Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hana Highway Tree Trimming and Ethnic Jokes

It's easy to stop traffic on Maui with a few orange cones and some construction crews. The lush vegetation grows year round, so it's a constant battle to keep the grass cut and the trees pruned. A typical Maui scene right on Hana Highway, where traffic is being stopped in both directions. 

There's an old ethnic joke, "How do you stop traffic in Hawaii?" Answer: "Two Portagees (pronounced Port-a-ghee) and an orange cone!"  This joke will only be funny if you have lived in Hawaii long enough to experience being at the mercy of an orange cone and a couple of construction workers for some road work that would only take a few minutes to complete anywhere other than Hawaii. 

This joke picks on the ethnic group, the Portaguese, who are descendants of the original Portuguese immigrants who worked on plantations. But they don't call themselves Portuguese, they call themselves "Port-a-ghee" with a hard "g" sound. Unlike more racially sensitive places, in Hawaii, there are a lot of jokes that tease different ethnic groups, and they are not PC in any way - some jokes pick on the Japanese, or the Chinese, the Filipinos, the Hawaiians, the Koreans, the haoles (the Caucasians) and of course, the Portagees. There are relatively few jokes that pick on Samoans, because no one wants to be beaten up! (I guess that is the joke about Samoans.)  The Portagees in Hawaii are considered to be hard workers, practical, proud, obstinate, good farmers, and solid as the earth.  Portagee jokes are similar to Polish jokes elsewhere. The Portagee are famous for Portaguese sweet bread, also the Molokai sweet bread, sold in most supermarkets here. 

I grew up listening to popular local comedians known for their ethnic jokes, like Frank De Lima and Andy Bumatai. Most locals don't mind a little ribbing and won't mind making fun of you either!  It's also considered fun to try and guess other people's ethnic backgrounds since most local people are quite a mix, and proud of their diverse ancestry. 

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