Month: June 2017

Bustling Papaette

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Everyone onboard has commented at one point or another that Tahiti is far more commercialized than we’d expected. For so long now, we have been exploring slow paced, sparsely populated islands, and we were not prepared for the hustle and bustle of Papaette.

It was a little intimidating at first but we are adapting well and are taking advantage of some of the conveniences – especially when it comes to reprovisioning, which is something we haven’t had the opportunity to do since Panama City a few months ago. Until now, we hadn’t seen a respectable grocery store or any place to buy things in bulk.
We have docked in a marina for the first time in a long time, so we can use the water to give Tanda Malaika a good scrub down, and to hook up to electricity to give the generator a rest. The creatures enjoy land showers where they don’t have to be as conscious of conserving water, and we usually use the marina laundry rooms which is a big luxury.

But…the marina has 220 volt hookups, and an adapter is not available, so we can’t hook up to electricity, and the washers cost $18 a (small) load, so we won’t be using those. When we were in Fakarava, we met a wonderful family who have a flat here in Papaette, and they have graciously offered for us to use their washer and their car.
Papaette is an interesting place with many modern businesses, as well as the quaint markets we have become accustomed to. Beautiful little ladies making fragrant flower leis are everywhere,

and markets with local goods like honey, sugar cane juice, jewelry and baskets, etc.

Produce stands are also in great abundance, which are always less expensive than grocery stores.

Every produce stand sells loofa, which is not something we have seen on the other islands. I explained to the creatures how the loofa pods grow, and they thought I was pulling their legs. They had assumed that all loofa are brightly colored balls found in stores.

I love to admire flower stands, where the beautiful fresh fragrance of jasmine and plumeria replace the smell of fish markets and perspiring bodies.

Many of the women look so lovely with fresh (and fake) flower leis in the their hair.

Danny and I came across a fishing store, which is one of my places. I feel like a kid in a candy store as I admire the gorgeous lures in every color, and I immediately want to throw off the dock lines to go fishing!

We’ve seen some amazing street art, one of my favorites thus far has been a funky, musical hermit crab.

I also love the colorful stairs outside the street art museum!

The streets are clean and well kept, and the people are friendly and full of smiles.

After having Kjira on board for a couple of months, and loving every second of it, we finally had to see her off as she flew back to the US to get back to work. She has been such a great crew member, fish gaffer, cook, Settlers of Catan player, comedian, entertainer, shell collector, hermit crab saver and hugger. She has read every book we have on Tanda Malaika and braved trying every local dish served to us. We love her so much and already miss her beautiful face.

Danny left with her so he can get his flight physical, and will return next week with some engine parts we need. We miss him too much already as well! He is such a warm, bright, secure presence, as is my best friend and Sweetheart. We are excited that he will be able to spend time with Mom and Dad in California.

The creatures and I made a list of 20 projects to work on while he’s gone so we can surprise him when he returns. We also hope to get some hiking in, and will always be on the lookout for service projects to do in the community and interesting characters to get to know.

Life is good.

**I listened to a funny conversation between the twins this morning…

Emma: “You need to gather up your laundry because mom said we will be using Jane’s clothes cleaning machine today.”
Aidan: “OK”
I chuckled at what Emma said, and Aidan turned to me and asked why I was laughing. I told him I thought it was funny when Emma said ‘clothes cleaning machine.’
Aidan then asked, “well isn’t that what you call it?”
I reminded them that it is called a washer, and had a good laugh at my crazy little boat kids.

Papaette, Tahiti

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Before leaving Fakarava, we explored the reef at the pass to the south entrance. A large amount of swift water moves back and forth in the passes, and with it comes fresh nutrient rich ocean, allowing the reef and marine life to thrive as they flock to the buffet. If one enters at the right time, a rapidly moving fascinating drift dive can be enjoyed. We drove the dinghy over, attached the end of the line to Danny, and all drifted down. Huge schools of grunts worked their way around and through healthy coral heads.

Every second of the dive, multiple sharks curiously watched as we dove up and down in the water column,

and on one of the reefs about 60ft down, 8-10 sharks were very interested in a particular coral head, swimming in and out, hovering and darting back and forth. We watched them for a long time but never discovered what held their interest.

