Monday, December 17, 2007

Step Away From The Envelope

Saturday morning, I happened to stand up from the couch just in time to see a postman walk towards my house. In the spirit of being helpful and friendly (and to keep him from ringing the doorbell and sending the dogs into a frenzy), I opened the big door as he got near the front steps. He looked up and smiled, and put his foot on the first step. And then Reyna pushed the big door open a bit more, and smiled at the postman. The look on his face was priceless. His mouth dropped a bit, and he froze in midstep. And then Duncan nudged me over so that he could look out the door, too. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone move backwards that fast since the pizza guy that Natalie and I saw in Virginia. Neither dog actually barked, they both just looked at the postman, heads cocked, tongues hanging out. Since I figured he might bolt if I actually opened the storm door to step out, I just motioned for him to put the envelope on the steps. He really has quite impressive aim (and speed). He managed to get the envelope on the middle step from a good 10 feet away. Lucky for him, there was nothing breakable in that envelope. By the time I unlocked the storm door and stepped out, he was back in his truck by my mailbox, just staring at us.

Normally, I like to encourage people to meet the dogs, realize they’re friendly, and so on. I don’t like people thinking that German shepherds are mean. But I have to admit, part of me gets a warm and fuzzy feeling when my dogs inspire absolute terror in strangers by doing nothing more than smiling.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Photo Op

Jeff came over during Thanksgiving week for my nearly-annual attempt to get some decent pictures of me with the pups. As always, he did an excellent job. Below are a few of my favorites.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Things That Really Irked Me This Week

1. The vet at the emergency clinic. ‘Nuff said.

2. The tech at the eye doc’s who told me that the three years of chronic dry eyes, despite eye drops and tear duct plugs, is just because I don’t blink enough. Apparently, I should try to do everything with my eyes closed.

3. Non-school people (friends, club members, coworkers, etc) who think I should rearrange my life and “just get the papers done sooner” to accommodate them. Because, you know, if I just stop everything else in my life, I can have team assignments and an 85-page thesis finished in time to do whatever those other people want.

4. The gas guy not coming out Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and coming out at 4:30 Friday only after I’d called 4 different times, starting last week. And then being unable to get the pilot light lit, after he’s the one who turned it off. So now I have to call again Monday, and make arrangements to be home yet another day.

On the up side of things, the dogs have been really patient this week, and let me get lots done.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Welcome home to the newest member of the family – Niko, the Nutty Parakeet. Niko (pronounced nee-co) joined the family almost two weeks ago. For some reason, I suddenly started obsessing over the idea of a parakeet several weeks ago. I have no idea why. I’ve never wanted a bird before, and I certainly didn’t need something else to take care of. But as days passed, I found myself thinking about it more often, and one day I discovered I was reading several websites about parakeets. I finally decided the only way to end the obsession was to just get a parakeet. So I did (and spent less on the bird and his food and equipment than I do on a month of dog food...sigh).

The store employee told me that Niko is a male, but from what I read, that can be hard to tell with birds that are predominantly white, which he is, and with young birds. His leg band says he was born this year, and its apparently easier to determine the gender with birds that are a few years old.

Niko may be smaller than Reyna’s ear, but he has loads of personality. He chirps a good bit, and has two distinct chirps – a happy one, and a mad one. He’s not a morning bird, just sits on his perch with a stupid expression for about an hour each morning. He tends to be more active late morning, late afternoon, and evening. He loves to hop around his cage, eat, and hide under the paper towels that line his cage. He’ll sit on my hand, and he seems to play with Reyna a lot, sitting where he can watch her when she’s being nutty, hiding out of site when she’s watching him, and then popping up suddenly to peep at her. Its really funny to watch the two of them. The first few days, Duncan was fascinated by Niko, and Reyna didn’t seem to notice him. Now, though, Duncan doesn’t pay much attention to Niko, and really prefers to play in the sheet I use to cover Niko’s cage. Reyna loves to look at Niko, and will put her feet on one of the shelves of the entertainment center so she can get up high enough to see him. And when she does that, Niko plays peek-a-boo with her.

I’m sure if I worked more with him, he’d learn a few words. But I’m pretty inconsistent about that. I figure he’ll learn to bark before he learns to talk. And, oh, does he get grumpy with me if I don’t leave the TV or radio on for him when I’m gone for the day. He’s so funny when he gets grumpy about something, or when he decides to hide under the paper towels. For such a little thing, he really is entertaining.

