Polynesian Culture Center and More
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Before setting out around noon for our main activity for the day, we decided to check out some of the activities at our hotel. Depending on what day it is, they have lei making, hula lessons, ukulele lessons, and more. Since we had the free time, we decided to check out the lei making.
Down in the main lobby, then had several flowers (which I later learned were orchids) laid out on a table. The speaker spoke briefly about the meaning behind lei, how people would often give lei when somebody is arriving or leaving, or it could be given as a sign of affection. We then began to make our lei.
First, we had to prepare the flowers by gently plucking off the stems. It wasn’t completely necessary, but for the method we were using to make our lei, it would make our lei look neater. They told us that on avaerage a lei comprises of about 50 flowers. Once we finished preparing 50 flowers, we were given a lay making needle, which is similar to a croche needle. It’s basically a thin, long piece of metal and at the very end, the bottom is curved into a hook. There is a small spot between the hook and the needle where you put your string. The string is folded in half, and when it is folded, I would say that it was a little bit longer than my arm.
Then came actually making the lei. Once our string was attached to our needle, we took the needle and put it through the center of the flower. We then pushed the flower to the very end of the string, leaving about 2 inches as the very bottom. The extra string at the bottom would later be used to tie or lei. We then proceeded to string the rest of our flowers. It wasn’t overly difficult, but definitely took a little bit of time. Once we finished putting all the flowers on, we simply removed the string from the needle and tied to two ends together and voilà! We had our own handmade Hawaiian lei.
The rest of our day was spent at The Polynesian Culture Center. It is a museum that preserves the various cultures of Polynesia, but it’s more of a theme park than a museum. The area is divided into different villages, each having their own performances and activities. I’m the evening they served us dinner and put on a big theatrical performance showcasing the different cultures.
We made it to the center around 12:15 and immediately headed to the first show we wanted to see at the village of Aotearoa. They showed how people of villages would great one another and then demonstrated one of the games they played where you would toss sticks to one another to the rhythm of music. They ended their demonstration by showcasing a few of the dances unique to their culture.
After the presentation, I managed to talk to one of the performers standing outside. He said that his family was from Aotearoa (present day New Zealand) so he had grown up with this kind of stuff, but he was also currently a student at the nearby Brigham-Young University. It turned out that a majority of the workers at the Polynesian Culture Center were students at the University.
When we were done chatting, we made our way to the Hawaiian Journey, which is a 4D theater that has a video showcasing the beautiful scenery of Hawaii and it even gives a little narrative. However, take note that if you get motion sick, this might be something you want to skip. The filming style and moving theater seats might be enough to make you dizzy.
Once the movie was over, we made our way to the south end of the village to get seats for the canoe pageant. A small river runs through the middle of the village and around 2:30, performers from each of the villages get on one of the canoes and performs the dances unique to their culture. It was amusing to watch, because it gave you a brief insight into the various villages, especially if you haven’t had a chance to actually visit the villages yet. One of the groups even had a little Fun and rocked the boat so hard that their canoe pusher fell into the river.
After the canoe pageant was over, we made our way to the village of Fiji and found that they were doing temporary tattoos. They had what looked like strips of leather, each with a different design cut into them. Each of the designs had their own meaning to the culture. Then, ink was painted on to the leather strip and put wherever you would have liked. I got the tattoo for “warrior” on my upper arm, but I saw a few people with the “warrior” tattoo going across their face.
By that time it was time to head to the pavilion for our luau. We were given a lei as we walked through the entrance and then found our seats. The speaker for the night invited us all to the luau and then always invited us to see them cooking our dinner. However, I decided to pass on that because they were cooking a pig, and I really didn’t want to see that. Then we were free to head up to the buffet and get our dinner. While we ate, several of the villages performed more dances, different than the ones we had seen in the canoe pageant. They even had some kids from the villages go up and perform dances. They ended the luau with a girl who did a fire show. She had a pole, both ends lit on fire. She then spun it around, threw it in the air, and peformed all sorts of other tricks.
Once the luau was over, we had some time before the final performance of the night, so we headed to the canoe area where we were able to ride in one of the canoes and get a full tour of the culture center from the water. The canoe pusher gave us some fun facts of all the different villages and even taught us how to say hello in the various languages. Once the canoe tour was over, we decided to board the tram tour. The tram actually took us out of the culture center and into the surrounding area. We briefly went through Bingham Young University, where many of the workers at the Polynesian Culture Center went to school, and we also stopped at a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To be honest, it was an impressive site, but overall kind of boring.
When we finally made it back to the Polynesian Culture Center, we did some quick souvenir shopping and then got in our seats for the final show, “Ha: Breath of Life.” The story followed a boy as he grew into a man and showcased the many stages of life. While showcasing all of the villages, their dances and overall culture, it also managed to incorporate a story line and even some comedy. Lastly, show ended with a spectacular fire show.
Overall, the Polynesian Culture Center was a unique experience and an interesting one. I got to learn about various cultures and history of each of them. It isn’t something that you learn in your normal history class, and I got to have a blast doing it. What more can you ask more?
Videos from the village of Aotearoa
Videos from the Canoe Pageant
Video from the Luau