A Fruitful Day
30 August 2012
Yesterday while ashore, we'd made plans to meet the primary school teacher on the northwest motu in her village this morning. We ended up spending part of the morning troubleshooting why our computer modem had suddenly stopped working and after a borrowed satellite phone call to the US tech support folks at Farallon, I'd found the culprit in a dead internal battery. But, having missed the ferry and not having time to borrow some bikes, we took our dinghy instead. The inside of the lagoon at Fanning is quite shallow in many places, but we were able to pick our way through infinite hues of blue water in the general direction of the primary school. Pulling the dinghy up onto a village beach, we asked "where can we find Moanteuea, (sounds like "Montoya") our new friend. Met with mostly blank stares, I showed a young man her name on my iPhone and he immediately rounded up two darling little girls that were apparently to lead us to her house which ended up being another mile down the road. The girls were extremely shy with us, but answered the many posed questions from kids of other houses we passed. One of the only words we could recognize was one that describes us - "hematong" or white skinned. When we arrived we found Moanteuea lying in the shade reading (in English.) Though Moanteuea's spoken English is rough, she, like the children of her school seems to read in English but they don't think in English and rarely speak it. After apologizing for our tardiness, we were invited to come up onto the raised floor of the house and sit on a woven grass mat - where we talked for quite a while. Lolo gave her some old school books we had on the boat that Piper has outgrown and she seemed happy to have them for her school. Sitting atop coconut palm fronds, we were each served "moi moto" or drinking coconuts which her husband had harvested this morning. As we sipped the cool coconut juice, I marveled at how much was inside the soft shell. It was literally full. They were amazingly thirst quenching and after eating the thin young coconut meat from inside, both Lolo and I were completely stuffed. What an amazing thing, the coconut. As it turns out the open walled "house" we were sitting in was the dining house. The main house has palm mats on the exterior walls. There is also a cooking house - which has slats on the outside. All are thatched with palm fronds. Surrounding the huts were various pigs, chickens and dogs which seemed to mostly laze around in the shade. Moanteuea had a couple boys cut some fresh papayas from the trees next to the hut - which we later learned were for us. After a while we walked down the road to the old telegraph buildings which now house MTSS, the secondary school. Amazingly MTSS runs two side by side religious schools under the same name and even under the same roof. Half the school is Catholic, the other half Protestant! After speaking to the chaplain, I told her they could probably teach the Irish and English a few things about getting along. We walked over to Whalers Bay, where there still remains some historical wreckage and then got completely drenched in a rain squall on the way back to Moanteuea's house. While she began cooking rice (with shallow well water over a small wood fire), we were invited to stay for lunch, and then asked to wait a few minutes while she went to the store. Upon her return, we were served white rice and ALL of the items she'd bought at the store - consisting of a can of cold spaghetti in tomato sauce, a tin of "pork lunch meat" (essentially Spam) and a box of breakfast crackers. It was a gesture of EXTREME generosity as her husband is currently unemployed and any items bought from the store are very expensive. We were quite touched and upon leaving asked her husband and her to come for lunch aboard Radiance on Monday. Interestingly, she said she would have to check with the police and customs to see if that was allowed, but we look forward to repaying the favor. She then handed us 6 freshly cut papayas to take. On our return, we explored the north side of the lagoon via dinghy and stopped at a small sandy island - where two naked brown children swam directly to us with their dog leading the way. I think the dog was as skittish as they were upon seeing the hematong, but I sneaked in a few pictures anyway. Before calling it a day, we stopped at Leslie and Jarren's and were given a large bag of mantis shrimp. These are large odd looking but tasty white shelled crustaceans that more closely resemble lobster than shrimp. In return we had brought them 1lb of ground coffee. Cool. On the way back to the dink, we stopped at Bruno and Tabeta's - returning some old home movies of Washington Island (amazing) and brought for him a can of pate'. Everyone here is extremely generous and helpful. The barter system seems to prevail and I think everyone feels they are getting the better end of the bargain. Just as we're meeting more people and settling it, it's about time to leave. Time to start studying the weather for our next port of call.