A Travellerspoint blog

Books I have read so far

0 °F

I have spent lots of time on planes, trains and waiting for said vehicles to
move me around. This is what I have been reading to keep myself occupied.

Books I read along the way, in descending order. Those that indicate
Wonderful, excellent or all in upper case can be considered as recommended.

January 2006 – April 2006

Widow’s Kiss – Romance - okay
Queen of the Tambourine - Fiction - WONDERFUL!
Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend – Fiction - okay
Daggerspell – fantasy – good – the first of 9 books
Darkspell – fantasy – good – 2nd of 9
Lonely Planet PERU
Lonely Planet CHILE
The Hospital by the River – Non-Fiction - okay
An Imaginative Experience – Very good
Ancient Kingdom of Peru – history of preInca and Inca Peru - good
Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim – Sedaris – Fiction - bits great, but
mostly okay
The Inimitable Jeeves – Wodehouse – Fiction - Very good
Easter Island – Romance –Very good
Lonely Planet THAILAND
LOTR – The Two Towers
LOTF – The Return of the King
Sightseeing – Fiction - okay
Spiderweb – Fiction – very good
Lonely Planet – SOUTH PACIFIC
Schlepping through the Alps – Very good
44 Scotland Street – Fiction – WONDERFUL
The Spectator Bird – WONDERFUL
The Go Between – Fiction – good
The Admirable Crichton (play) - J.M. Barrie - EXCELLENT
A Different Twist – Children’s book – good
Honeymoon with my Brother – travel non-fiction - okay
Notes from a Small Island – Bryson – Travel - good
Longitude – very interesting if you like to sail
Rifles – Fiction – excellent
Notes from a Roman Terrace – Travel - good
The Queen and the Welshman – Romance - good

May through November
Lost Souls Renion - Excellent
In Touch with Grace - Fabulous
Elizabeth and Phillip
St Bees History
Harry Potter #1 (British Version)
Sewing Circle of Herat
Lonely Planet - Hong Kong
Elephantoms - MARVELOUS!!!!
Lonely Planet - Australia
My Sister's Keeper - Excellent
A Pony of Her Own
Stonehendge - Cornwall - Great
Blade Runner
A Case of Dead Certainty - Very Good
Murder at a Country Inn - Excellent
Shadow in Hawthorn Bay - Very Good
The Loved One
The LIghtkeeper
The Silent Lady - Cookson - Her last and excellent!
Mary Reilly
The Sting
A Celtic Odyssey
Lady Pain - VERY GOOD
Out of Africa - still reading
Island in Chains - Very Good
Around the World in 80 Days
The Historian - still reading
Noon's Story (District 6)
The House on Tyne Street (District 6)
The Shadow of the Wind - MARVELOUS
The Hockey Sweater - stilll to be read
The Jane Austin Book Club - Good
Eragon - Excellent
Lonely Planet - Spain
Lonely Planet - Romania
Lonely Planet - Britain


Posted by ladyjanes 02:59 Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

I have so much to share with you

As soon as I find WIFI in Australia.

semi-overcast 0 °F

Hello gang,

Sorry it has been so long since the last update. I am trying to find wireless before I leave to work with echidnas on June 25th. If not, it will be in July.

Yes, I am having a wonderful time.

Yes, Oz is amazing and the wildlife fantastic.

Yes, I am well and happy

No, no prince charming yet, not even prince charmless.

Yes, I am still happy and well.

Love to all, More later.

Lady Jane

Posted by ladyjanes 23:53 Archived in Australia Tagged postcards Comments (1)

Entry 17 - Cook Islands - Red Cross

It is back to being HOT AGAIN!

overcast 0 °F

Cook Islands – Global Volunteers Placement – March 27 – April 14

Week 2 – April 10 – April 14

Monday, April 10 – First Day at the Red Cross

With our very early am return from Aitutaki, I finally was in bed by 1:30 am. This was the day that I was begin my work with the Red Cross, focusing on getting their newsletter ready for the printer.

Niki Rattle, the Secretary General of the Red Cross is wonderful. She is a dynamo and has multiple other agencies that she works with and assists by sitting on their board or committees. There is a house dog named Guapo who the size of a setter, with the tail of a pointer and mainly brown and black with some white. He made noise the first time I met him, but quickly became friendly and was told that he would know me from then on.

Niki from CIRC.JPG

I learned that were soon be three insignias for the Red Cross agencies. Red Cross for the Christian Countries, the current Red Crescent in Muslim Countries and the soon to be Red Diamond in the countries that have equal portions of both of the others. I also learned that there are 180 RC’s worldwide. The Cook Island has 10 offices across their 15 islands, with volunteers running all the outer island offices. The CIRC (Cook Isl Red Cross) on Rarotonga is a small office of only 6 paid staff. The main programs are First Aid and CPR training, Disaster preparedness, AIDS/HIV, safe sex information, disability assistance programs, gender issues and anything else that is needed on the islands. The Seven Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent/Red Diamond Movement – Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Services, Unity and Universality.

