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Posts tagged ‘cultural stuff’

Vietnam: 16~Regard and recoil at the produce markets

The next morning we tootled along to a restaurant to meet the chef who would be taking us on a tour of the Hoi An fresh produce markets. Read more

When the country came to town: Horowhenua A&P Show

Agricultural & Pastoral shows were an annual feature of my rural upbringing. Last year we went to the Masterton show; this year (a couple of weeks ago) we went to one in Levin.

Levin is one of main centres of the Horowhenua District, about an hour and a half north of Wellington. Normally just somewhere you drive through, it was unusual for it to be the destination.

If you’re not too familiar with the A&P show concept, the photos while not definitive should give you a flavour.

Holding pens for the cute and cuddly alpacas

Judges inspect a line of alpacas

A crowd gathers in front of the shearing shed

Shearing competition in progress

Two pink pigs hang out in their pen

At snout level

These wee fellas were only born the previous night

I have a soft spot for pigs as a result of my farm upbringing. When I was much younger I collected pig figurines and for a time did not eat pig meat, but now… well, bacon is delicious. And many years later, after fetching a few boxes and things out of storage, Mike banned my pig collection from entering the house. I sent them to a new (hopefully more caring) home way down south somewhere.

Cows being groomed in front of a shed that displays the ribbons awarded so far

At A&P shows you always find new tractors and old tractors

And near the new tractors, you will often find men in discussion

Gates leading through to the miniature horse base and parade area

The horses may have been miniature in stature but crikey the stallion, um, wasn’t. Those little lady horses were pretty cute though.

An A&P show isn’t complete without all the arts and crafts, which go under the name ‘home industries’. There was so much baking it probably wasn’t the wisest exhibit to visit when hungry.

A selection of the home industries exhibits

I was interested to see that the modern version of the decorated sand saucer competition that I remember entering is now the decorated round wine biscuit competition. More edible, I’ll grant them that.

Probably the highlight for me was the Dog & Duck Show.

The heading dog was directed by his master's whistles and put on an amazing display of control with a group of ducks

The dog had just completed two years of training. For the finale, he separated the ducks by colour and herded each group into a box. Great to watch

A show jumping entrant

We watched a bit of horse action while eating our burgers made by the rural volunteer firefighters

Sooner or later it was inevitable that we’d end up in the amusement park. The boys got a few coupons each from which they had to decide which rides to go on.

So many things to choose from...

An oldie but a goodie, if not the boys' cup of tea

This was though

Unfortunately we missed the sheep racing

After a quick visit to the trade shed to buy lollies and candy floss, we were A&Pd out. Time to go home.

Home time for some four-legged creatures as well

Raro day 3: the markets and a wedding

Saturday arrived and with it the main purpose of the trip. First priority of the day though was to visit the Punanga Nui markets in Avarua. Billed as a must-visit we were keen to go but not at the expense of our holiday sleep-in!

The buses supposedly run twice an hour on market day but this wasn’t our experience and so we got there later than intended. First impressions made me itchy to start racing around – big open space, lots of craft and food stalls, lots of people.

It was hot, damn hot, and sunny. Though not for long. For lunch the hot chicken pita pockets called out to us and before we’d finished them it started raining. It was nearing midday and we scurried around the last few stalls, picking up a small wooden turtle as the traditional trip keepsake to take home.

Rain on the way?

The markets, a fantastic place for souvenirs, crafts and lunch

With the dubious bus schedule in mind and a wedding to think about getting ready for, we gathered at what we assumed was the bus stop where lo and behold, a service arrived on time.

Back at the ranch, or resort at least, I had enough time for a brief wrestle with the internet during which time it rained again. Still, this was the opposite side of the island to the wedding venue and given the nature of tropical climate rain, it wasn’t worth worrying about the forecast for later on.

Then it really was time to start the process of getting ready and I could’ve done with longer as rushed to get finished in time for our scheduled pick-up. With a couple of other collections along the way, we reached the venue with 45 minutes to spare so there was ample time to check the place out.

Tamarind House “is a beautifully restored heritage colonial house set on 2.5 acres of lawns sweeping down to the beach. … You can enjoy a feeling of nostalgia for a bygone era in the peaceful seclusion of our truly unique tropical setting.” Dating back to 1910ish it was first the residence of Union Steamship Company management and later the British Consul. Today it is a restaurant and a rather perfect wedding venue as well.

The other girls had also arrived and all looked gorgeous in their various dresses. It was hot and sunny and I kicked myself for not buying a woven fan from the markets as they had. There was a strong warm breeze which quickly dealt to the hair that I had carefully blown dry. O well.

