Tag Archives: Kathy Giuffre

IDYLLIC POLYNESIA

‘The Marquesas were unique, unlike any island group I’d ever seen, a dream landscape for both poets and scientists.’

J. Maarten Troost, ‘Headhunters on my Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story’


‘I’ve snorkeled all over the South Pacific, but nowhere have I seen a place more bewitching than the South Pass of Fakarava.’

J. Maarten Troost, ‘Headhunters on my Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story’


‘Rarotonga is the main island of the Cook Islands, a country in central Polynesia, west of Tahiti and east of Tonga. Tiny and beautiful, it is surrounded by a wide turquoise lagoon and sharp coral reef.’

Kathy Giuffre, ‘An Afternoon in Summer: My Year on a South Sea Island, Doing Nothing, Gaining Everything, and Finally Falling in Love’


‘In an attempt to attract a dribble of tourism, Niue has adopted the sound-bite title Rock of Polynesia for its two hundred fifty square miles, which rise from a narrow fringing reef like a two-layer wedding cake. It’s different from any island we’ve seen. It is girt by cliffs that continue down to some of the world’s deepest ocean bottoms, without lagoons or beaches. Nor does Niue have rivers and streams, for the plentiful rainwater simply sinks into porous limestone. This renders the coastal waters unbelievably clear. More than a hundred feet of underwater visibility is routine, the diving among the very best for the very few who get there.’

Andrew Rayner, ‘Reach for Paradise’


‘It often seemed to me that calling the Hawaiian Islands “paradise” was not an exaggeration, though saying it out loud, advertising it, seemed to be tempting fate. They are the most beautiful, and the most threatened, of any islands in the Pacific. Their volcanic mountains are as picturesque as those in Tahiti, their bays as lovely as the ones in Vava’u; the black cliffs of the Marquesas are no more dramatic than those on Molokai and Kaua’i. The climate is perfect.’

Paul Theroux, ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific’

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GREAT SUMMER READS (2014)

‘Bula: Sailing Across the Pacific’ by Bryan Carson

Bryan, bored with his corporate job, decides to fulfil his dream and cruise the Pacific Ocean. He buys a boat and, together with his friend Figman, begins a great adventure.

After a short stop in Mexico, Bryan sails to French Polynesia, Hawaii, Kiribati, Tonga, American Samoa, Fiji, and New Caledonia. Along the way he meets a variety of people, both native Islanders and foreign visitors, makes some new friends, and has a lot of fun while discovering the wonders of the Blue Continent.

This is a brilliant story created to entertain readers and give them a little bit of enjoyment. Written with a fantastic sense of humour, it will make you laugh out loud from the very first page. A truly compelling read for one of those lazy summer days!

‘An Afternoon in Summer’ by Kathy Giuffre

Kathy, a single mother of two young boys, decides to spend her sabbatical year researching indigenous art of Rarotonga. Eager to live on a tropical island, she packs her sons and together they set off on a magical adventure.

After arriving in the Cooks, Kathy finds out that they have no place to stay. Her unlikely saviour is Emily, an 82-year-old Maori lady, who offers them a room in her house by the ocean.

This beautiful and heart-warming book is a must-read for every woman who dreams of escaping from reality, forgetting about problems, and decamping to an almost ideal location. It’s a touching story that inspires, evokes emotions, and stirs the soul.

‘The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific’ by J. Maarten Troost

At the age of 26, Maarten moves to Kiribati with his girlfriend Sylvia. Soon after arrival, their expectations of a tropical paradise are brutally shattered into pieces. The spectacular corner of the globe turns out to be a polluted, dirty island where one needs to find a way to survive while being ‘surrounded’ by the rhythms of ‘La Macarena’.

Nevertheless, Maarten and Sylvia learn how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and after two years are reluctant to go home.

It seems that only J. Maarten Troost can create such a brilliantly written, humorous story that captures attention and simply doesn’t let go. It is a thoroughly engaging travelogue filled with hilarious anecdotes and some thought-provoking reminiscences that will leave you wondering what’s really important in life.

‘Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu’ by J. Maarten Troost

Upon returning from Kiribati, Maarten takes a job at the World Bank. His new, buttoned-down life quickly makes him tired. He misses the islands of the South Seas and dreams of another escape. Luckily for him, his wife Sylvia is offered a position in Vanuatu.

As they land in Melanesia, they are eager to immerse themselves in the local culture. They drink kava, get to know the country’s history, and discover the darker side of humanity – cannibalism. Everything seems to be almost peachy until Sylvia gets pregnant and the couple is forced to search for proper medical care. Unable to find it in Vanuatu, they decide to move to Fiji.

