Sunday, January 31

Nikao action song dress rehearsal

Like the previous video, this one is also about four-and-a-half minutes long and for the same reason, to give viewers a better impression of the action song (kapa rima) the Nikao dancers, drummers and choreographer produced for the 2009 Maeva Nui cultural dance competition.
Sharp-eyed people will probably spot that not all the costumes have been completed. Also, in the final performance the young warriors at the beginning of the dance were carrying gifts of food. You have to use your imagination here.
The dancers have different costumes for each of the four dance sections but the ute (chant) is usually a pareu uniform while the pe’e (legend) is made from rauti and other greenery and is prepared just before the competition performance. The amount of work that goes into the drum dance and action song costumes is enormous but, as I mentioned in the previous post, Nikao came first in the costume section so the effort paid off.
The dress rehearsal was a pretty intense affair with all four items performed then at the end of the night some of the experts in the audience came up with criticism and suggestions for improvement.
Only one dance is performed on competition nights - it must have been a piece of cake after the rehearsal!
The standards at Te Maeva Nui get higher each year and Nikao placed second in the kapa rima.
Congratulations to choreographer Piritau Nga and his team of assistants as well as to the dancers.
(The Ministry of Cultural Development videos all the performances and DVDs are available on their website.)

Wednesday, January 27

Nikao drum dance dress rehearsal

This video is a bit longer than usual, 4.5 minutes, but I wanted to show more than just a few highlights of the drum dance performance by the young people of Nikao village.
The effort and enthusiasm they show are wonderful and if you’ve seen any of the earlier videos about Nikao preparing for Maeva Nui (cutting hibiscus, preparing kiriau and practicing) the changes are remarkable.
As well as the dance practices, the dancers have to make their own costumes, with a bit if help from the village mamas, former dancers, friends, relatives and so on. There are four sections to the Maeva Nui competition and two of them (drum dance and action song) have very elaborate costumes so by the time of the competition everyone must be very tired. All that effort for just a few minutes on the stage!
In this case everyone would think it well worth while because Nikao took first place in the drum dance and costume sections.
In fact Oire Nikao won the costume, ura pa’u and pe’e sections, came second in the choir and kapa rima sections and shared third place in the ute section with Nukuroa.
As Cook Islands News reported, “It was a thrilled Nikao team that received their winning prize of $15,000 and danced in celebration just to show that the week of dancing hadn’t taken its toll on the young performers.”
(The Ministry of Cultural Development videos all the performances and DVDs are available on their website.)

Sunday, January 24

Rarotonga’s tennis legacy from the games

‘Legacy’ was one of the four pillars of the Pacific Mini Games (the others were Mana, Tradition and Winning Hearts).
The idea was that the games would leave a legacy for the people of the Cook Islands (well, Rarotonga at least) in terms of sporting facilities, equipment and expertise.

I’m not sure what, if anything is happening with the Telecom Sports Arena, the BCI Stadium and the new bowling green but tennis is certainly living up to its promise.
Every evening and all through the weekend there are kids and adults using the courts and during the school Christmas holidays one of our medal-winning tennis players, Brittany Teei, took time out while on holiday here from New Zealand to run a coaching clinic for youngsters.
According to Cook Islands News twenty-year-old Brittany used last year’s Pacific Mini Games as a springboard to re-launch her tennis career after spending six years recovering from a broken ankle.
Teei broke her ankle while representing New Zealand as a 14-year-old in Germany and while most would have chucked in the towel – she put her coaching hat on and ran her own coaching programme at the Ngatira tennis club in Mt Eden.
“When I broke my ankle I naturally went into coaching to stay in the game I love,” says Teei.
Teei won three medals at the mini games tennis competition – bronze in the women’s singles, silver in the women’s team event and gold in the doubles competition with Kairangi Vano. Now she has her eyes firmly fixed on achieving her first ranking at next month’s ranking competition in South Korea and qualifying for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games by competing in the Australian Amateur Open in September.
“The mini games were a big highlight for me and to reach a top 100 ranking is my ultimate aim in tennis,” says Teei.
The women’s tennis team was a big success at the games winning silver in the team event, gold in the doubles (Brittany Teei and Kairangi Vano), plus a gold (Kairangi Vano) and a bronze (Brittany Teei) in the singles.
The video includes Brittany in the singles and both girls in the doubles as well as other Pacific islands singles players.

