Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Week 6

And here it is- the final blog post written and posted from Rarotonga. Week 7 will be coming to you from sunny LA!

We had a great week for our penulitmate one on the island. After getting over the disappointment of not going to Aitutaki we booked diving for today and decided to make the most of the time we had left. The weather still wasn't great but we've done plenty with it!

Amy and I went black pearl shopping on Weds and came away with a black pearl pendant each which I am very pleased with. It took us a long time and lots of walking round town but we reckon we got a pretty good deal all in all. Then we rushed home to head out to Coco Putt for the third and final time- this time it was almost completely empty but for us and we took advantage of that, getting the owners to pour us extra strong drinks and dancing around like fools. My team won the mini golf with a minimum of cheating and it is suffice to say that we all felt a bit delicate on Thursday!

Friday saw us finally tackle the cross-island walk. It had been reasonably dry for the few days before but still we were slipping and sliding quite a bit on the steep muddy path. The 6 of us included Ali, Kathryn and I and then Katia a student nurse from Switzerland, Amy the med student from Leeds and Flo a german who is travelling around the world. I really enjoyed myself (apart from being eaten alive by mossies at the waterfall at the end) but then all out childhood holidays involved climbing mountains!

I'll leave the stories from the weekend to tell you next time else I'll run out of time on my internet card!

For the last time from Raro,
Kia Orana,
Love J xxxx

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Week 5

I sit here and can only marvel that I've only got 10 full days left on this island. I've settled into such a nice routine and I've got so used to being here I barely even notice the ubiquitous crowing of the roosters!

Week 5 turned out to be a bit of a wash out! Monday and Tuesday were quiet and nice weather, particularly quiet because the doctors were preparing for their big annual health conference at the end of the week. We went snorkelling (a bit of a let down after diving) and generally pottered about a bit. On Weds the conference started under heavy skies and Amy (the new elective student from Leeds Uni) spent the morning listening to a range of local and Kiwi presenters talk about the obesity crisis and various more and less viable ways of dealing with it. We escaped at lunch time to town where we looked at so many black pearls our heads were in a spin. The black pearls are one of the Cook Islands most prized products, they are produced in the lagoon of Manihiki which is little more than a circular sand bar or atoll in the northern islands supporting around 300 pearl farmers. The pearls are beautiful and range from $10 for a loose oddly shaped, blemished one to many thousands for a perfect large round one. I think I'll buy one before I leave as they are very much part of the islands.

After our grey day on Weds it proceeded to absolutely pour for 12 hours on Thursday (I went and sat in conference for the morning and got soaked through coming home) and pour all afternoon Friday, Saturday and be grey all day Sunday. We entertained ourselves by going to such delights as the little Whale and wildlife museum in town on Friday (1hrs worth of distraction) and watching a huge number of DVDs!

We did head out on Friday night and went for a really yummy dinner at one of the local restaurants in town- lots fo great fish and then some cocktails and dancing. We even ran into the teacher trainees we met doing our diving who were out celebrating their last night on the island.  It seems a lot of people are leaving- the body-boarders who had taken over the hostel headed off last night and the NZ uni holidays are over so the hostel is moving back to the international long term travellers again.

Unfortunately Aitutaki is off the cards- we tried this morning for deals one last time but it was simply too expensive to get there in the end. What that means is we're going to do a few things here we thought we couldn't afford instead like another dive trip with Kathryn once she finishes her open water and

Monday, 9 July 2012

Week 4

Week 4?! How on earth is it week 4 already?! I'm well over half-way now!

Week 4 went really well, though not quite to plan. The plan was to ring on Tuesday morning, get cheap flights and go to Aitutaki that afternoon. Sadly there were no cheap flights left for last week so Aitutaki is on hold untill we can find some (we'll try again today/tomorrow). Instead we had a quiet week up at the hospital- one of the Paeds consultants was over from the specialist Paeds hospital in Aukland (Starship- isn't that a great name for a children's hospital) to do a specialist clinic and give Dr Dawn a second opinion on a few kids. It ended up being quite quiet as lots of people didn't come in to see the specialist, but those who did were sorted out pretty fast. The week was enlightening as it confirmed my suspicions that despite being an excellent doctor, Dawn is limited by having worked only in Pacific Islands and mostly in the Cooks. She is confident enough with things she sees often but unusual things can throw her and it is very hard for her to keep up to date with the fast developing world of Paeds.

