Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crazy Beautiful

Aitutaki is crazy beautiful, and crazy and beautiful, and sometimes both at the same time.

School holidays have started, though it feels like our kids have been on holiday since November! So it is home school (The Correspondence School) for them every morning, and some old fashioned '3 R's'.

While the house isn't being a school, it is a vet clinic. There are volunteer vets on Rarotonga that come to Aitutaki a few time a year predominately to desex local domestic and wild cats. They needed somewhere to do it so we volunteered our front deck! Things happened at relatively short notice, so the usual practice of putting out humane cat traps to collect some of the wild cat population didn't happen, but we still got through 15 desexing operations and a couple of examinations.

All they needed was a table, some water and a sheltered spot. Then the cats were put in a sack and anethatised via injection. Once they had three or four boys 'asleep' they lined them up on our outside table and 10 minutes later there were two tiny testicles in the bin! It was quite briskly done and not without a little sympathy, but we had to giggle at the little boys all lined up on a towel sleeping off their anesthetic.

Our Gorgeous Georgie was first up, and spent the rest of the day staggering about drunkenly and sleeping. Unfortunately Fantastic Freddie has not come home, and has either gone wild or more likely been 'adopted' by another family as he was quite pretty and very loving. I did have a moment of hope as one local came up our steps with a cat that could have been Freddie's identical twin. Unfortunately she was quite certain that they had had the cat for quite a while and I was quite disappointed. Once the vets had left, with Georgie's bits in a bag, my young lad came home with a girl-friend. We call her 'Fraidy-Cat' or 'Scaredy-Cat' as she is happy to frollic with George on the deck and eat the food, but human contact is not permitted!

In the last week of term there is always a primary school inter-sports day at the high school. Term 1 is always volleyball. The kids love volleyball. The SDA school is not known for its sporting excellence, and not actually having a school made little difference. It was a lovely morning, much more relaxed than it often is, with everyone just happy to have a go without getting too worried by results and number of kids on teams.

Sienna filled in with the Grade (Year) 1&2 girls and was full of competitive attitude. Jamie was in the Grade 1&2 boys team (though he felt he really belonged in 'his' Grade 5&6 class) and had a great time running about the place. I 'coached' Bailey's Grade 3&4 boys and we had a great victory in one of the games - it was so cool to see how proud the boys were. It was a very hot day with barely a cloud in the sky. Lots of mama's had cooked food to sell at lunch time and workers from around the island rolled up to share lunch too.

We finished with a staff match that I was invited to join which was really good fun. I haven't done anything remotely contact since my rheumy Arthur-itis friend came to visit 4 years ago, and I had forgotten how much fun it is to be active in a team. Did I mention that it was hot? Nanny Tav played with me too and it was a jolly good time.

Speaking a sports and jolly good times, the rugby league has been a bit of a Friday night feature in the last month. The Aitutaki Sharks have had 3 home games in a row and are within sniffing distance of the semi finals. So nearly everyone on the island that isn't working can be found at the Vaepae field with a chilly bin, a mat or a chair (especially if you travel by bike) and an opinion, cheering on the Sharks. It has been great fun and certainly the easiest way to announce we are back on the island. The boy were still in Australia mode, hanging around not wanting to stray too far. Then they hooked up with their friends and we didn't see them until the game was finished.

Another item for the happy-happy-joy-joy list was finding an excellent dentist in Rarotonga. An 'Aitutaki installed' filling fell out of Sienna's mouth a few days after we arrived back in Aitutaki (isn't that just the way?!) and half of her tooth had just crumbled away. It was well beyond the local 'dentist' at the hospital so we booked into the only private dentist in Raro and Sienna and I flew across for the day. Well, it turns out he is the son of our old neighbour Mama Nicholas and he was brilliant. He excavated and rebuilt Sienna's dead tooth and ground down a high filling for me and $80 later 'bob's your uncle'. It was the best and cheapest dentist visit I have ever had, not including the $600 worth of airfares...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Shah Road Trip - Aitutaki

Home at last. Having paused in Rarotonga for a few days to just sit and do nothing (except a bit of grocery shopping) we flew to Aitutaki. We watched the sun setting the clouds on fire in the west at the same time as the full, pink moon arose from the east. Then suddenly the lagoon was there, and the island, and the runway. And the rain. That wasn't quite in the script... So we ran through the rain to the terminal, only to get equally drenched within the terminal building. Noone has fixed that roof yet. Jen and the kids took the resort car home and Michael followed in the truck with our (now) 16 bags and boxes. 30 seconds after walking in the door the kids have the lid off the lego box and are into it. It was dark, and we had no idea what time it really was, let alone what time we felt it was, so off to bed and a bit of a sleep in the next morning, the last of our holiday.

Michael hid out at home for the day - time enough for work to start on wednesday (which was not the belief of the Raro team who seem to think that combining holidays and work meetings is quite acceptable). We were reunited with big cat Georgie who is quite pleased to see us home. Freddie is AWOL, out on the prowl, but he pops into the resort each night (at dinner time) to say Hi to everyone. Both cats have been nicknamed Michael and Jenni as they have been accompanying security on their rounds, checking out reception and generally making sure things run smoothly. Next time we catch Freddie, both cats will be on the plane to Raro for the big SNIP! That should keep the lads closer to home.

Today, Thursday, is the second day for the boys back at school. The SDA school is currently located in a large packing shed at someones house, with years 2-6 in together (40 kids) down one side and lunch tables and library (with salvaged books) down the other side. The 'School-in-a-box' resources from UNICEF are being put to good use, and the Red Cross Breakfasts in Schools is just finishing. The boys were pleased to be back and the kids at school were pleased to see them. Another warm Aitutaki welcome for The Shahs. The Year 1, new entrant and preschool kids (another 40) are in the home of the principal in her lounge room and tarp covered porch, again with resources recovered from the rubble, plus UNICEF stationery and photocopied books.

Everyone seems to be in good spirits, but there is a lot of frustration on the island with the slow speed of the rebuilding. We all know that nothing happens quickly up here, but 6 weeks before roof repairs start is such a long time. The immediate cleanup is finished, with damaged buildings cleared out, but there are still some piles of timber and roofing iron beside houses, and the broken branches are similarly heaped around the place. Those that are able have returned to maintaining their perfect lawns (a Serious Responsibility on Aitutaki) but many of those lawns have big white marquee style tents with overflow beds and belongings from extended families living together. On the plus side, the trees have greened up and the land looks healthy, if a little bare in places where the big trees used to be. A few pawpaws are about the place and flowers are blooming in pockets around the place, and people still have a wave to share as we pass each other on the road. It is nice to be home.