Monday, December 31

Myanmar - Su Paung Kyun village

Season’s greetings.
The weather on Rarotonga for the past week or so has been wet and windy but today, New Year’s Eve is sunny and warm. Apparently that’s not going to last long – there’s more and wind on the way to welcome 2013. However, we’re much better off than Fiji and Samoa with cyclone Evan and now the Solomons with cyclone Freda.
I’m still going through video from my trip to Burma. Our journey on the RV Katha Pandaw took us to a small village called Su Paung Kyun on the bank of the Irrawaddy River in Central Myanmar (Burma).
We had a short glimpse of the rural lifestyle.
During the wet season the village would be situated by the river so most of the houses were on stilts. The land left above water as the river level drops is used for crops, mostly lab lab beans hereabouts. Women in the village were winnowing beans from the last harvest. Since it was a Saturday when we visited, the children were not at school and they were obviously as fascinated by us as we were by them! Our guide told us that we were the first foreigners to go to that particular village but with the way tourism is increasing in Burma we won’t be the last.
Things will change but I hope the people can remain as delightful as they are now.

Sunday, December 23

The Golden Land - Myanmar highlights

A few years ago the big question about Burma was should you go at all? A repressive military government crushed any protests and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (aka The Lady) was under house arrest in spite of winning an election. Some countries imposed economic sanctions on Burma and opponents of the regime wanted tourists to stay away because too much of their money went into government coffers.
Things have changed. The military junta was dissolved in 2011 following a general election in 2010 and a nominally civilian government installed, though the military is still influential. Aung San Suu Kyi is now a member of parliament and an ever-increasing trickle of tourists is set to become a flood in the very near future.
The question now is should I call it Burma or Myanmar?
Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948 but the name wasn’t changed until 1989. The BBC calls it Burma, as does The Lady. Barack Obama used both names on his recent trip there. Pandaw, the riverboat cruise company, call it Burma.  I think more people (of my age anyway) have heard of Burma than Myanmar even though not many know exactly where it is.
In speech I tend to call it Burma, in writing Myanmar.
Our boat, the RV Katha Pandaw, sailed on the Irrawaddy River. The Burmese name for this is the Ayeyarwady but the colonial British misheard this hence the Irrawaddy. I’m totally in sympathy with that. Much easier to pronounce.
Regardless of what you call it, Myanmar is a fascinating country.
The Irrawaddy is wide and muddy and winds through fertile plains and low hills. Many of the villages we visited were remote and would have been difficult to get to other than by boat. There the pace of life is slow but in the areas where tourism is taking off it’s all changing. This is especially true at Bagan, famous for the three thousand pagodas and stupas that dot the plain, and U Bein’s bridge, the world’s longest teak span and one of Myanmar’s most photographed sights.
This video shows some of the highlights of our 10 day journey and some of the delightful people we met.
Incidentally, Barack Obama and entourage came to Myanmar just before we were due to return to Yangon and stayed at our hotel. They took over the entire hotel; the management cancelled the bookings of everyone else and that didn’t please tour companies who had to scramble to find accommodation at short notice. And it was all for less than six hours!

Monday, December 17

Shwebo earthquake in Central Myanmar

I was on holiday in Myanmar for most of November and spent part of that time on a river boat, the Pandaw Katha, cruising down the Irrawaddy. While I was there  a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the Shwebo region of Central Myanmar on 11 November 2012. A bridge underconstruction near the village of Nwe Nyein collapsed and buildings in the village were damaged.
Our boat was about 500 metres from the bridge when the earthquake struck and we saw the bridge fall.
The general manager of Pandaw in Myanmar, John Arkell, and our tour guide Daniel Townsend, went to the village to see what help we could provide. They found many of the buildings had been damaged and villagers were too frightened to go back inside so were sitting in groups on the open ground. The school was one of the buildings damaged but fortunately it was a Sunday and children weren't there.
The boat passengers raised about US$1000 and Daniel and John took that back to the village and handed it over to the headman. Villagers then used it to buy food and organise cooking areas and utensils and get material for shelters.

