Wednesday, May 28, 2008


So, a quick recap of my Hawaiian vacation experience at the Polynesian Cultural Center. First, we visited the villages of Samoa, Aotearoa, and Tonga. Then we saw the awesome canoe pageant. Of course at the pageant, the women in my group (my cousin, my best friend, and my other friend and her two aunts) turned out to be skanky whores! But let's face it; that's what makes them such fun friends.

I've all ready told you how my cousin and best friend were making googly eyes and inappropriate remarks at the Tahitian village when the male dancer was shaking it with his partner. But these ladies (if they could be called that) behavior at the canoe pageant was just as bad. My cousin and best friend started with some "" when the Hawaiians came out; that grew to a "I want to be friendly with you" when the Tongans came out. When the Samoans came out, it was a "hey, come make me happy"; and when the Fijians arrived, it was "ooh, baby you can eat me up anytime!" Whores! Thank goodness we were surrounded by Japanese tourists who did not speak English!

But the biggest surprise of all (well, I always did think my cousin and best friend were kind of whorish), were the two older aunts, who exclaimed when the Aotearoa fellas arrived, "Ooh, I want to play with his stick! It looks like fun! It's so big!"

The second aunt replied,"Oh, yes, those bigs ones are always fun!"

My brother, my cousin's husband, and I looked at the old aunts, looked at each other in disbelief, then turned to my other friend, wondering if we'd heard the same thing. My friend just shrugged her shoulders and said, "What? The big ones are fun!" Another whore!

Anyway, after the canoe show, we visited the villages of Tahiti, Fiji, and Hawaii. Then we went on a leisurely canoe ride on the lagoon, the guide and oarsman being a funny Korean dude. For some reason, a lot of the oarsmen were Asian. Hardworking people, that's for sure. Even in this day and age we can still count on the Asians to do the work. Is it any wonder a lot of things are either made in China or Taiwan?

So what do you do after a canoe ride? Eat, of course! And we went to the Ali'i Luau. Ali'i (ah-lee-ee) means high chief in Polynesia. So, we were treated like kings. First up, the band warmed us up with some music; then the hostess came out and greeted us. We all stood for the arrival of our hosts, the Royal Hawaiian Court.

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The entrance of the Royal Court was heralded by the little boy in the picture below, who blew that conch shell like it was a trumpet!

After welcoming us into his lands, the host treated us to a show before the feast. First, a traditional hula kahiko, complete with chants and gourd drumming.

Followed by these two keiki (children) dancing really fast to a hula 'auana (modern hula) with ukuleles and guitars and singing, shaking those 'uli'uli implements.

Now, they had more hula performances and some singing. But by this time, I was too busy stuffing myself over a menu of imu (ground oven roasted) pork, bbq ribs and chicken, salmon, and so many other goodies. I could've paused and taken more pictures except it would've meant that I had to stop eating this awesome feast! Besides, my camera only had 15 or so pictures left, and I wanted to save some pics for the big show. The big show, of course, is the fantastic night show that PCC puts on. The current show is called Horizons, where the earth meets the sky.

After stuffing ourselves at the luau, we had to walk off all that food and saw more of PCC. Eventually, we made our way over to the big show, and before the big show started, some of the dancers came out to welcome the crowd and get us all fired up about the show. Every village was represented: Samoans, Maoris, Tongans, Tahitians, Fijians, Hawaiians, and even some Marquesans and Rapa Nuians.

Then the show began. First the darkness. Then a lone pipe sounds; soon, it is joined by some drums and string instruments. Then out of the darkness, in the very top corners of the stadium, stood fire bearers at every entrance.

A soft light and movements in the shadows called our attention to the center of the stage. They started singing and dancing.

They carried out a canoe, singing the story of how the ancient Polynesians explored and settled the Pacific.

Then they called for fire...

And boy, did that fire come from everywhere!

The fire bearers made their way down the many entrance ways in the stadium; from over the (staged) mountains they came bearing torches that lit up the arena, all while their music and singing became louder.

Soon the stairways of the stadium and the stage and surrounding mountains were lit up by fire light, by the torches of dancers and singers who opened the Horizon show. Everywhere we turned, we were surrounded by fire torches, a brilliant opening!

By now, my camera battery was running real low, and I only had a few shots left; so I had to be careful and take a foto or two of some really great numbers! After the fire torch bearers left, the Hawaiians did their hulas. I took a picture of my favorite hula kahiko, involving staffs.

The Tongans came in like two armies at opposite ends of the stage, then merged to perform the ma'ulu'ulu.

The Maori men came first and did their haka.

The ladies then came out and performed with their poi balls.

A cool thing they did was they turned off the lights, and the poi balls glowed in the dark! The men and women got together and played a game of tititorea and that they even played in the dark with glowing sticks. It was a thrilling sight to see those sticks light up and make neat patterns as they were tossed amongst the dancers.

