Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Departing Rarotonga

Update # 10 – Friday, March 23, 2006 –
Kia Orana! (Good Day) 48 hour and counting! I just left TE UKI OU School where I presented 3 programs to the130 students. This is a private school with all New Zealand teachers. It is very different from the local schools staffed by Maori speaking teachers- though the Principal June Hodson is Rarotongan having been trained in NZ.

I put together a brief PowerPoint presentation to accompany my Hurricane Katrina slides. There were lots of OOOOO’s and AAHHHH’s over the photos. It generated great conversation about last years 5 cyclones especially the one that hit Rarotonga and their own disaster awareness plans. I made sure I converted my “feet and miles” to meters and kilometers – That was fun! However, the best part was that we were in their air conditioned computer lab even though all the little bodies did warm the place up a bit

One of the accompanying photos is of the POISONOUS sea creature –The Crown of Thorns. The two had been caught off the reef near the school in the morning. Each thorn has a neurotoxin that is extremely dangerous – even if dead and dried out. If they are cut up in while in the water, they just simply re-generate. YUCH! Needless to say June was anxious to get them buried BEFORE morning break!

Joe, The next Global Volunteer Team Leader arrived this morning, and Marty is beginning the transition. She has been here for 10 weeks and is excited to be heading home. Joe’s full team arrives Saturday morning on the flight I depart on to Auckland to continue GV’s 10 year presence here.

We all went to dinner at The Tamarind Restaurant (photos) which was a nice treat. Marty continued her orientation with Joe to get him up to speed before his team arrives tomorrow. I went to The Red Cross this morning to say my last farewell to Charlie and Niki. They are hoping I will return next year. We shall see!

It is hard to believe that our three weeks has come and gone! It has been an absolutely wonderful and tremendously rewarding experience for me. I have made many new friends with whom I plan to keep in contact with for a long time. The South Pacific is certainly a special part of the world even though these small island countries struggle with 21st Century issues. I feel immensely satisfied believing that I have had a small positive impact on the community.

Sadly, will be talking to you next from Portland, OR

Cheers, jw.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Global Volunteers Journal Entry

This is an expanded version of my Mitiaro trip

Sunday, March 19, 2006 – My Adventure to the Outer Islands
Kia Orana! I HAVE RETURNED!!! My week’s adventure to Mitiaro was “one of a kind”!

STATEMENT: You know you have gone to a remote location when:
- Flying there you see a SHORT dirt runway!
- Your pilot places a sunscreen over the windshield (while flying) so the sun doesn’t get in his eyes!
- He spends the 45 minute flight reading the sports section of the newspaper!

….and so began my journey…. My hostess was a wonderful woman called Nani Hodson who opens her home to visitors. She has 3 children, 13 grandchildren and 3 great-grand children all of whom live in The Cooks or New Zealand. I accompanied my new Red Cross friend Charlie Numanga and the President of the Cook Islands Red Cross Board, Na Jessie. He is also the government’s full-time Chief of The Fire Service for the Cook Islands. We arrived late afternoon on Monday , settled into our “home away from home” and following island tradition sat down to my first mystery dining experience!!

A formal meeting of the Mitiaro Branch of the Red Cross followed where new officers were elected including a non-active president who was gently voted out of office (he was not present). Suddenly there appeared frosty cold Australian Foster beer – I presumed the meeting had been concluded!

For three full days we taught CPR – First Aid and Disaster Awareness courses to approximately 50 people – island population 198! On the first morning we had an “Opening Ceremony” with all the “Mamas & Papas” (respected elders), church leaders in the village, The Queen’s Representative and The Ariki (Queen) Mii. She is absolutely a lovely, delightful woman who is one of the three tribal leaders on the island – the other two being King’s. There were many speeches/greetings/prayers and singing.

“Auntie” Mii joined us for dinner the following evening and I had a wonderful conversation with her learning much about the history, traditions and future hopes of the people of Mitiaro. As the population continues to decline – 198 down from 325 in 2001 and limited economic opportunities, there remain serious issues of sustainability and viability. To date there is no infrastructure to support any level of tourism except for the occasional visitor and transportation is limited to a Monday & a Friday Air Rarotonga flight.

