Hello again from the Big Blue!
Exciting goings on here on our little patch of sand in the Pacific! There are two packages en route from our home across the sea. One from Mom Nancy, contents unknown, who quotes the arrival date as anywhere between 6 weeks and 3 months; and one from my Big Sis, contents somewhat known, who apparently re-mortgaged her home and sold one of her children to send it the speedy way. The post office lady – who I have dubbed “Moody Moana” – hates me. I pop in every day to check if any parcels have arrived and she has to, (are you ready for this?), turn her head and look at the small stack of boxes on the floor, (gasp!). The other day I bounced in the door, chipper as always in the face of such gloom, and before I could squeeze out two words, Moody Moana boomed out, “No!”
Well, no chocolate for her, then.
You can expect a very upbeat Coconut Chronicle with hardly any complaining the day those sweet little parcels arrive.
And speaking of arrivals…my friend Helmi the Wonder Editor is coming to visit…in person!!! I’m thinking of changing her nickname to “The Transporter”, as we have already inundated her with a list of stuff to bring, including a giant fishing cooler for Prez the Tuna Slayer.
Air New Zealand put out a wicked deal recently on airfare from Vancouver to Rarotonga, (passed along to us by Chocolate Fairy Carrie – thanks!) and immediately I alerted all within reasonable distance of the Vancouver airport. I’m always curious who, if anyone, will respond to these little temptations, and I am frequently surprised.
When we used to have our old Club Fred in Baja, we felt comfortable inviting everyone and their dog to visit, safe in the knowledge that only a miniscule percentage would actually follow through and show up. And then came the year that everyone, dogs included, showed up. Oops! True to form, Prez’s attitude was the more the merrier but, in retrospect, it probably would have been a lot more fun for everyone if we’d spaced out the visits. And ten guests, (plus the three hitch hikers we picked up on the way back from the airport), all at once is a might overwhelming. One day I went into the pantry to get a can of something and didn’t come out for ten minutes; it was so peaceful in there!
Back to Aitutaki…
There were a few maybes and a few false starts. I know a couple of people who really wanted to visit but had some serious obstacles that couldn’t be avoided. And then, out of the blue, comes an email from Helmi the Wonder Editor, very tentatively suggesting she might make the leap. Next thing you know, her flight is booked! According to her, a trip to the South Pacific has been a lifelong dream. I am all for fulfilling dreams. And I’m all for having a real friend, in the flesh, to share my floating moments with. I can hardly wait to show her this island and all the beautiful bits of Aitutaki that I so frequently neglect to rave about. Hooray!!
Now I have to go; I have a guest coming and just over a month to get all of my cleaning done! (Kidding, kidding).
In other news, Prez has been hard at it, building a new website for all of Aitutaki. If you were here, you would recognize the telltale signs of website building, primarily by the number of four letter words and phrases such as, “You’re f#*%ing kidding me?” The idea to build this website, and thereby subject himself to months of psychological torture, came from Prez’s very quick realization that this island is hurting for business.
Why is it hurting? Got me.
Hands down, this is one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful, not to mention friendly, places in the world, (Moody Moana being the exception). There’s a look all new arrivals have at the airport – I think “Gob-smacked” sums it up. They’ve just flown over a lagoon that laughs in the face of poets, “Go on, try to describe my beauty with words!” They are in a state of mild shock because, let’s face it, nowhere can really look as good as the postcards and travel brochures, can it?
Wow, this place sure looks ugly! Why would anyone want to go there?
Aitutaki can, and does…times ten.
Yuck, fresh tropical fruit! Great, the beach is crowded again!
So why are we and our neighbours, Etu Moana, the only two resorts that are consistently full? Why isn’t Aitutaki like the “in” New York restaurant, with line ups down the block and waiting lists that stretch into the year 2013? The biggest part of the problem is marketing. For years the Cooks have fought for their share of the tourism pie, battling with Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti, and Bora Bora for sun&sand seekers. Rarotonga has the international airport, and the money, so that’s the island everyone has focused on. Aitutaki has been promoted as a day trip destination, or a two to three day getaway. And, oh my, how sad it is to see the faces of our guests who’ve just spent ten days on Raro and arrive here for the final three days of their vacation, with a horrible and sudden awareness that they should have done it the other way around. We try to warn them but it happens all the time.
Not to put anyone off visiting Raro, it’s nice enough, I guess. There are more shops and restaurants and City Folk stuff but given the choice between here and there? Puh-lease, no contest.
Another problem with Aitutaki’s empty beds comes back to my old friend…the telecom company. Internet here is only slightly better than the phone service, which is garbage. With such an abysmally slow and expensive internet, people can’t use it properly, which means they don’t understand it, which leaves them wide open to scam artists and shysters who charge $7000 to build a tiny website, without any search engine optimization or any of the tools necessary for them to get seen. Getting seen is kind of the point, you would think. Some businesses have listed themselves on larger sites, with limited text and photos, only to be told to bugger off when they ask for a link to their own website. It’s a mess.
Mr. Boss may not be featured in Good Housekeeping any time soon but thankfully he knew enough to get a good internet presence early in the game.
But the finger of blame must also be pointed inward. People on Aitutaki are no different than people we see all over the world, expecting the government to take care of them. If tourism is sagging, the government should do something about it. I often wonder what we would all do if “the government” disappeared and we had to learn to take care of our own darn selves? At our first tourism meeting, shortly after we arrived, we heard no end of grumbling about the government this, and the government that, and Rarotonga gets everything and we get nothing, and blah, blah, blah. Everyone has looked to the Cook Islands Tourism Department to solve their problems for so long; they’ve lost the ability to think for themselves.
I wouldn’t let the Cook Islands Tourism Department market my cat’s business, never mind mine. Good god, they still think the best form of marketing is flying people all over the world to man booths and hand out brochures at travel shows. When is the last time you went to a travel show? Exactly. The tourism budget is small, so why not put it towards a kick ass website, buy eyeballs, and dominate the internet for South Pacific travel? Ah, but if they did that then Bill and Mary wouldn’t get to take all those nifty trips to Australia, and New Zealand, and America, etc, on the tax payer’s dime.
(Or should I say your dime? You have no idea how much foreign aid and loans the Cooks gets.)
Thus, very slowly and steadily, Prez began building a website to promote Aitutaki. The response from locals has been overwhelmingly positive and we have been the recipients of numerous gifts of fruit. The site will be unbiased an all-inclusive, and cheap like borscht. Folks on the island, the majority of whom understand virtually nothing about the internet, have told him he could charge a lot of money for the work he’s doing but he just smiles and says, “It’s not about the money.”
Times like that, I’m the proudest wife in the world. (But let’s keep that between you and me because I’m never going to get my soaker tub and automatic dishwasher back in Canada if he keeps doing everything for free.)
You can expect a Chronicle soon with a link to the new website and a request to pass it along to everyone on the planet. There’s a free basket of fresh mangoes for everyone who does this, (*must collect mangoes, in person, on Aitutaki).
And if you want a second opinion on how beautiful this place is, you can ask Helmi at the end of April. Her phone number and email address are…
QUESTION: You didn’t really think I was going to tell you, did you??
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!