And after the Maoris left, we had a short intermission. My camera batteries were running low, and I cursed myself for not bringing another memory card for my camera. And I sure as hell wasn't going to delete some of the fantastic pics I had taken so far. Oh, well, live and learn. Then, the lights were dimmed again and were turned out. The fire torches were brought out,

and loud fast drumming signaled the entrance of the Tahitian tamure.

This couple entertained us with a fantastic tamure, giving us a glimpse of that forbidden dance that scandalized the missionaries and inspired sailors to mutiny. They were moving way too fast for my camera to capture them!

After the Tahitians left, the Samoans came running in two groups and started their siva.

Then the Samoan men did their siva,

complete with a hilarious fire show! These fellas danced over the fire. They shimmied and shook it as the flames burned between their legs. Talk about fire crotch! Their antics had the whole audience laughing.

Then came the world famous Samoan fire knife dance! Originally called the ailao (warrior's dance), fire was added to the long weapon to make a dangerous dance even more beautiful! Now known as the Siva Afi Ailao, this exciting dance, like the ailao, is performed by both men and women.

My friend with the two aunts told me that it is always a former Fire Knife Dance champion that performs the solo. And this champ delivered a great show! First, he came out and greeted the audience.

Then he started spinning that fire knife til the flames at each end of the weapon created a ring of fire!

And after dazzling us with his incredible skills, he took a knee and called out to his friends...

and his friends answered his call and came out spinning!

Then another friend appears on the high ledge spinning a fire knife. The drums pick up speed once more, and you know something good is about to happen.

And the chills build up in the audience. The guy on the ledge stops spinning his fire knife, aims it at the solo fire knife champ, and throws it at him as the audience gasps!

And the champ catches it and spins both fire knives as we cheered and screamed our enthusiasm and excitement!

After an astounding fire knife performance, we gave those Samoan fire knife dancers a standing ovation! A fantastic ending to the show! Once again, the canoe is carried out and dancers sing and dance the closing number to the show.

A single voice singing, soon joined by a chorus that crescendoed as the dancers bearing torches once again came down to the stage from the mountains and the top stairway entrances, lighting up the dark stadium.

Though they are spread thousands of miles across the Pacific on thousands of islands, these are the Polynesians! These are a people united by a spirit and a culture that burns bright and has guided them for over three thousand years.

And they've been fantastic hosts to us, visitors in their lands. So ends my trip to PCC. I'm really glad that I got to go there with my brother and my friends. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Polynesia (Alia) Canoe Pageant

The Polynesians explored and settled the Pacific using the double hulled canoe, the alia (ah-lee-ah). In honoring Polynesian culture, PCC incorporated the alia in their fantastic Canoe Pageant. After the Tongan Village, my brother hustled us over to the shady side of the lagoon with a perfect view. He told me that I was in for a real treat, and I had no idea just how fantastic this Canoe Pageant was going to be.

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One of our friends had brought her two visiting aunts on our PCC outing. Naturally, my brother and I gave up our front row shady, lagoon side seats so the elderly aunts could better enjoy the show. Besides, I wanted to stand up and get a better view of the action.

The band came out, warming up the crowd with some music.

I heard a familiar noise in the skies, and took pictures of a Chinook flying over head.

And after the chopper passed overhead, the music became romantic, and the love boat started the Canoe Pageant. In a traditional outrigger canoe, this young couple opened the show.

With notions of romance and an escape to the exotic, what better way to enjoy paradise with your loved one than a wonderful canoe ride? See the nice Asian man stroking? He's doing all the work while his partner just enjoys the ride.

Then the band started a chant, the mele complete with the drumming of ipus, which announced the arrival of our host islands, Hawaii, the Spirit of Polynesia!

This is the land of volcanoes, where the goddess Pele stirs up the fires of Kilauea,

land of the snow capped mountains, Mauna Kea, taller than Mt Everest when measured from the ocean floor, home to the beautiful goddess Poliahu,

birthplace of the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing who spread the sport to Australia, the mainland, and the world over,

land that gave birth to Nicole Kidman and the Divine Bette Midler, home of t.v. treasures, Magnum P.I., Hawaii Five-O, and Lost, the exotic location of Jurassic Park and From Here to Eternity.

This is Havai'i! The story of these islands is told by the hula of the dancers on the canoe. With hips swaying, arms waving, and another Asian rowing, the Hawaiian canoe traverses and turns in the lagoon.

And after giving a grand performance, the dancers waved Aloha to us as we cheered and clapped.

And as the Hawaiians paddled away, the music became softer. From the far right end of the lagoon, we hear the sounds of clapping and soft, joyful singing. Then they came unto the scene, with big smiles and bright red clothing, the Tongans sailed into view! This is the Grace of Polynesia!

Impressed with their welcome during first contact, Captain Cook gave these islands their nickname, The Friendly Islands!

The only Polynesian people to have maintained their independence from foreign invaders, the Tongans danced their ma'ulu'ulu (mah-ooh-loo-ooh-loo) with enthusiastic and infectious joy.

As the canoe turned in the lagoon, the lovely tehine (girls) performed the most graceful dance in Polynesia, the Tongan taualuga (tah-ooh-ah-loong-ah).