Red Cross Mission.JPG

So if you need help, they help. CIRC Raised $82,000 for the Tsunami Relief effort. It should be an interesting week. It was very hot, but sitting inside with the fan blowing on me, it was bearable. Tomorrow I vowed to wear a dress. I spent most of the daily reading through the island reports to get a handle on their news and typing what I could of the template into my computer. Niki was busy with Felicity, a RC worker from Fiji who was in the office for a few days for the annual operations audit.

Joe and I cooked dinner at the hotel and I was very tired and not cooping well with my tiredness. Okay, weekend trips that either take the entire weekend or having me ending up arriving back early on Monday am are not the best way for me to have down time and sufficient energy for my next week at work.

Joe reminded me that main goal for GV is the relationships with the people and the work that the individual volunteers accomplish during the placements is secondary. This is a hard concept for me, as I feel I can make more of a difference with my work than in my relationships. My next 6 placements are all with animals and vary from 2-6 weeks. It will be interesting to see if that type and style of work invigorates or drains my energy.

Another thought was that with the smaller group, it was harder for me to fade into the background and not have to be involved and on all the time. You don’t need to interact as much in a larger group and you also have more of a variety of people to spend time with. Variety the spice of my life. Coming up I will work with two different agencies that I have not experienced yet and for the most part, I will be part of a considerably smaller group (3-8 people). There is also a strong possibility of little alone time as quarters may be shared with other team members.

Another chance to learn the lesson to speak up earlier about what I will need to remain a positive and productive team member will be my mission.

Tuesday, April 11

Day two at the Red Cross. More work on the newsletter and a surprise lunch with Niki’s friend Nonni. I will most likely have the newsletter done tomorrow and Friday they are closed

Karen, FedEx and I have been going around and around about one of my 7 boxes that I sent to the States from Thailand. The other 6 managed to make it to their owners, but this one sent to Karen for storage until I get home, was stuck in customs in Alaska. I learned today that FedEx has returned my box back to Thailand and when I called them, they said it was because they had a bad phone number for Karen. Sigh! Every time I spoke to them, I got a different answer as to what was happening with the box and what the reason was that it was still delayed. One version was that they needed detailed manufacturer information on every item. One was that they needed detailed info on the fabric in the box. One was that they needed Karen’s SSN in order to deliver. I am not amused.

I spent two hours at the Telecom on the net sending e-mails and trying to call the FedEx office in Thailand. I have decided that my one of my lessons for this journey is patience and persistence. I admit to getting a little tired of calling long distance and getting a different reason why things aren’t happening. Sounds like giving up control is another major key for this year. As I type this my computer is playing You are always there for me! Thank you! I needed the reminder!

Wednesday, April 12

As I did my morning procress, Sonia’s card was LET GO! Got it!

Red Cross and PIAF – finished what I can of the newsletter and perfected inserting photos and adding boxes around titles. At this point, the people who submitted the articles need to proof the articles and Niki, as the formal editor needs to proof the content. Some of the island reports were 18 months old and I am sure, at least some of the info has already been included in earlier newsletter.

I spent some time with PIAF – Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation that shares offices with the CIRC – PIAF serves HIV positive community and builds care networks across Mela, Micro and Polynesia. 7000 people affected in the entire area, but only 2 in Cook Islands. The 5 tenants of PIAF –
1. Positive Living
2. Positive Health
3. Positive Partnerships
4. Positive Action and Prevention
5. Positive Investment

Spent the day adding text boxes and photographs to the newsletter. I am feeling very smug as I now feel a lot more proficient with these items and have learned to store and retrieve data from a stick. I just may need to get one of those cute little things for ease of transport to off site machines.

Today I had Lunch with Niki and Felicity, the RC Auditor from Fiji at Salsa Café, Caesar Salad. As Felicity and I went to the table, Niki stopped and talked to at least one person at every table. On such a small island, you know everyone and they know you.

This afternoon, I did some fast shopping and internetting. The US Customs office sent back and auto reply and it appears that fabric and cloth are not allowed in without special forms. I need to go to the US Embassy in NZ and see if I can get to the bottom of this. Still no word from Thailand.

Joe had arranged for us to going with Harry and Pauline, owners of the Kii Kii Motel where I am staying, to a Rotary BBQ. We got lost on the way to their house, (Have I told you that Joe’s Lakota name is “Joe who Drives in Circles”) but we finally found them. They are very nice. We went to a resort on the Western side of the island and had a lovely sunset. The place is owned by an American originally from Hawaii who wore a very large hat with flowers on it. The appetizers were amazing, mainly the smoked marlin and the BBQ was okay. Possibly and little underdone. I had a bit of a tummy during the night.

I have one more day of work for this week, and then because of the holiday, no more volunteer work on the Cook Islands. I am finding being the only person on the team difficult as it is just Joe and I. He is fine, but is having a hard time finding things to do to keep busy and we are on totally different pages as what is a fun activity after work. I prefer to rest and have a quiet evening and Joe prefers to socialize and try new things. I admit the constant attention and not being able to blend in the background annoying at the best of times and anxiety provoking at the worst of times. As I look back on it now, I would have preferred to cancel out my third week and had the extra days in NZ. I am trying to change my flight and get out of Dodge earlier than next Tuesday, as is Joe with his flight a week from today. If ever faced with this again, I will not go forward with the third week if I am the only volunteer on the project.

Thursday, April 13 – Last day of work

I woke up with a bit of a tummy and when I got to the Red Cross, there really wasn’t much for me to do, as the team had not had a chance to proof the newsletter. I ended up leaving early for an extended lunch break to try and rest and ended up not returning to the CIRC. When I called, I told Niki that I would call her to see if Joe and I could visit her husband and check out his custom made jewelry.
I managed to change my return ticket to NZ so I will now leave on Sunday afternoon instead of Tuesday at 3am. Much more civilized, plus with Easter weekend and Monday being closed, there won’t be much happening on the island.

I rested for most of the afternoon and finally got up and ate something and seemed to feel better. We ended up at an Italian Restaurant with great food and very European service. Dinner took 2.5 hours.

Friday, April 14 – Good Friday and official last day of Squad 74 (a) - abbreviated

As there was no more volunteer work, today was the last diary entry from Joe.

Joe and I and Barb and Dave, from Minn and living down the hall from us, went on a safari tour of the island. Two jeeps and a total of 16 people. Lovely views, amazingly washed out roads and lots of island history and culture.

I began to wonder how many of us are as well versed on our nations history as these guys are. I know they are in the tourist industry, but they were amazing.

My insight for today was how much happier I am and able to enjoy life when I am not “working” in my own mind. Even my volunteer placements appear as work to me. There will be lots more opportunities for me to lighten up and enjoy all my life, not just the part that I identify as non-work in the months to come.

As we got closer to the end of our three weeks, Joe had to search farther into the island to find different places to eat dinner. We ended up at Castaways owned by some Scottish expats. I began to see a pattern in the menus and clients as we are now going to more restaurants run by non-islanders. We keep running into the same people at dinner which is not necessarily a bad thing, it was just something to notice.

During dinner we could hear the local church festival for Good Friday. By the time we get there, they were screening a movie in English on a large sheet that kept waving in the breeze. The last time I was at an outdoor movie showing like this, was in Thailand in the 70’s. The movie was the life of Christ. in English, but I didn’t recognize any of the actors.

What is the island like? Think of a cone that flattens out at the edges at the edges and you have Rarotonga, Capital of the Cook Islands. There is the main perimeter road close to the water and two blocks inland, is another one lane road that goes almost all the way around the island. From the inner road, there are roads that go up the mountainsides and dead-end. The outer loop is 20 miles total and takes about 45 minutes to get all the way around.

Islanders mostly drive scooters without helmet, that outnumber cars by 2:1. Apparently cars are catching up and they are getting larger and larger. Considering the size and number of the roads and parking, things could get tight really quickly. Shocking number of accidents, which usually happens as people try to overtake each other and usually involved alcohol. Everyday the paper had news about a court case or someone going to prison due to an accident that had happened within the last 6 months.

The people are very friendly. Even if they don’t know you, they smile and say Kia Orana. It is amazing after only three weeks, I keep seeing people who I can identify and I feel connected to the community. The legend is that the Cook Islands originally came from Hawaii and that they sent 7 canoes of people to New Zealand. I am not sure if that is actual fact or just a legend.

Noni juice is bottled on the island and is the Cook Island Elixir to cure whatever ails you. Tastes like watered down soy sauce and is imported to Japan and the US.

Flora on the island is stunning with frangipani, hibiscus, wild ginger and hedgerows of the variegated leaved plants that we buy in pots in the US and are happy when they grow to 2 feet. It is amazing what frequent water and ample sunlight can do to encourage plants to grow.

There are shops everywhere, mainly selling black pearls, and from the abundance, you wonder how any of them can make money. Most of the Cook Islanders have multiple jobs, or shops and you see people you know also selling fresh food in the Saturday Market. Apparently the minimum wage is about $8 NZ per hour or roughly $3 US.

Wildlife on the island. Only birds are native to the island, but early settlers brought pigs, chickens, limited cattle and horses, lots of dogs and cats and the destructive rats. When the islanders were still trying to export fresh fruit, which is now impossible, as they don’t raise enough to compete on the open market, they were having difficulty with animals eating some of the produce. The brought in Mynah birds that are not native and they got rid of the animals, but have also decimated most of the native bird nests as well.

The dogs seem well fed for the most part and fall into two groups – the basset crosses with horrible front leg conformation and the taller Heinz 57. Most the cats I saw are skinny by our standards, but overall they appear healthy. The Island SPCA is working hard on the island to encourage humane treatment and there is a private foundation based vet clinic that is staffed 8-10 months of the year by visiting vets. The clinic is pay as you can and free if you can’t.

The Cook Islands are 15 islands, in two groups; the Southern Group includes Rarotonga the largest island of the group and 9000 of the 15,000 population. Aitutaki, the northernmost island of the Southern group has 1800 people. The rest of the population is scattered around 10 other islands. Three of the islands are not inhabited except by the birds, mosquitoes and sea turtles. Raratonga is the only volcanic island and the rest are Atolls of coral that rose out of the water and eventually became inhabited.

Saturday, April 15 – Last minute shopping, lunch with Niki and Colin from Red Cross, final dinner.

I was at the market at 8:00 and it was a magical day. The first person I saw was Mrs. Anna the Principal from the school. Less than 3 minutes later I saw Sister Celine. Then I saw Edith from the School. Walking into town I met Julz from the Red Cross. At Telecom, I saw Jason, the Aussie Writer who I met the first time I was at the Telecom and had a picture taken with him.
I already knew that I would get to see Niki and her husband Colin for lunch that afternoon and I felt very connected and loved. It was exactly what I wanted to happen so that I could say goodbye to the people that made my first trip to Cook Island so special.

I Picked up the CD from the Dance Competition and found that it played on by computer. It is wonderful and shows all the funny and wonderful things that happened during the performance. I can’t wait to show it to you if you would like to see some of it.

Joe broke his glasses just as we were leaving from Niki’s, but we hoped that her husband, a jewelry maker, might be able to help him. Lunch with Niki and Colin was wonderful and I had the opportunity to select the pearls that Colin made into earrings. I asked Niki how long her hair was and she took it down and showed me. Her hair is absolutely stunning. At the end of the session, Joe could also see as Colin temporarily fixed his glasses. Colin is a man of many talents and has made friends with a flock of chickens in his yard. He clucks to them and up the stairs they walk for their treat of white bread. His favorite hen, flies up three stories to be first in line for the treats.

Niki in all her glory.JPG

Colin and his hen.JPG

We took a final dip in the ocean for a little snorkeling but there was very low visibility and I didn’t have a snorkel, which limited the effectiveness.

I went home to pack and reorganized and try to make sure that my checked luggage did not weigh over 20 kg.

Sunday, April 16 – Easter Sunday and I leave

Went to church at 10:00 for Easter Mass. How Great Thou Art in Maori, kids reading the readings in sequence, acting out the gospel.

Lunch at Café Salsa

Last look at the ocean

Was at the airport at 1:30 for the 3:30 flight to Auckland.

Nanny McPhee on the flight – YAAAH!

What I know after the Cook Islands.

1. If there is any chance that I might be able to snorkel or dive, I will always pack my dive skin. My dive skin is basically a unitard with long sleeve made of lycra and it offers some sun protection.

2. On my next big trip, I will take fewer supplies with me. I have been able to find lotion, soap, shampoo, etc everywhere. As I love to shop locally and I am going to do it anyway, why lug is with you when you can buy it?

3. During this placement, I found myself approaching my volunteer work as I do when I approach my job at home. What this meant to me was that I would focus on my computer and pretty much ignore most social interaction around me. It could have been because I was using my computer to complete most of my work, and this had not been the case in the other two placements. One of the usual team goals for most volunteer organizations is to have fun. Fun is not something that I normally associate with work. I seem to put fun for my after work activities and focus and concentration for work. I believe a lightening of these self-imposed rules or distinctions, (and you know how fond of rules I am), will lead to a general lightening of my outlook and a greater enjoyment overall of my time, no matter where I am.

Kia Orana,Cook Islands. I had a wonderful time - Meitake Maata. I will return again.

Posted by ladyjanes 16:36 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Entry #16 - Cook Islands - Week Two

NOT AS HOT, Thank Heavens!

sunny 0 °F

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 Comments (0)

Entry #15 - First week in The Cook Islands - Global Volunte


sunny 0 °F

Cook Islands – Earthwatch Placement – March 27 – April 14

Week 1 – March 26 – April 2

After a restful three days at Bette’s wonderful harbor side flat, with nothing more exhausting than deciding what to drink at the bar when we went out with a group of girls, I boarded the plane for Cook Islands.

Cook Islands is an independent country with ties to New Zealand and pretty much seamless travel between the two countries. The Cooks lay North East of New Zealand and are back over the international date time. So I took off at 4:10 (actual time was closer to 4:50 pm) on Sunday, March 26 and landed in Rarotonga, Cook Islands at 11:15 pm on Saturday, March 25. We were delayed taking off because a knob in the cockpit had fallen off and they needed to make sure it wasn’t lose in the machinery and a potential danger to us. I had a lovely compliment from the ticket agent who checked me in as he kept looking at my face and my passport. I showed him that I was even wearing fuchsia to match my passport photo and he said he noticed that but that he was having a hard time believing my age. I chose to view it as a compliment. I owe it all to Mary Kay Cosmetics.

I was the last one off the plane and therefore the last one to go through customs. We were met in the lobby of the airport by a man singing island songs. From the welcome information we received, we found he has met every plane for the last 15 years.

Joe Testa, our program manager met me at the plane with lovely and fragrant lei of white and yellow flowers. I do love that Polynesian custom! Off to the Kii Kii Motel, which was on the north end of the island, past the little town. Joe was becoming used to driving the van and we announced our progress with the horn at intervals and celebrated my arrival with the back, and sometimes the front, windshield wipers waving with abandon.

At the Kii Kii, you could hear the surf from my room and it has a ceiling fan, which goes full tilt any time I am in my room. The room has a single and a double bed, kitchenette, TV (with one station only and limited hours) and a door off the little kitchen to a private balcony with clothesline. Very handy for the nightly laundry. My room is right above the pool, which is okay, except on the weekends when you have a chance to nap, it is normally filled with enthusiastic youngsters whooping it up.

