You’re on the island of Maui — hiking, ascending into a valley that plunges deep into the windward face of the West Maui Mountains. Streams flank the valley’s tableland on their way to the sea. You pass guava, Christmas berry, loquat, ginger, banana, eucalyptus, koa and mango trees and lots of underbrush. And it suddenly dawns on you: Snakes! All I’m wearing is hiking shoes!
Relax. We don’t have snakes in Hawaii, on any of the islands. Once in a purple moon, a six-inch-long garden snake turns up, perhaps having stowed away in somebody’s luggage. When that happens, it’s big news! It makes the papers! Whoever finds it hurries it to the zoo or the Humane Society so the “experts” can deal with it.
We don’t have a very big spider population, either. We see a lot of really little guys, no more threatening than ants, and we always have had cane spiders. The cane spider is one big arachnid, about the size of a hockey puck, with thick hairy legs. We don’t mind cane spiders. They don’t spin webs; they hunt for food – other insects, including cockroaches and silverfish – at night. They don’t bite, preferring to run like thieves instead of defending themselves. Even if we could catch one, we wouldn’t kill it (ugly as it may be). It does way more good than harm in the home. We’d either let it out or let it stay. You aren’t likely to see one when you visit.
There are a lot of things you enjoy on the mainland we do without here. At home, inside your front door, your hall closet stores the clothes you remove when you arrive. Hall closet? We don’t have hall closets here. What would we put in a hall closet? We leave our shoes outside and there isn’t anything else to take off!
If you have a house, you probably have a basement. Maybe you’ve even fixed it up and use it regularly. Basement? We don’t have basements here. Why drill down into that tough lava rock just to put another layer of space under our living areas?
Snow tires, chains, windshield scrapers, rock salt to scatter on frozen sidewalks and steps … are you kidding?
North, south, east, west … well, we know what they are, but we don’t use them much. We look or go toward the mountains (mauka) or toward the sea (makai). In between, we head toward landmarks or places. (“Go Diamond Head until you reach Waikiki, then go Koko Head to Hanauma Bay.”) It’s easier that way. Who carries a compass?
Mom and pop stores, neighborhood bars and local hangouts for kids. We’re losing them fast, and we miss them. How about where you live?
We don’t have major-league sports. Here in Hawaii, it’s all vicarious. We’re avid pro sports fans, but we root from afar. We love University of Hawaii sports, though, and sometimes we treat our amateur athletes as if they were high-paid pros who deserve to be criticized. We know better, but they’re all we have to complain about. We follow closely the current pros who grew up or played in Hawaii.
We don’t have jambalaya, scrapple, grits or omnipresent crabcakes (except in some home kitchens), but we have our own foodstuff. It’s delicious and you’re welcome to try it, even if you’re inclined to add sugar to poi (Don’t do it!), or to back off from raw fish (Sashimi is one of the world’s great taste sensations).
We hope you don’t miss your snakes, spiders, hall closets, basements, pro sports, and favorite home-town dishes while you’re in Hawaii.
But, boy! Do we have some neat things to show you!