Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reflections from a Cook Islands Volunteer

"I find myself thinking of how we will look back on our time on Rarotonga. The warmth of the people and the climate, and the beauty of the island are unforgettable. Our work with the various community partners, James and Debi, our teammates of Vaka 117 and some of our shared activities will probably also stick with us.

And how could we forget the mores of the Cook Islanders? But will we remember the things that made the fabric of our day-to-day lives? Like the deceptively simple-sounding bus system with its hourly clockwise and anti-clockwise schedule that many of us university-graduates are still struggling to grasp… or the regular visits to the Telecom office to maintain at least minimal contact with our lives at home… The endless variety of deep-fried items available with shakes (thickness optional) at take-aways… Beachcombing and snorkeling in deliciously-warm water... The tattoo on a hollow-log drum that signals the start and finish of school day activities, and hundreds of kids’ bare feet… Kia Oranas and Meitakis… Helmetless people riding scooters, accompanied by their untethered kids, pets, friends and/or groceries...

Saturday morning market visits where we strolled, surrounded by a riot of colorful sarongs, jewelry, and tropical fruits and vegetables; sounds of Maori and English talk and music; and the scents of foods, flowers, and perfumes extracted from island flora. We developed new ways of relating to fruit as we picked bananas off of our own giant bunch, and learned to eat oranges island-style from the inside out.

These represent some of the strands of my memories. I know we’ve each had our own unique experiences to remember, so whatever yours may be, I hope they weave a fabric that recalls an enjoyable and meaningful time in your life."

Rachael Bertone, 2010 Cook Islands Volunteer