Tuesday, December 11

Zumba at Rarotonga's Sevens in Heaven

Back from Burma (Myanmar really but that doesn't have the same alliterative potential).
I've been on holiday for the past month first travelling down the Irrawaddy and in the north east of Myanmar and then spending five days in Singapore. It was great but internet access was  infrequent hence the long gap since my last blog update. To be honest I don't think I'd have spent much time updating the blog even if the internet had been fast and frequent. Much more fun watching the world go by from the deck of a riverboat (in spite of the earthquake).
Before I took off Rarotonga's annual Sevens in Heaven rugby tournament took place on 1, 2 and 3 November.
Some of our local zumba fans had been practising hard to provide the entertainment on  Friday and Saurday and this video shows the Friday gang going through their Gangnam Style paces.
Nana Hirata, one of our cool local instructors, did a terrific job choreographing the routine and training the dancers and the whole thing was a huge amount of fun.
On the Saturday an increased number of dancers put on another show that incorporated a heap more zumba songs and moves. Hope I'll be able to get some of that online later.
In the meantime I've got hours of holiday video to edit.
Catch you later!

Saturday, October 27

Netball tri-series - Cook Islands v Scotland (2)

Wow! What a game. 
The local girls were on fire  from the first whistle and put on a performance to be proud of. 
The Cooks potted the first few goals and a somewhat shell-shocked Scotland team was forced to play catch-up. 
The Scots soon settled down but this time the Cooks weren't overawed; the intercepts and passes were accurate and our shooters didn't waste many attempts. 
In the last quarter the Scots poured on the pressure but the Cookies didn't panic and, spurred on by vocal and happy spectators, they held on the take the game 36-34.

Wednesday, October 17

Netball tri-series - Cook Islands v Scotland

The second game in the netball tri-series proved to be disappointing for the Cook Islands' girls.
They'd had a tough match on the previous night against the super-fit Welsh, and they failed to fire against the Scots.
Everyone put in a solid effort and there were some good individual performances but  unforced arrors and missed passes made the Cookies look slow and the fired-up Scots pulled off some superb intercepts and pounced on loose ball to flick to their  circle where the shooters were in great form.
The final score was 25-55.
However you need to remember that Scotland is hosting the next Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, 2014, and with netball being one of the codes at the games they are going all out to  nurture the team and make sure that it is not only competitive but has a good chance at a medal. The fact that, in 2012, they are  planning two years ahead shows how serious they are.
Our girls have the ability and a good fighting spirit but we just aren't able to organise international experience and game time. We're a small country in the middle of the South Pacific ocean and it's expensive to travel overseas.
Netball Cook Islands deserves congratulations for organising a series like this one to bring top class players to Rarotonga.
And they've got another tournament planned for December - Netball in Paradise. This is an age-grade event with teams from Ausralia, Fiji, Niue and New Zealand as well as the Cook Islands entering Under 13, Under 15, Under 17 and Under 19 teams.
Netball fans check out the Netball Cook Islands website for match reports and the NCI Facebook page to keep up with events over here.

Monday, October 15

Netball tri-series - Cook Islands v Wales

International netball has taken centre stage recently with Rarotonga's netball tri-series.
Wales, currently ranked 10 in the world and Scotland, ranked 15, are here to play the Cook Islands.
Our current rank is 13 but unfortunately it looks as though we might be heading down.
The first match was against Wales who were very impressive, fit, fast moving, accurate passes, a classy team.
The home side matched them goal for goal for the first few minutes but as the Welsh picked up the pace the Cooks made many unforced errors.
Our defenders pulled off some great intercepts but in mid-court the opposition grabbed the ball back far too often.
It was a gutsy performance but in the end Wales were convincing winners by 65 goals to 29.
Next up Cook Islands v Scotland.

