Sunday, December 6, 2009

Decmeber is a Jolly, Jolly Month

Good grief, December has gone already! Of course, a big Merry Christmas to all, wherever you are in the world. It was great fun watching Santa's progress around the globe, first in New Zealand, then Australia and then around the globe (the long way) to little old Aitutaki.

December has been consumed by shifting house, the Pacific Resort staff party, Onu & Menema's wedding, two new family members, a vaka blessing and of course Christmas.

Our New Abode: The first week of December was consumed by shifting house. Our new place (which has been pending for quite some time) is next to the resort with the other expat staff. It has been totally rebuilt and has such extreme luxuries as aircon, extractor fans, light and an ensuite! Really, it is heaven (if heaven comes surrounded by boxes). We are on a hillside, with views of the sea and sunset, and the kids are already spending much more time outside exploring (without mossies for company). Of course any new house requires a housewarming, and we were delighted to at last host a Shah Party and give the deck a good workout!

The Staff Party: Well... this one will be talked about for a while. The theme was a "T-Party" and Michael and I dressed as Tinkerbelles – the photo tells the tale. It was a big giggle with all the departments putting on dance items, some straight up, but with the grounds & maintenance boys in drag. Despite smashing my toe on the couch that morning (and turning it a rather lurid shade of crimson and purple) we danced and danced and danced. My island dancing has improved so much that the island mamas and aunties are giving out compliments! I have to say that I really enjoy it (and could easily be pressed to perform a dance item of our own next year!).

An Island Wedding: Onu & Menema run one of the dive companies on Aitutaki, Bubbles Below, and looked after mum and dad when they were here last. We were delighted to be invited to their wedding, with the bonus that the ceremony was held on the beach at the resort. Traditionally wedding couples, their party and guests drive around the island with drummers and dancers, and locals come out onto the road to dance and give the couple pareau (sarongs) so that the cab of the truck is laden with a hundred or more lengths of fabric for the new couple to furnish their home. The Hewitts didn't opt for this but one of the Aunties next to the reception venue was having none of this and danced and draped some pareau over the car. With a BIG umu for dinner, the kai kai was the biggest spread we have seen. Onu has been feeding up his pigs all year and word was they put 26 pigs and 100 chickens down in the umu! The guest list was nearly 300 - weddings are a big thing here!!

Miaow: I made the children Christmas stockings out of pareau fabrics this year and required Poppy's sewing machine to complete them. So we journeyed up Piraki to the house and returned with a sewing machine and two kittens!!! Fabulous Freddie and Gorgeous Georgie are about four weeks old and were abandoned in the bush (not uncommon here). They are lovely boys, eating everything they can get their hands on, fighting like brothers (which confuses the set of brothers in my house - I'm not sure why) and climbing the fly-screens. So along with Goatee I now have six children to feed and clean up after! The kids are quite delighted.

Merry Christmas: Well Ho Ho Ho. This was my first Christmas away from the family... ever, and with reports of my Grandma being admitted to hospital, quite an emotional one. Of course, with the International Date Line we ended up with two Christmas days - one in NZ to get emotional about, and one in Aitutaki to get hot, sweaty about. The kids were very spoilt with gifts and ran around like wild people all day!

We attended church at Margaret's family church, with her father the minister and only her family in attendance - it was a bit like a private chapel. Thankfully we sang Mary's Boy Child, in the Boney-M key and were away. Despite the heat, we enjoyed a roast lunch on the deck with Pork (best crackling ever!), chicken, potatoes (rare) and pumpkin from our old garden. We were joined by some of Michael's expat staff, Tony, Wendy & Chido. After that we seemed to accumulate people by the hour and everyone seemed to have a good time. Poppy & Stephen arrived with a special surprise of raw tuna as they had caught a 50kg Big Eye and a 40kg Yellow Fin that morning. Yummo!!

Oe Vaka: Michael has been paddling with the Happy Feet Masters rugby team for 5 months now, and while it was a useful training exercise, they are a fully fledged Vaka team now (waka/outrigger canoe). Some new vakas have been purchased and the masters team were offered the privilege of having the first paddle. So on boxing day the vakas were blessed by a minister, a nu ( drinking coconut) was cracked over the bow and the masters went for a paddle. I'm told it is a fast vaka!

A Deserted Island Paradise...and some Fishing Action

We have had an exciting two weeks in busy Aitutaki. We spent three nights on the motu (small, uninhabited island), attended the school prize-giving and sponsored a game-fishing competition.


