Travel Journal: Hawaii

Putanumonit is on the road. With a few hours before my next flight, I have time to share some wiki impressions from a week in Hawaii.

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Aloha

The Hawaiian language is built from some pretty basic blocks. It uses seven consonant sounds (h, k, l, m, n, p, w) and five vowels. Every syllable ends with a vowel and contains at most one consonant. This means that there are only 40 syllables possible in the Hawaiian language, and thus only 65,640 possible words of 3 syllables or less. In contrast, English has hundreds of thousands such words (of course, Hawai’i is supposed to have four syllables in it and no one cares).

This isn’t a problem for Hawaiians. They have around 30,000 distinct words for distinct things, and everything else is simply covered by Aloha. Aloha means: hello, love, peace, compassion, mercy, affection, and goodwill towards mankind. It’s a greeting, an acronym, and a motto. 90% of businesses in Hawaii contain the word, from Aloha Airlines to Aloha Septic Services Inc.

I will name every section of this post in accordance with the local custom.

Decimaloha

The sales tax in Hawaii is supposed to be 4%, but on every restaurant bill it shows up as 4.166%, or exactly 1/24th, or 4% divided by (1 minus 4%). I found this delightful enough that I didn’t mind paying extra.

Circadialoha

There’s not much to do in Maui after dark, so we went to sleep at 10 pm each night and woke up at exactly 6:33 am, when the sun would peek over the volcano ridge and into my eyes. I was in a great mood for the entire vacation, and I wonder if it’s partly due to falling into a precise circadian rhythm, something that is impossible in New York.

I like having seasons, but there’s an upside to having each day be identical besides needing a much smaller wardrobe.

Colonialoha

In case you missed it, there’s been an academic freedom controversy so confusing that Noam Chomsky took the right side on it: a professor got a pro-colonialism article published in an anti-colonial journal, leading to an all-too-predictable shitshow. I don’t know the first thing about colonialism studies, but I began to wonder how colonialism looked like from the point of view of “regular” Hawaiians.

Before white people came, Hawaii had a feudal system with 11 hereditary nobility classes. Most citizens had to pay a tax and serve in the armies of the various nobles as they fought each other over land and prestige. The commoners could be executed for crimes like having their shadow fall on a noble. They were kept in place by having beneath them another untouchable caste, members of which were often used as human sacrifices.

It seems to me that most modern Hawaiians identify with the ancient royals and nobles of the islands, not the commoners. Everything is named after some king or princess, everyone else is basically unknown. But before white people came, most Hawaiians were 12th or 13th class citizens. Afterwards, both the king and the fisherman became second class citizens to the Europeans, which really sucked for the former but probably didn’t make too much of a difference to the latter. And after a couple centuries of exploitation, at least every Hawaiian of every caste got air conditioning.

My own country, Israel, has been colonized and recolonized for 4,000 years at least. From the Egyptians and Babylonians to the Ottomans and British (and Arabs and Jews, if you want to use a broad but defensible definition of “colonization”). I don’t know if “colonialism” was good or bad for Israel and Hawaii, but I know that AC has been a huge boon for both.

Alohungry

The best meal in the world under $4 is David’s falafel in New Ziona. The best meal in the US under $4 is a side of onion potatoes at the Paia Fish Market. The freshly caught fish is amazing too, but the potatoes that come with them are way better than something so simple has any right to be. Paia Fish Market has three locations in Maui, and it’s worth visiting the island just for those.

Alohole in One

My wife and I hiked, swam, surfed and climbed, but the toughest physical challenge we faced was mini golfing in Ma’alaea.

Maui is famous for windsurfing because it’s very windy. The northeastern wind is constant and fast offshore, and it gets even faster in the valley that bisects the island. Finally, the wind becomes absolutely furious by the time it is funneled to the narrowest point at the south of the valley, which is exactly where they put the mini golf course.

I had trouble keeping the ball still on the tee. My wife hit two hole-in-ones.

Vocationaloha

A lady working a lemonade stand on the beach told the people in line that she quit her job selling insurance in Charlotte to “live the dream” and move to Maui. Everyone oohed and ahed and expressed their heartfelt desires to do the same if only the kids, etc.

