Thursday, June 25, 2020

Life on Maui After the Inter-Island Travel Ban Has Been Lifted + More Pics from Paia

Here in Hawaii, we have been watching things from a safe distance. I have never felt more aware of being on an island in the middle of nowhere in my life than right now, when there are hardly any visitors and when current events seem to be dramatically escalating over there, on the other side of the ocean. Hawaii feels like a calm harbor in a stormy sea, because we do not have a lot of Coronavirus cases right now. Our numbers are still very low, though increasing, but nothing compared to states like Texas or Arizona. Though we realize this could all change very quickly once the main travel quarantine is lifted.

Also, despite the outrage over George Floyd’s death, Hawaii has not experienced riots and mass protests with outbreaks of violence. We saw a peaceful protest in Kahului earlier in June, across from the University of Hawaii Maui campus. 

Students protesting for  #BlackLivesMatter on Maui.

The island paddling community organized a lei ceremony on the ocean in honor of George Floyd.  Also, the Hookipa pillbox mural was painted with the slogan Black Lives Matter, and around the side, where it’s harder to read from the highway, it says: “I can’t breathe.” 

Hookipa Pillbox: Memorial for George Floyd with hashtag

Previous week: Hookipa Pillbox

With Hawaii’s history of racial diversity and for the most part, acceptance, there is not a lot of divisive anger ready to ignite at the latest injustice. Also, I think police in Hawaii are considered part of the community rather than an outside force that has to control or exert force over the community. Policemen and women are for the most part, friends and neighbors, and are occasionally teased, like everyone else here.

Yet, things are not exactly quiet in my own personal life. I won’t go into a lot of details with that, but it’s been a crazy rollercoaster ride with the medical system and has nothing to do with COVID-19 whatsoever. Except that we have to wait outside in the car a lot and wear face masks once inside the building.

We’re approaching the end of June and it’s been over a week since the interisland travel quarantine has been lifted. This means that we can fly between the islands without self-quarantining for 14 days. The relaxed travel rules have led to a few more visitors on Maui from Oahu but not a lot.

More stores have opened in Paia, but many are still shuttered. What is the point of reopening for a trickle of traffic?

More graffiti in Paia to unmask Maui.

Graffiti on the Maui Crafts Guild boarded up storefront. I guess someone's been watching the fake news Plandemic.
Full page ad paid for by outraged Maui Memorial workers in the Maui Time newsweekly. 

We have been wondering, like many, when the travel quarantine from the mainland will be lifted. In another month, another few months, by the end of the year? Without tourism to drive the economy, what is going to happen to all the unemployed people, myself included? Actually, Governor Ige recently announced that there will be an alternative to the 14-day incoming traveler quarantine to begin on August 1st. If travelers test negative for COVID-19 prior to arrival in Hawaii, they will not be required to undergo the self-quarantine. And travelers who refuse to take the test will be flying with people who test negative, which does allow for the possibility of catching Coronavirus on the incoming flight. 

With tourism returning to the economy, how many cases will we see and will our little island hospital be able to cope? At least our hospital will have some ventilators because a friend of mine is helping to build them and has been working non-stop since March.

Maui Memorial is for all practical purposes, the only fully-equipped hospital for the entire island. There is another hospital upcountry called Kula Hospital but they cannot handle extreme medical situations. Unfortunately, Maui Memorial’s leadership has been a bit questionable during this time. The hospital administration was originally strongly against letting their staff wear PPE, personal protective equipment, and was not providing face masks to the staff. The hospital had some N—95 masks but those were under lock and key and not available except under limited medical situations like for surgery. During the initial crazy days of the Coronavirus pandemic, Maui Memorial Medical Center developed its own Coronavirus cluster that accounted for a large number of Maui’s Coronavirus cases.
I know some people who are outraged over the hospital situation and want the administrators fired for negligence and deception. Here is a copy of a full-page ad that ran in the Maui Time newsweekly that was paid for by upset hospital staff:

I have not seen any copies of the Maui Time in distribution for several weeks now. I fear that they have gone to an online-only format due to the lack of advertising revenue with the economy still under quarantine mode. Apparently, many local newspapers throughout the country may go under with the continuation of the pandemic.

However, life goes on. This weekend marks the free annual Slack Key Guitar concert which is always held on a Sunday in June at the MACC, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. 

The MACC is closed indefinitely.

