No Aloha

Another wee ramble from the new Hawaii Scottish country dancing debacle. …

There’s an eerie silence as we trudge past the battered dumpsters, through the empty car park toward where our treasure map indicates that we might find the Mo’ili’ili Silent Dance Center. We turn the corner, see light streaming out of a quiet, small one-storey wooden shack—and then it hits us. The Silent Dance Center is suddenly far from silent. I take an involuntary step backwards. The cat bolts. April grabs me by the sleeve before I, too, make a run for it. It’s the noise that I’ve dreaded since childhood. The wail that kept me awake night after night. The screech that filled my brothers and I with horror. It’s hideous. It’s terrifying. It’s the sound that even after 8,000 miles and two decades still gnaws at my soul. April gently pushes me forward. I shudder, swallow and bravely trek on as the creaky hinge bray of the sound of violins tuning up caterwauls through the Honolulu night.

Like many things, my aversion towards traditional Scottish music is my sister Orla’s fault. Her membership in the Caledonian Strathspey and Reel Society lead to an awful lot of violin tuning up in our house when I was young and trying to do important things like sulk, fail exams and listen to Eurythmics records. The sound still sets my teeth of edge and stirs up a vortext of teen resentment.

Soon we are spotted lurking in the shrubbery by a smiling woman in a graceful dark ankle-length dress. We sidle over to where she stands on the lanai. Lillian, the chairwoman of Hawaii’s Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, gestures at rows of gold doubloon-shaped name badges adorned with wee plastic jewels and explains that this year’s theme is “Treasure the Dance.” I thank her for the glittered folder and tell her, “I loved the artwork”. She laughs and admits, “It took a while to do all those dolphins.” No grandchildren appear to have been involved. As Lillian picks out our doubloons, April turns to me and whispers at me with raised eyebrows, “Grown-ups made these!” I love them for this. It increases my willingness to pitch in and support keeping the love of Scottish country dancing alive round these parts. As well as the individual treasure maps for each event, there’s also another rolled up map with carefully burned corners and the programme of dances for tonight. I whip the tartan ribbon off and unroll mine. Ash promptly fall all over my white slacks and leaves a trail of murky smudges all the way down to my tartan sneakers.

When I edge nervously into the dance studio, I am the only woman not wearing a skirt or kilt. Somewhere in the folder’s sheaf of papers we were instructed to wear “aloha casual” to this part of the weekend. This afternoon we saw a sign explaining that “The Aloha Spirit Are Traits of Character That Expresses The Charm, Warmth and Sincerity of Hawaii’s People.” “How do you wear that?” I asked the scientist. She puzzled over this and then picked out this outfit for me, deciding that these were my most sincere footwear options. Everyone in the room seems to know who we are, perhaps because April and I are at least thirty years younger than everyone else or perhaps because there are only about 15 people in the room and they seem to have been doing reels of three and half figures of eight together since long before my wee sister first put screeching bow to discordant fiddle strings.

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