Friday, July 24, 2009

More Photos

Tahiti 7/24/09 7:36 AM

Click on the photo to see more of Tahiti life.

The trains are running full steam ahead in the room adjacent to me, we've just finished breakfast and soon we will officially start our day by putting stickers on our calendar. We would check the weather, but it pretty much the same every day and we know that it will never snow, so we've given that activity up as far too redundant. After our "work" today, it will be a beach day.

Not every day is spent "lounging" on the beach. By the time I have everyone in swimsuits, packed the snacks, the toys, the floats, sunscreened us all sufficiently, packed it all including children into our double stroller, pushed them all the not quite a mile to the beach and made sure the walking child doesn't veer into traffic and then spend our time at the beach making sure Dylan doesn't drown and digging sand tunnels, I'm tired. So we average about twice a week at PK 18 Le Plage. I do love my "job" but I also find myself smiling at the singles and couples on holiday without children who seem to have an infinite amount of time to sunbathe and float luxuriously in the waves. Let's just say I don't find myself with any time to lay down and sun worship, but we do have fun.

Let's just hope there are no "Emergencies" today to hinder our cause. On Wednesday, the boys came running from their room, "Emergency, Emergency, Emergency!" Benjamin informed me that Husky dog was sick and had a high temperature. Isaac told me that Horsey was sick and Dylan came straggling behind with his blue puppy too. "Sick!" They had to take them all to the hospital of course and there the doctors established that Husky dog had been run over by the Bad guys who were trying to steal things in Dog Town and Husky Dog was trying to stop them. He broke all four legs. He had to be bandaged and put in the hospital. A hospital had to built first for him to stay at. That then became a tent for a camp out and then a circus. It was all quite the event.

Then yesterday, I walked by the boys room to see them all "floating" in their space ship--no gravity. I then learned that they had to leave the earth because there was a great fog all around the earth (Tahitian garbage fires??). They would be gone for 20 months and 20 days. Then the fog would clear and they would be able to return to earth. All the people of the earth were in space ships because of the fog.

But by and large we are very blessed with safety and protection and our "emergencies" are pretend. We hope to keep it that way.

Spears and Such

From New Album 7/23/09 9:01 PM

July is Heiva in Tahiti. That means there have been all kinds of doings on the island. Dancing, revelry, food, sports--celebrations and tradition. The Museum of Tahiti is beautifully situation near the ocean and made for a fine Saturday outing where we saw a spear throwing contest, rock lifters and coconut tree climbers. Most of us saw all of this all of the time. But after awhile, even the best of us can't watch one more spear being buzzed through the air at a coconut high above on a pole.

Click here to see some more pictures. I'm still working on getting pictures uploaded. It's a slow process here. Very slow.

New Album 7/23/09 9:01 PM

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Recent Quips


Isaac: “I like this house!”

Isaac: “Why is there a rooster at church?” (Because they’re everywhere. The common, common bird crowing all over the island).

Isaac: “There’s smoke on this island every day. It stinks.”

Isaac: “I liked those dancing ladies!” (After a performance we saw at dinner for our anniversary and Dylan’s birthday).

NeeMom: “So Isaac people here like to say your name a different way. “es ah ahc.”
Isaac with his eyes on his feet quietly: “It’s annoying.”

Dylan: “Beach today?”

Dylan: “Helping Mama.”

Benjamin: “Who is it that likes grandma’s pumpkin pies so much?”
NeeMom: “Me!”
Benjamin: “No….” voice trailing off.
NeeMom: “You mean Dylan?”
Benjamin: “No…”
NeeMom: “You mean Uncle Neil?”
Benjamin: Happily “Yes! Uncle Neil. We’re going on the South Pacific Train to visit Neil. No we’re going to ride on the trains we rode when we visited Aunt Cheryl. What were those? We’re going from the countryside into the city where all the little apartments are where Neil lives.”

Benjamin: “We have great music in the South Pacific!” (referring to some tunes on the computer playing in the background).

Isaac and Benjamin: “We’re going on our train to Bora Bora.”

