I have so many more stories to post, but those will have to wait because I want to make the most of my last 32 hours in Raro! I did, however, just have my final meeting with my bosses, Sonny and Pehau, to go over my technology plan. So now I am officially done! I definitely had the best job ever and worked with the most amazing people, and I will miss it and them so much! What an incredible experience. Best summer for sure!
Work as an usher has been really great. The first two nights I had a couple of problems with people sitting in seats that they didn’t have tickets for, but the last two nights have been great. I’m really getting the hang of it. Not too difficult a job, and you get to interact with the people and watch the shows! Love it. I have had a bunch of people come back from night to night, so they always say “See you tomorrow!” when they leave. It’s fun to have made connections with people. The performances have been fantastic to watch. I’m really enjoying my job. It is tiring, though, so I’m glad tonight is the last night! Can’t wait to see the awards ceremonies to see who wins! :)
Friday island trade day! The last day of the island trade days at my ministry. There was a basket weaving competition. And today is all about the health value of the coconut, so there were lots of coconuts and coconut products and things! :)
Today’s island trade day is Manahiki and Rakahanga, which meant that I got my favorite new island food – uto pancakes! Each day some of the islands sell their food and crafts outside of my office right in front of the national auditorium. Some islands also perform dances for the public to enjoy. These are called the island trade days. Te Maeva Nui is a fantastic time to be here because you get to experience not only the best dancing from all the islands, but also their food and crafts! I was told the other day that the pancakes that I loved at the VIP luncheon were from Manahiki, but today Rakahanga was selling them. Maybe they all make them! These pancakes are incredibly popular, so my coworkers told me to go down at 10am to get in line otherwise I wouldn’t get anything. I went down then, and I still stood in the queue for an hour!! It was ridiculous! But while waiting in line, some girls came over and asked a few of us to be in their video. I’m not sure what it was for, but they asked us to shout “Go Local!!” into the camera. There are really big go local and eliminate waste and other environmentally conscious movements going on down here. Since they have such beautiful land and water, they are really aware of doing everything they can to keep it that way. It’s really refreshing to see. Anyway, I stood in the queue forever but was finally rewarded with fantastic-smelling and delicious-tasting pancakes!! The photos are of either Aitutaki or Pukapuka (I can’t remember which because they both performed yesterday) performing a dance yesterday (they’re laughing because the guys jokingly danced the girl part and shook their hips for part of it) and of an uto pancake.
My first night as an usher was really fun. Here’s a picture of me in my official staff uniform before the doors opened. I quite enjoyed getting to watch the shows, even though I was pretty busy most of the night. We all arrived around 5pm to have a meeting and get our block assignments. I was on block F, which is the section just to the right as you walk into the auditorium. My section had seats reserved for the radio stations to broadcast live. We waited at the auditorium with our piece of paper detailing our block (which seats are where and who has purchased those tickets), our pen to mark down ticketed seats, and our flashlights (or torches as they call them here) for when the lights went down and we had to assist people to their seats. We had a chance to familiarize ourselves with our blocks before the crowds started pouring in. The woman working in the block next to me has been an usher for these events for 7 years now, so she was really nice and said she would help me out as I learned the process. The doors opened at 6pm, and people promptly started coming in to find their seats. The front three and a half rows of my block were booked by a school from New Zealand. They came in with their trip leader, and she assigned them all seats and made them sit down and be quiet right away. That certainly made my job easy! People continued to show up through the start of the show, and I had to escort a bunch of people to their seats in the dark. I felt very official. My section was pretty great altogether. We only had one problem with a group that bought tickets late and was thus seated in different areas. They complained that they wanted to sit together, so they caused some trouble, but apparently they are known to be stubborn, and there are often issues with them. The rest of my section was great, though, and when they left, a bunch of them thanked me and said “See you tomorrow night!” Being an usher was a great job for me because I was able to see the shows while I was working. Manahiki’s ura pau (drum dance) and Tongareva’s ura pau were probably my favorite dances of the night, but everyone was quite good in my opinion. I was exhausted by the time I got home from being on my feet all night, but I’m excited to do it again tonight!
The other afternoon Haya and I were bored sitting around the house (as usual), so we decided to go watch the sunset on the beach. We missed the majority of it because when the sun sets here, it goes down really fast, but we caught the tail end. The shades of pink and orange in the sky over the turquoise water were just incredible. It doesn’t matter how many sunsets I watch here – one is still just as beautiful as the last! I don’t think that’s something you can possibly get sick of. We basically just played around taking pictures and walking in the water as deep as we could without getting our clothes soaked. The more I’m here and the closer it gets to the end of our time here, the more I want to spend every minute enjoying the experience of living in paradise for the summer. I figure I can sleep and be lazy when I get home, but when else am I going to be able to take a spur of the moment 2 minute drive to watch the sunset on a gorgeous beach?! Never. Especially not back at school in Pittsburgh! Haha. So with T minus 11 days to go, I’m all about making the most of it! I will certainly miss the gorgeous views and the relaxing atmosphere, but something tells me the memories of this trip will be with me forever!
Tonight will be my first time working as an usher. I will be helping people locate their seats for Te Maeva Nui Monday through Friday nights this week. This means that I get to watch all the performances as well! And I’ll be wearing my official island dress staff uniform! :)
Saturday night. International Night. We went to the sunset market and then watched the international night performances. There were performers from New Zealand, Rarotonga, Tonga, Fiji, America, The Philippines, and Tahiti. It was really interesting to watch the performances from all of these places. They didn’t limit how many dances each place could do, so some things dragged out a bit, but overall it was an interesting show to watch. It was really funny to watch the “traditional American dances” - the line dance and a dance from the musical, Chicago. Quite the portrayal of America!! ;)
Friday night we attended the Chinese acrobatic & kung fu show. The kung fu was alright, but the acrobats were phenomenal! They were 10-14 year old girls, and they were absolutely amazing to watch! I have no clue how their bodies can bend like that!
I helped set up the VIP luncheon after the float parade and was invited to take part in it. Lucky me! There was an incredible spread of delicious food. I would have to say that the Manahikian pancakes were my favorite. They are kind of like potato pancakes but are apparently made from coconuts. Not sure how that works, but ok! I was able to meet the Acting Prime Minister, a family from Valencia (the woman only spoke Spanish, so she was thrilled to be able to converse with me and Anlan!), and the Chief Justice. I chatted with my boss, Sonny, and his wife and daughter for a bit as well. It’s amazing how friendly the people of Rarotonga are! It’s so easy to just have a conversation about your work in the Cook Islands with the Acting Prime Minister! Amazing.