Gradually the remainder of the guests arrived and all 50ish of us gathered near the deck above the beach where the ceremony was to be held. The groom and his best man (actually his son) were in position… and… waiting…

Tamarind House was a fabulous venue - beach and sea views out front and rugged hills behind

No matter where you go, coconuts are never far away

We didn't know whether to be amused or dismayed when a black cat wandered in and proceeded to make itself at home

The string band were ‘given the nod’ and resumed playing as the first of the flower girls peeked around the corner. One by one they walked in, followed by Sally’s sister as matron of honour, and then Sally with her dad. They all looked wonderful. Sally was never going to do the full white traditional thing and her silver dress was gorgeous and so very her.

After a brief pause while a tissue was procured for the emotional bride!, the ceremony got underway. It was relatively short and before long we had a newly married couple standing before us. Congratulations flowed and group photo organisation began.

We get our first glimpse of Sally

The ceremony gets underway

Sally and Michael, relaxed now that the first part is over

The flowergirls were the stars of the day

While the main wedding photos were being taken we did our best to keep cool

...Until it was our turn

As the afternoon turned to twilight we moved into the restaurant. Speeches were followed by a lovely meal. With darkness firmly ensconced we were then treated to a cultural show comprising drummers and dancers. I’ve always loved Cook Islands drums and really enjoyed this unexpected part of the night. The dancing was both traditional (everyone marvelling at the fluidity of the girls’ hips) and supplemented with fire sticks. Great skills.

Twas a beautiful calm night

The cultural show was a highlight, starting with iconic drums and hypnotic hips

Mike and I found ourselves part of the entertainment - and no we haven't since given up our day jobs

Most children are taught not to play with fire

The spectacular finale featuring all of the dance troupe

The rest of the night involved DJ tunes and dancing (of a different kind from before) for keen ones, or else just sitting around chatting and enjoying the setting. And if you were me, nursing a stupid headache. We had to be wrapped up before midnight and in the same way that the day started with a late bus, so it ended that way too. When it arrived we all crammed aboard for the clockwise procession of drop-offs.

It’s probably safe to say that every one of us was grateful to Sally and Michael for choosing Raro to have their wedding and making us all come to this fantastic place.

A spot of cultcha in Milwaukee

From Indianapolis I headed to Milwaukee to stay with relations for a couple of nights. The hospitality was again superb and I was taken around a few of the local sights. One such stop was the Milwaukee Art Museum. While these venues and cultural centres are a little wasted on me, there was no denying this was a spectacular building.

The museum is on the waterfront with Lake Michigan visible in the photo. This was my third brush with the Great Lakes, having begun my trip in Toronto and then visiting Niagara Falls. There is an offical Great Lakes Circle Tour which is over 6,500 miles long so these waterways truly are massive.

Next up was Seattle, a mere 2,000 mile train ride away…

Revisiting a country tradition

I grew up in the country, near a small town called Helensville where every February the Agricultural and Pastoral Show comes to town. Many rural centres in NZ have an A&P show, an event that brings together town and country in an organised mishmash of animals, farm machinery, various outdoor pursuits, arts/crafts/baking, equestrian events, sideshow games and rides, and more.

When I was little, going to the A&P show was a big day out. Prominent memories are decorating sand saucers for the home industries shed, candy floss, getting ripped off at a sideshow game, that game where the clown heads swivel back and forth, shaved ice, buying pet fish one year with a friend, and the ‘Sizzler’ ride.

One can't immediately start with the Sizzler - here I am undergoing some early training at my first A&P show

Anyway I digress: Mike and I saw an ad for the Masterton A&P show and decided to plan a day trip with his children. Mike hadn’t been to a show before and given my vast experience in such matters felt he had to rectify this cultural deficiency.

Masterton is about 1.5 hours north-east of Wellington in a region called the Wairarapa. It’s a nice drive and I love going ‘over the hill’ though we don’t do it often enough.

It was a hot day. The showgrounds were on the outskirts of town and once in the gates and parked, everyone got a liberal dosing of sunscreen. The show attractions were fairly well spread out and our starting point was the main pavilion which housed this year’s bumper crop of home industries entrants. Didn’t see any sand saucers.

For the next few hours we wandered past a man carving wood with a chainsaw, a collection of tractors and old water pumps, horses, sheep, a 4-wheel driving competition, horses, pigs, wool and horses. We spent a bit of time in with the sideshow games and rides to give Josh and Flynn a few new experiences. For me though the day’s highlight was a display of old speedway bikes by their old owners around part of the old speedway track – though the pig judging was also very interesting!

I guess I expected a bigger show, at least compared to Helensville’s, but nonetheless it did confirm that this is one tradition that is still going strong.

It's not an A&P show without tractors

Just one of the many horsey events taking place

A pretty good demo of old speedway bikes especially considering it was on grass

The pig judging was very closely watched - and was actually quite interesting

There's something abhorrent about the clowns but they are quite classic in a way

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