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.