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.