Monday night my Hawaiian professor invited the whole class over to his house for a pā‘ina, a small dinner party. It was very enjoyable. He and his family live a couple miles outside of Hilo, out in the good ol’ countryside. Everyone brings food to Hawaiian parties, and we enjoyed an ‘ono (delicious, tasty) meal of many different things. (If you have just enjoyed a savory repast, you can compliment your host with “ ‘ono ka mea‘ai” -- “delicious is the food”.)
We also saw and practiced for the first time the hula we'll be learning over the semester. Hula is an art form unique to the Hawaiian islands, and can be loosely described as a highly stylized form of pantomime accompanied by a mele, a song that may be chanted or sung depending on the hula. It was originally conceived as a means of passing on oral histories, and developed into an ubiquitous art form applicable to social situations ranging from serious state occasions to informal get-togethers. The mele we're performing is sort of a patriotic Hawaiian anthem, though a relatively recent one. Hula is incredibly complex and difficult, especially for such an uncoordinated one as I. There are foot, hand, and arm movements to be performed synchronously with the mele, while singing and trying not to hit or run into the people around you. It's a very different experience for me, but a very pleasant one. (Yes, I know, another shocker to those of you who know I am generally not much for the performing arts. All I can say is, I'm surprised too.) I'll try to translate the mele for you later on in the semester when I'm able, and perhaps even put up some pictures from when we perform.
A hui hou! (until next time!)