Our trip to Maina Motu was incredible. Maina is on the south-west corner of the lagoon and is everything you want on a deserted tropical island - white sand, warm waters, native birds, no mossies, lots of hermit crabs, and LOTS of sun. We had the use of a friend's beach hut, but slept outside on the second night and cooked over the fire. Quentin (Snr & Jnr) from Wet & Wild took us out on Sunday morning, and deposited us in the sand, and that is pretty much where we stayed. Our days consisted of lying on the mat under the trees on the beach, reading books and waiting for the sun to move across the sky, whereby we would pop up, move the mat and go for another swim. Heavenly - no cars, no TV, no phones. Just the peace was relaxing with the blues and whites and the stars at night.

In the evening we gathered wood and coconuts, lit the fire, cooked dinner & toasted marshmallows, then lay back to watch Jupiter set, the satellites pass and the stars shoot. Our night on the beach was a little chilly due to a fresh breeze, but we would have all made it through to sunrise if not for a 4am shower of rain! Never mind. It was the most relaxing sleeplessness I have ever experienced! Tuesday afternoon rolled around and we said "Ka kite a kone Maina" and heading home to much appreciated fresh water and soft beds.

Prize Giving

The following day was the school parents day, which we didn't quite understand but we thought we would just roll up to school and find out about it in the morning. The boys were dressed and in the car when the principal rode up and gave us the English language newsletter that said there was no school today and the Parents day/prizegiving/reports/parent-teacher thingee started at 2pm. Crazy place!

So at 2pm we arrived for the Tekaaroa SDA School Prizegiving which had lovely flowers, lovely singing (yes even from our boys) and 2 hours on small chairs... Bailey received a Certificate of Academic Achievement in Maths, Oral English, Reading English and Physical Education, plus the Academic Excellence in Reading and Academic Excellence in Numeracy awards for Grade 3.

Jamie received a Special Award for being a Great Explorer in School, which was signed by ALL the teachers as Jamie doesn’t like to confine himself to one class, but flits in and out of all of them. It was a very funny and quite appropriate solution to the problem of assessing a child who never appears in a classroom long enough to observe!

It was really nice that the school made a special effort to give some speeches in English, and the Chairman of the school board translated the Maori for us. Michael and I were unexpectedly called up to present some of the certificates which was also nice.

Fishing Competition

L: Michael and his 8kg Yellow Fin Tuna on the Mary J. R: Weigh-in time, with the kids and the Aitutaki Game Fishing Club in the background.

To finish off the week Pacific Resort Aitutaki sponsored a tournament at the Aitutaki Game Fishing Club. Michael had to be at the wharf by 4.00am to get out to the good off shore spot by sunrise but the fishing was worth it. His boat pulled in 6 tuna - Michael's weighed in at 8kg, which paled next to the comp winner with a 22.5kg tuna. It was a fun night at the fishing club with all the locals were there, and all five of us, plus a few others, had special tournament shirts. I took the kids home for Viriama to look after and settled in for a very good night.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Melbourne Cup Fashion in Aitutaki...and the Goat

I am please to present Melbourne Cup Fashion in the Fields from fashion police allowed!

Presenting.....Jenni in her fantistic woven creation...

Melbourne Cup-Aitutaki
Bailey, Jamieson and Sienna (with her crown)...

Melbourne Cup-Aitutaki
Michael with Pacific Resort staff Wendy and Margaret, with Margaret's husband Ian...

Sienna wearing Annie's cowboy boots (far too hot to wear all night)...

Bailey, Teina & Annie (seated), Sienna, Joanne & Jim (standing) and the magician...
Melbourne Cup-Aitutaki
Melbourne Cup-Aitutaki

Melbourne Cup-Aitutaki
And last but not least, our wee GOATEE!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

October Is A Party Month

Well, quite frankly it has been a month of parties really, what with the Melbourne Cup yesterday, the Aitutaki Golf Open last week, an invitation to Sunday lunch and the opening of the Aitutaki Power Station.  Add to that our 11th wedding anniversary and a helicopter fly-by and it has been all go-go-go!


So, the Melbourne Cup is a big thing over here on little old Aitutaki.  For 5 years or so it has been used as a fundraiser for the local hospital, who quite frankly desperately need the equipment.  Now I know what it must be like to live in Hamilton or Thames – always paying taxes for things to get built in Auckland.  Rarotonga is a bit like Auckland……nuf said!  So Michael and Pacific Resort were involved with organizing and sponsoring this year’s event along with the Boat Shed where the event was held. 


