Their point was that if we don’t do something about the plethora of chickens and the poo that comes with them, then “quality tourists” will not come here and we then look like a third world destination.
Imagine you’ve invited guests from another country to dinner. The house is all ready for their arrival and you all put on a smiley face so they feel welcome. You talk about how the weather is better than where they are from and then as they leave they tell you, “by the way we think your house is a mess.
“And do something about those chickens in your yard because they are annoying.”
In this situation, I would probably show them the door before dessert. Politely place my hand behind their backs and direct them to the roadside, where they would find the quickest exit home. And they would never be invited to my home again.
This idea that we are somehow at the beckoning call of “quality tourists” from New Zealand is arrogance beyond belief. I remember one time walking through town on a Sunday morning and an Australian tourist stopped me to ask where was a good place to buy a coffee. She asked why everything was shut. I politely said to her most things were closed on a Sunday because that’s the way we choose to live here.
Her response was an agitated, “Well if you want us to come here, then don’t you think you should make it more open and somewhere for us to get a coffee on a Sunday?”
I was incensed by her sense of entitlement. She had bought a ticket and paid for accommodation, so that somehow also meant that we, the people of the Cook Islands, should be at her beck and call and when she wanted coffee, then coffee should be available to her.
I politely reminded her that this was more than just a holiday destination. In fact this was our home. First and foremost, I told her, we live here and we like this lifestyle, not having everything open on a Sunday. And with that, she went off looking for her coffee.
Fortunately, she is part of a minority. Most visitors who come here, and with whom we have all probably interacted, do remember this is our home first. They are careful and mindful of our customs and our ways and don’t want to intrude on them, recognising that although they’ve paid money to get here, they are still guests and not entitled spoilt brats.
I had to smile as I read the tourist’s comment that if we didn’t get rid of chickens then “quality tourists” wouldn’t come here. I have met many quality tourists and for the most part they would never see our chicken population as something that diminishes the kinds of experience they can enjoy here.
For the most part, quality tourists are too overcome and overwhelmed with the many good people, the many helpful and accommodating people of the Cook Islands, to be bothered by the odd crowing rooster or chicken poo on the grass.
I have never been to a “third world” country, but I do know enough to know we have little in common with the likes of the city of Mogadishu or any third world country that I can think of. To say we are “third world” is simply insulting.
Whether it be too many dogs or too many chickens, too many thefts or assaults, can we please not ask for these things to change simply because it would make our tourists guests feel more comfortable. We must never forget that this is first and foremost our home, our Enua, the place where we live and breathe and raise our families. Surely the needs of our people, who live here, wherever they may come from, should be first and foremost in our minds. Followed, of course by the needs of our many quality guests from around the world.
As for our unhappy tourists, I was thinking as to where in the world they could find the tourist destination they are so desperately seeking. I actually found it, and I know just the place where they won’t have to worry about chickens and chicken poo.
They will find this place sitting in the lounge of their home in New Zealand. It will be cold and wet outside but they will be able keep themselves busy surfing the TV channels or watching re-runs of Shortland Street.
- Thomas Wynne