Polyfest 2011: Welcome to Oz? (II)

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Saturday, October 1, 2011

...So I left the airport to be met by rain, and not the warm kind like in Bangkok, real, cold, freezing rain, the kind of rain you get in the UK in February – and I was wearing a t-shirt and my shorts from Bangkok. Damn, it was cold!

I jumped in a taxi and asked for Moorabbin Rugby Club. I had no idea of the type of event I was to attend, but I wasn't expecting much as it was at a local rugby club. Well, it was a rugby club, but there was nothing small about this festival. Polyfest stood for Polynesian Festival; a celebration of all things Polynesian – food, culture and music.

Even though it was still early when I rocked up (like the Aussie colloquialism?), the festival had started so Alan didn’t have time to really greet me properly as he was running the security for the event. One of the things that struck me about the security working there was that none of them were small, so I fit right in. However, when one of them offered to lend me a weather proof jacket, I had my doubts about the size, but it was a perfect fit, so I was able to go out and see the festival. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many people there, because of the freezing rain (did I mention that already?) and I felt sorry for the first band who were playing to an empty field.

There were Polynesian flags everywhere: Tonga, Samoa and Fiji amongst others. Any Australian flags? Uhm, no. At first I tried to get into the party mood, but I was knackered, pure and simple. So I left the field to go back to the heat of the clubhouse and pretty much stayed there for the rest of the day, occasionally dozing off. From time to time I braved the elements to see what was going on, but I couldn’t stay for too long. What I did see though, was quite an interesting peek into Polynesian culture here. The kids were all dressed in hip hop style, though they were also draped in their respective flags. If not that, then there seemed to be a lot of love for the All Blacks (the New Zealand rugby team) – a lot of the girls were wearing hoodies proclaiming that 'Real Men Wear All Black’. Another thing, if the security guards were big, well, guess what? So were the Polynesians. I swear, that I didn’t look out to place there, I was neither bigger nor smaller than everyone else at the festival. They were my people.

The food at the festival was... different. There didn’t seem to be anything healthy about it. I tried one thing; a mussel fritter in fried bread (how unhealthy is that?). It was delicious, but from that one portion I could feel my arteries harden irrevocably. As nice as it was, I wasn’t going to have another one!

The music was performed by Polynesian bands, some good, some not so good. There was a mixture of styles; mostly reggae, some hip hop and even some gospel. Each of these had a Polynesian take on the genre of music they were playing. The event went on until 10pm, by which time there were a thousand people there. Still not an Aussie in sight, maybe because that day was the biggest day in the Australian sporting calendar: The Footie Grand Final (by Footie, they mean Australian Rules Football, which bears no resemblance to any other game on this Earth, except Gaelic Football in Ireland). These people didn’t care about that, in fact, there were two massive cheers from the crowd, the first for the result of the Rugby World Cup match between Tonga and France – Tonga had won. Then, in anticipation of the grand final of the rugby league the next day, a huge cry went up of ‘Go Warriors’, a New Zealand team playing against Manly (the Australian team).

I was a bit slow on the uptake, but it started to dawn on me that, with all these Maoris, this feeling for New Zealand, this bad weather, I’d clearly landed in the wrong country. I was actually in New Zealand! OK, maybe not, but where was Australia? Watching the Footie Final, of course.

Anyway, by the time the event ended I was ‘overtired’ (like a child) – too tired to sleep. I’d only had 8 hours sleep in the last 3 days, but, what the hell, now it was time to party! Now I wanted to do something, so Alan suggested going to his family’s for a birthday party. Sounded good. In the car on the way over Erin, his girlfriend, asked me if I wanted a drink. I saw she had some cans, so I said sure, pass me one over. "Rum or whiskey?" – “No, a beer will do just fine, thanks.” – “I don’t have beer.” – “But what about those cans?” – “No, they’re rum or whiskey.” – “...!” Rum and coke or whisky and ginger ale mixed in a can, just like a can of Coke. Seriously? Seeeriously? Apparently so.

Meeting Alan’s family was good fun; they’re a wild bunch, but then again that may have had something to do with them drinking for 12 hours straight – who knows? I was introduced to the idea of Australia and England being divided by a common language. When Alan presented me as his English friend from Spain, I was taken aback when his sister-in-law said to me, “Oh! You’re a Wog!”-“...!” It turned out that people from Europe are called Wogs in Australia. OK... She was mightily embarrassed when I told her it was a racial insult in Britain. By the time we got home at about 2am – I was a zombie, the body was moving, but the brain had long since ceased to function. Fatigue is a bitch. To recap, I started my journey on Thursday afternoon and it was now Saturday night/Sunday morning and I was just getting home. Welcome to Australia.

VB. Toohey’s.
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Helen on

The only times I have ever misplaced Paul in 20 years are at the Perth annual Reggae Festival. As a former prop, he blends in so well. The only way I can distinguish him from the Kiwis/Polynesians is that his skin is fairer, and that's not foolproof, It's always a great night out - 1000s of huge chillaxed people

Nick Simons on

Blue Sky, nothing but blue sky here amigo mio.

Keep us posted on your adventures!

georgegoode on

I've said before and I'll say it again, Helen. Stop scaring me woman, or you'll be in Darwin on your own!

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