I had been planning my hat for a while you know, and determined to utilize my developing weaving skills to do so.  Plan A and B went out the window (literally, onto the lawn) as I discovered that weaving coconut fronds in a circle is much trickier than weaving flat squares and rectangles.  Inspiration hit on Sunday however (Amen!) and I was visited by a vision of an old fashioned nurses hat.  So off I went to the garden and used my trusty bush knife to hack the branch off a poor young coconut palm (more flexible) and set to weaving a square, that would fold into a triangle which could then be contorted into a nurses cap (with the aid of my trusty stapler – finishing skills weren’t so important I figured).  Add a gigantic silk flower and feather hair grip (to match the dress and hide the staples) and a couple of long waving stick things and we were away!  The Shah got into the spirit…to the extent of evening wearing socks (2nd time in 10 months !!!!!!!!!!) ,a tie (first time for ages !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and once he’d donned his stylish panama hat the five of us were on starter’s orders.


All the local papa’a’s (expats) had their best duds on, a few tourists put an effort in, and the locals showed up in less formal attire (no socks for them).  First order, bubbly with the girls.  Second order, explaining to the kids about sweepstakes and betting and horseracing and… it got a bit complex… The net result was watching the race, cheering Jamie’s horse (#13) round the track in the lead for half the race then not realizing until the results were displayed I (and Shocking) had won!!!  Much squawking and giggling was done and mopping up of children’s tears when they figured out they hadn’t won.  More bubbly!!  Following on from that success, I took out the hat competition (though I may have to improve on my ‘walk’) and embarrassingly several of the raffles.  In the spirit of the evening, we had bought tickets in all of the raffles, including the night at Pacific Resort, which was mortifyingly won by Bailey, then redrawn with MY name.  At this point, we sent Bailey up again to refuse again and he returned with a complimentary trip out on the lagoon with Bishops Cruises as a trade.  Very funny. 


Not so funny was my husband re-donating a bottle of Moet which I had quite legitimately won, but which he convinced Bailey to give back – a lesson for the little man in generosity that was totally lost on Jamie who was getting right pissy.  Luckily the lovely people at the Boat Shed, where we dine weekly, made a special presentation to each of the kids for a dinner voucher saying some very kind things about the kids and the role our family is playing in the community. We raised about $2000 which is great for a small community like ours.  Taking the kids along was fun and we have now introduced them to two new concepts –the idea of giving to charity for those without as much as others and gambling/bookmakers – don’t tell me they aren’t getting a perfectly balanced education here !!   All up it was a really, really nice evening…and The Shah had to drive home.


The weekend prior was the Aitutaki Golf Open, with its prize giving on Saturday night.  Again Pacific Resort was a sponsor and along we went hoping that the wind and rain wouldn’t arrive as threatened.  The prize giving itself was hilarious, with the MC making all sorts of asides and the seniors division being won by the  wonderfully named Mr Mauake Mauake (ironically from Aitutaki, not Mauake, which is another of the 15 Cook islands.  We are yet to meet Mr Aitutaki Aitutaki – perhaps he lives on Mauake??).  Then there was umu kai (hangi) and BYO wine (only beer and spirits served at the bar) and plenty of Michael’s staff there to make sure we had a good time.  Dancing was great – Peter, the DJ (who we usually see on Bishops Cruises, plays in the string band at the resort, and is the partner of one of Michael’s staff) played a mix of island drum music, 90’s hits and classics like the island recording of Achy-Breaky-Heart.  Much laughing was done, and a great hangover the next morning for me!  The Shah drove home AGAIN.


Himself has joined in with the Aitutaki Golden Oldies Rugby Team “Happy Feet” for their training paddles in the 6 man vaka (outrigger canoe/waka) twice a week, which he is enjoying very much.  He’s one of the youngest and it is a really nice bunch of guys that gives us yet another circle of friends on the ever decreasing island. On Wednesday nights the seniors, juniors and masters all paddle and there can be 5 – 6 crews all rotating in and out of the canoes.  Mostly his master’s crew gets right of way (maybe due to respect for their age – or that they are the newest team and can’t quite steer properly yet?).  After training we meet him at the Fishing Club to watch the crews and have fish and chips.  It is becoming a nice ritual for us.  The crews are training for a carnival here at Easter and then to compete in the huge Vaka Eiva competition in Raro next year with over 100 crews.


A few weeks back we were invited to the opening of the Aitutaki Power Station – I guess as either one of the largest power consumers or employers (70 staff) on the island Michael gets invited to these things.  The deputy PM was there – Sir Terapai Moate, from Aitutaki of course, and father of Michael’s vaka coach, who is uncle of several of his staff and one of the resort landowners– everybody has at least 3 connections to us in some way.  It was a very prestigious event with many rousing speeches from the politicians (yes there is an approaching election) mostly in Maori, but with smooth transition into English now and then.  Either way the laughter was universal when the Mayor took the stage and started to bag the politicians from Central Government. 