View from my room.JPG

Sunday, March 26-orientation day for the team, or shall I say SQUAD 74.

Breakfast at 9:00 and I met the rest of the team. This is the first Global Volunteer experience for the team with the exception of Joe and I. Alexis from NJ is an OT and very nice. The family of four – Robert (Psychiatrist), Joan (Social Worker, Psychologist, and soon to be author of a book about how to successfully raise twins), and the twins aged 17, David and Johnny. The family are very used to community service and volunteer work and the twins have volunteered from the age of 13 in Israel.

Joe has done lots of GV trips, including annual trips to Rosebud, SD and has lead many trips, but this is his first time in Cook Islands. He is stepping in for the usual team coordinator who just got married to a former global volunteer and is taking a well-earned and long honeymoon. So, we are all learning about the Cook Islands as we go. Flexibility is the name of the game for all volunteers, not matter what agency.

Robert has taken on the extra job of coordinating some of our dinners out and our free time activities. Alexis and I are sharing the responsibility of keeping an eye on the items in the kitchen, as we need to pack our lunches to take to our work sites.

We had our opening exercises to get to know each other and set both individual and group goals for the team. At this point, David was labeling his water bottle with masking tape and as we are the 74th Global Volunteer group, dubbed us SQUAD 74. Joan indicated that David sees the world through sports language.

Monday, March 27 – Tour of the sites

After breakfast, we loaded into the van and began a counter clockwise circle of the island (which takes all of 45 minutes with no stops) to visit all the potential sites for job placements. We would visit one adult resource center for mental challenged adults (the Creative Center), two primary and one secondary school and the mental health offices. Alexis as an OT was asked to step in for the usual Island OT who was away for a few weeks. Alexis is happy to help, but also wanted the opportunity to work at one of the schools as her clients at home are usually children. The twins found they liked St. Joseph’s, the first school we visited, and they needed help with the 5-7 year olds. My school is a public school, right at the end of the runway for the airport where I will help with reading, organizing the resource center and cataloguing the library. (I must admit when I saw the state of the resource center, my fingers itched to get in there and straighten things out!) Joan and Richard are at the college (the secondary or high school) and are again working on reading skills. Bette was a bit amused when she heard that I would be teaching English because English is spoken in the Cooks. I have found that to be true everywhere I have been. My school, however, does teach in Maori until grade three, when English is introduced.

I am the only team member, except for Joe the leader, who will be in the Cooks for three weeks. Before I left for the Cooks, I had an e-mail asking me if I would assist the Red Cross my final week with their newsletter. I said I would be happy to, and lucky for me, their office is a short walk from the Kii Kii.

During all of our visits today, as we met the teachers and principals, Joe invited them to join us at the Kii Kii for a catered dinner, so that we could get to know each other a little better. We had three guests from the Creativity Center and the Mental Health offices and our Island host, Ver???? Our host was fascinating and told us how she developed and spearheaded the CIANGO (Cook Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations) 22 years ago. She is a dynamo and very lovely. She reminds me of a Polynesian grandmother whom you would feel comfortable sitting with all day eating lovely food and swapping stories. The catered dinner was from a restaurant and major chef called Mama Here. The food was great and included taro, bbq chicken, octopus in fermented coconut, curried octopus, ika mata (a marinated fish similar to ceviche), fresh fruit and lovely sweetened desserts called poke that was banana, pawpaw or taro with arrowroot. YUMMY!

Tuesday, March 28 – First day at our placements

Joe took each of us to our first placements, but from here on, most of us will ride the buses to and from work, if we cannot walk. The island has buses the circle the island in both directions, leaving the main station at set times. I can leave the Kii Kii going in the counter-clockwise direction at 15 after the hour or the clockwise bus at 5 past the hour. From here on out, I will catch the 8:15 to be at school by 8:30 and catch the 2:35 to be back at the Kii Kii by 3:00.

I arrived at school at found the principal, Anna, who has only been in the job at this school for three months. She has taught before and has definite ideas where she sees the school heading. I as taken to a fourth grade class taught by a very tall Fijian young man who was beginning the reading lesson. I observed for about thirty minutes and found, as you would expect, kids are kids the world round. The girls where trying to pay attention and the boys were throwing spit wads and generally goofing off. The older boy, who is in the class to catch up on his reading, became the class bully as soon as the teacher disappeared to get a cup of tea. When the teacher came back, I was given a list of 5 kids to take for individual reading lessons, which was reading from very simple books and doing matching games with flash cards.

My first student was Malachi, the older boy, and he had some difficulty reading, but once he began sounding them out, did pretty well. The next boy William, looked absolutely terrified and needs quite a bit of work. My third boy John did pretty well but wasn’t very forthcoming or friendly. My fourth boy Taoe was very good and pretty confident. My last student was one of the very patient girls Manu for Emanuella, who did very well and even smiled. I hope to make further in roads tomorrow.

