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Polynesian Cultural Center

The day after our somber visit to Pearl Harbor, my travel companion and I went for the celebratory atmosphere of the Polynesian Cultural Center in La’ie.

The 45-acre PCC features recreated villages representing seven different cultures of Polynesia; it’s like an island version of EPCOT. Each “village” offers shows that introduce some aspect of its culture. We enjoyed coconut bread-baking in Tahiti, fire-building in Samoa, drum-playing in Tonga, and a ceremonial nose-rubbing welcome in Aotearoa (better known to Americans as New Zealand).

At a mid-day “Canoe Pageant”, native Polynesians sail past visitors while wearing traditional native costumes, like these Hawaiians representing their royal court:

It’s not all light-hearted, though. A mock pig hunt in Marquesas reminds well-off Western visitors of the hand-to-mouth existence of much of the world. In Fiji, we learned about the traditional Old Folks Homes, where children are daily left on the care of their grandparents, who teach them their history and culture while their parents work. Not only does the system provide loving care for children, it allows older people to work and contribute when they can no longer perform harder labor. But as education becomes more formalized, these Old Folks Homes are disappearing, and with them, their family-building power and the respect for the aged.

Ironically, the PCC began as an effort to help bring quality education to the young people of Polynesia. Owned by the Mormon church, the Center provides a way for students to afford education at Brigham Young University’s Hawai’i campus. Most of the PCC’s workers are native Polynesian students there.

The PCC made for a wonderful last full day in Hawai’i. When I travel, I like to fill my last day with a robust excursion, and the seven “villages” of the PCC, 35 miles from Waikiki, offerred a delightful not-quite finale. Leaving when the “villages” closed at 6:00, we had enough time for an unforgettable stop along the way back to the Hilton …