We listened to the Manager from NZ Aid, who contributed $1million to the project (keep paying those IRD contributions thank you everyone) suggest everyone on the island should be buying surge protectors – a little thoughtless when some of the island doesn’t have power and most couldn’t afford them anyway!?!  Lunch was an amazingly generous feast of pork, chicken, fish, pokey (a banana and arrowroot jelly pudding) chop suey noodles and thankfully a few bowls of crisp coleslaw to break up the calories.  Some of the portion sizes consumed give new meaning to ‘upsize’ and Michael and I got a telling off when we left and didn’t take the mandatory overflowing platter of food home with us for dinner.  The generosity here is wonderful.


So it’s …3 weeks until our next leave…4 weeks until our new house is ready (hopefully, finally)… 7 weeks to Christmas…10 weeks and Michael’s been here one year…16 weeks until we’re in Auckland…but who’s counting…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mr Blobby is alive and well in Aitutaki

Yes, it is true.  A 3am this morning, Mr Blobby (last seen on BBC’s Noel’s House party in the mid ‘90’s) was heard ‘blobbing’ through the garden, around the house and then heading off towards the beach.  More realistically, it was probably at rather large swine.  To be fair though, it did sound like a small elephant wearing meat-packers gumboots full of water and holding a pack of fighting felines.

(“blob-blob-squalsh-squalsh-squeal-squeal”  ~ say it all together now!)

After eventually listening to it squealing along the beach and dropping back off to sleep, we awoke this morning to seeing another large swine in the garden.  It may be the same swine, but certainly much quieter in the day light.  Seeing (it was plainly obvious) that it was a boar (though of the tuskless variety) I sent the brave husband out to shoo it off.  Loud noises weren’t very effective, and in fact served to attract the beastie towards by precious tomato plants.  A quick retreat up the stairs was called for and we left the ‘pig-watch’ to the kids who ran around the deck looking down and giving us status reports every 30 seconds.  Eventually he retreated to a wallow that has magically appeared in the lawn across the road.  He was last spotted trotting down the road.

To be fair, this morning’s visitor is probably a domestic pig that has escaped his leg rope.  Last night’s guest….I don’t know.  There was a very large scrub fire down the road yesterday afternoon, most likely lit by pig hunters looking at burning their prey out of the long grass - it was certainly the cause of the major scrub fire last year.  Though it started 100m down the road, in the hills above the beach, the wind drove the flames down the island and away from us.  We should note at this point that the fire brigade on the island consists of the fire engine at the airport (and if there is a flight due, then it can’t leave its station).  The land immediately inland from our house is pretty dense and known to be full of wild pigs.  In fast we saw a large black beastie across the road just last week, which was making a huge racket, and the boys who do the Fire Dance show at the resort said months ago that they were coming for a hunt.  So this morning we saw that the fire had burned through the long grasses for about 1km, approaching 3 houses on the way.  It didn’t do any major damage and while we did see the fire engine go past at dinner time, it returned past 15 min later.  Fire is used quite regularly to clear areas of scrub for planting, but this was right up there on the stupid-o-meter given it was on the top of the hill in 20knot winds.

<sigh> This place is crazy sometimes! Blobby, blobby, blobby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

11 years and counting

11 years and counting, by Michael.

Do we lead a crazy (eventful) life or what. For our 11th wedding anniversary (diamonds, silver, gold – no water!!) we had the most amazing day yet, out on the Aitutaki Lagoon. We have been saving up for a lagoon trip with Te King – one of the best cruise operators who specializes in snorkelling. Over the last 10 months he has become a good mate and is quite a personality. We were long overdue for a trip with him to his special spots.

It has been yet another wildly busy month at the resort so it was good to see the back of September. Friday 2nd dawned to be beautiful sunny and still day – and our paradise looked beautiful. We packed ourselves of to Maina Wharf and into one of Te Kings runabouts for our own charter. First stop was fish-feeding, close by the reef and near the wreck of the Alexander. We shared this stop with about 10 other visitors from Te King’s daily cruise. The water was as clear as I have ever seen it and the fish life was amazing with hundreds of colourful fish surrounding us in pairs and large schools. The highlight was seeing ‘Hurricane’ the Napoleon wrasse – a massive old fish who must be 150 – 200kg. He just drifts leisurely around under the small fish, gliding in and out of the coral.

Bailey and Jamie have it all under control, and snorkel quite independently – mostly. Bailey is very confident and hardly needs any support, while Jamie can get a bit distracted taking his mask on and off, and on and off, to get the perfect fit, and just diving and somersaulting with no interest in the fish life. Sienna has come a long way and paddles around in her water wings taking quick looks under the surface in her goggles.

