Friday, August 30, 2013

Live life and help others

Today at school we continued working with all age groups in reading and becoming fast friends with the kids. Our entire group feels very comfortable with the teachers and routine of the school. Smiles of recognition and happy hellos keep us delighted. Barb, Olivia, Alex, and Gary went to town on some errands and I went swimming at the Kii Kii pool. It’s hard to believe that soon we will be saying goodbye as Friday is our last day at school. 

This afternoon Debi and James picked us up for a fundraiser event where we all joined in a power workout led by Debi and her friends. It was very fun and energizing. Barb helped to sell coconuts to help everyone hydrate. Back home at the Kii Kii we are relaxed and contented after a busy day.

Entry submitted by: Terry

Message of the Day: “Live life and help others.”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A wonderful day at Takitumu school

We had a wonderful day at Takitumu school. We were greeted with many “hellos” and “good mornings” as we made our way off the bus. All of us spent time reading with the grades five and six while Jack spent time in his class. When we were done with the older children, we moved on to the younger classes. During lunch we had fun playing whiffle ball, frisbee, and netball as well as tag. It seems we have all gotten into a routine. I was able to read to Jack’s class as well as play a few games. A highlight of my day is putting the toothpaste on the children’s toothbrushes after lunch. After school we headed to town and much to our delight we had our favorite bus driver who has entertained us with his singing and jokes. We had an enjoyable time at Trader Jack’s while Terry had some alone time in town. In the evening we spent time at the Whale Research Center with Nan Hauser. It was a great experience. After we had a nice dinner at Boogies where we spent some more time with Nan/Debbie and one of Nan’s interns. Overall, it was a great day and I can’t believe tomorrow is Thursday and our trip is almost over!

Entry submitted by: Barbara

Message of the Day: “A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I will miss this island

After a day of rain we had a beautiful day of sunshine and 24 degrees Celsius. The children at school were glad to be able to get out on the field and play. I really enjoyed the day, especially being able to read and do math and art with eight students ages eight to eleven. I ate lunch with the five-year-olds again. They always energize me. James and Debi and grandpa showed us the many forms of coconuts from young to old. They all tasted great. I love their home! They also have the Matutu brewery in their front yard – many of my friends back home would be in heaven. 

The black pearl jeweler, Colin Rattle gave us an intro to pearls and how they are formed. 

My highlight of the day was spending time with Sahi at St. Paul’s Church from 2:30 to 4 p.m. working on her math division and reading and, of course, the great chocolate cake that mother Margret made for us! However, my legs are still sore from the Sunday hike so I was not running very fast during the frisbee sessions at school. I will miss this island. 

Entry submitted by: Gary

Message of the Day: “Joy blooms where hearts and minds are open.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Playing with puppies in Rarotonga

Today we went to the school and we had a lot of fun. All of us helped the kids to read. I helped with math and then lunch time came. We played under the school overhang because it was raining. It was fun because we played soccer. My mom and I learned a new game called foo ball. My mom read to my class.

After school we went to the animal shelter (Esther Honey). We played with the dogs and the puppies. The puppies were very small and cute. We took the big dogs on a walk on the beach. My day was very fun. My favorite was playing with the little puppies.

Entry submitted by: Jack

Message of the Day: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekend adventures

Our adventures for our weekend included taking in the sights and sounds of the saturday market for me. Gary went deep sea diving on a chartered boat and Barb, Jack, Olivia, and Alex flew over to Aitkin for the day. We all went out to dinner with James and Debi to the Edgewater Resort and were treated to the sounds of traditional drumming and dancing. On Sunday morning we began our hike across the island through the interior and up to the mountain. The highlight was getting to the top. We carefully made our way back down the way we came because it was rustic and slow going. Back for some dinner at the Vaka lounge for a great dinner. We are looking forward to getting back to school on Monday.

Entry submitted by: Terry

Message of the Day: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

Feeling welcome in the community

We had another amazing day! We went to school and had a great time with the children. After just three days, it is surprising how comfortable the children are with us and we are with them! Many of them greet us by name and remember some of the things we have taught them! We (Olivia, Barb, Terrym and Gary) spent the day helping the children with their reading. Jack and Alexandra were lucky enough to go on a field trip with the younger grades. My favorite time of the day is lunch when we get to spend time playing with the children. After school Olivia and Alexandra were invited to a friend’s house for a play date. They had a wonderful time and have been invited back. It is such a friendly warm place and the people here have made us all feel so welcome. Tonight we had a lovely evening with our group and James and Debbie. It is really nice getting to know everyone on our team as well as James and Debbie. Overall, I cannot believe it is almost Friday and that the days have passed so quickly. Thank you, Terry and Gary, for being so kind to the kids.  

