The Rose--Life in The Pit
11 April 2015 | Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji
Dear Friends and Family,
How to begin with this season aboard The Rose....
Kalo Kalo star
It┬'s hot. We have been working on the boat since March 20th and now it is April 8th. The days blur together with project after project all dissolving in a puddle of sweat. John commented that he is as wet before he gets into the shower as he is when he steps out and five minutes after drying off he is just as wet again. I have to agree. Sometimes I feel as though I am slow motion swimming through a cloud of humidity. But then today we looked around and she was almost ready to go. The floors were not only cleared but freshly varnished. The decks were not only cleared but clean. The woodwork was oiled, the hull waxed and the stainless polished. The water tanks were full, the sails furled, the lines down from the mast head, the fuel filters changed, the reef lines run, the cupboards wiped with vinegar and re- arranged, the dinghy Rosebud cleaned and put back together and her name repainted, the outboard cleaned, mounted and filled with gas┬...The Rose began to look like our boat again. It was the sails that brought the life back to her. Before they went back up she felt like a luxurious camper. But once the canvas was in place she took a big breath like I sometimes do just as I awaken from dream sleep and now she is waiting expectantly.
So now that the list of chores is mostly crossed out the days are more leisurely. We are still waiting for a container full of goodies to arrive from the States and with it a few items needed to complete the last chores. Until then we are in this odd waiting state aboard a sail boat on the land. Mostly we are cleaning, sorting and rearranging unnecessarily but yesterday we couldn┬'t stand it any longer so we hauled Rosebud to the boat ramp and went for a lovely ride out the narrow channel cut through the coral flat and finally to the open lagoon! What a joyous moment. The wind blew and the waves splashed right over the side of the dinghy until I was soaked with wonderful sea spray. I put on my mask and snorkel and plunged my entire head into the water as we motored along luxuriating in the rush of the salty greenness. We motored out to the big metal mooring where the freighters tie up and standing on the bow I lassoed the hook on top with our painter. Thus secured, John laid right back into the water and disappeared while I sprawled crossways in the dinghy leaning my head back into the lovely water and surveying the shoreline bobbing upside down as we surged on the wind swell. It was a short excursion but it brought the life back to us and reminded us why we are here in this seemingly never ending dream of boat maintenance purgatory.
The evenings are lovely mostly. The breezes come up after dark and the stars have been twinkling brightly. My favorite night sky is this season with the Southern Cross and Orion both high and bright in the sky every night before bedtime. The nights that aren┬'t breezy have been rainy and that┬'s nice too since it instantly relieves the heat and washes everything clean with its rhythmic pattering. The geckos bark at night. And the frogs sit in the marina shower where the water drips in a steady stream. Yesterday I spied a mongoose slinking through the work-shed next door while a bunch of crows were feasting at the coconut and papaya peels the workers had left out on a trash can lid. I wondered why humans believe it to be unnatural for animals to eat our left overs when they all do that for each other. Why don┬'t we figure into the chain of things that way?
Some of the highlights of this odd time include renewing friendships both with locals and old cruising buddies. We have some dear friends here now and we really treasure them. Our get togethers are usually carefully negotiated attempts to respect each others┬' cultures --often a blind and tentative groping with odd moments and tender moments. Both sides want to understand the other. Both want to break through the shell. Both want something more. But sometimes the layers of differences create situations where we realize we are looking at the same thing through a different lens. Then we just have to smile at the very idea of a single ┬"reality┬". We have to open our hearts and minds to something larger as though to peer around the corner and view life from a delightfully different vantage point. The same thing can look very different depending on one┬'s perspective.
One such moment was a recent evening with a traditional Indo-Fijian family. Almost half the population of the islands is descended from Indian laborers brought in generations ago by the British. We had been invited to join them for dinner. The first hurdle was what to bring. I asked the husband what gift I could bring to his wife. When he stammered that it was entirely up to me I offered suggestions such as flowers or fruit or perfume but he bowed his head and refused to give any direction. We next inquired about gift ideas at a Hindu restaurant we frequent. They seemed to feel that no gift would be appropriate and that a gift might indeed be misinterpreted and cause offence. After some consideration of this advice I remained unprepared to arrive without a gift.
We went to town on a gift finding expedition and happened upon some marigolds at the open air market and a lovely peach colored miniature rose in a pot at the nursery. I wasn┬'t entirely sure about the marigolds but I knew the Hindus place them at their altars so that seemed like an appropriate Easter time token. I then prepared a small Easter basket of hard boiled eggs dyed golden with turmeric, a handful of toffees and curly ribbon adorning a recycled yogurt bucket and tucked the marigolds around the edges. It was the day before Easter and this was a way to share our cultural tradition.
We arrived at their simple and spotlessly clean home and found that they were intent on meeting our every need. They wanted us to be relaxed and comfortable. Seating us on couches, they supplied us a variety of drinks and snacks and engaged us in pleasant conversation about family members, upcoming weddings and life experiences. Our host┬'s wife was a tiny older Indian woman with strong limbs and not an ounce of extra fat. She shook our hands warmly and smiled us welcome. Her long dark hair was coiled into a knot at her neck and she moved about easily a light sleeveless shift as the day was still and hot. Her adult daughter who lives in the home and helps with everything also welcomed us. She was as slight as her mother and wore the same light shift. Her hair was very, very long and dark except where it framed her face in grey. I asked if I could help in the kitchen where the two women were busy making dinner but initially they wanted me to relax in the living room. Later they came to fetch me and pulled up a chair beside their cooking area so I could watch them cook and chat. I wasn┬'t really clear how much English they understood. Perhaps more than they spoke. The daughter sometimes translated my ramblings to her mother. The gentle flow of conversation seemed more important than the actual content. The rhythm of quiet talk paired perfectly with women working side by side in the kitchen.
They wouldn┬'t let me help with the meal but they started feeding me as they continued to cook. One was rolling out little flat breads which the other was frying and stacking on paper towels or passing hot and delicious to me. I think I ate about eight as they kept piling them hot on a plate in my hands and then they brought me a bigger plate and some curry to go with them. I thought they had decided to feed me in the kitchen and feed the men separately but to my surprise they soon directed me to sit at the table back in the living room where all the men were talking. Now I was in an odd position sitting at the table eating while all the men had nothing. I asked if I should wait or perhaps share but the wife instructed clearly in simple English and with a wave of her hand to ┬"Eat! Eat!┬" which I did but feeling a bit sheepish. The men of course noticed immediately and began asking me why I was eating. I explained how this had come about but it was too delicious an opportunity for them pass up and they continued to tease. I had to laugh. I was in uncharted territory at this point, trying not to offend and certainly managing to enjoy. Then the host came over and said very quietly to me, ┬"You know you will have dinner too after this.┬" What? I thought I would really be in trouble now if there would be more to eat and I was confused as to what was expected but he rescued me by engaging me in conversation for the next several minutes until the ladies brought the rest of the meals to the table.
They brought food for John and another friend of ours but not for anyone in the household not even our host who stood and chatted with us while we ate. I asked the wife if she would join us but she laughed, waved her hand and said it was way too early for her to eat. I asked the host if he would join us but he also declared he would never eat before seven or eight. So we ate. And despite our declarations of fullness, our hostess kept ladling food onto our plates and we kept eating. It was delicious and soon we were well satisfied and way too full. I tried to help clear the table but was steered by gentle hands to my shoulders toward the couch to relax, sip tea and enjoy the rugby sevens game.
After a while, our host received his plate and sat with us while he ate. A bit later his adult son also received a plate. We never saw the ladies eat. Nor did they join us for conversation or rugby. They seemed busy cleaning up and also hammering away at a project in the kitchen area. When it was time for us to take our leave I peeked into the kitchen hoping to offer a word of gratitude to our hostess but she had gone to bed. I was sure she had worked way too hard preparing our evening and wished I had been better able to help. In the cab on the way home I commented that perhaps the test of a perfectly hosted dinner was that the guests should feel relaxed and pampered in every way when the evening is done. American dinner parties can sometimes be more of a well orchestrated entertainment than a relaxing time spent together. But this evening was truly a gift to us in its earnest simplicity. I wonder if I will be able to convince the family to join us for an afternoon aboard The Rose before we slip off to the remote islands of the northern Lau next week. I┬'m not sure how much the ladies get out of the house for activities of this kind but I hope so.
Until then, all is well.
Pat and John s/v The Rose, still in "the pit" at Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji