The Psychology of Place

Aloha!

Hold on – this isn’t as esoteric as you might think.

I was watching the writer’s commentary for the hit TV series “True Detective” (the show got nominated in every major Emmy category for which it qualified, 12 in all, including a best drama nomination for writer Nic Pizzolatto.) In the commentary, Pizzolatto mentioned the “psychology of place,” in this case, New Orleans, where the series was filmed.

Many writers talk about place as a character, and I most enjoy movies where the sense of place is very strong. So part of what has intrigued me is that 1) I’ve never been to New Orleans and 2) all I knew of it was Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, mostly from movies.

Kind of like that’s the only way some people know Hawaii.

But this series showed the gripping underbelly of the Bayou – a whole different world… an insider’s world, as the writer is from there.

So I started thinking about the “psychology” of any place. A girl I know on Maui is from the upper Peninsula of Michigan, the “U-P” as it is known – -another place I’ve never been. Her assessment of her home: “Everyone drinks, and everyone hangs out in bars, because that’s all there is to do there.” It’s winter most of the time, and there’s nothing to do. To her, that’s the psychology of the place.

So what is the “psychology” of the place where you live? And what do you see (as a visitor or resident) as the psychology of Maui? Of Hawaii?

Please send me your thoughts. We’ll discuss this for the next couple of posts…

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage, or to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Smokin’ New Year on Maui!

Aloha!
If you’ve ever been to Maui for New Year’s Eve, you know that the celebratory fireworks are even bigger than Fourth of July here. I’m talking legal at-home fireworks. The air in our neighborhood was so thick that we couldn’t see, as a neighbor and his buddies set off firecrackers, etc. for four hours (I’m pretty sure that copious amounts of alcohol were involved) and we stayed inside with all the windows closed and the air conditioner on (I have asthma and am no fun when I can’t breathe). Since we don’t have a fireplace, of course, we made a picnic supper on the coffee table and lit candles and told New Year’s Eve stories. Then we started a new tradition: we lit a pillar candle, our “New Year’s Eve Candle” and everybody made a wish, and we all blew it out at the same time.

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2013 was the Year of the Shark on Maui. And Same-Sex Marriage, and a new group called SHAKA (opposing Monsanto GMO’s) and…Shopping!

There were numerous sharks sightings on Maui but in August, visitor Jana Lutteropp, 20, from Germany, was bitten in south Maui waters and died a week later. It was the first shark bite fatality in about a decade. Then in December, kayaker Patrick A. Briney died after a shark bit the foot he had dangling in the water while fishing with a friend.

Environmentalists think the exhaustion of the food supply due to overfishing has caused the predators to move into shallower waters, while the followers of the “old knowledge” say the sharks, a potent Hawaiian aumakau (family god), are a symbol or omen that call attention to desecration of Hawaii’s land and ocean resources.

The attack on Briney came three days after an unidentified woman was attacked (but survived) at Keawakapu Beach about five miles to the north. This presents a worrisome trend: There have been at least eight shark attacks around Maui in 2013, with 13 shark attacks overall reported around the state, according to state data and recent reports.
Attacks in Hawaii have risen sharply over the last two years compared with the last decade, when Hawaii saw only one fatality, in 2004.

In 2013, Maui victims have been attacked while swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and now kayaking. “We are not sure why these bites are occurring more frequently than normal, especially around Maui,” Hawaii Land and Natural Resources Director William Aila Jr. told the Associated Press. “That’s why we are conducting a two-year study of shark behavior around Maui that may give us better insights.” http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-maui-shark-attack-20131203,0,457677.story#ixzz2onWTovvb.

As for Same-Sex Marriage in Hawaii, in November, the House passed SB1, the Same-Sex Marriage Law, and the Senate followed, to the chagrin of some and celebration of others…but not without a whole lot of shoutin’ and fightin’ going on all along the way.

The SHAKA group: Monsanto was in the news frequently, in regard to what the heck they are growing on Maui and what anyone can do about it. An article in the Maui Weekly said it best: “Who could have guessed that a generation that ingested practically every known chemical substance in their youth would, as they aged, suddenly converge on food safety as a major threat to public health? But that indeed was the big story of the year.

The GMO (genetically modified organism) protests drew the largest crowds seen on Maui in recent years, and larger, louder gatherings throughout the state. The show of force gave credibility to the existence of a broad base of support.

On Maui alone, there were three different mass marches, with a very large and vocal contingent of “Mother Power.” The moms and their kids in strollers, wagons and on foot were highly visible at all the local events.

There were marches through the spring and summer, and by year’s end, a new group called the SHAKA Movement (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the ‘Aina) announced that they would put a GMO moratorium on the Maui General Election ballot in 2014.”