Monday, October 1

Te Maeva Nui 2012 - Mauke kapa rima

This video shows part of Mauke’s kapa rima (action song) at the Maeva Nui dance competition in July/August this year.
The audience loved it and so did the judges – it was awarded an A grade.

Sunday, September 23

Te Maeva Nui 2012 – Puaikura Pe’e

Puaikura is the district on Rarotonga of which Arorangi is the main village.
Their first event in this year’s Te Maeva Nui cultural competition was the pe’e.

The Scribd website has this to say about the pe'e:
"Pe'e are ancient historical chants which commemorate particular events, including brave deeds of ancestors or legendary warriors. Pe'e were formulaic in structure and ritualised in presentation. Their very nature is the reason few traditional pe'e survive. Because they were ritualised and could only be chanted by certain people at certain times - at rites which were considered heathen by the missionaries - many ancient pe'e fell into disuse and were consequently lost. Pe'e has also come to mean any chant - old or new." 

Most of the inhabitants of Puaikura must have been in the audience at the national auditorium judging by the cheers and applause. It was well-deserved though, the team received one of the two A grades awarded in this category (the other went to Tongareva).

Thursday, September 13

Parliamentary rugby win to the Cook Islands

Parliamentarians and others from both the Cook Islands and New Zealand took to the paddock at the BCI stadium last week for a bruising rugby encounter.
The kiwis were toting the parliamentary world cup – they’ve won it four of the five times it’s been contested – but it wasn’t up for grabs this time.
Just as well since the Cook Islands won the game 17-10.
For a full description see the Cook Islands News websitehere.

Wednesday, September 5

Te Maeva Nui 2012 – Tongareva Ura Pau

More from this year’s dance competition at Te Maeva Nui.
This video is of the Tongareva team with their ura pau (drum dance) – probably the most exciting of the competition items with a fast beat and emphasis on hip and leg movement.It usually features boys to a greater extent than girls.
Tongareva, also known as Penrhyn, received a B grade for their performance.
Don’t forget, if you’re a fan of Cook Islands culture, the ministry of culture’s DVD of the entire Te Maeva Nui celebration should be out soon. It will include the full length performances for each night as well as the float parade and tangi kaara (drumming competition).

Thursday, August 30

Pacific leaders arrive for Forum opening

Rarotonga has been buzzing for the last week or so with the leaders from the fifteen members of the Pacific Forum gathering in the Cook Islands for the 43rd Pacific Forum.
As well as the leaders we have observers and associates, a number of wannabees and representatives from an alphabet of regional organisations.
Needless to say all of these have support staff and on top of that there are seventy or eighty media people.
We’ve got John Key and for a while we had Julia Gillard but she chose  to fly home after the unfortunate death of five Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
You can read about the various meetings in Cook Islands News (or on the websites of many other Pacific news organisations.
The Forum proper opened on Tuesday evening and this video shows the arrival of some of the Pacific leaders at the national auditorium for the opening ceremony. This involved leaders being carried on a pa’ata by stalwart Cook Islands warriors (some of whom are a tad overweight). They are cheered on by school children and mamas – each country was ’adopted’ by a local Rarotonga school with the kids meeting delegations at the airport as well as supporting them at the opening.
The arrivals were supposed to begin at 5pm but actually got underway a quarter of an hour early. Whatever happened to island time? This accounts for the Cook Islands, FSM, Kiribati, Nauru and New Zealand not being in the video. So, no John Key, but Julia Gillard was there. She was the last to arrive on the island and was tacked on to the end of the parade. You can see the media frenzy as she was being carried in.
Mind you, Hillary Clinton has just touched down on Rarotonga and that prompted a population frenzy! I’ve never seen so many cars at the sea wall (to watch the plane come in) and people at the airport waving American flags (and cameras).
We’re all suckers for celebrities!

