Saturday, 13 September 2014

Preparations for a Feast

Greetings!

Today was an interesting, behind-the-scenes day. We have been invited to the 21st birthday feast tomorrow for Sam, and when Max & the kids went ashore in a Trickle/dinghy convoy, this afternoon they found preparations in full swing. There wasn't enough wind for sailing Trickle, so they joined in for a bit. Benjamin and I hung out on Fluenta (for once he slept), and I endeavoured to put up life-line netting in the corridors of the boat to keep him contained in the saloon. (It looks like it should be easy, but my prototypes are thus far falling short). In the late afternoon, the kids stayed on the boat while Max and I went ashore. In contrast to yesterday, when I contented myself with sitting and chatting (and forcing myself to become comfortable with long non-North American silences), while work went on around me, today as soon as I arrived ashore, I asked if I could help, and was ushered over to some picnic tables where various things were happening. I saw a woman shredding the soft coconut "balls" that we had tried yesterday, and suggested that I do this for her, in the hope that I could free her up for some other chore. She was sitting with a 3-ft wide metal mixing bowl in her lap grating the coconuts with a large stand-up grater, and she happily passed me the whole business, and then proceeded to offer to hold Benjamin ("Hang on, I thought ... this is not making your life easier!"). I clearly was not freeing her up for anything else, but she did patiently allow me to try my hand at grating job. We were shredding a substance with has a bit of a spongy texture so that flour and sugar could be added and it could be turned into a bread that will be eaten tomorrow. (This seems to be what happens to coconut water after the coconut matures a little more, but I don't think we've seen it anywhere else). Before long, another woman had come to collect Benjamin, and that was the last I saw of him for quite a while. They all clearly have a spirit that babies love, because he hasn't complained yet :) Nearby, I could hear a grinding noise, and when I asked what it was, I was told that coconuts (the hard outer meat) were being shredded to make coconut milk: this is a much faster way than the manual approach that I have seen before! A grinder with a spinning end protruding from what looked like a metal bucket on its side was being used; the coconuts were simply held against the grinder and all the shredded meat fell away into a bowl at their feet (imagine an orange juicer only faster ...).

Some time later, after a glorious sunset, and shortly after it was fully dark (and we were starting to think that maybe we should head home to the kids), there was a gesture for silence, and a hush fell over the gathering. It was time for the evening prayers. Everyone but the man who had just been telling me about his recording career in Auz/NZ, took a seat, and this man began to speak in Maori. After a few minutes, he switched to English, and what followed was beautiful: he wanted us to know how welcome we were to their island, that they were glad that we were here for the birthday feast, that they wanted us to tell our friends and relations that Penrhyn, while maintaining its traditions and historical charm is a welcoming and modern island, and that they wished us continued blessings on our onward journey, whenever that might be. Wow. We felt really touched, blessed, and included. Every now and then, I wonder what would happen if a boat load of folks from one of these islands showed up at home in Halifax or Victoria ... would we share what we have, make them feel welcome, and ask them to invite their friends to also come and visit? Immigration realities aside, I find it to be food for thought. Most of the people we have met have spent some significant part of their adult life away from Penrhyn (Australia or NZ), and have come back to the island for the connection to family and friends that they enjoy here. In other words, they know what it is like to live in the rat race that we cruisers have left, and they know what a blessing it is to be in this place. It is not always easy (I heard several stories of families with children far from home; everyone has to go away to school after their elementary years), but it seems that life here is rich and well-lived. After his kind words to us, our friend switched back to Maori for the blessing of the food, and then Max and I were invited to be first in line to enjoy a buffet that I hadn't even noticed being laid out. Soon we were seated again, enjoying rice, boiled bread, pork (I think part of the pig which was killed today for the feast) and a stew-like delicacy made of flour, pig's blood, and meat (I think it is good that I tasted it before I knew what was in it!) Tomorrow we will come back for the feast in the afternoon.

In my excitement to tell you about our adventures ashore, I almost forgot to mention what happened when we (yet again) didn't "do school" this morning. Victoria and Max tested out a variety of switches to determine how they worked (or if they worked), then once they had settled on the one they wanted, they wired it to one of the fans that had stopped working. Hooray - a working fan again! Meanwhile, Johnathan read for most of the morning, then he took our Benjamin hammock and used line to lash it to the frame of the bimini so that I could lay a sleeping Benjamin in it for a nap (constraint - it had to be hung in such a way that one end was easy to unfasten so that the hammock could be swept to the side when not in use. A loop of line and a series of half-hitches did the trick). When it was lunchtime, we took out the bright red lobsters that I had cooked last night. It wasn't long before I was elbowed (ever so gently) away from the kitchen counter while Victoria & Johnathan took over both de-shelling and dissection. Soon they were gleefully breaking shells and identifying parts (ie filling a bowl with meat). It is such fun for me to see them living a life where theory and practice are so closely inter-related.

As for Benjamin, besides making friends with all the ladies (and the men) ashore, he continues to become sturdier on his feet, and is even standing unassisted for brief seconds at a time. We are also enjoying communicating with him with a combination of baby signs (he will do "more" and he seems to recognize "all done" and "eat") and baby sounds (da-da-da-da-da means I see it and I like it; DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA means I see it, I like it, I want it, why can't I have it!!!!!)

Anyway, we feel blessed tonight - not just to be living a life that allows time for exploring these ideas in general, but also that we have come safely to this particularly special place. On the map it looks like any other atoll (smallish, reef-fringed, far from everywhere) but in person it is so much more.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 9/10/2014 3:07 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°57.50'S 157°55.72'W
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At 9/10/2014 3:07 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°57.50'S 157°55.72'W

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