I was honestly unprepared for the cultural melting pot that is Hawai’i. The diversity of Asian cultures alone is astounding! I had penciled in several cultural festivals and activities on my itinerary during my first 2 weeks here.
My first stop was the greek festival. I arrived a full 30 minutes early (still inexperienced at gauging bus times) and sat outside the closed doors of the festival pavilion. Through the wooden slats that made up the wall I caught glimpses of colorful fabrics, numerous booth signs boasting a pseudo Grecian font and audible strains of a robed priest saying an opening prayer and blessing each booth with holy water.
I was one of the first people to walk in and took a moment to watch what other characters this festival would draw in. From shirtless surfers to honeymoon couples and families, the festival seemed to appeal to a very wide audience. Live music was played in the courtyard adjacent to a booth selling kaleidoscopes, jewelry and funny shirts inquiring as to my possession of Ouzo.
I scoped each food booth and took notes of dishes I was unfamiliar with. I stared longingly at the grocery booth adorned with amber green oils, fresh cheeses and dried herbs. Temporarily blinded by coin skirts deflecting glittering sun rays, I made my way to the pastry line and was amazed at how many people were already forming a queue. It is a good thing I am patient.
My lunch consisted of souvlaki, that unfortunately disappointed my salivating palate. Dessert however made up for the slight offense. A crumbly cake that combined lemon and almonds was as delightful as its name was sensuous; Ravani. My little portion of ravani cake was joined by a beautifully frothy iced coffee that was deliciously strong and smooth.
Before leaving the festival, I watched folkloric dancers of all ages take to the stage. Fabrics came alive in swirling skirts, shoes shuffled to the island tunes and shy smiles were offered to the audience…all ending in a resounding “OPA!” The dancers were lovely and very talented indeed!
I returned to my rented room and made a flurry of notes, sorted through photos and crossed of the day on my itinerary as a successful one.