Friday, August 24

Te Maeva Nui 2012 – Atiu kapa rima

The cultural dance competition is always the highlight of Te Maeva Nui (the Cook Islands constitution celebrations). We had ten competing teams this year, nine of them representing the outer islands. The entries were capped at ten so even if Rarotongan teams other than Puaikura had wanted to take part they wouldn’t have been able to. However, many Raro residents joined the teams representing their home islands. This sometimes meant the dance moves weren’t as polished as they might have been but that was made up for by the costumes, the obvious enjoyment of those on stage and enthusiasm of the audience.
This year’s theme was :Traditional language of our communities and islands”.
This video is from Atiu’s kapa rima (action song). The kapa rima is a story-telling dance and is usually very graceful with lots of hand and arm movements.
Atiu’s was awarded a B grade.
The Ministry of Cultural Development will be selling a DVD set of the whole Te Maeva Nui celebrations including full length videos of all the dance nights. It should be ready sometime in September and can be ordered from the ministry. Below is a list of the other DVDs available.
Ministry of Cultural Development Overseas Orders
(Postage is for New Zealand –contact MOCD email: for postage to other countries)
Composers Competition               DVD + CD             $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                          4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                                    4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Mire Tama                                          2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Composers Competition               DVD + CD             $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                          4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                                    4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Composers Competition               DVD + CD             $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                          4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                                    4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                            2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Composers Competition               DVD + CD             $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                          4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                                    4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                            2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Composers Competition               DVD                       $25+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                          3xDVD                  $45+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                                    4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                            3xDVD                  $45+$20pp
Composers Competition               DVD                       $25+$10pp
Te Maeva Nui                                    4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                            2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Te Maeva Nui                                    4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
TMN Highlights                                 CD                          $25+$5pp
Re-mastered from Videotape to DVD
A’Ti Vee (1995)                 1xDVD (3 hours)               $50+$10pp
Katikatia (1994)                 1xDVD (3 hours)               $50+$10pp

Thursday, August 16

A brief look at Te Maeva Nui 2012

Te Maeva Nui is over for another year and most of the outer islanders have headed back to their home islands.  Not all of them though. Arguments over passenger numbers and cargo led the Penrhyn islanders to boycott the Lady Naomi when she returned.
That’s a shame because otherwise it was a very successful occasion.
It rained on the parade, the float parade that is, but then the sun came out for the rest of the celebrations apart from some showers one evening.
The standards have improved since last year and every cultural competition item scored an A or B grade so all the islands should have had some healthy prize money to take home.
(As with last year’s competition, there was no overall winner scooping the pool but every competition team received a share of the funds based on the grade their items achieved.)
The costumes, choreography and enthusiasm were fantastic and all ten teams did a great job. The dancers looked as though they were having a wonderful time and the audience did too.
Puaikura was the only Rarotonga team. The outer islands teams were from Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Rakahanga, Manihiki, Mangaia, Atiu, Aitutaki, Mitiaro and Mauke.

Wednesday, August 1

Lady Naomi sails in with outer islanders

Te Maeva Nui 2012 is well under way with a total of ten teams taking part in the cultural dance competition.
Puaikura is the only team representing Rarotonga; the others are from the northern group islands of Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Rakahanga and Mitiaro; and the southern group’s Aitutaki, Mauke, Mangaia, Atiu and Mitiaro.
Once again this year the northern group competitors were carried to Rarotonga by the Samoan ferry Lady Naomi. The boat arrived on 19 July to a warm welcome from officials and families before the travellers were whisked off to hostels and other accommodation.
This left plenty of time for teams to meet with their Rarotonga-based members to practice items and organise craftwork for sale at the now-annual Trade Days.
The southern group islanders flew in from their islands to Rarotonga.
The Lady Naomi will be returning to Rarotonga at the end of the celebrations to transport the northerners back home.