I love to watch the creatures free dive. They are so graceful and controlled. My little mermaid creatures…this one in particular is the Jude creature.

We finally had to pry ourselves from the water and set sail for Papaette. Though we wanted to stay so much longer, we know our visa for French Polynesia is only for 3 months and we still have so much more to see.

The weather report stated that winds would be extremely light, and for much of the voyage it was nonexistent. The ocean is an incredible place, an entire world with life, rules and consequences of its own. So much of the time we feel like we are far more comfortable with the ‘ocean world’ than life on land, but we are never ignorant, losing respect for its rules and power. On this passage to Tahiti, it seemed that the ocean was tired, or maybe just feeling lazy – taking a break from movement and motion, all except for an ever so gentle rise and fall like ones chest in a deep sleep. Like the calm water of a bathtub, once playing children have been removed to dry off, the South Pacific was so calm that reflections from clouds lay like a Persian rug, spanning from our hulls to the horizon. (Thanks to Jude for this photo)

Tahiti is the largest of the Society Islands, and Papaette is the bright, pulsating center. As we approached land, Aidan got goofy and stepped outside to check out the view, on our port side we saw Tahiti and in the distance off the bow we could see Moorea.

Tahiti looked green and reminded us a little of Marquesas, though the mountains were not as dramatic. It was beautiful.

Closer in we saw the clusters of homes and towns,

and a large cemetery.

Tall spires on the horizon reminded us of the volcanic activity from days gone by and we tried to imagine witnessing the birth of this place, as lava flowed and gathered, forming a place where we could drop anchor to explore.

A local man paddled his canoe to position himself behind Tanda Malaika, and stayed with us for several miles.

We reached a designated anchorage and dropped our hook. We were home without ever leaving home, and our new address is Tahiti.

Papaette, Tahiti

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Before leaving Fakarava, we explored the reef at the pass to the south entrance. A large amount of swift water moves back and forth in the passes, and with it comes fresh nutrient rich ocean, allowing the reef and marine life to thrive as they flock to the buffet. If one enters at the right time, a rapidly moving fascinating drift dive can be enjoyed. We drove the dinghy over, attached the end of the line to Danny, and all drifted down. Huge schools of grunts worked their way around and through healthy coral heads.

Every second of the dive, multiple sharks curiously watched as we dove up and down in the water column,

and on one of the reefs about 60ft down, 8-10 sharks were very interested in a particular coral head, swimming in and out, hovering and darting back and forth. We watched them for a long time but never discovered what held their interest.

I love to watch the creatures free dive. They are so graceful and controlled. My little mermaid creatures…this one in particular is the Jude creature.

We finally had to pry ourselves from the water and set sail for Papaette. Though we wanted to stay so much longer, we know our visa for French Polynesia is only for 3 months and we still have so much more to see.

The weather report stated that winds would be extremely light, and for much of the voyage it was nonexistent. The ocean is an incredible place, an entire world with life, rules and consequences of its own. So much of the time we feel like we are far more comfortable with the ‘ocean world’ than life on land, but we are never ignorant, losing respect for its rules and power. On this passage to Tahiti, it seemed that the ocean was tired, or maybe just feeling lazy – taking a break from movement and motion, all except for an ever so gentle rise and fall like ones chest in a deep sleep. Like the calm water of a bathtub, once playing children have been removed to dry off, the South Pacific was so calm that reflections from clouds lay like a Persian rug, spanning from our hulls to the horizon. (Thanks to Jude for this photo)

Tahiti is the largest of the Society Islands, and Papaette is the bright, pulsating center. As we approached land, Aidan got goofy and stepped outside to check out the view, on our port side we saw Tahiti and in the distance off the bow we could see Moorea.

Tahiti looked green and reminded us a little of Marquesas, though the mountains were not as dramatic. It was beautiful.

Closer in we saw the clusters of homes and towns,

and a large cemetery.

Tall spires on the horizon reminded us of the volcanic activity from days gone by and we tried to imagine witnessing the birth of this place, as lava flowed and gathered, forming a place where we could drop anchor to explore.

A local man paddled his canoe to position himself behind Tanda Malaika, and stayed with us for several miles.

We reached a designated anchorage and dropped our hook. We were home without ever leaving home, and our new address is Tahiti.

