Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
Every morning on Palmerston we were woken up at 8 am for breakfast. It sounds late but, well, that’s when we woke. They truly spared no expense at meal time – the tables absolutely overflowing with fruit (coconuts, bananas and oranges), homemade donuts and pancakes, eggs, cereal, coffee, tea, juice (made with the palm tree marrow) and smiles.
Set loose on the island until lunch some people chose to snorkel. The coral reef on this atoll offers a smorgasbord of eye candy for the avid snorkelist. There are no dive shops here, but Nadja, Frankie, Rebecca, Jon ‘Josh’, Megan and Alison (among others) brought their own masks and fins. There were parrot fish, barracuda, trumpet fish, turtles, gruppa, sting rays, many pacific juvenile fish – a multitude of colours. Meredith and a few others were surprised to come across reef sharks – luckily the reef sharks were equally as surprised to see them!
Alex, Siri, WT and Donald spent some mornings walking the island. The ‘bro cave’ boys – Shawn, Dave, Davey, Dan, Niko, Robert, and ‘Fred’ all learned the skill of coconut gathering and husking and reaped the benefits. Obviously Dave Brown helped to guide them all. Coconut water – in the coconut – kept cold in the refrigerator is one of the most delicious things I have ever drunk. Yes, it tastes just as good as it sounds.
Mate Mike and Logan took several people out in the monomoy sailing. Dr. Vicky was kept busy for the first couple of days doing a clinic for the 60-odd islanders and managed to see everybody who needed medical attention. Katelinn, Chris and WT were busy fixing motors and looking at generators – their skills in demand from one end of the island to the other. Paul spent time fishing and Rebecca and Brad went on an expedition to one of the surrounding islands and caught us a huge coconut crab – named so because it cracks and then eats coconuts. Yikes! And yet so delicious.
Then there was lunch. And lunch was just as generous as breakfast, with heaps of sandwiches and fruit. Everyone on the island ate meals at approximately the same time, but if you wandered from your host family too soon after your meal you would inevitably run into another family and they will also want to feed you. It would be rude to say no. And so you eat 2 or 3 lunches. Then you dance…
A huge part of Polynesian culture is dancing and Palmerston is no exception. Everyday the ladies met after lunch to practice dancing – in order to prepare for our grand performance at the end of our stay. The men did the same thing on the other side of the island. Our separation added secrecy and one could only guess what the other group was doing. With our bellies full we bent our knees, threw back our shoulders and threw our hips away – attempting to emulate the ladies who were teaching us. A few stuck out immediately as the star dancers and were placed in the front line to lead the rest of us in both rhythm and gesture. Every turn of the wrist – every arch of the back or swing of the arms mean something and one of the keys to being a good Polynesian dancer is being aware of the story behind the song. It is not solely about the beat – although goodness that is also important. And swing those hips! Faster!!
The mens’ dance, one could say, was much less subtle. We could all hear the heavy drum beat reverberating through the palm leaves…of their costume.
Costume making was another activity in the late afternoons and early evenings. The boys made headbands and arm bands of palm leaves and a palm leaf ‘skirt’ – a Polynesian kilt really. The women had flowery head attire, and banana and palm leaf ‘Ti-ti’s’. These tied around our waists accentuating hips and movements.
All in all the activities of the day made us really, really hungry. And a good thing too. The spread for dinner was nothing short of amazing. Taro, manioc, potato chicken curry, rice, tuna, parrot fish, crab, banana cake, coconut pudding… all offered with the comment, “Help yourselves.” The generosity of the people of Palmerston blew us all away. We did bring them supplies and brought some of their family back to them. But to paraphrase the Captain, what they gave to us was priceless, and so is this new connection.