Thursday, July 12

Around Rarotonga in 8 minutes (again)

I’ve got a couple of videos on the go but haven’t had a lot of time to finish them off because I’ve been doing some gardening. Well, it’s more of a slash, burn and demolish than anything else. Mind you the garden is fighting back – I’ve got blisters and bruises and sore muscles to show for it.
In the meantime here is a new version of a previous video.
Last year I got a new computer and new software so I’ve now re-rendered the Round-Raro-by-motorbike one I made in January last year (2011).
The resolution is much better.
There are some changes on Rarotonga, the main one being in the Avatiu harbour area. The old Marine Resources building is gone and the foreshore there is being remodelled. The harbour is has been lengthened and deepened with the fill being used to extend Punanga Nui market although you can’t see that from the road. The other changes around the island involve ‘beautification’ which unfortunately in far too many places has meant hacking down trees.
Strange idea of beauty!
NB: The trees and other vegetation that I’ve been slashing and burning are all invasives or weeds in the process of taking over the world and I shall be planting plenty of new trees to take their places.

Tuesday, June 26

Tereora College food festival

Food markets are always popular on Rarotonga and Tereora College’s recent fundraiser was a big success. The weather was warm and sunny, good for bringing the crowds out to browse, and there was plenty for them to see, smell and taste. Each of the form classes had a separate stall with offerings such as barbeque chops, sausages and steak; ‘plates of food’ – that Cook Islands favourite; cakes, sweets, desserts and drinks. Clearly parents and family had helped with preparation and cooking and local businesses were generous with sponsorship of ingredients. Each class had a target of $2000, with the school as a whole hoping to raise $30,000 to go towards new high tech equipment, a facelift for Princess Anne Hall and beautification projects around the school. You can see from the video how hard everyone had worked and how much fun they seemed to be having. It was noticeable that the BBQs were mostly being operated by boys. Barbies are a great way of getting guys to cook. I wonder who did the washing up!

Sunday, June 17

Sunrise over Ta’akoka motu, Muri lagoon

Time-lapse video of a peaceful early morning scene on Muri lagoon as the tide comes in and the sun rises over Ta’akoka motu. Later on in the day tourists will be out and about, swimming, snorkelling, sailing and canoeing but at this early hour you will see herons stalking along the water’s edge and maybe a jogger out to work up an appetite for breakfast.

Monday, June 11

The transit of Venus seen from Rarotonga

Stargazers around the world focused on our local star, the sun, last Tuesday (5 June) to witness a rare celestial event. The planet Venus was silhouetted as it passed in front of the sun – the transit of Venus – and this won’t happen again for another 105 years, until December 2117.
The transit was due to begin just after midday (local time) and to end at about 6.43pm (although that wouldn’t have been visible here because sunset on Rarotonga was at five past six). But in the morning it looked as though nobody would see anything as thick clouds covered the island. There were even a couple of brief showers.
We got the camera set up anyway. It’s not particularly fancy; a point-and-shoot superzoom (Nikon Coolpix 500). We already had a solar filter left over from the 2010 total eclipse.
When cameras like this are zoomed to the max, the lens barrel extends out an extra 5cm from the body so we chopped up a plastic water bottle, painted it black and attached it to the camera and the filter using duct tape. The diameter was perfect and I guess it’s a different way to reduce waste!
As noon approached the weather began to brighten up and by the time the transit started the sky was clear, at least in the area around the sun.
Our set-up wasn’t sophisticated. The camera was on a tripod and every now and again we took a picture setting the focus manually on infinity, and exposing at 1/500 sec at f8. As the sun tracked across the sky we panned the camera to follow it. We drained several batteries and had to remove the camera to replace them and at five o’clock, when the sun was about to disappear behind some trees we upped sticks and headed to Nikao beach to finish off. That’s why the video is somewhat jerky! But, hey, it was totally awesome being able to see it.
The video is made up from about 120 still frames speeded up to last ten seconds as opposed to the actual five and a half hours the transit took.
What made things even better was the amount of interest it generated locally.
My husband Phil wrote an article for Cook Islands News before the event (Transit of Venus) and teachers in Rarotonga and Mangaia took the opportunity to introduce students to the thrill of astronomy.
In Mangaia the kids were able to watch using eclipse glasses left over from 2010 (the solar eclipse was total on that island) and at Tereora and Nukutere colleges on Rarotonga the heads of science Des Duthie and Russell Grieve used their own telescopes to set up projected images so students could view the historic occasion. (See Cook Islands News coverage here.)

