On my way over to the Cook Islands I tried to remember songs from ‘South Pacific’. No idea why. Westeners in general makes generalisations about other cultures which often fall in the category of ‘idyllic’ or ‘hell’.
Rarotonga, the biggest island in the Cook Islands is definitely the picture postcard image of what I imaged a South Pacific island would be. It took me more than 40 year of living in Australia to get somewhere in the ‘Pacific’ a region close to us and linked in many ways but somewhat forgotten in our desire to look to Asia. I am certainly guilty of that when I think of how much better football in Australia is placed in Asia, rather than in Oceania.
Perhaps the Pacific doesn’t resonate as much as cities more in the eastern seaboard like Sydney, Brisbane and certainly in North Queensland which actually face the southern Pacific, unlike the cold and broody Southern Ocean. I had a glimpse of it though. At Preston market there used to be a stall selling ‘South Pacific stuff’ such as corned beef which was a staple in this region not having the opportunity to have fresh meat very often.
My first impression of Rarotongan life is that those railing against the ‘nanny state’ would love it here. There is only one real road in Rarotonga that circumnavigate the island hugging the coast, as few metres inland you encounter steep hills that are inaccessible. The main mode of transport is the ubiquitous scooter which is ridden in singlet, shorts, thongs and definetely no helmet. I guess with one road, going around an island with a speed limit of 50 kph chances of major accidents are reduced.
But I think that the overall attitude also helps. I have seen no aggression on the road. If someones stops, or reverses into something people just wait. No signs of nervousness or trying to get around etc. the road will get clear again. It could be also the unconscious religiosity of the islanders. In Australia Christians may, in certain situations be unconfortable in declaring their faith in a very secular society. Here is just part of the culture. We went to a Christmas market which had a show for the kids and dancing. Totally secular as it would be in Australia. So much so that the Filipino community dancers had a disco version of a religious carol which they danced in a suggestive manner. But at the end the MC after doing jokes all night went serious and thanked Jesus Christ.
The other religion is rugby league. Not much round ball football here. Blokes often wear NRL shirts of different teams. I did see this ad on the shops though.
And I also saw the headquarters of the Cook Islands Football Association as I was travelling one of the two buses around the island (one goes clockwise, and the other anti-clockwise and even if there are bus stops can be flagged anywhere). Not sure when they play games. Something to check out next time.
Another thing is chickens. There are chooks and roosters roaming freely around the island, an advantage of a fox free island. Also no snakes and no (according to the locals) poisonous spiders. But there are other hazards. These signs are posted regulalry throughout the island.
The Raratongans are relatively lucky that few metres inland they have steep hills to go to. I wonder what those living in much more low lying islands would do.
We are in the wetter season, so rain it expected, but we were lucky to get a couple of sunny days so far and maybe according to the local weather report we may get some more.