Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hawaii Trip, Day Two (Polynesian Cultural Center)

After hearing Ken's enthusiasm about what we were about to discover at the Polynesian Cultural Center we were excited to get started with him as our guide.  We arrived at the gates just in time for the luncheon area opening at 11:45, the villages open for their performances at noon.  Our day started with a hearty buffet style lunch before heading out for a day of walking and learning.   During our meal we sat and spoke with a couple who winter on Kauai and told us a great deal about the island and how much they enjoy their time there each winter.

  After lunch everyone boarded a canoe styled boat designed for tours and so started our trip up the river passing the Easter Island exhibit along with talk about island culture.  As each island area glided by you could see and hear the sounds of the villages as they started their first demonstrations of the day.  The villages of Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Hawaii would be seen, unfortunately Marquesas was under repair on the day we traveled to the center.  Each island region had demonstrations and a talks explaining the history and culture done in a wonderfully entertaining way.  With  six areas to tour plus the Rainbow of Paradise show to take in a five hour time frame the use of our guide was very useful as we soon discovered.  

We started our visit in Aotearoa or New Zealand, to start we learned a bit about the structures, carvings and cultures of the island including a demonstration of welcome celebrations and war techniques.  Next we moved into their meeting house to hear about the body slapping, tattoos and facial expressions and their meanings.  After a few traditional dances with demonstrations of war implements and their use were also shown. This island had a very serious tone, just as serious as their culture. The dancing also included an explanation of the stick tossing game which helped develop hand eye coordination and the twirling of poi balls, which doubled as another weapon even if the art of twirling them was a beautiful art form. 

We then walked across a bridge to the next show on the island of Tonga with their drumming and clapping that involves the audience, this was a very fun experience.  Getting the crowd involved helps to understand and remember the information given, for the rest of the day I knew the sound and feel of the celebratory movements.   Three people were selected from the crowd to learn the drumming process my mimicking the islanders, this wasn't as easy as it sounds, the last choosen fellow was a true entertainer and had us all laughing with his interpretation and his impromptu "who let the dogs out" rendition. 

Tahiti was our next stop, this was the place to learn the quick dance moves with participation from the crowd.  I have a great video of my hubby's interpretation of the dance, I did the ladies version but luckily we don't have video proof of that.  They also talked about their village structures and we all had a taste of coconut bread along with a recipe to make our own.  From there we wandered over to Marquesas but could not go inside the village as they were doing renovations.

At this point it was time for the Rainbows of Paradise parade, a colorful canoe display from each island with lovely island music and dancing.   As each island glided by us we saw the performers do various dances or war displays, this was a wonderful show and we had front row seats.  A good laugh was had by all when the Samoan canoe pole person fell in the water, either this is choreographed in or the dancers are rough as you see it happen often on various youtube videos, still it is funny when you don't expect it.  This was a very enjoyable part of the day and we enjoyed this show.  I have a video link at the bottom of this page if you would like to view our footage of this event.

After the canoe show we went on to review the Hawaii islands and their housing structures and hierarchy.    We had pictures taken before moving on to Fiji to learn about the individual types of war tools and their use.  Until this time we didn't realize just how deadly these were and perhaps could explain the random scars on the performers.  In Figi they also talked about the honor of rope making and how the chiefs would hold tribal meetings while braiding the ropes twisted from coconut fibers.  The completion of this very informative talk we learned to play the bamboo instrument and the different sound patterns.

We found that all the villages we visited were very interesting, many used laughter along with seriousness to tell their story.  If we had more time on Oahu we could have and would have returned to do a more in depth tour as the ticket allowed up to 5 days of entry to the park.  We arrived to each island and show with just enough time to get the best seating with only a brief wait for the show to start, Ken was a wonderful addition to our tour experience.   So far every stop was wonderful, Ken had one more stop for us and that was to his native island of Samoa. 

In Samoa we were greeted by the best show of all the islands, if you do a google search you will find many people share my feelings about this.  Kapeneta Teo-Tafiti (Kap) is a wonderful performer with a comedic approach to his show.  We soon discovered that Kap would have everyone laughing from beginning to end, he talks about life on Samoa and how women are revered for being bearers of future generations and how the men not only are hunter gathers but chefs as well.  The way their culture raises their children, how they quickly and efficiently make the men make the daily fire, crack and prep the coconuts plus climbing the trees is amazing.  Of course the kids are drawn to this funny man and he includes a few from the audience, which gives them a life long impression I am sure.  This is one island you do not want to miss as the show is unbelievably funny, so much so that we purchased a video to bring home as a permanent memory of this event.

Our day wasn't over and we still had our luau dinner then, of course, time in the gift shops before the new theatrical show Ha' to experience..   Before we headed from the hotel earlier this morning we wondered if we might find being on the road from 10am to 10:30pm a long boring day, that absolutely was not the case as our day flew by up to this point and we didn't want it to end.

A Happy Samoan Gets Soaked. 

For more information about the center please click here. 

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