Domestic Violence Is Never The Answer

This past Friday was a less-than-great day. I’d been sick all week, and was still congested. It was a looooong day at work, and I decided to skip the freestyle club meeting that night. As it turned out, I wouldn’t have been able to go, anyway. I got home just before 6:00, and Duncan met me at the door, as usual. Reyna did a quick drive-by, and ran back outside. I realized the fur at Duncan’s neck was matted, figured it was Reyna spit, and finally got him turned around so I could see his face.

The white’s of Duncan’s eyes were swollen and full of blood. They were so swollen, in fact, that he couldn’t actually close his eyes. He was also oozing some nasty looking fluid from both eyes. Other than that, though, he seemed to be okay and was in his usual playful mood. While I was calling the emergency vet (my vet closes at 6:00) to alert them that I was bringing him in, Reyna came into the living room and they started playing. And then I saw blood spraying all over the floor. At a quick check, all I could tell was that Reyna had blood pouring from her nose. So, I unloaded the groceries, loaded the dogs, and we all drove to the emergency clinic.

The first tech to see Duncan commented that his eyes appeared to be “bloodshot.” Um, hello? We are way past bloodshot here. We chatted a bit, got the pups’ vitals (which included muzzling Reyna to get her temp), cleaned Reyna’s face, and waited on the vet. The vet, who managed to land himself on my list of “People Who Really Do Not Impress Me” had this as his first comment: “Hmm. That appears to be a bit more than an allergy.” Ya think? Just maybe? Not only did I have to explain that neither of my dogs normally look like this, I also had to explain that separating them for the exams would result in the destruction of the facility. This is why I hate seeing someone other than our regular vet – strangers just don’t realize the stupidity of some of their questions, because they don’t know the dogs. Its just so much easier with someone we know...

The emergency vet checked both dogs, made sure Duncan wasn’t blind (which I could have told him, but he insisted on testing it anyway by covering one eye and flapping his hand at the other, which just freaked Duncan out), checked for other injuries - amazingly, Duncan's neck and throat didn't seem to bother him at all, and decided that either Duncan had been hit by a car (which didn’t explain Reyna’s injuries), Duncan had caught his collar on something and so I needed to check my yard (again, no explanation for Reyna), or the dogs had been in a huge fight and that I should keep them separated for their own safety. Or Duncan had some brand new mysterious blood illness and we should immediately start running tests. Did I mention that I don’t like new vets?

I figured we had five reasonable options as to what had happened.

1 – A small animal made the mistake of coming into the yard and got into a fight with the pups. That would explain the marks on Reyna’s face, but not Duncan’s injuries. And when I checked the yard the next day, there were no animal parts anywhere in the yard.

2 – Some idiot managed to grab Duncan’s collar and choke him.
That didn’t really work for me, either, since I can’t imagine anyone getting close enough to actually grab his collar, much less doing it without being mauled by both dogs in the process. And I didn’t see any people parts in the driveway, and I didn’t have a note or phone call telling me I was being sued for the vicious dog attack.

3 – Duncan got his collar snagged on something.
Again, not too believable for me. The only thing he could snag on to cause that much damage would be the top of the fence, and that would involve jumping five feet. And we’re talking about Duncan.

4 – A deer jumped the fence, and in its attempt to flee, kicked Duncan in the face and managed to scrape up Reyna’s face.
I figure a deer kick would leave Duncan with other visible injuries, such as a broken nose. A knot, at the very least. But his eyes were his only injury. When I checked the yard Saturday morning, there was no area that looked to be any more disturbed than any other, which I would expect to see if there’d been a major scuffle with a large animal.

5 – They did it to each other while playing.
This made the most sense to me. I checked Duncan’s collar, and the part that rests on the back of his neck was stretched and twisted, and covered in dried blood and spit. There were also two spots that looked like puncture attempts, and they looked to be as far apart as Reyna’s canines. All of her canines are flat, though, so she wouldn’t have been able to actually tear through the collar material. My guess is that they were playing, and she somehow got part of her mouth stuck under his collar. They both freaked and struggled, causing the damage to her face and making it impossible for her to get loose. As his collar tightened, the blood vessels in Duncan’s eyes ruptured, and the choking pressure most likely caused him to go limp, if not pass out entirely. When he went limp, Reyna would have had the room to get loose from his collar, since he was no longer fighting and pulling. I figure, when Duncan came around again, they probably looked at each other and said something like “What the heck just happened? That was so weird!” And Duncan probably tossed in “That was cool! What a head rush!” I’m also sure it wasn’t an actual fight, because, let’s face it, if Reyna wanted to seriously hurt Duncan, she would. She could do some major damage before it occurred to him that he might need to defend himself. And he wasn’t acting off – he was playing with her, starting scuffles, not acting at all nervous around her.

