Monday, March 21, 2011

Aere Ra Araura

Farewell Aitutaki. We are off to the airport in an hour, to fly to Raro, then Auckland, then Cairns. A few days in Cairns to buy a car, have a break and adjust to the 5 hour time difference, then off to Mission Beach.

Aere ra Araura enua. Meitaki atupaka

All our love, The Shahs

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2 weeks gone, 2 weeks to go

This Month’s Blog by roving reporter and recently published writer Michael ‘Dostoevsky’ Shah.

To say the last 2 weeks has been crazy has been an understatement, but have they been any crazy than other weeks on Aitutaki? I imagine they will be less crazy than the next 2 weeks, which are THE LAST 2 ON THE ISLAND.  This evening I heard the drums beating (not an u
ncommon noise) but they got steadily closer… and then arrived at our house. This was the start of our Surprise Farewell. We climbed aboard the first truck as guests of honour with the second truck full of a seven piece drum band and were then ’Drummed Around the Island’. This is a wonderful tradition usually reserved for locals on their wedding day. We then spent the next 1.5 hours being driven around all the villages to the accompanying band and a growing entourage of motorbikes, It was amazing. People came out from their homes to give us gifts and dance. We stopped at all 7 villages with families who are involved with the resort in any way coming out. There were old mamas and young kids. We were given hundreds of pareus (sarongs) and flowers garlands (eis) It is quite an honour and very few ‘outsiders’ have had this treatment. Some of my colleagues have been amazed, but not surprised, that this honour has been bestowed on me.
We then had a HUGE bbq feast where all the staff brought food. Jen and I sat in the middle of it all like royalty. There was LOTS of dancing...we were given some beautiful hand made bed spreads (that is a real tradition here) and then one of my favourite managers had made us a hand carved set of 7 Cook island drums including some traditionally made out of shark skin (goat skin this time). This is something usually done for chiefs !!! The issue will be getting it all to where we need to go, so we have packed up ANOTHER set of boxes for the next ship.

Then Jenni made the Cook Islands News daily paper when she was one of the ‘Club paddlers’ assisting the local High School in their inaugural oe vaka (outrigger canoe) regatta . The four school houses competed in a series of sprint races, with an experienced steerer/paddler there to guide them. Lots of the students has never paddled before, but some a very experienced club paddlers that we know well. Jen was delighted to be involved with so many of our young family friends including some good friends from Bailey and Jamie’s 2010 class there too. Just another awesome day with our community of great friends from all areas of the island.
Saturday saw us enjoy what is probably our last day on the lagoon. We took a private charter with the would famous in Aitutaki Teking Tours and our favourite Captain Tai. It was another blissful day of snorkelling and swimming with lunch and crab racing on Maina Island. We started the day at the best spot in the lagoon – the Purple Coral with all three kids doing awesome snorkelling. Sienna is even fully into on now too – we have come a long way. After lunch Teking himself took the Shah Family on a private tour of his favourite spot with amazing stag horn and plate corals. We did our bit by spotting some Crown of Thorn starfish that have wormed their way into the lagoon somehow and are slowly killing patched of coral. With the help of a screwdriver and a useful washing basket these were removed to shore for ‘disposal.
Somewhere in amongst this we enjoyed another amazing evening watching the Aitutaki Sharks lose the Rugby League…again….but really who cares the crowd was singing, the chilly bin was full and it’s Aitutaki.
Ahhh Aitutaki and the Lagoon, it’s been putting on a show for us everyday this week. Perfect blue skies, turquoise water, white breakers and indigo seas to the horizon…should I cry now or wait another 13 days until we leave….

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Xmas, New Year, New Job...& Bread

Well now, Happy New Year! We celebrated in the resort, but the weather was dire, with an odd storm blowing in from the North. Oh well, just another part of the Aitutaki Adventure - mist flying horizontally through the restaurant! Christmas day was lovely, with pressies, a trip to Church, a LOT of champagne, and a yummo (an Aussie term, I believe) roast pork lunch with the Best Gravy in the world! Now for 2011...

January is the month of...job-seeking, school holidays and bread-baking. I'll tell you pretty quickly which one is much more fun than the others!

So, bread! Funnily enough, I had bought a bread-making book with us when we moved to Aitutaki as I didn't know that there was a bakery on the island (let alone 3!). Needless to say it has languished un-opened and un-loved until last weekend. The kids thought it would be a great idea, so we got the recipes of of mothballs and gave it a go. Many hours later we turned out an OK-kind-of-loaf - much kneading and several risings produced a well shaped, firm-but-not-too-firm loaf that was quickly devoured.

Being the researcher that I am, as soon as the loaf was eaten I was on the web searching for tips and hint. Maybe our dough had been too dry for the french load I had I need a steam oven to make it crusty...why on earth do American websites have to make so many disclaimers about stupid things such as "ovens are hot - you may burn yourself"...

Then I stumbled across the secret (or not) of the millenia - you can make bread Without Kneading it. Not only that, but it is better in every way!! The "NO KNEAD" method of bread making has probably been around for quite a while. Apparantly there was a recipe in the New York Times in 2006 which has oft been copied and tweaked online. The recipe I decided to follow came from a blog called The Italian Dish.

How basic is this - slap together some yeast, water, salt and flour and LEAVE IT. Then bake some of it. Then stash the rest of the mix in the fridge. Then bake it bit by bit over the next week or two. The result: light, crusty, rustic, 'artisan' bread, slightly chewey inside and a total dream.

The only problem I have seen is that once it comes out of the oven, the loaf only lasts half-an-hour before it has been devoured, dripping in melted butter.

So now, having made home made bread for the last few days, we are getting tricky, adding a few glugs of maple syrup/honey/golden syrup to the mix with some sultanas/fruit cake mix and some cinnamon and nutmeg. Voila! Divine loaves of fruit bread for breakfast toast. Heaven! And terribly addictive. In fact, it is currently 5.52pm, I should be cooking our dinner, but I have been waylayed by yet another slice...

And as for the job hunting...well there have been a few various things of interest...Canberra, Noosa and Melbourne. The thing is you have to immerse yourself in each possible opportunity to get the idea if you want live there or not. So that means researching schools, rentals, lifestyle and as soon you get into it, the opportunity goes past and the next thing comes along.

It's really just a waiting game while Michael sends off a few applications. Nothing happens quickly this time of the year.

In the meantime, we survive the holidays with a few swims and a lot of (or not enough) patience!