And finally, Shopping: a new outlet mall in Lahaina! Mauians will now have more choices and may even save a few pennies. The Mall is located behind Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse Lahaina, where the Front Street Cinema used to be (it’s now a Gap.)

If you seriously want to know everything that went on on Maui this past year, you can see more at: http://mauiweekly.com/page/content.detail/id/532057/Year-End-Wrap–GMOs–Boldface-Names—Shark-Bites.html?nav=13#sthash.cJCCC9kM.dpuf

And also: mauitime.com

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! (Happy New Year!)
Aloha, Jamaica

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Positive Outlook?

Aloha!
Tourism is still the driving factor in Maui County’s economy, according to economists at First Hawaiian Bank’s 39th annual Maui Business Outlook Forum. But if you’re thinking of moving to Maui and finding a job, or starting a business, read on.

At its lowest point in the recent deep recession in 2010, the county lost nearly 9,000 jobs. About 5,000 of those jobs have returned, mostly in tourism and other service-related fields, and the unemployment rate is still well above the 3% rate before the recession. In my personal experience, I was working a part-time job on Maui when I was laid off. I found out firsthand that these jobs numbers are not totally accurate: I would never show up as a statistic, because I could not collect unemployment as a part-time employee. So it was as if my job never existed. And I could not collect unemployment, even though I’d been paying into it for years!

In it’s third-quarter “Outlook for the Economy” published last month, the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism projected state unemployment rates to be 4.8% in 2013 and 4.5% in 2014.

As for construction, activity has been on a slow but steady climb since 2011 and has made about a 25% recovery after plummeting to its low point in 2010. However, the economists noted, the opportunities are coming from infastructure and commercial construction, and less from residential and timeshares. So if you’re a guy planning to swing a hammer, be aware of that.

The retail sector also is expected to grow. The Maui Mall will add a T.J. Maxx store, scheduled to open in summer 2015.(Yay.) And the Queen Kaahumanu Center is planning to add new “name brand” shops. (That will be nice, especially after we lost both JCPenney and the Gap. Because of that, I tend to shop for basics on the mainland.)

As far as real estate, based on January – through – July numbers this year, sales for both single – family and condo units were well on their way to numbers not seen since their peak in 2007: 1,000 single family units and 1,300 condos sold. “The market is getting back to where it was,” said the President of Realtors Association of Maui, P. Denise LaCosta.”When inventory is low like this, it means prices will rise, and inventory will continue to shrink.” Maui’s real estate inventory has declined 11-14% over the last 12 months.

Make of these numbers what you will…A number of readers wrote to tell me they were planning to move to Maui. If you are one of those people, please write and tell me if you found jobs. Shauna?

Other than that, we have drought conditions here on Maui, because it’s been hot, hot,hot with NO rain. I got my haircut today and was talking with my hairstylist, who lives in Haiku. She said that Haiku (rainy, eastern-Maui, jungle) used to only get in the high 70s, and it has consistently been 85 to 87 this past week. She said she is “over summer” and “so tired of being hot!” I concur. As I wrote in a past blog post, statistics now show that Maui is 10° hotter than it was 10 years ago…

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

How for speak Pidgin

Aloha!

As I get settled back into the way of life on Maui after being gone for so long, I thought I would share with you one of the major differences between the mainland and here. It’s a funny and very true depiction of speaking pidgin.

If you’re trying to keep up while watching it, think, that’s how it would be if you lived in Hawaii!

Enjoy!
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GLmfQSR3EI0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DGLmfQSR3EI0

Aloha, Jamaica

Real Estate is Hot Again

Aloha!

Real estate is on fire in California… I share this with you because the common wisdom is that Hawaii follows California. So if you’re thinking of moving to Hawaii, the time is now.

Yes, I’ve said this before. However, that was before I became personally embroiled in California real estate, and now I see it in the big picture. Home prices in the Bay Area have hit a milestone: median prices for all types of housing topped $500,000 for the first time in five years.

I am the executor of my mother’s estate, which means I needed to sell her house in the Bay Area. It went on the market, had open houses for two weekends, and got 18 offers. 18 offers, people! Almost all of them were well over asking price. I was floored. Then of course, I had to weed through the 18 offers, and ended up countering five of them. It was a very difficult decision to make the final choice, especially knowing that there are many young families out there who are desperate to buy a home while interest rates are historically low.

I have a friend in California who has been actively trying to buy a condo. One of the units she placed an offer on got 28 offers. She was very discouraged, but after five months of looking and putting in offers, she prevailed. The secret in this market is to be extremely patient. Also, to be excited about a house, but not crushed if you don’t get it. Easier said than done.

