Friday, October 11, 2013

Community Policing and the Little Pigs of God

When we got off the Bandit at the airport at Mauke, one of the Cook Islands 'outer islands', we were immediately stopped by a uniformed police officer. We thought he would inspect our belongings for forbidden vegetables, but instead he put eis* around our necks and told us to wait for our luggage. We waited. My companion said, uh, we were going to be met by someone from Tiare Cottages....the police officer laughed and said he was wondering how long it would take us to figure it out. He was also the proprietor of Tiare Cottages, the only place to stay on Mauke, pop. about 450. We were made so welcome. We were two of the three Papa'a** on the island. We stayed far too short a time. We saw the world's biggest banyan tree, which occupies over an acre. We also went to both of the shops. And we walked a lot and pottered around in tiny exquisite coves and on coral beaches. We found many interesting sea cucumbers. Here is a sea cucumber doing a poo: We visited the divided church. When the church was built there was fierce debate about its design, and it ended up being divided into two halves, with each half decorated in its own way, and the preacher standing in the middle. Everyone on Mauke is Christian of one sort or another, our hosts being two of the 9 Seventh Day Adventists there. In the church, my travelling companion told me about how the missionaries translated the Bible into the island languages. They were not fixated on literalism. They tried hard to communicate, changing the symbolism to suit. An example: Jesus could not really be called the lamb of God in a culture were nobody knew what a sheep was. So they translated the phrase as 'little pig of God' On Mauke we saw many dear little pigs of God, as well as little goats of God and little chickens of God. Most creatures there are pretty free range, and as sweet and blessed as they can be. Tiare Cottages is run by Tangata, the policeman, and Teata, who teaches high school. They had lived in South Auckland and came home to Mauke once their children had grown. Ta talked about community policing on Mauke. At first when he arrested people he had to take them home. Now he has a police station, although some of it he has built himself. Recently he put up a stop sign. He then went around the corner to see if anyone stopped. Of course they didn't. These are dirt roads, and most people travel by motor scooter at low speeds. Ta took note of all the people who didn't stop, and visited them. He told them when they visited Rarotonga and went through stop signs they would be fined - they should see this stop sign as practice for urban living. Most of the people of Mauke are related to Ta and Teata. Ta is trained in a community policing model and really I could see no other way of managing it effectively. On the last day we were there Teata asked us to help with her Year 11 social studies class. They were doing a module on human rights, focusing on Amnesty International and issues for women in Egypt. There are 6 Y11 young people. Only two have internet access. They are village kids. Teata asked us to talk to her class, so we gave a lesson on Amnesty and women in Egypt. One girl asked me what is the difference between human rights and social justice. They were preparing a brochure to deliver to every house on the island, on this very abstract topic. I am a frustrated wannabe teacher - I love prancing about in front of a whiteboard. This school is trying to teach the New Zealand curriculum with few resources, and blackboards not whiteboards, and certainly no power point presentations. Teata routinely asks her guests to take a class, partly to expose the kids to outside influences. Her last guests were Finns and they taught Finnish football. Mauke is awesome. I could live there, and just hang out on the beach and teach random classes, and befriend the little pigs of God.

* An ei Cook Island Maori for lei, a garland of fragrant local flowers.
  ** White people.

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