Fakarava, Tuamotus

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It took two days to reach Fakarava from Makemo, and the sail was wonderful as always. During the sail we caught a snapper (we think), which was absolutely delicious!

We have the routine down at this point as far as entering the passes in Tuamotus at slack tide, and upon entering the lagoon, came across a spectacular sight…water in blues of every shade!

The lagoon was so peaceful and calm.

Right at the entrance to the pass is a quaint dive resort with a well respected dive shop,

and cute little cabins to rent.

A resort stretches across a couple of the small islands, and a large zodiac is used to shuttle guests to various excursions.

As soon as we picked up a mooring ball, several beautiful sharks came to welcome us to the neighborhood.

We swam and explored, diving down among the gorgeous coral heads and pinnacles, all the while with our welcome committee curiously watching from a short distance.

That evening as we sat around chatting and laughing as a family, the creatures argued playfully back and forth about who could open a coconut the fastest. Being an experienced mother/moderator, I told them that the next day we were going have a competition to settle the argument, and the only tool each person could use was a screw driver. If they chose to use a knife as well, they couldn’t get any better than 2nd place and lost seconds off their time.

The following day I collected the screw drivers, Aidan insisted on using a knife and brought it, and he also brought along his fly fishing pole that the Keck family gave him. We made our way to shore in the dinghy, unloaded our goods, and we told the creatures to get busy finding their coconuts.

Just like a bunch of monkeys, the creatures arranged themselves on a bank of coral, each displaying their beautiful finds. Emma’s was greener, because she’d assumed it’d be easier to get into.

I counted down, and the contest began! The creatures ripped and pounded, each with a particular strategy in mind.

Within 3 1/2 minutes, Jude had hers perfectly peeled, the stringy husks laying in chaos at her feet.

Mycah came second.

Aidan came third not too long afterward, and Emma finally grew tired of the effort she was exerting and handed it to her sister, the coconut queen, to finish.
Mycah wanted a second chance to win and once her and Jude had new coconuts in hand, began again. Half way in, Jude’s nostrils were met by a repulsive odor and she realized hers was rotten, so she tossed the offensive coconut with brown, thick juicy stench away from her and grabbed another to begin again. Mycah won, and by the end of our time there we had a substantial pile of husked coconuts to bring back home.
Aidan and Danny had lost interest and were busying themselves with fly fishing.

We wished the Kecks were with us and enjoying the moment too.

I looked over at Kjira and smiled as I watched her sitting in absolute bliss, eating fresh coconut in the coolness of the water, and I wished once again that she could just stay with us and never leave to go back to the US.

Aidan suddenly yelled in excitement, saying that he had caught a fish, and brought it in to reveal an innocent irritated trumpetfish. He unhooked it and set it free.

Hermit crabs scurried along by the dozens, and some of them were bold enough to enjoy coconut we offered.

Danny and I sat in the water together as the creatures set out on an adventure, and talked about the gratitude we feel for all the time we are spending as a family. For the constant open communication, for the laughs, the frustrations, the moments where we all stand in awe together, and most importantly, the intense love we feel for each other as well as the people we have met and our God that makes it all possible. We are so blessed and so humbled.

Farewell to Makemo, Tuamotus

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At about 07h30, Tahi surprised us by kayaking over to Tanda Malaika, tied up and joined the family. We were supposed to meet Bena on the beach in half an hour, so Danny decided to stay onboard with Tahi while the rest of us went in. Tahi was so sweet, wanting to help Danny work on some things on the boat in preparation for us to leave for Fakarava. Before we left, Tahi brought out a black pearl necklace for each of us, placing it around our necks. We humbly thanked him for his kindness and generosity.Bena waved to us from the beach as we approached in the dinghy, then began doing a hula dance in excitement. It made us all laugh. We followed him to his parents home as we chatted back and forth.

Bena’s parents were so sweet and welcoming. They hardly spoke any English, but between Emma and Jude translating into French, and Bena assisting, we were able to communicate quite well.