The reason for the on-fire real estate market in the Bay Area is that housing prices have risen to where underwater homes can finally sell at a profit. And yet, people are still leery of the market, and many are holding back to see where the prices will land. This has created a seller’s market, and a huge demand for very few houses. “I’ve been in real estate for 32 years and this is the lowest inventory we have ever had,” said Caroline Miller, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.”We’ve had multiple-offer markets before, but it’s just incredible. There are anywhere from three offers up to 20 or 30 offers, it’s just been crazy.”

As I said, Hawaii follows California. Are you planning to move to Hawaii? Do you hope to buy a house? Then hurry, please.

What is the housing market like in your area? Please share your stories.

A hui ho! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “follow” button on the homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

The Patchwork of Life

Aloha!

When people start writing to ask, “Are your okay?” I know it’s time to blog again.

Interesting question… are you okay? Having lost my mother, I have to say it’s hard to realize I will never again pick up the phone and have her be on the other end. She was 77 years old. That would’ve seemed old at one time in my life, but this was a woman who still went to water aerobics three times a week, who went to lunch and the movies with friends every single Friday of her life, no matter what. In fact, three of us went to the movies the evening of my stepfather’s funeral…nothing like a good comedy to ease a transition. Mom was all about enjoying life. (Which begs the question, where are all the good comedies? But that is another post.)

I want to write about the concept of chogak po. I am reading the book “Honolulu” by author Alan Brennert. (I don’t know how this one escaped me; it was published in 2009 and was the winner of “Elle’s” Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Fiction.) It’s about a Korean woman who travels to Hawaii as a “picture bride” in 1914, but she does not find the life she has been promised, and instead must make her own way in a strange land. Chogak po is the Korean word for patchwork cloth, cobbled together from leftover scraps of material. They have an abstract beauty, but the protagonist asks her mother why she does not make more elegant creations, because she is capable. The mother replies, “When we are young we think life will be like a su po: one fabric, one weave, one grand design. But in truth, life turns out to be more like the patchwork cloth–bits and pieces, odds and ends–people, places, things we never expected, never wanted, perhaps. There is harmony in this, too, and beauty.”

I am trying to see harmony and beauty in my life, at a time when so many things I never saw coming and never wanted to deal with are expected of me. It has been four months since my mother passed away, and I am still wading through the paperwork and making daily phone calls in connection with her business affairs. Who knew?

One bright spot is my friend, Suzanne, who went through this a year before I did, and has been my mentor and guide. There was a time in my life when I was ahead of all of my friends in doing the important things such as buying a house, starting a business, etc. and they were constantly relying on me to guide them through the intricacies of those things. I used to think, “When is it my turn? When do I get someone to explain things to me?” I am just so glad that when it has come down to important decisions such as the timing on when to sell my mom’s house, I have had Suzanne to say, “Take your time…don’t let anyone push you or hurry you. As Executor, you are in control.”

Moving to Maui is much the same as that patchwork Korean cloth. Everyone thinks life here is going to be perfect (it’s Paradise, right?) and they have a grand design in mind when they come. But in truth, it turns out to be full of things no one can understand until they have fully lived here…not just part-timed it, or vacationed here. Vacationing in Maui means hanging out with other tourists and doing tourist things. Living here means reality: understanding pidgin and the local ways. Accepting that everything moves at a glacial speed.

Some things just can’t be fully understood until we’ve lived them ourselves.

A hui hou! Thanks for stopping by…If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the homepage.
Aloha, Jamaica

Because Suze Orman Said So

Aloha!

Many of you have written to me saying you’re planning to move to Maui this June… must be something in the air. And of course the price of Paradise always enters the conversation when people plan to move here.

I never had facts and figures to back up how much more expensive Paradise is, until now. In the recent Oprah Magazine a woman wrote to financial guru Suze Orman to talk about budgeting, and she is living in Hawaii. Suze wrote back to question the wisdom of living in a place that is 55% higher than the mainland for necessities like gas, groceries, and utilities.

So there you have it. Paradise is 55% higher because Suze Orman said so. Now we can all quit wondering.

I spent this winter in northern California, taking care of my mother’s estate after she passed away. There were three people living in the house. And California was having the coldest winter anyone could remember for ages, which meant I was running the furnace all the time.

The  utility bill in California (for three people) was $310 per month cheaper than my house in Maui (for four people), with no furnace running.

And then there are the groceries. In California, I fairly skip down the grocery aisles, tossing things into my cart with abandon. Everything is about one third, to half the price, as Maui. It’s all relative, whatever you are used to. I’m sure the people in California don’t think their groceries are cheap.

The price of paradise is steep. The difference is, I did not get to wake up to blinding sunshine every single day in California like I do in Maui.

It really is all relative…

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the homepage.


Aloha, Jamaica