After explaining to the vet that no, we were not going to run multiple tests for some sudden blood illness, because most likely the dogs did this to each other while they were playing, we finally managed to go home. I left a message for my regular vet, telling them that we’d be in the next morning.

Saturday morning, we went to see our regular vet. When he walked in, his first question was “What’s this I hear about a dog fight?” Apparently, the emergency vet had written in his files that the injuries were the result of a fight, not an accident during playtime. When I told the vet what I figured had happened, he checked both dogs and looked at Duncan’s collar, and agreed with me – it was just a freak accident and definitely not some weird blood illness. He did say that I was extremely lucky that Duncan was alive and not seriously injured – no permanent eye damage. He actually did a quick check to make sure there were no scratches on his eyes, which the emergency vet didn’t do. He also sighed and shook his head when I told him about the other vet’s vision exam, and told me not to worry about using the antibiotics for Reyna and eye drops for Duncan. I’m pretty sure I heard him mumble something about “only your dogs”...

Sunday morning, I cleaned my truck, because it looked like I’d slaughtered an animal in it. Reyna’s nose bled like crazy (as noses do), and during the ride to the clinic she had sprayed blood all over the side windows, the back window, the back of the seats, and even the outside of the truck (she likes to ride with her head out the window occasionally).

As of today, Reyna’s face is almost completely healed. The swelling in Duncan’s eyes is gone, and the blood in the whites of his eyes is receding. If he doesn’t turn his head and angle his eyes so you can see the whites (reds), you can’t actually tell anything is wrong.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Digging A Better Hole

I gave the pups a few beef soup bones this afternoon (a good way to distract them while I work on my paper). Duncan is happily crunching away on one while lying on the couch. Reyna, on the other hand, is currently extremely frustrated with the lack of hidey-holes she’s managed to produce in the dog bed. She’s been trying to dig holes in that bed for the last 20 minutes. She’ll dig, put the bone in the “hole” and then glare at it – because its still so visible, I guess. And then she’ll dig another hole and try to bury the bone again. Poor girl. I guess she’s forgotten that the best inside hiding place is under the couch or chair cushions.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Chasing Deer. Sort Of.

Yesterday afternoon, I took the pups out for their weekly tromp through the woods. It was a beautiful day for it, and the dogs were clearly feeling peppy. Our walks follow a fairly regular pattern – They run ahead, wait for me, I walk, they run ahead, find something to sniff, I walk, they run to catch up to me, they run ahead, wait for me, I walk…. But yesterday’s walk brought something new and different: a deer! Reyna’s seen one before, but I don’t think Duncan has. And what happened perfectly demonstrates that my dogs are pampered pets who have never in their lives had to actually work for food, much less chase it down.

The deer, who we’d managed to surprise somehow, even though Duncan has no concept of walking quietly, went bounding off to our right into the woods. The dogs froze, stared after the deer, and then looked at me. The quizzical expressions were fairly clear. Duncan: “Wha’ was that??” Reyna: “Are we allowed to go after that?” I said, “Well, go get it!” and they took off. Bouncing through the underbrush and jumping fallen trees…for about a minute. Then silence. I’d just kept walking along the path, but I could still see them. They looked around, looked back towards the path where I’d been, looked where the deer had gone, looked at each other, and apparently realized that, not only was I not with them, I’d not followed them, and they couldn’t see me any more. So they turned around and came running back to the path. Again, their expressions were clear. Reyna: “Mother! Where did you go? You’re supposed to stay with us! We can’t protect you if you don’t stay with us! I know we could have gotten that deer if we’d really wanted to, but we were worried about you, and we’re Good Dogs, so we had to come back and keep you safe!” Duncan: “Mom! Where’d you go? That was so cool! Did you see me jump that log?”

I love my dogs. They really are Good Dogs.

Mean Ol’ Scary Thing

Reyna’s been in a bit of an odd mood lately, and yesterday had some very weird moments. For one thing, she was very talkative. Not really barking at the things that normally make her bark (people near her territory, cars moving along the road, birds landing in the yard), just mumbling a lot. Random woofing for no apparent reason, low growling, occasional grumbling. And every time the humidifier I bought yesterday made any gurgling noise, she just had to comment.