All of the class was taught in the Maori language except obviously my parts. However, all were quite versed in the Queen’s English. Since the language only has 13 letters, it was interesting to determine that it took more words to explain its English translation. Late morning was punctuated by “Morning Tea” which was more than your “run of the mill” tea and cookies. I am beginning to understand why Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease is such a concern.
The newly built “hospital” is staffed by two nurses and the “Health Inspector”. It is a beautiful little building with a couple beds of which they are very proud. However, with capabilities limited essentially to basic first aid and initial stabilization, cases are usually flown South 45 minutes to Rarotonga for definitive care.

On the afternoon we were leaving, this became a reality. We were pressed into “rescue mode” as one of the soccer players injured her ankle. Upon tending to her and getting her “transported” (in the back of the only pickup truck on the island) to “hospital”, the decision was made to airlift her on the afternoon flight back to Rarotonga for care. She most likely had a fractured ankle and tibia. Unfortunately, they don’t have any kind of Rx pain medications on island so this “casualty” was not a happy camper.

On our departure, we loaded her through the rear cargo door of the plane and placed the stretcher across the last row of seats. I was praying for her not to become nauseated!!. The flight remained uneventful. Thank You Lord!!

Here are some of my new experiences/observations during my week in no particular order.

- eating eel, barracuda, breadfruit (tastes like sheetrock), taro leaves, paw-paw
- Not having AC or a fan with windows & doors open – no screens. Bugs come in and bugs go out! Sometimes BIG bugs!
- being served Spaghetti-O’s on toast for breakfast
- finally not inquiring about what was on the plate
- teaching Red Cross CPR/First Aid in Maori
- being called Papa Jimmy
- Hot water – what’s that?
- Tap water that is salty and often has “floaties”
- Being in a minority of ONE!
- Being sincerely appreciated for one’s work
- Taking for granted all that we have and that others do not., especially access to basic healthcare
- Mitiaro makes Cranberry Isle seem like a roaring metropolis
- Amazed at how these islanders survive yet worried about their future
- Meeting the most friendly, happy and welcoming people
- Being given my first “ei’s “ (lei’s in Hawaii)
- Enjoying laughter and companionship with new friends
- Knowing that you are part of a valuable team making a real difference in peoples’ lives
- Being proud to represent Global Volunteers and The Coos Islands Red Cross Society.

Arriving back on Rarotonga Friday afternoon, Marty and Marianne were there to greet me amid the flurry of taking care of our patient and the Rarotonga Emergency Brigade. After a welcome HOT shower and a great meal at the Pacific Resort I settled into fitful sleep of dreams and nightmares!!
Saturday started off with a big CQ on the ham radio anticipating a contact from my friend Bud Drummond, W3FF, in CA (designer of my Buddipole Antenna) and Marty’s husband Dick, AA7AD, back home in Oregon. BINGO!! The band was open and we had a wonderful 30 minute contact. I was trying to explain to Dick why his wife was in my bedroom! I stayed on a while longer making contacts and then ventured into town for a few hours of shopping and e-mailing. I got back on the air in the afternoon and rode the band into the sunset making over 250 contacts! PHEW – First time on the other side of a “pile up”. Another delish meal and off to bed with NO dreams this time.

We spent a leisurely Sunday – “Resort hopping” checking out the three big resorts on the island having lunch at the Crown Beach Resort – our 1st place pick. I played a little more radio until the band died out earlier. We “ate in” after our big lunch and off to bed to prepare for our workday Monday.

This last week Jim will spend again at the Red Cross office as they are losing one of the staff who is going to New Zealand for a month of training. Niki already has some projects line up for me to work on while Marianne continues her tutoring at Takitumu..