Instead of Aitukati Ali and I finished off our Open Water qualification on Thursday afternoon and Friday last week. Sadly one of the girls who had done the first part of the course with us couldn't complete it as she had developed a tummy bug just after the first dives and her friends took her to the hospital suspecting decompression sickness. Of course we had never been at any real risk of DCS but because she couldn't say no to all the things on the medical form any more she couldn't come diving :(. We had an exam, which both Ali and I got 100% on (apparently only the 4th and 5th people the instructor had seen do so in 800-900) and tried not to be too smug about it especially as the two teacher trainees failed to get the 75% pass mark first time. We got two more much longer Open Water dives and saw even more amazing fish, including some practically tame blue trigger fish who follow the dive boats looking to get fed. We even saw some juvenile Eagle Rays in the harbour while we did our 200m swim test. So now we can go diving anywhere in the world down to 18m with just a buddy- terrifying!

Kathryn arrived on Friday evening and has settled in and is enjoying the sunshine after Aukland's winter. We all went to church yesterday which everyone had told us is an experience we had to have, so we put on our Sunday best and headed to the local church to sit in the tourist section at the back. It was packed, and most of the service was in Cook Islands Maori but the singing was incredible- it was as powerful and emotional as I imagine Gospel worship to be and mostly done in Maori. Then they invited us all to lunch in the church hall where we discovered that many of the Ariki ( Tribal Chiefs) were there and being honoured. It was a lot of fun, if a bit bewildering. Friday had been a public holiday for the Ariki and the whole weekend  there were events to celebrate- they kept on pressing us to take left overs so we have lots of left over chicken now!!

My desire to do some good is still there, but I'm just not sure how to channel it- I need to discuss with Dawn about some child health leaflets- I get the impression they would be best if they were also in Maori so I'd need someone to translate.

Love, Jess xxx

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Week 3

I can't believe I'm almost halfway through my time here. I feel like there is so much more I want to do here and like I have hardly been away. The tan feels like the main thing to prove I've been away at so long. That and my new SCUBA knowledge.

We went diving this weekend with a few girls from Australia who are here as part of their teacher training course and ended up sharing the same frustrations about how the laid backness of the islanders is working against them and their kids. But more about diving, we did the first two days towards the PADI openwater course which allows you to dive anywhere in the world with a qualified buddy down to 12m. We spent the Saturday morning in the classroom watching DVDs and doing quizzes before getting in the pool to do some skills. It is incredible even just being in the little pool breathing underwater but Sunday was the best. On Sunday under leaden skys and drizzle we headed out on the dive boat and did 2 short dives out on the reef. It was incredible, down in a deep blue world seeing more fish than I could ever name and feeling like you were flying weightless. As a kid I always wanted to be a mermaid and diving feels as close as I can ever get. We're all ready to do our next two days to get the full qualification at the end of the week as this Friday is a bank holiday so normal clinics are off.

Up at the hopsital things continue much the same, but for a couple of days some doctors came up from NZ to teach the Advanced Paeds Life Support course to some of the local Drs and nurses which seemed to go down very well, they brought a young new Reg with them who is part Cook Islander so he could help out with Dr Dawn's clinics while she went to the course, though she had mostly blocked them out. I split my time between helping him out and having him teach me and sitting at the back of the course and dismaying at the local proffessionals lack of confidence in their answers. It was quite eye-opening to realise that most of the doctors here are scarcely more confident than UK juniors or med students despite (I assume) more training and they have no immediate back up.

Meeting the trainee Teachers has made me wonder about trying to sort out doing a little health education on the island, as the number of things that come up to the hospital needlessly and the ones that present too late can make you despair. Not sure what or how to go about it but I'll speak to Dr Dawn about maybe some parent info leaflets about things like coughs/colds/ tummy bugs etc and what is serious and what not. Or maybe some nutrition stuff to try and help some kids with healthier eating, as there is a lot of obesity on the island.

Over at the hostel we have had a farily quiet week- we went out on Weds to the mini golf again but it was much busier this time and there was even a limbo competition (surprisingly I didn't win). Other than that we did do any drinking as you're not to drink the night before or after diving.We did have to move to another part of the hostel as the main site was being taken over by a Kiwi school band for the weekend, no we don't know why either. So Ali and I were packed off to a little A frame down the road by the beach and the rest went up to the hillside site. The A frame was fine but sleeping up in the eves was so cold I had a hoody and my sweat pants on!

This week coming we are not off to Aitutaki as the flights were too expensive but we'll finish off our Open water and Kathryn arrives from NZ on Friday for the final 3 weeks.

The first batch of postcards went today but if you want one don't forget to message me!

Love J xxx