This is the first part in a series of blogs about the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii (on the north shore of the island of Oahu).
Swirling hips. Tossing sticks. Chest beating. Tongues hanging outside mouths. But most of all smiles. So many smiles. The sun is beating down on all these performers and they’re smiling from ear to ear.
This happens at 2:30 every Monday through Saturday where native Polynesians float down the lagoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in their traditional costumes. It’s a parade and visitors are here to get a sampler plate of the culture represented at the Center as the performers float by.
The Polynesian Cultural Center, located on Oahu’s north shore in Laie, Hawai’i is a place for cultural immersion not just of Hawaiian life, but of the Polynesian islands in the Pacific, specifically, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Hawai’i, Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga. And it’s not just about putting on a show for visitors. This place is unique and there’s a big reason why you see the smiles.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is actually a nonprofit center dedicated to helping preserve the cultural heritage of Polynesia while providing jobs and scholarships for students at the adjoining Brigham Young University-Hawai‘i campus. Yes, 100 percent of PCC’s revenue is used for daily operations and to support education.
Many of these students would have not had the opportunity for an education otherwise. Most students attend the University year-round and try to complete their degree in three years–what would take most of us four years to do. They do that because oftentimes they just can’t afford to go home for holidays. No weekend trips to go have mom do your laundry. Not even to go home for Christmas. For most, the next time they go home, they’re going home with a Bachelor Degree and the ability to help their community.
Where else in the world do you find a University that’s sole purpose is to bring together students from the far reaches of the the Pacific to help educate them and to give them an opportunity to share their culture with others as a means to pay for that education? It’s a true benevolent way of education and the benefits reach far beyond just the classroom.
I sat down with Delsa Moe, Cultural Presentations Director at the PCC where she described her own experience with self-identity and learning of different cultures. Delsa, who was born and raised in Samoa calls herself half taro and half potato (her father is Samoan and her mother is from Blackfoot, Idaho). She not only attended BYU-Hawai’i as a student, but also worked at the PCC where she fell in love with dancing and performing, and has now been at the PCC for 34 years.
Video is only two minutes, so worth a look at.