A friend recently said to me about Hilo, Hawai’i, “Who lives here? It rains!” Hilo is a sleepy town on the eastern side of Hawai’i Island. Nicknamed “Big Island” because it’s the largest of the eight main Hawaiian islands, Hawai’i Island has eight to eleven sub-climates. The western side is hot, dry, and sunny. The eastern side is a lush, rainy tropical forest.
Chasing dreams of sunny beaches and golden tans, tourists flock to the western side of the Big Island and usually end up in the town of Kailua-Kona or in the resort areas further north. Most never bother to drive to Hilo. Hilo doesn’t have world-class beaches with wide expanses of soft, white sand. Hilo doesn’t have mega-resorts with spas and top-rated restaurants. Hilo doesn’t have tourist attractions with mile-long lines and long waits. There is a campus of the University of Hawai’i in Hilo, but it’s not a college town.
Hilo, and its neighboring towns, is country. Hilo is where the farmers market is open every day except Sunday. Hilo is where stores don’t stay open late because children need their parents after school, and dinner is not about takeout. Hilo is a place for small-town living, not posh or fast-action vacationing.
So who lives in Hilo? Kind people who don’t honk their horns at elderly drivers and who stop for elderly pedestrians. Practical people who have no need for clothes that require dry cleaning. Easygoing people who laugh easily because they don’t sweat the small stuff. Friendly people who stop their running to talk to strangers who look lost. People who will buy extras of something on sale so they have extras to give away. People who, if they were our neighbors, would make the need to get away from our stressful lives a little less frequent and a little less urgent.
Hawaiians believe rain is a blessing. All the rain that makes the Hilo area so lush and abundant with flowers, plants, and fruits and vegetables of all kinds also makes people slow down. Maybe this is why they can pay attention to one another and to the things that really matter in daily life. So maybe this is the real answer to my friend’s question. Who lives in Hilo where it rains? Blessed people.
©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.