Benjamin also has a new dog that we made together named Fa’aa (just like the city where the airport is here. You pronounce every vowel in Tahitian).

Benjamin: “Dad! Don’t put your feet on our nice new table.” (After he had been using his pretend saw on it).

Calm waters

I do wonder at those early people who navigated by stars in outrigger canoes to first discover these islands and other explorers who defied the conventional wisdom of their day to set off into uncharted water. I imagine a journal entry something like this from one of those adventurers.

Captain’s log: Day 40. More water. Surrounded by water. I believe that one day we’ll see land again. I hope that we will see land again. I don’t know how many days it will take until I see land again. And yet we sail on. Water until the water meets the sky and the clouds drop to kiss the waves. We can’t see beyond. We can only hope that past the horizon we will not meet sea monsters, storms or be driven into an abyss.

I have a map hanging on my wall of the entire world and faith that one day we’ll have internet here at the house that will allow me to look on google maps at the dot I am in the big wide of it and still I can find it a little unnerving to see the edges of the island, Moorea and nothing else but water and sky.

We’ve been in calm waters lately. No sea monsters or nasty dogs. Lots of friendly people reaching out to us and helping us find our footing here. Lots of frolicking in the ocean and on the sand. That is good. Very good. With the sails tacked, the cupboards stocked, the days progressing in an orderly fashion, the story is less about surviving and adapting and more about our own little family world settled into the peace of daily living and common doings.

I can smell the tangy twist of a freshly peeled orange floating from the kitchen—an intensely beautiful scent. The oranges are in season on the island. Along the roads, families hang their bags of oranges from impromptu posts or poles in front of their homes near the traffic. So as you travel, the bright orange bundles tied into homemade-knotted red string bags sporadically catch your eye—pops of jaunty color bouncing out from against grey stone or green vegetations walls. These are not carefully managed, deliberately cultivated timidly tame citrus. Someone in the family has gotten up the previous night and camped on the mountain or hiked in the early hours of the morning up the Punaru’u valley to where the wild oranges grow. The hike is difficult and you have to watch out for wild pigs (like the roosters formally domesticated gone wild creatures). The oranges are heavy. Men who specialize in this task develop a special muscle in their back from carrying the bamboo pole with orange bags on either end slung over one shoulder. This is the story I have been told. When the liquid gold of the nectar dribbles through my fingers, all my senses are delighted and I taste the magic of mountain oranges, I could be persuaded that the orange drops of sun sitting on my table were missives from the Gods themselves hand-delivered to the lowly mortals near the sea to gift us a glimpse of glory.

This is a place that begs you to temper your pace, bow adieu earlier to the world with the sun at night and let time lap at your toes. This is not a place where your phone is connected the next day, or the next or even the next week. We’ve been waiting for several weeks to have a phone and then we’ll wait a little longer for our internet connection. While I hunger for news, news and more news from friends and family and to feel even a distance-strained hug from and to all those I love, there is a peace of being and to slowing down and not racing to this and that to libraries, Target and preschool.

Mostly. If there were a library, I’d run, walk, bike to get there. I will have to learn French if only to be able for the sake of reading. I need books more than baguettes. Without internet or television, my supply of books has dwindled fast—so fast that I’ve already reread many of the delightful chapter books I brought to read aloud for Benjamin as well. We felt a bit sheepish about those five boxes of books, but each book is a gem during the voyage here. Isaac still includes now several weeks after the fact, “thanks that our boxes got here safely” in his prayers. Apt. I know every day there are a million things I’m thankful for that came in those blessed boxes.

Perhaps when I’ve run out of books, I can take a lesson from a man with whom we shared the beach the other day. He certainly seemed to have no troubles and nowhere to be but be. The man had pulled his outrigger canoe onto the shore near us and then he sat next to his boat in the sand looking out into the water for a couple of hours. He was still except for occasional movements of his head to watch children playing or people playing. A slight smile played on his face and he looked content. He broke camp from his boat to move out into the water a small distance from the shore. There he stood with his back to the coral break facing the shore for the next couple of hours, arms crossed in front of his chest, again barely moving but to occasionally follow something of interest with his eyes and head. He never talked to anyone. He didn’t swim, sleep or fish. He just sat or stood and looked. He had no need to be anywhere but there and seemed satisfied in the simplicity of his day and movements.

