A new arrival!

OK, well many of you already know that on October 15th, Matotea, my daughter made her bid to enter the big wide world, a year and a day after her cousin Oliver. She was obviously in a bit of a hurry as she was not "due" until Nov 4th, but despite this she is very healthy, she was 3.08kg at birth and 48cm long, not bad for 37 weeks.

Whatsmore she is already busy growing! She's already outgrown some of her clothes.... Viri and I are both enjoying playing the proud parents. And even the dirty nappies and night feeds aren't that bad! She's actually thankfully mellow, that's not to say that she doesn't have her moments, but then don't we all!



So I have a few major changes to annouce over the past 5 months. Finally I've filed the dissertation, so it's Dr. Claridge now, if you please! Actually it's Dr. Teuruarii, as Viri and I have also formally tied the knot by signing papers at the mayor's office, so now I'm a married woman - even if the actual wedding festivities are yet to come in December. We've moved 'house' too (I put this in inverted commas, because where we're living now is only almost a house!). We moved onto our land in early May, but are STILL WAITING for the nice man with the heavy machinery to come and build us a road and finish the landscaping and terracing that he started way back when...........It's stopped being funny now. Every time it rains very hard we are either stranded at home with the car, or can't get back to the house without traipsing through a sea of knee-deep mud.....a charming experience that we have had the pleasure of re-living multiple times, thanks to the crazy weather we've been enjoying this year. The rainy season has just gone on and on and on and now it's about time for the rainy season to start again, so I can only hope that we get some dry weather instead!!!!!!!! The irony of the whole thing is that when it rains very hard our water usually gets cut off..... so not only are you soaking wet and muddy, but you can't even get clean despite the quantities of water everywhere.

What else has changed....well, the biggest change I'm feeling is 7 months of baby. As if getting the dissertation done, tying the knot, the family-style wedding and building the new house weren't enough upheaval for one year, I'm going to have a little girl in early november (or that's what they tell me), just to top it all off. It's definitely going to be the highlight of the year. I didn't think I was really maternal, but I'm certainly feeling all rosy at the thought of the little ball of trouble growing in my belly, even the smudgy ultrasound pictures are unbearably cute! Now that I'm over 7 months she's actually not so little, in fact she's definitely making her presence felt in many ways. If it's not dainty little hiccups it's a good swift kick in the ribs or the three o'clock wake up call. I fancy that the accommodation provided is beginning to seem a little bit cramped to her. I'm certainly feeling as huge as huge can be.


More rain!

I'm afraid I've been rather neglectful of my journal just recently, so here I am doing pennance, with a bumper edition! Life continues much the same here. I was just in Raiatea doing fieldwork, for our French Polynesian terrestrial arthropod survey. It was a very special expedition, we made it up to the summit of the highest mountain in Raiatea, it was a hard slog, took four days total, there and back, and it rained almost the whole time....it was quite an experience, we were the first entomologists to collect in the area, and I like to think I might have been the first woman up there!

We also got a chance to see the Raiatea cicada (Raiateana oulietia), which is really quite beautiful, and extremely rare, it only occurs on Raiatea and not even on Tahaa, it's sister island. The next closest island with similar cicadas is Fiji, so it almost certainly arrived in Raiatea on a Polynesian voyaging canoe - cool huh!

Viriamu was looking after the house in my absence, working on getting the land-sale finalized. In particular getting a surveyor in to the site. They've cleared it a bit now and staked out the limits - it's a huge area, and I'm excited to get a small hut built there so we can move in and start the process of building.

The rainy season is still in full swing here in Moorea – it has been raining pretty much steadily for the past few weeks. Which makes cycling to work and to the store much less fun! The plus side is that I can fill up our drinking water bottles from underneath the leaky gutter outside the backdoor, rather than cycling to get filtered water at the Gump, or going halfway around the island to the natural source. Everything seems to be seething and alive, counter-tops quickly morph into organic mats of ants if you don’t quickly clean them off – my backpack which had been hung up on the front terrace to dry, turned into an ants nest overnight – ideally situated hanging on a nail out of the rain! Even as I write a cloud of mosquitoes have greedily set to devouring my left leg. The smell of damp hangs in the air here all the time – clothes grow mold, books curl and become soft. The house seems to be crumbling in front of our eyes – I am always sweeping up neat piles of termite poop, under the living room furniture, doorposts and kitchen cabinets. In the morning the floor is peppered with rolled up woodlice seeking refuge from the rain. Last night the rain was particularly heavy and this morning there were a horde of earthworms wriggling in agony on our terrace, casualties to the early morning break in the clouds.

Strangely Maroro wasn’t all that interested in eating them, he seems to like most other things. He’s become very seriously insectivorous of late - several times I’ve caught him tormenting solitary wasps under the outdoors table, his ‘den’. Just a while ago I was surprised to find him chewing on an adult banana weevil outside the back door ....mmm..crunchy!

When it’s not raining there’s always that anticipation that it might, the taste of it in the air...I don’t know why but it makes me restless. Maybe it’s just because Viriamu’s not here and all I have to face is the gaping void of my thesis!!!! (which is advancing, incidentally - and I suppose I should get back to it, now that I think about it!)........


A Christmas pox!

We spent the last few weeks travelling in Europe, visting family and friends. It was the first time Viriamu had been to the UK - and boy was it a shock to the system! In retrospect my master plan of going back home for Christmas, might have been flawed. It wasn't just Viriamu who suffered either - in a few short months I have become absolutely cold intolerant. The moment we stepped off the plane we both got colds! The first day we went outside the house, Viriamu described the sensation on his skin as akin to being stabbed with a thousand tiny knives!!!! I though about it a while, and he got it pretty much right, I'd just never really noticed before.

It was definitely an odd few weeks, with both highs and lows. Being so cold all the time and staying in such a totally different environment was really tough on Viri, but we did still manage to get around a bit and meet up with some of the people I wanted to see. Unfortunately, however, I got chickenpox towards the end of our visit - which meant that we couldn't visit Sarah, Matt and Gwion, or Oliver, Louise and Rob, so I'm yet to officially start my auntying duties. But I did get to see some recent pictures of Oliver - he's growing fast and is as cute as a button! The chickenpox itself was pretty mild, I guess I was quite lucky from that point of view.

The highlight was that we got to visit A'a, an artefact from Rurutu, now owned by the British Museum. It was bought from the London Missionary Society in 1911, and was given to them by the famous Pacific missionary Johnny Williams in 1821. It's a funny looking statue. Quite unlike other Polynesian tikis. From what I gather it represents an early attempt to describe Christianity to Rurutuans, who had previously worshipped wooden figures of their gods (tikis). A'a means 'caress' in Rurutu, and that's exactly what the figure was made for. The figure represents a single god, the little figures attached to his body represent the families that colonized Rurutu, and inside the figure there were a series of small tikis to show how this new god encompassed all their old gods (these figures were burnt by the missionaries in 1882 likely because of their pagan connections). But of course the fact that anyone built this 'false idol' in the first place is rather odd, and there's an interesting story to be told here about a Rurutu prince called Amaeterai who set sail to discover untold treasures and instead found some missionaries, most likely in New Zealand. Anyway this was a very significant moment for Viriamu, even though he had to wear blue latex gloves to handle the figure! A'a is very important to him, so much so that he has him tattooed on his chest.

One thing's for sure, we'll celebrate next Christmas Polynesian style - on the beach!