A Tale of Two Islands


Richard Moore

Kauai   -- The Garden Island
               22 deg N
              159 deg W

Ireland -- The Emerald Isle
               53 deg N
                8 deg W

These two islands, on nearly opposite poles of the Earth, are both Western
Outposts -- one of the USA, the other of Europe.  To the west of each lies
a vast ocean which both isolates and connects.  Ireland is connected in
various ways with the USA to the west: by immigration, by their shared
history of throwing off British shackles, and by an inbred sense of
independence and democracy.  Kauai is similarly connected with Asia to the
west: by immigration, culture, trade, and tourism.

Living on one of these islands is like living in the last house of a town:
on one side you have no neighbors; you have a sense of freedom and
infinity.  When the sun sets, it sets on "your" ocean, and you pass on the
baton of your continent's day to distant western land masses.

Both are marked by scenic beauty, warm people, and a highly developed
appreciation for leisure and the enjoyment of life.  Both are green, rainy,
and rural.  Each is the favorite vacation spot of many thousands among
those unfortunate souls who spend their workaday lives in more crowded,
hectic environs.  Each has a summer culture, innundated by tourists, and a
winter culture, where the pace slows, the pubs are less crowded, and
there's more time to spend with your family and neighbors.  Winter brings
the same feeling you get when houseguests have left, and you can put your
feet up on the sofa again.

Their economies are both relatively backward, and the people of each have
the good sense to to value the lifestyle advantages accruing to those who
don't vie to win the ratrace of economic develoment.

Racially they are at opposite poles: Ireland is inhabited nearly
exclusively by a single ethnic stock, while Kauai hosts one of the worlds
most diverse ethnic rainbows.  But the result in both cases is the same: an
egalitarian sense of community.  There's no "wrong side of the tracks" on
either island.  Whether you live in a tin-roof shack or a modern condo,
you're an equal member of the island family.  If your shack is near the
surf, you're likely to be the envy of those with more elegant houses
inland, and visited frequently when the weather is good.  Both islands
experience two varieties of tourists: the ones on tight schedules who rush
between "sights" with their cameras clicking -- and who miss the essence --
and those who come as guests, ready to lay back and join the island family
for a peaceful interlude.

I feel very fortunate to count both islands as home.  My Irish residency
permit and driver's license are among my most prized possessions, and every
year finds me in Kauai at least once for an extended visit.  Leaving either
is leaving home, and suspends close relationships.  Arriving at either is a
homecoming, a family reunion, and a revisiting of familiar haunts.  The
drive from the airport is a time of settling in; it's like putting on a
favorite outfit that has been languishing in the closet, but still fits