Early Saturday morning, April 17, we boarded our special Time Machine Craft named Air New Zealand and landed in Rarotonga (the Cook Islands) on Friday evening of April 16 (okay maybe all we did was cross the International Dateline but it’s a lot more fun to tell people you traveled back in time).
Despite the fact all we did was cross the International Dateline, I still associate our time in Rarotonga with traveling back in time. The week we spent on this remote, nostalgic island made me feel like I was living a bit in the past (and this isn’t just because the dance club failed to have any Beyonce songs released after the year 2010).
If I could describe Rarotonga using four things, I’d probably use:
- A broken clock
Family may be the single most important aspect to the Maori Island life. Their communities are comprised entirely of their families, and the Islanders refer to even strangers as “Auntie”, “Uncle”, etc., and recognize them as family. And what brings family together? Food. Lots of it.
By the end of the last night, I was “fooded” out. Each dinner graciously provided to us by the Maori was a literal feast, and was comprised almost entirely out of the natural ingredients harvested on the Island or within the generous ocean surrounding it. One of the nights we did a “Progressive Dinner”, where our group of voracious 30 college students we were taken into the homes of a Maori family, and fed buckets and buckets of food. If that doesn’t say genuine hospitality I’m not sure what does. And upon asking one of the Maori men hosting us how often the family gets together and enjoys these feasts themselves, he replied “All the time.” My biggest regret was not asking the family to adopt me right then and there.
Dogs…. Were everywhere. Some were “community dogs”, some were actually owned by families, and all were ridiculously adorable and loveable.
A broken clock… ever see that painting by Salvador Dali with the melting clock? Well, here's part of it...
I think it could almost perfectly depict the culture clock of the Cook Islands. Island time is unlike normal people time in that its daytime when the sun is out and that its nighttime when the sun goes down. Time is of little to no concern.
Also fun fact: business hours are from 9am-3pm.
Ironically, we experienced little of Island time as our program planned an abundance of activities for us. I was more or less a “distant admirer” of Island time. The laidback pace and demeanor of the culture distanced me from a world I find utterly fast-paced, constantly moving down a road to future ambitions. The nostalgic aura I grasped from the Cook Islands was a feeling I couldn’t put a price tag on; one that was comforting to be wrapped in.
Some other observations I came across…
- Island life is harder than it looks.
Husking coconuts sort of
Helping plant taro root sort of
- There’s a way to overcome being uncomfortably full by eating more.
- But there is no way to overcome being overtired until after you’ve slept for 48 straight hours upon arriving back in Chch.
- A visit to the local elementary school confirmed kids don’t like me. (But they liked everyone else I promise)
4. Swimming in waterfalls is better than swimming in most things.
5. Not having Internet for a week was more enjoyable than having Internet.
6. Arts and Crafts are still fun.
7. Snorkeling is highly underrated for its awesomeness.
8. Christchurch undoubtedly has the best program director (Eunice) in all of IES.
Raro was actually a trip up in the air for me. And I know now just how much I’d have regretted it if I didn’t go.
Experiencing this incredible island, its culture, and growing to know my program is unquestionably the best way I could have spent April Break in New Zealand. And knowing I still have two months left to discover the islands of New Zealand and spend time with such exceptional people is a gratifying feeling.
Overall, an amazing time with amazing people.
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<p>A native of Syracuse, NY, (US) Emily is currently pursuing her B.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications with Minors in Art and Honors. A curious explorer and outdoors lover, Emily's spontaneity and passions will one day lead her to all ends of the Earth. Witty author, candid photo snapper, and avid dreamer, Emily plans to pursue a career in the fields of advertising and/or design. </p>