August 4th, 1998
The biggest celebration of the year is Constitution Day on August 4th. It is very much like July 4th in the US. We were fortunate to be there on this date and we participated in all of the festivities. The day began with a community meeting and speeches from the head of the island council, the church deacon and the government representatives. They then sang the national anthem and special songs about the Cook Islands. A light (by their standards) breakfast was served and then the games were started. The first games were for the children with running races, coconut carrying and a tug o war.
The old folks raced with an egg on a spoon in their mouths, threaded a needle and played darts. Eighty four year old Bob, in the middle with the striped shirt, was second in the needle threading which was amazing.
The rest of the island was divided into 2 teams. Each team put forward a mens, womens and 2 coed volleyball teams. Volleyball is the national sport of the Cook Islands and on Palmerston they play it every afternoon except Sunday. Each team is carefully selected to split up families and even husbands and wives. Traditionally they name each team for a visiting yacht but we were the only yacht there so my team selected the name "Above the Net". The level of play was impressive but everyone was having fun. Hellen and I were really bad but no one seemed concerned with the lost points from our errors. Lehi at 10 and Darling at 12 were both better players than Hellen or I could hope to be.
After the volleyball there was a Bar B Que. In preperation for the feast I went spear fishing the day before with James and Alex. Lehi pushed the fish basket. We were going for Surgeon fish but James coudln't resist taking a shot a large parrot.
We contributed our 62 inch Mahi Mahi caught between Bora Bora and Aitutaki. Lehi and James also fished the reef.
The Bar B Que included fish of all sorts and dishes made from local crops. Coconut milk was the main condiment and everything was really delicious. After a break for everyone to change they had a dance which went until 2 AM. After the generator shut down at midnight Bill from the Palmerston Yacht Club fired up his generator and kept the party going.