CookISlands Update # 10

Update # 10 – WEdnesday, March 22, 2006 –
Kia Orana! (Good Day

Well the trip to the Takatumi Conservation Area was another amazing experience. In 1996, this 250+ acre part of the tropical rain forest in the center part of the island was set aside by a community based movement and local landowners to protect the endangered Rarotongan Flycatcher the Kakerori. In 1989 there were only 29 of these birds left anywhere n the world; this sanctuary being its only habitat. They were being decimated by the Ship Rats brought onto the island by visiting ships. Through poison bating the Rats have been brought under control and in 2005 there were 265 birds recorded.

The current cartaker, Adam Isaac, took us on a 45 minute walk up into the valley explaining the history of the areaand the progress that has been made restoring this species. As you can see from the photos, the name “rain forest” proved true as we got caught in an absolute thunderous downpour on the way out.

Today, I returned to the Red Cross to finish up my report on yesterday’s workshop and have just been informed that one of the small elementary schools wants 3 “hurricane” presentations tomorrow. Since 5 cyclones damaged the islands last year, they take disaster education very seriously. Friday will be my last morning with my Red Cross friends while I spend the afternoon getting packed up for the Saturday morning flight. We are all not sure where we will have our “Last Supper”. Marianne heads on to her remaining 3 month around the Pacific journey heading first for Tahiti and then Easter Island. Marty, our team leader returns with me to Portland though on different flights.

This will probably be the last update until I arrive back at Emily and Andrew’s house in Portland. I will plan to write a summary note plus post any remaining photos during my few days there. That’s all for not s I sit at the outside café “wifi hotspot” Café Salsa enjoying one of my last afternoons in Avarua. Had a delish cup of cold curry soup but a damn chicken jumped up on the table and stole my bread!!! Guess I didn’t need it! Cheers, JW

Update # 9 – Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kia Orana! (Good Day) I have been busy at The Red Cross office since returning to Rarotonga. There was a large all-day workshop today being held to discuss the "National Disaster Risk Manage Plan" for the Cook Islands. Essentially, the government is developing a master preparation plan beyond the current one that is limited to Cyclone Response and Recovery. Though still a major threat, the emphasis is to put in place a plan that addresses all types of natural disasters and focus also on preparation and education both on Rarotonga and all the outer islands.

I have been asked by "my Red Cross boss" Niki to attend the program with Charlie. It was interesting to see the process of working on an existing draft document and accompanying piece of legislation ... eventually to be presented to Parliament. Hope they use "spell checker'! AAAAHHHHH...the ever-turning wheels of government! Every organization, and department was represented – talk about opinions! The leaders/presenters were from various emergency organizations in New Zealand.

During the morning session, reference was made to Hurricane Katrina, and before I knew it, I was on the afternoon program!! I had previously created a slideshow for a school presentation later in the week and luckily, I had my laptop with me. So Papa Jimmy was on stage again! The audience was absolutely AMAZED that a country like the USA with its boundless resources was not able to deal with the disaster!

As my week winds down, I am struck by the reality that I will be leaving my many new friends in a few short days and I am getting somewhat sad. I am so pleased to have been of help to many of them. They would all love for me to stay on!! Niki hopes that I will return next year - perhaps in July or August when it is cooler. She already has grand ideas for me! I told her I would certainly consider it.

Later this afternoon, Marianne, Marty, and I will visit the Land Conservancy area and "caretaker" Adam and his girlfriend will guide us through the area. His mission is to save an endangered bird that has been devastated by "ship rats" introduced onto the islands by the European explorers. I gather that this is a one-man crusade, and he is making progress. More later in a subsequent update. We plan to take them out to dinner after our walk through the forested area. Marty has the rest of the week planned out, meeting with numerous other folks – using our remaining time as efficiently as possible. The new team leader arrives Thursday morning with his new team of seven members on Saturday when we depart.