Entry submitted by: Barbara

Message of the Day: “Help others to help yourself.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A day filled with lots of fun

Today was an amazing day. It was filled with lots of fun. I’ll tell you all about it. Once we got up we got dressed and went out for breakfast. It was delicious. After that we went to the school. The principal came out and told us what we were going to do. She told Jack and me to go and help in the third grade. All the kids welcomed us and we started the day with worksheets. Then I started to color and all the kids wanted pictures from me. I did a lot mostly for my friends Kimberly and Shonel and a few others. After that we had lunch. I ate with Olivia, Jack, and Terry. Then it was time to play. I gave piggy-back rides and horse rides and spun them around. That was a lot of fun. Then we went back into the classroom and I colored more. I also did a few races and Gary started us off. It was a workout, but I love to run! Then we went back and cleaned up. That was a fun day. I can’t wait to go tomorrow. 

Entry submitted by: Alexandra

Message of the Day: “Be good to the earth and it will be good to you!”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Making friends at Takitumu Elementary

Tuesday we went to Takitumu Elementary. We met the principal, Engia Pate, and then were assigned classes to help kids read. We then went to the classes and read with them.  All the students were so sweet and friendly. Then we had lunch and played soccer. I made a lot of friends, one being Jette. She even invited us over to her house. We began reading again. After that we had free time and played in the classroom and got to know each other. We then said goodbye and headed to St. Paul’s Church. We helped some kids with their homework. I helped a young boy with spelling. We left and went to a dance practice. I thought it was very interesting and fun. The music was so cool. It was a workout! We left and had dinner. Today was a great day! 

Entry submitted by: Olivia

Message of the Day: “By helping others become better we become better.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meeting our team in the Cook Islands

Wow, I can’t believe that I just landed this morning from Los Angeles. James met our group at the airport. There are five of us – Barbara and her three wonderful children - Olivia, age 12, Alexandra, age 10, and Jack, who is 7 - and me, Gary. They all live in San Diego. I live in Las Vegas. One more lady will join us tomorrow. I can’t wait to meet Terry. She is from Detroit.

We had breakfast and our first orientation of the day. We then had time to explore the island and meet some of the local people. James’ wife, Debi joined us for the second orientation. We set some personal and team goals and talked about characteristics of an effective team. I especially liked the input from Barbara’s children. They were enthusiastic and creative. We are all excited about tomorrow’s day at the elementary school.

Entry submitted by: Gary

Message of the Day: “Judge success not by the harvest that you reap, but the seeds that you sow.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Truly a sight to behold

Tomorrow is our last day at the school. We were able to work with the children for about an hour today then the K-3 watched a movie and the 4-6 planted plants and did other landscaping projects around the school. It was a truly a sight to behold - the children working so hard and one even wielding a machete. It’s great to see them take pride and have a sense of ownership about their school. We left a little early to go to a career expo at one of the high schools. It was a long walk on the back road, but the expo was interesting. Barb spoke to a nurse there who said that in 2008 the nursing program stopped, but that this year it is being restarted. Also, she said that to volunteer here as a nurse one only needs proof of current license in their home country. After our long walk, we took a taxi home. We were very grateful for that. In the evening we partook of an island progressive dinner. We were picked up by a bus and proceeded to the other hotels to get the rest of our group – twelve in all. We started out with sparkling wine and appetizers at Danny’s home. He showed us their lovely garden and told us about the fruits and vegetables growing there and about the history of the land and the family. We were entertained by him and two other musicians and two of his grandsons, one three and the other five years old. We then proceeded to our main course, which was spectacular, then to dessert – again, wonderful. All the while entertained with music and singing. It was a wonderful time and such a treat to see the homes of our hosts.

Word of the day: Soursop

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The sun returned to Rarotonga!

The sun returned to Rarotonga! Things are beginning to wind down as our last few days at Takitutumu come to an end. We are both continuing to support the children with their reading and writing skills. We were lucky enough to enjoy the children playing rippa (rugby) and took several pictures and videos. Several of the children are extremely fast runners and it was impressive to see this in action. Steph enjoyed singing with both the preschool children and grade one class today. During one of the songs the children can get up and dance which included both “jumping up and down” and a few who showed off their traditional Maori danced skills. We were lucky to be taken to see a local pearl jeweller and purchase pendants which are made with mabe pearls. Beautiful and unique. We had a yummy dinner at the Rickshaw for a Japanese-inspired meal complete with sticky toffee pudding. A late night for us – 8:37 p.m.! Party animals!

Message of the Day: “If you think you can you can, if you think you can’t you are absolutely right.”