By this time it was am break, which is when the teachers eat breakfast. Finally, I was let into the resource center and I had 2 and then 3 very enthusiastic girl helpers around 9-11 who made lots of noise, wanted to teach me Maori and were inconsistent with their help. I have several helpful phrases to review from today and asked the girls to give me a new phrase a day for me to practice. Luckily, at lunch break at 12:00, they went to lunch and then went off to practice the singing, dancing and instrument playing for the big cultural competition that will be in the city auditorium a week from Wednesday in the evening. Tickets are $7 NZ.

My goal in the resource center was to sort through all the books and magazines by subject and put them on shelves. Permanent shelving will be put into the room and then I will transfer my stacks to them, and the mobile shelves will move into individual classrooms. Not sure when the permanent shelves will go up. Most of the books were very dusty and had 6 or 8-legged inhabitants. Some were glued shut with mold or mildew so I asked the girls to gently pry open the books to see if they could be saved.

The Resource Center.JPG

Once the older girls had left, I was visited by a 4-year-old girl that I finally found out was named Alia. I tried my new Maori and she was totally unable to understand me. When I switched to English off she went. She kept wanting new books to read and as soon as I disappeared around the stack, she said she was finished. At one point, she had all the blocks and the play money on the floor and decided to take the play money home. I explained that the play money belonged to Miss Anna and she put it back. She disappeared and brought back a friend her and at that point, I told her that I was leaving soon that I would see her tomorrow. Then I had 30 minutes by myself, except for the screaming hordes hurtling by outside in the corridors.

I finally locked up the room at 2:00, said goodbye to the Miss Anna, found the girls bathroom and was ready to wait for the bus. Anna said that one of the teachers would give me a ride back on her scooter. Joe had warned us not to rent them, as they don’t come with helmets. I was reluctant, but I am home safe, without road rash, and I now know the bus schedule for tomorrow.

I spent a lovely early evening sitting on the deck overlooking the ocean, after the sun went behind the building, and watched the waves crash. It is so soothing, just like watching a fire in the fireplace and I could happily do that every night, with the addition of wine, cheese and crackers.

Off the team went for fish and chips and then we had an adventure trying to find a store open past 7:30 pm that might have ice cream. Found it at the convenience store at the gas station at the airport.

Most of the team has been eaten alive by the mosquitoes and we are all sharing bug spray and Actifed to cut down on the itching. I have gotten a few bites today and must admit that I am a little weary of putting on bug juice and sunscreen daily. But, as I look ahead, it will be a daily drill for most of the time on the road. I think I will be able to stop by the time I am in Romania in December. Maybe!

Joe, our leader has been limping around and has decided to find a dr. tomorrow to see what the problem is. He went swimming with the group before I arrived and may have cut it on a rock at the waters edge.

Wednesday, March 29

I had planned to take the counter clockwise bus this morning to work, but after I had stood for 25 minute, I was informed by the staff at the Kii Kii that the counter clockwise bus doesn’t run until 8:25 and would pick me up at 9:15, far too late to get to work. So tomorrow, if I take the bus, I will need to take the 8:05 clockwise and get to school just before 9:00.

I am back with the same 5 readers and have determined that they have really great memory. I can’t say that they are really reading, more like guessing at words and/or depending on the pictures. They have heard these books so often and in the same order that they know the story and guess at the words. We are reading a book about a kids playing in a sandbox and building a mountain and a tunnel. They can’t remember tunnel, so they say hole. My main emphasis is to help them sound out the words and try to see patterns in the words and the spelling.

I had asked the universe for a quiet day in the resource center and that is what I got. Essentially a day to myself, with short visits from the older girls but no long-term helpers or 4 year olds who want to be entertained. Two boys about her age were pushing Alia, the 4 year old, in a small plastic car. She is very enchanting and demanding, but eventually they tired of pushing her. She kept yelling OYE at the top of her lungs but to no avail. Her charioteers had abandoned her.

Bugs – One of the differences I find during my travels is the abundance of bugs. As I work in the resource center that has louvered window on three sides and not all of them in tact, I find little 6 and 8-legged beasties who scuttle, scurry, slump, leap or fly away when I disturb them. Some of the resources are over 20 years old and have staples, which have rusted due to the heat and humidity. There are portions of the books that are mildewed or molded and stuck together. All the oversize large print books are in huge plastic sleeve hung from hangers that again have rusted over the years. At the end of the day, my fingers are black from dust and other things.

I ended up working until 2:30 today, 45 minutes later than usual, as I wanted to get the final bookcase in order as the shelves may start at any time.

Still a little hazy about when the buses would come past the end of the drive, I went down the road to wait. I had hoped to catch the clockwise bus as that would have me back at the motel in 20 minutes and just as I arrived at the end of the road, saw the bus hurtling past me with no way for me to signal for it to stop. A consultation of the listing told me I had 45 minutes to wait until the next one. 48 minutes later, a teacher from the school came down the road in her car and offered me a ride. I gladly accepted and kept an eye out for the bus, which we never passed. Thanks God I accepted the ride.

Joe’s visits to the dr. and hospital for blood work have earned him two prescriptions for possible gout. When the blood work confirms it, at least he will know.

