Work and Glory

The wind calmed down and we had a two day respite in the (now constant) rain.
At least there are no more water issues, for the moment!

It was a quiet weekend in the anchorage, with only Pura Vida and two other boats, so we invited Gaston and Valentine to our boat for dinner, to give them a night off.

Despite their unfailing charm and graciousness, we could tell they've been pretty exhausted, lately.

When we were here a few months ago, they had seasonal staff living here to help them with the endless work of hunting and gathering,  feeding the animals, construction, mooring upkeep, cooking for the 250+  boats that come in every year, trading pearls, and running their other business of selling fish to the supply boats that pass through the Tuamotos.

We don't really know what happened (and didn't care to ask) but apparently there were some falling out or family issues but whatever the case was, when we came back to Anse Amyot this trip, we were surprised to find Valentine and Gaston managing the whole place with only old uncle Philipe and the occasional help of a young man and his pregnant wife who planned to leave in a few weeks, anyway.

I was thinking about the situation of our hosts, as I rummaged out a few precious jars of home-canned ground beef. I was making lasagna, as a treat but I was also sweating our dwindling stores (the kids always seem to eat twice as much as I expect), and realized that if we were going to make it through our time here AND then make the crossing to Hawaii with a safe excess (a sound precaution when crossing oceans)...I better get creative.

But not that night.
Having Gaston and Valentine aboard was a treat for us all and we pulled out all the stops to make it a party. After a massive lasagna, many laughs and a few bottles of wine, Gaston and Valentine shared their troubles of being short staffed and their imminent anxiety about the charter fleet who would be arriving in a few days and expecting to be feted in grand style...

I shared my worries about our dwindling stores and as we all watched in awe as Kai polished off the lasagna with his fourth helping...

We struck a deal- our services as hired hands, in exchange for fresh food.

This arrangement works out great for everyone as they have excess stores of flour and coconuts and fresh eggs from their chickens. Jon will help Gaston fish and hunt, in trade for lobster and poisson du jour and I help Valentine cook and bake for the charter boats and guests of the small pension her sister runs here, Kai and Hunter will feed the pigs and the chickens and rake the property, gather breadfruit and pick fresh flowers to decorate the dining room. Kai also helps Gaston, with whatever project he is working on-gathering coconuts and cracking them for Copra to be sold, repairing the fish traps or any one of the hundred things he has going in a day.

I re-arrange our home schooling plan to include, working for other people (the very real NEED to work for food is quite inspiring, as it turns out) animal husbandry, and speaking French all day.

Only Valentine speaks good English, and most of the visiting boats are French, Brazilian or Swiss.
So the kids are getting a work out in both basic French and sign language!

In return, Valentine feeds us, whatever she has going- coconut beignets for breakfast, huge chicken curries at lunch, fresh fish for dinner and I don't have to dig into our precious stores -until we leave.

There's more to the exchange than that, of course, as its all done in friendship and we all learn heaps about each other in the process of helping out.

Valentine is VERY religious, so us being part of the "family" means going to church with them every Sunday. They built a small chapel on the property and Valentine acts as pastor. I enjoy it-except for the fire and brimstone bits and I REALLY have to bite my tongue if the issue of homosexuality comes up- but we think letting our kids experience other cultures sometimes includes beliefs we don't agree with.

Our policy on this is to maintain your own convictions (privately), look for the "good" in the situation, rely on the skillful employment of good manners to avoid tricky conversations and don't argue any issues unless you are invited to--or you're on home turf... then, by all means, go to town defending what you believe in.

Cultural opinions, aside, Hunter positively LOVES church.
She's into it with downright fervor, swooning and feeling the "Spirit" and getting to dress up on Sunday morning and sing impossible to decipher hymns in Polynesian, while Valentine plays her ukulele.

It's a little like pulling teeth for poor old Jon, though he's been a good sport (especially since I sneakily told Valentine that he played Jesus in a movie but had not "accepted Christ as his personal savior", so now, of course, it is her heart's desire to "save" Jon).

She makes him read long passages from the Bible out loud and then prays with him and asks him every day if Jesus has come to him yet. Jon is the least 'Church-y' person in the world but he's got plenty of love and compassion and having played BOTH Jesus AND Joseph Smith in his career, he can get right in there, if he needs to. We all enjoy watching Jon do his best to give it a go for Valentine's sake- because it makes her so happy.

It's actually been a really interesting thing for all of us.
Many late night discussions 'round the galley table about faith, the human inclination towards religion, cosmology, myth and archetypes...

Last night, Kai and I lay on deck looking up at the stars.

From our anchorage on this atoll, you can literally see a "dome" of stars. It is almost a 360 horizon. Only two, minuscule, slivers of practically sea-level island break up the vast ocean around us-yet we are anchored behind the reef and so if its not blowing like the dickens, it can become a perfectly calm, shamanic dream of eternity.

Last night was one of those nights.

I remembered a poem, that I've told Kai before and he liked...

(but I can never recall who wrote it)

In this house of starry dome,
with its gem-like plains and seas,
I shall never feel at home,
never really be at ease,
so from room to room I stray,
and never yet, my host espied,
and I know not, to this day,
whether guest or captive, I...

"it's kind of scary" said Kai.

I wasn't sure if he meant the poem or the vastness around us.

'I think..." I said, trying to find a way to articulate,
what I couldn't express, when the kids asked me earlier, what I "believed"...

"... God or whatever you want to call it,
is sort of like this sky of stars.
Sometimes, you see only little pieces of it,
and other times, it's like those night passages,
when its cloudy and there's no moon and everything is wicked dark
and sometimes, not even because you did anything different,
the whole thing becomes crystal clear and you find it everywhere you look.
I think, its always there, though--regardless of what we see."

There was a loud splash in the water next to the boat and Kai bounced up and leaned over the rails to check if it was a shark.

"But you did do something different..." he said after a minute.
"you sailed all the way, to the Tuamotos..."

He turned around and cocked an eyebrow at me, in that smug "I got this so covered" eleven-year-old, way.

"and that's what you're seeing, tonight."

1 comment:

  1. STRANGE the world about me lies,
    Never yet familiar grown --
    Still disturbs me with surprise,
    Haunts me like a face half known.

    In this house with starry dome,
    Floored with gemlike plains and seas,
    Shall I never feel at home,
    Never wholly be at ease?

    On from room to room I stray,
    Yet my Host can ne'er espy,
    And I know not to this day
    Whether guest, or captive I.

    So, betwixt the starry dome
    And the floor of plains and seas,
    I have never felt at home,
    Never wholly been at ease.