Temperatures are somewhat more bearable today with a nice on-shore breeze cooling it into the mid-80's. Though we had our usual humdinger midday downpour just to jack up the humidity. I hope to post one or two more updates before my departure on Saturday. I get to cross the International Dateline twice: west to Auckland, NZ and then East back to LAX. I leave Auckland at 7:00Pm Sunday 3/25 and arrive in LAX after a 12 hour flight at 11:00AM!! SUNDAY – go figure. I am not even going to look at my watch until I land in Portland! Cheers for now, PS had great Chinese food last night!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cook Islands Update 8 - Ham radio

Made a successfull contact with Budd, W3FF, in CA and Marty's husband Dick, AA7AF, in OR this morning on 18.157.5 mhz. The conditions were excellent and he had about a 30 minute conversation though Budd and Dick could not hear each other as they were too close. I stayed on frequency for another 1/2 hour so a number of stations could get a Cook Islands contact from me. I plan to be back on this afternoon while conditions are good. Tomorrow, Sunday, remains questionable propagation. I am going to try to get on the air a couple afternoons this coming week at 2300 utc.

73's Jim, ZK1EMT

Cook Islands Update # 7

Update # 7 – Saturday, March 18, 2006 – My Adventure to the Outer Islands

Kia Orana! (Good Day) I HAVE RETURNED!!! My week’s adventure to Mitiaro was “one of a kind”! This is just a short note as I will compose a longer accounting tomorrow and post it.
STATEMENT: You know you have gone to a remote location when:
- Flying there you see a SHORT dirt runway!
- Your pilot places a sunscreen over the windshield (while flying) so the sun doesn’t get in his eyes!
- He spends the 45 minute flight reading the sports section of the newspaper!

….and so began my journey…. Here are just a few of my new experiences…

- eating eel, barracuda, breadfruit (tastes like sheetrock), taro leaves, paw-paw
- not have AC or a fan
- being served Spaghetti-O’s on toast for breakfast
- finally not inquiring about what was on the plate
- teaching Red Cross CPR/First Aid in Maori
- being called Papa Jimmy
- Hot water – what’s that?
- Tap water that is salty and often has “floaties”
- Being in a minority of ONE!
- Being sincerely appreciated for one’s work
- Taking for granted all that we have and others do not.
- Mitiaro makes Cranberry Isle seem like a roaring metropolis
- Amazed at how these islanders survive and worried about their future
- Meeting the most friendly, happy and welcoming people

A few of the phptos – more tomorrow

Monday, March 13, 2006

Update # 6 – Monday, March 13, 2006 – Posted from the Cook Islands Red Cross

Kia Orana! (Good Day) This will be the last update until I return from the island of Mitiaro on Friday afternoon, March 17th. We depart from Rarotonga this afternoon for a 55 minute flight east over to the island in Air Rarotonga!! These are turbo prop commuter aircraft that look relatively new and well-maintained. Charlie Numanga, the Disaster Officer and the President of the Board of The Cook Islands Red Cross and I are going.

We have learned new information about Mitiaro. There are approx. 200 residents living in and around town on the west side of the island. There are no tourist/resort facilities (they like it that way) and one public phone at the town wharf. There are around 60 telephone numbers listed in the phone book. Folks who visit for a reason like us are lodged in local homes for NZ$ 50 per night including food. The purpose for this Red Cross visit is: 1) Continue to train community members in CPR/FA – Train and update local Instructors 2) Support and monitor local RC chapter governance and financial procedures and 3) Encourage increased volunteer RC membership within the community. When natural disasters affect these outer islands, they are really on their own for perhaps days/weeks until outside help can arrive. During last year's cyclone season (October-March) FIVE cyclones impacted The Cooks during the month of February!! Relatively speaking what this small Cook Islands Red Cross organization did for the effected population with its limited resources compared to FEMA's response was astounding!! I am very proud to have the opportunity to work with these fine people.

Saturday evening we spent an engaging evening with Niki (RC Director) and her husband Collin who is a master Black Pearl jewelry maker!! (Yes Marsha, I remember!) They are building a three-story house up in the hills on the East side of the island that sports a magnificent view of the ocean from a 3rd floor deck (plus supposedly killer sunrises!) They live on the third floor with their two adult children while Collin finishes off the first two floors having his workshop on the ground level.

