On a recent Sunday Star Advertiser, the headline story was that the SHAKA Movement is now going after the sugar cane industry. This is the very industry that changed the face of our islands that brought people here. This is how we got our beloved local style. I feel as if our island roots are being picked at day by day by transplants who are redefining Hawaii to be their Hawaii.

The more I think about it, this place is not the same place I grew up in.

As a kid, I enjoyed the simple farm life. After homework and chores, my siblings and I would ride our bikes and head to the stream and catch guppies or collect jojo beans to make necklaces. We were free to be kids and play outside with no worry in the world.


In this undated photo, the author and her sister sit with their grandparents.

Courtesy/Joni Kamiya-Rose

Today, it’s not like that for my children. With the cost of living so high, both my husband and I have to work full days to make ends meet. My kids can’t play outside because they have to be in after school programs until the late afternoon. I can’t even let them wander the neighborhood on their bikes in fear of them being abducted. Their childhoods are nothing like what I remember.

I used to spend nearly every weekend on the beach fishing with my grandfather near the Hauula bridge. My grandma would cook up some food and we’d eat there too all the way through the evening. Despite living near the beach, we hardly ever go because the weekends are the only time I have to do housework and chores. My kids get to the beach maybe once every three months because of how busy life is.

Everything seems to be going up. I’ve also noticed how my grocery bill keeps creeping up each month. Actually, all basic utilities continue to go higher over the last several years.

It gets harder and harder to save when my basic costs keep draining my budget every month. We don’t even take vacations to avoid more debt. Even a staycation means less money out of our budget. Home is where we spend all of our time or going down to my dad’s farm to play.

The cost of childcare is also ridiculous here too. One month of preschool is about $750 and baby sitting averages $600. After school program rates are likely going up also with the minimum wage rate increased. It’s so expensive here to raise kids.

I live in a house that I could never afford on my own salary. My grandparents paid a mere $25,000 50 years ago and it’s now over $700,000. I could sell my half and buy a newer home outright in the mainland. Then I wouldn’t have to be paying out to anyone and avoid having a nice added burden over my head. I’ll miss this home but it’s just a physical structure at this point that is viewed as money to some family members who have stake in it.

I’m at a crossroads now with deciding whether or not Hawaii really is the best place for my family to be raised in. I spent 8 years taking care of my grandma with dementia and she’s now passed on. I have no real obligations keeping me here. Do I want to live where I always have to feel like it’s a struggle to make it financially or do I pick up and go to where there is less worry? Granted, my kids won’t get to see their relatives much, but at this rate, that doesn’t pay the bills.

I know that I’m not the only one in this situation. So many other local families are in the same situation. There’s so much talk about helping local families out but none has ever materialized in the last 9 years that I have been back. I always have hope that there will be some relief but it’s not happening soon enough.

I will always be the daughter of a Hawaii farmer but the thought of living in a place that is affordable looks much more appealing. The feeling of what it means to be local is dying and none of our leaders are interested in maintaining that uniqueness that made our home special. It’s like we are no different than any other big city with its problems.

Home is not home anymore. Maybe I need to carve out a new place to call home and create my own local style because it’s gone from here and no one seems to see it.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author

  • Joni Kamiya
    I am a long time Windward Oahu resident born and raised. Grew up on the North Shore and Waikane area on the farm. My dad is Kenneth Kamiya, a long time papaya farmer and agvocate in Hawaii. I am also an occupational therapist trained at Washington University in St. Louis, volunteer community educator with Project Dana, public relations and webmaster with the Occupational Therapy Association, and occasional lecturer at Kapiolani Community College. My other jobs include mother of two, caregiver to my grandmother, artist of sorts, and blogging about ag issues in Hawaii. It's in my blood to be busy! I can be found on Facebook as The Hawaii Farmer's Daughter.