Aitutaki is just another beautiful place with a hilly green island and a turquoise lagoon around it. The difference to the islands in french polynesia is, that there are some restaurants and bars (about 7 ;-) to go and have a drink and food. So I had a little holiday from from all the cooking ;-)

The internet is too slow for uploading pictures unfortunately, but you have all already seen these beautiful waters in Polynesia. So there is nothing new to show. But, here is a friend who wanted to say "hi"

                                           This guy is cleaning his eye....

Shells found in Maupihaa


Au revoir France, hello New Zealand but still: Iaorana and Maruru

What am I talking about? Well, we left French Polynesia after a wonderful 3.5 months there on August 16 and arrived here at Aitutaki, part of the Cook Islands, which belong to New Zealand, today early in the afternoon. What is common to the islands? The original inhabitants are still Polynesian, so I expect them to still say "Iaorana" for hello and "Maruru" for thank you. So the official language they are forced to speak changes and the imposed culture, but not the original language and original culture- although I have to say, that every island has their own accent in the polynesian language and they do not understand each other 100%. Here close to our anchorage there is a huge white church, almost bigger than all the houses I have seen from the anchorage so far taken together. There was an evening service today and I could hear the singing all the way to the boat, it sounded just like in the places we just came from.

I knew nothing about Polynesia (except for a little bit you see in Hawaii), I have learned a lot on this trip and I have learned to love this place. On the one hand of course we love it for its beauty of a million shades of blue and the little white islands (motus) in the middle of nowhere. But mostly I love it for its lovely people and old culture. Polynesia is a place where people smile, are open hearted, always wanting to help and give and who take an immense pride in keeping their grounds clean - independent of the size of their piece of lot, which very often is immense. I think they don't kill themselves with stress working, but they do work - mostly physically demanding work either in the water (pearl farms) or on land making Coprah from coconuts of their coconut palm tree farms. But the western culture has not completely missed out on the islands. The people LOVE cars, so even for a small island, which is 10 miles once around, people have huge 4wd Ford pick-up trucks etc. The value of the cars they have is mostly at least double the value of their house. Of course most of them have TV, mobile phones, baguette, pizza/pasta and WIFI internet is available in many places against payment (mostly only at the local post office, in more touristy places also different providers) . Do they have cinemas? No, not that I have seen. Theater? If at all then probably only a show they make themselves in the town hall. Alos once a year some islands host a ball, e.g. a mother celebrating ball. Culture? Sunday church, celebration of mother's day and father's day, celebrating in general. The biggest cultural event I know, Heiva, intensively takes the people's times for 3-4months a year. 3 months preparation of dance, percussion and singing shows for competitions (including making all the beautiful traditional costumes) and 1 month of shows and competition, the finals taking place in Tahiti. It was here in Polynesia that I saw people being happy with "simpler" lifestyle. They don't have to worry about the latest electronics, fashion, café ….They sing and dance, spend wonderful time together on land and out on the ocean or in the bay waters. I have never seen so many happy kids before, always smiling and being very polite. They all play outside, all kids together. Of course, the bigger the island and the more tourists that come there, things change. In the Tuamotus we have seen many remote places and thought wow, the people at Amanu are remote. 200 people, no internet or mobile phone connection, nothing can be hidden from anyone. But, our last stop, the beautiful Maupihaa, topped it all. 6 couples, aged between I would say late 20s and 45 live there, each in their own "house" on a big lot. No common place to meet (except for the beach and the water ;-)), no town, no shop, no nothing. Do it yourself. All of it. If you need power, you have to see how you get it. Except for one house the island was dark after sunset. I guess the people just go to bed at sunset and get up at sunrise. Do they have TV? I don't know how. We saw one old Satellite set, out of order though. I would think they have a TV and a DVD player, but who knows? They come from Maupiti or Bora Bora, so they have seen these things and I guess they took some electronics with them. Most interesting is how they get food. A) Eat coconuts from their farms and fish they might catch (Marcus caught only one litte one) B) Eat canned food that came with a ship. Only problem: the ship. One ship comes maybe once a year (if it comes) to pick up Coprah and oysters for the pearl farms. This ship can bring, against extra payment, packages with food and other stuff the people might need. Or the people take a day trip on this ship back to Maupiti or Bora Bora. From there they hitch-hike back home with the next sailor (only possible during sailing season late May - October). Last chance: "call" (radio?) to one of the islands, let a relative make a package and send it with the next sailor. We've seen the last both options. We told our friends, who are still in Bora Bora, about this and they might just buy something and bring it to the people. Had I known, I would have done the same thing. And, again, the people are VERY friendly, give you a warm welcome and SMILE. Always smile. Nothing seems to matter, they do not suffer hunger (at least they don't look like it), they are happy to live in peace in their own place and have work (doing the coprah out of coconuts and cleaning all the many acres is hard physical work). There is no doctor or any other help, the 6 couples have to help each other. And sailors passing by of course should help them. It makes things a lot easier if you speak French though…So, the material possession changes with the size of the island, the friendliness is in all their hearts, but has become less in more touristic places, the tidiness is the same everywhere. Overall: wonderful people in beautiful places distributed over an area as big as Europe. Polynesia has a very old culture, which through the help of japanese-polynesian and American experts is being reinvented and re-taught to the children. On the islands you can find many old, restored temples. Places of praying, cherishing the dead ancestors, celebrating life and family. Of course the history of Polynesians also includes fights of family clans against each other and Christianization by missionaries starting in the middle of the 19th century. A bit a myth til today are the excellent navigations skills of the Polynesian people. In their canoes, they travelled far. And not only once did they reach the same place. If you have been out here sailing, you know what admirable skill that is, to find these small atoll in the middle of nowhere. Of course, nobody knows how many people got lost….
Now I am eager to see what Aitutaki has to offer and how the Polynesians here differ from the ones we've seen so far. There are some Hotels here, bike and car rental, 3 bars, a restaurant and "Island's night", a dinner dance show organized by a hotel (the hotels take turns). Here we cannot anchor in a blue lagoon, we have to take the Dinghy, kajak, bike, scooter or car there. More informations soon.

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