Saturday, April 21, 2007

Kia Orana!

Around the year 1350 AD, seven canoes set out from the tiny island in the Pacific known as Rarotonga. About a century prior some exporers had followed migrating birds and discovered a land 14 days journey to the south which they named Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud. So they set out "left of the setting sun," as the directions proclaimed it, and sure enough they landed in Aotearoa and founded the seven Maori tribes still in existance in New Zealand today.

Now think about this for a minute, as this entire situation boggles my mind. First of all you have a bunch of people without much by way of navigational aid (except by the stars) noticing that some birds pass through at the same time every year and figuring it would be kind of cool to follow them. They luck out with the current and return to Rarotonga with tales of trees ten men can't reach around and chickens the size of a person, leave behind general directions on how to get there, which are intriguing enough for people to set out to find a hundred years later when things get a little crowded. Finally, you are the first people to do this in the entire history of mankind, and it only happens around the time Europe is being ravaged by the Black Death and the first whisper of Renaissance is heard in Italy. You are ahead of Abel Tasman's ship by a mere 300 years in doing so, which is nothing in terms of most history of human settlement.

But for better or worse at the end of the journey you're a bit far from where you came from, so eventually the language starts to differ. Soon enough everyone thriving in New Zealand is greeting each other with "Kia Ora!" but back in Rarotonga everyone says "Kia Orana!" instead. Keep this in mind and you'll realize just how much in common New Zealand has with the Cook Islands, of which Rarotonga is the largest island and where I spent the better part of the past week or so.

Now of course the Cook Islands are tropical islands very similar, I'm told, to what Hawaii was like before statehood. I rather liked it- it's underdeveloped so tropical nature is right there, everyone is very nice and delighted to see you, and they hand out leis wherever you go, such as arriving at the airport-
As you can probably tell from that picture, I went with the American group of study abroad students I'm affiliated with, which was a rather nice and fun way of doing things (from right to left, the people in the picture are Jenny, Amy, Sarah, and me). To say the least, we had fun.

Ok, so in order to make everything a bit more readable I split up the pictures and interesting information in a few smaller posts that follow. I wrote them backwards so this introduction post would be at the top so if something doesn't make sense I appologize, but with luck things will work out. I made a special "Cook Islands" label for thse too so they don't get lost later on.

Ok, that's about all I can say about the Cook Islands for now because I am tired as the plane left very early this morning. Assuming I finish my work due when classes resume on Monday, however, I looked and I have several hundred pictures from the South Island adventures last week, so when I'm done I'll sort through them and see if I can decide which ones to post!

Until then, as it works both coming and going, Kia Orana and happy reading!