Sunday, June 3

Sopranos in Paradise

Rarotonga’s Opera in Paradise is now an annual event and once again it proved to be a great night out – in spite of the weather.
We’d had heavy rain and strong winds and the temperature dropped to about 18C at night - real winter weather – but Oceans Restaurant at the Crown Beach Resort was elegantly set up and the welcoming glass of bubbly put everyone in a good mood.
The format was for three sessions of music in between the courses and with good food, good company and good music the evening was a sure-fire success.
Our opera singers this year were Mere Boynton and Deborah Kapohe, two New Zealand sopranos.
Deborah, a Southlander, has a wide range of talents and has performed in operas, musicals, arts festivals and more. As well as traditional opera roles her repertoire also includes contemporary Maori music and classical guitar. She has performed in the UK, South Africa and China as well as New Zealand and Australia.
Mere is an actor as well as a singer. Her most famous role was as Mavis in the film ‘Once Were Warriors’ but her true passion is singing, especially in te reo Māori and because of  her experience in Māori performing arts and music she has developed a style of singing that draws on her classical training and her taha Māori.
Deborah and Mere sang separately and together with music ranging from opera classics to modern hits and including Maori waiata and Spanish folk songs.
There was indeed something for everyone.

Sunday, May 27

Pacific Voyagers at Punanga Nui market

The fleet of seven state-of-the-art voyaging vaka reached Rarotonga on Thursday (17 May – see previous video). Crewmembers spent Friday relaxing, catching up with family and friends and getting ready for a couple of days ashore, then on Friday evening the public had the chance to catch up with the sailors and listen to their stories.
The voyagers paraded through Avarua to Punanga Nui where a night market had been set up with plenty of food vendors on hand to feed the hungry hordes.
The string band from Rau Maire culture group entertained while everyone ate and then local environment groups briefly explained their activities here in the Cook Islands
Various vaka crew performed haka and talked about their experiences and the sights they’d seen that made them realise, for all its size, how fragile an environment our Pacific Ocean is.
The evening was fine which was fortunate because cold, wet, windy conditions on Saturday meant the vaka weren’t able to take wannabee sailors for short excursions into the waters around Avatiu.
The fleet departed on Tuesday morning, heading for Samoa and setting course to avoid an area of low pressure producing strong winds and heavy rain.
I hope they all managed to skirt the disturbances but here on Rarotonga we’ve had to wrap up and endure it. It’s OK for locals but unfortunate for the visitors who have been here for the past week. It’s not been much of a tropical island paradise for them.

