Sunday, May 3

Ura Fitness mental health fundraiser on Rarotonga

Ura Fitness is a Cook-Islands-dance-based exercise system using the hip-swaying motions and arm movements typical of our local dancing.
The sessions usually take place at Top Shape gym in Avarua with a couple of Muri lagoon beachside classes especially for visitors.
As the Ura Fitness Facebook page ( says, "From slow soothing island songs to vigorous fast beats and the basic sway of the hips to modern technique.... Ura Fitness can get your heart rate pumping and muscles burning like you wouldn't believe!"
Last Wednesday (29 April) Ura Fitness fans gathered  on the grassy area opposite the Banana Court for the first of five live shows. The $413 raised at the event was donated to Te Kainga Mental Health and Wellbeing Centre.
With great weather and an excellent turnout of regulars, tourists and newcomers it was a fun occasion (check out all the smiling faces in the video).
Many of the regular ura-goers went the extra mile with not just pareu but head ei and feathery, extravagent titi - great for emphasising hip movements.
And UF isn't just for the slim young and athletic. There were plenty of older ladies, some a tad overweight, but still able to show everyone how to swing those hips.
The 'Yes Please’ boys provided the music while sisters Avera Hunter, Alana Short with a new instructor Gary Taripo were up on stage leading the crowd.
Most of the exercisers were women but there were quite a few guys watching proceedings and Gary wants to encourage more men to join in at the next live show.
The smiles, laughter and singing were so infectious I just had to put down the camera and take part. So I can vouch for the fact that Ura Fitness is a fabulous fun, cardio, conditioning exercise.
Looking forward to the next one which will probably be later in May around the time of the Te Manava Vaka Festival.

Tuesday, April 28

Anti-purse seine march on Rarotonga

Last Friday's (24 April) seine fishing protest march received plenty of coverage from Cook Islands News and CITV both before and after the event.
About 400 people, young and old, marched through Avarua, Rarotonga, on Friday afternoon 24 April 2015. They were trying to convince the prime minister, Henry Puna and ministry of marine resources secretary, Ben Ponia that purse seining should not be allowed in Cook Islands waters. So far their calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Environmental NGO Te Ipukarea Society originally argued that new fishing licences should be halted, but so many members of the public wanted a total ban on purse seiners that TIS joined in their call.
The PM and MMR secretary have both said that the purse seining industry should be based on science and not sentiment but although TIS has asked to see the scientific reports none have been forthcoming.
A quick Google search for 'purse seining in the Pacific' produces plenty of 'anti' reports (most of them from Greenpeace) but 'pro' or even neutral reports are harder to find.
Radio New Zealand carried a story:

(Protest in Cooks leads to fishing argument over bans
And Cook Islands News reported comments by the prime minister:

(Two sides to purse seining story, says PM
However the protesters were not convinced.

(Passionate protestors want purse seining ban

It's unlikely that either the PM or Marine Resouces will come up with more scientific evidence than they've produced so far (ie none). However they are in a position to ignore the worries of the protesters. They both spend rather a lot of time off the island - maybe they hope everything will be forgotten when they get back to work. Maybe they're right. Time will tell.

Thursday, March 19

Lashio in northeast Myanmar


It's been fine and sunny for the past few days but before that it was wet and windy – the sort of weather that makes you look ahead to future holidays and look back over past ones.
Here's a video from Myanmar taken in 2012. It is of Lashio in Shan State, in the north east of the country, a hundred or so kilometres from the Chinese border along the famous Burma Road. It's sbeen in the news recently because of clashes between the Myanmar army, the Tatmadaw, and local Kokang tribes (ethnic Han Chinese living in Burma in an area along the border with Burma). Many refugees from the fighting have gone to Lashio. The town also had clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in 2013. However when I was there it was a bustling city of about 130,000.
Things change, and not always for the better.