Words of the day: Mabe and pineapple lumps = chocolate-covered pineapple

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Starting the spelling programs

It was a very rainy day today, but luckily we got rides to and from school. Steph continued to read to the children and Barb started the spelling programs on the Nessy program. Engia brought in jackfruit for us to try – sweet and delicious. The kids had fun taking pictures with Barb’s iPhone camera. Tomorrow’s sports competition have been cancelled due to the rainy weather – too bad since we were looking forward to that. Tonight was our last of Napa’s yummy catered dinners. We will really miss the passion fruit! We whiled away the rainy afternoon playing cards in Barb’s room. The forecast says one more day and the sun will return.

Message of the Day: “People may forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Another day in Rarotonga

Another rainy day in Rarotonga. Today at school we had only a half day as the teachers were meeting with the parents and reviewing the children’s portfolios. Barb was able to continue her work on the computer as the keys were returned. She also demonstrated to the children how to make origami boxes which was a huge hit. Steph assisted Engia with formatting the children’s reports and began work on a booklet to support the preschool children’s visit to Captain Tama’s. The grade 4 children also were able to take some pictures using Steph’s camera. After school we went to the printer in Avarua to print a final draft of the 50th invitation. It was wonderful having one of the employees support us with formatting – this would never happen back home. We had a delicious lunch at CafĂ© Salsa and headed back to the KiiKii. A quiet few hours before our dinner. Time is beginning to go by too quickly.

Message of the Day: “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”

Words of the day: tiare = flower  puka = book

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lagoon Day at Takitumu school

Today was lagoon day for the fifth and sixth graders at Takitumu school. We accompanied them on the bus to the market in Avarua where it was held. It was very well organized and covered all things relating to keeping the lagoon healthy - everything from proper disposal of light bulbs to worm farming to identifying fish to creating laws to protect the lagoons of the Cook Islands. It was all very informative – I know we volunteers learned a lot. All the school children of Rarotonga had created sea creatures out of rubbish and they were all on display there. It was an amazingly beautiful display. We then had a free afternoon to explore on our own as the children returned to school. We went to a local beach and spent some sun, sand, and sea time. Our evening was a trip to a restaurant in Avarua. Early to bed for our trip tomorrow to Aitutaki.

Word of the day: vegemite sandwich = knuckle sandwich

Thursday, July 18, 2013

More reading time

Today at Takitumu school things began a bit slowly. The keys to the library were misplaced so Barb was not able to continue with the computer program. This allowed more reading time with the children. Steph was able to visit with the preschool centre and was invited to attend a local ECE conference. The attendees graciously allowed her to participate and even translated the workshops for her. Dinner was at High Tide followed by a practice performance at the National Auditorium in the Manuke hostel. As always the dancing and singing was a highlight of the day. We are off to lagoon day on Friday!!

Message of the Day: To understand the culture, study the dance. To understand the dance study the people.”

Words of the day: tamariki – children

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making paper airplanes

Wednesday at Takitumu school! Steph continued reading with the children in pairs while Barb worked with them on the Nessy computer program. We are nearly ready to move on to spelling in that program. At afternoon playtime the children were very excited to be making paper airplanes and trying to fly them in the wind. Many of them landed on the roof. One can feel the excitement in the air since the school term is about to end. One of the teachers brought in cooked banana for us to try – it was very sweet. Engia baked bread so we got to try that, too. After school we walked back to the KiiKii on the back road. It was a lovely walk past many fields of mango, pawpaw, bell peppers, and other crops. It was very quiet with a beautiful backdrop of palm trees and Rarotonga’s majestic mountains! We even saw and old ceremonial airai-tonga site where the investiture of an airiki chief took place.

Words of the day: biscuit – cookie    rori - sea cucumber

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Your basket and my basket will feed the nation

A rainy day in Rarotonga! We shared our work on the 50th anniversary invitation. Engia was pleased and requested a few changes to ensure the photos included all students and teachers. Positive feedback was also received from the teachers. Steph began the day singing with the grade one class – always a highlight for her. The children are progressing well with the Nessy computer program and Barb noted even the children whose letter-sound recognition is not as strong as others’ are doing well. We managed to miss the bus once again and took the anti-clockwise bus down to the homework center. We supported two young children who are new to the center and have not spoken yet there. We were lucky to receive a ride home from Jane, who shared a bit of the history of Global Volunteers.

Message of the Day: “Your basket and my basket will feed the nation.”

Words of the day: Oroenua – horse

Monday, July 15, 2013

Today's reader, tomorrow's leader

Monday! Today Barb started working with the students on the reading and spelling computer program Nessy. It’s definitely a hit with the children! They are progressing well and will continue to work on this for the remainder of the next two weeks. Steph continued to read to the children in groups of two and read to the fourth- and fifth-grade class. We talked politics and history with the 6th grade teacher, Puti, and were given a lesson in Cook Island political structure and history. Some of the children mentioned that they saw us pedalling around the island on our green bicycles on the weekend.