And after entertaining us with their songs and dances, the people of the last true kingdom danced and paddled away to end of the lagoon as we waved them good bye.

Then we hear the loud, fast drum beats that hailed the glorious sight that entered the lagoon! The Passion of Polynesia, Tahiti!

These are the loins of Polynesia!

The hips that inspired a mutiny!

These are the rump shakers that seduced sailors and set imagination and passion aflame! These are the dancers that frightened the London Missionary Society missionaries into banning this dance, the original forbidden dance! And when the French Catholics moved in, those uptight missionaries were booted back to Britain, and Tahiti has undergone a cultural revival that brought back their dances.

Oh, hell, if I saw these honeys coming at me, I'd've burned down the ship and chucked my hymn book!

This is the exotic land that drew Paul Gauguin and Marlon Brando, home of New York City's Godzilla and rare, precious black pearls,

and beautiful vahine (girls)!

And as the lovely tamure dancers gyrated and shook their way across the lagoon, we waved and cheered as we found ourselves mesmerized (and excited) by their sensuous movements.

And as the drum beats fade and the tamure dancers paddle away, we hear a haunting, melodic voice ringing out across the waters. The voice was soon joined by others in an eerie song that spoke of mystery and magic, and then from the far left end of the lagoon, comes the Strength of Polynesia, Aotearoa!

They came with their haunting singings and chants, playing the game of tititorea (tee-tee-toh-reh-ah), designed in ancient times to develop and strengthen the warriors hand and eye coordination and improve the reflexes.

This is the land of the jade tiki, the Kiwi, and Middle Earth!

Land of the war dance, the Haka! Home of the most famous rugby team ever, the New Zealand All Blacks!

I luv a lady who can work those poi balls good!

This is the birthplace and homeland of legends like Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to conquer the dangerous peak of Mt Everest,

and Xena, Warrior Princess!!!

Never showing fear and bold to the end, these dancers exhibited the very fearsome nature that made them great warriors!

When the warriors faded from view, we heard a loud, extended yell, a war cry?! No, it was a sound of unbridled joy and freedom! They came stomping and singing and dancing and rocking! Fast and furious and wild, this is the Heart of Polynesia, Samoa!

Known as the happy people, the great author Robert Louis Stevenson, writer of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, was so moved by their generosity and happiness that he lived and died in Samoa, buried atop Mt Vaea.

In the late 1800s, German businessman George Weber decided to import Chinese laborers, because the Samoans just wanted to have a good time!

And these party people live up to their reputation!

Not only are these people fired up, they are also the innovators of the fire knife dance! Not just a regular twirl fire baton, but an actual deadly weapon set on fire and used in a dance! And it is a beautiful dance that evolved from a deadly weapon of ancient warfare! I'll share those fire knife dance pictures in the next post!

These dancers kept up that incredible energy and enthusiasm as their canoe, the only one rowed by another dancer, made turns in the lagoon.

No Asians rowing this boat! And being a people who enjoy making others laugh, the guy steering the boat fell into the water after their fast and furious siva (see-vah) dancing!

The dancers paddled away the same way they entered, with loud screams and cheers that signaled their joy and fun as we waved at them.

Then the band started playing soft but fast beat melody, totally putting us at ease and setting us up for one hell of a shock when we hear a loud, angry yell that signaled the surprise arrival of the Rage of Polynesia, Fiji!

And these ferocious warriors came out swinging!

These are the cannibals of Polynesia! The wild and vicious warriors whose fearsome reputation is well earned! And yet, out of their savage rage comes the most beautiful music and alluring, enchanting dances!

Once they've had their fill of missionaries, the Fijians became a British colony and remained under British rule for almost 100 years. And like neighboring Western Samoa, the impact remains long after independence was won by both countries. Lasting British influence include driving on the wrong side of the road (not the right), the car steering wheel on the right (wrong) side of the car, and the misspelling of words like "colour" or "kilometre" or "tyre".

Though they've stopped feasting on their enemies (such a shame, really; imagine how fun Survivor Fiji would've been if the contestants had to eat one another!), they've still managed to hold on to other parts of their beautiful culture.

After entertaining us with their songs and dances and acrobatic swings of their mighty weapons, the Fijians moved further out the lagoon as we clapped and cheered for their performance.

And finally, as the Fijians paddled out of sight, a lone conch shell is trumpeted. The band announces the arrival of our host, the Royal Hawaiian Court, and we witness the respect given to the customs of old, the memory of those who once walked this sacred earth.

As the solemn canoe of the Royal Court passes from view, it is the end of the amazing Canoe Pageant.

And some of our villagers return to wave us a farewell...

Those funny and happy Samoans,

Those talented and skilled Maoris

And finally, those fierce and exotic Fijians.

An amazing show, pictures cannot capture the feeling and excitement of being there live! If you ever get the chance to visit PCC, go! And take lots of pictures, some spare batteries, and just have fun! It's amazing how beautiful and wonderful other cultures (and their people) are!