the sun both set and rose, something that I technically could do each and every day, if I wanted, but I don’t, and it made me wonder why it is that we willingly hold ourselves back from that which brings us great joy?
And joy it was to walk Lumahai as the sky went all purple and gold, the ocean mist mingling with the smell of a mokihana garland I wore around my neck, a gift from a friend who had made his annual pilgrimage to a tree that this year offered up a bounty of plump, anise-scented berries.
Later, I stood under the stars at the edges of Waioli Park and listened to the lua guys chanting and stomping their way through their practice, invisible in the darkness of a new moon night, but sending their presence deep into the valley, which echoed back, reverberating, and ate just-caught akule fried so crisp no need worry about the bones.
This morning I was in the water when the sun came up at a beach much closer to home, where no one was, or had been, because the sand was still smooth and unmarred, and as I swam in water made shallow by a cutting tide, an `auku`u sat on the reef and watched for a meal. And when I pulled on my sweatshirt, the same one I’d worn last night, it still bore the fragrance of moki.
Before I ended up on Lumahai at sunset, I stopped in to oversee a repair at a friend’s Princeville condo, which I’m watching for her while she’s on an extended stay with her hospitalized father in Ohio. I’ve been there many, many times before, but I made two wrong turns; I so often lose my bearings in Princeville, where the buildings all look the same and a recent rash of condo construction has obscured my old navigational landscapes.
Tourism is booming there, most all of it the timeshare type, and it made me think of a conversation I had last week with a local woman who lives in Koloa and has worked in tourism all her life. She now specializes in incentive travel — you know, the free trips given to folks who achieve high sales or some other sort of corporate excellence.
She was saying it’s the form of travel that actually puts the most money in the hands of Kauai residents, because these visitors tend to spend a lot of cash on shopping, activities and meals because their trips are otherwise paid for.
But we’re losing that business to Maui and the Big Island because so many of our oceanfront properties are now timeshares that only the Hyatt can provide the kind of accommodations they seek.
The new Westin that just opened above Anini Beach is timeshares, as is the new hotel under construction at Running Waters in Kalapaki — where, btw, a surfer friend told me there’s no longer access to the surf break there.
Property owners love timeshares, the woman said, because they can recoup their investments quickly and cut down on housekeeping and other staff. So they actually provide fewer jobs that don’t pay as well or offer the good benefits that the hotels did. “Everyone’s in it for the quick buck,” she said. “Nobody cares about aloha, or delivering a good experience any more.”
Meanwhile, we’re also seeing a proliferation in the vacation rental biz, where people often tend to work for cash cleaning the houses and taking care of the yards, which seems fine until you realize how expensive it really is to pay for all your own benefits — if you have them — and that you have no real recourse as an under-the-table worker when the wealthy off-island owners delay payment or stiff you entirely or make you pay for stuff (like cleaning a pool when some lawn clippings blow in ) that you can’t afford.
So here we have all the impacts of tourism — the people, the high prices, the land speculation, the rising property taxes and rental rates, the environmental and cultural degradation — as the economic benefits that are supposed to make it all worthwhile steadily shrink.
Kinda screwy, if you ask me, and it’s yet another troubling trend that we just sort of fell into, without much thought and no clear way out.
As I mentioned in a previous post, another troubling trend is the crack down on the Kingdom of Atooi, which is all part of the growing militarization of cops everywhere, including Kauai.
Over on Island Breath Juan Wilson and Koohan Paik explore that topic in two posts that delve more deeply into the details of Dayne Aipoalani’s arrest and link it to the Superferry protests.
It's the kind of overreaction that needs to be nipped in the bud — especially because the cops are due to be getting more riot gear and tasers.