This year, it will be held online so anyone can watch it anywhere in the world. To watch it, go to Facebook or to Youtube and type in Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival in the search area or try this Facebook link on Sunday, June 28th from 1 pm-4 pm HST (7pm-10 pm EST). Sadly, Willie K, one of Hawaii’s most popular entertainers passed away recently. He did not die from Coronavirus, but from cancer.  We will miss him. I saw this on the Hookipa pillbox days before the Black Lives Matter sign was painted, and am wondering if it has to do with his passing?

Hookipa pillbox: A Hui Hou, E My Bro - in memorial of Willie K?
A Hui Hou means "Until We Meet Again"

Grocery shopping has become a little more relaxed. Costco has removed its pallet-based obstacle course that shaped the waiting line to enter the store and they even have disposable face masks in stock. The only place where I feel like I’m almost in a military zone is at Wal-mart, which I went to for chicken food, because for some reason, Del’s closed temporarily or perhaps permanently. Del’s was the go-to place for buying livestock feed and other farm supplies. Their parking lot was blocked and a sign was in the window saying that their hours had changed temporarily.

Down To Earth was the most surprising recent shopping experience. I don’t go there often because it’s a little more pricy than the other health food stores. Their bulk section was operating in the normal way, where people could scoop out any quantity of grains or beans or other nonperishable items and bag them themselves. In other stores, due to the handling of the scoops and handles by multiple people, the bulk areas were closed or only offered pre-packaged items.

Maui’s stores are still requiring mask wearing. It’s not an optional choice. The best mask I have seen lately, in terms of sheer entertainment value – is this octopus mask I saw a man wearing outside of Whole Foods. 

Full head coverage with the crocheted octopus face mask. It does seem a little warm though. Perfect for the fall or winter?

The mask wearer said he made it himself. A more elegant and artistic mask is this creation by Caramiya Davies-Reid. It’s an embroidered mask custom-made to order. The story behind this mask is that Caramiya made over 1000 masks in April for donation to medical workers and worked to the point of exhaustion, and created a high-end version to celebrate creativity and self-expression not mass production and repetition. 

Embroidered face mask, custom-made by Caramiya

In some ways, things feel more normal, though I suspect the safest time since March was just before interisland travel opened up in mid-June.  The Friday before the interisland travel ban was lifted, my husband and I actually ate at a restaurant, Milagro’s in Paia. 

We got an outside table which was spaced 6 feet away from the other tables. Ironically, the waiting bench outside the seating area was roped off for Coronavirus. Maybe it was a little too close to one of the tables. The hostess wore a mask but it didn’t cover her nose. The other diners were not wearing masks. Other diners sat inside, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable because the air was not well-circulating inside the bar area. Our hostess sanitized our table and chairs.

Milagro's meal to remember. The first restaurant experience in months!

It was a breezy night, so we decided to take the chance of eating out in public. Our server wore a mask the entire time, which covered his nose and mouth completely. It was a really special dining experience just to watch the occasional pedestrian walk by, with the sounds of people talking and flirting over the sounds of restaurant music, while we pretended to be normal for a while. The food was tasty, generous and not that expensive (especially for Maui standards) so I would do it again sometime – although maybe not soon. Sadly, I heard that Maui Brick Oven, Maui's only gluten-free restaurant has closed permanently, and I suspect that Toohey's Deli in Haiku has also closed. 

A week later, we also went to an outdoor potluck, where the seats were spaced apart. While enjoyable for the social aspect – all ages, with little kids running around and seniors chatting – and the food was wonderful and there was even live music and dazzling light effects, we realized it might not be the safest type of event to attend for a while. Some people were more relaxed and shook hands, and we even did a halfway hug with our hostess as we left before chiding ourselves later for dropping our guard too much.

I’m grateful for both experiences though because we had been feeling starved for social contact. Zoom meetups have been wonderful but are not the same as in-person events.

One of my friends created a pop-up farm stand outside her house, for her neighborhood. She asks for donations of other food items or household supplies rather than money and opens it three times a week. She donates a lot of her own farm’s produce to the stand.

Pop-up Farm Stand and Food Pantry

Another friend created a phone app for locating and identifying wild food to forage. It’s her way to help people supplement their food sources, especially if they have more time than money.

If you are on Maui, there are two very interesting gallery exhibits - one is at Viewpoints Gallery in Makawao and features art during the quarantine by local artists. Viewpoints has limited hours and is open only on the weekends although that could change. Also, the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center is showcasing a retrospective by local Maui artist Deybra Fair. I was delighted to go, wearing a mask, and maintaining social distance a couple of weeks ago. The Hui also has part-time hours which could change at any moment. 

Aspire to Inspire Before You Expire - Deybra Fair

I have no idea when I’ll write a blog post again, so aloha until then. Here are more photos of painted storefronts from Paia and from  Hookipa: 

Storefront at Earth Love Treasures, Paia.

