ala wai canal 1920 to 1928

Photographs by Kypo Karamas


Soon Isaac bounds into the room and shakes my hand vigorously. Since I last saw him in Kosrae a year ago, he has styled himself in hip-hop attire and grown a goatee. He is preparing to go to work at 9:30, and says he will work all night long in the hotel. Not unlike his brother and cousins, who hold jobs in Waikiki as fast food restaurant employees, service employees in hotels, and gas station attendants, Isaac doesn’t have very far to commute to work, but he works long hours on the night shift. His relatives, most of whom are in their early twenties, have come to Hawai'i—some accompanying other family members—for school and work.

"Isn’t it hot in here, man?" Isaac invites me back outside, so we can talk for awhile while enjoying the cool evening breezes before he goes to work. We cross the street and sit down on a bench facing the canal. A middle-aged white couple clad in aloha attire stroll past arm-in-arm, carrying several shopping bags.

We talk about Isaac’s life in Honolulu, about how he left school to make money for the family. He tells me that he misses Kosrae but that it is getting too expensive to live there and that there are no jobs anymore.

"But I can go home whenever I want, just like my mom," he says. I ask how his family members afford to travel back and forth on the expensive flights between Hawai'i and Micronesia. "Mileage," he replies, pointing out how there is always a relative who works for the airlines or someone who travels enough to spare a free award ticket.