I’ve debated even bringing the subject up because I’m of the mindset that drawing territorial lines in the sand on a very small island could be detrimental to our community. But after a recent overnight stay in Kihei, I’m going to do it anyway.
Growing up, I lived all over the island: Wailuku, Paia, Makawao, Kahului, Kula, Haiku and Waikapu. In fact, the only places I haven’t lived are South Maui, the Westside and Hana, but that last one is almost a given.
Even though I spent time in multiple places on the island, the bulk of my life was spent in Makawao. I was never one of those kids that plastered my car with “Upcountry Girl” stickers–though I admit to being tempted on numerous occasions–nor did I ever scream, “Cun-tray!” while rolling down Makawao Avenue in a big four-wheel drive truck.
But I’ve always secretly harbored the conviction that Upcountry–its people, places, climate and over-all vibe–is way better than Kihei. Upcountry has cowboys, whereas Kihei has drunk tourist dudes. Sorry, but I’d take a Portuguese Paniolo who’s set to inherit land in Ulupalakua from his Grandpa over a Southern Californian with bad tattoos any day.
And then there are the women. Upcountry girls are strong and resilient. We can hang with the boys, throw a mean rotten guava, hop a fence and cow-tip with the best of them, all while retaining our hotness factor. Can you say that about EWOKs (Easy Women of Kihei)? Hey, I didn’t coin the phrase, but I can’t honestly say that I don’t utter an “Amen” while smirking after hearing it.
Other obvious arguments against Kihei are that it’s hot, dusty, traffic-congested and overflowing with tourist traps, tourists and pedestrians. Not that there’s anything wrong with pedestrians, unless you’re like me and occasionally jump the sidewalk while making left turns in your SUV.
Points for Upcountry include afternoon showers, livestock adorning the landscape like a real-life Thomas Kincaid painting, non-touristy art, eucalyptus trees, streams and Pukalani Superette.
Unfortunately, both locations of the island have their share of batu-heads. Ten years ago I would have said Kihei was a tweaker town while Upcountry was more of a stoner ville, but times have changed for the worse. Of course, I still have to back Upcountry and say that our meth-heads seem less agro than the ones zipping along South Kihei Road on mopeds. Maybe it’s just that Kihei is more aggravating than Upcountry… You know with all the EWOKS and traffic.
But while spending a lovely Saturday down in Kihei at my sister-in-law’s house, I began to have a change of heart.
No, the people that I came into contact with weren’t the same as the ones Upcountry, but they weren’t bad people either. There were a lot of tourists milling around, but they actually accentuated the feeling that I was on a “mini vacation.” Plus, most tourists are pretty cool if you take the time to stop and chat with them.
Being so close to the water was a treat, and sunsets in Kihei are pretty phenomenal. Kihei is also convenient: if I need an internet bar, stiff drink, pedicure, ice cream cone, Jamba Juice and/or a plate of lasagna with a side of sushi, I can have it all within five minutes.
As an added bonus, an ice cream truck –music and all–comes through my Sister-in-law’s street in the evenings. I never had that when I was growing up. The closest thing driving through our neighborhood was the trailer full of cows heading to the slaughterhouse.
I’m beginning to think Upcountry needs to step up its game.
Starr Begley sometimes pretends she’s an EWOK, but the smell of guavas in her hair gives her away every time. MTW