Saturday, April 24

Te Hiva Nui at the Staircase

Back in August last year the Te Hiva Nui dancers were invited guests at three folk dance festivals in Europe., the Billingham International Folklore Festival in northern England, the Confolens Festival in France and another festival in Switzerland.
I’ve already posted several videos of a fundraising performance at Punanga Nui market but before they left they put on a really spectacular show at their home base - Staircase Restaurant in Rarotonga. The place was packed and included a couple of government ministers (who because of the ongoing political shambles here are now deadly enemies) as well as other locals and tourists.
This video is of the first item in the show, a drum dance.
I hope it doesn’t take as long to get more from the show online!

Sunday, April 18

Fighting in the street – Raro style

One of the highlights of last week’s World Health Day in Rarotonga was the Fight-Do session outside Westpac Bank at lunchtime.
Fight-Do is a cross between shadow-boxing and martial arts, set to thumping music (the ‘do’ in Fight-Do is pronounced as in martial arts like judo, taekwondo and bushido).
Bank staff came out to have a go and plenty of public health workers and passers-by also joined in.
The great beat and all those people obviously having fun should be a good advertisement for the benefits of exercise which was one of the purposes behind World Health Day.

Thursday, April 15

World Health Day in Rarotonga

Officially World Health Day is 7 April, a Wednesday, but here in the Cook Islands we celebrated it on Friday the ninth. Sounds odd but it made sense because the Public Health Department arranged free health checks, sports demonstrations and plenty of activities for people to have a go at. On a fine sunny Friday people are more inclined to get out and try things. It feels like ‘the weekend starts here’.
There was a good turnout, eight sports and plenty of people watching or taking part but honestly the folks down at health have got their work cut out.
The Pacific has some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world and with more people, especially kids, passing by lovely local fresh fruits and nu in favour of chocolate, chips and fizzy drinks the problem won’t be going away.
Nearly 160 people aged between 17 and 80 years took advantage of the health checks. Over 90% of these were either overweight or obese! On the positive side, the blood pressure results were good with only about ten percent having high blood pressure (hypertension).
Those who had the checks and joined in some of the activities are obviously thinking about their health and the Fight-Do and Zumba sessions in particular show how much fun keeping active can be.
One old grouch definitely wasn’t there. He complained to the local paper saying it was disgusting that the main road was closed off without warning when there were plenty of sports fields and indoor arenas where the event could have been held.
In fact there had been stories and adverts about the road closure in the paper, on television and no doubt on the radio as well. Having it in the centre of town meant that more people could see and join in. There would have been far fewer participants between 11am to 2pm at the stadium or sports arena. Public Health’s job is to spread the good health message and they did it well but it clearly it didn’t reach Grouchy who no doubt remains glued to the seat of his car like a mobile couch potato. And I bet it is a ‘he’. Women have got more sense!

Friday, April 9

Zumba party at Topshape Rarotonga

Topshape gym recently celebrated its 21st birthday at the same time as a change in management.
Mann and Sisi Short started the gym and aerobics centre with business partner the late Felix Enoka.
Felix was a much loved trainer, bodybuilder and environmentalist and his two sons, Aaron and Oki, have now returned home to take over running the gym with Puai and Tai Wichman. Meanwhile Mann and Sisi will be concentrating on other ventures including the popular Staircase restaurant, situated above the gym.
Topshape is my gym and it’s always had great aerobics classes although the names have changed over the years. Aerobics made way for group fitness and Les Mills ‘body’ classes – body attack; body pump; body jam and body combat. Then came Radical Fitness with powerfit and fight-do. That’s my favourite at the moment. Punch, jab, elbow, kick, jump and all to funky music. You can sweat out a lot of aggression at a fight-do session!
Zumba’s a more recent addition to the Rarotonga fitness scene. It’s like a cross between exercise and dancing, got some great moves and all to Latin music.
There have been Zumba classes at Topshape for a while but the video is from the first of the new evening sessions with four of our trainers (including new managers Tai and Puai) showing the way.
Good moves, good music and I hope you can see how much fun everyone was having.
Too good to miss! After filming for a while I put the camera away, kicked of my jandals and joined in.
Way to go!

Saturday, April 3

Rarotonga’s Alaskan visitors

Every September Rarotonga is targeted by a number of native Alaskans of the feathered sort.
The Pacific golden plover (local name torea), wandering tattler (kuriri) and bristle-thighed curlew (teue) breed in Alaska and northern Canada then head south to avoid the rigours of winter in the far north. They end up on various Pacific islands, and Pacific rim countries.
The ones that reach the Cook Islands have covered about 9000 kilometres, many travelling non-stop, taking five days or so. They are pretty thin by the time they get here!
The plovers mainly feed on wide open grassy areas. The airport is a favourite spot along with sports fields and large lawns. They like short, freshly cut grass which makes you wonder what they did in the days before lawn mowers, and they’re territorial, usually just one bird to quite a large area. Plovers are a common sight over the summer, standing still for a while and then making a short run to peck at an insect or seed. They are also waders but the birds that gather on the shore along Nikao beach aren’t territorial. They seem to congregate in the afternoon and evening and just sit around without seeming to hunt for food. I’ve seen groups of up to sixteen taking flight together when disturbed by wandering tourists.
In February and March the birds develop their breeding plumage. The males in particular are very handsome with black faces and breasts and a white band running from forehead to flanks. By now they’ve fattened up and in early April they head back to Alaska. (For more about golden plovers check the CI Biodiversity database here.)
The wandering tattlers are a little smaller than the plovers and forage along the shoreline. They’re very busy little birds, running and bobbing over the rocks and sand. They also feed on the mud flats at Ngatangiia. They are quite solitary – sometimes two might be fairly close to each other but usually it’s only a single bird. Apparently they do have different breeding plumage but I’ve never noticed it, they all look grey to me.
The third bird, the bristle-thighed curlew, is much rarer. I haven’t seen any this year and in fact only noticed a pair for the first time last year. (There is a photograph here.) They are a bit bigger than the plovers but the same sort of speckled colour. Unfortunately they are seriously endangered so the chance of seeing them is remote.