A First For Me

My friend invited me to a Bon Dance. I have never been to one and the reason why is because I thought that I needed to know and learn a bunch of dance moves first and I thought I had to be Buddhist. I didn’t express these concerns to my friend but I figured that since she invited me then it was okay to just go. My son and her son are friends and she had ‘the gang’ so I thought it would be a good idea to have Urban spend time with them. Another thing that got me interested in going was that I heard that this is the place to get the best Andagi donuts. And you know what? It was no rumor. It was a fact!

I made an attempt to invite my sister but she was busy settling into her new home. Our conversation via text messaging:

Me: I’m taking Urban to the Bon dance. You wanna go?

Sis: I’d like to but I’m still organizing and pup-sitting. Where’s the Bon Dance?

Me: Hongwanji

Sis: R the girls going too?

Me: Yeah. They’re taking a nap. I’m gonna shower and get ready.

Sis: K…have fun. I know you’ll be dancing (thumbs up emoticon)

Me: Thanks! No I’ll just watch everybody dance (smiley face)

Sis: knowing you…you’re gonna get into it and start dancing lol

Me: I guess if somebody teaches me I will lol

Sis: no need…just follow then add a bit of your skanking moves lol

Me: OMGosh! Hahaha! That’s a no-no! Heehee!

Sis: yeah-ur rite.

Urban, the twins and I got there about 7:30. It was already dark and I was expecting to see lanterns outside but this Bon Dance was held indoors protected from the rain in the comfort of the Sangha Hall. Urban’s friends were outside and they greeted each other with excitement as they made their way to the dance floor to do the Electric Slide and the Cha-Cha Slide and continued on with the Bon Dance.

It suddenly occurred to me that Urban is happiest when he is with his friends. It kind of puts me in my place when I can no longer have that effect on him. The vision of a little 3-year-old who used to run down the preschool yard tackling me with joy and relief upon seeing me is now a memory in my mind and a fixture in my heart. Then shaking it off, I was happy for him that he had wonderful friends to be with and friends that encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone.

While Urban and his friends were getting their moves on, I was given a bag of Andagi donuts that my friends had saved for me. Lorene and Les. They’re the best! I bit into its crispy fried shell and sank my teeth into the doughy center. Fresh andagi is always the best. I can’t have it any other way. I was in the right place at that very moment! That’s how good it was.

After having the andagi as an appetizer, I made my way to the concession to get a Teri beef bowl for the girls and I. If you’ve ever had KTA Teri Beef fundraiser plates, this bowl was similar to that. The difference was that it was in a bowl and the teri beef was sliced into thin strips which made it easier to eat with the drippings sliding off of it. I just kept scooping up that bowl of rice, teri beef, and corn until every single grain of rice could not be found on that thin paper bowl. That was some good stuff and every morsel counted!

While I sat and watched the dancers circle the tower of musicians and drummers, I spotted my friend Laura all dressed up in a beautiful kimono and her blonde hair was up and out of her face neatly in a tight bun. And she was dancing! Gliding gracefully around…I was amazed at her talent that I didn’t know of. From Honoli’i surfer to Bon dancer.

So when that number was over, I went up to her to give her a hug and a kiss and tell her how awesome she was. Then the next number was starting and as I attempted to say goodbye to her she said, “No-come!” And thinking about my conversation with my sister earlier, I was hesitant but Laura was very welcoming and told me that all I had to do was follow the others. So that is what I did. And basically, it’s 4 kinds of balanced steps that is repeated around the yagura. You just do it over and over again and you end where you started. And it starts up again with another routine.

If you’re like me, (someone who needs lots of practice) the moment I start to get it is when it’s over! One pair of steps felt as if I was digging. In the second dance that I did, it’s funny to say that it was kind of like skanking with a walking tough motion, then something like revving a motorcycle, then a chicken wing motion and then a wiping the window motion. I know there must be a meaning to all these motions…something I forgot to ask about in the crowd but that one was my favorite one. Does anyone know the name of that dance that I just described?

Then I thought of my sister…After that number was done, the modern music came on and the boys went back up to dance. So I texted my sister:

Me: okay you were right hahaha! (two girls dancing emoticon)

Sis: I so know you Myra. Glad you’re having fun on such a gorgeous evening. (Smiley face)

Then I sent her a picture of Urban engrossed in the Cha-Cha Slide going as low as he can go…”How low can you go?”, challenged the music.

Sis: such form! u go urban…yee hah!

Bon dance is crowded with people and in this small town where I’m from, I ran into some people that I haven’t seen for a while. The twins soccer team mate was there so I reconnected with her parents. My friend Shelly…some friends from Cafe Pesto…I asked my friend who invited me if this was like a yearly tradition for them. Their oldest (daughter) is usually the one who asks to participate in this yearly festival and that’s why they go. Her husband shared some memories from his childhood. It was a family tradition to go to the Bon dance every year. The hongwanji was by his grandmother’s house in Palolo and he fondly remembers the aromas of teri beef sticks BBQing and saimin cooking. I spoke to someone sitting next to us and I asked her if she could sum up the Bon dance in one word or a short phrase, what would it be? Her answer:

“Some people say we worship the dead but this is not so…it’s GRATITUDE…acknowledging everyone and everything that brought us to this place here and now.”

Gratitude is an important human virtue. I left the hall with a tremendous feeling of gratitude…for the people that have been in my life from past to present. And for the joys and sufferings in my life that I encountered and experienced. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today if I wasn’t able to face the people and experiences of yesterday and today.

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Copyright 2013 Myra Halpern
All Rights Reserved

Sources:
http://hawaiianscribe.hubpages.com/hub/Japanese-Bon-Dance-in-Hawaii-2012
http://archives.starbulletin.com/2005/08/31/features/story1.html

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