Before you go on reading this, just stop for a second and think with me about this: what does family mean to you? What does it truly represent and how does it impact and influence your life?
During the first week of our semester break here in New Zealand, IES Auckland took us on an adventure in Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands.
Rarotonga is this small island in the Pacific Ocean with about 10,000 people. The island is beyond paradise – clear sky seawaters, white sands, delicious coconut trees everywhere, and music, smiles and friendly people wherever you go.
I remember when we first landed in Rarotonga we were greeted by a Cook Islander playing his guitar at the airport’s luggage pick up area. How often have you been welcomed in a new country with friendly music and so much positive energy? I was happy, excited, and so glad to be… at an airport?! Well, that was the first sign for me that Coo Islanders don’t care about the color of your skin, or the language you speak – you are always welcome in their little paradise!
The week went by fast, and I actually can’t believe I am even writing this post. It was a full adventure:
- Snorkeling with the most unusual (and most beautiful) sea animals I have ever seen
- Bike tour up and down the hills, beaches and other awesome landscapes that have so much history about the Cook Islands and New Zealand
- First time trying Polynesian Paddling
- Food… Food… AWESOME FOOD!
From all the stories I heard, all the things I learned, and everything I saw in Rarotonga, nothing impressed me more about the Cook Islands than the sense of family present in this place. In the beginning of this post I asked you your own meaning of family… Now I challenge you to think that: what if family is everyone around you, present everywhere you go, from the supermarket on the end of the street to the Chinese restaurant on the other side of the city? That’s how it works in the Cook Islands. If you walk with a local around the city, you will see them greeting everyone around - not just a simple “hey”, but by calling their name and maybe even asking something about their life, just because they know it and are an essential part of it.
The culture and the people in Rarotonga taught me that family, above all, is what makes you, you. And that’s something I shall never forget!
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<p>Kia Ora! My name is Renato Dornelas, and I am an international student from Brazil at Skidmore College, studying abroad at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand. At Skidmore I am an International Affairs major and a Media & Film minor. Some of my interests and passions are cinema and hollywood, social media, photography and Thai food. Follow my blog if you like adventures, exciting videos, and first-hand information from a unique study abroad program!</p>