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Entry #16 - Cook Islands - Week Two

NOT AS HOT, Thank Heavens!

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Cook Islands – Global Volunteers – March 27 – April 14

Week 2 – April 3 – April 9

Monday, April 3 – First Day in the Library

The test of these multi-week projects is to see if you got enough sleep over the weekend to begin fresh for the second week. Luckily, the weather is cooler than last week, which should also help.

Reading this week was again working with the flash cards. I decided to concentrate on number and colors. We will work daily with remembering the sounds and trying to sound out the words, rather than guessing. Today was numbers. I tried to help them understand that more letters means a longer sounding number. For example, when looking at the word seven, it has two sounds, versus ten that has only one. Still had lots of guessing, but we strive on.

This was my first day in the library and it was much cooler for two reasons – the weather had broken and the room had an overhead fan. I kept the lights off, which also made it feel cooler. As I evaluated the stacks, there were three sections that were labeled as junior, senior and adult. There were numerous other shelves that appeared to be a mixture of things and there was also a resource area. I began to focus on the adult (which was very small) and the senior section.

The Library.JPG

I brought my laptop in and began to input the book title, author last, author first, # of copies, if the book could be classified as one of a set, room location and alpha letter for filing. I sat in front of the stacks and input the information, which worked great for the lower shelves, but not so good for the higher shelves. As I began, I soon discovered that there was a lot of mis-filing and mis-labeling under each letter. I found that my time was best spent evaluating the entire section and finding the books that belonged in other areas first. Then I would input the letter and reshelve. At the end of each day, I ended up inputting the odd books into their respective area or letter. Anything that was from the junior section was just reshelved. I soon saw that I would not even get through the senior section within one week, but at least it was a start.

Completed in the library - the adult section and the senior section – A-B

Old hand at the bus, they know me and where I am going and usually find me with my nose in a book waiting for them. They honk the horn to let me know they are ready for me.

Dinner – Tamarind Restaurant – Very elegant, but a very late night for me. I was very tired as I found it hard to eat late and then try and sleep within an hour.

Tuesday, April 4 – C to E

Woke up after a very short night a little cranky and wanting to be alone at work today. I was also feeling a little out of sorts because I didn’t feel that I was giving a full day of work. I asked Joe to take me to work, because if I rode the bus, I wouldn’t arrive until 9. School starts at 8 and ends around 1:30 so that is a really short day. Global Volunteers insists that everyone be present for the morning journal to be read, so me taking the 7am bus was out of the question. He agreed to take me early every morning so that I could be at the school at 8am. Today, by arriving at 8, working through break and lunch and an extra hour in the afternoon, I felt that I finally did a good days work.

During the reading we worked on colors. We continued to work on sounding out and the students had the same mix of both sounding out and then guessing. It was amusing to be working on the three sounds for the word yellow and yet, they would guess the word blue. We persevere. Four of the five kids seem to be catching on to sounding out, but again don’t seem to be able to do it on their own.

Library - I continued to work through the senior section and reselving things that I found along the way. I ended up standing by the window, so that I could type in my computer and have it plugged in to the wall and would carry books from my section, input them and carry them back. It wasn’t too bad and gave me a little exercise and change of position versus just sitting. I had a late afternoon visitor, Vivi, who was about 5 and again seemed reluctant to leave. The kids seem to crave the one-on-one interaction. She was very inquisitive about my name and family. She told me she had two Mommies’ and two Daddies’. She was finally amusing herself with a book and was singing a little song and about ha ha ha, you are in prison and you took the money. Hmmmmmm! Out of the mouth of babes. She finally left when the dance practice started at 1:00 pm.

Completed in the library – reshelving and the senior section – C-E. At the far end of the library is a TV and cd player and the older kids came in today and watched a movie that had rap and dancing in it. They are wild for this type of music and sing it all the time.

I was still tired after work and had hoped for an earlier evening. The rest of group prefers to eat later and this lead to an awkward exchange just before dinner this evening. In addition the selected dinner place, which appeared nice, offered mediocre food and incredibly slow service.

Went to bed feeling out of sorts and exhausted.