It was perfect having our own boat as this meant our own captain too – Tahi – who spent the day lifting the kids in and out of the boat, helping them to snacks, getting them towels and generally being a good guy – leaving Jen and I the chance to enjoy the water too.

The next stop was the giant clam beds where the water was distinctly colder. Bailey, Jen and Sienna stayed warm on the boat while Jamie decided to ride on my back – literally kneeling on me to keep out of the cold water while I gradually sank.

Lunch was on our favourite island Maina, which we have dubbed the ‘Special Occasion Island’ as this is where we spent Jenni’s birthday too. We had a great BBQ lunch with wahoo, yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi put on by Te King. The highlight of his trip is this amazing BBQ served while guests are seated in the water, surrounded by hungry little fish – it’s a winner every time.

It was just glorious on the island. There is a sand bank about 50 m offshore and the kids and I swam over and dug sandcastles while Jenni took a break. I definitely got couple of shades browner during lunch!!

After lunch we headed to our last stop – the famous Purple Coral, which is nothing short of amazing. It is a large patch of rich luminescent purple coral heads. As we approached it almost seems to glow in the clear water. We stopped for around an hour for the best snorkeling yet. The fish life in the area is abundant and diverse and the coral is breathtaking as you swim amongst the canyons and crevices of dark purple, magenta and lilac soft coral heads, spiky staghorn and large bulbous brain corals.

It was a magic day – exhausting but hugely enjoyable.

Then we were off for 2 nights at pacific resort – sort of a busman’s holiday for me but a nice change of scenery for everyone else. We saw some great whale action over the reef and after ducking home to put Goatee to bed it was time for dinner. Saturday night Jen and I tried out Pacific Resort’s Famous Romantic Dinner – having our own private table set with flowers, candles and island music playing the background. The porters had drawn a huge heart on the sand in front of our table, surrounded with flaming lanterns and ‘J&M’ in the centre and with our lovely nanny Tav minding the kids Jen and I had the chance to gaze romantically into each other eyes and reminisce over the past 11 anniversaries, and think about what the next 11 might bring. As the magnificent sunset changed the horizon from yellow to orange to red I indulged in some local mud crab – a seasonal treat which later had the boys fascinated with the huge claws, and after 2 miniscule slices of a massive surprise chocolate cake it was the end of a lovely celebration weekend.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Samoan Tsunami in the Cook Islands

Well, by the time the warning got to Aitutaki, the wave had passed! Our warning came via the parental telegraph in Fiji, and by the time we had looked up the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website, we found that the initial wave was due to arrive….20 min ago. Thankfully, our wave turned out to be small. I discussed it with a neighbour as I cut his hair (!) and he was alerting some of his guests who were swimming in the lagoon as the wave arrived. He estimated it at 40-50cm inside the lagoon. The guest reported herself rising with the wave (which you don’t get inside the lagoon proper). We waited a while at home (in our stilt house), then when that got too nerve wracking we went for a drive up to the lookout (2nd highest point on the island). About a dozen locals and tourists drifted in and out and everyone eventually drifted home. There was no coordinated effort. Everyone I spoke to had got their info from foreign websites. If it had been any bigger, well …the Pacific Mini Games has the islands chocka-block, the sailing competition is on the lagoon, the lagoon tours had all departed…

All in all a freaky thing – I’m glad we got off so lightly, unlike our Pacific neighbours. The mind boggles to think about getting caught up in something so terrible.

Here are some pictures of the Tsunami effect in Rarotonga. I can tell you that if I had seen the Aitutaki lagoon behaving like the Rarotonga harbour, I would have been out of there!!!!!

Kia Manuia (Good Luck)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 09 Part 1 (A Birthday, A Goat and A Whale)

September has been a busy old month, with birthdays, visits, Safari’s and lagoon cruises, 100% occupancy, athletics, school holidays (for a month!), the Pacific Mini Games, a day trip to Rarotonga and a goat…..but more on that later.

In today’s installment... Jamieson’s 5th birthday! Hurray! Theoretically it is today actually, but as Nana & Poppa have just visited we bumped it up and had it last weekend. He didn’t notice at all, as the concept of calendars and time don’t feature much for Jamie, or the Island for that matter! I have NO IDEA where those 5 years have gone (other that the back hole in Warkworth) but when exactly did our middle child become a school boy? (Of course we use the term ‘school boy’ lightly in these parts, though we will pick up a uniform before school restarts and he might even deign to attend class because of it.) Where did those chubby cheeks, cheeky grins and ringlets go to? Where did this handsome, athletic, stroppy boy come from?

