Wednesday, January 23, 2002

First Impressions

Dear Friends and family,

Jan 14 2002

We are starting out with a group email. I know some of you have expressed how much you hate these types of 'impersonal' messages, but there is really no way we can repeat these stories a hundred times. If you write back, we promise to email back a very personal electronic response.

Sarah's impressions-
It is day two in the Cook Islands - Rarotonga. I can't imagine a more perfect place to do nothing. Our flight on Air NZ really wasn't too long (under 10 hours), and we were greeted at the airport by an island goddess from our backpackers accommodation. I was sure impressed by how Dan managed to keep his jaw from dropping. This stunning woman was tall and slender, dark brown sugar skin, long wavy black hair to the waist, lashes that practically hit her eyebrows, a honey New Zealand accent, all packaged in a tube top and a sarong...How fun it must be to be a man.

We are staying at Vara's, a backpackers accommodation ON THE BEACH, literally.. We got up this morning to eat croissants and bananas, overlooking Muri lagoon. Yesterday, we snorkeled with bright blue starfish, parrot fish, flounders, eels, trigger fish (which attacked us as we swam near its nest), giant clams, clownfish, and huge purple coral heads that looked like brains. We are not doing much - as planned. We are flying to Aitutaki, tomorrow - an even smaller, more isolated island, with even less to do. We are having to relearn how to relax and move slow.

The island life is really ideal. The people here are truly, genuinely friendly. They live with no stress! Family and friends are a priority, and the weather is sublime. Dan thrives in a pair of flipflops. I'm sure he wishes that he didn't have to wear much more. I'm hoping to sweat off a few pounds and get a golden tan.

Dan's Impressions:

Rarotonga is a brilliant first stop. We arrived rather early at 4:50am and had to take a few naps to get through the day. Then we had to go snorkeling and finish off the day with dinner looking over the Lagoon...Pretty rough. Today I've spent most of the afternoon looking for that perfect tube top for Sarah. I'm very fond of them all of a sudden..?
Jan 23 2002

WE ARE IN PARADISE!!!!!! We have just returned from a week in Aitutaki - an island that has no internet connection (yes, these places still exist). I can hardly begin to express how blessed we are.

Here is an excerpt from my journal: It is Sunday morning, and I have just finished listening to a religious story over the radio at Ena's house. Dan and I are experiencing true Cook Island's hospitality. After a screw-up with our Paradise Cove reservation, we have been invited to Ena's home for 3 nights. Last night, we had a feast of Parrotfish, sweet potato-like root, mangos, bananas, and our contribution of Salad and tuna pasta. Ena lives in a house on stilts, on the beach. The makeshift kitchen and bathroom are under the house, enclosed in screening. The upstairs is a large room divided by half walls and curtains into more private compartments. She has given us her bed, while her husband and children are on holiday in Tampa, Florida. Ena has 5 children (this is a small family). Her friend Mary has 10, and Mrs Thompson has 7. All of these Mamas are on their own for now, with their kids living in Rarotonga, New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. or overseas on holiday. Ena and Mrs. Thompson married 'white men' (an American and a Scot), over 30 years ago. I can only imagine how these men were seduced by Aitutaki and the beautiful long-haired dancing girls of the tropics. There are less than 2000 people on Aitutaki - they live in absolute paradise. I can't explain or do justice to the friendliness of the people on the Cook's. Dan often says, 'Can they be any friendlier?" These people are so nice and trusting. Their way of life is perfect in many respects - Family dominates, a child is raised not only by his parents, but also by his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings. These children are beautiful, loved and well-balanced. The pace is slow, why rush?. Everyone gets what they need. People feed off the land. Fruit is abundant - ripe mangos fall from the trees, bunches of lady fingers (bananas), papaya, pineapple, small limes, breadfruit - a delicious addition, much like potatoes, that can be fried, boiled, steamed, taro root, coconut milk, cream or flesh, and a crystal clear, turquoise lagoon brimming with fish. The only ingredients that one need buy are some of the store staples - sugar, tea, oil, etc. Otherwise, everything is gathered from the backyard, including eggs from the free range chickens. The weather is gloriously warm, the vegetation lush and tropical. Men and Women wear sweet-smelling flowers in their hair, and take care to mow their green lawns and arrange their garden plants in a becoming design.
I love Aitutaki - anyone who visits Rarotonga and misses this island is missing a deeper understanding of the Polynesian lifestyle. Forget Hawaii! - This is where you should be!

Dan and I have spent our days swimming and snorkeling. Dan caught a massive Trevalli - it broke his fishing pole in half, but he still managed to reel him in after unraveling him through the coral maze. He also got the experience of going net catching with another local, and catching over 40 fish(incl. Goatfish and Parrotfish) - all shared with the family clan. Life is good.

We did have a bit of an accident - 2 days ago, we took a spill in a scooter. We were in the sand, so no broken bones. I fell on Dan, so he took the brunt of the damage, and is pretty scraped up on his left side. We are playing the invalids for sure, but it has not detracted from the fabulous time we are having. The mamas made us leis for our hair and our necks and saw us off at the airport. We are now in Rarotonga for our last day. Tomorrow we will be in Fiji.

We will try to send pictures when we can download our photos. Please write us!

Love to you all,
Sarah and Dan


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