Another great story created by Troost. It’s definitely different from his first book, nevertheless it is just as good. It is a comic travelogue-cum-touching memoir, in which the author shares his thoughts and reflections not only on finding paradise but also on discovering the true meaning of ‘home’.

‘Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story’ by J. Maarten Troost

Inspired by famous writers, newly sober Maarten decides to come back to his beloved Pasifika in order to retrace Robert Louis Stevenson’s route through the Blue Continent.

Following in the Scottish author’s footsteps, he travels from island to island, taking time to explore all the places he has read about. Somewhere along the way, his adventure turns into an amazing journey of self-discovery.

This book is not as light-hearted and amusing as Troost’s previous works. It’s much more serious; it’s personal and intimate; it’s focused on giving readers valuable insights into the cultures of the South Seas. The author’s style may have matured, but it’s still utterly unique. You will definitely have a lot of fun while reading this fascinating tale!

COOK ISLANDS BY KATHY GIUFFRE

Cook Islands. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Kathy Giuffre, the author of ‘An Afternoon in Summer’, gives her recommendations.

Visit The Beachcomber Gallery

This is a terrific art gallery right in town in Avarua. There is black pearl jewelry and lots of crafts form local craftspeople. It is also a great place to see some of the best of the local artists’ work, including paintings, sculpture and tivaevae. Some artists have studios at the beachcomber, so sometimes they can come chat with you about their work or you can go out to the studios and watch some of the pearl carvers at work.

Do the Cross Island Trek with Pa

Hiking across the whole island and going into the very steep, rugged interior with a guide who knows so much of the lore and history of the island.Along with being a true expert on all facets of traditional life in the Cooks, Pa is a warm and friendly guide who is happy to help interested people find out more about the island and to explore the nature and the culture of the island. A lot of the activities for tourists center around the beaches, so this is a great chance to get to see another aspect of Rarotonga.

Visit one of the outer islands, like Aitutaki

This really gives you a chance to get away from it all and get the feel for what the Cooks were like fifty years ago. There are flights pretty much every day from Rarotonga to Aitutaki (book in the office at the airport) and you can go for the day, leaving on the early morning flight and coming back in the evening. Or you can stay for a while – there are hotels for every price range on the island and the lagoon at Aitutaki is often mentioned by those who know as being one of the most beautiful places in the world. Amazing snorkeling!

A CHAT WITH… KATHY GIUFFRE

Kathy Giuffre is a professor of sociology at Colorado College and an author of a compelling memoir, ‘An Afternoon in Summer’. Here’s what this lovely lady had to say not only about her book but also about the place she once called home.

KATHY GIUFFRE

Pasifika Truthfully: You and your sons spent one year in the Cook Islands. How exactly did you end up there?

Kathy Giuffre: I have always had an interest in Polynesian culture, especially in the arts, and had travelled some in the South Pacific – although never to the Cooks. I’m a college professor and I had a sabbatical year coming up during which I had the opportunity to be paid for a year to go somewhere and do research. I specifically chose the Cook Islands because I had heard and read about the vibrant art world that exists there. I was interested in trying to understand why this community had such an exceptional outpouring of creativity. So I was really on the island as a researcher, but when you live on an island with fewer than 10,000 people for a whole year (especially if you have kids with you and you are living in a house with a local resident) it is impossible not to become part of the community.

PT: What is your biggest memory of that place?

KG: There are so many – but one thing I remember very vividly is sitting in a chair in the workroom of our house one night, talking on the telephone long distance to my friend in Switzerland and holding the receiver of the phone out so that he could hear the incredible sound of the enormous tropical storm that was pounding down on our roof. I loved the wildness of the storms – especially when everyone was snug and safe inside the house.

PT: . Your life changed quite a bit during that ‘Pasifika year’. How do you recall that time?

KG: I think I really came into my own during that year – even though I was 39 years old when I arrived. I still try to treat the world in the ‘Polynesian Way’ even though I am now back in the United States. I try not to lose sight of how to live a life that is concerned with generosity, kindness, and human relationships rather than thinking about ‘getting ahead’ or getting material objects.

PT: What did you like most about the islands?

KG: The people I met are people whom I love and whose friendship I treasure. I really feel that I was taken in and taken care of at a time that was pretty difficult for me as a single mother with two small children and when I was really not at my best emotionally.

PT: And what did you like least?

KG: Spiders! Enormous hairy spiders!

PT: What were your sons’ impressions of that ‘tropical paradise’?

KG: It was an enormously happy year for my children, which is interesting because we lived all together in one small room of the house and they had basically not a single toy. No TV, no computer or computer games, none of the stuff that we think kids need to be happy and entertained. They spent their time climbing trees, playing in the garden or on the beach, using their imaginations – it was great for them. When we came back to the US we got rid of our TV and have never regretted it – life is better without all the possessions that I once would have thought we needed to be happy.

