Main Street, Peava
When we left Honiara back in August our destination for that overnight sail was Mbili Pass into Marovo Lagoon - which James Michener is said to have called the Eighth Wonder of the World - where we would hook up with our cruising buddies on Special Blend, already there. Marovo is home to the Solomon Islands' talented and infamous woodcarvers, reputed to be as aggressive in getting their carvings into your hands as the Kuna were with molas. Some anchorages were supposedly more feverish than others with hopeful vendors banging their canoes on the hull, so in the wee hours of my second watch, as we motor-sailed toward the lagoon in light wind and lumpy seas (a yucky combination), I flipped through a file of notes from other cruisers with advice on places to go and places to avoid.
"Peava" was starred in several reviews. I had no clue where it was so poked around the electronic charts and found it - a dot on the east coast of the island of Nggatokae (GAH-toe-kie), more or less in the direction we were headed. After a little more homework, I proposed a course change to Jim when he took over the watch at 0600: "Let's go check out Peava for a couple of days." So we directed McMurphy (the autopilot) to alter course a couple of degrees left and a couple of hours later nosed through the skinny pass into the reef-ringed lagoon at Peava. Six weeks later we were still there.
Peava is a small "SDA village" (Seventh Day Adventist) of barely 300 warm, friendly, welcoming people. Lots of kids! The setting is post-card material. The village is clean and tidy. Flowers everywhere. No betel nut spit. No circling canoes...except for regular visits by the creatively mobile kids.
And we didn't know till a few days later: spectacular dive sites and a gem of a dive operator - transplanted from Hawaii - at the other end of the village. We were quickly befriended by Lisa and her crew and spent as much time under water with them as we could. Above and below water, Lisa Choquette is a remarkable woman (I know she'll forgive me for blabbing that she's 67).
Katie and Lisa in their favorite place in the whole world
Lisa not only built the dive business from scratch on this remote island with no phone service (to say nothing of internet!) -- training and developing the best team of dive masters we've ever
dived with anywhere -- she also started a small "Head Start" program for the village pre-K set; opened and stocked a small village library in her little "compound"; is the go-to person for most of the medical problems in the village, where the nearest "clinic" is in the next one over, a good half-hour's walk away; and trained several of the villagers in basic first aid. Not only that, she plays a mean guitar, knows the words to a zillion songs, and now the village kids do too.
As we lingered in Peava, one day sliding into the next, saying we were leaving soon but never getting around to it, we became friends with many of the villagers as well. Yes, they wanted us to buy woodcarvings and baskets and wondered if we had spear gun rubber, fishing lures, hooks and line, old clothes and shoes, sheets and towels to trade. And yes, they wanted little favors, but what are friends for? Siana, the young but wise village chief, wanted to borrow movies to watch on his tiny DVD player and one day asked if I would read some church songs he'd written to check to make sure the English was correct. His wife, Patrina, teaches at the primary school and was hand-writing all of the tests for 8 subjects for each student in her class. I typed and printed them for her. The head-mistress, Siana's sister, asked if I would also recreate and print the term-end report card forms. They only had a couple left and she didn't think it was professional to send the parents hand-written report cards. The school has no power, no computer, no printer.
The 3-room primary school for 55 kids, grades 1 - 6. After grade 6, which is the end of school for many kids, they have to go to a different island for more.
Another teacher asked me to type and print a letter (and check his English) about a church youth group meeting. He also invited me to attend the upcoming school board meeting to "give us some ideas." The meeting never happened, but I offered to do a little strategic planning session with them when we returned.
The 10-minute walk from the dinghy dock to Lisa's place at end of town often took 20 - 30 minutes as we stopped to chat with our friends. One dear old lady, consigned to her own little paradise in oblivion, passed us regularly as she made several round trips every day, up and back the village path. We always stopped to greet her. Each time she seemed surprised to see us, asked where we were going, and prattled on about something only she understood.
...Or there was furtive Gregory, one of the village's better wood carvers, who would "Pssst!" from behind a bush, quietly calling, "Jim! Jim!" and ask if he had any hooks or line, and one time - my favorite - did I have a blouse for his wife that we would trade for a carving "so that she will sleep with me tonight!"
That's Gregory with the fishing line, his wife on the left.
Or stopping to deliver a pair of promised reading glasses.
Or just stopping to chat with the kids who all knew Jim carried lollies in his backpack.
Or stopping on the way to a jam session with Lisa to sing to the kids.
Or returning to the boat to supply balloons for the upcoming return-to-the-fold baptism of a group of lost souls.
Shortly before we finally did break away and leave Peava, we teamed up with Lisa for an (almost) standing-room only community concert. It was a grand event, complete with the church PA system and makeshift microphone stands (note the fan base with mic's attached with veterinary horse wraps that Lisa keeps in her first aid kit). The kids clamored on stage to help with the choruses or joined in from their bench in the "hall." They want another concert when we come back. Jim is practicing Christmas carols.
And we're still not altogether sure why, but the chief's brother, Berry, carved and presented this beautiful jack fish to us in our final days there.
Peava is a perfect example of why we have intentions, not plans. It didn't really matter whether we left or not and we loved it there. There was no place we were planning
to be. So six weeks after the "couple of days" we intended
to be there, we finally raised anchor and left to explore more of the Solomons (all the recent blog posts are post
-Peava) -- but we didn't say goodbye. We're headed back in a few days to spend the holidays with the "family."
I could go on and on about this wonderful place. Just in case you want to see a wee bit more too, there are more Peava scenes in the photo gallery...