Fanning Day 3
25 August 2012
We started today with great intentions. The plan was to first go ashore and meet up with the quarantine officer and follow up on a request for some papayas and possibly lobster because she was going to put the word out that we were interested. Then, go for a snorkel (fishing enroute) and then take a walk again and maybe visit some of the locals we'd met. However, today was Saturday (here) and all the "offices" were closed. We aborted plan-A, and decided to walk down to Bruno and Tabeta's place for a visit. Bruno is a small Frenchman from Bordeaux who'd sailed to the somewhat formidable Washington Is. some years ago and fallen for a local islander named Tabeta. They eventually made their way to Fanning and have built a most unique home from the coral stones that make up the outer beaches of this atoll. Their 2-story home is completely tricked out with a 1000-gallon water collection system, 12-volt electrical, a full bathroom with shower and flush toilet, shop outbuilding, stocked with power tools, a master suite with veranda on second story and beautiful landscaped grounds with fruit trees, etc. It took Bruno and Tabeta 15 years to complete the main house - hauling stones from the beach one wheelbarrow load at a time and at times having to wait up to a year building supplies and cement to arrive on the supply ship from Christmas Is. Fifteen years seems like a long time to finish building a small home, but the attention to detail and artistic flare is astonishing. The place reminded me of something my parents, or my brother or I would build - given the same circumstances. They often entertain visiting islanders who come from far and wide to see his most unusual home and grounds (most of the Micronesian's are still living on low 1-story platforms with palm thatched roofs and grass mats - the same as they have for thousands of years.) We were treated to limeade, fresh fried fish and even coconut candy. Since we had enquired about buying gasoline for the outboard, Bruno suggested we talk to neighbors, Leslie and Jaren - the temporary agents for a n American supply ship named the Kwai - which services the Cook and Line Is. We walked down the road a bit and found Leslie and Jaren, a colorful couple not from here who served us ice water and also some "Bush Beer" a concoction of fermented sugar water and tea bags. It was surprisingly good and I asked for the recipe. Leslie filled us in a bit on some of the bickering between church factions and villages. Apparently during a recent sing/dance-off one group had been offended and today, there was a special trip made to the other village to make amends - complete with the slaughtering of 3 pigs! So - it was THAT serious. She also explained that while the locals appear pretty conservative by day, "nighttime is another matter." Apparently you have to guard your women and literally ward off nighttime suitors. No solo trips to town at night for Lolo! We finally got around to asking them about gasoline and how much. The answer was - "what have you got to trade?" Since Jaren had perked up earlier when I mentioned dried cranberries, we may try that. He's looking for something to give some extra flavor and variety to the bush beer. Jaren gave us a gift of one of the local Kiribas traditional necklaces - made from small cowrey shells and woven grass, then offered to lend us a couple bikes for exploring on another day. Everyone has been extremely nice and generous here. We stopped again at Bruno and Tabeta's and a local had been helping re-roof part of the house with new palm thatching. He'd brought several "Te Rere" or decorative warrior knives to sell. These are Kiribas pieces decorated with fish vertebrae, tortoise shell, shark teeth and mantis shrimp parts - all tied on with twine. Lolo and I picked out two - and gladly paid the price he was asking. After grilling Bruno some more on local fishing knowledge, I learned that the fish swarming our boat earlier today were surgeon fish - "good eating, but be careful of the razor sharp scalpels on either side of the tail. They can slice our leg wide open." I'll be ready for-em tomorrow.