Paradise with Pockets of Reality – Maui, Hawaii, USA
It felt like paradise. It was a place of picture postcards, where bending palms stretched over the surf into the warming sun. It was a land where a contented populace sauntered the lazy streets, carefree with a smile on their lips, departing perhaps from a great meal in route to the perfect drink. It was a land of great cultural beauty that beckoned us closer.
It was the Maui we expected. That is, until the last day, the day when David was attacked and almost killed.
Maui is a land of great contrast. You can go from the toasty sands of a relaxing beach to the chilled mountain air 10,000 feet high on a quarter tank of gas. At first sight it is a destination that feeds our fantasies of a simpler life. It looks like paradise. It feels like paradise. You can tell that many who live here were once visitors who simply couldn’t leave, lured by the sirens song of the tropics. Yet, even in paradise, there are incongruent pockets of reality where the ugly things we remember from home have taken up residence in a world that many think can hold only beauty.
Fourteen of us had traveled to attend a wedding in Maui. We rented two great houses and set out to experience the island. We drove to Hana, up to Haleakala, we snorkeled and soaked up sun. We poured our share of funds into the local economy. We made efforts to purchase from local artisans, we ate local foods, we dropped folded bills into donation boxes. We were good guests who appreciated our hosts and our time on the island.
What we did not appreciate was that one of our moonlit strolls on the beach concluded with a vicious attack. A group of thugs accosted David and his wife on the beach in the wee hours of the morning. Other couples who witnessed the assault ran into darkness like frightened animals, leaving David to protect his bride single handedly. Those who fled didn’t even call the police. David fought off the men the best he could. He was sliced with a glass bottle that cut a path 40 stitches down his ear and through his cheek. David’s wife dragged her unconscious husband back to the house.
We were lucky. We had a trauma surgeon in our group. Had we not, David might have returned home with us in the cargo hold of the plane. This is not what angers me. Crime exists. We are not naive. The attack was tragic and pointless. We know life can be that way. What disturbs us was the reaction to the crime. There was none.
We expected more from Maui. We thought the police would take David’s statement. They did not. We figured the media would report the story. They did, as a mere assault where a man was treated at the scene. We expected returned phone calls from the police department. That has not happened. Perhaps our stumble into reality was an inconvenience for the Maui police and the media. We are certain the tourism board wouldn’t want this type of story broad casted – a contrast to the Maui we visualize.
This scenario is more common than you think. Despite this, we were treated like transients. The authorities assumed (like many others who had received scars from Maui), we would simply leave and take our troubles with us. In time the waves swept away the bloody cakes of sand where David fought. To Maui, our tragedy would disappear soon enough, washed away with the tide. Our struggles continue as criminals still roam the sandy stretches, stalking their next prey. We are not mad about the attack. We are mad that no one else in Maui seems to be mad.
Maui is a wonderful place, and I will return. But I will return wiser. As I walk the beaches, even amongst the crowds, I will somehow know that in some ways, I am truly on my own. That’s a pity. For Maui, I expected more.
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