Message of the Day: “Today’s reader, tomorrow’s leader.”

Friday, July 12, 2013

A spectacular school assembly

Our first week at Takitumu came to an end; the time is flying by too quickly. The school held their assembly in the morning which was a spectacular sight for us to experience. The children sang many traditional songs including our first experience with hearing the Cook Islands national anthem. Their voices and spirit were both inspiring and emotional for us to hear. We continued our reading time with the children and tried our first ice block. Barb will begin to support the children on the Nessy computer program next week and will complete the 50th anniversary invitation for the school. The day ended early as the children would be practicing sports in preparation for the end of term island competition between schools. We took advantage of our free time on the beach by the KiiKii. We enjoyed a fish dinner at a local restaurant where the local beach cat bullied his way into a few bites of fish.

Message of the Day: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

Words of the day: chip butty = French fry sandwich

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A successful day at Takitumu!

A successful day at Takitumu! We are both feeling like we are getting in the groove of the school and the children. Steph had an opportunity to observe the grade one classroom, sing songs with the children, and spend time individually with them. We continue to work with the children in pairs on their reading and to read aloud to them as a class. We joined them in their afternoon break running races across the field, frolicking to and fro in the wop wops! After school we toured the circumference of the island via the bus, pinpointing future excursion destinations. After rest time we were treated by GV to a lovely beachside dinner at a local restaurant where we were so lucky to observe a whale breaching.

Message of the Day: “Don’t judge success by the harvest that you reap but by the seeds that you sow.”

Words of the day: wop wop = boondocks  ice block = popsicle

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Helping children with their reading

Our day at Takitumu began with meeting more children and supporting them with their reading. Barb shared information with Engia about the skin condition the children are experiencing. After lunch we were able to go and read books to two different classes and will continue this over the next few weeks. We identified several children who might benefit from some additional individual reading time and we will begin this over the next few days. Steph will also be observing in one class a few children that the teacher is concerned may have some language comprehension concerns. A few of the children invited us to watch their rugby match at the end of the day and waved goodbye as we left.

Message of the Day: “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”

"Hope in the Concept of Peace" - An Interview with Cook Island Country Manager James Puati

James Puati, Country Manager
What is your perspective on the Global Volunteers organization in your community?

Global Volunteers has become an institution in our community. Over the 15 years of service, there have been in excess of 135 teams of volunteers who have assisted with the development of our nation in the areas of Education, Health, Environmental and Social services as well as in many other incidental areas as the need has arisen. It has been, and will continue to be, a sustainable program which the community can rely on.   

How do volunteers make a significant impact on community projects?

One of the main investments a country can do is in the area of education. Our program has contributed significantly to the education of young people in the Cook islands by supporting literacy development as well as other areas in education as volunteers specific skills are utilized in response to the community or schools need. When a team is coming, it becomes a catalyst for projects to carry on, start, or move in another direction. The volunteers coming and providing service somehow produces energy and renews excitement in on-going projects.

Volunteer Abby Rosenthal works with students from Takitumu School.

How is it different from other volunteering opportunities?
Global Volunteers has a history of integrity that's well-known throughout the community!

What do you like volunteers to know about your community?

The Cook Islands is a developing nation, it is not a third-world country. While progress is being made, there is still a lot of room for improvement. For instance, while Maori is the native language of the Cook Islands, English is predominantly spoken - and this creates some unique difficulties as often neither Maori or English are spoken well. Linguists will tell you that to learn a second language well you must first know speak your mother tongue fluently.

Also, our community is heavily dependent on aide from a number of countries. Tourism is the main income earner for the Cook Islands ,and students are encouraged in High School to develop entrepreneurial skills / business development opportunities for their future.

What's unique about the Cook Islands Service Program?

Providing service on a small South Pacific Island offers opportunities to really connect with local people. As the program has been operating for 15 years people know the Global Volunteers well, and often speak to you on the bus, when out for dinner, or during leisure time. Volunteers have mentioned how special they are made to feel when out in the community and being recognized and greeted by a child they have been working with and their family. This happens often in a small community of only around 9,000 people. 

Rarotonga is a very safe place, and we have had many single people feel totally comfortable while in the Cook Islands - you are part of a team, but you are able to do things on your own and feel safe about that.

Free time opportunities are abundant outside of the service program as tourism is our major industry. Some pleasures volunteers have participated in are diving, snorkeling, travelling to the outer islands on the weekend, learning traditional dance, and learning our history.   

What do volunteers most often say they learn about volunteering with local people?