Wednesday, April 5 – F – J and the Cultural Competition

After a very short night without much sleep, woke to find the day much cooler which looked promising. Breakfast did not have any of the energy from the previous night and I went off to work determined on have another long day, but I planned to join the teachers at break.

Today was the day of the evening Cultural Competition where all the schools, primary and secondary, would take part in a dance festival. It is called a competition, but there are no judges or prizes. There used to be, but they had difficulty finding financial sponsors and there were lots of complaints about the judging. As I arrived at the school, under the gathering tree (a huge leafed tree that forms a huge shade canopy and where most of the teachers and mothers gather for socializing), the group was working on making grass skirts and headpieces for the evening show.

Reading involved more colors today and Joe came with his camera to take pictures for Global Volunteers. I have pictures of my two middle guys John and Teao (Twa-ou). I did not know it at the time, but it was the last time I would read with the guys this week.

Anna, Manu and I.JPG

I joined the teachers at morning break. It is usually at 10am and lasts 30 minutes. This is usually when the teachers eat breakfast and they take turns catering for the group. The meal usually involves bread, some type of protein such as fish like tuna, butter, jam, sometimes a sweet thing, fruit and or avocados. I asked the ladies where they got their lovely floral dresses. They make them at home as I had looked in all the shops and could not find anything like them. They are just a simple dress with short sleeves.

Today I really felt I was in my groove in the library and managed to get through the letters F-J.

Only about 40 kids were in the dance concert and were practicing, leaving the rest of the kids to amuse themselves. The library is next to the first and second forms (7-8th graders). I was working in the library and kept hearing the same song over and over and over again. It was finally about ready to drive me wild, so I took a break and went off the ladies. As I went by the classroom, I realized they were practicing dance moves, which is why the music kept stopping part way through the song and going back to the beginning. Realizing what they were doing instantly I was able to listen to the music without going crazy. I know how dancers learning choreography never seem to tire of more practice to perfect their moves. But I have to admit, if I ever hear the opening bars of the music, I will always remember “the song that would not end”.

Because I stayed late at school and I needed to internet, I planned to meet the group in town at the National Auditorium for the Cultural Competition. It was a huge building with open sides, but covered with a grill. The stage looked like a traditional proscenium arch with curtains and there were rows of chairs on the floor. On the other three walls, there was bleacher seating, similar to a basketball court. Each school sold tickets and would keep the proceeds ($900 if they all sold) and ran a concession stand outside. We had been told to arrive early to get a good seat and we did and there was hardly anyone in the audience as we entered.

As the show began, however, all the seats were filled, estimated to be around 2000. There was the official opening of the show with a Maori woman, who I think was the organizer of the event, who was a stitch and did her entire talk in Maori and except for a few sentences in the middle in English. The theme for the show was My Heritage, My Culture. Then we had the vice secretary from the Dept of Ed speak and he indicated that the goal for Cook Islands was to have the kids get a good base in Maori and then learn English. Versus the flip-flop kids who do both together and learn neither well. Word on the street is that he is running for the President of the Dept of Ed and that is his campaign slogan. Finally, one of the secondary school student choirs sang a hymn and off we went. All during the evening, there kept being announcements to not take photos or videos, as it would detract from the formal video that was being taken. I hope to purchase one to bring home.

The volunteers had been working at three different schools, Robert and Joan’s went first, mine was supposed to be fifth, there would be an intermission after the seventh and Johnny and David’s school would go tenth. The festival began at 6:15 pm.

For those of you who know my dance background, you know how much I enjoy kids dance performances. This was no exception and it was ABSOUTELY FANTASTIC. There were 13 schools participating, 3 secondary and 10 primary. Each group had 10 minutes to do up to two dances and an on-stage band, usually of teachers or parents, accompanied each group and several people helping them sing. The curtains would close and then open to reveal lines of kids, usually 5 deep and at least 5-7 lines across the stage with the band at the back. The first group was high school and did a nice job. The second group was an elementary school and was enchanting. There second number involved a very long song with lots of verses and the boys in a semicircle dancing and the girls sitting in the middle swaying and singing. We were to see this number again later.