I also bought this small space heater for the living room yesterday, and had it set up by 2:00. After the initial “Oooh, you’re home! With stuff! What’d you get us?” she didn’t pay any attention to the heater. Mind you, its only about 2 feet tall so it doesn’t take up much space, but it was something new, so I thought she’d check it out fairly early. Nope. Not her. She wasn’t at all interested in it. Until about 9:45. It had been running on low for about an hour, and I’d already checked it to see if the surface got hot to the touch, which it didn’t. So when she finally went to check it out, I didn’t worry too much, but I did keep an eye on her. She sniffed the top, sides, and top again, then put her face right in front of where the heat comes out. At that point, she gave it a bit of a glare, but went back to sniffing. Then licked the top. Put her face in the heat and glared at it again. Sniffed some more. And then backed away. In a hurry. After glaring at it for another moment or two, she walked back up to it and raised her paw, like she was thinking about touching/petting/thumping it. Suddenly, she backed off really fast, and started barking at it. Duncan was resting on their bed, just staring at her, and I had to stop laughing so I could calm her down. She came over and leaned against me with a pitiful look on her face, so I walked her back to the heater, told her it was okay, and touched the heater to show her it wouldn’t hurt her. She watched all of this from slightly behind me, clearly uncertain as to how smart it was to get that close to the evil heater. And then the humidifier gurgled, she woofed, started chasing her tail, and promptly forgot the heater was even there.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oh, The Drama

Its been a crazy few weeks around here. I have 8 weeks of school left, and the papers are getting longer and more complex. The nice thing is that my boss is letting me take off the days before Thanksgiving so I can write my thesis...

I spent part of last week in San Diego. What a mess. My coworker and I flew in on Monday after getting an email saying our corporate meetings were still on the schedule. The airline lost my luggage, which didn’t really add to the trip. Tuesday morning, the meetings were cancelled, because over half the local facility’s staff had been evacuated from their homes. My coworker went sightseeing, but I had no interest in breathing that air. One of the news reports said that the current air quality would negatively affect "the elderly, children, and adults." Not sure who was left, but I figured that since I'm technically an adult and occasionally feel elderly, I should just avoid the nastiness. We managed to get flights out on Wednesday, but what a wasted trip that was. The city was doing fairly well, all things considered. It's in a valley, which helped keep the fires out of it, and the breeze from the ocean helped keep the worst of the smoke out, most of the time. At times, though, the smoke was so bad that I could smell it in my hotel room. And when we took off Wednesday, I could smell the smoke in the plane until we’d been at cruising altitude for about 20 minutes – I guess that’s about how long it took for the air to recirculate enough. Oh, and I did get my luggage back late Tuesday afternoon, in time to pack my new clothes and get ready for the flight back home.

In other news, Reyna is completely off the Prozac, and I’ve reduced her Phenobarbital from 90mg twice a day to 60mg twice a day. She’d reached the point where she was just too miserable – she’d started getting aggressive with me and Duncan, and the folks at day camp said she would just lay down with her head to the wall and wouldn’t play. She seems to be doing MUCH better now. She’s peppier, more playful, and even her hips don’t seem to bother her as much. She and Duncan boarded while I was in San Diego, and the folks there said that, while she didn’t play all day like Duncan, she did play with Duncan, she played tug with the people and she got up to greet each dog as they came into camp (Duncan played all day, every day, and was passed out cold with his eyes rolled back in his head 30 minutes after we got home Wednesday night). Interestingly enough, I haven’t seen any seizures since she’s been on the lower dose of Pb, although she was still having them on the higher dose. I took the dogs out into the woods today, and Reyna was more active and energetic than she’s been in a long time. She’s still not doing a lot of running, but she did trot ahead and then wait on me a good bit. And she actually jumped over a couple of fallen trees, instead of looking for ways to go around them. I looked for ways around the trees, but thats because my knee and hip hurt every time we go walking in the woods. Apparently, the wreck last Thanksgiving hurt my hip a lot more than I realized.

We’re also working on Reyna’s allergies, testing different foods and kibbles to try and figure out what she’s allergic to. So far, she’s done fine with pepperoni, cheese, and Frosty Paws (both plain and peanut butter). The lamb and rice kibble – the pups’ normal kibble – seems to have sparked itchy spots. They’d been eating a chicken-based kibble before we started the test, so I’m avoiding that since she was constantly itchy. Right now, we’re trying a venison and rice kibble. If she shows an allergic reaction to this kibble, then she either has a very odd protein allergy or she’s allergic to grains. My guess would be the grains, since venison is one of the few proteins given to food-allergic dogs. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sunset at Hale’Iwa

This is the last post on Hawaii, I promise. After this, its back to talking about the dogs and cats.