Saturday, May 19

Pacific Voyagers arrive on Rarotonga

There was a rousing welcome on Thursday when The Cook Islands vaka Marumaru Atua led four of a fleet of seven traditional voyaging canoes into Avatiu Harbour.
Beginning in 2010 the fleet has travelled the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand, where the vaka were built, to the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Hawaii, across to the California coast of the USA, down the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica, to the Galapagos Islands, back to Tahiti and most recently making landfall in Aitutaki before coming to Rarotonga.
Aitutaki turned on the sun for the voyagers but the weather on Rarotonga was dull with occasional showers. More problematic though was the lack of wind. Three of the vaka were becalmed en route and the original hoped for time of arrival of 12 noon passed as four canoes waited on the horizon for their fleet-mates to appear. These boats are powered by the wind and sun. Each has eight solar panels that charge batteries used to power electric motors if needed for safe entry into harbours. On the high seas they rely on sails so if there’s no wind they don’t go anywhere.
The welcoming crowds drifted away until, around 5 o’clock, the word went out that the four were on the way in and then people returned in full force.
With Marumaru Atua in the lead, the vaka sailed into the harbour entrance, furled their sails and came gently to rest against the wharf to the sound of conch shell, nose flute and the cheers and applause of the spectators.
 Marumaru Atua (Cook Islands), Faafaire (Tahiti), Hine Moana (Pan Pacific) and Te Matau a Maui (Aotearoa) arrived on Thursday.
Gaualofa (Samoa), Uto Ni Yalo (Fiji) and Haunui (Pan Pacific) arrived overnight.
The guiding light of the Pacific Voyagers project is Dieter Paulmann, a German philanthropist and founder of the Okeanos Foundation for the Sea. He is a passionate environmentalist and after seeing the Cook Islands vaka Te Au O Tonga at the 2008 Festival of the Pacific Arts in American Samoa he realised that these canoes using traditional navigation techniques would be an ideal way to spread a message of sustainability and respect for the ocean; to move your paddle silently through the water.
It’s an awe-inspiring project and you can read more about it on the two websites of the Pacific Voyagers and the Okeanos Foundation.
The seven vaka are due to leave Rarotonga on Tuesday morning – weather permitting – heading for the July 2012 Pacific Arts Festival in the Solomon Islands via Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu.

Sunday, May 13

State funeral of Sir Geoffrey Henry

Sir Geoffrey Henry died at his home in Takamoa in the early hours of Wednesday morning surrounded by family and friends.
Sir Geoff’s colourful political career spanned some fifty years beginning in 1965 when he entered parliament as an MP for Aitutaki. He later moved to Rarotonga and served the Takuvaine electorate for many years until his retirement in 2006.
During that time he was twice prime minister, first for a short time in 1983 and then for ten years between 1989 and 1999.
Tributes at the funeral by prime minister Henry Puna, opposition leader Wilkie Rasmussen and master of ceremonies JJ Browne detailed Sir Geoffrey’s career and the huge impact he had on the Cook Islands and the Pacific region. On the lighter side they also recounted parties where he could enjoy playing the ukulele playing and singing.
But the tribute from his eldest son Walter was the most moving. He talked about his mum and dad, brothers and sisters, family life.
While the others spoke about the statesman and politician, Walter showed that behind the public persona Sir Geoff was a down-to-earth human being, a much loved father and husband who will be sadly missed.
Cook Islands News has full coverage of Sir Geoffrey’s life and the state funeral, with articles, odes and tributes. There is also the opportunity to add your own thoughts, tributes and condolences to Louisa Lady Henry and the family.

Sunday, May 6

Jerome Kaino and the Web Ellis Trophy on Rarotonga

The Web Ellis Cup, won by the All Blacks in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, is on a tour of the Pacific accompanied by All Black flanker Jerome Kaino. The first stop was Rarotonga.
Kaino played in all six of the All Blacks’ cup games and should be playing for the Auckland Blues right now but he has a shoulder injury. The poor old Blues are having a dreadful season and must be sorely missing Kaino but their loss (and there have been lots of them) is our gain.
This visit was organised around the FORU (Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions) annual general meeting, held in the Cook Islands for the first time. And while he was on the island, Kaino also presented the trophies at the annual sports awards.
But the main event for most of us was the parade through town and the photo opp and poster signing at the Avarua market area. There was a festive atmosphere as hundreds of people – young, old, visitors and locals - gathered, with cameras at the ready.
The event included a turou, dances by local troupe Rau Maire and hakas by youngsters from Takitumu and Rutaki primary schools. Are there any future All Blacks amongst them?
It finished with the local rugby union receiving  gear used in the rugby world cup
This video shows some of the highlights of the stopover.

