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...