There were two things I told Matt I definitely wanted to see while I was in Hawaii. One was a sunrise, and the other was a sunset. We took care of the sunrise my second morning there, at Hanauma Bay. The sunset, though, was a bit harder to accomplish. Most evenings, we were inside at sunset. Matt kept telling me that the western side of the island isn’t safe for non-natives after dark, and where else could you see the sunset except in the west? Considering there’s a place on the North Shore called Sunset Beach, I wasn’t too sure I agreed with his logic. I’m so glad I went horseback riding - although I wish I’d gone sooner – because Alice was full of useful information. She told me that Hale’Iwa Ali’i Beach Park was a wonderful place to watch the sunset, and she was right. There’s a small parking area just off the main road, and a little spit of beach tucked off to the side of the rest of the park. That’s where I watched the sunset. Matt stayed home and watched ESPN. Or maybe CSI. Who knows? Who cares?

I took a truly ridiculous amount of pictures in the 30 minutes before, during, and right after sunset. But that’s okay, because I figure I’m not real likely to see the sunset in Hawaii again. There was only one bad thing about watching the sunset - I got eaten up by those stinking sand fleas.

Polynesian Cultural Center

(Warning: This post is very long and has lots of photos)

The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) was probably the most fascinating place to visit on the island. The PCC is run by the Mormons, and most of the employees are students from Brigham Young University Hawaii. We visited the center after snorkeling at Hanauma Bay and then going back to Matt’s to clean up and rest a bit. This is definitely a full day, as you can go in at 12:15, and the final show doesn’t end until late in the evening. If you get there when the gates open, you receive a shell lei and they take your picture (which you can purchase later for $15, if you really want it).

The center focuses on seven island groups from Polynesia – Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Tonga. There is also an exhibit for Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Each island group – except Rapa Nui - has a village and puts on a performance, as well as demonstrates different aspects of the island culture. There is also a canoe pageant in the middle of the afternoon. With the purchase of the right type of ticket (which we bought through the military base for a discount), you can attend an Ali’i Luau and see the Horizons show.

We got to the PCC well before the gates opened, so we had a handy parking spot right near the exit. When the gates opened, we went in, got our lei, had our picture taken (which we did not purchase later), and proceeded to the village of Samoa. "Sacred center" is one definition of the name of these lush, tropical islands which are located almost 2,500 miles to the southwest of Hawaii, approximately in the middle of the Polynesian Triangle. Samoa is also sometimes called the "heart of Polynesia." The Samoan show was by far the most entertaining, in that the performers were extremely funny. There were two main performers – one demonstrated different things to do with coconut leaves and led the group in a clap-along. The second performer demonstrated making fire from two sticks, cracking a coconut, and shredding the meat. The finale was the first performer climbing one of the coconut trees, and posing for the audience. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but I’m going to check the video I have of that show, and if its any good, I’ll post it on YouTube.

Our next stop was Aotearoa, also known as New Zealand. Aotearoa is called the "Land of the Long White Cloud" by the Maori, who have lived there for 1,000 years. Aotearoa forms the southwestern apex of the Polynesian Triangle and is the only part of Polynesia to experience four seasons. The performance opened with a traditional village greeting from the warriors. Then, we moved into the meeting house and watched several people perform the haka dance and sing. Four women showed impressive talent at twirling poi balls of various length and quantity (think patting your head and rubbing your stomach to get an idea of the necessary coordination). The group also demonstrated a fun use for tititorea, a Maori stick game designed to develop hand-eye coordination.

The New Zealand show ran a bit long, so we couldn’t easily get to the next village in time to watch the entire show. Instead, we wandered around a bit and then headed for the Marquesas. This sparked yet another version of “Whose vacation is this?”, because Matt informed me that he had seen the Marquesas show before, he didn’t like it, he knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, and he didn’t want to bother to go see it again. I won, we saw it, and Matt pouted in a very manly fashion the entire time.

The Marquesas, which are part of French Polynesia, are tropical islands near the equator that are not as well known as other parts of Polynesia. They were once heavily populated with a highly advanced Polynesian culture, with their own language and unique customs. Unlike all of the other islands in the PCC, the Marquesas islands area does not represent a typical village, but rather a high chief's residential compound that would have been the focal point of a village where important events took place. Their performance – which I actually enjoyed quite a bit – was a mock pig hunt with some of the visitors and a dance that tells the story of how the Marquesas were created.

