A Special and Unique Place

Me doing the coconut demonstration - PCC 
Can you be more Samoan outside Samoa?  In my case, Yess!  Now, remember this is coming from someone who was raised at the center of typical Samoan life - in the village, in Samoa.
How is it possible to become "more Samoan" outside of Samoa? Some will find the assertion more philosophical and theoretical than practical. Others may approach it from a relative standpoint with justification, if not rationalization. But I see it from a purely practical and empirical perspective especially in the context of Samoa’s social and ethnocultural traditions.

In Hawaii at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), I demonstrated many of the tasks found in Samoan everyday life. The three main ones were: climbing the coconut tree, starting fire using just two pieces of sticks and husking the coconut, cracking it open and extracting milk from its meat (kernel). Not only had I actually done these chores, but the frequency - several times a day - went well beyond the normal native daily occurrences. In Samoa, I would climb the coconut tree perhaps only twice a month, if at all. And I was never able or had to start a fire without using matches or a lighter. Only in the woods where occasionally some older men would start the fire using the native sticks method as a last resort. At the Cultural Center, starting a fire by rubbing sticks only took me 20-30 seconds; the demonstration is then repeated for every group of tourists/guests.

During special celebrations and culture days, I had a chance to tautu (distribute) ‘ava (ceremonial drink) to guests and VIPs using proper traditional etiquette (re: picture below).  I had not - and would have not - had a chance to do that in Samoa.

I was also introduced to some rare and special cultural protocols - often reserved for special occasions - at the PCC. For example, I participated in an “'ava faatupu” (kava ceremony to welcome a king) when the late Malietoa Tanumafili II visited the Center. Ta'alolo (a procession of gift presentation), a traditional Samoan custom was common during my years at PCC.

If one has not been to the PCC, he will think this picture is of Samoa

So the claim and argument that the Polynesian Cultural Center is a staged exhibition is hogwash.  I learned more about Samoa there - in Hawaii - than I was ever able to learn in Samoa.  In fact I felt more “proud” of the Samoan culture in Hawaii than I would have felt in Samoa.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a special and unique place. It is a living museum!

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