Cuba

¿Que bola?What’s up?” “Un Gato de la Yuma “(a cat from the United States! ) The Cuban people were very impressed, and wanted to give me a nickname immediately. Everyone here has a nickname, though I can’t share what they called me, partly because I can’t pronounce it. Cuban Spanish is different from the Spanish from other countries, with lots of words from other languages mixed in. The native people are Taino, and the name Cuba comes from their language, and it means either “great place: or where fertilie land is abundant. When you hear about Christopher Columbus “discovering” the Americas, he actually landed in Cuba as the second stop of his first voyage in 1492. “Dale” the girls shouted at me, meaning “come on,” or “hurry up.” We went dancing at the plaza, where I learned about different music styles such as the mambo, cha-cha-cha and salsa. We even did the rhumba! Music and dancing are important parts of life in Cuba, and everyone participates. We hitchhiked home at the end of the night, it was surprisingly safe because it is required for all government driven vehicles to pick up hitchhikers who need a ride, no matter what the reason.

Purrs, Gulliver

cuba

The Island of Love

Ia ora na (hello)!  I am on one of the many Tahitian Islands.  Moorea means “yellow lizard” which is a name taken from a family of chiefs that governed the island.  It is also known as “The Island of Love”.  The Tahitian alphabet contains only 13 letters: the vowels a, e, i, o, u and the consonants f, h, m, n, p, r, t and v.  did you know the word tattoo came from the Tahitian word tatau?  I heard some wonderful stories about Tohu, the god of tattoo who painted all the ocean fish in beautiful colors and patterns.  In Polynesian culture, tattoos are signs of beauty.  In earlier times, tattoos were ceremoniously applied when reaching adolescence.

I tried to put this postcard in the mailbox outside my friends house, but he laughed and said “that is not for mail, it is four our French bread deliveries!”  they get fresh loaves of bread twice a day, but to get their mail they have to go to the post office.  What an interesting custom!  Purrs, Gulliver

Morea

Kauai

Mmmm, I love all the fruit I found on Kauai. The oldest island on the Hawaiian Islands grows guava, mango, banana, papaya, avacado, starfruit, kava and pineapple. Pretty amazing for a volcano that erupted with fire and hot rocks six million years ago!  The “Garden Isle” has a tropical rain forest covering much of the land, and it gets more rain than any of the other “Sandwich Islands” which is an old name for Hawaii.  I normally don’t like being in water, so I skipped the snorkeling and surfing and enjoyed stretching out on the sandy beaches for a nap every day.  I also went hiking in the Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It is a large canyon, approximately 10 miles long and 3000 feet deep.  I certainly got my exercise there!  Purrs, Gulliver.

Waimea Canyon

Australian animals

G’day mate, and welcome to the land down under! Australia is the smallest inhabited continent of the seven continents and can also be considered the largest island in the world.  Because it is below the equator, the seasons are reversed – you may be in winter, but it is the middle of summer here. Most people live on the coast of Australia, the interior is mostly desert. Many of Australia’s native animals and birds can be found only in Australia like the kangaroo, koala, dingo, emu, platypus, wallaby and wombat.

Purrs, Gulliver

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Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands are so beautiful. As soon as I stepped off the boat my hosts put flower lei around my neck as a symbol of friendship and welcome. A conch shell, called a Pū (pronounced poo) was blown to greet the visitors. Traditionally, Pū were used to announce the beginning of a ceremony or to communicate across water to people in canoes or from a canoe to land. Today they are popular at weddings, lu’au and the opening of the Hawaii State Legislature term. When the Pū is blown, how many times and in which directions all have significance to the ceremony. I learned a few Hawaiian words also. Aloha means many things, and can be used for both hello and goodbye. Mahalo is thank-you (always useful) and Ohana is the word for family. Wahine are women and Kāne are men, while Haole describes a non-native or foreign person. Purrs, Gulliver

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Easter Island

How do you keep yourself entertained when you are on an island over 2000 miles from anyone else? Well, the people who settled on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island around the year 1050 liked stone carving in a big way. They created nearly 900 giant stone statues that have been found in different locations around the island. These gigantic figures–known as moai–were carved out of tuff (the light, holey rock which is compressed volcanic ash) and put on top of ceremonial stone platforms called ahus. The biggest statue is about 32 feet tall, and consists of a single block weighing about 82 tons. The rest of the statues average 13 feet high, with a weight of 13 tons. The stone carvers were creative in making the most out of sections of rock. Moai can be seen carved in all directions in the island’s cliffs. If a defect would appear in the rock the statue would be abandoned and they moved on to another area. They took advantage of cracks in the volcanic walls and also variations in colors to create their statues. No records are left to explain why these statues were carved, or how they were moved around the island, though some think trees were cut down and used as rollers.  I wish I could go back in time to find out – those are big statues!  Purrs, Gulliver

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Hula Dancing

I went to Hawai’i this past summer and learned how to do a Hula Dance. Can you imagine a cat dancing?   The Hula is unique to the Hawai’ian Islands, though it was created by the Polynesian people who first settled the islands.  The modern form of the dance uses the body, hand and foot motions as well as singing or chanting to tell a story. It is not as easy as a talented dancer makes it appear. I kept losing my place and forgetting which hand motion to use next, which had the teachers giggling at my attempts.  They were nice about it though, and very patient teachers.  Purrs, Gulliver

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