We all sat around a picnic table outside, and Bena gently kissed his Mom’s head several times. His Dad spoke to him in Polynesian and Bena left us for a moment and returned with a small box and in a serious manner, said that his family had a gift for us. We opened the box to find it filled with loose pearls that they had collected while diving. They also had a container of oddly formed pearls that they wanted us to have. It’s so difficult to express thanks in a way that completely conveys ones gratitude and love – nothing we said seemed adequate, but hopefully they felt our sincerity.
Bena told us that his dad wanted to take us for a drive in his pick up truck to meet the other two sons who were building a road, so we piled in and went for a drive.

We drove 9km out of town to where a tiny airport was located, and along side the runway, Bena’s brothers were working on a cement road that would run for another 15km.

They were full of smiles but needed to continue on, so we left them in peace and Bena’s dad told us he wanted to show us how a single coconut tree became two, just like Aidan and Emma were two babies in my womb. We told him we are excited to see it, and enjoyed talking about the many local trees and bushes and their medicinal purposes as we drove. The scenery was beautiful.

We reached an area where the truck was parked and we all got out and walked up a path to where the famous coconut tree stood.

Bena and his dad described how I was the main trunk and Aidan and Emma were the two smaller trunks branching off from me. I smiled and told them I think their tree is beautiful, and thanked them for showing us.

Some of the coconuts in that area were huge!

We drove back and passed over a little bridge, and saw many small sea cucumbers in the water. It reminded us that Tahi had taught us that if you take two of those sea cucumbers and rub their bellies against each other, a cloud of pink is released which puts fish to sleep – making it easy to catch the fish.

We also passed an area where a bunch of sacks filled with dried coconut stood, all ready for sale and shipment to Tahiti. This dried coconut is what they call copra, and the seller receives $30 a bag for it. This and pearls are the main source of income in the Tuamotus.

Saying goodbye to Bena was rough. We decided that we are family now, and would keep in touch. He told us we always have a home in Makemo Tuamotus and begged for us to come back soon as he wiped tears from his eyes.

We went back to Tanda Malaika where Danny and Tahi were enjoying some cold kombucha, and said our goodbyes to Tahi. Such incredibly beautiful people!
Since it was later than we hoped to leave, we thought we’d start heading for the south end of the lagoon and get as far as we could before dark, but only went a few miles before anchoring because the angle of the sun cast a glare on the water that made it impossible to watch for shallow shoals.
Once anchored the creatures and I jumped in and were instantly surrounded by curious sharks. Keeping a close watch on them, we swam in to explore the reef.

As long as we swan as a group, the sharks kept their distance, but as soon as one or two of us drifted away from the group, the sharks would tighten in around and circle closer and closer. We felt like they were just a little too aggressive, so after about an hour, we returned to the safety of our home where we weren’t being hunted.

I have noticed that when ever the creatures are in a situation that frightens them, Aidan, who is ALWAYS happy, becomes even sweeter, more cheerful and more protective. He did this again with the sharks, making his sisters laugh. As I watched him, I was filled with so much pride and love and realized that he has grown up to be the exact kind of gentleman that I hope my 6 beautiful daughters find to marry. I love him and his endless goodness so much.

The Feast

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After a much needed good nights sleep, we loaded back onto Tanda Malaika and set sail in the direction of Bena’s house. Tahi picked up the uke and serenaded us as we traveled.

Bena sat at the stern, looking out over the Makemo lagoon, and when we asked him how he liked sailing, he told us that the big water brings him fear but the calm of the lagoon is good.

As we drew closer to his island, he became so excited and was eager to show us his home, the island that had been his fathers before it was his, and his cousin, Tua, that lives with him. He pointed to his home with a big smile. Tua was fishing on the beach by many beautiful coral heads, and came out to greet us.

We anchored Tanda Malaika a little off shore so she didn’t swing into shallow coral, and she looked splendid! I didn’t tweak the colors in this photo, it’s honestly just that amazing!

Tua immediately prepared coconuts for us to drink and eat. It was so refreshing in the heat.

Bena’s dogs really loved giving Danny kisses.

I asked what the dogs eat, and they said their diet is mostly coconut and fish.

We noticed that there were three pots in the water when we tied the dinghy up, and I asked Tahi why the pots were in the water. He said that rather than washing dishes, they put them in the water and the fish pick them clean so they never have to wash dishes. Genius.

