The morning started with breakfast at IHOP – not as exciting as Duke’s (our official favorite breakfast joint), but a classic!
From there, we headed out to the North Shore to explore another part of the island. On the way, we stopped at the Dole Pineapple Farm, which offered a few highlights – pineapple themed shopping, dole whip, and the most entertaining koi pond EVER! Our choristers came away with a shocking number of pineapple souvenirs (shirts, stuffies, earrings, you name it), and some great fish stories – the fish absolutely swarmed toward the food when you fed them, sometimes climbing over each other and even coming part way out of the water. It was truly crazy (and amazingly entertaining) to watch. We also got to see how pineapple grows (short version, definitely now how anyone expected who hadn’t previously seen a pineapple plant).
From there, we drove along the coast and checked out a few quaint surf towns along the way to our final destination, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in Laie. The best description I can think of for PCC is Polynesian Epcot – the center features a series of “villages” that represent Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tahiti, and Fiji. The center is connected to BYU-Hawaii and was established to provide work-study opportunities for students from throughout Polynesia to receive a university education, with all the proceeds from the center supporting tuition and scholarships for the students. So, in each village, students from the various islands help visitors experience and learn their cultures. For example, Nia and Sophia pealed breadfruit with the bottom of a tin can while Ria shucked (?) a coconut in Samoa. Emily, Erin, Avery, and Paige paddled an outrigger canoe. We watched drumming demonstrations in Tonga, provided bamboo percussion for chants in Fiji, and learned a new hula in Hawaii. We even saw a couple of men climb a coconut tree (still not entirely sure how).
After a few hours exploring the villages, we had a great buffet dinner with a fun guitar duet providing background music. We got particularly excited when the duet started playing a song our tour director Gil taught us the day before – Tiny Bubbles (which may be the official theme-song of this tour). We sang along with enthusiasm in honor of Gil.
After dinner was perhaps the highlight of the day – the evening show, Ha: the Breath of Life. Gil had told us ahead of time that this show was great, but he was definitely under-selling it. The huge open-air theater was home to a production that told the story of a young man growing up, which each phase told through the lens of a different Polynesian culture. The music, dancing, and production value was amazing! Even at the end of a long day, we were all enthralled. Toward the end, there was a stage full of performers spinning flaming batons, sometimes in pyramids. At one point, the head fire-spinner (I’m sure there’s an official name for him, but can’t remember what it is) threw his flaming baton to another performer on the 2nd story of the stage platforms, and he CAUGHT it! It was an amazing end to a great day, and by the time we got back on the bus for the hour drive home, we all enjoyed a well-deserved snooze.