Thursday, December 11, 2014


My heritage and culture make me who I am.  I'm Hawaiian and Japanese.  

At 5:45am my alarm went off and I thought I was going to throw my phone out the window.  My usual alarm singing, "Good morning!" to me made it a very terrible morning.  I put on some decent clothing, which included a baggy white t-shirt, black sweats, a gray oversized hoodie, mismatched socks, and Nike Frees 4.0.  I dragged my cousin, who was my roommate, out the door of our apartment and we made the long journey to the BYU Wilkinson Center.  Unfortunately, it was snowing so we trudged through the snow now 5:55am on our way to luau practice.  

That was always a glorious moment, stepping through the doors.  Warmth hit our bodies like a gust of wind.  Our cheeks started to get pink and rosy because warmth was returning to them.  Our fingers didn't hurt to move anymore because circulation was getting back into them.  We walked up one flight of stairs and down two hallways until we got to our practice room, third door on the right side. Now the fun part was about to begin.  Hawaii section luau practice.

By 6:10am we started warming up.  There were usually about 25 people there and little by little more people would start to trickle in.  To start our warm up, our instructor would put on traditional Hawaiian music, which was usually a man chanting during major beats of an ipu (which is a Hawaiian gourd dried out to become an instrument) and the dancing would begin.  I can always remember being confident at the beginning that I was doing pretty well, but 10 minutes into practice, I could feel the burning sensation starting in my legs.  It would usually start in my calves and lead up into my quadriceps and hamstrings.  It was never the good burning sensation, but I knew I was doing something right if my muscles were getting a good work out already.

By 6:30am we would break up into our smaller groups and start practicing our specific dances.  We went over the specific chants we had to repeat at the right time.  As we learned the different chants, our instructor would explain to us what each line we were saying meant.  Each time he would explain a line to us, an appreciation for my culture and heritage would spark inside of me. 

All those Sunday dinners at my grandparents house would flash through my mind as these words sounded so familiar.  I could remember the smell of my grandma’s cooking as we sat around the table with my older cousins waiting for her to finish cooking.  My grandpa’s Hawaiian records and CDs all stacked so neatly against the wall, like he had them in some particular order.  My grandpa sitting at the kitchen table taste testing the food before my grandma served it to everyone.  Everyone fighting over saying the prayer to bless the food because whoever blessed the food would get to go first, and who wasn’t hungry at this point.  These are just some of the memories that would flood my mind every Saturday as we would learn new chants and hula steps to make the perfect performance.

As these memories kept coming back to mind, I couldn’t help but think of another story.  Nephi, a prophet, would refer back to the records of his ancestors as he would have different experiences throughout his life.  He would be appreciative for the records of his ancestors and how he could apply their lesson to the trials he was going through.  I was able to get through the very early morning practices and figure out how to balance everything that was going on in my life because of the stories I was told growing up. 

Two hours later, at 8am, practice would finally come to an end.  After two hours of dirty bare feet, sweaty faces, and aching knees, we would get to walk back home just in time to go back to bed.  This ritual continued on for the next three months every Saturday from 6-8am.  If we were really lucky, we would get to practice for an extra two hours after our allotted time and get home at 10am.  During the extra two hour practice, it was more relaxed and we were able to get to know each other better as we sat on the hard carpet floor sewing our skirts, making our head dresses, or practicing certain parts of the dances.

Week after week, the luau performance came closer and closer.  Dances were finished.  Skirts were sewn.  All that was left was practicing for perfection.  When I’d practice the hula dances, I could just imagine my grandparents and ancestors dancing along with me.  Every chant, every step having so much meaning.  Just like Nephi, I was able to appreciate what my grandparents had left me.  My culture.  My heritage.  What makes up me.

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