Sunday, April 29

Cook Islands women cricketers zumba for funds

Here’s a video of another Zumba fundraiser, this one by the same group who washed my car a few weeks ago – the national women’s cricket team. Come to think of it, the car could do with another going over.
Back when Tattslotto first came to Rarotonga in the early 1990s its promoters claimed that because a portion of the Tatts profits went (via the government) to the Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC)  it would make fundraising by sports teams a thing of the past. Yeah, right!
Well, CISNOC is now a shambles; it’s insolvent and the executives seem to spend most of their time and money organising overseas trips for themselves and very little on the grassroots sports people here.
Even in the early days fundraising never went away but at least now there’s more to it than raffles. And you get good value for your money; plates of food and movie premieres for example as well as clean cars and zumba sessions. And let’s not forget the people who generously give their support like the Empire Cinema and the zumba instructors as well as businesses that provide spot prizes.
This fundraiser was a very enjoyable occasion. Lots of people, lots of fun. So I hope the girls made lots of money.
The 19 squad members are – Maire Kamoe (Aitutaki), Maine Puarangi Daniel (Aitutaki), Marii Kaukura (Aitutaki), Shardae Neale (Aitutaki), Tekura Kaukura (Aitutaki), Teremoana Nooroia Aue (Aitutaki), Marion Heather (Rarotonga), Teinakore Diana Tamaiva (Rarotonga), June Ura Pori Makea George (Rarotonga), Punanga Kaveao (Rarotonga), Luciana Matenga (Rarotonga), Tina Turua (Mato) (Rarotonga), Lacynthia Rani (Rarotonga), Makiroa Maire Mato (Rarotonga), Raita Moetaua (Rarotonga), Amelia Moetau (Rarotonga), Marguerite Dean (Rarotonga), Grace Ngarua (Rarotonga), Maui Teroi Keri Daniel (Rarotonga).
 It will be cut to 14 before they leave for Vanuatu and an ICC tournament that includes the host island, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Fiji.

Sunday, April 22

Drumming up interest – Te Maeva Nui’s Tangi Ka’ara competition

Tangi Kaara is one of the cultural competitions at the annual Te Maeva Nui (constitution celebrations) on Rarotonga.
Tangi means ‘make a sound’ or ‘play (an instrument)’. Ka’ara, a large log drum, is probably one of the oldest instruments in the Cook Islands.
Cook Islanders are justifiably proud of their skill and rhythms – our drumming is the best in the Pacific!
Six teams entered the 2011 contest; Puaikura, Avarua, Mitiaro, Mangaia, Aitutaki and Manihiki.
Manihiki were the defending champions and they won the contest again. In fact I think they’ve been the best for many years. But you can see (and hear) from the video the many different styles and beats that the teams produced.
This was the traditional section of the competition but there was also a creative drumbeat section in which all sorts of odd instruments were used - hollow steel pipes for chimes, garden hoses and sawn off plastic bottles to create trumpets.
DVDs of the whole 2011 Te Maeva Nui are available from the Ministry of Cultural Development. The pack of 4 DVDs includes cultural performances by teams for all four nights and also the Imene Tuki, Choir and Tangi Kaara competitions. The cost is $50.00 (+p&p).

Ministry of Cultural Development Overseas Orders
(Postage is for New Zealand –contact MOCD email: for postage to other countries)
Composers Competition               DVD + CD            $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                        4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                               4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Mire Tama                                    2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Composers Competition               DVD + CD            $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                        4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                                4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Composers Competition               DVD + CD             $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                        4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                               4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                     2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Composers Competition               DVD + CD            $40+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                       4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                               4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                     2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Composers Competition                DVD                      $25+$10pp
Dancer of the Year                         3xDVD                  $45+$20pp
Te Maeva Nui                                4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                      3xDVD                  $45+$20pp
Composers Competition               DVD                      $25+$10pp
Te Maeva Nui                               4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
Miss Tiare                                     2xDVD                  $40+$10pp
Te Maeva Nui                               4xDVD                  $50+$20pp
TMN Highlights                           CD                         $25+$5pp
Re-mastered from Videotape to DVD
A’Ti Vee (1995)                 1xDVD (3 hours)              $50+$10pp
Katikatia (1994)                 1xDVD (3 hours)              $50+$10pp