Thursday, March 22, 2007

Luau Night

Last night we went to the Smith Family Garden Luau. No, we didn't just show up to some family's backyard barbecue. The Smith Family is a big tourism company, running tours and luaus for over 50 years. We arrived at their garden paradise along the Wailua River, where we started our kayak adventure the other day. They greeted us with shell leis and had us pose for a picture (available for purchase later) with two hula dancers in costume. A whole tour bus full of people in Hawaiian shirts pulled up about the same time we arrived. After checking in, we wandered through the gardens. There were also narrated tram tours, but we thought the kids would rather walk. Besides, we already knew what most of those exotic tropical plants were, since they grow in South Florida (more landscaping ideas).

After some time in the garden, everyone assembled for the imu ceremony. The host described what was happening while two young guys in sarongs dug the roasted pig out of the pit. They peeled back the banana leaves and tossed the hot lava rocks back into the pit with their bare hands. The host said normally at home they use tongs, but the guys noticed some pretty girls in the crowd and wanted to impress them.

The meal was served buffet style. The shredded pork was delicious, and so was the mahi mahi, and just about everything else. None of us cared for the poi, which is taro root paste. It's purplish gray goop without much flavor. It's not too bad if you eat it with the salty pork, but it's not something I'd want to eat a lot of. Our kayak tour guide said at his nephew's birthday party last weekend, the family served 300 pounds of poi, and only had 5 pounds left over after the party. So apparently Hawaiians eat a lot of this stuff.

During dinner there was a trio playing and singing Hawaiian music. After a while, they brought up one of the cousins to demonstrate some hula moves. She asked for volunteers to try a dance with her, and you just knew Mary was going to end up on that stage, didn't you? After she was done, Mary showed us all the hand motions and told us what they all meant. She was still running through the story when Scott took her to the bathroom on the way to the after-dinner show, so all the men waiting in line for the urinals got to hear the story of how the fish came to Hawaii.

The show was in an outdoor amphitheater. The audience area was covered, which was good, because it rained a bit during the show. They put on a big production, with a live band, real stage lights and special effects of a volcano erupting. They performed dances from Hawaii (ancient and modern dances), Tahiti, New Zealand, China, Japan, Philippines, and Samoa. In the New Zealand dance, the women twirles poi balls on the ends of strings. Mary got to try that at her Girl Scouts Thinking Day a couple weeks ago. The Girl Scouts didn't twirl flaming poi balls, though, like these dancers did.

The grand finale was the Samoan fire sword dance. I couldn't believe some of the stuff this guy did. He didn't just twirl flaming swords. He put them on his face, laid on them, stood on them, you name it. He started with one sword lit on one end, and when he wanted to light the other end, he didn't light it from a torch. He just grabbed a piece of fire from the lit end and put it on the other end. Mary liked his performance the best. Audrey didn't see any of the show. She went to sleep right before the show started, and nothing woke her up, not the erupting volcano or the firecrackers for the Chinese lion, or being carried out to the car.

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