Humility and gratitude for all they have in their lives are characteristic of Cook Islanders. Volunteers say they learn how to laugh and to not make life so difficult.   They admire our belief that you do not need to have a lot of money to be happy.


How does this service opportunity expand volunteers’ perspective of the world?

Gaining perspective on another way of life offers the understanding that we are more alike than different. Families all over the world want the same things for their children, sometimes we just go about things differently. Gaining an insight into the Pacific culture and how Cook Islanders value people first is perhaps a good reminder for some people and a reinforcement of those values for others.

What are your reflections on Global Volunteers’ 30th year of service?

At times Debi and I are flabbergasted at the generosity of volunteers. To comprehend that 135 teams have given of their time, energy, wisdom and finances to our wee slice of heaven is sometimes almost incomprehensible. Then to magnify that by the numbers of teams that have supported other communities in other countries almost defies imagination. Global Volunteers  offers hope in the concept of peace. It offers hope in the concept of cooperation. It offers hope in the concept of togetherness.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A warm welcome at Takitumu school

Well, today was our first day of school and, of course, we forgot our lunches with no mom to bring them! Upon arrival at Takitumu school, we were warmly greeted by Engia, the principal. Our day was spent reading with the children of the 4th and 5th grade class in groups of two. It was impressive how hard they worked at their reading and how much they supported each other’s efforts. After the school day was over we went to the homework centre at St. Paul’s to tutor after-school studies. We each worked one on one with the children on reading and math skills.

Message of the Day: “Strive not to be a success rather to be of value.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

Arriving in the Cook Islands

We were greeted at airport with beautiful flower eis. We spent the day getting oriented to the island, our project, our hotel, and each other. Barbara sorted out her communications and we did some housekeeping. We enjoyed a nice visit to the town and walked back to the hotel. Time was spent relaxing and enjoying the beach for the first time. Barb can scramble over coral rocks easily in her flip flops. No mossie bites to date (that we know of). Enjoyed our first catered dinner together and developed our Vaca goals. James is an amazing leader and a gracious host to us. We are looking forward to our first day at school.

Message of the Day: “Although the black pearl is small, it is a special gem.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Practicing patience with joy

When we signed up in for this project, I wondered if three weeks was too long. As Sylvia knows, patience is not one of my virtues and I have never tolerated boredom well. I can truthfully say, with these precious children, I have practiced patience with joy, and I have not experienced one moment of boredom. I would love to stay three more weeks and three more.

This island is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I will never forget the wondrous beauty in these innocent, smiling children. A special meaningful bonus was to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary exactly where we wanted to be.

I am not sure I have left a mark on the world, but I am sure Takitumu Primary School has left a mark on me. So here we are, five of us left, ending our tour of duty, soon to be back on the Air New Zealand flight bound for L.A. then on to Boston, then on to Morehead State and, yes, on to our little island home, perhaps to return some day. You never know!

Entry submitted by: Papa Bob

Message of the Day: “Service is the greatest gift of all.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Life moves pretty fast

I missed a couple days of school due to an awful illness. Besides all of that negativity, I am still more than glad I am here with the people I am here with. This has been an experience to say the least and I am so sad I have to leave, though in some ways I can’t wait to get home to my old Kentucky home. This trip has been full of firsts: first plane ride, first time west of Kentucky, first time on the Pacific Ocean, first time hitchhiking, first time drinking Noni jucie (I don’t recommend the taste).

I can only hope as I go into my last day at Titikaveka that I have in some way improved the life of at least one student while I’ve been here because I sure know they have improved mine!
Entry submitted by: Kendra

Message of the Day: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Friday, June 28, 2013

Until we meet again...

It is Friday, the last day of our second week and the first time we start saying goodbye. Susanne and Devin are leaving this evening and everyone is aware that we have reached the tipping point toward ending versus beginning. The day did not disappoint. It was a hot and sticky Kia Orana Day. Everyone at our school was dressed in brightly colored shirts, dresses, and skirts. Sylvia and I were presented with lovely headdresses, Papa Bob with an ei. Again the Friday morning meeting included children singing beautifully with the occasional squirms and flicks, not to mention a growl from Einga. It must be said that it was sweltering in there and I was having a hard time staying focused as much as the children. Luckily I was able to jump up and take a turn dancing with Einga to the delight of the students and the amusement of the other teachers. It wasn’t long before students were running to the computers setting up for another day of Nessy. The rest of the school day was filled with school pictures, playing games at the long break and enjoying a delicious traditional umu. I will be forever grateful to the teachers and staff at this school for welcoming us so graciously and sharing their personal stories and time with us.