So, let’s get the important stuff out of the way – THE CAKE! The cake (chocolate of course) was going to be a Sponge Bob cake, but much to my relief (you try making fondant figures stand up in this heat!) there was an 11th hour switch to Sir Dan Fortesque, hero of the Playstation game Medievil. Dan is a dashing character, literally a walking sketeton (as he has been raised from the dead after all) so a cartoon skull, with one eye ball and a bad dental job was well within reach without weeks of preparation (as per the legendary Thunderbirds cake). The kids were chuffed (husband too) which was lovely.

Jamie’s biggest surprise was his new pet goat, yes, GOAT. A wee Billy the Kid - very cute in light brown and white, and only a month old. Unfortunately we found out quickly that the kids needed lessons on how to hold a lead. Jamie held on while the goat had a sniff around, walked with the goat as he took a stroll, then dropped it as soon as the goat went for a run! So down the road it went, with a ute, 2 bikes and the airport bus avoiding it, and several of our vehicles in pursuit. Thankfully (very thankfully) the ute driver stopped and cornered the little beastie and presented it with a wry smile to us in the chase car! I’m sure the tale of the crazy Papa’a family who lost their goat while taking it for a walk was around the island in a day!

So a week later, Goatee, as he has been named, has settled right in. He follows at our heels when we walk past, comes for a walk to the beach without pulling on the rope, happy to sit in the car, or on Michael’s knee on the couch when he has a bottle! He listens to the kid’s voices and bleats for attention, and like to eat weeds and flowers more than grass. Of course if he touches my veggies there will be big trouble. He likes to have some time up on the deck in the afternoon so he can be part of the action too. He sleeps in the laundry outside at night and is generally a cuddly, happy chappie.

Of course Jamie couldn’t control himself with so many parcels all for him and has quite over excited by it all. The fact that Nana and Poppa were here made things even better. We went to the beach for a few hours in the surf and were lucky enough to see some whale action with spouts and tails and splashes just beyond the reef. Then it was out for dinner at the Boat Shed to complete a really lovely day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A list of funny things...Including Miss Universe....Really!

Funnier than the boys on their motor bikes towing their golf trundlers behind them...

Funnier than the same boys riding their motorbikes in the rain with their golf umbrellas up...

We watched the Miss Universe pagent recently and took in the national costumes. I don't know why they don't have an award for this, but Miss Germany takes the cake with a 2m tall replica of the Brandenburg Gate on her back. Yup...

The Kiwi girl dressed up as a Tui... Check out the o
ther national costumes.

Thar She Blows

That's right, the whales are here. I mean, not right here (unless you believe my Wii Fit age yesterday) but you know - out there. The annual migration patterns (no I don't really know what I am talking about) brings the humpback whales to the Cook Islands for spring, and Aitutaki has a front row seat. Actually, the Rapae Bay restaurant at Pacific Resort Aitutaki has the best seats in the house - watch the whales breach just outside the reef while you have breakfast. It doesn't get much better than that. Of course, Poppy and Stephen have a seat in the Gods at the took of the Piraki lookout and can see the whole eastern side of the island. Poppy tells me that she has been watching whole pods of adults and babies through her telescope, splashing away and having a jolly good time. At some stage, according to Greenpeace, 'our' whales will start to groove west towards Nuie and Samoa. In the meantime, my tally is '1', Michael's is 'several', and to risk stating the obvious - they are BIG!
Of course now that spring time is here, cyclone season is around the corner (November). I bought a couple 'emergency' boxes this week to fill with torches, batteries etc. The kids have a vague sense of the purpose of the Emergency Box, as when the power went out 10 min ago (at 10am) she suggested lighting a candle. That's my girl. Forecasts for the 'season' are mixed. Locals say that it is unseasonably cold and therefore the odds of the water warming enough to create a major system are slight. On the other hand the Weather Experts say that El Nino will mean higher sea temperatures and better conditions for whirly-gigs to develop, particularly in our neck of the woods (160W, 20S). I don't know - the locals have been living here a long time....... Not too worry, we have a plan of sorts - Michael will deal with his tourists and Super Mummy will deal with the rest :-)
Cyclone Trivia For Today: Big blows in our part of the world are monitored, and named, by the Fiji Met Service (those anti-monarchists). In case you wanted to call the Blow in person you might want to try the following names (in order): Mick, Nisha, Oli, Pat, Rene, Sarah, Tomas, Usha, Vania, Wilma, Yasi, Zaka. Check out Wiki for names from the rest of the world.

So aside from the widelife encounters and disaster planning, it has been a pretty active month. Pacific Resort Aitutaki entered a team into a 'business house' sports night where 8 teams played netball and volleyball. Michael made a showing on the netball court but more than held his own in the volley ball. Unfortunately we weren't there to see the volleyball, as the round robin for that started at 8pm! It was a lot of fun - everyone had their kids there. Hot chips and slushy's for dinner, some exceptional skills from the men on the island, and roaring laughter for the boys who obviously play more basketball than netball. PRA got second in the netball and won the volleyball. These trophies are piling up I tell you!

