John Tasato, Daniel Chinen, Glenn Kogachi and I decided to stay behind. I was so glad we did! We hang out with the locals and talk story as we watch the entertainment. This grandma calls her grandson over and I guess tells him to speak English to me b/c he is studying it in school. The boy, who looks to be in elementary school, asks me, "How do you do?" I answer, "I am well. How do you do?" and we smile at each other for a long, awkward moment. The grandmother nudges him and I guess tells him to talk some more because he then tells me, "You are very pretty." :) He got me charmed!
John Tasato and I brazenly walked into the VIP section and found ourselves schmoozing with politicians, with an incredible view of the entertainment. Edu Oshiro’s brother and sister-in-law spotted me sitting at the table and told him I was still around. Edu shows up and hangs out with us for the rest of the night, trying valiantly to teach me to whistle Brazilian-Okinawan-style (photo lower left). Heh. The photo lower right is with Kamiya, a politician running for some office. John tells him that my father is a kaichou for the Okinawan association in Hawaii and all of a sudden they start pinning campaign buttons on me.
At the close of the festival, I found myself near the stage with Edu, dancing the kachashi. We were surrounded by a sea of Uchinanchu, with Eisa drummers snaking all around us – creating a living beat that resonated through me and shook the ground. Piercing whistles were going off all around us. It was magical. I could not stop smiling from ear to ear. The entire area was awash with such incredible joy and sheer energy! I remember thinking, “This is why I came to South America!!! This is what I expected to find for the celebrations!”
The events ended with a big fireworks show right over our heads. heh. I had paper raining down and getting caught in my hair. The finale was thousands of firecrackers going off. We end up in a gym, where RMD Hawaii performers continue to celebrate. Tomaz Chibana, with RMD Brazil, generously drives us back to our hotel even though it is well past midnight. What an amazing experience!