Friday, May 24, 2013

Headed to Jail

By now it's abundantly clear that we don't lead the most conventional lives. Visiting schools while on vacation? (Why not; it found us a great burger joint and will mean even more in the next few posts.) We spent our first afternoon at the police station (where else do you get a drivers license?).

And now we are headed to the Rarotonga Prison.

(Insert screeching tire sound here)

When we travel, we don't just come home with t-shirts. We look for whatever is authentic to the area. In this case it is ukuleles. But we didn't want the cookie-cutter-made-in-Bali ones. We wanted something authentic. Hence, our drive up a scary road with barbed wire fencing.

Perfectly normal.

We got out of the car and headed into the only building that looked like a building, our wedon'tknowwhatthehellwe'redoing faces on (it was a stretch to find those faces). Men of all ages quietly watched us mosey up to the front door where we inquired about purchasing a ukulele. We were told that they would open again in the morning (it was about 5 pm at this time) and someone could help us then. We did see some ukuleles and they were beautiful. Yes, expensive, but imagine telling all your relatives you went to prison and bought it. And they were custom. We vowed to come back at a later date.

Then we bolted, laughing the entire way down the driveway and out the road. The only thing on my mind (except for the realization that the men who were sitting around the building were probably the inmates) was that I couldn't wait to tell my mom I'd been to prison! On my second day out of the country!

While these aren't photos of the actual ukuleles (are you kidding me, whipping out a camera in PRISON?) it is an idea of what they looked like.

Food on the Islands

I'm not a "foodie". I don't take pictures of food so don't expect to see that, but the food situation in the Cook Islands is interesting to stay the least.

First off, food is VERY expensive. I had read that in blogs and travel sites, but they weren't kidding. $25 for 2 kg of frozen "nibbles" (little chicken parts with bones), $6.90 for frozen corn/peas, $25.90 for a kg of yellow bell pepper, $8.30 for a container of juice and $9.50 for a kg of tomatoes! We had to get really creative with our food consumption.

(But not this creative -eww)

We took full advantage of the breakfast from Palm Grove and ate well! Love the FRUIT!

Not this stuff so much, though. Eww. I couldn't understand how New Zealanders would spread it on their bread.

From there we would usually manage to eat an early dinner and skip lunch. On our excursion after Avarua Primary, we were wandering through town when some of the students saw us and came over to chat (imagine, paparazzi for US!). We asked them where we should eat and they both pointed to "Boogies". With a name like that, how can you go wrong. We thanked them and headed over to this tiny shack off the main drag across from a very expensive Trader Jack's (which was a fine establishment; we were just too cheap!).

Holy Moses, that was a fantastic burger! Kira and I had chicken, Jeff had a fish burger. When we told the lady working the counter that some Avarua students send us there, she gave us some free "chips" (or "fries" in the United States). The burgers had shredded carrots and beet in them (which was a little alarming when it dripped onto your white plate).

From Boogies, we got ice cream ("Tip Tops") which were $2.00 for a scoop! Talk about a bargain! Since it was so hot, we opted for the single as the double would melt in a heartbeat. Right choice - even then single was a mess.

Which leads us to the bathroom (great segway, eh?). My hands were an ice-cream-sticky-mess so I headed into the public bathroom in the park. I washed my hands and went to find a paper towel. Nothing. Nowhere. No blow dryer either. Imagine.

Come to find out, I would not see a paper towel until I returned to Los Angeles. Garbage has to go somewhere and on an island the size of a small US city, there was nowhere for it to go! We even saw plastic cups being rewashed for reuse. It was amazing how often I reached for something disposable only to find it not there. Toilet paper existed, but it was dang expensive. In other hotels in the US, you would find three backup rolls in your room. Not in Cooks. When it got to 1/4 inch of a roll, then they would bring in an extra.

From the washup station, we went to jail, but I'll save that for another post :)

To read back posts click here:

Going To School While On Vacation

Kayaking the Pacific Ocean

Roundabouts, Rental Cars and the Police Station

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Going To School While on Vacation

Prior to leaving the United States, I sent emails regarding our visit to Cook Islands and our interest in visiting schools (at one point I looked into a teaching position which was one of the reasons we were in Cook Islands to begin with). Mona from Avarua Primary was one of the first to contact us. We arrived at the school at 11:00 am just in time for the lunch break. The school is the largest primary school on the island with between 400-500 students, preschool to year 6 so the entire population was on the playground. We learned that an “ice block” was a popsicle and, because it was hot, they were distributed throughout the population.



