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The Cook Islands and Fiji: A Thirty Years' Retrospective of Living in Manihiki

Thirty years have passed since I went to the Cook Islands and Fiji, and although the original record of my voyage has long been lost, when I sifted through my memories of that most seminal time in my life, the entire trip was still there waiting for me. My first time overseas, teaching, and living with a family, I found that what I'd been taught about people from other countries was vague and largely untrue. Instead, the tapestry of the Islanders' way of life was much more complex, subtle, and even when I left I discovered aspects of their culture that surprised me.

I lived in the Cook Islands for four months, landing in Rarotonga where I found a placement in the northern Cooks, and then teaching high school on Manihiki. I travelled to the north by ship, by way of Aitutaki, Palmerston and Suwarrow, and visited the neighbouring island of Rakahanga while I lived in the northern Cooks. Traditional Maori culture still peeked out from under its colonial blanketing, and everywhere I went I was made to feel welcome. When my placement was done I flew to Fiji where I met other travellers, learned something of Fijian history and culture, and dreamed of floating a bamboo raft down the Sigatoka River.

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