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….