After school it was on to the beach to float in the water and then a short walk. As I was waiting to cross the street, I heard someone call “Katie” and crossed to the open arms and huge smile of Clothilde. She said “I knew it was you!” I smiled all the way back to the KiiKii to change into a fancy dress for our farewell dinner and our school pictures.

The Tamarind House was beautiful. Papa Bob spotted a couple of whales in the distance, Rudy sang John Denver while strumming a ukulele, Devin saw her favorite student, and Auntie Hills was in the air. More incredible food and the sky put on a wonderful performance. It doesn’t get much better than this.

The traditional Navajo do not say goodbye to one another. They say, “Until we meet again” believing that our paths will cross again in our life’s journey. Until we meet again, Devin and Suzanne…

Entry submitted by: Katie

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Privileges along with responsibility

A week and a half into our trip, Devon and I confidently enter Class 3 at Te Uki Ou school. This is one of the few private schools on the island. The students pay approximately $40 a week to attend. The school is going through some subtle changes. Simon, the new principal from New Zealand, has just started his second week. Monday assembly has a new structure. He is giving the older students privileges such as chairs to sit on (vs. the floor) at the assembly. Though this may not seem like much, it helps enforce that the older students get privileges along with responsibility such as daily burning of the school rubbish. Simon has also started a journal in the staff break room for teachers to write suggestions and concerns. Most of the staff seems receptive to Simon, yet it appears some may resist change. I think he would be a real asset to any school.

Devon and I work in Tea’s classroom with 22 energetic six- and seven-year-olds. Most days we each lead groups of five children at varying levels of reading, writing, and “maths.” The last couple of days we have been working on transportation, which is their topic study for the month. The kids embrace this diversion from the routine. Devon’s favorite time is recess! The students love to show off their climbing skills on the monkey bars and pose for photos.

Dinner conversation tonight was especially interesting. James explained how the Cook Island land system works and the role of chiefs and the land courts. We also learned that some high school students were suspended for drinking at school and at another school others were caught smoking marijuana. Sounds just like issues we have at home. Universal norms!

My quote sums up our two Kentucky girls’ snack habits - try anything once, twice if you like it! After having an upset stomach yesterday, Hayley and Kendra again felt the need to have another wet burger from Palace Burgers. Tyreka may rear her ugly head again!

Entry submitted by: Suzanne

Message of the Day: “Inspire someone to inspire someone.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Patience is a virtue

As my time on the Cook Islands comes to an end, I have difficulty believing that two weeks have already passed. In such little time I have grown to love many children, and made lifelong friends. Each morning at 6:20, I roll out of bed, still in my sleepy slumber. Normally, I would never wake up this early, but knowing that I get to spend my day with the cutest kids on the Cook Islands, 6:20 doesn’t sound that bad. Every day when my mom and I walk in to Tieaa’s classroom, we are greeted with a warm “Auntie Suzie” and “Deban” or the occasional “Kevin.” For the past four days, my mom and I have been working on four 20-foot-long posters. Needless to say, we put a lot of work into those transport posters and when Tieaa’s idea clashed with ours, we just had to let it be, and remember that we, in fact, are guests. More often than not, I have to remind myself “Patience is a virtue.”

In the past two weeks, I learned many life lessons and came to the realization that teachers do not get the credit that they deserve, especially those who teach young children. I come home from school each day, exhausted and of course hungry. I don’t think I could ever be a teacher, but seeing those 22 cute six-year-old faces makes everything a little easier.

As I previously stated, my quote was “Patience is a virtue.” These six-year-olds know exactly how to test me and push my buttons. However, when I try to sternly talk to them, I crack. How can I possibly be mad at a little kid who only wants attention? It is easier to make the choice to be happy.

As my time at Te Uki Ou comes to a close, I am incredibly sad and don’t want to go home, but I remind myself in the good-ol’ words of Doctor Seuss, “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” I will be smiling the whole way from the Cook Islands to New Zealand, and from New Zealand back to my home, Seattle.

Entry submitted by: Devon

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Realities have far exceeded my expectations

I’m in love! In love with a wonderful group of Cook Island children who meet me every morning with bright smiles and warm “Papa Bob” greetings. They don’t know where I’m from, could care less about what I do or what I’ve done. They care because they sense I care.

A group of strangers on the same plane, not knowing it, met for the first time at 6:15 a.m. June 17th at the Rarotonga Airport. Seven different people, seven different backgrounds, seven different ages, and yes, different accents. But a team with one heart and belief, one need - a need to try to help others, especially those who can’t help themselves. Our team was met by a country manager, and we quickly discovered what a capable and caring leader he was.