The Wii is getting a good workout. I try to do Yoga, step aerobics and boxing every day, and Michael is using it as a suppliment to his running and riding. On a home school day, the kids do boxing and running after breakfast to level out their energy levels for school!

We have been surfing too - sort of. The beach near the house is lagoon calm and can be quite tepid in the warmer months. For a change of scenery we took a drive to the golf club and had a look at the eastern beach. It is much closer to the reef and exposed to the prevailing wind and seas. It is rocky rather than sandy. The waves come over the reef and roll towards the beach towards crashing on the coral shelves at the tide line. Quite stimulating really! Anyhoo at low tide there are a couple of large 'pot holes' in the shelf big enough for the kids to sit in up to their necks. At high tide, there is a break in the rocks so that the boys can stand waist deep and jump the waves without getting washed away. Jolly good fun. I personally like the surf crashing and spraying everything with water.

We have watched a few family groups fishing in the area and they seem to get a good catch. We watched one group cleaning their catch up the beach from us. Many wore big white freezing-works gumboots to go out wading to the reef edge. I happened to see one of the fishermen later in the week and he made a point of coming over and explaining that the group had had a discussion about whether they should have given us some of the catch, but everyone was too shy to make the offer! I decried saying that they deserved the catch after their hard work but that the gesture was truely lovely. Nice people here.

On the school front, Bailey and I put on a puppet show which followed the Arts section of his N curriculum. It was a lot of fun and the audience of 3 were impressed! Jamie's school books have arrived and we are slowly getting into that. The resources are amazing, though keeping everything straight between the two boys is a full time job. Maybe I'll do my teaching certification while I am here...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cook Islands Tourism Awards - Winners!!!

More awards news!!!

We have just returned from Rarotonga
where we attended the inaugural Cook Islands Tourism Awards, held Friday night at the Hospitality Institute. The event was a big undertaking for the local tourism community - a 5 course dinner held outside in rather windy conditions. There was an awesome dance performance to start things off, and the usual speaches from politicians and sponsors Air NZ.

But enough details, down to the important stuff. Pacific Resor
ts took home a total of three awards - one for Raro and two for Aitutaki. Michael was delighted to accept the award for the Best Hotel over 25 Rooms, and even more delighted to accept, with Greg Stanaway and Thomas Koteka of Pacific Resorts, the Overall Accommodation Award for Best Accommodation in the Cook Islands.

It was a great night, and there were large hangovers the next morning. Each winner did an interview to camera for the local TV station after leaving the stage, which apparantly aired on Monday. We didn't see it, but plenty of people around Raro saw it and told us about it! I am trying to get a copy but as things do, it is going SLOW.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pacific Resort Awards

News today that Pacific Resort Aitutaki have taken a title at the CNBC Asia Pacific Property Awards, winning Best Small Hotel in the Asia Pacific Region. The CNBC Global Property awards will be held in San Diego in November, so fingers crossed (not for personal attendance of course, but a shiny trophy might be nice:-).

Secondly, nominations for the 2009 HM Awards (Hotel & Accommodation Management Magazine) have been released. Pacific Resorts are finalists in the following categories:
  • South Pacific Property of the Year - Pacific Resort Aitutaki
  • Environmental Program of the Year - Pacific Resort Rarotonga
  • South Pacific Manager of the Year - Greg Stanaway
Also nominated is Mizz Debbie Simister (Mrs Marcus Tait, for those who know her by her other alias), looking to retain her title as HR Person of the Year - on yah Debs!!! We are counting on you to have a glass or two of bubbly for us on the night (when we win)!

A Visit from Nana & Poppa

Well, a few recent e-mails, and a whisper in the ear from my husband, have reminded me that I have been quite slack with the news updates. As always there have been lots of things happening, the weeks fly by but there is still nothing to do...I'm not sure how that adds up but...

The big event was a visit from Mum & Dad for a week or so in mid June. The kids were beside themselves with excitement while they were here (and with sadness when they left). It was really nice just to have them around, and we had a pretty good time getting around the place too. We took in the sights, circumnavigating the island and finding some new roads to drive down (packed into my little 2 door!). We spent some time at school, at island shows (Jamie is a dancing fiend), on the lagoon and all too soon it was time for them to leave.