The schools made all the costumes, or the mom’s of the kids made them, and they had various themes. They were all in the school colors and ranged from traditional looking Polynesian grass skirts or pareu’s. Pareu’s are basically sarongs that can be tied in multiple ways for both men and women. If the girls weren’t in grass skirts, then the pareu would be tied to be a short skirt and the all of the boys in pareu’s looked like a loincloth with a tail both in front and back. During one performance, there was an energetic boy in the front of his line at center stage that suffered a costume failure. The front tail of his pareu came loose and was eventually dangling between his legs. Finally, it totally failed, revealing his black lycra jockey shorts. He danced unconcerned for a few moments, but finally found that as he went to do his knee-knocking move, that he was exposed to the world. He continued to dance without taking the time to repair his costume but every time he had to knock his knees, he would attempt to hold the front of his skirt closed, which was hard when you were supposed to be doing larger movements with your arms. We all felt for the young performer who strove manfully on.

The next group was a fantastically dressed and very well choreographed group from one of the high schools. They were in red and black and were the first group to go major position changing movements within their lines. It was lovely to watch and I hope they turn out well on the recording of the performance.

The next group was again a primary school and they absolutely stole the show. It began with the littlies (under 6’s) bringing out traditional plants, fruits and veggies and laying them on the front of the stage. Some of them would get stuck and would hover at the side of the stage looking off into space. They were finally collected by a parent and herded off stage. On stage the 5-10 year olds were very into their dancing and were excellent. One young man, who was usually at the front of his line, was obviously enjoying the hooting and clapping and his performance became more and more exaggerated as time went on. Their second number was the one we had heard before which had endless repeats. As they began, Alexis and I thought, Oh, boy! Here we go again, but this group was much more entertaining than the first version. First, we had the young soloist, who kept inching closer to the front and center and eventually was essentially dancing to the beat of his own drummer. Secondly, before the number began, all the littlies were brought on stage and sat in the center and were supposed to sway and sing along. My favorite participant from the singing bunch was a young man who did not sing a note. He sat dead center of the stage and chewed gum and resembled a cow chewing her cud, and looked up into the light bar above his head. At one point, he was still chewing and looking out into the audience and elbowed his friend and pointed off stage to some friend or relative in the audience. I HOPE HE SHOWS UP ON THE VIDEO!

My school was supposed to go 5th, but when it came time for them, the next school went on. They ended up going 7th, just before the intermission break. Apparently the bus that was picking them up was dreadfully late and arrived just in time to go on in the 7th position. They were all dressed in green and white with little bandanas around the girls’ breasts. It was so cute to watch them rearrange their costumes during the performance. I was so much fun to look through the ranks of dancers and try and spot my kids that I had worked with. I did spot Teao and William, from my reading group, Ridge, NgaNga from my resource room helpers and ViVi, my barnacle from a few days earlier. During this performance, I was able to go up to the front of the stage and put money in the collection plate. I had seen this being done during the other performances and had been told that the school would receive 100% of the money placed on the stage. I learned the next day that the school raised $280 from the stage donations.

Intermission happened at 8:10 pm. The intermission was supposed to be for 15 minutes, and simultaneously, almost all 2000 rose up to exit the building. Some of our group had hoped to get out and purchase some food from the booths outside, but after 10 minute and they still hadn’t gotten out, they gave up and returned to their seats. I heard from ladies from our school the next day that there was almost no food left by intermission. The Auditorium had oversold the concert by almost 500 people and the fire marshal would not let them in. Therefore, they must have eaten most of the food while they waited for their group to end and join them outside.

The second half had 6 more schools to go, but we had committed to only staying until after group 10, St. Joseph’s School where the boys taught English. Before them, there were two groups that incorporated brass instruments into their on-stage bands. One was an actual marching band made up of the kids and at the end of their performance, all headed off stage left.

There was one group where the costumes for the girls were blue and white long cotton dresses with ruffles with only one sleeve and the other one off the other shoulder. As I looked at the stage, my first glance saw all the girls on one side of the stage with their right shoulder covered. As I looked at the other side, I saw one girl with her left shoulder covered and assumed that her side of the stage was the same. Later in the performance, I noticed that the girl with the left shoulder dress was the only one with a left shoulder dress. It appears that someone got the dressmaking directions slightly confused.