When I left my little island home, I had no idea what this assignment would be like, but I must say, the realities have far exceeded my expectations. This simply couldn’t have been any better or any easier. I get up in the morning and have a wonderfully prepared breakfast with people who have become instant friends. I get on a bus and go to Takitumu Primary School, spending the day trying, in my small way, to educationally and emotionally nurture children. I get on a bus and go back to the Kii Kii motel, have dinner with the same people, which I’ve really grown to respect. How good does it get!

Entry submitted by: Papa Bob

Monday, June 24, 2013

Smiling faces

Monday at Titikaveka was filled with smiling faces and an eagerness to learn even though the environment is a little too lax to be considered school. I worked with a young girl that the principal considered “mentally retarded’ and had to remember one of my life lessons. Since I was a young child up until when my father passed away we had a handshake in which we would cross pinkies and say “patience.” Patience is something that we as educators and even as adults must possess.

Last night’s dinner of spaghetti and mystery mean sauce was a time of reflection and laughs about the day. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to share this experience with and it will be strange to be without Suzanne and Devin next week. I feel that we have become one big family with Papa Bob as head of the household. After this trip we will all go home to our lives, but wish everyone live long and prosper.
Entry submitted by: Haley

Message of the Day: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Anything but routine on Food Day

Conventional wisdom would suggest that daily activities that remain relatively the same would become routine. Not so. Friday at Takitumu school was anything but routine. We said goodbye to our fellow Global Volunteers and started across the game field to the sound of rhythmic drums and groups of children marching in step time. Then came the big smiles and familiar greetings, “Hello Kay-tee” and “Papa Bob!” Today is “Food Day” and mothers and neighborhood women are already delivering baked goodies, fragrant meats and stews, fruits, and vegetables. No need for the usual peanut butter and jam today.

The assembly was not only informative, but also quite moving. Voices young and old echoed from the classroom with smiles and movement to endorse. As I usually note the unusual or different, it was the “little ones” that were such a joy as they attempted to join in. One pre-k cutie got up and danced, swaying to her own rhythm, in her unique style. There was nothing but pure joy in her face and she certainly made me smile. The day progressed and I was totally amazed at the sixth grade girls and their participation in food preparation. Not many adults would do a better job of deep-frying chips or skillet frying hotdogs. They did this job as if they had done so numerous times. No hovering adults about.

The boys played a hotly contested game of soccer during the afternoon break, and ended the day red-faced, sweaty, and all smiles. What a wonderful day! Happy, confident, independent - these are a few of the words to describe these children. How did they get to this point? I may be wrong, but I think with families and neighbors who love and care for them in the Mari tradition. I think their community and certainly this amazing school contribute to their development, and I would like to think that this Global Volunteer team made a small difference. Are we leaving our mark on Rarotonga? Yes, a resounding yes! Could there be a more perfect ending to our first week? I am not sure this is what I expected, but I do know I am filled to the brim with grateful appreciation for these people, this place, and this experience.

Entry submitted by: Sylvia

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Children alive with spirit and possibility

We seem to have fallen into the rhythm of our time here. The days begin with the sounds of the ocean, the crowing of roosters, breakfast chatter, morning meeting, and then we are off on the local bus. First Bob, Sylvia, and I exit, then Suzanne and Devon, and finally Kendra and Haley. There is always that moment of, “Did you tell the bus driver?” “How do you pronounce the name of our school again?” The bus driver listens patiently and nods knowing full well what is happening. Bob, Sylvia, and I exit the bus and enter the school field. It is not long before we are greeted with smiles, fist bumps, and cries of “Papa Bob!”, “Mama Sylvia!”, and “Katie!” How can you not appreciate a day that begins with the smiles and enthusiasm of these children, to pick up your head as we continue walking to the building and see the colors of the mountain side, the bright blue sky and clouds that come and go.

I am reminded of working with the Navajo communities on the reservation. Dedicated teachers and principals with minimal resources determined to keep going and do the best they can with that they have, children who are alive with spirit and possibility, and families doing what they have to do to make better lives for themselves. The sounds, smells and smiles also remind me of how privileged I feel to be here and to be welcomed into this community.
Entry submitted by: Katie

Message of the Day: “You climb to the top of the mountain not to be seen but to see.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An interesting bunch of people

