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.