Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Te Vara Nui Village

A highlight of our holiday was an evening at Te Vara Nui Village. Te Vara Nui is a traditional island village that was built to honour Mama Vara, who is now in her 80s yet was there to greet us at the entrance. The village itself had flooded earlier in the week after some very heavy rain, meaning that we couldn't take the tour but the over water show would go ahead as planned.

This is the scene that greeted us on arrival.

Entrance to Te Vara Nui Village
The tables are arranged on either side of this scene, meaning that everyone has a pretty good viewing point for the show which takes place on and around the water in the middle. Dinner was first; a huge island style buffet featuring all the usual suspects as well as a range of island cuisine to sample.

An island style buffet awaits

Since we were enjoying an island holiday, it seemed right to indulge in a cocktail. My dessert cocktail was appropriately named Island Love and was full of all the good stuff: Kahlúa, Baileys, Frangelico, Crème de Cacao, brandy and cream. With a table overlooking the water, I was all set for the show.

Island Love dessert cocktail

Now for the entertainment. As a family of entertainers, we were a bit skeptical, worried we'd be subjected to a heavily contrived performance then quickly ushered out, all the while being assured that we'd had a 'cultural' experience. What followed was a thoroughly delightful evening of music and dance that we'd highly recommend other visitors go and see.

The show tells the story of Tonga-iti, a legendary warrior whose arrival in the Cook Islands caused quite a stir among the locals many moons ago. The performers delivered a high energy celebration of this historical event through music, dance, costumes and lights. They cleverly used the 360° stage and surrounding pool so that every seat was the best in the house.

Here are a few action shots from a mesmorising evening.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

The colours of Rarotonga

My love of flowers and bursts of colour meant that my senses were thoroughly indulged in Rarotonga. The plant life looks and smells so beautiful, especially the tropical flowers growing in abundance all around the island. My favourite is still the classic white and yellow frangipani but I was also treated to displays of wild hibiscus, hanging heliconia, red ginger and tropical water lilies. Even the foliage is dynamic and colourful.

Here is a selection of photos I took during my holiday. I can't identify all of the flowers but loved finding floral surprises whenever I went walking.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Kia orana, Rarotonga!

Kia orana! May you live a long and fulfilling life.
I have recently returned from nine glorious days in a tropical paradise. What's not to love about the Cook Islands? It's small and easy to get around, warm and friendly with plenty of things to do - or you can just enjoy some precious time out. The pristine beach scenes from the postcards are real. So is island time. Add a large whānau wedding to the equation and we had a first class experience of island hospitality.

I'm going to post some pictures and highlights of my holiday in the coming days. They're something I'll look forward to returning to during the long winter months ahead, when my feet are no longer criss-crossed by the tan lines left by my sandals and summer seems like an impossibly distant memory. Kia orana, Rarotonga.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Black Sheep

It's podcast binging season.

Black Sheep is a programme for history buffs. Written and presented by Radio New Zealand's William Ray, each episode delves into the history of an infamous kiwi.

The accents, both natural and imitated, are an acquired taste but the stories are gripping and I found myself racing through both series in true binge-listening fashion. Who knew New Zealand had so many murderers, outlaws and unsavoury characters dotted throughout our history? Were their stories covered up or simply forgotten over time?

I think the episode that stood out most for me was the very first one. Broken Blossom tells the story of Alice Parkinson, a supposed woman scorned who took drastic actions and paid a hefty price for them. I wonder how different things might be if she were alive today? Maybe she would have been diagnosed with postnatal depression. Hopefully she would have received some support.

Black Sheep is back again soon with a new series, so there's plenty of time to catch up with the first two series if you haven't already.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Lost and found

Last month, I received an email informing me that I'd won a $200 voucher to spend at a big ticket retailer as part of a monthly promotional draw. How exciting! The voucher was couriered to me a couple of days later and I thought about many ways I could use it to help set my new home office.

A few days later, a second $200 voucher arrived from the same person at the same retailer. Even the congratulatory note was identical.

My next step was obvious. I emailed her back, thanking her for the original voucher and explaining that a second one had arrived that day. Perhaps she could send a courier ticket for me to safely return the second voucher? Here is her response:
"Oh my! You're THE most honest person ever! I was just going through my voucher records trying to figure out where the missing voucher was. I'm so very sorry!"
A similar thank you message arrived once the voucher was returned, full of gratitude and seemingly surprised that I sent it back. I find it a bit sad that honesty is seen as unexpected, but there's no way that second voucher should be mine and it was immediately obvious that I must return it. Honesty is its own reward.

Yesterday, I was coming home from my morning walk and spotted some 'rubbish' in the front garden. It certainly hadn't been there when I left an hour earlier. I tweeted about it.

Mr Weka and I conferred; although the bank note was immediately outside our bedroom window, we didn't think either of us had dropped it. I checked that the cash I'd been paid a few days earlier was still in my wallet (it was). We agreed that $50 is a sizeable amount of cash to lose and that this situation was very different to the time when the weather gods blew a pair of women's track pants into our backyard, or the time that a book was anonymously hand delivered to my letter box - addressed to me.

I set up a twitter poll, but already knew that I would hand the money in at the local police station. The conversation following the poll reinforced that my decision is the right thing to do. $50 is a lot of money for someone to lose. Who knows what it was destined for? If it is unclaimed and eventually returned to me, I will donate it to charity. Honesty is its own reward.

I've lost a few special items before and searched endlessly for them. Some have monetary value while another has sentimental value beyond belief. My precious taonga is still out there somewhere. It's of no value to anyone outside of my whānau and I hope that karma helps bring it home to me. Honesty is its own reward.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A new school year

It's back to school for many this week. There are family photos of children in pristine, oversized school uniforms all over Facebook and posts about teachers enjoying their last gasp of unstructured downtime for ten weeks. Not for me, though; I haven't taught in a classroom for years but a friend is beginning her primary teaching career today. We talked last night about how she's feeling equally nervous and excited.

I always enjoyed the start of each school term (and year) and remember my first day as a primary teacher like it was yesterday. Like all teachers, I'd been in a couple of weeks earlier getting things set up, planning, getting to know my colleagues, planning, attending teacher-only days, planning, setting up wall displays, planning ... I was planned and ready.

I got to school early on Day 1 and was having a final pep talk with my tutor teacher when the principal suggested I go up to my classroom because there were already some people there. It turns out that almost every child had arrived by 8:10 am with one or two parents in tow, eager to meet the 'new' teacher.

I took a deep breath, smiled and walked into my already crowded classroom. The introductions were warm and welcoming as parents and children alike had eagerly anticipated my arrival. My plan to remember all the children's names by morning tea (Classroom Management 101) was now extended to remembering parents' names - as well as who they each belonged to. You know what they say about plans, right?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all came from one child who asked what school I went to. I answered correctly and watched her pull my class photo out of her school bag. It turns out I was in her auntie's class when she was a first year teacher in the 1980s. Suddenly, a crowd gathered as my 6-year-old self upstaged New Teacher me and I realised the ice was well and truly broken.

To all teachers beginning or continuing their journeys this week, I hope you enjoy the freshness and promise that a new year brings before the grind sets in. Bonus points if you create some lifelong memories that make you smile many years later.