Monday, 25 August 2014

Still in Bora Bora

Greetings and good morning!

We are in Bora Bora (still) but we have moved to the eastern side of the mountain. This puts us right in front of the Meridian and St Regis hotels and far from wifi. Time for an HF update on our news and happenings :)

We spent just over a week tied up to a mooring near the town of Vaitape, Bora Bora. We spent the first night on a mooring in front of the Bora Bora Yacht Club, then we moved to the "Mai Kai" Marina and Yacht Club. Rather than attempting a 10-day play by play (especially since you have likely already seen lots of the photos that Max has posted) I will give you a few anecdotes and highlights.

The first night we were in front of the Mai Kai, we were the only kid boat, and in fact we (I) were feeling a bit left out; friends had motored past earlier and told us that "all" the kid boats were headed to the other side of the island for a potluck on the beach. We needn't have worried, however: within three days, they were all tied up next to us by the Mai Kai! This proved a lovely spot for a week's "holiday": they had a pool, wifi (reliable enough that we could upload pictures, and best of all, we could access it from the boat using our booster antenna), happy hour every day (that tended to attract all our cruising neighbours), fabulous kitchen (no pressure to eat there, but a memorable dinner when we did), a book exchange, and a safe dinghy dock (not much more than 200 feet from the boat), and lots of kids to play with. In addition to catching up with our cruising friends, it has been fun to talk to some of the tourists who have come to happy hour/dinner from the local hotels (most of them don't seem to be on a meal plan, so they take shuttles to town in the evenings). We even re-encountered one of the couples we met in Moorea. Fun to be in a "small world" situation on the other side of the world!

Of course, the main reason that we were moored in front of the town was so that we could replenish our provisions (the "slow time" approach was nice - we could "stow as we went", buying what we had used up, and stocking up on fresh produce), and do some of the admin for the upcoming school year. We made a few trips into town, enjoying the ease of taking our dinghy to the town dock, walking a few minutes, and being handy to all the necessary shops (there are even two grocery stores, so we can do a bit of comparison shopping). The highlight of every trip to town has been the fresh baguettes: they have often been still warm when we put them into our shopping cart, and we can easily eat two/day.

In fact, baguettes were our initial introduction to food in Bora Bora ... at the first happy hour we attended, we found out that the kitchen didn't open until half an hour after happy hour ended (so much for our easy food/drink for dinner). With a hungry family, I asked Jessica, the restaurant owner, what she would suggest for food. "The grocery store," she said. Thirty minutes later (10 min to walk, 10 min to shop, and 10 min to return - a record!) Benjamin and I were back with baguettes, tomato sauce, and the first fresh veg we had seen in weeks: food to tide us over, and quick supper once we returned to the boat. Jessica proved equally helpful with all of our other questions in the days ahead.

Bora Bora is one of the last places we will be able to eat ashore for quite a while, so we have been enjoying a meal here and there. The first of these was a yummy chicken lunch that we bought from a truck on the main street (we could see the chickens bbq'ing inside the truck as we waited). Max and the kids shared a roasted chicken and fries, while I tried a curried chicken sub with bananas. Stopping to eat in the street also meant stopping to talk to other local vendors; we were quickly ushered to sit at the table of the woman (Deanna) next to the chicken truck (who would otherwise have been sitting there selling her pearl jewelry). Even though my French seems rusty and stilted to my ear, it is certainly an advantage to be able to carry on a conversation (it doesn't hurt to be wearing a baby either!) Deanna was very interested in what we were doing, where we were travelling, what it was like for the kids onboard, etc, etc. Before we left, she pressed some of her jewelry into our hands; she wanted us each to have a little trinket, as a gift, not for money, just because she liked our story. This led to return visits to her table in the days that followed, once to give her something from us, once to ask about a pearl anklet, and once to receive the anklet, also as a gift. I will be making a final visit to her table next week, and this time I am determined to buy something from her!

With our boat so close to the marina, it was easy one evening to have a "date night" ashore. Everyone was happy with the arrangement: V&J ate frozen pizza and watched videos, while Max & I had a lovely dinner. Benjamin (wearing snazzy new hand-me-down duds from another kid boat) was pretty excited by his surroundings, but he eventually fell asleep, and the chairs were big enough that I could just lay him down behind me. When I called on the VHF to check in with V&J, everything was fine ("Of course it's fine - if it wasn't I would have called!")

Trips to town also mean stops at the produce tables that line the street. We have made an arrangement with one of them to come back next week for a bag of pamplemousse and a "regime" of bananas. Can't get much more local/fresh than fruit picked from her backyard on the day that we need it! We have also become fans of the wonderful food trucks (Roulettes) that crop up on the street after 6pm. We had a super tasty supper the other night where everyone could choose their own truck/menu then we all ate together. The total bill was less than one entree on a typical restaurant menu.

Much of my internet time in Vaitape has been dedicated to reading about various methods of homeschooling, most particularly "project based homeschooling" (bought the book) and "unschooling" (bought several books - handy to have a Kindle at hand). We would like some balance between kid-led learning (which often doesn't look like much to school-focused grownups) and curriculum-driven education (which tends to drive my kids under the nearest table and me around the nearest bend!). We have created a starting-point schedule that shows "table-learning" (ie at the kitchen) table five mornings/week, with math/language/the world at large three mornings/week and Victoria/Johnathan choices two mornings/week. Hopefully this will give both the rigour and the flexibility we are looking for. In the meantime, both kids are busy reading everything they can lay hands on (we received a windfall from a boat with girls 11 & 13; they have already read half of those books), answering any question to do with numbers with hardly a pause (except multiplication facts; no one is a fan of the times tables...), and the usual sailing/swimming. We also spent some time emptying and reorganizing the "school" cupboard so that we are ready for 1 Sep (our chosen day to "start school"). I am hopeful that this year we can have both more peace and more tangible "evidence" of their learning. I have realized that part of the equation is that *I* as mom need to keep a more rigourous journal of the learning that I observe. Funny how it all comes back to "being the change we want to see in the world" - if want them to be more rigorous, I need to set the example!

