by Dave Newman Published 01/12/2013
Polynesia, a word stemming from the Greek language meaning many islands, has come to designate a large triangle of islands of the vast Pacific Ocean. Peoples of this huge area, encompassing thousands of miles of open sea between California and Asia, seem to have much in common, from diet , life styles, canoeing and waring patterns. Many travellers to this area have had a unique experience of viewing the conglomerate of cultures of these peoples in the unique display area near the famous North Shore at Laie, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
The Sauce thickens .... A few months ago I accepted a teaching position at Brigham Young University of Hawaii to lecture and offer instruction to students stemming from many and various part of the Polynesian Triangle (plus Asia). As an adjunct professor, at BYUH, I was automatically linked to the unique and ever-popular neighbouring institution called the Polynesian Cultural Center. The PCC offers a place of employment for students of BYUH coming from all areas of Polynesia and bringing with them their exciting island cultures and often little else. Today, as the leading paid attraction of all of Hawaii, this successful centre attempts to bring together and to retain the disappearing cultures of the many islands of the Pacific, via the student population of the adjoining university. The centre also provides necessary employment for these 'far-from-home' island students. Unique is the word most often used to describe and explain the efforts and goals of the PCC. Annually, thousands of students seeking higher, and often otherwise unreachable education, come to Laie, often penniless, and from third-world countries and small islands (not even appearing on your map) to study at the BYUH and to work at the neighbouring PCC in order to fund such endeavours. Seldom do students return to their islands for Christmas and other holidays, since funds for such travel are often not available.
Story telling, craft demonstrations, games and food tasting are offered to the 2,000 daily tourists visiting the centre. Paramount in tourist interest is the more energetic displays of island dress, dancing, canoeing and even demonstrations of how to climb a coconut tree. The colourful costumes, story telling, and dancing has lead to a very successful 'Evening Spectacular' show, as well. The 2,000 visitors appear six days a week to gain this unique and colourful Polynesian adventure. Such an experience is rare in that the PCC is 'real' and departs from the plastic, fantasy 'Disney' feeling. Only views, no artificial trees and no thrill-rides - merely true-to-life island people and their costumes in the seven villages of the Polynesian Cultural Center.
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