Aloha Salsa

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Remember last year I was campaigning for Alison, running for US senate in California? We made plans to catch up when next I was in LA, so I planned to stopover on my way to Spain for my class reunion with my german friends. Sadly, my annual leave got declined, so the only way I could make the trip happen was to swap out of 2 weeks worth of shifts, meaning working almost every day for 6 weeks straight beforehand. Somehow I managed it, and booked my tickets. After that, however, Alison told me that she had moved to Hawai’i.


What to do.

Screw it, I thought, and booked an internal return from LA to Honolulu as well. I had 3 days there before connecting to Mallorca. It was a very strange sensation as I landed. “This feels like New Zealand” I though to myself. the landscape, the vegetation, the population- everything about it reminded me particularly of the northern part of the north Island. One of the exits from the airport leads onto Puonamou Freeway. “pounamou…..” I thought to myself, “…that means jewellery in

Loco Moko at Moana Beach House

maori. Why do I know what that means?” Then it hit me- of course. Hawaii is a group of pacific islands with an indigenous population of polynesians, colonised by europeans. Like New Zealand.

Kualoa Ranch (of Jurassic Park fame)

there are so many parallels. There is a lot of truly spectacular scenery, as both landscapes have clearly been glaciated. The beaches are amazing, and the freshness of the food is always something to look forward to. It was suggested that I visit the polynesian cultural centre, to which I responded “Nah- I already did that in Rotorua”. I thought it better to explore some newer horizons.

Waikiki is the main shopping/nightlife area in the centre of town, and I took a look around there, being surprised how glitzy and glamorous it was. Buho Cantina is a famous rooftop mexican bar/restuarant in the middle of Waikiki, and it was supposed to have a salsa band playing that night, but that never eventuated.
The next day, I went to Pearl Harbour and immersed myself in the history there, which was fascinating (it’s amazing how much of geopolitics comes down to money…).
Rumfire is the bar at the Sheraton Hotel, and they did have a salsa band playing that night, so I went and as usual danced to my hearts content. The humidity meant that everyone was sweating profusely, but it was a really positive atmosphere, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming Rachel (Ordinary Girl, How You Make Me Feel, etc…) would complain to me that people never take notice of the band, so I always make an effort to befriend the musicians. After all, I live band makes such huge difference to the night.
Just before closing, I saw a pair dancing together, and it looked like the girl was teaching the guy the basic step. I saw that he was bare foot, so I tossed my dancing shoes over to him, and they landed just by his feet. They laughed, and the three of us got talking. His name was Kelly, and she was Francesca. I told them I had one more night in Honolulu, and they invited me to join them dancing the following night at District nightclub.

The next morning, I went to the national museum and learned more history there, before meeting Alison for lunch. It was nice to spend some one on one time with her away from politics, and it was pleasing, but not surprising to find that she is as genuine as her political views would suggest.

Alison and I at jam night

We got on really well and she invited me out to a jam night that evening, where random musicians and singers get together and play. I bought my guitar and joined in where I could. I asked if people would be interested in playing one of my songs, and I showed them This Game, which we played together, and everyone seems to really enjoy.

It’s always nice when one of your own creations is well received.
I had to leave early, as I had my salsa appointment that night with Kelly and Francesca.

District is more like a conventional nightclub, but Thursday is salsa night, and a decent crowd was there. Not as many advanced dancers as you would find in a city like Sydney or London, but the enthusiasm was endearing and people made me feel very welcome again, and I got a lot of compliments for my dancing. I’ve been doing salsa since I was 18, and have done lots of performances and teaching, so I would hope I could safely call myself and advanced dancer by now…
I asked the DJ to play my favourite song [Otro Opportunidad by Jimmy Bosch], which he kindly did, and I duly went crazy to it.

I had just enough time to squeeze in a helicopter tour of Oahu before my flight back to LA on Friday, and saw some spectacular scenery while avoiding falling to my death.

I had an amazing time in Hawaii, and knew that I would go back again. So, 6 weeks later, I told Alison that my brazilian friend, Zumbi was going to be visiting, and that I would pay for the two of them to have dinner at Halekulani, which is one of the best beachside restaurants in Waikiki. It was her reward for being such a strong progressive activist. I arranged a taxi to pick her up from her place and take her to the restaurant. She arrived at the table to see me sitting in Zumbis place. She gasped and ran upto me, giving me a massive hug. I explained to her that Zumbi was my capoeira name, and that I played him in a theatre production, so technically, I was telling her the truth. We had beautiful meal and spoke for hours about anything and everything before I dropped her back to her place. The rest of the week I spent exploring the island further, including the Dole plantation and turtle Beach, doing beach runs and workouts as well as dancing every night possible. the same band was playing,

Daniel- guitarist in the band

this time at Buho Cantina on Saturday. they played an amazing set, and I talked to the guitarist, Daniel, again, and he told me more about the salsa scene on the island.

I left the following Friday after another fun Thursday night at District, feeling rested, and knowing that I was going to come back again, but trying to consolidate in my mind, why. then I thought to myself, of course you like it here- all you do is sing and dance and run and jump. It’s a pretty fun life. If only I could make it permanent…

The next best thing was to stopover again on my way back to London to visit my family for Christmas.
Which I did. I strategically landed on Thursday and left the following Friday, so I could fit in 2 nights at District on Thursday.
The band was playing again on Saturday night, and I danced my heart out again. A girl came up to me and asked me if I was cuban. “You look cuban, you dress cuban, you dance cuban- I thought you were cuban!” My english accent really surprised her. One of my favourite songs is “Vehicle” by Wille Colon, and I went mental to it as usual….

I noted that her friend was standing by the bar “I haven’t seen you dancing tonight” I asked her.
“My knee hurts” she told me. I dropped down and started examining her knee. “Are you a physician?” she asked. For split second, I thought about saying “Nah- I just go around nightclubs feeling hot womens’ legs”, but then I thought it would be better to just tell the truth, so I just said “Yes” instead.
I did Apleys manoeuvre- she winced. “You have a meniscal tear” I told her. She later had an MRI scan. She had a meniscal tear.


There was a latino guy doing the basic step by himself, so I did the basic step alongside him, and for the rest of the song, we were copying each others salsa and rumba moves, and everyone stopped and

Lupe and I

was watching us with interest- I don’t think anyone there had seen a rumba line before.

We bumped into each other again at District on my last night, and did the same, and again, people stopped and stared at us in amazement, and Kelly came upto us and acted like he was writing down our moves. His name was Guadalupe, and we became friends.

I then caught a glimpse of a girl who was built like a brick proverbial, but very graceful and feminine with it as well. We danced, and she was really good. She turned out to be Francescas best friend,

Lauren, Francesca and I at dinner

Lauren. We’d have many more dances to come.

I left the nightclub and some other latino guys who’d seen me dancing before asked me “Eres cubano?
I replied “No- soy de Nigeria, pero trabajo en Australia. Mañana voy a ver mi familia en Inglaterra”
I knew I’d be back. I love dancing there, and people seem to like dancing with me. After a night of salsa dancing, I always feel like I’m floating (even if my feet are aching).

The lovely Rebecca

I got back to the car park to find my car was missing, as I’d parked in a towaway zone. Rebecca happened to be walking by and gave me a lift to the car pound. We had a nice talk along the way. “What was that line dancing you and Lupe were doing?” she asked me. “It’s called rumba” I told her, and explained that it’s the afrocuban foundation upon which salsa is based. She said she’d be interested in learning from me. I told her I’d be back for sure.

I had to pay $200 to get my car released from the impound, but then I thought  ‘Hey- I’m in Hawai’i’

The song:

The words: