Flowers in my hair came a little bit late on this journey but when they eventually came they were spectacular! Instead of buying a lousy rose in San Francisco I waited until coming to Rarotonga. This tiny island is a major hub to all Cook Islands and few other countries in South Pacific. This was the first time I went to a paradise like island and let me tell you this: it’s not the easiest journey I made!
I will start my story with one afternoon spent on learning how to create a traditional flower garland called ‘ei. I went to a flower shop just around the corner and asked Victoria: “Will you teach me to make ‘ei?” She looked at me and answered: “Yes! Why don’t we do it right now?” It is a good example of how islanders are doing their best to meet you in half way. I loved the idea and got back after 15 minutes with my camera. Victoria already waited for me with fresh flowers. And a smile.
“Women do not use makeup – she started her story. And each of us is capable to create her own ‘ei. Girls that are working everyday instead of makeup they cut flowers from their gardens and produce a fresh flower garland in the morning”. And this is so true! For 2 weeks I saw amazing variety of flower garlands: some of them were plastic but major part is out of fresh flowers. A waitress with exceptionally beautiful ‘ei told me shoe does them every two days. “When I come back from work I put it into water and the next day it is fresh again!”. Women has their own tricks everywhere, don’t they? There is a special ‘ei for a wedding day. For the official business women are sometimes asked to follow a particular colour code but one thing is sure: all flowers used by women on Rarotonga are beautiful!
If they do not have enough time to prepare a flower garland they stick a flower into their hair at least! It is much easier than elsewhere as gardenia – the most popular flowers and also one of the symbols of Cook Islands – are flowering all year round! There are trees covered with flowers and you can have how many you want collecting just they ones the fell! Green grass covered with white flowers is so beautiful! Not to mention a powerful and very nice smell.
I spent a lovely afternoon with Victoria. She showed me how to create my own flower garland. She told me how important and appreciated it is to women on the island. And I eventually experienced it: when I drove to a Hobbit premiere in my flower garland a guy working along the road stopped working, smiled and waved at me. I think he liked it. Well, I did.
Hobbit premiere was a good excuse not only to make ‘ei but most of all to wear it all day long! I think the story of ‘ei tells about how people on the island are: kind, ready to embrace your enthusiasm, eager to teach you something, ready to share their heritage, focused on appreciating small things and most of all, they really love their island!