On the Valley Isle, there has always been an undercurrent of townies and Upcountry folks riding slightly different waves toward their destinations.
Up north, though, living off the grid in the original gated community, recent Baldwin graduate Kawena Alo-Kaonohi gets a taste of the life he loves most. It’s not a heavy dose; he goes to Kahakuloa Village, miles up the coast from Wailuku, where the paved road ends, for weekend stays with his father, Chico.
“Kahakuloa Valley, it’s a remote place,” Jon Viela said.
Viela, known a generation ago as an able and strong third baseman for the University of Hawaii, grew up playing for Baldwin, and after graduating from college, returned to become a teacher at his alma mater. But even life in small-town Wailuku is a contrast from Kahakuloa, where a locked gate reminds passers-by that visitors are welcome only by invitation. The community of roughly 100 lives without land-line phone service.
“He’s a kid who appreciates everything and everybody,” said Viela, who was named Star-Advertiser All-State Baseball coach of the year.
Alo-Kaonohi, who also played in the outfield, was selected All-State pitcher of the year after posting a 6-0 record with an impeccable 0.20 ERA. He had more than enough weapons with a fastball, curveball and change-up. He simply mastered his arsenal as a senior.
“My fastball was working. I hit my spots, always got ahead int eh count. This year, my fastball was more of a four-seam,” he said. “All my pitches honestly worked. I worked hard not he days when we didn’t have practices.”
And when he wasn’t working on the diamond, he helps his mother, Maipela, with fairly simple chores in contrast to his tasks at dad’s place.
“During the week, before I go to school, I make sure my schoolwork is done. I put away the dishes. After school, I clean yard,” he said of his weekday life in Wailuku.
He’ll be at Ohlone College in Northern California soon, playing baseball and continuing his studies. But ultimately, it is life the old way that appeals most. After generations of life in Kahakuloa, it is in his family’s blood.
“After I finish school, I want to fix up my dad’s house. We raise cattle and pigs. We have two goats. We raise them and we sell them,” Alo-Kaonohi said. “I come across people who are shocked about this kind of life, but it’s a beautiful place and it’s peaceful.”
It is a place that seems to repel change, and residents there are more than just caretakers.
“We want to keep it exactly how it is,” Alo-Kaonohi said. “People have tried to come and buy land there, but the local people kick them out.”
For now, baseball is a priority. So is being connected. Alo-Kaonohi loves the old ways, but he has a cellphone. Soon, he’ll be attending school in the Bay Area, mere miles from Silicon Valley.
“I’m ready for it. I know I’ll be homesick, but I’m the youngest of four and I want to make my family proud,” he said. “Baldwin High School is always about playing for our team, not ourselves.”