Personally, I am very shy when I first meet new people. Just like my last Global Volunteer trip to Peru, I was presented with the daunting task of acquainting myself with my fellow volunteers and forming new friendships. I had to leave my reserved facade on the airplane as I exited. Although we are from differing backgrounds - students, mothers, and educators - we all embarked on this journey for the same reason: to leave our mark on the world. In these first three days, I have been blessed to meet five incredibly unique individuals (not including my mom, though she is rather “unique”), with many unusual life stories. First, we have Kendra from Kentucky. At our morning meeting and breakfast, she told me that she had indeed tried peanut butter and bologna sandwich. This made me cringe, but she insisted that it was actually good... who knew? Next was Haley, another Kentuckian and Moorehead State senior. Her Walmart stories are hilarious, maybe it was the way she articulated them; she had our whole table cracking up. She also told us of her buffalo tipping days and that we should never try it because “they are fast and scary.” Next we have Sylvia. Don’t let the skull pattern phone case confuse you - she is one of the sweetest people you will meet. Over dinner she told us that on her many travels around the world where she ate ants, worms, and rattlesnakes. You could say we were all surprised when we heard that the lady who eats all these “creatures” is terrified of her grandson’s caged geckos. Our fourth member is Katie. While having a snack at a local bakery and cafe, she showed me pictures from her recent visit to Italy. Her first photo was Cinque Terra. At that moment my jaw dropped, and my traveler’s envy kicked in. Visiting Cinque Terra is in the top ten of my bucket list which consists of over 250 items. Hopefully one day my travels will bring me there! Finally, we have Papa Bob. A common name, but a very uncommon man. His life is resembles a book. Each chapter takes you to a different part of the world. This chapter takes place in Texas. Over our dinner of mashed potatoes, beef of sorts and salad, Papa Bob told us of how his son saved the life of a child. The admiration in Papa Bob’s voice was amazing as he told us of how his son, with the help of a teacher saved the life of a little girl who was stabbed in the heart with a pencil. Consequently, Bob and Sylvia’s son made an appearance on Oprah, one of my idols. Our final team member is my mom. The students at school refer to her as Auntie Suzie. There is a lot to say about her, but this week I learned that she has mastered simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication. She exemplifies the motto that hard work pays off, noted in her elementary math skills. This is interesting bunch to say the least, and I can’t wait to see where the next two weeks takes us.

Entry submitted by: Devon

Message of the Day: “Living begins outside your comfort zone.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Impressed by dance practice

Six in the morning is generally a time I greet with the same amount of enthusiasm that I would sleeping on a bed of nails or bathing in a vat of lava, but when presented with a delicious breakfast of French toast and wonderful company a mere 50 minutes later, all that disdain vanishes. Everyone had a bright smile this morning, and seemed excited and ready to get started with what we all came here to do; make a positive impact on others.  After my day at the Titikaveka College, and after hearing the other team members recap their days, it is safe to say we are all off to a good start. Haley and I were met with warm smiles and very friendly staff and students at our school, and we got a chance to work with some very sweet kids and young adults who were very open to help and seemed to really want to learn and improve themselves, which was nice.  We were fed a delicious and unexpected meal of potato salad and chicken before we left for the day.

After the rest of our group members returned from their schools, we headed to the library and museum. The local artwork and history that was documented in the plastic cases of the museum was so interesting and I feel like I learned a lot just in the few minutes we were there. I noticed everyone else was as intrigued as I, so I’m sure the experience was a unanimously positive one. 

After the brief visit to the museum, we got to sit in on dance practice. I was so very impressed by the calf muscles on all the dancers, as well as their groovy moves. To say I was in awe would be an understatement. I think we all really enjoyed watching the children dance. I would recommend sitting in on dance practice to anyone, but particularly to anyone who needed their day brightened, because it was possibly one of the cutest things I could ever imagine.

After dance practice, we had the most delicious meal of curry, rice, various fruits, chocolate mousse, salad, and coleslaw. Post-meal conversation was full of laughter, and one of my favorite parts of the day. Getting to hear stories from “Papa Bob” and the other team members was completely awesome. Overall, I’d say our first day was a success and a wonderful start to a great adventure!
Entry submitted by: Kendra

Message of the Day: “Patience is a virtue.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Arriving in the Cook Islands! Kia Orana!

Kia Orana!

Our team arrived on the same flight from Los Angeles, but originated from Seattle, Boston, and Kentucky. Our team brings a variety of skills and experiences as it includes students, professors, educators, and me, the stay-at-home mom. The Kiikii Motel with its beautiful sunrises is “functional” with spacious rooms, helpful staff, and a great central meeting area. Today we discussed our goals as individuals for our time spent on Rarotonga. As a group, we concluded that our goals were:
1. to learn
2. to make global friends
3. to use our skills and experiences to leave our mark on the local community.

Then, we defined the characteristics of an effective team as the basis for our team contract. James, our team leader, helped us understand the mechanics of the native language, Maori, even though it only has thirteen letters, the different sounds will require some practice. Mid-day we went out on our own to explore the area. At dinner, we discussed our local encounters and adventures on the bus. All went well and team members found locals personable and helpful. We finished our night off with an excellent dinner. The marinated swordfish is a definite must.

Entry submitted by: Suzanne

Message of the Day: “Your basket and my basket will feed the nation.”