It was an assault on my senses. My rental home for a fortnight was a playground for tropical fruit trees like papaya and banana. Ketchup and lemon hibiscus blossoms littered the lawn like fallen Christmas tree ornaments. The pervasive scent of frangipani scaled fences and ran screaming beyond. Impenetrably lush mountains cascaded below a blue jay sky toward a luminescent aqua ocean which spat upon the shore.
It was December 2005 and I was on the island of Maui.
Maui is like a upside-down salad bowl sitting on dry toast, surrounded by Gatorade...and I say this as a positive. It has a leafy freshness balanced by an arid underside of sand and volcanic rock. The ocean is a relentlessly refreshing mélange of blue, green and frothy white. The only thing that could possibly dissuade me from a lifetime of Maui bliss, beside the lack of a green card, would be my brothers and sisters. By that, I mean humankind.
The human fingerprint is everywhere, Maui is no exception. There are undercurrents of unrest in Maui, among 'natives' and non-natives. The problem is the availability of affordable land. The wealthy mainlanders, who want to own a piece of paradise, are buying up Maui. The native population, the working backbone of the tourism industry, have little hope of owning their own bungalows. This story plays out all over the world.
It's worth asking the question, what is native? Does ownership rest with the first group of people to get somewhere? Should the Vikings return to Newfoundland to claim what is rightfully theirs? Do Americans, and this includes native Hawaiians, now own the moon? They got there first.
I've never forgotten my first visit to Maui's Ho'okipa Beach, arguably the most famous windsurfing beach in the world. It was everything that I hoped that it would be, and less. I remember seeing a decal pasted on the Ho'okipa sign, it read:
Welcome to HAWAII, NOW GO HOME.
That's been sitting in my stomach for over three years.
As a Canadian, I've had to digest of lot of bad weather over the years. At least I have enough land to be able to throw my snow somewhere without impinging on my neighbours. As a New Brunswicker living in a rural setting, I've lived like a Maui millionaire in terms of land. There's plenty for everyone in New Brunswick. Well, maybe not quite everyone.
The collage of images above was not taken in Maui. The signs do not belong to a junk yard, or to a crack dealer, though that's what you might surmise. Amazingly, those signs live in my quaint little hamlet of Cambridge-Narrows, and they dot the periphery of one property! There is no escape.
The signs don't really say 'no trespassing', or 'keep out'. They say 'I have a problem getting along with others'. It seems odd, to me, that you would want to broadcast this fact, but look around, it's not that uncommon. From Maui, to Gaza, to Cambridge-Narrows, we've all got our issues. We could blame overpopulation but the fact is that 'civilization', and I use that term loosely, has been squabbling over land for eons, long before Maui was discovered.
For all the signs that abound, there's no sign of abatement.