Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bugs Bunny Was a Racist Asshole

Adam and I finally took a walk down “tourist” way. We went to what would be the equivalent of a Luau in Hawaii in a little area called Tiki Village just up the way from where we are staying. We were collected by our taxi at just before 6:00pm. Not realizing how close the village was to our bungalow (we have ridden past it a dozen times on the bikes, too!) it only took us just a couple of minutes to get there and we probably could have walked.

We were dropped off at a reception area, which was in basically a little shop with various touristy items for sale, paid for the evening’s events and then escorted into the village by a local Tahitian man with a very thick accent who proceeded to attempt to teach us a few Tahitian words. Normally I eat that kind of thing up, but that night I was just not getting it as I have had to deal with 3 different languages (English, French, and Tahitian) since our arrival, and my brain was having none of it, so I kind of felt like an ass. Oh, well.

He walked us through and pointed out the different buildings as we continued down the path to the theater and restaurant area. They have several different traditional Polynesian houses built that are replicas from the Island of Marquesas, including a replica of the painter Gauguin’s house during the period he resided there. As we entered the theater area (which seats several hundred people) we immediately noticed that we were 2 of about 5 people in the entire village and started to get nervous. We were praying that there would be more people attending the event otherwise we knew we would get singled out and the whole evening would just be oddly uncomfortable.

Fortunately, as we sipped our happy hour “rum punch”…….which of course was more punch than rum…….a few more people trickled in here and there. Whew! So we started to relax a bit, took some pictures of the village, and did a little shopping in the pearl/jewelry store before it was time for the more formal tour of the village.

Of course the Master of Ceremonies had to repeat everything in both French and English, which he was quite masterful at, so my brain continued to be on full overload with the language mix. The tour began with a reveal of the traditional Tahitian feast we would be dining upon (buffet style) later in the evening. Basically they cook the meal on hot coals underground for 3 hours covered by a massive layer of banana leaves, what looked like potato sacks, and a layer of sand. Everyone ooh’ed and awed as he described the dishes to be served including the traditional Poisson Cru, various pork and chicken dishes, and a few other goodies. We were then broken up in a couple of groups based on language directly following to be given an official tour of the buildings and told about some of the different rites of passage of the Tahitian people growing up.

Obviously they separated us by language specifically so they would not have to repeat everything twice. Smart. But I also knew what was coming. I knew we were going to get stuck at tables with other people who spoke English instead of the opportunity to sit on our own or with people who didn’t speak English so we wouldn’t have to talk with them at all. I figured that out right away based on the restaurant seating near the theater. Fortunately we ended up sitting next to a delightful newlywed couple from Los Angeles (Audrey and Dean) who had just been married three days prior. Audrey broke the ice by nearly stepping on a big crab that scurried past her chair as she attempted to get up to head to the buffet. She screamed and we all laughed, and that eased things a bit. We got lucky to be sat with them.

Dinner was decent. Some of it (mostly the grilled meat) was really good. The rest was mediocre. The deserts were mostly strange and a mystery to boot because nothing was marked, so it was a big guessing game as to the identity of some of the unfamiliar (and not very likeable) fruits. It was still a good meal overall.
After dinner, and a really strange fashion show of sorts in which both a Tahitian woman and man (at separate times) danced to the live music and proceeded to take a variety of sarongs and fit them in different ways (this went on forever, by the way…..not unlike this blog!), we were collectively escorted to the theater for the dance performance.

The MC for the evening (whose Tahitian name he rattled off so fast I have no idea what it was) was quite charismatic and tried to spice things up with humor here and there. Unfortunately, and quite unintentionally, he did come across a bit racist at times. There were a smattering of Japanese tourists in the crowd, which I am guessing were all part of one group, that he singled out by continually calling out, “Hey, Japanese!” On top of that, he pulled one of the young Japanese men from the audience to demonstrate how to peel the outer husk of a coconut using a sharp stick (a LOT harder than it looks, by the way) and gently crack the coconut shell open with a rock in order to get the water from it…….which he proceeded to refer to as sake. It was definitely all in fun and by no means meant in a derogatory manner. Plus, in a strange way, maybe it helped make up for all those old 1940’s Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny-bone-through-the nose, native islander cartoons that I love so much.

As we have been to Hawaii and attended a formal luau, we have had the pleasure of seeing some of the Polynesian style dances and were actually quite looking forward to making the comparison to what we had seen in the past. The show was great. I don’t believe that the entire crew was at their best that night as there were a lot of notable missteps and dropping of flaming torch batons and some giggling, especially towards the end, but nonetheless it was an impressive show.

Oh, and I forgot to add the part about the audience participation. They had the women (those who would participate, of course) come down to the floor and do a dance a la Polynesian style (with the hip movements) in front of the audience. Adam, Dean and I all barked at Audrey to get her to do it knowing full well that our turn would unfortunately come, which it inevitably did………and even Adam participated! The men had to do more of a knee swinging, foot stomping thing that you will have to see later. Yes, we have pictures. Be afraid. I actually handed our camera to Audrey as we left our seats so she could take a couple of shots. Adam was mortified, but I still think deep down he enjoyed it.

I do have to say that it was nice to see performers of all shapes and sizes. They were obviously all Tahitian (or appeared so to us), but none had that formal model body that is in every magazine advertisement and on TV. Some (both men and women) had plenty of meat on their bones, and I appreciated it as it was realistic. And body style is not of any concern here. I am usually quite uncomfortable in my own skin and especially without my shirt on, but that has not been any issue here thankfully because it is too damned hot! Although, if I did live here, you can guarantee that I would be significantly thinner, tanner and in better shape!

Anyway, overall it was a fun night. And a late one for us…….the latest so far. We were out past 10:00! Man, we are getting old.

Once again we were woken up to the sound of rain. And I don’t just mean a little drip from the sky kind of rain………I am talking rain of Biblical proportions……and some serious thunder and lightning to go with it! I love thunder storms, and have since I was a kid and experienced my first in Oklahoma, so this was great! But it was very short lived. There were less than half a dozen flashes and crashes, but still well worth noting.

The rest of the day was completely cloudy and very humid, but we did not see the rain (or more lightening and consequent thunder) until late in the afternoon. We even took ourselves to the beach for a while to pass the time earlier in the day even though the sun never broke. The warm water felt really nice counterbalancing the humidity actually.

And I have been uncharacteristically exhausted today. Right after breakfast I put my head back on my pillow for about 20 minutes just to ditch the last of my sleepiness……..until we came back from the beach and started reading. Then I sacked out for another 30+ minutes. I am guessing it is a combination of the humidity, activity, and relaxation that are doing it to me.

With just a few days left (and tomorrow is officially Adam’s big tattoo day!!!) we are hoping for at least one more day of sun. I would like to get just a bit more color on me. And I do have a little bit. Adam, of course, looks like a native.

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