Saturday, January 16

Rarotonga’s flowering trees

First an update on the airport upgrade. It’s going to be completed much earlier than I thought.
According to Cook Islands News, the project manager Russell Smith says everything should be ready by the end of March.
Some people wonder why on earth the Cook’s is bothering with an expensive building project for the relatively few planes we have each week, but firstly the US insisted because of airport security after 9/11. The Cooks has a direct link to LA and we don't want to lose it.The second reason is that the airport, while adequate, was a bit old and dingy. Since we had to improve security anyway the Airport Authority borrowed the money from one of the local commercial banks and decided to do it in style.
This new video is of some of the flowering trees along Rarotonga’s main road.
The best time of year to see flowers is late November, early December. That’s when the Tiare Festival takes place and trees, bushes and flowers should all be at their best then.
However even in January there’s still plenty of colour and variety. This video shows just a few of the trees, but bushes, particularly hibiscus, are still in full bloom.
Actually most of the trees pictured have been introduced to the Cooks. The flamboyants are natives of Madagascar although they were introduced from Sri Lanka in 1892 (Cook Islands Biodiversity Database). The cassias are from SE Asia (India and China) and frangipani is native to Mexico.
Only the beach (or tree) hibiscus is either native to the Cooks or was introduced by the Polynesians.
I think an Irishman, William McBirney (1871 – 1956) was responsible for bringing many flowering plants to Rarotonga.
It wouldn’t be possible nowadays, of course, with border restrictions on plant and animal material but all these newcomers make a wonderfully colourful splash and keep Rarotonga looking like a tropical island paradise.

Tuesday, January 12

Rarotonga airport update

Rarotonga airport is being upgraded.
A new check-in area and domestic terminal was built a few years ago and now the international arrivals and departures area is under construction.
It was probably necessary in order to beef up the security arrangements. The arriving and departing passengers used to be separated by a piece of string. In fact they used to be able to mix and mingle in the duty free booze shop. It meant that everyone was able to listen to Jake Numanga serenading with his ukulele but secure it was not.
Some parts of the new building have been completed and the whole thing should be ready to open in June or July.
The baggage collection area is still the same although when the revamping started the plain glass windows looking in from the car park area were replaced with frosted glass. It was really annoying because that’s where everyone waited to get the first glimpse of friends and relations. The airport authority must have had a lot of complaints because the clear glass is now back. Good thing too.
Adverts have just appeared in Cook Islands News for people to operate various shops, a café and duty free outlets and when the whole thing is completed it should be light and airy and perhaps a bit less like a temporary barn than it was.
The video shows an Air New Zealand Boeing 777 arriving in Rarotonga.
Air NZ have been flying here since the airport opened (in the early 1970s I think). It used to cost an arm and a leg! Raro/Auckland must have been amongst the most expensive air miles in the world but in these days of rising costs and inflation air tickets to the Cooks are among the few things whose costs have plummeted. It helps that there is more than one airline flying here. At the moment we also have Pacific Blue (to New Zealand) and Air Tahiti (to Tahiti – but Air NZ no longer flies there anyway).
It would help our economy if other airlines could fly more tourists here but that seems unlikely in the near future. Mind you, Air NZ will soon be starting up direct flights from Sydney. Aussies provide our second biggest tourist numbers after Kiwis so we could soon be seeing more of them. Hotels, motels, restaurants and shops will be very happy about that.

Sunday, January 3

Looking back - lawn bowls at the mini games

A Happy New Year to everyone.
I’ve been looking over some of the video footage I didn’t have time to process towards the end of 2009. It’s time to do something about it before it disappears totally from my short term memory.
One of the things I want to do this year is tidy up the Pacific Mini Games website so that it gives a more organised record of the event. At the time it was just a mad rush trying to get information and pictures online. I must confess I haven’t even looked at it since the fat lady sang and I took off on holiday. The medal table was up to date but I don’t think all the results were there and certainly the stories and photos need to be put in better order. I want to put short videos of most of the sports on the website for future reference, but first I’ve got to edit the stuff!
Here’s the first – lawn bowls.
Those bowlers really know how to organise a competition and have a good time. They turned the medal presentation ceremony into something of a party, starting with a march through town of all the competitors.
Some other sporting codes could learn a thing or two from their attitude.