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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
February 22, 2014
S251 Weblog 22 February 2014
At Anchor in Fatu Hiva
Preparing to set sail for Mangareva
80 degrees, warm and humid
There are no words in existence that are beautiful enough to describe today. After waking up to softly-spoken words from my shipmate Midori and an interesting Polynesian-styled breakfast we embarked on another adventure into Fatu Hiva.
Last night we were invited to dinner by a local family consisting of two grandparents and their nine and a half year old granddaughter whose name is Naheia, pronounced Na-hey-a. She is something special. Last night she presented a dance and song to us, which she has prepared for a story-telling competition involving all of the islands in French Polynesia. We soon became fast friends and I learned that she loves strawberries, so much so that she could speak of nothing else for a solid half hour. After speaking to our steward, Sayzie, about this she suggested that I give the little girl some frozen strawberries.
I wish I had captured her expression when I presented them to her today. To say she was extremely pleased is an understatement and she immediately handed me a package of oreos in return. An exchange which was directly linked to the cultural generosity of the Marquesian people. She then escorted me and my shipmates on a fifty minute hike to an amazing waterfall. The water was so fresh and clear that one could drink it as it cascaded from overhead. My fellow mates and I enjoyed jumping from rocks and diving into the cool clear water for a long time before our splashes grew sleepy. And thankfully, the rumored eels which inhabited the swimming hole (said to be gentle by Naheia) did not present themselves while we swam. After traipsing to and from the waterfall, we slowly meandered down to Naheia’s house, where her grandfather taught us about carving Marquesian-style tikis. On the way there, Midori and I spent time chatting with her about her knowledge of American pop songs, which often erupted into singing. After Midori braided her hair, Naheia took my hand and lead us all to her house. Hoping to get a giggle out of her I asked my fellow classmate, Taylor, to take her other and help me lift her up in the air from time to time, and I am proud to say that it worked, to the extent that Taylor and I were pretty tired afterwards.
When it was time to return to the boat, I received permission to take her with me for a few extra hours before her grandparents came for dinner on the boat. She and I played a game of “chenille et papillon” (caterpillar and butterfly) in a hammock strung up on the foredeck. I would cover her with the sides of it and say “chenille” (caterpillar) and then she would say, “ensuite” (which means “then” or “next”) and I would open up the sides of the hammock and shout, “papillon!” (butterfly). This game went on for some time until we looked overhead and realized there was a big beautiful rainbow overhead, immediately followed by a gentle downpour. We giggled and played in the rain, staring with mouths wide open as the rainbow touched down on the ship before passing over to the other side.
I also had the wonderful opportunity to teach her some English and create a small reference sheet for her to use when she returns to school in a few days. Nevertheless, I have to laugh at that, because while I taught her words like horse, house and yellow, I could not help but feel like I was the one who was learning. Today I learned all about this beautiful place, which is not only beautiful for its landscape but also its inhabitants. This wonderful child taught me how to be a teacher while reminding me how to be a student. She also taught me what it feels like to view the world through a child’s eyes once more.
When it was time for her to return home, we embraced tightly and I kissed the top of her head, hoping with all my heart that she would have every opportunity in the world to achieve all of her dreams. While I waved my final goodbye from the quarterdeck, she was carried home on one of the ship’s small boats. In that moment I felt a part of me go with her, but after I shed some tears at her departure I was amazed to find that a part of her stayed with me in return.
Thank You Fatu Hiva for giving me a little sister. And lots of kisses to all of my parents; without their love and support I never would have had this beautiful day.