PT: Did you learn anything from the Islanders?

KG: Absolutely – I learned, most importantly, how to embrace the ‘Pacific Way’ of life. I still try every day to be a little more Polynesian, to take things at a slower pace, for instance, and to think about being generous as a really important value.

PT: What, or who, inspired you to pen down your memories and write a book?

KG: Every now and then, I would send a group email to my friends back in the United States. And a couple of my friends thought the emails were really funny and could be turned into a book. Those and my journal were the basis for the finished book. But really the reason that I wrote it was that my children were so young when we went that I was worried that they might forget what this year in paradise had been like, how wonderful our life was then. So I wrote the book for them, as truthfully as I could, so that they would always have something to help them remember.

PT: Have you had a chance to come back to the Cook Islands? If not, would you like to? Maybe you could write a sequel.

KG: Yes, we all went back about five years ago to see Emily again and so I could show my husband all the places that he had heard so much about and to have him meet all the people I had loved so much. We were only there for a couple of weeks, though – not enough time to do more than basically say hello to everyone – not enough time for a sequel, for sure!

PT: If someone offered you a chance to move to Pasifika, would you agree? Do you think you could actually live there? Or was it only a one-time adventure?

KG: I talk with my husband all the time about moving back – especially when it is bitterly cold and snowing here in Colorado. But if we do go back, I think we would not go back to Rarotonga – we would head elsewhere, probably. Not because Rarotonga is not wonderful, but because the year that I spent there was so magical to me, so perfect, so much exactly what I needed that nothing could ever live up to its memory. Better to keep that memory intact and head out for new adventures someplace we have never been.

‘AN AFTERNOON IN SUMMER’ BY KATHY GIUFFRE

‘An Afternoon in Summer: My Year on a South Sea Island, Doing Nothing, Gaining Everything & Finally Falling in Love’ is Kathy Giuffre’s memoir that recounts her twelve-month-long sojourn in the Cook Islands.

AN AFTERNOON IN SUMMER

Summary

Kathy, a single mother of two young boys, decides to spend her sabbatical year researching indigenous art of Rarotonga. As her new boyfriend agrees to join her, she happily books a trip for four, hoping to spend a wonderful time with her loved ones. However, things start to get complicated when Gregg suddenly announces he isn’t coming.

Left alone with her sons, Kathy arrives in the Cooks only to find out that her landlord has vanished and she has no place to stay. Despite her miserable situation, she chooses not to come back to the US. She meets Emily, an 82-year-old Maori woman with a house by the ocean, who offers her a room.

As time goes by, Kathy and her sons discover the wonders of the islands. They make friends with local people and start slowly feeling at home. What is more, Kathy reconnects with her old love.

Review

A travelogue-cum-memoir written by a woman? That’s a rare thing to find. Even today, travel writing is still considered a male domain. It’s a real pity actually, because ladies do know how to turn an interesting journey into a gripping narrative. You don’t believe me? Just read Kathy Giuffre’s book.

Of course, this title won’t take you on an exciting adventure to the tropics. No. It is something more subtle, more feminine. It’s a beautifully drafted tale of love, spiked with innermost feelings and emotions. The author doesn’t simply describe her experiences – she reveals how the sojourn changed her and what it brought into her life. Reviving fond memories and reminiscing about the past, she recounts finding her true soulmate and meeting people who became not just her friends, but her little family. And she does it in a candid, straightforward way that is very appealing. With this book Kathy Giuffre invites you to her world. Let me assure you that you won’t regret accepting the invitation.

The story itself is highly entertaining. Wonderful depictions capture imagination, evoking images of a tropical paradise – a blissful land of tranquil delights, where good vibrations fill the air, sorrows sink beneath the waves, and everyone beams with sheer happiness. The serene ambience of the book definitely reflects the unique atmosphere of the South Seas. From the very first page you are ‘surrounded’ by a magical aura that doesn’t disappear with the last word; it lingers on for a very long time.

‘An Afternoon in Summer’ is less a travelogue and more a memoir, which means that the Pacific country is not its prime focus. Nonetheless, the author made sure to include a few interesting facts about Rarotonga, its inhabitants, and their fascinating culture, so that readers could taste Polynesia and experience the real life in the Cooks.

This extremely honest account of a woman’s voyage of self-discovery was written to give others hope and encourage them to change their own lives. It’s inspirational, thought-provoking, thoroughly riveting – simply brilliant. If you want to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Blue Continent, this is the right choice for you. It’s a book definitely worth reading.