I looked at the lemonade lady standing drenched in sweat in the sun and thought that she must be insane to leave a skilled job at an air conditioned office to work as a human vending machine for half the salary. Maui is fun when you’re retired (like I am for the next two months), not when you have to fight for a career in the fruit-squeezing industry.

Millenialoha

On our last day, we went for breakfast in Heavenly Cafe in Waikiki (actual motto: Local from Hawaii, organic when possible). At the table to our left, a single woman was shoveling kale into her mouth with a smile. At the table to our right, a group of Japanese tourists were Instagramming their salmon Eggs Benedict.

Suddenly, my vision began to fade and my pulse raced. I felt a pressure building inside, overwhelming my entire body. Clinging to a last tendril of consciousness, I pulled out my phone and checked the price of Litecoin (down 7% for the hour, up 700% for the year). I breathed, the pressure subsided.

I thought I knew premium mediocre from New York, but at Heavenly the PM is refined to a form so pure it’s radioactive.

Alohafricans

We spent almost a week in Maui, criss-crossing the entire island several times. We saw two black people in total.

Libertarian Rant of the Day Aloha

A local guide showed us where pineapples used to be grown on the slopes of West Maui. Picking pineapples is very labor-intensive and hard to automate, so as wages kept rising the plantations closed and the US started importing pineapples from the Philippines. Today, the slopes are barren except for some dirty brown grass.

Judging by the fact that a lot of Hawaiians rummage through the trashcans in Honolulu looking for plastic bottles, there are certainly Hawaiians that would be happy to pick pineapples for $4-$5 an hour, especially if they got EITC and didn’t lose out on other welfare. There is no doubt that there are many Filipinos who would be very happy to pick pineapples in Hawaii for $1-$2 an hour, with no claims on welfare or citizenship.

Of course, the minimum wage and immigration laws make both things illegal. As a result, Americans import pineapples that aren’t as fresh, aren’t as tasty, and are too expensive for poor Americans to afford, especially the ones who are jobless.

Aloholy Spirit

Good news, everyone, the wait is almost over!

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5 thoughts on “Travel Journal: Hawaii

  1. I’ve heard that Hawaii is amazingly beautiful. I’m glad you’all got to enjoy it.

    I’ve also heard that it’s a destination that some of American homeless actively try and get to and that living in Hawaii is expensive. It could be that local authorities would rather not give people additional incentive to move to Hawaii unless they can support themselves fully without welfare. Whatever one would think about this situation, there are probably plenty of Hawaians who would not welcome sub minimum wage labor.

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  2. I have to say, I highly doubt that the minimum wage is the problem here. First of all, most fruit pickers in the US already get paid significantly more than minimum wage, usually somewhere between $15 and $28 an hour, depending on how fast they can pick. And even so farmers constantly talk about how hard it is to find willing workers. So it doesn’t look like the minimum wage has any impact on this industry.

    Maybe the situation in Hawaii is different, but I doubt it.

    Also a difference in wages of $2 an hour for picking jobs would probably translate to less than a penny per fruit so that’s probably not what makes it uncompetitive.

    Unrelated side note; my grandfather was stationed in a naval base in Hawaii during WWII, and apparently the base had huge pineapple fields next to it and there were constantly problems with stopping them from going over and stealing one from the field, heh.

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    1. A penny per fruit would imply 18 seconds of effort per pineapple (1 hour / 200 cents), I think that’s off by more than one order of magnitude.

      Pineapple plants produce one or two fruits a year each, and each plant has to be cared for individually throughout the year from planting to spraying to picking. At 15 minutes of labor per fruit and a difference of $4 per hour, you get more than $1 per fruit, and the pineapple industry mostly goes away.

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      1. I wasn’t able to find any numbers on how fast it is to pick pineapples, but with most fruits, a good picker will pick hundreds in an hour. Most fruit pickers are paid by the bin of fruit, and a good one will pick 5-10 bins per day.

        Planting and spraying do take some time as well, but it’s a lot less; farmers usually only have to hire a lot of extra labor during picking season.

        Anyway, like I said, it doesn’t look like farmers anywhere in the US can hire pickers for anything close to minimum wage, even with a lot of illegal immigrants doing the work in most places. Again, perhaps Hawaii would be different, but if anything it would probably be even harder since there’s not a migrant labor force that can easily pass from one state to another to follow different harvesting seasons like there is in the continental US

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