Meanwhile, in Rarotonga …

There’s a website I like to browse now and then called very demotivational, which you may be familiar with. It's just a big collection of photos with witty captions photoshopped on. Well, at least they try to be witty, though it doesn’t always work.

There’s a recurring meme of "Meanwhile, in Soviet Russia" on pictures where things seem to be the opposite of what you might expect. (For example, one of the more recent ones I saw was meanwhile, in Soviet Russia, bed wets you.)

I’ve started thinking in terms of meanwhile in Rarotonga, because things here still leave me somewhat bemused. The oranges are green. Or yellow, but mainly green. So are lemons. And what with no house numbers, roosters, dire tales of centipedes and spiders (neither of which I’ve yet encountered) and a town that operates on who you know, it’s a learning curve.

But it’s a curve I’ve started to enjoy immensely. Shed any preconceived ideas, unless it’s about the beautiful scenery, and hold on tight – Raro’s quite an experience.

I did have a little giggle last week, subediting a story about Aitutaki, another of the Cook Islands. Its high school is now offering year 13 classes, giving the teenagers from the smaller outer islands another option to Rarotonga.

Apparently, some families would prefer their children to go to school in Aitutaki, as Rarotonga with its fast pace of life and myriad distractions might be too much.

Well, it’s all in the perception I suppose, and what you're used to.

Today as the bus rattled along the road to work, I thought how alien it would be to visit Auckland if you’d grown up here. A little like the first time I visited Sydney as a country-reared 16-year-old. It seemed very intense and so full of people. Of course, I'd spent time in New Zealand cities so it wasn't like I'd never seen one before. But what if I hadn't? It's hard to conceive what that would be like.

I’ve been in the city so long I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a small town. I’m sure you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever lived in one. My picture was in the paper I work for on Saturday, as there’s always a story on new staff. Since then, people keep randomly coming up to me and starting conversations, as you do.

This is good, because presently I’m Nigel-no-mates – aside from my lovely colleagues, I have no friends, which isn’t an ideal situation, though I hope it’s temporary.

It's a cliche that people are friendlier in small towns but in many ways they are. When I moved to Wellington, I learned to maintain the "personal bubble" that seems to be necessary in cities. Why do you think that is?

It hadn't been necessary growing up in a town with a population even smaller than Rarotonga's. At least here they don’t know my great-grandmother, grandparents, aunt or other random relatives.

So what happens in Rarotonga stays in Rarotonga, unless of course I splash it all over the internet. And a surprising number of people have informed me that they read this blog. I’m not sure if I want such fame to precede me – I’ll have to be careful what I say …

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