Bena explained to us that the main white house is where they sleep. The hitching post looking thing in the picture below, is where Bena and Tua place all the husked coconut to dry in the sun to sell as copra. At night or if it rains, they use tarps over the wooden posts to keep it all dry.

The second building on the property is the kitchen and preparation area. Both buildings are very simple and practical.

Tahi told us that he wanted us to cook a traditional meal with him. He’d show us exactly how everything is prepared. We told him we would love that, and he immediately put us all to work. The first project was to prepare the fire pit. We dug a round hole in the ground with a flat bottom, and placed coconut husks around the outside then palm leaves in it. The leaves were arranged so they pointed upward around the edges and in the center. Additional sticks and cut up palm leaves were arranged inside.

As we built things up we added a higher layer of coconut husks around the outside rim, then more sticks etc in the center.

Tahi then told us to collect large chunks of dried coral, which he paced all over the fire pit on top of all the sticks – this was to hold the heat once the fire had died down and also to provide a solid base for a cooking surface.

We then collected small pieces of coral and arranged the pieces over the entire surface to fill in all the gaps. The fire was lit and we moved over to the table for food preparation. Tahi showed us the correct way to open a coconut and the best way to get the coconut water out.

We each took turns and became pro’s. Tahi wanted to teach us how to make coconut milk, so we opened several and placed them on the table.

He then brought a wooden board over for one of us to sit on, and at the end of the board was a piece of serrated metal which had been tightly secured. He showed us that if you scrape the coconut over the metal it shaves small pieces of coconut off and into the bowl of coconut water below, Mycah tried it first…

After a while Tua took over and before long we had a bowl filled with thinly shaved coconut. The mostly empty shells were added to the fire.

This mixture was stirred up and we let it sit for a while. In the meantime, we mashed up and scraped out the soft meat from green coconuts and placed it into another bowl.

Coconut water was added and before long we had a squishy coconut soup of sorts. Tahi told Aidan and Bena to collected leaves from the Kahaya Tree,

and while they were busy with that I was put to work adding flour to the coconut soup stuff. He told me to mix in enough flour till I had a wet, sticky dough.

Once the dough was ready, Tahi demonstrated how I was to place dough between two kahaya leaves and press them together.

By this time the fire had died down nicely and the coral chunks were hot and ready to cook our coconut bread.

We placed the dough filled leaves on the fire, and Tahi said, ‘ok Mama, cook the bread,’ and left to prepare fish with Kjira.

Tua walked out into the water to collect his clean pots (thanks to the fish), and

Kjira and Tahi sat at the waters edge, washing and preparing the parrot fish.

While I had been preparing dough, Tahi has asked the girls to squeeze lemons, which they did beautifully. He also taught them how to make the coconut milk, by taking the coconut water/shredded coconut mixture that had sat for a while and squeeze it through cheese cloth into a pot.

My bread cooking project was progressing well. I periodically turned the leaves and rearranged them on the fire.

Before long, just as the leaves were dry enough to peel away from the dough, the dough was cooked with a pretty leaf imprint on it.

Tahi wrapped the parrot fish in kahaya leaves and placed them on the fire at that point.

He had cut up some raw blue parrot fish and placed the meat in a bowl with a combination of the freshly squeezed lemon juice and the coconut milk, and called it ‘Poisson Cru.’ Soon we were all seated at the table for the feast we had just prepared:

We ate like kings, with kahaya leaves as plates, coconut milk to dip bread into, poisson clu and roasted parrot fish. Our drink was delicious coconut water.

The view from our dining table was spectacular.

Tua mentioned that he loves to spearfish, and showed us his spearfish gun. Bena told us that Tua’s mask broke some time ago, so we gave him a new one. He was very grateful.

After relaxing with full bellies for a while, we figured we’d best get on our way back to the village, so we took some group photos, and Tua took the opportunity to steal a kiss from Jude!

We raised anchor, leaving only Tua behind, and made our way south. We really love our new Tuamontun Family, and love all that they have taught us. It was going to be tough leaving them the next morning when we sailed on to Fakarava.

As we reached the village, Bena told us that he really wanted us to meet his parents, and asked if we could meet him on the beach at 8am the following morning. We told him we’d be honored.

