Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hulo Hula

The Mormons on our tiny island have spent the last few months preparing for a big conference. One of the things we love most about our island is that because it is so small, if any church has something going on, everyone helps and participates in the event. That being said, although we are not Mormon, we have spent the last few months attending choir practice multiple times a week, helping the church prepare, and all in all, anticipating whatever the heck a Mormon conference is.

As apart of the events of the weekend, we were invited to a district wide hulo hula (hulo hula- to dance in European style. Dance, ball) on Vava'u lahi (the main island). We had been to a hulo hula before, and although it did not meet my expectations (thanks to you Joey and Chiara!), I had high hopes as this was a district-wide dance.....

As we waited at the wharf for our ride (I could live a whole other life out of the wasted years worth of time I have spent at this particular wharf. I'm not exaggerating, not even a little) , we got a text from a fellow PCV asking if our dance was themed. As we sensed he was mocking us and the way in which we were choosing to spend our Friday night, we assured him it was not a themed dance.

When our ride (finally) arrived at 8:00 pm (my bed time here in Tonga), we discovered that it was, in fact, a themed dance. A pioneer themed dance.

We headed to the dance, which took place in a tennis court behind a Mormon church. I'm not sure the following picture accurately displays the dance floor, but it was enclosed in a square of folding chairs. Both Tongan music and the latest rap/hip hop music were played.

This was the emcee. He was an incredibly hilarious man, and we really wanted a picture of him in his overalls. It was clear that he had some experience with the idea of emceeing, in a western way, as he had a lot of American catch phrases that were almost, but not quite, correct. My favorite thing about the whole event was that after each song, the music was turned completely off, the dance floor was cleared, everyone sat down in the folding chairs surrounding the dance floor, and then the next song was turned on, and the people again invited to come to the dance floor. It made things so awkward.

The first dance was a slow dance, and Mark and I were urged by our Tongan friends to join them on the dance floor. Not wanting to disappoint our friends, and with every eye on us (yes...we were the only palangis. Where we're all those Mormon missionaries?!), we went out to the dance floor. Imagine my shock and horror when our friends quickly danced over to us and said, " this isn't a night club, you can not dance like that here!". As it turns out, while slow dancing the girl is to use the left hand to hold hands with her partner, and her right hand should be placed on her partner's forearm. Forearm. Not shoulder, and most definitely not neck, as we were dancing.

At that point in the night, the first song, mind you, I knew it would be a long night. I also no longer knew what was appropriate and inappropriate. Mostly I just clapped on the dance floor. It was awkward. It was a long night.

Where do you think this tradition comes from? Sooo hilarious!


  1. Doh! I had a big ol' long comment explaining some silliness of Mormon/Utah culture, but then I clicked on something and lost it. Oh well.

    This account made me laugh out loud. We Mormons can have some weird eccentricities. It looks like you got to see a weird cross between Mormon and Utah and United States and Tongan culture. Makes for a good story, but I wish somebody would have explained it to you there.

    I don't know enough about what was going on to answer authoritatively, but if you were talking about a Mormon district conference then that is like a gathering of several congregations to receive training. It also seems to have occurred close to "Pioneer day" (July 24th), which is when we celebrate the Mormons arriving in the Salt Lake valley. The missionaries were either not there because they weren't allowed or maybe they were natives.

    Anyway, I'm sure your help was appreciated. I know I appreciated your help, if only I got to read this funny story!

  2. I sure enjoy reading your blog. This one really made me laugh. I remember these big dances from way back when I was a teenager in Oklahoma. My kids have enjoyed them here in Massachusetts, but it is funny how the culture and traditions are the same and different both.
    I assume the purpose of this dance was a chance for people to meet and have fun. When I was a youth,it was so exciting to meet other Mormons that had the same beliefs and standards as I did growing up. We were given a booklet called, "For the Strength of Youth". It was a pamphlet distributed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that "summarized standards from scripture and from the writings and teachings of Church leaders."
    For music and dancing it says, "Music can enrich your life. It can edify and inspire you and help you draw closer to Heavenly Father. Music has a profound effect on your mind, spirit, and behavior.

    Choose carefully the music you listen to. Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening. Some music can carry evil and destructive messages. Do not listen to music that encourages immorality or glorifies violence through its lyrics, beat, or intensity. Do not listen to music that uses vulgar or offensive language or promotes evil practices. Such music can dull your spiritual sensitivity."
    Each area of the United States (and world) interprets this differently. When I was in Oklahoma we were allowed to "bear hug" dance (with both of my hands on the shoulders of my partner and his hands at my waist) but there were chaperones that would check to be sure there was space in between us. They would sometimes even have a ruler. :) When we were in Texas, the rules were very strict. Here in Massachusetts, all sorts of people are invited to come but the music is still checked out to reduce songs that promote behavior that does not reflect our beliefs about the sanctity of the relationship between husband and wife.

    I guess in Tonga, the interpretation is a little different. haha

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. And thanks for the work and service you are doing. We love you, Karen