Street art at the Maui Crafts Guild storefront

They silence you... near Maui Crafts Guild. 

Maui Beach Girl's boarded up storefront art

Painted heliconias on Baldwin Avenue plywood storefront. 

United We Stand storefront

Divided We Fall... with a COVID-19 mask

Without a face mask, the following week.
Maui Crafts Guild with turtle street art. 

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of friends." A very philisophical message. This is a storefront on the ocean side of Hana Highway in the same building as Tobi's Shave Ice.  

Paia storefronts are a changing scene, as you can tell by the photos above... there are new graffiti and pictures every week. 

And, up the highway a few miles outside Paia, a Hookipa pillbox with magic mushrooms???
Happy Birthday to Matthew at the Hookipa Pillbox

Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2020 at the Hookipa Pillbox
Happy Birthday to Kayalani, Hookipa Pillbox
It's lychee season on Maui and if you're lucky, you can get some fresh-picked ones. (I'm referring to lychee...)

Previous post: Strange and Wondrous things I have seen on Maui during the Coronavirus Lockdown

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Strange and wondrous things I have seen on Maui during the Coronavirus lockdown:

The cute beachy town of Pāʻia (often spelled Paia) is now boarded up with plywood on most of the stores and restaurants. We drive through Pāʻia to Kahului to go grocery shopping about once a week. Some creative people have painted street art and messages of inspiration. I have not been anywhere farther than Kahului so I do not know if other places are similarly decorated. Or if it’s just Pāʻia.

What a great quote: Are we really waiting for a return to NORMAL or are we ready to build something different? By Eliana. Photo at Soha Living.

Original paint job at Nuage Blue.
Updated paint job at Nuage Bleu about a week later.

The other side of Nuage Bleu, painted a week later.
Wings Hawaii painted storefront.

Seascape with Day of the Dead scuba skeletons, at Jammin onʻ Maui.

Existential threats do no care about our biases and dreamed up boundaries. This challeng is asking us to divorce ideologies dedicated to separation and give a damn enough to stand still and save lives. Stand still. Breathe. We are all connected. John Blackshear. 

Painted on a storefront - maybe San Lorenzo Bikiniʻs. 

Hi Techʻs storefront with hashtags.

Painted outside Milagroʻs. Love like a hippie. 

Also at Milagroʻs.

Original paint job at Jamminʻ on Maui before some artist painted dolphins, octopus and swimming skeletons.

Storefront near Nuage Bleu.

Storefront at Paia (Pāʻia) Mercantile 

Storefront at Lilikoi (Lilikoʻi) Maui. 

My favorite street art in Paia: I want to hug you when this is all over. Artwork by Eliana. 

Itʻs actually quite amazing to see lots of free parking in Pāʻia! Usually it requires divine intervention to find a space. Mana Foods has reopened the bulk foods section, unlike Safeway and Whole Foods. 

The new Safeway in Kahului, bulk foods section.

So at Mana, one can fill a plastic bag with flour or beans or rice or spices, but there’s a maximum of 5 people in the bulk room and only 1 person in the spice area. If you are waiting for the slow person ahead of you to figure out what they’re doing, it can involve a lot of patience and waiting.

Mana Foods bulk room during COVID-19

Our post office in Hāʻiku (anglicized version is Haiku) is quite small. It’s maybe 6 feet from the counter to the wall, and yet there is this sign:
The tiny post office in Hāʻiku.

Sign at Fukushimaʻs, a mom and pop grocery store across from the post office. 

Most of the rental cars are not on Hāʻiku the road anymore and have been parked along the back road to Costco. It’s staggering to see how many cars there are. The video clip below is only 5 seconds long but the rental car stockpile continues for another minute in real life. 

Maui car rental stockpile. 2 rows on each side of the back road towards the airport. It doesnʻt go on forever, but there are so many unused cars, itʻs unusual and strange!

Traffic has been one of the nice improvements of our lockdown time. Without all the traffic from tourists and commuting to work, driving to Kahului seems to take about half the time! A friend says it reminds him of his childhood on Maui, back in the 80’s, when one would hardly see any cars on the road.
Typical beach closed sign, this is at Baldwin Beach.

I got a little tweaked at a tourist family that had stopped at a roadside stand in Maliko Gulch at the beginning of our lockdown. They were obviously visiting – because of their rental minivan. I talked with them briefly while wearing my mask and they said they had been staying in Kīhei (often spelled Kihei) from California for about a month. They had just bought some apple bananas, a type of bananas, and other fruit. Thereʻs no rule against buying food, but if you have to drive all the way from Kīhei to Hāʻiku, thatʻs a pretty long drive to buy 1 bag of local bananas when weʻre all supposed to be sheltering at home. 