We ended up leaving right after St. Joe’s and that was 10:00 pm. We ended the day with dinner at the Whatever Bar, which you had to access by going through another bar with very loud disco music and black lights. My kind of place as you can tell. The menu was very limited, but the food was uniformly excellent. I had a chicken burger, which was called a mini, and it was as large as a big mac. The bar also had a very loud band that was immediately to the right of our table. YIPPEE!


Hard to believe, but I have been gone for three months. I may sound strange, but I have to go back and look at my photos to remember what I have done, but as soon as I see them, I remember.

No one showed up for reading today, so I had 2 uninterrupted hours until I met all the teachers for breakfast break. Everyone was talking about last night’s performance and it had been a late night for everyone. The kids and the teachers were exhausted, so it was a lot quieter today. The school ended up making $850 on the tickets, $280 on the stage donations and over $1200 on their food booth. I am not sure what they will use the money for, but I know they can find something to spend it on.

We had a lovely break today because there were visitors from the Dept of Ed from New Zealand visiting that including several cakes, tuna and lots of fruit.

I ended up completing K-M of the library and enjoyed yet another hour of the song that would not end.

I went home and did not stop in town because I wanted to spend some time doing data clean up so that I could deliver a CD with the data to Anna the next day. I had the data pretty much cleaned and ready before we went to dinner.

Dinner tonight saw Alexis in yet another new outfit we had never seen. She only brought one small rolling suitcase and a backpack, but I swear she did not appear in the same top or dress more than once. I think she even brought several different swimsuits. We had several false starts finding the restaurant, but we could not help as look out, as Joe wanted to surprise us all. We finally found the entrance and we ate at Sails, which was right on the water, and the food was great. I had a seafood salad, which was small, but because of the richness of the seafood, very filling. Alexis had a coconut/chocolate crème brulee that looked amazing. As I was feeling rather stuffed, I was able to decline a bite and not feel left out.

Friday, April 7 – Last day for Squad 74 – my final day at school – N-R

No readers again this am, so I plowed through trying to get as much accomplished as I could by noon. During breakfast break, I was presented with two lovely shell necklaces from Edith, the second form teacher who is closest to the library and another lovely pearl necklace, shell and thank you letter from Anna and the staff. It was a wonderful surprise.

As I was back in the library, the teachers brought a group of the younger children into the media section to watch a video. It was a princess video, similar to prince in the pauper, and I was listening to it with my left ear, and the song that would not end in my right ear. Finally I was at a stopping point in the library and I went over to view the end of the video. I had to see if the bad guy got it in the end and everyone lived happily ever after. They did!

I ended my day having completed the senior section through R. I had hoped for the entire section, but there was no way that was going to happen. There may be a possibility of going back next week if the Red Cross works is not that involved. But it being Easter week, all businesses will shut down on Good Friday and not reopen until the Tuesday after Easter.

I cleaned up the last of the data and put it on a CD for Mrs. Anna. She was not there when I left, but I hoped to see her next week

Robert had planned our last dinner and in a repeat of last night, we went past the entrance several times before we finally found it. The restaurant turned out to be the Windjammer, one of the few restaurants on the island with air conditioning, which was a nice change. I finally remembered to bring Quen to the dinner and he met the group and had his picture taken at dinner.

Squad 74.JPG

Saturday, April 8 – Leaving for Aitutaki

This morning, the group split into three factions, the hikers for the cross island hike, Joan did one more morning at the college and Joe and I did breakfast at Mama’s. I had the egg mcmuffin like sandwich and it was great.

Joe had suggested that everyone prepay the Cook Islands departure tax ($30NZ) by going to the bank. You don’t have to do it at the airport, and it saves time as you are leaving the country, so I got that task out of the way.

The entire team was back together and we heard about the exploits from the hikers. Their guide was Paw, a man in his middle 60’s of undetermined nationality who talked almost non-stop during the 3.5-hour hike. Whenever it got difficult, he kept telling people to consider the spiritual aspect of the trip, which was not appreciated by some members. Robert, who had been wearing hat, was not able to see a low branch and ended up with a nasty gash. All in all, I think they were pleased they did it.

