I believe we left off with the epic whaling adventure. Since then I have visited a local primary school in a village of 22 families, returned to Neiafu, and to put it bluntly, partied my ass off.
The visit to the school was precious. On Thursday morning Mom, Dad and I went in to shore where we were greeted by a young boy. He led us through the village to the school. We walked under a huge tunnel of mango trees, hopped over fences, avoided pigs roaming through the bush and crossed people's front yards to arrive at the school.
The school is a two room building perched on a wide lawn that overlooks the bay and surrounding islands of Vava'u. The building looks fairly well maintained on the outside, but the floors are peeling up in the classrooms and the benches and desks are.. rustic. However, the classroom we visited was filled with bright posters in both English and Tongan, (well used) school supplies, and a few books.
Upon our entrance into the classroom we were greeted by David, the teacher, who then arranged three chairs for us in the front of the class, while the kids sat at our feet, staring and giggling at us. The school serves as both a preschool through classes for 12 year olds, all more or less in the same classroom. A few of the youngest kids were laying under desks or eating crackers in the corner, while the older kids lined up and introduced themselves. The typical introduction went as follows:
"Hello, my name is Loto. My father is Pino, my mother is Lana, my brother is Dano and my sister is Lana. My teacher is David. And when I grow up I want to be a soldier." Other desired professions were fishermen, nurses, farmers, and an engineer or two.
After the introductions, the kids sang the ABC song, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, and some beautiful traditional Tongan songs. A few girls did a very graceful dance that involved clapping coconut shells together. I love that they are not shy in the least about singing and dancing. It is a natural part of the culture - even for teenagers traditional singing and dancing are cool things to do.
Needless to say, the visit to the school was great. In all honesty, and I am a bit ashamed to admit, I have not immersed myself or explored the cultures here in the South Pacific as much as I should. It is so easy to just go diving or surfing every day, or hang out in the bars and cafes owned by Palangis (white people), and mess around on the internet. Sometimes it is a bit intimidating to walk into a school or village or through a market where I know I will be gawked at. You would think I would be used to it by now, but it still takes an effort. It is much easier to make friends with fellow cruisers who speak the same languages and have at least one common interest than it is to engage the locals.
Speaking of cruiser friends, my friends on the boat Slow Dance showed up this week. In Samoa I spent many a late night partying on the 90 foot luxury yacht with the very cute South African captain. We more or less picked up right where we left off, and have been hitting the bars with force since they arrived. The only thing that is different now is that the owner is on board, and he is quite a character. Some would describe him as a "dirty old man", which is accurate enough, but he is also very generous and treats his crew and their guests well.
He is so generous that has agreed to extend me an invitation to join them (via Sean, the captain) on their boat for a few days. Mom and Dad are concerned that I might never come back... which, if I were a total flake, would be a legitimate concern. However, I have committed to sailing on Rutea to New Zealand, and will follow through with that. But.... man, Slow Dance is a nice boat! Electric winches? Check. Huge dinghy with a 70 horsepower engine? Check. Live aboard chef? Check. Compressor to fill dive tanks? Check. Hot captain? Check.
Ok, ok. I'll stop. You get the point. I am sure I will have many stories to tell after my stint as crew with them. Assuming that I can leave. Be strong....