Lois and Roy Jorgensen in Hawaii.

Learning to be ohana on Oahu

On April 3, my husband, Roy, and I boarded a plane in Portland for a 30-day adventure to the Hawaiian Islands.

Our first day took us to the north shore of Oahu, where we would be trained to help at the Polynesian Cultural Center in the town of Laie.

We had time to explore the island and snorkel at our favorite places, such as Sharks Cove in the town of Sunset Beach, and swim with the large sea turtles. Our favorite daily meals were grilled ahi, acai bowl topped with granola and fruit, and Hawaiian shave ice with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream melting and waiting at the bottom.

After two days of exploring and resting, we began training at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The PCC was created to share the culture and spirit of Polynesia. The PCC tries to preserve the arts and crafts, and it creates the spirit of aloha 6 days a week for tourists and all who enter and work there.

For two days we learned how to become better people in many ways and share that aloha feeling. Safety was taught first, and second was the importance of how we see others, and to treat them with courtesy. They value their ancestors and the life laid before them to follow. Third is to show up and be ready to help people have a cultural experience. Fourth is efficiency and how we need to provide a smooth and hassle-free experience for all guests.

The purpose is to share ohana, which means family. We felt as if we had traveled to many other islands as we were trained to become ohana. We worked with students from other Polynesian cultures, including Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. They show their aloha spirit as they work in the gift shops, serve food at the luau, dance at the night show or take people on canoe rides through the islands.

My favorite activity was making leis and learning to husk a coconut. It was our privilege to work alongside these students and feel the spirit that radiates in each of them. When they return to their own islands, they are better prepared for life and to "go forth to serve."

We learned many customs and loved greeting the tourists each day. About 20,000 students have worked at the PCC since it opened in 1963. It was the best 30 days, and the volunteering was icing on the cake. We will never forget what we learned and saw and experienced, and we hope to return soon.

— Lois Jorgensen lives in Ashland.

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