Joe and I said goodbye to the group and headed to the airport for our fight to Aitutaki, the northernmost island in the southern group. We were 50 minutes in the air on Air Rarotonga and I asked for the roast beef, champagne and the baked Alaska, which they were out of, and settled for cheese and crackers and water. We had been told of the fabulous views of the lagoon as we approached the island and they were right, it was marvelous. We had also been warned that as the island is farther north and therefore closer to the equator, it would be hotter. It was. We had also been warned that the island would also have more bugs. It did.

A Lagoon.JPG

We stayed at a relatively new place, Ranginui’s Retreat, with little individual cottages and ecologically friendly composting loos on the lagoon. We ended up paying $135 NZ versus the Samade (NZ$300) a stone’s throw away or at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort (NZ$450-$1200) that was on an island across a small channel from us. Joe had been back and forth with the other two places, who would promise rates under $150, but when he went to book, would shoot up higher. He finally went to the travel agent in person and got our lodging and the lagoon cruise for the next day. My room even had air conditioning, a nice change especially in the hot weather.

We did find it hot and there were lots of no-see-ums so I ended the evening with lots of bug bites. We floated in the channel, had drinkees at the Samade, walked the beach and ended with dinner at Samade’s.

Sunday, April 9 – Aitutaki

We had breakfast by 9:00 for a 9:15 pickup by Aitutaki Adventures (7th Day Adventists – why they work on Sundays when everyone else is closed). Cruise began at 10 and we were back by 4pm. We were part of a group of 10 from Australia, Canada and Germany and were lead by Captain Puno and his wife, TuTu who he kept referring to as his better half.

Lagoon Cruise – This is an absolute must if you ever visit Aitutaki. It was only for 6 hours, but we snorkeled twice, visited three of the little islands, had a marvelous BBQ (really the best one we have had the entire time we have been on the Cooks) and swam in perfectly clear waters. The Lagoon is listed as #5 around the world for beauty. During our first snorkeling, the highlight was a 4 foot long brown moray eel that came all the way out of his hole to grab the fish head and then return to his hideaway.

Honeymoon Island was a hot almost treeless island where we could see the red-tailed tern. We saw several nesting pairs. Tiger Island was one of a pair of islands close together that were used for the British TV “Survivor” series entitled Shipwrecked. Tribes of 5 stared each island and every week, they got a newbie who spent three days on each island and then selected where they wanted to live. The island with the largest number by the end of the series won. Tiger Island won. Whatever minimal thoughts I had that being on a survivor series would be fun was quickly stamped out as I looked around. Apparently, the US Survivor series is going to use Aitutaki in the near future for one of their shows. They will bring 300 people to the island.

hermit crab.JPG

One-Foot Island – has a small post office on it and is where we went swimming and had our excellent lunch. The post office will stamp your passport, but it was not open on Sunday, so I will have to return to have that done. The swimming was lovely as we waited for lunch and I was in the shallow area drifting along and schools of little fishes would circle me like an island. They were very cute, but I had nothing to feed them. Lunch was exceptional and very varied with over 16 different dishes and salads. There were also lounge chairs that Joe and I used for a brief siesta before we took off for our last snorkeling site.

view from .. Island.JPG

The second snorkeling site was deeper water and we had different fish to see. One of our group was fortunate enough to see a large sea turtle. Joe found he really liked it and may consider becoming a certified diver in order to see more. I slightly burned the backs of legs during second snorkel (not bad) and where my watch had been on my left wrist. Quen had his picture taken on the boat and he liked the lagoon cruise.

Quen and I..he boat.JPG

After we returned, we had 7 hours to kill before our plane left. A shower and a nap were in order and then we went over to the high priced, but very nice Aitutaki Lagoon Resort. Our drinks were twice what we paid anywhere else, so we went back to the Samade for dinner. They were having their BBQ that was adequate, and I save all my fish to feed to the kitties. I kept telling them that they would have to wait and they did patiently. Then I left the restaurant and found places for them to eat away from the human and car traffic. I can’t figure out why all the muszac and entertainers that we hear on the Cooks are all singing US songs from the 60-70”; Willie Nelson, Pat Boone, Andy Gibb, Abba, Kenny Rogers.

After dinner I ended up napping until 11pm and then off the airport. We landed back in Rarotonga at 12:25 and I was finally in bed at 1:00 am. It will be a short night.

Posted by ladyjanes 16:18 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged armchair_travel

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