Robert had found a restaurant that advertised a steak dinner for $10 so we went to the Nu Bar for Dinner. We were at picnic tables in the almost dark but for a single candle. The rump steaks were really very good and indeed, $10NZ per person. We finally shut off the candle due to the heat it gave and shared chocolate sundaes on the dark for dessert. As we left the restaurant, the stars were so bright and you could clearly see the Milky Way.

Another wish that I expressed to the universe was for rain to hopefully cool down the air. Again, it delivered and it bombed rain several times during the night and we had a mini lake around the van in the am.

Thursday, March 30

Joe took the boys and I to work today and today, I took the laptop to work in order to begin the inventory of the resource center and library at the school.

Reading today involved use of the flash cards and sorting them into lumps with the same beginning letters and putting them into groups. The kids had no problems matching like letters together.

In the resource center, I managed to put all of the sets of English books and half of the oversize books on the computer today in an excel spreadsheet. I estimate it will take me one more day to finish the books tomorrow. There aren’t many of them, but I will probably not make good time as I slow down when I start entering the Maori books. All three of the older girls wanted to help me type into my computer. Joe had warned us about making promises to anyone at the work sites or singling out any one with special treatment, so I declined the assistance.

At one point today, I noticed that that I had screaming children on either side of my workspace. To my right, was the playground for the preschoolers and there are tears and threats at least every hour from various factions. On my left side, I realized after the fact, I heard unhappy children from the dentist office. Luckily, both sources weren’t going off at the same time.

The shelves have begun and may be done by Friday. If the shelves are done on Friday, will move all the resources to free up the shelves for the teachers.

TODAY I CAUGHT THE BUS! SUCCESS! It dropped me in town as I wanted to wifi and do a little shopping and just as I arrived, it rained for 10 minutes.

I treated myself to a wonderful lunch at the Salsa Café for gazpacho topped with wonderful bruchetta and a slab of tuna and a latte.

Two reasons that I wanted to get to the Wifi was I needed to make a payment for my ItoI placements and I wanted to keep abreast of the progress of moving the cats to the Brett and Betty’s, my wonderful pet sitters. My payment kept failing and I could not call any of the offices due to the time difference. I will need to try and call either tonight to NZ or tomorrow am to Denver.

I caught the bus again, two successes in one day, to the motel. Once home, I napped and watch the sun go down over the water. Heaven.

Tonight, Robert coordinated our trip to the Staircase Restaurant and island show. Poor Joe was having a medication reaction all day and didn’t eat dinner but came back for the show. The food was okay, sort of a sampler plate of typical island fare. What we had at our catered dinner on Monday was superior, but there were several things that were good.

The dance show was wonderful. The band was made up of about 8 musicians and three additional singers. Our band mc was a large bald man with a great sense of humor and showmanship. The show began with one of the male dances in traditional grass skirt and leggings, headdress and belt calling out the history of his people and how they traveled from Hawaii. He was a stitch when he would pose for a picture during his talk. Then the rest of the dances, 4 men and 5 women, came on stage. The Cook Island skirts look like Hawaiian skirts, but are not green, but red, blue or white. The women wear half coconut shells as a bra (OUCH!) and have that wonderful hip length black hair that I so envy.

I think you have to be a Polynesian Woman with extra equipment in their pelvis to achieve the extra hip movements they do. Our MC said it was like grinding coffee for breakfast or a washing machine. I watched mesmerized and tried to analyze the movements. (More on this later). So the women have two styles of dance, the lovely slow hula with intoxicating hips and gently flowing hands, or the amazing washing machine hips with upper body totally still. They have isolation dancing down to a science. The men mainly have sharp movements with their arms and do the chicken dance movement with their knees like knocking their knees. Within one dance, all their bodies gleam with perspiration, as it is quite a workout. During the last segment, each dance member selects someone from the opposite sex to learn the dance. Johnny was our representative from Squad 74. All the guest dancers were very brave souls and did very well. We were the only American’s on stage and all the other guest dancers were from NZ, OZ or England. One islander from Atuitaki , Cook Islands, was warned that he better know how to dance. He did.

Johnny dancing.JPG

It was a wonderful night.

Friday, March 31

When I finally got through to I to I and my bank, I found that I had not understood my daily limits on my credit card. Once established, I made a payment and will make another on Monday.

There was some confusion over who was being transported this am, so I was a little late for work. I will aim to take the bus from now on.

Reading today involved more exercises with the cards and sounding out words. By the end, each of the kids were doing much better. Joe, recovered from his medication problem and now on ½ doses, came with his camera to take pictures of us at work. Both John and I and Teao and I were immortalized on film.

During teachers break today, Anna has brought in boiled island chestnuts. They are huge, about the size of a small bagel. She commented that the staff eats too much starch and we have found that a lot of the food options lean towards starchy carbohydrates, Taro, potato and bread. This is not uncommon in the islands; Joe said it is also found in Jamaica.