The sunset that night was as beautiful. We talked about our adventures together and all that we had learned. It’s a good life, especially if we are open minded and recognize and love goodness in those around us.

Learning from locals in Tuamotus

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The day after our bbq with Tahi, Danny and Emma took the dinghy in in the morning to pick him up so we could go fishing. At the dinghy dock, a local man by the name of Bena, approached them and asked if they could give him a ride to his island which was a short ways to the north. Danny explained to Bena that they were there to pick up Tahi and that Tahi was taking us someplace and if at all possible they’d give him a ride. Bena asked if he was referring to the Tahi that has no wife or children, and Danny and said yes. He then asked, black Tahi? Danny again said yes. Bena immediately said, oh Tahi is my uncle. We later learned from our new friends that everyone in Makemo is related, and that when a youth man wants a girlfriend, he was to travel to another island to find one.
Danny and Emma collected Tahi, who had bags and equipment to bring with, and Bena came along too – the four of them returned to Tanda Malaika for what we thought, was a fishing trip.

We greeted Tahi with the traditional kiss on each cheek, and Bena introduced himself with the same greeting. We showed them around the boat, and got them some water to drink. They asked where we get out water from, and were completely amazed that we make it from the sea water. In their broken English, they pointed to the ocean with big eyes and asked, ‘that water?’ We told them yes, and explained the water maker a little. Tahi seemed to understand and explained it as best he could to Bena.

We set sail for the east side where Tahi owns an island, while he and Aidan sat together on the bow looking through a reef fish book, discussing what fish Tuamotous had and which can be eaten.

Bena also sat on the bow, teaching the girls correct pronunciation of some French words. It was already a wonderful day.

After about a 6nm sail, we reach the east side, where endless turquoise, coconut palms and a huge sand bar stretched out ahead of us. The water was so clear that even in 80ft of water we could look down at the bottom and see the coral clearly.

Danny and Tahi loaded the dinghy with all Tahi’s stuff and set out for shore, while the rest of us grabbed snorkel gear and jumped into the beautiful clear water.

Coral heads, reef fish and sharks were everywhere in the peaceful underwater wonderland.

When we reached shore, the first order of business that Tahi had for us were two separate jobs: #1 – setting a net and #2 – collecting clams. He put Aidan, Jude and Mycah on clam duty with Bena, and the Emma, Kjira, Danny and I on net duty with him. Het taught Danny how to lay out and fold up a long net in preparation for taking it into the water. The technique was much like flaking a small sail in your hands.

Us girls were instructed to grab a hold of the end of the net and follow them into the water. We had to hold tight. Emma had the end with the weights on it and was instructed to secure it to a small coral head, while I held onto the end with the floats on it and Tahi and Danny continued moving with their bundle, unflaking it as they moved into deeper water.

The clam hunter clan returned with a bucket loaded with their harvest. They were the beautiful green, blue and purple clams that we had admired on the reef, and I could not imagine eating such a thing, but didn’t say a word.

The clam clan explained to me that they were taught to dive down with a screw driver, count to the third opening, insert the tool and jerked it back and forth side to side. The clam will close up around the tool and the shell will wiggle loose. Later, Tahi took the creatures and showed them how to check the net, and all that was in it were 5 sharks. He carefully untangled each one and set them free, and the ones that fought him – tangling themselves more, he bopped on the head to knock them out, untangled them, then wiggled them around in the water to wake up again before setting them free.

We relaxed for a few minutes on the beach, taking in the beauty that surrounded us before carrying our dinner up into the shade of the trees.

Through broken English and French communication, we realized that Tahi and Bena were intending for us all to spend the night there before continuing on to Bena’s house the following morning. We felt grateful for the time they were spending with us, and for the knowledge we were gaining. Tahi opened green coconuts for us to drink and eat.

We collected dead palm leaves and dried sticks for a bonfire on the beach, making a couple of big piles for later.

On the island, stood a concrete structure with a rain catchment system that emptied into a cistern. He drew a bucket of water from it and offered for us to use it for rinsing the salt water off.

Danny lay in the breeze and shade of the coconut palms and after taking this photo the creatures commented that it looked like he had a machete in his head! We were told that more people die a year from being hit on the head by falling coconuts, that shark attacks. Since then we have been careful where we lie to rest.