Fortunately the warmth of ward members and strangers allays the feelings of being a lost speck on the ocean, the homesickness and the loss of familiar chats with long loves of my life. When Soeur Marie-Claude Tematafaarere puts her ample arm around me and I feel small near her presence, I feel the arms of other people of other times and she wonders why tears well up in my eyes and roll down my cheeks. That arm shelters me in compassion deeper than spoken language and I am grateful to feel anchored by it.

Even waiting brings blessings. Last Sunday (July 5th) we walked a short distance to stand next to the bus stop where Soeur Annie would pick us up to take us to church. The bus stop was close to a beautiful pink church next to the ocean and we watched the congregants gladly greeting one another with the common cheek-to-cheek kisses of the island. To the other side of the serene church we looked down to see an American flag hanging from the more humble looking home of a family. We’d seen their flag before, but this time a man and woman were sitting outside, so I gave them a wave, pointed to the flag and said, “Hey, the American flag. That’s great! We’re American” and then gave them a thumbs up. A few moments later, the woman came up to the bus stop to talk with us carrying three lovely mangoes in her hands. I do love mangoes, but was even more jubilant that she had come to talk with us—a friendly face in the sea of fences and gates! She could speak a little English and explained that one of their daughters was born on the Fourth of July, so they hang the American flag. I in turn explained that it was Dylan’s birthday and our anniversary and thanked her profusely for the mangoes. We chatted for quite a bit and just as Soeur Annie arrived, her towering Tahitian husband came over to embrace and kiss each of our little boys, Eric and me. He would have doted on the boys more had there been time.

The boys attract admirers wherever we go. Children and adults will pat them on the head to touch their light hair and smile at them and then at me. At church, Heanna, Heanui, Keanui, Olea, Vaipoe and many others are constantly trying to find ways to get the boys to smile and interact with them. They never sit alone in Primary. Soeur Eleanor, the teacher of “Garderie” absolutely loves Dylan. Dylan is as happy as can be and as friendly as ever here.

The beach has been more active since the children on the island are now on school holidays. Most days at the beach during the week we would only see a few French tourists, French civil servants and military enjoying a day off, and a handful of Tahitians. Now the beach reminds me of our neighborhood pool in the summer. Moms with the bags of snacks, sunscreen and towels talking with other moms while children swim and play with friends.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that last Thursday we quickly attracted some Tahitian children to us. At first we just splashed at each other and made Dylan laugh. Then I used all the French I knew and we figured out each other’s names, the kids names, ages and a little bit more. One thing led to another and before I knew it, about six other children had joined us in building sand roads, tunnels and castles. Then we buried one boy in the sand. This boy is actually the son of a beach friend we’ve made—a French woman who lived in Hawaii for ten years—so he speaks some English, French and Fijian. Before they moved to Tahiti, they lived in Fiji for a year where the woman traveled with her two boys in villages and sold woven baskets made from coconut leaves door to door. I digress. But this woman has been telling me stories from her own life that rivals my almost gone novels.

So one boy sand buried and rescued. Then suddenly all the children (except for mine) wanted to have themselves covered in sand. “Madame! Madame!” They would point. I’m always up for some good fun. So I got a bucket and hefted sand for a while and they were all pretty well covered. They were a sight—by then five of them in a circle in the sand. I begged off and headed to the ocean with Isaac and Benjamin to play in the “soft” waves as Isaac calls them. Dylan stayed behind to play with the new friends.

Out in the ocean, Isaac says he wants me to sing an ocean song. I can’t think of any ocean songs but for one.

And in the way of things here, when someone starts to sing, it isn’t long before other people join in either humming, harmonizing or singing the words with you. Me, the wide ocean and a handful of Tahitian, French and my American children singing at the top of our lungs:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie lies over the sea,
My Bonnie lies over the ocean.
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me.

Bring back. Bring back. Oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to me.
Bring back. Bring back. Oh bring back my Bonnie to me.