During break today, I read the Island Dept of Education newsletter and they mentioned Women’s day in March and World Water Day in April. On March 8, I was in Thailand and they also celebrated Woman’s Day, which is meant to bring the topic of domestic violence into view. Today I also saw a sticker on a car that said, REAL MEN DON”T HIT WOMEN. I had never heard of these days and ask Anna. She said that they follow the UN Calendar. Some times I feel like I grew up in a box. So I have another thing to look up on the web and find out more about - the UN Calendar.

I finished the resource center today and was visited by one of the older boy, Ridge, who has a beautiful golden Mohawk in contrast to his black hair. He was very friendly and was amazed I was working by myself. He said he thought it was sad and I told him that I did not mind. Here again I was reminded how much a close community means to most of the world, a concept that I see that I am not very familiar with. Ridge told me that he would be in the dance concert and that next week, they would be making their costumes in the school colors of green, red, and white.

My Maori is not progressing very fast and I admit that I have not been making a huge effort.

It was very hot today and at the end of the day, I sat a watched the kids practice for the dance performance next week. Without the skirts, I finally got to see the hips movement that is so amazing when done at speed. If you remember the Karate Kid, the movement of washing the windows, if done with the hips gives the most amazing movement of the grass skirts.

The group went on a drive of the inner island road this afternoon. The two boys were not feeling well so the proposed trip to the waterfall was postponed to another day. I had planned to opt out, as I wanted a nap and some quiet, but went along for the ride. I rode shotgun and navigator that was hazardous as the road was only one lane and Joe, in his attempt to drive to the left, put me through the bushes at times. I have also found that the van is difficult to sight see from as you sit very high and the windows are not large. We did make it down to the Sheraton on the south side of the island, a deserted shell of a development that has left the island with a huge debt 15 years ago. The buildings have sat empty all that time. Now there are two companies vying to continue and either way, they will divert the outer road to come to the front of the hotel complex and give the hotel beachfront access.

We were told about the land rights around the island and how it is split into 12 different villages, each with a chief. Land ownership can only be by Cook Island Families and they each have a pie shaped wedge of the island, smallest part up in the mountains and the larger wedge by the water. In the olden time, it was thought that this way, the family would have access to all the resources they would need to sustain their family. Outsiders can only lease land for up to 60 years and there is no guarantee that you can renew it.

For the most part, the houses on the island are modest, 4 rooms tops, louvered windows and one level. The homes on the beach have the opportunity for the breezes, but the ones on the inland road have better access to shade. Animals like pigs, goats, horses and cows are tethered with one long rope and only have access to immediate area grazing. Hogs are tied by a back leg and are walked to and from areas by the owner. There are some families that have multiple sources of income. The owners of our hotel, for instance also run the water bottling company, soft drink concession and the island movie theatre. The one thing that is unusual to us is that in some of the compounds where people live, there are graves of relatives. There are also graveyards in some of the villages, possibly for the members of that village only. We are not sure why some people go to the graveyard and others are in the family compound.

Dinner tonight was at Trader Jack’s, bar and restaurant that is downtown and had excellent seafood. We are all pooped and even though work is not always long or very stressful, the week in the heat and the sun has taken it out of most of us. I am looking forward to a quiet weekend.

With the exception of Joe and I, the rest of the group is off to Atuitaki for the weekend. Joe due to his foot and me being cautious my first week, plan to go to one of the other islands on a later weekend as we have more options.

Tomorrow, I plan to go to the am market, do a little shopping, do some walking in the surf and watch the sunset from the porch with wine, cheese and crackers.

On Sunday, I may read all day and just take it easy. May get into town and do some wifi.

Saturday, April 1 – outline format

Got up early to ride to the airport with the group. Breakfast at Mama’s Café and coconut pancakes. YUMMMMY!

Saturday market - where I did lots of looking and only bought one coconut roll, the benefit of going shopping on a full stomach. I walked all over downtown and did lots of window-shopping and price comparisons.

Met Joe for travel agent research and lunch at the Blue Note café – Fabulous fruit smoothey and fruit salad with yoghurt.

Rode the clockwise bus for one circuit and saw the ocean view.


Walked the beach and looked in the tide pools. Found crabs, sea cucumbers, mini fish, sea urchins and dogs.

Drink at the Tumunu bar and restaurant – music from 1970, Kenny Rogers and glass of wine.

Excellent dinner at the Tuoro Restaurant. Grilled beef salad and cranberry juice. Only two apartments (that sleep 4 in two bedrooms) at this lodging for $295/night with a glorious pool and view of the ocean. The owner is German and his wife Dutch and they had quite a story about getting the facility built. The first builder did not come through. The second one gave them a reasonable quote and after they had started indicated that the contract was only for the outer walls. If they wanted interior walls, that would be extra. Ah - the vagaries of construction in a different culture where you may not be aware of the customs or have total control over the language.

Wifi and loaded the last entry from Peru with updated pictures.

Sunday, April 2 – outline format

Slept late, patchwork breakfast and blogging, grocery shopping, waterfall and swimming on a southern beach. FABULOUS DINNER AT A RESTAURANT ON THE BEACH. Wifi.

Posted by ladyjanes 00:08 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged postcards Comments (0)

(Entries 56 - 60 of 78) « Page .. 7 8 9 10 11 [12] 13 14 15 16 »