The day that they arrived was the interschool sports day (last Wednesday of each term). This term was Rugby and Netball, which Jamie was excited by, but Bailey not so keen. In fact Bailey was SO NOT KEEN that he got himself worked up into a state and walked backwards into a motorscooter, burning his leg on the muffler. A nice, blistered burn behind the knee, about 5cm long. So Jamie was left with the school and B&S & I went off to get litres and litres of water in bottles to tend to the leg. We arrived back to watch Jamie 'play' with the 5 and 6 year olds. We saw lots of random running around and chasing, a few "sit down's" in the middle of the field, and a few "mum, I can't get the ball" complaints, but he won a lot of points for trying. We left after the games were finished and waited at home (impatiently) for the plane to arrive. It was really wonderful and so exciting - the kids ran around and told EVERYONE at the airport that their Nana and Poppa were coming.

A highlight was certainly a trip on the lagoon with Bishops Cruises. Bailey is interested in weaving, so helped weave the platters for lunch. Jamie was a model for the coconut show and got his own sun visor out of the deal. Sienna just wanted to climb the coconut tree on One Foot Island to see if there were any crabs up there.

The weather was perfect, the beaches champagne and the breeze light. It was lovely to show mum and dad why the Aitutaki lagoon is so beautiful. The kids all come snorkelling with us and fed the fish. As you can see, Jamie is a total (flying) fish and can now swim on his own without water wings.

Mum left a few days after Dad, which was nice. She spent some nice time with the kids as it was school holidays by then. Nurse Nana pronounced Bailey's leg nicely on the mend though not without some surprise (due to the total absence of fruit and vegetables in his diet) .

It was sad to see them go, and I think that Sienna is still confused about it all as she won't let me out of her sight. Her trips to Tav's house during home school days have finished as she screams and screams, so Tav comes to our house now. Baby sitting is tricky, though she is slowly coming around.

Also in June we had a visit from the Greenpeace ship Esperenza, who arrived with Keisha Castle-Hughes to discuss the local impact of climate change. I happened to drive past Bailey's teacher's house as she came out and saw us, and Bailey was invited to go out to the ship (via tender, as the boat is too large to get into the lagoon) with a doz of the school kids to tour the ship and deliver gifts of fruit and things. What an awesome opportunity (and I can't imagine I would ever have sent Bailey off to sea past Kawau Island with a dozen other kids and 1 adult in NZ without inspecting the vessel and life jackets etc...but that is the way things happen here), so with a bit of encouragement (it is a SCIENCE boat, Bailey) off he sent on the back of the ute.

Unfortunately, the ute arrived back an hour later. The sea had been too rough to take the kids out so the kids showed the film crew how to climb coconut trees, had a muck around and then arrived home with a copy of the Whale Rider movie. Greenpeace had some pictures of their stay on their website with some of our students in them, so I printed them off and handed them around at school. It was nice to be able to do that.

We had a fun night on the Friday and Saturday just been. Friday was the inter-village rugby final. Unfortunately Amuri (us) went down to Tautu 12-0, but it was a good game and lots of fun sitting on the coconut tree benches on the sideline. As usual, the kids ran with the 'pack' and the adults alternately cheered and heckled the players - all encouragement seemed to come with an extensive belly laugh - and it was nice to be greeted by different people from around the island. After the game, Michael and I entertained 3 agents from USA at the resort and then went to Stephen and Poppy's to watch the AB's beat the Wallaby's (I confess I slept through a lot of it).

Saturday night was a fundraiser for the Aitutaki Hostel in Auckland, which is a cheap place for locals to stay if they don't have family in the city. It is a fantastic facility to have as all serious medical cases get flown back to Middlemore Hospital. It was held at the college hall (also the evacuation centre) and around 200 people attended. We were ushered up to the top table ("quick, the papa'a, the papa'a!!!"), invited to eat first, and drew the raffle as well. We had a big island feast, icecream and chocolate cake for dessert and the dance show was great. One of the little boys was amazing, getting way down low to the ground whilst knocking his knees - very tricky - and got the biggest clap of the night. The girls were awesome as always, and the men were hysterical, posing about the place - everyone was screaming with laughter.

Po'o Bishop, the deputy mayor, said that he wants the Island Council to pass a resolution preventing us from ever leaving! It was another occasion that told us that we have made an impact in the community and that Michael has a huge amount of respect from people all over the island. I was told this again this morning when one of the school mums mentioned that several of the entertainers and tour operators had said specifically that if Michael asked them for anything, they would provide it without question. So we saw lots of friends and aquaintences, and after sitting with Annie and Teina Bishop, with Sienna asleep in my arms, Papa Teina carried her to the car. It was a very nice night.

We are off to Raro this weekend for a well deserved break - Michael has been working 7 day weeks quite a few times recently and is exhausted. The property is very very busy over the next few months which is excellent. The new Food & Beverage Manager, Shane, has arrived which will take some of the load from Michael. So all in all things are good.