Christmas Cook Island Style

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2011

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Flag of Cook Islands  , Southern Cook Islands,
Sunday, December 26, 2010


Day : 226
Temperature : 30 degrees
Weather : Hot and sunny

We had the strangest Christmas ever.  Ana, the owner of our guest house had very kindly invited us to join her and her extended family for Christmas lunch. We were told to be there at 1pm. We decided to go for a snorkel in the morning and take advantage of the fabulous weather. We arrived back at the guest house at 12.45pm, and to our surprise everybody was already there, and they were all sitting in silence waiting for us! There must have been 12 or 13 people, but there was no chit chat or banter, no laughter, no presents, no music….it was all very formal. Kevin and I took our seats at which point Ana stood up in the centre of the garden area to welcome everybody, and start proceedings by thanking Jesus for everything he has blessed her with in 2010. There were several quotes from the Bible, followed by thoughts on how she could serve God better in 2011. This was followed by a sing-song…and then…every single person was asked to get up individually and give a short speech, or sing a song, and tell the family how Jesus had blessed them that year!  At which point Kevin and I looked at each other in that…"you have got to be kidding me!” way. Groan!!!

We sat for an hour listening to everyone's stories….hymn sheets were handed out and we were encouraged to sing along, as you do. It was finally our turn to speak, at which point I spontaneously decided to stand up and subject everyone to my tone deaf singing…..perhaps it was a desperate attempt to lighten the atmosphere and inject a little humour into the party. I could feel Kevin’s muffled sniggers beside me as I belted out some painfully high notes….but unfortunately there was no laughter or joking, and the consensus seemed to be that it was, " a very beautiful song”. Yeah right!!!  Kevin then followed me by giving a short talk on our travels and where we were going to go next….what a chicken…he should have sung!

When all the announcements were over we were invited to eat.  Christmas dinner consisted of pork, beef, fish, chicken, noodles with beef, ham sandwiches, mayonnaise and potatoes, and a small bowl with lettuce, onion and tomato. This was then followed by ice cream, more ice cream, chocolate cake and banana bread. I might as well take this opportunity to mention that there seems to be a very serious obesity problem on this island. Apparently, so we are informed, most of the pacific islands have such a problem. Portion sizes are enormous, maybe three times the size of back home. In the supermarkets there are the biggest tubs of sour cream and mayonnaise and ice cream that I have EVER seen in my life. Perhaps the size that would be used for catering establishments in the UK but over here they are bought by every day families! Anyway, I digress. We chatted away to Ana’s family during the meal as Bible songs were played on the stereo. We really could have used a good drink, but unfortunately there was no alcohol at this Christmas dinner.

I have to say that it was really very kind of Ana to invite us to join her family over Christmas and we did have a genuine Cook Island Christmas.  However, in all honesty, it really wasn’t the type for us. It was a very, very religious gathering, which is of course fine, but perhaps we just expected there to be more laughter and joking, animated banter and light hearted conversation. But the whole occasion was very serious, and finally after 3 hours we made our excuses and headed for the beach where we were finally able to relax and reflect on the whole day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening there before finally returning to the guest house just before sunset. This will certainly be a Christmas to remember!
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