A Hawai'ian State Of Mind No. 1
Dec. 18, 2010
HONOLULU, Hawai'i - Aloha Pirate Nation! (or Tafalo if you happen to speak Samoan),
My name is Charles Welch, Assistant Director of East Carolina Athletics Media Relations, and I have been charged with updating you all and providing insight as the women's basketball team visits Hawai'i and plays in the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Shootout. I write to you at 3:00 a.m. ET but by my watch it is 10 p.m.
The team boarded the bus early yesterday morning and drove through the snow and ice to get to the Raleigh/Durham Airport. The first stop on the itinerary took us to Atlanta, as we were delayed a tad in leaving due to the crew having to deice the aircraft. Eventually, the short flight got underway and the Pirates were on to Georgia.
After a quick layover, the team filed onto the second-largest plane on which I have ever been - only slightly smaller than the monster I flew to Japan in the sixth grade. There were eight seats across each row in a 2-4-2 configuration so nearly everyone in our party could fit in just two rows.
Thankfully, each seat had its own video screen so individuals could choose their own entertainment for the 10-hour jaunt to Honolulu. Personally, I watched bits and pieces of four different movies in between spells of attempted sleep. Everyone seemed to take the marathon flight in stride and there were some extremely relived faces when the plane touched down. The team morale instantly improved when the players caught sight of the island during the descent.
Upon arrival at the hotel, which happens to sit directly on Wakiki Beach, everyone waited for the hotel staff to bring their bags to the rooms before setting out and exploring the new surroundings. The highlight of my evening was definitely dinner at Duke's grill which resides in the bottom level of the hotel. The view from the patio is spectacular and the wings were some of the best I have tasted in quite some time.
A quick walk on the beach with seniors Allison Spivey and Kelly Smith, as well as manager Vanessa Fulcher and team athletic trainer Ashley Anderson capped the evening, as we were all exhausted from the flight and resulting time change. However, Ashley and I made a stop at the corner convenience store, to see what trinkets we could find. It was then quickly off to bed to rest and prepare for the following day.
An 7 a.m. wakeup call drew me out of bed the next morning as we all enjoyed a fine breakfast at Duke's before boarding the bus for practice at the University of Hawai'i's Klum Gymnasium. We were unable to practice in the Stan Sheriff Center due to graduation on the UH campus. It was interesting to see all of the athletic facilities Hawai'i has to offer as the backdrop is a range of mountains. My favorite was the baseball stadium, which looks quite similar to Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C.
After a intense and spirited practice in preparation to play No. 9 UCLA Monday in Hilo, everyone grabbed a quick shower and gathered to walk to a catamaran ride. The ladies were able to spread out on the boat and enjoy the 90-minute ride around the island while taking pictures and enjoying each others' compnay. The water was clear and stunning as we were able to most times see to the bottom of the ocean floor. On the way back, we were excited to see two large turtles that had been following the boat.
The ride left us an hour to prepare for the evening's activity, a Luau on the western edge of the island. It took about 30 minutes to drive out to the site, but "Uncle Jerry," our escort, was there to entertain us on the way. He gave us background information about the island and the origin of the luau we were about to enjoy. It was interesting passing by Aloha Stadium, where the NFL Pro Bowl and the Hawai'i bowl are contested, along with UH football games. I couldn't help remembering how Chris Johnson sliced through the Boise State defense in 2007, while Ben Hartman hit the game-winning field goal on the last play of the game to help ECU capture the 2007 Hawai'i Bowl.
When finally arriving at the Luau site, everyone received a nice shell lei to keep as a souvenir before walking into the dining area. The pre-dinner show was intriguing, complete with authentic Hawai'ian singing and dancing. There was also an audience hula contest, which yours truly happened to win!
The dinner buffet consisted of 14 courses of delicious items, including four types of salad, mahi-mahi, poy, chicken in long rice, pulled pork and coconut cake. I definitely made an effort to try some of everything and I was not dissapointed.
The main show was something to behold, as the dancers were decked out in costume native to many pacific islands. Among them represented were Hawai'i, Samoa and Tahiti. The highlight of the proceedings was a dancer dressed as a Samoan warrior who tossed and flipped two-sided fire torches in the air, under his legs and behind his back. It was great ending to a day chock full of activity.
Check back with me tomorrow as the Pirates visit Pearl Harbor, have another practice and board a plane to the Big Island where they will further prepare for Monday's game. Feel free to email your comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.