Tahi cut several lemons in half and squeezed the juice from them into the bowl he’d placed the shelled clams into. The theory is that the lemon juice ‘cooks’ the raw meat. Though I understand this and can appreciate it, my issue lay with the texture (and thought) of raw clams.

Each time Tahi completed a project he proudly proclaim, ‘VOILA!!!’ Kjira and I were watching him work, and when he yelled voila and handed her a piece of clam, she slipped it into her mouth and ate it. I looked at her with a horrified look on my face and in my mind begged God to either please strike me dead on the spot or distract Tahi somehow so he didn’t give me some, just to look over and find a brilliant blue piece of slimy, wet, citrus smelling flesh staring me in the eye. I had to practice as I preached to my children, and graciously took it from our humble friend, imagining that I could still feel some faint pulse from the creature between my fingers. I looked to Kjira for reassurance and quietly under her breath, she said, ‘just swallow Ma.’ I reluctantly placed the wad in my mouth, went to my happy place in my mind and swallowed…but not before imagining a gushy human eyeball in my mouth. My stomach instantly protested as I told Tahi how delicious it was while my lips curled in protest without my consent and a cold shiver ran down my spine. I tried so hard to convince myself that its wasn’t so bad, and heard Danny saying, ‘ Isn’t it delicious darling? It tastes like cucumber doesn’t it!’ I tried connecting the dots between delicious fresh cucumber and the texture of fishy mucus that now lay in my stomach, and just couldn’t do it. My stomach muscles lurched, protesting that which I had just ingested, and I broke into a sweat, fighting the need to hurl for the simple fact that I could not stand the thought of tasting it twice! My stomach won, and I instantly stuffed coconut and anything else I could find, into my mouth to take the taste and feel of the innocent clam away – all while thinking of anything at all to rid myself of the moment!

We sat around a small fire while chicken breasts from the boat and clams in their shells roasted over the flames.

Tahi played Mycah’s Teton guitar and sang a song about each of us then afterward translated the words into English.

Danny also played and Mycah sang. It sounded so beautiful there on the little island at the far end of the Makemo atoll in the middle of the South Pacific, under the coconut trees.

We had purchased a couple bags of marshmallows in the village the previous day, and we rounded up a few sticks to roast them on. Tahi and Bena watched with great curiosity and finally Tahi pointed at the roasting treat and asked, ‘why?’ We told him that they become soft and more delicious. He finally agreed to try one, and immediately smiled a delicious smile and said, ‘ice cream!’ Now that the understood what we were doing, he told us we should use sticks from the Mikimiki tree because they don’t burn, and that when they cook fish over the fire, the Mikimiki is what they use. He showed me the tree with tiny leaves and we brought back some better roasting sticks for the creatures. Bena was enthusiastic too now, and ate till he was ready to explode.

Once about 9pm rolled around, Tahi announced that it was time to go look for lobster. He told us to join him on the beach to light the bonfire so we could lay down and sleep while they hunted. Before they left the creatures tried to continue roasting marshmallows over the raging flames of the bonfire, and Tahi, with his hilarious sense of humor, called out Judes name and handed her a very long roasting stick he had fashioned for her so she didn’t have to get too close to the hot flames. She loved it!

Danny, Tahi, Aidan and Jude grabbed headlamps and gloves, and Tahi placed his lobster backpack on. He had modified a kitchen garbage into a backpack perfect for tossing lobster and crabs into. It was genius. The four of them left while we arranged ourselves around the fire to rest until almost midnight when they returned. Due to the almost full moon, no lobster large enough had been found, but they had caught several blue parrotfish, which is a favorite among the people in Tuamotus. We asked him if they ever had problems with ciguatera, and he said they they didn’t.

When we finally lay down to sleep, Danny explained to me that they had caught the parrotfish with machetes. They walked in water sometimes up to their waists, and when they saw a blue parrotfish coming their way they just whacked it with the machete and threw it in the backpack. I’m pretty sure that Chuck Norris doesn’t even know how to do that!
What a day. We had learned so much and absolutely adored Bena and Tahi. They were both so humble, humorous, giving and filled with gratitude. If only the world had more Bena’s and Tahi’s in it.