After the Marquesas show, we managed to find a spot to watch the canoe parade, Rainbows of Paradise, which only happens once a day. The rock I stood on got me high enough to get some decent pictures, although I did get several shots of one Asian gentleman who kept walking back and forth in front of me.

The parade started with the Hawaiian court. The sound of the conch shell signaled the arrival of the Hawaiian ali'i nui or "high chief" and his retinue. The ali'i nui wore the royal cape, helmet and sash which were made from the selected red and gold plumage of hundreds of birds (the birds were snared and released after a few feathers were plucked from each one). Tall kahili standards, also made from feathers, indicate the high chief's royal descent. His queen, the ali'i wahine, wears a pa'u or yellow dress, while her attendant or kahu is dressed in red.

The first island group to come into the lagoon was Aotearoa. The Maori people demonstrated their warrior haka challenges, twirling poi balls and stick games. They wear green as a tribute to Tane, Maori god of the lush ferns and forests, and the precious pounamu greenstone jade of New Zealand.

Next was Samoa. The "happy people" of Samoa danced and challenged the balancing skills of their canoe pilot. The traditional lavalava of the men and puletasi of the women are in shades of magenta and pink to honor the beautiful sunsets of their South Pacific islands.

The island of Fiji was third. The warriors and women performed ritual meke - dances to the warrior deity, Dengei. The Fijians wear masi bark cloth bearing beautiful traditional patterns and natural tones.

A much calmer Hawaii came next. The first dances are hula kahiko, meaning they are done in the ancient style to the sound of drums and chants. The last dances are hula auana, and are performed to the modern island sounds of the ukulele and guitar. The Hawaiians wear blue to honor Wakea, the "Sky Father" of ancient traditions.

Tonga was the fifth island group represented. They performed traditional dances of their island kingdom. And they do love their drums. Unlike the Samoan pilot, this canoe pilot actually did fall in the water. The dancers wear red to represent the beautiful red morning skies of the Friendly Islands.

Tahiti was the last island group in the canoe parade. They performed their very impressive my-body-couldn’t-move-that-way-if-it-had-to hip-shaking dances to the beat of wooden drums. The Tahitians wear yellow and orange as a gift of honor to Mahana, the sun god.

I didn’t catch it until later, but the Marquesas are not represented in the canoe parade. As I found out that evening, they are not featured in the Horizons show, either. This sparked yet another “discussion” with Matt, as he accused me of being in a complaining mood that evening when I mentioned it and asked him why. After all, as he informed me several times throughout the day, he’d been there before and knew all about it. Except he didn’t know why the Marquesas aren’t in the parade or show. I went back the next day, since our tickets were good to go into the villages for three days, and asked a person at the customer service desk about that. He said that the Marquesas are so similar to Tahiti, there are a lot of the same cultural aspects, and they don’t want to duplicate anything and potentially bore visitors. He also said that the Marquesas are still being studied, and that there really isn’t much known about them. But, if some new piece of culture is discovered that can be put into a performance, it will be. From the way he spoke, they get that question fairly regularly.

The next village we visited was Tahiti. Tahiti is the name of the largest island and administrative center of French Polynesia, but the PCC uses the name to collectively represent all of the 100-plus French Polynesian islands surrounding Tahiti, except the Marquesas. With its fast hip-shaking dances and compelling wooden drum rhythms, Tahiti quintessentially characterizes Polynesia in the minds of people around the world. The love of Tahiti, for example, gave rise to the actual 18th century mutiny on HMS Bounty, and ever since then has represented the notion of escape to a Polynesian paradise. Tahiti fits that bill superbly, with its beautiful mountains, balmy climate, and emerald and blue lagoons. The initial performance was a demonstration of the dancing. Did I mention that my body couldn’t move like that if it had to? The second half of the performance was an attempt to teach the audience how to dance. That was pretty entertaining...

Fiji was our next stop. The Fijians form a link between Melanesia and Polynesia, located almost 2,500 miles to the west-southwest of Hawaii on the border of the Polynesian Triangle. About half of the population of modern Fiji is of East Indian descent. Historically, though, they were infamous as ferocious warriors and cannibals. Their show was primarily dancing. Most of it was done by a warrior, but some of the demonstration was the more peaceful dances performed by the women.

Hawaii was our last village of the day. Their village represents a historic lifestyle approximately 200 years old. Although modern Hawaiians no longer live in so-called grass huts or hale, Hawaiian culture has enjoyed a major resurgence since the PCC started over 40 years ago. The performers demonstrated some of the hula implements and instruments, both alone and as part of the hula dance.

We made a quick visit to Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island. A territory of Chile, this island is the eastern apex of the Polynesian Triangle. Totally out of proportion to its small size, Rapa Nui is famous throughout the world for its historic stone statues, which the Polynesian people there call moai. The PCC had carvers come to Hawaii to create the moai for the exhibit.

After Rapa Nui, we wandered around a bit, since we had about 20 minutes before we needed to go in to the Ali’i Luau.

Because of some scheduling issues that popped up – mostly because we were having various “discussions” about the center, we ended up missing the Tonga performance. I would not be thwarted in my goal to see all seven villages, though, and I took advantage of the “good for three days” aspect of the ticket. When I went back the next day – alone, by the way, since Matt wanted to watch football – I did get to see the Tonga performance.

In Tonga, His Royal Highness, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, is the last remaining monarch in the South Pacific. The king is the hereditary descendant of the paramount chief. The Tongans demonstrate their ta nafa or drumming presentation. They also teach the motions of a ma’ulu’ulu sitting dance. As part of the fun, they bring three men from the audience up to learn the drums. If I remember correctly, the three chosen were from Rhode Island, Canada, and Japan. The American and Canadian were funny, but the Japanese gentleman really got into it.

The luau was interesting, primarily due to the dancing and the historical information provided by the hostess. On our way in, we received a purple and white flower lei.

There was live Hawaiian music, including a steel guitar. The program started with the singing of a pule, or The Queen's Prayer - written by Hawaii's last reigning monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani. The Royal Court visited the luau, with explanations of their ranks and traditional costumes.

Two men uncovered the imu or underground steam oven where a large pig had been cooking throughout the afternoon. In the imu, river rocks are heated over firewood for several hours. When the rocks are sufficiently hot, any remaining firewood is removed and crushed banana stumps containing a lot of water are placed on top of the hot rocks, creating the steam. Then the food is added, and everything is covered to seal in the steam. Depending on the amount of food, it can take hours for the feast to cook. We watched the men lift the pig out of the imu and bring it across a bridge into the main area. I don’t know for sure that we ate some of that particular pig, but it was neat to see.

The dancing began before we were sent to the buffet, and continued while we were eating. Several dances of the two types of hula were performed, with background information on each particular dance provided by the hostess.

Tables seated at least 8 people, and each table was sent to the buffet at different times, keeping the crowding to a minimum. Matt and I had another of our “discussions” regarding some of the things that were done at the luau regarding locations, different decorations, and various ticket options. Again, even though Matt had been there before and knew it all, I managed to find several questions he had no answers for. I’m not sure what frustrated him more – that I kept asking questions, or that I kept asking questions he couldn’t answer.

The meal included poi, poke (raw fish marinated in citrus juice with coconut cream), lomilomi salmon (basically a salmon salsa), pipi kaula (seasoned beef jerky), kalua pua’a (roast pork), teriyaki chicken, chicken long rice, Hawaiian sweet potatoes, and taro rolls. There was also salad and fruit, and several types of dessert. All the drinks were decaffeinated (a Mormon thing), but it was possible to get caffeinated coffee or Coke, if you knew who to ask.

After dinner, we had about 45 minutes to kill before the show, so I did a bit of shopping. Found a couple of gifts, as well as a couple of Christmas ornaments for myself.

The Horizons show was absolutely spectacular. We were in the nose bleed section, probably due to buying our tickets just the day before. Our seats were in the last row, but it was stadium seating, and we were directly in front of the center of the stage. So, not too bad. Thankfully, I managed to figure out a manual setting on my camera that allowed me to take decent pictures without a flash (not that the flash would have helped, since we were so far away), and the files sizes are big enough that I was able to crop the pictures to get closer to the dancers and still have reasonable images. I basically watched the entire show through my camera lens.

The program of the show is as follows:

Ke Alaula: A contemporary hula by the women compares the dawning of the light and peace that comes with the break of day.

Aia La o Pele: "There is Pele," fire goddess of ancient Hawaii. Recall a time when man walked and talked with the ancestral gods in the kahiko or ancient style of hula done to haunting sounds of drums and chants.

Kai o Mamala: With the kala'au (dancing sticks) the men remember the love found by Kamoha'i at Mamala, the shoreline between Honolulu Harbor and Pearl Harbor.

Pihanakalani: The sound of the nose flute beckons Hali'alaulani, the maiden, to the top of Pihanakalani, a mountain on the island of Kauai.
I Ali'i no 'Oe: Dancing with the puili (split bamboo rattles), men and women tell of how men enjoy being treated like kings.

E Ku'u Sweetie and Pili Mau Me 'Oe: Men dance, remembering their sweethearts, hoping they will be together forever.
Ka 'Ano'i: Dancing with the uliuli (feathered gourds) and ipu (hollowed gourds), men and women dance honoring beautiful maidens on Kauai.

Ke Alaula (Reprise): The strength of the cultural and spiritual past leads to the dawning of a bright new day.

Ngaahi Ongo 'o e Nafa: Calling to the community, drummers reveal their unity and skill.

'Eva ki he Kolo Salusalu: The community gathers to show respect for the esteemed guests, and invites them to join them in this place.

Malu'i 'a e 'Atakai: The young men divide into opposing groups to demonstrate their skill with the kailao, or jabbing spear, in preparation to defend their people.

Tavake Taumafua: The young women honor and give tribute to royalty with their graceful movements and beautiful costumes.
Taumu'a Kuo Siumafua: Unified in their culture and customs, the community sings and dances the lakalaka in celebration of a future destiny that lies just over the horizon.

Taiaha: The challenging movements of the taiaha (fighting lance) are an invitation to the visitor to enter the marae, the ceremonial gathering place.

Karanga: The plaintive voice of women call haere mai..."welcome" to this enchanted place.
Whaka Eke: Performers seek permission to enter the dancing platform on the marae.
Haka ko te Puru: The men and women transition from ancient to modern styles of dance and music.
Ko Tereo: Through the waiata-a-ringa, or action song and dance, the men and women combine to invite us to enjoy the traditions of their unique world.
E Tui: Young women are likened to the grace and the voice of the tui, a beautiful indigenous bird, in this poi ball dance.

Terina: Spinning in colorful rhythmic motions, the poi balls are illuminated to form Maori patterns as if painted by the famous glow worms of their islands.

Titi Torea: The stick dance teaches flexibility, rapid reflexes, and quick coordination to prepare the Maori for life's constant surprises.

Vakamalolo: The chief and his young men welcome guests with tokens of acceptance and respect.

Vakarorogo Noda Turaga: A vigorous chant and dance tells of warriors who have encountered the enemy and will be courageous in defense of their people.

Raude: Through the fan dance, gratitude is expressed for the land and its beauty as ancestors who have departed to the land of spirits are remembered and revered.

O i Au na Gone ni Wasa Liwa: A traditional war club dance tells of the days of the earliest Fijian ancestors and their migrations across vast oceans seeking a new homeland.

Bula Laie: The Fijian men use color war fans and the women their bamboo derua to bid farewell with this vibrant and energetic number.

Haere Mai na Ta'u Here: Villagers, led by torch bearers, join in a wedding procession as Hinakura and Tane Nui are united by the chief in marriage.

Ote'a Amui: As the marriage celebration begins, villagers rejoice in expressing the hopes of youth and love through a traditional dance, the ote'a.

Hinakura Vahine: Young maidens join Hinakura, dancing the aparima with poise and elegance, followed by the young men and Tane Nui dancing with lively exuberance.

Hinakura: Through the otu'i, or solo dance, Hinakura shares her radiant beauty while Tane Nui shows his strength and agility.

Ote'a: A final ote'a demonstrates the energy, color and excitement of traditional Tahitian dances at times of celebration.

Sauniuniga o le Aso: The motions of the sasa demonstrate the many activities that must be completed in preparation for an important celebration.

Lumana'i: Women dancing a standing ma'ulu'ulu encourage the youth of Samoa to look toward the future by working hard for a better life.
Fa'ataupati: With rhythmic energy, young men burst into a traditional slap dance.

Nu'u Laiti e: Three young men accept the challenge to conquer fear by playfully extinguishing fire.

Taupou o Samoa: A solo dance by the princess, daughter of the high chief, invites villagers to sing, clap and dance around her to show their happiness and love.
Le Afi Lae Ua Mu: A chant and dance inspired by a volcanic eruption reminds us that adversity is part of life and that strength comes from unity in the face of danger.

Siva Naifi Afi: When the Polynesian demigod Maui, who is known in all the islands, captured the sun, he discovered the power of fire...and shared it with the people of Samoa. The warrior shows courage, strength and bravery as he performs the traditional Samoan fire knife dance.

The finale involves the entire cast of over 100 performers, and was spectacular to watch.

Ignoring the multiple snits of my traveling companion, the PCC was truly a wonderful experience. All of the performances were fascinating and definitely worth the price of admission.