Monday, March 12, 2007

The island spirit

So anyway, what with the fish and chips and BBC news and lollies and everyone calling you "mate," I forget we're in the South Pacific sometimes. Fortunately along comes an event like the Pasifika festival Saturday to clue me in on what is, believe or not, the biggest Polynesian city in the world. Auckland is home to zillions of ethnic minorities, which is quite a shock after living in lily-white West Coast towns for the last decade or so prior to coming here. In Oregon seeing someone not white was almost a shock (there was a sizable tribe of American Indians in the country but really, most of their members only had partial Indian blood). It's pretty cool living in a place where Asians, Indians, Pacific Islanders, Europeans, Maori and more commingle.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAnd wow, were there a lot of people at this thing. I've seen estimates of as many as 200,000 people - pretty impressive in a country of just 4 million! We came early enough that we left before it got too hot and overcrowded but had fun wandering around the park, which turned into a Pacific Islander Disneyland for the day, with seperate "lands" spotlighting the food, culture and music of places like Fiji, Niue, Tahiti, Kiribati, The Cook Islands and more. Admittedly, the food of some of the booths didn't inspire – unless raw fish that isn't sushi and taro (a goopy root) appeal to you. But there were excellent crafts everywhere (I bought a nifty handmade blank book), and the people-watching alone was fantastic – everything from men with facial tattoos and dreadlocks to nerdy white British guys to near-naked teenage girls (um, not that I noticed). A cool day.

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