Driving the 20 long minutes to the other side of the island, a few nights ago, I could almost smell the fried chicken as we slowed down to park outside Vili’s Noisy Rooster.
A friend stopped and said, wow, what brings you both to the other side of the Island as we pointed towards the spangling newish food establishment.
Standing outside was Vili himself. I had heard of him, and seen some of his quick comments on social media and wanted to meet the man behind the chicken, the burgers, and the Asian food.
We chatted for a while as his contagious enthusiasm won me over, telling me my columns are sometimes interesting but too long. Sometimes he agreed with them, sometimes he disagreed.
What we both agreed on was how good his chicken tasted. And when he disclosed his secret recipe – which I won’t share with you, because it’s a secret – I then realised why I drove for 20 minutes, which is a heck of a long way in Raro, to sample his wares.
I also realised that whatever misgivings I had about eating fried chicken were quickly ameliorated by what sweet goodness lay in that secret recipe.
What I love about people like Vili, people like Pavo from Mustonen Construction, Ana Heather from Fave and Julia Evans from Redpack or Xavier from Revenue Management, and the many other young Cook Island entrepreneurs and government workers that do so well on our Island, is that they fly in the face of comments I hear from time to time that our people, Cook Islanders, are lazy and just don’t want to work.
Sitting across from a table of expat business owners, not so long ago, the wine flowing maybe a little more than needed, they soon forgot I was sitting there as they began to chuckle about how lazy Cook Islanders were, how they didn’t want to work, and how they just up and leave and go to New Zealand with most of them going on the dole.
Such racist and negative characterisations of our people by those that have greatly benefited from living in the Cooks and used it as a “cash register” for profit is no surprise to many of us.
We have all encountered these micro racist aggressions from time to time.
Pockets of colonial pooh-bahism still exist here in the Cook Islands.
Though, it is encouraging to see those that have often sat in positions of profit and power for too long are now finding their way back to their own homelands where their attitudes and diminished view of others may find more support with the likes of Don Brash and his Hobson’s Pledge mob.
Definitely there is no place for it in this place that currently call the Cook Islands and call home.
I look around and our future looks good when I see the young entrepreneurs and businessmen and women, Cook Islanders, making their dreams a reality – be it building houses and swimming pools, mini pancakes, apparel, tampons or great burgers and fried chicken.
It is our responsibility to ensure that this continues and that we give our people every reason and opportunity to stay in the Cook Islands and to build their lives, their businesses and our economy with that money going back to Cook Islands families to support a lifestyle commensurate with their hard work.
The future looks good because we have made it that way.
Let’s ensure that we work together to keep it that way and build a Cook Islands that is vibrant and flourishing, resourceful and open, engaging and accepting of all who want to work here, but never should that be at our expense.
I told you Vili, this one wouldn’t be a long one!