I spent most of Sunday finally having some time to finalize my radio equipment and have a fun afternoon hamming. We were going to plan a beach visit and picnic but the tropical downpours seem to have been more frequent these past few days.

For those ham radio operators reading this, I have been most successful on 17 meters (18.157.5) and 20 meters (14.342.5) HF Pack Frequencies and plan to be back on next Saturday morning and 0800 local. Team Leader Marty's husband is a ham back in Portland, OR where they live, so I hope to speak with him next weekend.

I believe I am somewhat acclimatizing to the constant heat but my goodness, it never really lets up, especially with the constant 90+ degree humidity - even at night. Actual temps range from the low to mid-90's during the day when the sky is clear to 80's with clouds and at night. However, most of the time the on-shore trade winds blow albeit moisture-laden.

With all the added fluid intake, "pit stops" need to be well planned out! Andrew's choice of "wicking" clothing instead of my cotton "ensemble" has proved to be a lifesaver! I never thought I would actually be cooler wearing a "wicking" t-shirt under my lightweight outer shirts! Thanks Pal.

Well. That's it for now. I plan to have a bunch of new photos to post upon my return. I am off to the airport!! Cheers, JW

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cook Islands Update # 5

Saturday Morning - March 11 - A day off yesterday ended up with meeting with the President of the NGO (Non-Governemental Org.) - a powerful group here that champion the cause of all the non-profits on the island - They are always "fussing" "Government". Mary, Marianne and I went to "Island Night" at one of the local bars - Dinners and dancing show. This one was great because it was not advertised at the resorts so there were fewer tourists. Though not a "slick" production - all the dancers and singers were family, it was really fun. Unfortunately, JW was chosen to dance!!

This morning we ventured into the Market in town where local vendors from 6AM until noon sell everything from fresh produce, cooked food to arts and crafts. As typical a tropical downpour drove us under cover for about 15 minutes resulting in instant flooding. These are just unbelievable rain storms that appear out of nowhere. Needless to say there is no break in the humidity. We all bought a couple goodies and then retreated to the air conditioned Telcom office for some Internet time. Marianne and I are going to stay in town for lunch and then take the "clockwise" bus back to the KiiKii to chill out during the hot mid-afternoon hours.

Tonight we have been invited to the home of the Red Cross Director Niki Rattle and her husband. They live on the western side of the island and said to come by 6PM so we can enjoy the sunset. Tomorrow we are going to one of the Cook Islands Christian Church services. Apparently it will be a full morning affair with "tea" afterwards (usually a huge pot-luck meal).All the women dress up in their "finest" sporting beautiful hand made straw hats. Unfortunately, I can now understand why Diabetes - Hypertension - and Obesity are major health issues in the islands. The Red Cross is initiating a Diabetes Education project along with all the many ones there already undertake. Niki is hoping to get some glucometers for community blood sugar screening along with some BP cuffs and stethescopes fro blood pressures.The hospital has ONE.

Sunday, I prepare for my journey to the outer island of Mitiaro with Charlie and the board chairman of the Red Cross for 4 days of training in the community and the school. No Internet there so would probably won't hear from me after tomorrow until the end of the week.
Photos are of the market - and our "Island Night"


Friday, March 10, 2006

Cook Islands Update #4

Update #4 Sent via Satellite

Kia Orana! (Good Day) Thursday, March 9, 2006 Temp 84 degrees- Humidity 90% It’s cooler – at the moment – 6:30 AM – I am preparing to “put myself together” for another day in paradise. The trip to Mitiaro is a go for Monday. I am really excited about the invitation to REALLY see the local side of island life.

Charlie will not be in the office today as he has flown to Auckland, NZ with his daughter for a multi-day music festival. She is apparently an up and coming vocalist and has been given the opportunity to perform. I will be in the office with Niki, the Director giving me a chance to get to know her and learn more about the operations of the Red Cross.