Just cute!

Soon a gentleman was banging on a large drum. All the children scrambled at the sound of the drum. One of the students told us that recess was over and they were headed back to their classrooms.

When they came back out, students were lining up with, of all things, toothbrushes in their hands. It was teeth brushing time! When they were finished, they went back to their classrooms.

Shortly after students went to their classroom, they started emerging from doorways with chairs in their hands. In an orderly fashion, they set them down under a large tree. From there, the entire school population appeared and Easter Service rehearsal had begun.

I can’t tell you what a joy it was to hear songs about God being sung in school. In the United States any talk of God is prohibited in public school. Here in the Cook Islands, God is King and they revel in the fact. Easter is not just Sunday; it is Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, making it a four day holiday.

After rehearsal, we went into a year six classroom and did a question and answer session.

They were fascinated by the blonde hair/blue eyed teenager

It was a fantastic experience; one we would repeat three times in our short stay.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Kayaking the Pacific Ocean

Most accommodations offer the free use of kayaks – or canoes – or vakas. Kira, being a master of these vessels with oars (I’m more of a motor girl) convinced me it was a good idea to go out after dinner at the Yellow Hibiscus (the chicken fettuccini was AWESOME!). We took (snuck-if you're taking them when no one is there to tell you it's okay to take them) the oars from the back of the lobby building and went to the beach where we’d seen the kayaks. We each drug a single out into the ocean.

To build a little background here, Rarotonga is an island (duhr) made from a volcano (double-duhr). The reef area goes out several hundred yards before the waves even start crashing. You can pretty much walk shoulder-deep out to the edge of the reef. In other words, the waves aren’t crashing at the beach shore, they are crashing way out yonder. Getting the kayaks into the water was relatively painless.

Getting in them was a little hairy and uncoordinated, but there’s no audience at the beach. Did I mention that? The most people we EVER saw on our beach (I’m already taking custody) was a family group of ten, a group of four women and another couple.

Oh, and five dogs – more on that later – I’m on a roll here with the kayaking.

Prior to our trip, I did make it to the YMCA a few times and worked some weight machines so I wasn’t completely out of shape. However I’m with a fourteen year old teenager who had just finished up a basketball season and was in a wee-bit better shape than I was.

Regardless, I found kayaking in the calm lagoon a piece of cake. I wasn’t so good at aiming the thing in the direction I thought it should go, but, really, I was on vacation and there was nowhere to “go”. I found Kira could go ahead of me fairly far, then she would come back, check on me and go off on her own. At one point it began to rain, but we were both laughing so hard that we were in a rain squall in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that we didn’t care. We watched the sun set, tried to get a decent picture (which ended up being a frightening flare in the screen that it wasn’t usable), and wandered absolutely aimlessly.

We were on vacation.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Roundabouts, Rental Cars and the Police Station

After a nap (or two) and a short excursion around the property, we started looking at our mostly-empty calendar. Because we had an appointment the next morning at an elementary school half-way across the island (which meant 25 minutes away), we knew we had to get a rental car. The Palm Grove made a phone call and we had a ride to the rental agency.

Now there’s not a lot of traffic in Rarotonga. It’s mostly scooters and a few teeny-tiny cars. The biggest vehicle I saw (besides the bus) was a short bed Ford 150. So when the agency showed us a Toyota Corolla, we seemed fine with that. It was the budget car so the day rate was as cheap as it was going to get.

The fact that didn’t have air conditioning would play an integral role later on in the week – like 24 hours later.

The fact that the shocks were shot, the tires were bald, the windshield wipers were concrete-hard and the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car would lead into that integral role later on also.

We laughed at our adventure all the way to the police station.

Yup, the police station, where Jeff got his Cook Island drivers license. Twenty New Zealand dollars, proof of a license from your country of origin, a smile for the camera and you get yourself a year of legal driving on any of the 15 Cook Islands.

This rig didn't move the whole time we were on Rarotonga Island!

In a car that drives on the wrong side of the road. In a town with two one way roads. And a roundabout at one end of said road. With the inside lane taking you back down the other side of the road from where you just came from. Which would keep happening unless you got in the OTHER lane to take you out of town. Not that it happened to us five or six time – which it did; I was being sarcastic.

Rush Hour!

We had a few more errands to run so the adventure wasn't over yet.