Tourists cruising Hana Highway during a pandemic. Luckily they are the exception not the rule. There has been a 14 day self-quarantine for all visitors, which wouldnʻt apply to them since  they had already been here for a month. 

Please donʻt tell me itʻs because you canʻt find bananas in the grocery stores. We actually have plenty of food on the island to buy - and everyone I know is planting a garden. There was a two-week period at the beginning of April when it was difficult to find toilet paper and there were  signs limiting the quantities we could buy of certain goods, but the stores are almost normal now, except for the social distancing procedures, masks, protective plastic shields, and lines. I even found toilet paper in Costco last week!

Costco Maui pharmacy counter encased in plastic. 

Outside tables at the new Safeway in Kahului, encased in plastic. 

Almost everyone is wearing a mask in public. I’m pleased about that because last month, just before the lockdown, usually I was the only person in the store wearing a mask. Mine was a Vogmask that I had bought a couple of years ago but hardly used. Some stores like Foodland and Down to Earth now require masks. We’ve all become used to waiting in lines outside the store, standing about 6 feet apart from each other. In a line for Costco, I noticed two women in front of me, had some really pretty masks. I complimented them – 6 feet away – one of their masks was made out of kantha cloth. The other one was upcycled from a bag made of a pretty fabric.

Pics donʻt do these masks justice. My excuse - I was too far away with an older model iphone.

The Upcountry Farmers Market has radically changed since the end of March. I went on the last Saturday in March and the market was surprisingly festive and there were a lot of people interacting, with some people being more cautious. I saw two people who apparently hadnʻt seen each other in a while give each other a hug. I saw one person doing a headstand next to two people sitting on the edge of the sidewalk. Two young women were sniffing roses from the rose vendor. I decided this was not the time to buy pre-sniffed roses.

Upcountry Farmers Market on 3-28-20, before people fully adjusted.

Some vendors wore masks and had hand sanitizer available with signs requesting that people sanitize hands before touching any produce. Some stalls also had signs requesting people to practice social distancing and wait for service 6 feet apart. My friend Becky was selling homemade cloth face masks and infused herbal sprays but was told not to set up the following Saturday because her booth was “not essential.” 

Face masks by Becky Weeks

I went again in mid-April and there were only about 8 stalls and a long line of cars. It had converted into a drive-through farmers market. I was tempted to stay in line, but the line was moving very slowly so I turned around. 
Upcountry Farmers Market near Longs.

Waiting at the end of the line for the drive-through farmers market.

Another friend told me later, that her daughter stuck it out and waited in line that day. What happened is they finally got to a booth where they were asked to write a list of produce items that they wanted to buy, but all of those items were sold out. So it was a waste of time. The Hawaiʻi Farmers Union just launched a Maui Food Hubs project – like a farmers market but one in which you place the order ahead of time. Then on certain days, you can go to a pick up location to get your produce. When I checked it out, most of the items are sold in bulk quantities so it was not good for only 1 head of lettuce.

The new sign at Pukalani Superette.
Last week there was the strange incident of the golf cart that showed up in our driveway. Our neighbor wanted to open his side gate but couldn’t because of the golf cart. I thought it belonged to the boyfriend of one of the other people on our property, but it wasn’t his. After texting everyone on our property and next door, we discovered that the golf cart had been stolen from Sprecklesville, about 10 miles away! Someone had driven it on the highway all the way to our driveway and left it there, then destroyed the electrical system. Through the magic of Facebook post, our neighbor realized it belonged to his friend. It is now restored to its owner.
Random golf cart stolen from Sprecklesville during the lockdown.

The Hoʻokipa pillbox has not been decorated with any special Coronavirus art, but on 4/20 day, it was painted. 
Happy 4/20 at the Hoʻokipa pillbox mural! Was it 4:20 pm? 

Beaches are still technically closed, although there are always cars parked along the Hana Highway outside Hoʻokipa. The County does not want anyone sitting or enjoying the beach – one has to actively be exercising meaning walking, jogging, swimming, surfing – not eating or drying off or changing clothes.

We saw a large stuffed animal wearing a big mask on top of a car the other day. Well, why not? Itʻs been a strange time for us all. Stay safe, everyone. 

The masked monkey in Kahului.

P.S. One resource for Maui residents who need assistance paying rent is the Family Life Center, 808-877-0880. They have access to different grants for rental assistance.

You may also want to read: Entering Coronavirus Lockdown on Maui