One of our neighbours in Vaitape was "Lil Explorers" with their many "little explorers" on board. We spent an enjoyable afternoon with the dads out diving (most of the dads from the anchorage went) and the moms hanging out, exchanging computer files and advice about provisioning. One idea I learned from Shannon is that when she provisioned for 10 (!) months, she stored many of her items by time rather than by type. In other words, she made 10 piles of her cans, etc, then stored them away by month, rather than storing things by type. This makes it much easier to make sure that all the "yummy" treats are not used up in the first month or so :) I am not sure that I have 6 (or 8 or 10) separate compartments for cans, but it is an interesting thought. It certainly focusses the shopping list to take a month's groceries and then multiply by the number of months away from major supplies (I used six months in Mexico. So far, we have done pretty well, but I have used the opportunity in Nuku Hiva, Papeete, and Bora Bora to keep the boat topped up). This is likely our last big grocery run until Tonga in late October. By then, we will want to have most of the food eaten so that we arrive in NZ with a minimum of goods aboard.

Unlike the Tuomotus, the Society Islands (eg Bora Bora) have a mountainous island that is surrounded by lagoon and motus. In the case of Bora Bora, the pass is on the NW side of the main island, and the town is almost straight ahead across the lagoon. We moved a few days ago to the other side of the island (the NE side) and now we are really in the Bora Bora of the brochures. We are anchored in shallow, clear water, and the visibility is extraordinary. The kids were diving today for coins that we threw, and getting them no problem (the motivation that we told them the could keep what they retrieved probably helped). Other than the tour boats, jet skis, and hotel shuttles (!) we are in a reasonably sheltered bay, so Trickle has been a great source of diversion (and once again, a good way of getting to know other kids in the anchorage). We have even been on our (new in Mexico) paddle board for the first time in French Polynesia. The highlight of yesterday's adventures was a trip across this side of the lagoon to swim with the 6-foot manta rays (the hotel tour guide even beckoned for us to follow his group so that we could see the ray he had found - it turns out that this is a bit out of character, as some other cruisers were chased away by a tour guide at another site). The visibility wasn't what we have seen elsewhere, but the ray (only one) itself was pretty spectacular. Today was a Trickle and "shark baiting" (ie towing kids behind the dinghy) afternoon. Who knows what tomorrow will bring :)

I think the tour guide and Deanna's generosity is exemplary of the best of traditional Polynesian culture; this afternoon, I had an encounter with someone who is perhaps a bit more jaded by all the tourists who come here to the "hotel side" of the lagoon. I was practicing yoga in a beautiful, open-air structure on the only stretch of local beach which is not owned by a big hotel. Half way through my practice, a woman arrived and told me that the whole beach was private; only paying customers were allowed to visit. Oh well, this seems to be the minority, and I can certainly understand why she would want to protect her space (and I'm grateful that she didn't come yesterday so that I could finish my first practice). Johnathan had come ashore with me, and when I asked if he could keep the coconut he had climbed for, she told me he could keep "one". Thankfully, this was all he had picked! {As an aside, Johnathan *loves* to climb trees to collect coconuts. As mom, I am simply grateful that he generally climbs down again unscathed! Trees can be merciless teachers.)

Benjamin is now easily pulling himself to standing (lots of handholds around the boat!) and as of yesterday, he is signing to tell us when he wants "more" food (no surprise that this is his first word!). At first, it just seemed that he was pleased with himself because he had learned to clap, but it wasn't long before we noticed the pattern that he was "clapping" when he wanted more to eat! Hooray! This is the beginning of two-way talking with him, and having some idea of what he is saying/thinking. He is so pleased with himself :) He is also quite funny with some of the other words he understands, one of which is "open" (as in "Open your mouth so I can see what you have just picked up off the floor and put into it !!") When we open our mouths, he will mimic us. Since there is about a 0.5 second delay from him finding something interesting on the floor and then taste-testing it, this is a handy exercise! We have it on our to-do list to rig mesh "gates" around the saloon before we leave Bora Bora, so that we can keep him away from the galley, nav table, and bedrooms/tool room, but it hasn't happened quite yet... instead we are using Victoria and Johnathan as our baby gates at the moment.

On another happy note, we appear to have been successful with our extermination efforts in Papeete. It is so much less stressful to be in the boat in the evenings, and not bracing for bugs on every glance around the cabin! Lovely.

The weather seems to follow a cyclical pattern; earlier this week (the day that we transitted) it was grey and overcast. Yesterday and today it was clear and sunny. We are starting to watch the weather for our next passage, but we will likely stay here for a few more days.

Anyway, after a long hiatus, it feels good to catch you up with our comings and goings. I hope you are well as the summer winds towards September :)

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 8/24/2014 3:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°29.32'S 151°42.12'W
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At 8/24/2014 3:42 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°29.32'S 151°42.12'W

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