3:00 PM – Disregard my earlier comment about “cooler” – 94d. and sun all day. The building has an open porch so I parked myself there with a fan!! Much of today has been spent on my laptop creating an addition to the now outdated CPR/FA manual that is being used to include the new 2005 skills revisions. They are teaching the new program but have not received updated books. This skills chart will be attached to the present booklets until the current edition is replaced copies of a new printing. Whenever that will happen!!

At noon time, Niki and I went to visit the final session of a 5 day training program called, Information – Education – Communication that the Red Cross sponsored. It is a media skills program where participants learn to develop techniques to produce effective printed informational materials – brochures, posters etc. to target specific audiences on HIV/AIDS awareness – a growing problem in The South Pacific. We were invited to stay for lunch enjoying a wonderfully flavorful chicken curry and rice dish. We returned to the office and I finished up the skills sheet.

Now – about the island I am traveling to on Monday - population 50! (I guess everyone will be a student!) It is about an hour’s flight on Air Rarotonga, Northeast of here…… Niki summed it up by saying THIS is civilization and Mitiaro is BASIC!! I am going to take some bottled and boil the rest. It appears that my Buzz-Off clothes will be put to the ultimate challenge since a good portion of the center of the island is swamp!! Electricity is turned off from 12 midnight to 5 AM – PLEASE LET THERE BE AN EVENING BREEZE. I guess you can’t say that I am not going to get a FULL island adventure! Marty, my team leader and Niki have suggested I take tomorrow off – Friday to have a break before my travels. GOOD Idea! I plan to go into town and buy some essentials – mosquito netting, water purification pills etc!! ….Until tomorrow JW

Friday morning , March 10 Temp - The usual - Humidity The usual! - nice to have a day off - I am in town at the Telcom Center using my wireless laptop one of a couple "hotspots" in town. Much faster and easier than queuing up for the 4 terminals available. Got caught last night is Pacific rain shower - Lasted about 10 minutes and probably dropped 3 inches of rain - you could watch it approach from the sea across the outer reef - the cloud to cloud and ground lightning was awesome. These little bursts can occur at any time of the day or night.

I am going to spend the day picking up last few items for outer island trip next week and then see if I can get the radio up and running. I hope to do some touring around tomorrow and Sunday and take some more photos.

Marty, Marianne and I are going to "Island Night" at The Staircase Bar & Grill this evening. Apparently, this is the local place to go rather than at one of the big resorts.The island is not really crowded though there were a couple cruise ships in for the day last week. Besides that, it is pleasantly quiet.

Had a fire at the local Catholic School the other day - Unfortunately, the three available fire trucks were at the airport awaiting for an international arrival. This is an international requirement so they had to stay there until the Air New Zealand flight landed before they could leave to go to the school - too late - burned down! SO it goes on The Cooks. As for medical care - only MD's are permitted to use the couple defibrillators on the island so the Ambulance can't carry one! SO much for rapid ALS intervention.

LAter jw

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Update #3 Wednesday March 8, 2006

Kia Orana! (Good Day) Wednesday, March 8, 2006 Temp 86 degrees - Humidity 92% with rain showers – and they tend to be gully washers!. Yesterday was my first full day of work at the Cook Islands Red Cross. I jumped right into teaching The New Zealand – NOT Australian! Curriculum of Basic First Aid class and the new CPR curriculum - with a couple New Zealand twists!

They have "casualties" here not victims or patients. Back blows are still included for all choking before abdominal thrusts. Instead of just A-B-C's , D-Danger – R–Response – S-Send for Help is included. Unconscious choking casualty just gets CPR.

My "boss" Charlie Numanga is in charge of training and Disaster Response for the Outer Islands. He is one of two full-time employees and works for Air New Zealand after hours as a fuel loader. Additionally he volunteers, and organizes from what I can determine, the island's Search and Rescue team.

Today, it is thankfully partly cloudy, in the upper 80's with a moderate sea breeze which often dissipates at dusk. The bugs haven't been too bothersome – or it is just that my "Buzz-Off" clothing is actually working. With two fans within 3 inches of me at night the sleeping can be accomplished.

I missed my opportunity of getting to town after work yesterday for e-mailing as we didn't complete class until 6PM – but plan to leave by 3 today as we have our first Maiori language lesson this afternoon.

I will travel with Charlie next week for 5 days to one of the outer Islands to teach both citizens and children in the schools. It is a much smaller island (250 pop) and power is tuned off at midnight. NZ$ 50 per night for room and food! Apparently, Rarotonga is civilized compared to where I am going!! It seems to be about 1 hour flight from here – we will leave Monday morning returning Friday afternoon. I think this will be the true "flavor" of the islands!! Could be interesting! So there will not be much contact from me after this coming Sunday.

As I am going to be going pretty straight next week, I plan to take off early Friday and have a quiet weekend – perhaps finally getting the radio station in operation.

I will be trying to upload my first set of photos soon. Cheers JW

Update #2 Monday March 6, 2006

Monday March 6 - 90 degrees 90% humidity - drinking and sweating - will be working at the local Red Cross teaching and helping with disaster planning - they had 5 CYCLONES last year - hopefully none this year. The island is beautiful but poor - some tourists and cruise ships in. Feeling great except for the heat but we have taken it easy for the last three days. Working on the best way for e-mail - and photo uploads - internet here pretty archaic.

Update #1 Rarotonga Friday 3/4 – Sunday 3/5

This is a long way from EVERYWHERE!!!..... After finally arriving in LA from Portland half my evening was spent getting from one terminal to the International Terminal. I think there is only ONE shuttle bus that circles the entire airport. Checking through TSA security in the International building was another experience. It certainly was not like leaving Bar Harbor. Needless to say my radio equipment and satellite phone caught their attention. Finally, when they were assured I was not a threat or some sort of clandestine operator – they said 'Have a nice flight'!

I am spending my remaining couple of hours in the Air New Zealand lounge – quite civilized with free food and beverage awaiting my boarding call. I shall continue from 'on high'……. 8:00 PM PST.

1:00AM (somewhere) SATURDAY 3/4 34,000 ft. As we zip along over the South Pacific towards our interim stop in Tahiti, I have dined upon New Zealand lamb and some quite delightful wine and watched "Walk The Line". We had departed LAX on schedule and our ETA in Rarotonga via Papeete is 9:00 AM Cook Island time. I have given up trying to figure out what time it is where!! All I know it is time for the headphones and Jimmy Buffett to lull me to sleep for a couple hours.

5:00 AM (on my watch) folks are stirring as we prepare for our arrival in Tahiti. No sunrise yet but stepping off the plane for the 2-hour layover, I get my first exposure to tropical weather. 80 degrees – 90% humidity and partly cloudy. Fans but no AC in the airport terminal.

We re-board with some new passengers and those of us continuing on to Rarotonga and New Zealand. A little breakfast COFFEE and I am ready for the final leg. I am met at the airport by our team leader, Marty. She (and her husband) are veteran travelers and have led 26 teams to most of the locations Global Volunteers goes. He's a ham and just left to go back to their home in Portland OR. Also at the airport is my new-found ham friend, Victor, ZK1CG. We meet out other member, Marianne, an artist from Canada and off we go to The KiKi Motel. By design, Marty has kept our schedule light for the weekend and Monday – so as to acclimate to the heat. Yes brother it’s HOT and humid. You can stand in front of a fan and sweat!! My room "the ham radio" room – frequented by numerous ham radio operators before me is on the 2nd. Floor corner with a balcony over looking the water. Not too shabby!! And there is an ocean breeze.

I am hoping to scope out e-mail options for photos as this satellite link would still be downloading pictures by the time I get home. There is access at the "Telcom" building – for a FEE!! so I will be investigating.

In the meantime besides literally "sweating bullets" I am excited to see what adventures unfold. That’s all for now – time for more water and a pit stop..Cheers, jw