Under the Sun
Island flow often broken by imported expectations
AMERICANS are a mobile bunch, moving from one state to another in search of jobs, new experiences or better lives, trying out different places, looking for a good fit.
Hawaii captures a lot of them.
The islands are exotic enough to be interesting, but not so weird as to be disconcerting. There aren't language barriers except for occasional encounters with a heavy-duty pidgin speaker. As part of the USA, the currency is the same and consumer goods generally are what you'd find elsewhere in the country. It's safe to drink the water, and there are sewer systems in most housing areas, reliable Internet access and electrical power.
The killer cost of living and the various hardships of being far away from the continental mass turn some away, but many are undeterred about crossing the Pacific to set roots here.
Not all of Hawaii's population growth is made up of out-of-state transplants. Still, the movement of people even between islands changes the dynamics of communities.
When the Census Bureau reported that Hawaii County has the fastest-growing population in the state, a lot of residents probably responded, "Gee, ya think?"
They have been living with growth as it happens, the incremental creep evident with each additional car merging into ever-lengthening rush hours, and rows of new houses popping up on once-vacant lots.
Census reports merely plug in numbers to harden the reality that the Big Island in this decade has become the new Maui as the Valley Isle's rural charm and landscapes disappear under the influx of buildings and bodies.
It seems people are attracted to the Big Island's wide open spaces, acres where greenery dominates the views. Land prices are cheaper and there's a slower pace for almost everything. Which are the same reasons they might find living there troublesome.
Getting to and from commercial and employment centers takes a lot of drive time and there aren't any H-3s to dispatch cars between them. All it takes is one junk-a-lunk-a pickup going at the minimum speed limit to add 30 minutes to the trip from Naalehu to Captain Cook and the twisty-turny road doesn't allow for risk-free passing.
Land prices are lower because infrastructure and municipal services, like water and sewers, aren't what you'd get in Kailua or Hawaii Kai. The leisurely pace of life often extends to the trades, financial dealings, retailers, repair work and deliveries. Short of an emergency, the cable provider, gas or electric company might not schedule fixes until they have a critical mass of customers in the same area needing help.
For a person accustomed to an urban mode, the differences can be exasperating. Some get used to it and go with the flow. After all, that's why they made their choice. But others with imported expectations want their new world to adjust to them, which is when conflicts arise.
The accepted view is that change is good, but sometimes that's merely self-serving because some changes are inescapable; it's easier to loose power over the bad ones, letting them happen rather than standing against them.
Those who resist change frequently are labeled parochial and backward-looking, but they could also be called brave for holding on to the components of the islands that they care for, the good stuff that continues to lure so many others.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org